One of the recurring questions this offseason has been what to do with Ryan Howard? Article after article has been written to about this problem. It seems no one wants him including the Phillies. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said it would be best if he left as the Phillies start their rebuild. The problem is he is still owed 60$ million on his contract which still has three years left on it. Even with the Phillies reportedly agreeing to pay part of his salary to go away little interest has been shown by other teams. See Here.
My solution is rather simple: platoon Howard with Darin Ruf to start this season. Back in 2011 Ruf hit .388 with 21 home runs in 196 at bats against left-handed pitching for Reading in the Eastern League. By platooning, it would easy on Howard’s legs and he can off the bench in close and late games as a pinch hitter since most closers are right-handers. Ruff can be used for defensive purposes at first late in games as well. At some point Howard might become of interest to an American League team later in the season as a designated hitter.
Down the road the top Phillies prospect for first base is their 2o14 fifth round draft pick Rhys Hoskins. The same draft round as Ryan Howard was picked in 2001. Hoskins will play at baseball age 22 this season. His slash line at Williamsport last season was .237/.311/408 with 9 homers and 40 rbi’s in 70 games and 245 at bats. That would equal a 18 home run and 80 rbi season in a full season minor league season. Bowman Field there is considered not hitter friendly and it was not for Hoskins where he hit only .177 with two homers but hit .298 with seven homers on the road in the New York-Penn League.
Hoskins really stung the ball hard in Phillies Fall Instructs game and seems to like hitting at Brighthouse Field. With a powerful right handed bat he was the only hitter I saw take the ball deep in any of the instruct games. He hit one off the roof of the Tiki Bar roof. But just as important he hit the ball hard to all fields. See Here. See Here. See Here.
Let’s hope Hoskins does not get sent to Lakewood this season where First Energy Field is also pitcher friendly. Another First base prospect Art Charles hitting from the left side hit only 11 home runs in 2013 playing for Lakewood and hit only two homers in his home park. This past season Charles hit 19 homers for the Clearwater Threshers including 12 at Brighthouse. He led all Phillies left-handed hitters with 18 homers off of right handed pitchers. The problem with Art was his strikeouts and he hit only .216 at Brighthouse. But with the hitter friendly Reading ballpark at AA looming, he should put up even more impressive long ball numbers in 2015.
Hoskins would look good in a Threshers uniform in 2015 but don’t count on it. The Phillies are inside the box thinkers and it looks like he will be ticketed for Lakewood where many of his long balls which would be home runs in most parks will be long outs or be knock down by the left field wall.
So with the Phillies Front Office already announcing that they will not be competing for the post season until the 2017 or 2018 seasons, platooning Howard and Ruf at first looks like the best way to make the Phillies at least competitive in the 2015 season. But to form the new Phillies core in 2017 when they are supposed to make a run for the post season, Rhys Hoskins should be a powerful right handed bat at first base.