GWINNETT, GA — There was a time in Major League Baseball when the Bash Brothers were the most exciting power-hitting tandem to watch. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire took home run hitting to a whole new level, and they did it back-to-back in the lineup.
The Philadelphia Phillies are brewing the modern day Bash Brothers in Lehigh Valley.
If you follow the minor leagues with any regularity, you’ve certainly heard the names Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens by now. The two broke out in a big way last year, with Cozens leading all of the minors in home runs and RBI.
I have seen the numbers and moonshot highlights on these two guys for a year and a half now. Last Wednesday, they were in my backyard playing the Gwinnett Braves. I had to go see what all the buzz was about.
DYLAN COZENS, RF
Cozens is the monstrous lefty coming of a season for the ages. The Phillies selected the 6-foot-6, 235-pound masher out of Chaparral High School in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft. It took him awhile to settle in and find his power, but he certainly has.
The right-fielder didn’t show much power in his first few seasons. Coming out of high school, he was both a football and baseball player, so the switch to full-time baseball player apparently took a little adjusting. His 2014 season with Lakewood gave a hint as to the type of player Cozens was. He hit 16 home runs, but struck out 147 times in 509 at bats.
There was not much excitement from Cozens in 2015, until his 11-game promotion to Reading in Double-A. There, he slashed .350/.386/.625 with three home runs in 40 at bats.
And then there was 2016.
Cozens played the full year in Double-A with Reading. Many people know that Firstenergy Stadium is a hitter’s paradise and Cozens made the most of it. He led the minors with 40 home runs and 125 RBI, 29 of which came in his home ball park. His road numbers told a different tale as he slashed .259/.325/.441 with 11 home runs and 100 strikeouts.
There’s plenty to like about Cozens despite a few negatives. He has that freakish athletic ability like Aaron Judge both in the field and on the base paths. Cozens stole 21 of 22 stolen base attempts last season, his third straight year stealing 20 or more bases. He’s also very solid in right field. Cozens has already registered six assists this season and has played 10 games in centerfield. That’s right, a 6-foot-6, 235 pound centerfielder with arm strength and decent range. That’s scary.
The strikeouts of course are the main thing. He struck out 186 times last season, a staggering 31.7 percent of the time. He’s on pace to crush that total this season, striking out 32.5 percent of the time. That said he has constantly raised his walk totals each year, and I noticed that he does have the ability to work counts. He simply has an aggressive swing, and often pays the price.
Cozens also struggles against lefties, currently slashing .217/.303/.443 with just six of his home runs and 44 strikeouts in just 106 at bats. Those numbers could lead some to think he’s a platoon player, but his overall game seems like he’s destined for an everyday role. There will just be some rough days.
Cozens ripped a single in his first at bat on Wednesday, against a lefty in Andrew Albers. He literally looked like he casually swatted at a fly in his second at bat and the ball went soaring to the warning track, sending Micah Johnson and Ronald Acuna on a deep run to right center. Despite making an out, it advanced Hoskins to third, allowing him to score the games first run in the next at bat. He walked in his third at bat before striking out in his final at bat. Not a bad day.
There’s a lot of commotion in his hands pre-pitch. It’s a little unorthodox approach up top, but he doesn’t have much going on down low. He simply uses his quick bat and natural strength to send the ball flying.
(all videos courtesy of my Minor League Videos YouTube page)
I wish I had seen a home run from Cozens, but his one fly out was spectacular. It put his natural strength on full display, and certainly gets one excited about the power potential he has.
RHYS HOSKINS, 1B
Hoskins is a different kind of hitter than Cozens, but then again, he came into pro-ball with collegiate experience. The Phillies drafted their future first baseman in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Sacramento State.
Unlike Cozens, Hoskins hit the ground running, or at least hitting. Split between Low and High A in his first full season, Hoskins slashed .319/.395/.518 with 17 home runs and 36 doubles. He followed that up with a monster season in Reading, falling just two home runs shy of sharing the minor league home run title with his brother in bash.
Hoskins slashed .281/.377/.566 with 26 doubles, 38 home runs, and 116 RBI. He also swiped eight stolen bases, not too shabby for a 6-foot-4, 225 pound first baseman, albeit this seems like an anomaly. Despite better numbers at his home field, Hoskins was good on the road. He slashed .270/.357/.496, hitting eight more doubles away from Firstenergy and 13 home runs.
Hoskins seems like a more complete hitter to me. His approach at the plate is far more advanced than Cozens, but again, he is also two years older with collegiate-ball experience. He doesn’t have the strikeout profile that many a power hitter has these days, almost always keeping his strikeout totals below 20 percent. He counters it with an advanced eye for the zone and quality walk rates. This season he has struck out 63 times (15.5 percent) and walked 49 times (12.5 percent) in 393 plate appearances.
Hoskins, who bats in front of Cozens, should have had two doubles to start his Wednesday night. He shot an absolute rocket down the third base line that Rio Ruiz stole out of the air in a fully-extended dive. His next at bat, Hoskins answered and did double, coming around to score the games first run.
He then flied out deep to center and struck out in an eighth inning that saw Jason Hursh strike out the side. He has a bit of pre-pitch fidget as well, with a whirling bat curl over his back shoulder. He’s all the way back in the box, and it looks like most of his weight is on that back foot. He takes a pretty defined leg kick and explodes into his pitch.
The downside is that Hoskins does not possess that same athletic ability as Cozens. He will likely be limited to a role at first base, and although I didn’t see any issues Wednesday night, most reports indicate that he is average at best. With a young Tommy Joseph in front of him, the Phillies may be forced to make a decision on who will be the future and who could become trade bait. Both Joseph and Hoskins seem more than organizational depth type players.
The Phillies are the worst team in baseball. Another Phillies prospect, Nick Williams, is settling in nicely in right field since his recent call up. Both Cozens and Hoskins appear to be blocked for the time being, but if they keep raking, a September call may in both of their futures.