More than a decade ago, the Phillies tried out Ryan Howard in left field for a few days in spring training as they sought a way to include both Howard and Jim Thome in the same lineup.
The experiment lasted less than a week, but here we are in 2017 and the Phillies have another first-base conundrum and are trying the same thing.
Rhys Hoskins on Monday will make the first start of his professional career in left field for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Today's Lehigh Valley Ironpigs lineup vs. Norfolk. Questions? Comments? Concerns? pic.twitter.com/FYZufVj9QN— Marshall Harris (@mharrisCSN) August 7, 2017
Obviously, this situation is different from what happened with Howard and Thome. Howard ended up with 382 homers, Rookie of the Year and MVP awards and a world championship. Thome is a Hall of Famer.
Joseph, meanwhile, is a league-average offensive first baseman and a below-average defensive first baseman. Hoskins has succeeded offensively at each minor-league level but hasn't yet that received that first call-up because of positional issues.
The Phillies failed to trade Joseph ahead of the July 31 deadline because there just wasn't a market for first basemen. In a trade with the Mariners, the Athletics just basically gave away Yonder Alonso, a rental first baseman but a better hitter than Joseph.
The Phillies want to get a nice look at Hoskins this summer, about 150 plate appearances worth. They'll want to see how his bat holds up in a small sample against major-league pitching to have a better idea of whether Hoskins can or should be the opening day first baseman in 2018.
Trying Hoskins out in left field could allow them to call him up by mid-August and get him those 150 plate appearances. If the experiment fails, it's not like he'll have forgotten how to play first base. If it succeeds, it will give the Phillies another option moving forward. It will be interesting to see how a player with Hoskins' body type fares in left field; he isn't regarded as a strong defender at first base.
Still, trying this out first makes more sense than trading Joseph for 10 or 20 cents on the dollar for the sake of opening up the Hoskins roster spot.
Hoskins has hit .280/.385/.570 with an International League-leading 27 homers and 84 RBIs. He has 64 walks and 73 strikeouts. Dating back to the final two months of last season, Hoskins has 93 walks and 97 Ks. He just simply looks like a better hitter than Joseph, who has value himself as a powerful right-handed hitter but not enough to net the Phillies something enticing in a trade.