One of the main projects in Year 1 with the Phillies for Joe Girardi and the hitting coach he selects will be getting Rhys Hoskins back on track.
It was fitting that Hoskins was in attendance at Girardi's introductory press conference Monday because Hoskins himself represents so much of what has gone right or wrong for the Phillies over the last 2½ years.
It was the emergence of Hoskins and Aaron Nola in 2017 that made the Phillies confident their rebuild was nearly complete and it was time to spend money. In 2018, Nola was elite, Hoskins was very good and the Phillies increased their win total from 66 to 80.
But in 2019, Hoskins' second-half struggles mirrored those of the Phillies and his lackluster final two months contributed to their second straight late-season collapse. In a year when home runs soared, Hoskins hit 29, five fewer than the year before. He led the NL with 116 walks but hit .226 compared to .249 the prior two seasons.
Hoskins is still a good hitter. He didn't have his skills zapped out of him like Muggsy Bogues in Space Jam. He got into a bad rhyhthm at the plate during the 2019 season and couldn't work his way out of it. The swing got longer. The uppercut was more pronounced. He needs to re-figure things out. With a new manager, a new hitting coach and some different tutelage, the Phillies hope he can come closer to the Hoskins of 2018 who slugged 42 points higher.
Hoskins was asked Monday about what kind of impact the switch to Girardi can make.
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"I think, and this has nothing to do with who Gabe (Kapler) is as a person or what he did as a manager, but it's the experience," Hoskins said. "He's done 'it.' And 'it' is what we're all trying to do: win.
"One way to establish respect, obviously, is your credibility, your track record. He has one of the best out there, and we're excited to be a part of that. ... Gabe was a first-time manager when he got here. Unfortunately, he didn't have experience. He will have experience. He'll have a long managerial career."
Kapler may get another job right away. He will reportedly have a second interview for the San Francisco Giants' managerial opening.
As for Hoskins, he needs to reassert himself in 2020 as the big bopper in the middle of a lineup that can carry a team for a week or two with his power. The walks are great. But the Phillies need more run production out of the cleanup spot.
With Girardi in the fold, the Phillies' offseason now transitions to phase two. The leader is in place, the organization has been stabilized and now the Phils must add a handful of impact players. Free agency begins five days after the World Series ends and it figures to be another active offseason for the Phillies.
As we've seen in recent winters, the top of the market will likely be slow to develop. The Phillies have, however, made quick strikes in free agency two years in a row by signing Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Santana.