The prodigious power of two 24-year-old sluggers with local ties has reaped benefits, and their reward now includes a shot in the bigs.
Five days after J.D. Davis was called up from Triple-A Fresno to the Houston Astros, Rhys Hoskins on Thursday was promoted from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to wield a bat for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Davis of Elk Grove High School and Cal State Fullerton fame has started twice at third base for the American League West-leading Astros, collecting a hit in his second at-bat on Aug. 5. Hoskins, who excelled at Jesuit and Sacramento State, will make his major-league debut on Thursday night with the National League East-struggling Philadelphia Phillies. He will play first base and left field, though his future is at first.
Davis and Hoskins were fifth-round picks out of college in 2014, and both soared through the minors with their ability to smash home runs. And both look the part of slugger at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds.
“How cool is this?” Sac State coach Reggie Christiansen said. “It’s great for those guys. I offered J.D. a scholarship to play for us. Imagine J.D. and Rhys in the same lineup. That would’ve been something.”
Davis clubbed 21 homers in 87 games for Double-A Corpus Christi to start this season, and he hit five home runs in 16 games for Fresno before his promotion. Davis has homered 88 times in his minor-league career.
Hoskins was leading the International League this season with 29 home runs, 57 extra-base hits and 91 RBIs in 115 games with the IronPigs. He had 37 homers at Double-A Reading in 2016.
The joy of reaching the majors resonated through family, friends and coaches in Sacramento and Elk Grove and beyond. Davis tweeted, “Let’ssss gooo!” in response to news of Hoskins’ promotion.
Said Davis to Houston media of the reaction of his parents to the news of his promotion: “My mom screamed. My dad was overwhelmed.”
Davis said he didn’t expected to be called up by the Astros this month, adding, “It’s an awesome feeling!”
Christiansen received a call from Hoskins late Wednesday night with the good news.
“I had been texting back and forth with Rhys, and I bought the minor-league baseball package to watch games to follow him,” Christiansen said. “I’d be mowing the grass and stop to watch his next at-bat on my phone. I saw him hit a home run in his last at-bat and thought, ‘There’s no way the Phillies don’t call him up.’ I didn’t sleep at all, and I can’t imagine what he was going through. He’s absolutely earned it. He’s dominated.”
So has Davis, who offered glimpses of his power while at Elk Grove, where he earned Bee Player of the Year honors in 2011. In one prep home game, Davis hit a bases-loaded pop fly down the left-field line that seemingly reached the moon, clearing the bases with two outs. By the time ball landed among three players, Davis had trucked into third.
“That was a big-league pop-up,” recalled Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson. “Just really excited for J.D., really proud of him. He’s been grinding it out. He had a great spring training for the Astros and did well in Double A without getting discouraged. Very humble kid, outstanding on and off the field.”
Davis’ good nature includes his mentoring of Carlson’s son, Dylan Carlson, a first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016. Davis and Dylan Carlson dined several times during spring training in Florida.
“That’s the kind of guy he is, and all the intangibles that make him such a great player is why he’s in the big leagues,” Carlson said.
Hoskins is also known for his generosity. He purchased 40 championship rings for the 2014 Sac State team that won the Western Athletic Conference champonship, expressing gratitude to Christiansen and the program.
“He’s as genuine a good guy as you’re ever going to find,” Christiansen said.
As for Davis and Hoskins, Carlson said, “Those guys meet that profile, guys who play the corner and can hit 30 to 40 home runs a year with their power. It’s just really awesome to see.”