As May’s schedule gets underway, we are slowly creeping up on the quarter mark of the 2019 MLB season. Division races are slowly but surely beginning to take shape, and some players hope to continue their hot starts throughout the grind of the season while others hope to get going. Because it’s so early, it’s a bit foolish to start predicting who will be an MVP candidate. But that’s no fun. So let’s make a case for Rhys Hoskins as an MVP finalist.
Rhys vs. NL First Basemen
The National League is stacked with first basemen. The list includes Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, and newcomer Pete Alonso, among others. That is an impressive group that contains a former MVP, MVP finalists, perennial All-Stars, and a rookie of the year candidate. Cody Bellinger is sometimes listed as a first baseman, but he primarily plays outfield now (198 innings as opposed to 82 at first) so we’re not going to include him here.
As of this point in the season, Rhys Hoskins is having a better season than all of them. Hoskins is tied with Alonso among NL first basemen with 10 home runs. He’s first in RBIs with 31, first in on base percentage at .424, first in slugging percentage with .632, and therefore, also first in on-base+slugging at 1.056. He’s fourth in batting average and tied for fourth in doubles. Hoskins is, so far, having a better offensive season than a who’s who list of elite first basemen.
Rhys vs. The NL
Of course, the award is “Most Valuable Player,” not “Most Valuable First Baseman.” To win the award you need to be more than the best player at your position. You have to be the best player in your league overall. Hoskins’ numbers aren’t quite there yet, but he’s not far off.
Cody Bellinger currently paces the NL with his historic start. The Dodgers’ former Rookie of the Year winner is hitting .412/.486/.840 with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs. He now owns the records for RBIs before May with 37, hits before May with 47, and total bases before May with 97. He tied the records for home runs before May with 14 and runs scored before May with 32. Bellinger leads not only the National League but all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and RBIs. He is second in home runs by only one.
Reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich is off to a ridiculous start to the 2019 season as well. Yelich carries a batting line of .346/.450/.804 with 15 home runs and 36 RBIs. Yelich also tied the record for home runs before May with 14. He is basically a close second behind Bellinger in almost every major category except home runs, which leads by one with 15.
Clearly, these two players are ahead of Hoskins if the MVP voting ended today. But the beautiful thing is, it doesn’t end today. Bellinger and Yelich are on historic hot streaks, but as we all know, hot streaks eventually turn into cold spells. Who’s to say that Rhys Hoskins can’t close the wide gap a bit as the season goes on? Bellinger isn’t going to hit over .400 for the season. Yelich very well may slow down his pace of mashing home runs at some point. As we know by now, Hoskins has streaks where he goes on a home run binge and hits five in six games. He has yet to have one of these this season. The key to catching Bellinger and Yelich is not to fall into a too far of a cold spell after one of those home run binges.
However, the biggest thing that will hurt Hoskins’ chances at the MVP award is his defense. At his absolute best, Rhys is an average first baseman defensively. On the flip side, Yelich is a Gold Glove outfielder and five tool player. Other players that could enter the MVP conversation down the line like the Cubs’ Javier Baez and the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado are some of the best defenders at more premium positions, as well as offensive forces. Hoskins would have to make up for the defensive gap by having clear and away better offensive stats than anyone else.
Rhys vs. the rest of the MLB
To win an MVP award, you have to be the best player in your respective league. But, it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances to be one of the best players in all of the Majors.
Does it feel like Rhys Hoskins always has a full count when he’s at the plate? Well that’s because he leads all of baseball in pitches per plate appearance with 4.76. He’s second in total pitches seen. Rhys has been one of the best in baseball at taking pitches and working counts until he gets a pitch to hit. And when he gets a pitch to hit, he takes advantage by driving it for extra bases. Hoskins has 19 extra base hits, only three behind the leaders Baez and Bellinger who are tied with 22.
Hoskins is fourth in baseball in RBIs with his 31 and only two behind Jose Abreu for third. He is sixth in baseball with a 1.056 OPS. Some dude from Millville named Mike Trout is seventh. Hoskins is in the top 15 league wide for home runs with his 10, but there are a lot of players tied in that top 15 with anywhere between 10 and 15. He’s tied for ninth in total bases with 74.
Long road ahead
There is still over 120 games left in the Major League Baseball season. There will be plenty of twists and turns and surprises along the way. The leaders today might not matter come October when we will know the final voting. But one thing’s for sure, Rhys Hoskins has been one of the best hitters in baseball through the first quarter of the season.