Once again it is time for the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. We take your questions each week about the Phillies and answer them here on 973espn.com. Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. in-season we discuss them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Tune in at 97.3 FM, or listen online at 973espn.com.
Is Rhys Hoskins for real, or is this fast start a fluke?
Let's see: first baseman and outfielder Rhys Hoskins has 11 home runs in his first 19 games. That is just about 58% of games he homers, so over the course of 162 games, he will hit 94 home runs. I think that is about right.
In all seriousness, the pace that Hoskins opened up with is indeed historic. Hoskins reached 11 home runs fastest of anyone in MLB history. Early on in the hot play, we heard of the likes of Bobby Estalella and others that ended up amounting to fringe major league players. But Hoskins keeps going.
Let's face it: the Phillies have had many home run hitters throughout their minor league system over the years. Anyone remember Matt Rizzotti? Jim Murphy? Even Darin Ruf, who managed to play a handful of major league seasons with the Phillies and became a millionaire in Korea is on the shorter end of "made it". Power alone does not make a major league player.
But Hoskins is much more. Hoskins caught the attention of Cubs manager Joe Maddon with his plate discipline: as he told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer and other reporters, "I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young guy look that profound at home plate". Hoskins is tuned in.
Home run number 10 came off of talented Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks threw a pitch that was rather down and outside - the type of pitch that one might throw when they are trying to avoid a home run from the opposing player. Yet, in a very smooth swing, Hoskins reached down and took it deep for a home run.
My early impression of Hoskins is that he has staying power. He will not have the 94 home runs he would be on pace for in a 162-game season, and he may not set any records. But, he could be a solid bat who gets on base and hits for power and average, too.
Hoskins developed this skill to go along with raw talent along the way in the minor leagues and deserves a lot of credit. I think the Phillies have a mainstay in their lineup. With outfielders Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr due to return this week, Hoskins will be firmly implanted at first base and not let it go.
Do you think Nick Pivetta an Vince Velasquez would be good in the bullpen?
As I just mentioned, Hoskins was able to take talent and make something of it, thanks to hard work and development. Both Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez have the raw tools. The Phillies hoped to find out a good amount about Velasquez this season, and Pivetta is finally getting his opportunities in the major leagues. If I were the Phillies, I would try to make both relievers.
I remember looking at Ryan Madson pitch out of the Phillies bullpen once he moved out of the starting rotation for good at some point during the 2006 season. Madson just seemed to be unable to put it together as a starter. Looking at the radar gun, I noticed Madson the reliever hit 97 on the radar gun. He was able to put it together and today remains an effective reliever in the major leagues.
As for Pivetta, I would be interested to see him start a bit longer. If I am the Phillies I try to assemble a starting rotation in 2018 that leaves Pivetta as the sixth or seventh starter on the depth chart. Watching Pivetta pitch on Sunday, he appeared to be scared pitching to the top hitters in the Cubs lineup.
As he got to the bottom of the lineup, he blew right through them and started to develop some confidence. The problem with this was that Pivetta had amassed such a high pitch count he would not be going long in the game. Thankfully, the Hoskins triple play got Pivetta through a fifth and final inning on pitch 104.
Pivetta may need to develop a bit more confidence and toughness. I would like to see him give starting another shot. If he cannot, maybe he can be the next Madson.
As for Velasquez, I really wonder if the Phillies might trade him this offseason. While the Phillies openly stated Velasquez will be in the rotation next year, they were not going to make any final decisions publicly and risk limiting his value. Velasquez has a live arm and a good amount of upside.
I see Velasquez as someone who would interest a team like the Tampa Bay Rays or Pittsburgh Pirates should the likes of Chris Archer or Gerritt Cole. Should the Phillies package a Velasquez that the acquiring team can use right away, a starting pitcher prospect such as Ranger Suarez, a useful fringe arm (like a Zach Eflin) and maybe a fourth lower-level prospect, I think that will get a decent return.