Baseball has a way of spiting people who make definitive judgments 59 games into a player's career. The 10 years I've spent writing about baseball has taught me to tread carefully in both directions until the sample size can be measured in years. Yet all samples have outliers, and in baseball's talent pool, there occasionally comes a player whose talent is so evident that caution becomes superfluous. In my era of first-hand witness, off the top of my head, I can count Joey Votto (2008), Mike Trout (2012), Kris Bryant (2015), Bryce Harper (2012), Carlos Gonzalez (2009), Carlos Correa (2015) as players who left me convinced of their inevitable greatness less than a season into their careers.
Nine games into the 2018 season, I feel comfortable adding another name to the list. In Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies have found themselves a superstar.
First, let's be clear on what that means. Hoskins isn't just the best hitter on the Phillies. He's one of the best hitters in the league, a guy with the potential to transcend geography in the same vein as Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He is the guy who ensures that the rebuild is over, a centerpiece slugger who makes it possible to fill the rest of the lineup with hitters who are slotted in the appropriate place.
In the Phillies' 6-5 win over the Reds on Monday night, Hoskins hit a two-run home run and reached base via walk. It was the third straight game and the fourth in the last five that he has had at least one walk and one extra base hit. It's the 14th time he has done that in 59 career games.
Since World War II, the only other player to have done that is Chipper Jones, per Baseball-Reference.com. It's the equivalent of doing it 35 times in a season of 150 games, something that only two players have accomplished in the last 10 seasons (Aaron Judge with 41 last year and Jose Bautista with 37 in 2010).
The power and approach that Hoskins has displayed since arriving in the majors last season has been unrivaled by anybody of any experience. No player in the sport has produced a walk or an extra base hit in a higher percentage of his plate appearances since the start of last season (min: 250 PAs). No player has a higher OPS than his 1.066, and only Mike Trout's 183 OPS+ is better than Hoskins' 180. For those who are unfamiliar with OPS+, it is an index that weights a player's power production and base-reaching ability so that 100 is league average.
In other words, Hoskins has been 80 percent than a league average since joining the Phillies. Besides Trout, the other players who have been 60 percent better than league average: Judge (171 OPS+), Harper (167), Votto (163), Jose Altuve (163), J.D. Martinez (162), Freddie Freeman (162), Giancarlo Stanton (161) and Correa (161)
Percentage of plate appearances ending in a walk or extra base hit, 2017-18:
1. Rhys Hoskins 30.8
2. Aaron Judge 30.2
3. Mike Trout 30.1
4. Joey Votto 27.8
5. Bryce Harper 27.3
6. Freddie Freeman 26.8
7. Matt Carpenter 26.5
8. Josh Donaldson 25.9
9. J.D. Martinez 25.4
10. Kris Bryant 25.3
That's lofty company. For the Phillies rebuild, the implications are huge. It might not happen this year, but Hoskins is the kind of kingmaker that puts the sun above the horizon.