Projecting Rhys Hoskins

It’s been a rough season for the Phillies, whose record is the worst in baseball and sits comfortably below .400. They’ve trotted out quite a few bad players on a regular basis, including Tommy Joseph, who’s given them four months of disappointment at first base. While Joseph was turning in a 90 wRC+ with poor defense, Rhys Hoskins was annihilating Triple-A. Finally, the Phillies are giving him a whirl at the highest level.

Prior to his call-up, Hoskins hit an insane .284/.385/.581 across 475 Triple-A plate appearances. He belted 29 homers and simultaneously struck out less than 16% of the time. This performance didn’t come out of nowhere, either, as Hoskins slashed .281/.377/.566 and blasted 38 homers last season at Double-A. Those numbers were undoubtedly helped by his home ballpark in Reading, which led many to doubt their validity. But KATOH still loved him because the power numbers were so exceptional and they came packaged with acceptable strikeout rates.

My KATOH system pegs Hoskins for 10.0 WAR over his first six seasons by the stats-only method and 9.4 WAR by KATOH+, which incorporates his No. 69 rank on Baseball America’s midseason list. Those marks place him 14th and 27th, respectively, among prospects. 

Those WAR estimates don’t tell the whole story, however, as KATOH sees some serious star potential in Hoskins, giving him a roughly 1-in-5 chance of racking up over 20 wins over the next six years. For reference, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and Freddie Freeman were the only first baseman who crossed that threshold in the six-year span that ended in 2016.

To put some faces to Hoskins’ statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps. I calculated a Mahalanobis distance between Hoskins’ 2017 performance and every season since 1991. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.

Rhys Hoskins Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Tino Martinez 9.5 16.8
2 Chris Carter 8.4 0.0
3 Eric Karros 5.6 10.2
4 Hee-Seop Choi 6.3 3.3
5 Joey Votto 6.8 33.3
6 Travis Hafner 8.2 18.4
7 J.T. Snow 6.5 5.0
8 Carlos Pena 11.9 9.2
9 Todd Helton 8.8 33.4
10 Nick Johnson 10.1 12.5

Hoskins is limited to first base, which obviously puts a lot of pressure on his hitting. Even if he’s an above-average defender there, as Clay Davenport’s numbers suggest he is, the offensive bar remains extremely high. This is why KATOH sees him as a No. 20-ish prospect, even though his offensive numbers are eons better than most of the hitters ranked ahead of him. Nonetheless, hitters who pair that type of power with good contact skills are quite rare. Throw in that he also draws walks, and Hoskins looks like he could be a pretty special hitter.

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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That’s an impressive list of comps.

Greg Golden
Greg Golden

Yeah – rhylly exciting


While the comps list shouldn’t be taken as seriously as the 45% chance he posts 13 or more WAR in first six years, those two go together really nicely in this case–4 of the 10 players on that list straight up raked (Martinez, Votto, Hafner, Helton).

It’s also kind of rare that the “middle-range” outcomes were all solid players (Karros, Pena, and Johnson) and where the “bad” comps still had some value in their careers (Snow, Carter, and Choi).