IL notes: Hoskins turning heads with IronPigs

Phillies prospect hitting for average and power in Triple-A debut

Rhys Hoskins is hitting .357 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 13 games this month. (Andy Grosh/MiLB.com)

By John Wagner / Special to MiLB.com | May 15, 2017 12:00 PM ET

Normally power hitters do not hit for a high average. Nor do many high-average hitters pound a lot of home runs.

That's why Rhys Hoskins' performance has been so notable: the Lehigh Valley first baseman continues to hit for average and for power, making him a candidate to win the IL's Triple Crown for the first time since Hall of Famer Jim Rice did so in 1974.

"Rhys is a good hitter -- and he's always been a good hitter," IronPigs manager Dusty Wathan said. "Also, there are guys who can translate gap power [into home runs], and I think Rhys has been able to do that as he's gone up the ladder.

"Last year I saw him work into a good count, then really drive a pitch. But on the flip side, he may get into a tough count, but he'll show you how good a hitter he is by keeping his hands back and barreling up a tough pitch for a single."

Through 36 games, including Sunday's emotional Mother's Day performance, Hoskins is batting .345 to rank fourth in the IL. His nine home runs are tied for first, while his 28 RBIs are second in the circuit and just two behind the leader.

When asked if he focused more on power or average, the Sacramento native, who began the season ranked No. 13 among Philadelphia's top prospects, chose both.

"I like to be a hitter first," Hoskins said. "I think I have always been more of a doubles guy, and I'm starting to learn how to tap in to some power.

"I'm not trying to hit home runs by any means. I am trying to drive the ball, and if it goes out, great. But nobody ever got into trouble for leading the league in doubles, either."

Hoskins has eight doubles and a triple to go with his nine homers to tie for first in the IL with 18 extra-base hits. He's also tops in the league in slugging percentage (.655) and is second in total bases (78). The 6-foot-4, 225-pound first baseman also has drawn 16 walks and ranks third in the IL with a .432 on-base percentage.

Video: IronPigs' Hoskins clears the bases

"He can control his swing when he gets aggressive," Wathan said. "Rhys has the ability to be short to the ball and be aggressive swinging at a strike while laying off the pitches that are not strikes."

Hoskins does have 23 strikeouts, but five other members of the IronPigs' prospect-laden roster have more. And his average of one strikeout every 5.17 at-bats is decent, as is the ratio of 18 walks to those 23 whiffs.

"You never want to strike out, but it's going to happen. It's part of the game," Hoskins said. "But one thing I'm learning this season is about becoming more comfortable [batting] with two strikes.

"I think I'm picking up rather quickly on what pitchers are trying to do, but more adjustments will have to be made -- that's baseball."

Wathan, who also managed Hoskins last season when the pair were at Double-A Reading, said the 24-year-old first baseman has improved his defense.

"He's worked very hard on his defense," Wathan said. "Last year he had some silly errors, nonchalant errors.

"His work ethic is impeccable. I think he's an average defender who's going to get better as he goes along."

The strong start to Hoskins' first Triple-A season has led to talk of a promotion to the Major Leagues. Instead of brushing that talk aside, he's used it as motivation.

"Yes, I'm only a step away, I can't deny that," he said. "But I try to spin that in a positive way: It's motivating, because that means I'm only a step away from reaching a life-long goal.

"It can be negative if you start to press and try to do too much. So I try to spin it in a positive way: I'm only a step away, and if that doesn't motivate you to work hard to make that step, that's a problem."

In brief

Hicks keeps hitting: Toledo catcher John Hicks hit .424 with a home run and 12 RBIs in 10 April contests to earn a promotion to Detroit when Miguel Cabrera was injured. Hicks kept hitting with the Tigers, batting .417 with a home run and seven RBIs in seven games. When Cabrera was activated from the disabled list, Hicks returned to the Mud Hens and just kept hitting, collecting at least one hit in four of his first six games back. With the Hens this season, Hicks is batting .333 with three homers and 19 RBIs.

The streaks have struck out: Durham lost to Toledo 6-3 in 12 innings May 12, but the Bulls lost more than a game that day. Catcher Curt Casali went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, while third baseman Patrick Leonard was 0-for-4 with three whiffs. That ended an 18-game hitting streak for Casali, the longest in the IL this season, and a 17-game streak for Leonard, the second-longest in the league.

Picture this: Left-hander Daniel Camarena continues to pitch well for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, winning for the fourth time in his first five starts by beating Syracuse on May 13. Camarena has not allowed more than six hits or two walks in any of his five starts and has struck out 23 in 29 1/3 innings. On the season Camarena is 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA that ranks fifth-best in the IL.

He said it: "I think years ago it used to happen more. I don't know if you'll see as much of it today. [Jhonatan Solano] understands what his role is. He does a great job with the pitching staff. He's a high-energy guy. He's an outstanding teammate. So we're really happy for him. I don't think it's the type of record you really want. But it shows that he's stuck around and there's some longevity there. He just loves the game." -- Syracuse manager Billy Gardner to the Syracuse Post-Standard on May 3 after the 31-year-old Solano set a franchise record for games caught with 325.

John Wagner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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