PHILADELPHIA -- The pieces continue to fall into place, even if the Phillies had to reshape one this week to get Rhys Hoskins to the big leagues.
Philadelphia promoted Hoskins from Triple-A Lehigh Valley before Thursday's series opener against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Hoskins had spent his entire professional career as a first baseman, but following Howie Kendrick's trade to the Nationals late last month, Aaron Altherr's hamstring injury last week and Tommy Joseph's continued role as the everyday first baseman, the Phillies moved Hoskins to left field for three games in Triple-A this week to find a place for him to play in the Majors.
"We think his bat is ready to come to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues and we think that he's worked hard enough and shown enough in his limited time in left field to be comfortable that he can play at this level," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said.
Hoskins is the 12th Phillies player to make his big league debut this season, but his arrival has sparked more interest than perhaps any rookie other than Nick Williams. Hoskins is the No. 71 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. He has put up monster numbers throughout his Minor League career, hitting a franchise-record 29 homers this season with the IronPigs.
He could be the Phillies' first baseman of the future. In fact, he could be their 2018 Opening Day first baseman.
The Phillies tried to trade Joseph before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline to open up a spot for Joseph. They could re-engage those efforts in the offseason if Hoskins plays well in the season's final seven weeks. Klentak and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin met with both players on Thursday to discuss their roles going forward. Hoskins will spend the majority of his time in left field while Altherr is on the DL -- he is expected to be sidelined until September -- but once he returns, Hoskins will see more time at first base.
"Anything is liable to happen," Joseph said. "Luckily, I don't have to make those decisions. I get to play baseball and enjoy that part of it. I think that me and Rhys are going to do a good job being in the same lineup together. He's obviously showed he's a very good hitter. It's going to be exciting to see what he's capable of doing up here.
"We have each other's phone numbers, we talk. We're not enemies."
So what else is up in the Phillies' rebuild?
Two of the organization's top prospects are Triple-A shortstop J.P. Crawford (No. 4) and second baseman Scott Kingery (No. 3). Crawford had a terrible first half (a .565 OPS in 244 plate appearances through June 10), but he has an impressive .970 OPS in 201 plate appearances since. Kingery has an .815 OPS in 172 plate appearances since his promotion from Double-A Reading.
But Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez are both expected to be manning their positions on Opening Day next year. Galvis is an elite defender and his .717 OPS entering play Thursday ranked 15th among 20 qualified shortstops. Hernandez's .783 OPS was ninth out of 19 qualified second basemen.
Crawford and Kingery must prove themselves next season to unseat them.
"They're both in their mid-20s and in historic baseball aging curves, they're only now kind of approaching their peak years," Klentak said about Galvis and Hernandez. "As long as we see that kind of progress from players in the middle of the field like that, that's where we're going to keep our focus. What J.P. and Scott Kingery and other players in the Minor Leagues are doing is great. Having too many middle infielders is a problem we'll gladly take. But I don't want to tell you that it's something that we feel compelled to decide upon quickly. Right now we have really two Major League infielders and that's a really good place to be."
Jorge Alfaro got promoted last week after Andrew Knapp sustained a broken right hand in Anaheim. Knapp is expected to return sometime next month. Alfaro is the No. 70 prospect in baseball, but he has struggled both offensively and defensively in Triple-A. He has played just once since he joined the Phillies on Friday in Colorado.
Alfaro is out of options next season, meaning he must be the Opening Day roster or the Phillies risk losing him. The team could explore a trade for Cameron Rupp or Knapp in the offseason.
"As an organization, we're big fans of Jorge Alfaro," Klentak said. "His work ethic. His leadership. Is he a finished product? No. But most players that come to the big leagues for the first time are not. So we're happy to have him here and expose him to the big leagues for the foreseeable future. We'll see what kind of strides he can make up here."