Monday, September 18, 2017

Matt Olson: The Hoskins of the West

By Steve Brenna

On the surface, it may appear that this weekend's Athletics/Phillies is a bit low on intrigue. The two last-place teams are a combined 56 games out of first, long eliminated from playoff contention as they continue their respective rebuilding efforts. While both clubs are low on familiar names, a pair of young sluggers launching homers at a torrid pace will not be unknowns for long.

Perhaps you've already heard of the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins, who made a splash shortly after his August call-up by knocking 11 home runs in his first 18 games. From August 10-27, Hoskins was hitting home runs at a rate of one every 6.9 plate appearances, which projects to a triple-digit home run total over a full season.

While that pace couldn't possibly be maintained, the 24-year-old Northern California native hasn't exactly slowed down. He now sits at 18 bombs in 154 plate appearances, a rate of one every 8.6 plate appearances, which projects to a tidy 82 homer season over 162 games. Hoskins OPS currently stands at 1.195, good for a 209 OPS+ (Hint: that's like, really good).

Matt Olson, however, is a name you may not be familiar with. Yet.

Playing in the largely forgotten Oakland market, Olson has been on an absolute tear since being recalled to the big leagues on August 8th, just two days before Hoskins' call-up. He's clubbed 17 homers over his last 35 games, at a rate of one every 7.7 plate appearances, which would put him right around 79 home runs per 162 games. While all the attention has been on Giancarlo Stanton's run to 60, indeed it's Olson and Hoskins at the top of the major league home run leader board since August 11th.

The timing of the respective call-ups of Olson and Hoskins makes for fun comparison, but it must be noted that Olson had 88 major league plate appearances prior to his most recent promotion, and had only hit four home runs in that span. Hoskins had never stepped foot in the big leagues prior to his call-up. Still, by virtue of signing out of high school, Olson is younger (23) than the collegiate draft pick Hoskins (24).

For his career, Olson now stands at 21 homers in 219 plate appearances, good for one round-tripper every 10.42 trips to the plate. That's far from shabby, and if one assumes the conservative estimate that an every day starter gets approximately 550 plate appearances in a full season, that rate projects to a 52 home run season.

The bottom line? Fans can always find a sliver of hope buried within a 90-loss season, and Olson and Hoskins have provided just that for their downtrodden fan bases. As formerly dominant sluggers like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Jose Bautista inch closer to the end of their careers, the next crop of mashers has begun to arrive.

Let's keep our fingers crossed sophomore slumps won't befall these youngsters in 2018, when we will get a chance to see what numbers they'll put up over a full season.

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