Rhys Hoskins and the 50-Game Test

I planned to include Rhys Hoskins in my blind résumés post from Monday, but I couldn’t find any realistic comps for him. Part of the problem is no one does for a full season what Hoskins did for 50 games. Part of the problem, also, is no one does for a full season what Hoskins would be expected to do for a full season, based on his peripherals. It’s a fairly unique skill set (although let’s not conflate “unique” with “the best” or any kind of superlative like that… yet).

Hoskins had himself a real, real nice debut. This isn’t the first time you’ve read about him in the last couple of months and it will be far from the last. Andrew Perpetua, for all intents and purposes, regressed his batted balls from 2017 and he still would’ve had an awesome season. In Eno Sarris’ heart, as well as mine, Hoskins was the runner-up National League Rookie of the Year to Cody Bellinger.

Hoskins had himself a real, real conveniently sized debut as well. His playing exactly 50 games prevents me from arbitrarily choosing a cutoff and having to justify it. A cutoff for what, you ask? Well, Hoskins, in exactly 50 games, posted a .359 isolated power (ISO) while swinging and missing only 7.1% of the time. He struck out a fair deal, but he also walked a ton. Take this snapshot of a season and, as aforementioned, you’ll be hard-pressed to find comps.

Which is exactly why I set out on a very pseudo-scientific quest to find any of Hoskins’ contemporaries who have done this — this, being the aforementioned 50 games of a .350-ish ISO and a 7%-ish swinging strike rate (SwStr%) — at any point in their careers (or within windows of their careers that I’ve curated). I’m winging it here, plucking names from my brain who have elite power and at least above-average plate discipline (assuming Hoskins might, but it’s not a foregone conclusion) and scouring their careers for similar streaks. Any omitted hitters are a product of my lack of memory or imagination, not of malice. Except for Giancarlo Stanton.

Mike Trout

The best position player of our generation and already one of the game’s all-time greats. Might as well aim high, right?

He had stretches in 2014 and 2017 during which he achieved the aforementioned criteria. Hoskins did something in his first 50 games that Mike Trout, the game’s best hitter since debuting, has done only twice in his career. Not a bad start.

David Ortiz

Retired or not, Ortiz was one of the game’s prodigious sluggers and arguably walked away during his (second) peak.

Ortiz did it once in 2016, and while he wasn’t as contact-oriented during his more youthful peak, he essentially lived in the .300 ISO, 9% SwStr range — a profile that Hoskins’ regressed 2018 batting line would love to resemble for a single season, let alone five.

Jose Bautista

We’re three hitters in, but Joey Bats is the only man, now and likely through the remainder of this post, who generated a .400-ish ISO for, like, an entire season’s worth of plate appearances (across two years). We’re talking about Stanton opting out and going elsewhere; Bautista hit as many home runs in nine fewer games with a wRC+ 50 points higher. It’s absolutely incredible. In light of it, it’s hard to blame him for expecting to make bank in free agency right before his production cratered.

Bautista sustained Hoskinsian levels of production for the better part of three to four years. He generated legitimate first-round value in four of his six peak years. Joey Bats lost the other two to injury, and a bit of mental arithmetic suggests both would have prorated to first-round value. It’s near-impossible to pin a Bautista comp on Hoskins, but given the lack of folks who can’t do what Hoskins and so few others have done, it’s not a stretch to dream on it.

Nelson Cruz

I’ve affectionely called Cruz the second coming of Big Papi as the former descends incredibly gracefully into his late 30s. One of the game’s premier sluggers, it’s practically guaranteed he’ll be underrated on draft day. (Unless he gets injured or suddenly falls off a cliff. The ageists will claim victory, but hindsight is 20/20.)

A little bit of discretion would’ve been nice here; it’s evident Cruz doesn’t have nearly the contact skills Hoskins has. Moreover, while Cruz has strung together a few nice slugging streaks, he has barely scraped the criterion threshold in every instance, and it has never come with a contact rate as pristine as Hoskins’. It remains to be seen, but early returns suggest Cruz and Hoskins are locked into the 4th round of 15-team leagues. Make of that what you will.

