clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rhys Hoskins deserves to go down as a Phillies legend

The first baseman is moving on to Milwaukee, but Phillies fans should remember him as a seminal player.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Rhys Hoskins of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates by spiking his bat after hitting a three-run home run against Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves during the third inning in game three of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 14, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Late Tuesday night, longtime Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins signed a two-year, $34 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, saying goodbye to the only MLB organization he’d ever known. We’d known for months that a reunion between the Phils and Hoskins wasn’t in the cards, ever since the team committed to Bryce Harper as its first baseman moving forward. And, all things considered, the 30-year-old is a pretty perfect fit in Milwaukee: Hoskins gets to hit cleanup for a contender, while Milwaukee gets the first baseman and lefty-masher they desperately needed.

Still, it’s hard not to feel at least a little bittersweet about the idea of Hoskins wearing a different uniform this year. He was the longest-tenured member of the Phillies, one who’d established himself as a very solid hitter over his seven years in the Majors. But to the team and its fans, Hoskins was something far more — the first signs of light at the end of a very long tunnel, a foundational player whose legacy in Philly was foiled by some very cruel timing.

It’s hard to imagine now, with a star-studded lineup and consecutive runs deep into October, but it wasn’t too long ago that things looked pretty bleak for the Phillies. As the core of those late 00s/early 10s squads aged out, Philly more or less hit rock bottom: They didn’t post a single winning record from 2012 to 2020, with six fourth- or fifth-place finishes over that span. Top draft picks were flaming out. Potential faces of the franchise came and went. It wasn’t just that they were bad — it was that they were bad with seemingly no way out.

In the midst of all that losing, though, was one success story. A fifth-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft out of Cal State-Sacramento, not much was expected of Hoskins as a prospect. He never appeared on any of the major top prospect lists, and without really any defensive value to speak of, he was going to have to hit his way to an MLB role. But hit Hoskins did: He wore out every level of the Minors, then broke into the bigs in 2017 and promptly hit 18 homers in his first 34 games:

While the rest of the organization floundered around him, Hoskins blossomed into a very solid player, running great OBPs (he led the league in walks in 2019) and cranking out 25-30 homers a year — all while becoming a beloved member of the clubhouse and community.

And then, just when it seemed like Hoskins would be doomed to mashing on a losing team forever, the Phillies finally got their act together. With Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and other stars on board, Philly broke through in 2022, winning 87 games and locking down a Wild Card spot. After years in the wilderness, Hoskins got his shot at postseason baseball, and man did he make the most of it:

Hoskins homered six times that October, none of which reverberated more loudly than his Game 3 bat spike off Spencer Strider. But Hoskins’ work in the NLCS against the Padres may have been even more impactful — especially in Game 4, when two Hoskins homers helped erase an early 4-0 deficit and carry Philly to a win. Bryce Harper’s eighth-inning shot in Game 5 will be remembered forever, but we never get it if it weren’t for Hoskins’ two-run dinger earlier in the game.

After falling short in the World Series against the Astros, 2023 was supposed to be the year— for the Phillies, but also for Hoskins, whose future was in doubt as he entered his walk year. And then it was over before it even started, a torn ACL in spring training knocking him out for the season. It looked like he was trending toward a dramatic return in the World Series, only for Philly to drop Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS at home.

And that’s really the tragedy of Hoskins’ time in Philly, the team’s struggles and sheer bad luck conspiring from every giving him his proper due. Now, though, the Phils and their fans have a chance to finally make that right. On June 3rd, Hoskins and the Brewers will make their first trip to Citizens Bank Park, and the first baseman will undoubtedly get showered with love — a sign of a fan base’s appreciation for a player who carried them through some very dark times.