How about Rhys Hoskins?
Hey, check it out. Someone linked another free agent to the Mariners. So, let's talk about him.
Teams “show interest” or “check in on” free agents and players on other clubs all the time. In my mind, the likelihood of the Mariners signing Hoskins seems relatively low. But as I said last week, it’s hot stove season. So, why not have some fun? Let’s consider his potential fit in Seattle.
Before proceeding, an important note regarding Hoskins. The 30-year-old tore the ACL in his left knee about a week before Opening Day. As a result, he missed the entire 2023 campaign. Therefore, unless otherwise noted, assume I’m referring to the 2022 season when discussing numbers.
Selling points: Simply put, Hoskins is a slugger. In 2022, the right-handed hitter’s 4.5% home run rate tied for 27th-best among 131 qualified hitters with Seth Brown, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Marcell Ozuna. Similarly, his 9.7% extra-base rate tied for 28th with Brown, Rowdy Tellez, and Kyle Tucker.
Hoskins’ production compared extremely well to full-time Mariner hitters this year. The six-year veteran’s 123 OPS+ would’ve been third-best, trailing only J.P. Crawford (131) and Julio Rodríguez (128). His 30 home runs would’ve tied for second-most with Cal Raleigh. Moreover, only Crawford and Rodríguez with an .818 OPS bested Hoskins’ .794 mark.
In his last full season, Hoskins was a consistent performer at the plate. This becomes evident when we consider his monthly wOBA, which was better than the MLB average in four of six months.
Rhys Hoskins Monthly wOBA (2022)
Apr/Mar - .298
May - .320
Jun - .437
Jul - .343
Aug - .361
Sep/Oct - .301
MLB wOBA in 2022 = .310
Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is a sabermetric version of on-base percentage (OBP) that credits hitters for how they reach base rather than treating all on-base events equally, as OBP does. For example, a double is more valuable to run production than a single, a home run more than a double, etc. The MLB average wOBA this year was .318
Perhaps Hoskins’ monthly wOBA amounts to a nothing-burger for a segment of readers. But a common criticism of Seattle’s offense was the uneven nature of its productivity. This inconsistency is clear once we review the monthly wOBA of Mariners with 400-plus plate appearances this year.
Obviously, adding more dependable hitters will be a priority of the Mariners heading into next year. Based on his 2022 monthly splits, Hoskins is capable of helping in this regard.
Hoskins understands what it takes to play late into October. He was a key contributor on a Phillies club that reached the 2022 World Series. Granted, his .159 AVG and .205 OBP in 17 playoff games that year might not wow fans. But the Cal State Sacramento alum did hit six home runs in five contests with Philadelphia winning four of them.
Potential concerns: As with too many Mariners this year, Hoskins has a history of striking out at a rate above the league average. It’s something he’s consistently done since breaking into the majors in 2017.
Still, it’s important to clarify Hoskins’ 25.2% strikeout rate in 2022 would’ve been sandwiched between Rodríguez (24.5%) and Raleigh (27.8%) this year. High, but not untenable. Then again, the strikeout rate of Philadelphia’s fifth round pick in 2014 has been trending in the wrong direction for several years.
Breaking balls were problematic for the Mariners in 2023 - the team’s .207 AVG against the pitch group ranked 24th in MLB. Hoskins experienced similar difficulties in 2022. His .176 AVG versus breaking pitches was 174th among 201 hitters seeing at least 500 breaking balls. It’s worth noting the only Seattle regular with a lower AVG than Hoskins in 2023 was Mike Ford (.169).
AVG vs Breaking Balls in 2023
MLB AVG vs breaking pitches = .222
Hoskins also produced suboptimal results against pitches with a velocity at-or-above 95-mph. His .282 SLG on high-velo offerings ranked 115th among 136 hitters seeing at least 300 such pitches. The league-average SLG was .374.
Playing in Citizens Bank Park certainly benefited Hoskins. According to Baseball Savant, Philadelphia’s home field is tied with Toronto’s Rogers Centre as the sixth-most favorable home run venue for right-handed hitters since 2021.
To be fair, Hoskins’ road numbers were decent in most categories. That said, it’s reasonable to wonder how his productivity might be influenced by pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park.
As already noted, Hoskins suffered an ACL tear in late-March. How he recovers from the injury and its impact on his future performance is unknown. That said, this can be said about any athlete returning from a major injury. It’s worth noting this isn’t the first time the Sacramento, California native has dealt with significant health-related issues.
Near the end of the truncated 2020 season, Hoskins suffered an elbow injury on his non-throwing arm, which required Tommy John surgery. He would return for the start of the 2021 campaign, but missed most of August and September due to a groin injury and abdominal tear. Once again, season-ending surgery was required. That said, Hoskins did play in 156 contests in 2022.
Hoskins had a 25.9 ft/sec sprint speed, appreciably lower than the MLB average (27 ft/sec). This puts him in the same demographic as Seattle’s incumbent first baseman, Ty France, who clocked in at 25 ft/sec this year. Considering Hoskins is coming off knee surgery, it’s likely a foot race between him and France would result in a photo finish.
Defensively, Baseball Savant’s fielding run value suggests Hoskins (-5 in 2022) is a below-average defender. France (-3) didn’t fare much better that season.
Thoughts: It’s understandable how adding a hitter like Hoskins could be appealing to the Mariners. After all, the team has lost a considerable amount of power in the offseason. Most notably: Hernández, Suárez, Ford, Tom Murphy, and Jarred Kelenic.
Having said that, there could be financial barriers, real or otherwise, which could complicate signing a hitter of Hoskins’ ilk. Naturally, this assumes both parties have actually expressed interest in each other.
First, reporting by Ryan Divish and Adam Jude of the Seattle Times suggests uncertainty surrounding the Mariners’ regional sports network (RSN) has applied undue pressure on the franchise’s bottom line. Compounding matters, the Times reports the team takes over 100-percent ownership of the network on January 1.
Another issue is Hoskins’ representation - The Boras Corporation. Some fans believe it could complicate negotiations. Perhaps, but it’s important to note the Mariners managed to find common ground with Yusei Kikuchi, who is represented by Boras.
On that note, a comparison could be made between Hoskins and another Boras client, who recently hit free agency after missing an entire season - Michael Conforto. Perhaps Conforto’s contract could serve as the framework for a deal between Hoskins and the Mariners or another potential suitor.
After missing the 2022 season, Conforto signed a two-year/$36 million contract with the Giants last winter. There was an option permitting the Seattle, Washington native to opt-out of the deal this offseason. But he decided to remain with San Francisco for the 2024 campaign. Perhaps Conforto’s suboptimal numbers this year had something to do with his choice.
From a baseball perspective, it’s likely T-Mobile Park depresses Hoskins’ productivity to some degree, as it does for most hitters. But as we’ve learned from a pair of veteran sluggers coming to the Emerald City in recent years, how much can be a mystery beforehand.
Even though his overall productivity was down in 2023, Eugenio Suárez managed to hit better at home with more power. Last year, he proved to be more productive on the road (.470 SLG), but managed to put up a superb .448 SLG at T-Mobile Park.
Conversely, Teoscar Hernández performed significantly better in every respect when away from Seattle during his lone season as a Mariner.
Ballpark intrigue aside, it’s clear the Mariners need to add more pop to their projected 2024 lineup. Certainly, Hoskins is a viable option. But there are other hitters we’ve discussed this offseason I would prefer over him.
My Oh My…
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