Josh Donaldson

Donaldson has been one of the game’s best hitters since his breakout in 2014…

… yet any 50-game streak of his will struggle to hold a candle to Hoskins’ debut.

Nolan Arenado

Ditto, Arenado.

He’s closer than Donaldson in terms of contact but slightly farther in terms of power (arguably).

Paul Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt has never put together 50 games of .350-ISO hitting.

Kris Bryant

Bryant has, once…

… and while it’s great that his contact rate continually improves, it’s possible it’s suppressing his power a bit. Or not — we’ll see. Still, Bryant seems closer to Goldy and Arenado in terms of his power ceiling — which might be the same as Hoskins’, too, if we think we’ve seen his ceiling. (Which begs the question: have we? (Answer: probably. But will we see more of it?))

Joey Votto

The second-best hitter since Trout’s debut, Votto was once a perennial power hitter during a time when Freddy Galvis wasn’t a 20-homer guy.

The ‘.350’ marker along the ISO axis (lefthand/primary y-axis) doesn’t even show up.

What does this mean?

I don’t know!!!!!!! Except that Hoskins accomplished something really incredible in his first 50 games in the big leagues. It’s impossible to expect him to continue such an absurd pace. However, many of the game’s best contemporary sluggers have done what Hoskins’ did only a couple of times at most in each of their careers, which suggests Hoskins is already a special talent. But I don’t need to tell you that. Now, we play the waiting game.

Appendix: Minor League “Comps”

I’m finding it hard to unearth minor league campaigns as strong as Hoskins’ 2016 and 2017 seasons (again, by only these two metrics, so it’s an oversimpliied approach), but here are some similar Double-A seasons (because no one has had a Triple-A season like Hoskins’ in the last decade except one hitter, to be named shortly) to Hoskins’ .285 ISO and 9.1% SwStr at 23 years old:

  • Clint Robinson, 2010 (.289 ISO, 9.2% SwStr)
    • Contact skills were legit, but his ISO barely topped .200 in all other non-Rookie ball seasons
  • Paul Goldschmidt, 2011 (.320 ISO, 11.0% SwStr)
    • !!!!!
  • Matt Adams, 2011 (.266 ISO, 11.4% SwStr)
    • ?????
    • Currently taking comfort in the fact I relaxed the thresholds a bit for this one
  • Darin Ruf, 2012 (.303 ISO, 8.6% SwStr)
    • Oh my god don’t do this to me right now
    • Breathe, Alex — Ruf’s power and contact rate cratered at Triple-A in 2013, a development inverse to Hoskin’s career arc thus far
  • Cody Bellinger, 2016 (.221 ISO, 10.4% SwStr)
    • Hmmmmmmmmm
  • (now we’re entering “looking ahead” territory — but, of course, I’d place much more faith in Triple-A stats than Double-A)
  • Rowdy Tellez, 2016 (.233 ISO, 7.8% SwStr)
    • His 2017 at Triple-A was a lost cause; only 22, so let’s check back in next year
  • Willie Calhoun, 2016 (.215 ISO, 5.8% SwStr)
    • His .272 ISO and 7.1% SwStr in Triple-A this year are the closest thing to Hoskins’ 2017 line after scouring a decade of minor league data

I don’t consider myself a prospector, but I knew Calhoun was good. I just didn’t know he was this good. Any prospect on KATOH’s top-25 list is a friend of mine, but for fantasy purposes, I think we may end up underrating how valuable his projected 560 plate appearances will ultimately be. He was a late 22nd-rounder in Too Early mocks and my NFBC draft-and-hold as well. There are lottery picks every year that pay off handsomely. This one certainly has tremendous upside. Maybe this entire post was actually about Calhoun. The universe works in mysterious ways.

Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's magazine (2018, 2019), Rotowire magazine (2021), and Baseball Prospectus (2022, 2023). Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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6 years ago

Maybe not contemporary enough, but I have to think Pujols did this he had entire years with over .300 ISO and under 7% SwStr, Bonds did it for 3 or 4 seasons in a row….