CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies jerseys spotted across baseball the past few seasons -- not only at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, but everywhere -- have been reminders of a celebrated and not-so-distant past.Lots of jerseys with Jimmy Rollins' name on the back. Lots of Utley and Howard and Hamels and
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies jerseys spotted across baseball the past few seasons -- not only at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, but everywhere -- have been reminders of a celebrated and not-so-distant past.
Lots of jerseys with Jimmy Rollins' name on the back. Lots of Utley and Howard and Hamels and Halladay and Lee.
That is slowly changing.
Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins captured the imagination of Phils fans the final two months of the 2017 season. It is not unusual to see Hoskins jerseys scattered among the Rollins, Utley, Howard, Hamels and Halladay ones this spring at Spectrum Field. Hoskins hit 18 home runs in just 50 games last season. He made such an impact in that time that he finished fourth for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, behind Cody Bellinger (132 games), Paul DeJong (108) and Josh Bell (159). The national media, which typically only visited Philadelphia the past few years to see the visiting team, popped into the home clubhouse to see Hoskins.
"First of all, I think it's really cool that that's even a thought," Hoskins said about being the emerging face of the franchise and the player to watch this season. "Amongst the media, amongst the fans, even people in the organization, I think that's very humbling. It's a cool place to be. Obviously, it's a great sports city. Just to be associated with that is something that's really cool.
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"But I think there are going to be a lot of faces of this team, this franchise."
Hoskins will face challenges this season. He will be playing left field full time after the Phils signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract in December.
Hoskins' defense remains a work in progress.
"I don't know if I'm ever going to go, 'Oh, there it is,'" Hoskins said. "I think it's just going to be one of those things I'm just going to have to continue to work on, probably throughout my career, and that's OK."
But Hoskins' money maker is his bat. If he produces offensively, adequate defense will be fine. People are excited about Hoskins because he is a power hitter blessed with a fantastic eye. He walked 37 times and struck out 46 times in 212 plate appearances last season.
Hoskins knows pitchers will adjust. Hoskins hit .314 (37-for-118) with four doubles, 18 homers, 39 RBIs, 26 walks, 27 strikeouts and a 1.247 OPS in his first 34 games. Statcast™ heat maps showed pitchers throwing a steady diet of pitches low and away to him the rest of the season. He hit .135 (7-for-52) with three doubles, nine RBIs, 11 walks, 19 strikeouts and a .485 OPS in his final 16 games.
Hoskins believes he will make any necessary adjustments this year. He also will be ready for a 162-game season. He acknowledged he tired at the end of last year.
"The biggest thing is knowing what I do well," Hoskins said. "Obviously, we're going to know what the pitcher does well, but we're going to try to stick to that. If we're forced to make an adjustment on the fly or in the middle of a series, then we'll do that. It's a part of the game.
"Especially now with the way baseball is going and all the information that we have, that's stuff that we can be prepared for a lot quicker, a lot earlier. I think the adjustments, because of all the information, the adjustments can be made on the fly."
Hoskins said he has set preseason goals, much like any player. He is not going to say what those numbers are, but he is a run producer. Run producers want to see home runs and RBIs.
"If I can create some runs, whether it's runs or driving in runs, I'll be happy," Hoskins said.
But Hoskins' strength is his ability to control the strike zone and get on base. The more runners on, the more chances to score. He understands the importance of that, too.
"If you're getting on base, you're going to have a good chance to win," Hoskins said.
The Phillies think that is more likely than ever with Hoskins on the team.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.