If you’re a Yankee fan who grew tired of watching Jacoby Ellsbury take at bats away from superior players for so long and are now suffering through the Todd Frazier era, I am here to spread some sunshine:
Our glass is half full today because it could certainly be worse. We could be paying customers of the Philadelphia Phillies.
I’ve been making this point for some time now: There is virtually no difference between an average Major League player and whoever with whom he can be replaced (AAA player, someone off waivers, etc.). So if you’re in a situation where you have a minor league player who has clearly demonstrated he’s better than other minor leaguers, there is no reason not to give the minor leaguer at bats in place of the average major leaguer. There is no downside and there’s, needless to say, a much bigger potential upside.
Take the curious case of Rhys Hoskins (stop with the “But, but…”, I know it’s an extreme example, hear me out):
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies is in the process of setting all kinds of cool Major League records. He’s hit 11 Home Runs in 18 games and has already amassed a Wins Above Replacement of 1.2. A 1.2 WAR after 18 games places him 6th among Phillies position players for the entire season. Incidentally, Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp are both at 1.3, so Hoskins has probably already passed them by the time you’re reading this. You can also keep in mind that Hoskins’ WAR rating is penalized because he plays the two least important positions on the field – that’s how much better he has to be than catchers and middle infielders to be anywhere near as valuable. And he is…
But the Phillies couldn’t have predicted this…right…?
Predicted he’d be Roy Hobbs? No.
Predicted he’d be better than most players on their team? Abso-friggin-lutely.
This is a team that had a historically bad offense in 2016, by far MLB’s worst. They’ve improved somewhat this season, moving up behind (no, I don’t work for the NFL – the oxymoron is intentional) of San Diego and San Francisco on the worst offense in baseball list. In 2017 they’re 27th out of 30th with a bullet.
Where was Hoskins while the Phillies were getting their asses kicked? He was dominating every minor league level he was at since 2015 in Lakewood*. At A ball, High A, AA and AAA he had an OPS over .900 every season, at every level. And with the exception of his brief stint in Lakewood, he was also below league average age at every level at which he played.
In other words, anyone with 3 minutes and a subscription to Baseball Reference** could have told you this kid is a major league player – absolutely worth an immediate shot given the big team’s woeful attempts at run production.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not claiming we should start engraving Hoskins’ plaque in Cooperstown.
I’m saying that unless you have a player who is clearly an above average Major League player – about a 3 WAR or more – there is no reason to leave a prospect out of your day to day lineup to keep Mr. Average in the game. Even in the unlikely event the prospect falls flat on his face, he won’t hurt your team any more than the average player you have out there.
And I’m saying (drumroll, Yankee fans) that if you’re a Yankee fan, you have every right to be outraged. Ellsbury had absolutely no business taking at bats away from Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler earlier this season, and there is no justification whatsoever for Todd Frazier to be taking at bats away from Garrett Cooper, Tyler Austin and/or Greg Bird (which he was and still is when all were healthy at different points).
Take the kid with the superior minor league resume every time over the average major league player.
*Side note: I’ve seen a lot of Lakewood Blue Claws games over the years and remember almost every player who went through there who went on to have a good Major League career. But I must admit, I don’t remember Hoskins, quite regrettably.
**Keep in mind, the Phillies were the last team in baseball to add an analytics department.
Thanks again to Baseball Reference for the stats.