What would the Yankees do? Promote Jorge Alfaro and Rhys Hoskins . . . fast | Bob Brookover
The rising Yankees injected young talent into their lineup. The Phillies should do the same, starting with catcher Jorge Alfaro and first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
The damn Yankees are good again. Not that they were ever actually bad, but they did miss the playoffs three out of the last four seasons - something that had not happened in this century - and that's cause for misery and mass hysteria in the Bronx.
For the record, the Yankees have not actually been bad since 1992, when they had their last of four straight losing seasons. Even then they landed in the American League East basement only once. They have finished last only four times since entering the American League as the New York Highlanders in 1903.
For those of you scoring in South Philly, the Phillies have had 13 losing seasons and finished last six times in the NL East since 1992. Remember, that's a 25-year stretch that could be considered the best in franchise history because it also included 11 winning seasons, three trips to the World Series, and one title.
This comes up now because the Yankees have always been the template other teams would love to follow. When the Phillies put together five straight division titles from 2007 through 2011 and went to consecutive World Series, including the second one against New York, they were ever so briefly described as the Yankees of the National League.
Laughable as that seems now, the Phillies are one of the few teams in baseball capable of leading their league in payroll and managing partner John Middleton sure sounds intent on fielding a team deserving of those salaries again even if his team has fallen from second to 20th in that department since 2012.
At the moment, however, the Phillies are trying to find enough young players worth building around before they supplement them with big-ticket additions in trades and free agency. Middleton is on record as saying that is what the Phillies intend to do, and we have no choice but to believe him.
One of the trickiest things about that equation is identifying when a minor-leaguer is ready for the majors. This, like so many other things, is something the Yankees appear to be doing very well.
A year ago they surged back into the AL East and wild-card races behind the bat of catcher Gary Sánchez. They decided on Aug. 3 that the then- 23-year-old native of the Dominican Republic was ready for a permanent promotion to the big leagues. Sánchez rewarded their decision by hitting .305 with 20 home runs and a 1.052 OPS in 52 games.
In order to make that move, the Yankees had to step on the toes of veteran Brian McCann, although they were able to keep him in the lineup as a designated hitter on the days he did not catch. McCann was traded to Houston after the season and Sánchez is the catcher of the future for the Yankees.
The Phillies, of course, have a catching prospect every bit as good as Sánchez at triple-A Lehigh Valley right now. Jorge Alfaro is knocking loudly at the big-league door while Cameron Rupp struggles in his second season as the Phillies' No. 1 catcher. Alfaro will turn 24 next month.
What would the Yankees do in the Phillies' situation? The educated guess is that they'd have Alfaro in the big leagues before the all-star break.
The other major minor-league decision staring down the Phillies right now is Rhys Hoskins, and there's a Yankees comparable to him, too.
Aaron Judge was 24 years and 109 days old when he made his major-league debut with the Yankees on Aug. 13 of last season. Again, that coincides with the time the Yankees played their best baseball last season. On Aug. 2, the day before Sánchez got the call to the big leagues, the Yankees were 53-53. They went 31-25 the rest of the way. At one point, they got to 10 games over .500.
Judge obviously gained some confidence with his introduction to the big leagues last year and has been the best hitter in baseball so far this season for a Yankees team that has the best record in the American League. At 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, Judge looks like Herman Munster at home plate. Judge's April might have been more impressive than Munster's tryout with the Dodgers.
Hoskins, at 6-4 and 225 pounds, isn't quite as large as Judge or the 7-6 Munster, but he has been the best player in the International League through the first month of the season after putting up a monster season last year at double-A Reading. Hoskins turned 24 in March and like Alfaro he plays a position where the guy in the big leagues is struggling mightily right now.
The Phillies decided on May 13 of last season to call up Tommy Joseph after he hit .347 with 13 extra-base hits and a .981 OPS through 27 games at Lehigh Valley. It was a decision that caused some clubhouse discomfort because Ryan Howard was still around.
Hoskins entered play Thursday morning hitting .333 with 12 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and a 1.071 OPS through 25 games. Cutting into Joseph's playing time when he's hitting below the Mendoza Line would not cause nearly as much turmoil as the Howard situation did a year ago.
What would the Yankees do?
Let's just say you'd soon see Rhys Hoskins at a ballpark near you.