Rhys Hoskins did not know much about Gabe Kapler when the Phillies hired Kapler in November to be their manager. He remembered Kapler as a player and knew Kapler had been overseeing the Dodgers’ farm system. Someone told Hoskins that Kapler was big on healthy eating in the clubhouse and had an interest in sabermetrics.
“But I didn’t know if any of that was true,” Hoskins said.
The two met for dinner last month in Center City and attended an event at Citizens Bank Park before heading to a 76ers game. It was a chance for Hoskins to learn who Kapler really was. And it was the manager’s chance to make an impression on the player the Phillies hope can be their next leader.
“It’s hard to not get a good impression of that guy,” Hoskins said of his new manager. “He commands the room as soon as he walks into it. He’s a very, very thorough person. You can tell that everything he says is super thought out and very genuine and very honest. The outlook he has — and not only on baseball and how he’ll be as a manager but on life — is very positive. I think that’s going to have a pretty big ripple effect on the whole organization in a very good way.”
The manager was equally impressed by Hoskins. Hoskins, Kapler said, is already a leader. Kapler respected Hoskins enough that he made sure to call him last month as soon as the Phillies thought they had a deal with free agent Carlos Santana, a signing that ensured Hoskins will start the season in left field.
Perhaps Kapler sees a bit of himself in Hoskins. Kapler prides himself on being prepared. So does Hoskins. Hoskins has been lauded, since being drafted, for his plate discipline, an ability to reach base at a high rate, and a power stroke. But it is his preparation that sets him apart. Hoskins, the son of two lawyers, prepares for each at-bat as if he’s getting ready to argue a case. He pores over all the available information — pages of scouting reports and loops of game tape — and deciphers what is valuable. No Phillies hitter was more prepared last season than Hoskins.
“I could tell this in our conversation: He’s very thirsty for information, especially if it can help us as a team or as an individual player,” Hoskins said. “He’s not only looking for information but how to apply that information to certain situations or to myself as a hitter or to J.P. Crawford as a hitter or Cesar Hernandez or Maikel Franco. That part to me was pretty impressive. He’s really focused on not just getting the information and going through it but how it applies to each individual guy to make them a better hitter.”
Kapler finalized his coaching staff in the weeks after meeting Hoskins. He has hired eight coaches, including hitting coach John Melee, who had success the last three seasons working with a young, powerful Cubs lineup;, and Pedro Guerrero, a 29-year-old assistant hitting coach who Kapler said “lights up the room.” It is a staff with which Hoskins is eager to work.
“He’s a younger guy, and having that in your manager’s office has its advantages. Maybe he’s more relatable because he’s a younger guy and he’s just out of the game,” Hoskins said of Kapler. “I think it’s pretty obvious in the staff that he hired that he’s trying to diversify thought processes and the way guys look at the game. I think that is going to be the biggest part about how he and the staff relate to us. Maybe I don’t see eye-to-eye with one guy on certain things, but I see eye-to-eye with a different guy on the staff. I think that kind of diversification is going to be really healthy for the clubhouse.”
Hoskins flew back to Northern California after meeting Kapler and spent the rest of December doing early-morning workouts. He will report to spring training next month with a better understanding of who his manager is.