First Baseman Profile: Eric Hosmer

Brian Kersey

After a disaster area of a sophomore campaign, the Royals first baseman had a nice 2013. Is it for real?

My second post on Fake Teams - before I was even a contributor, just writing a Fanpost - was a piece on Kansas City Royals' first baseman Eric Hosmer. The article sought to determine whether Hosmer, at the time coming off a hugely disappointing sophomore big-league season, was a bust, or whether his poor 2012 was a blip on the way to his supposed stardom.

If you don't want to click that link, I tested this by tracking every player who had (a) finished in the top three in Rookie of the Year voting, and (b) seen his second-year OPS+ fall by 30 or more points from his rookie campaign. Hosmer was one of 39 players to make the list. I found that the prior 38 had, on average, rebounded from their sophomore slump to a point somewhere between their strong Year 1 and their awful Year 2. I likened the sophomore slumpers to Goldilocks - Year 1 was too high, Year 2 was too low, but Year 3 was the year they found their level. In fact, only three of those 38 managed to surpass their rookie year in Year 3: Gary Carter, Geovany Soto, and Carlos Beltran.

Okay, all of that was a ridiculously long paragraph of preamble to get to the point that Hosmer straddled the line. After a 118 OPS+ in Year 1, Hosmer plummeted to 81 in Year 2, then came right back to that same 118 in 2013. He was a good rookie, a horrible sophomore, then ... well, he was something last year.

The first baseman put up OPS's of .643 and .659 in April and May last year. He and third baseman Mike Moustakas were emblematic of the "Kansas City can't develop hitters" mindset, and we had to wonder whether one or both would be sent down at some point. But then, Hosmer woke up. After his .6-somethings in the first two months of the season, his OPS was in the .800s every month the rest of the season, and he ended 2013 with a .302/.353/.448 slash line.

Now, the easy thing to do would be to chalk Hosmer's improvements up to George Brett and Pedro Grifol, who were installed as the team's hitting coaches May 30 (Grifol is still in place). Sure, that's possible. I can't say it real, but I can't say it isn't. What I do know is that Eric Hosmer went from third-year disaster to third-year sensation.

Meanwhile, the reason for Hosmer's disaster of a 2012 isn't even that difficult to pinpoint. After a .314 BABIP in 2011, his number fell to .255 in 2012, then rose back to .335 last year. Basically, out of .314, .255, and .335, which number stands out as wrong? I mean, maybe it's lazy to play "One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other," but really now.

If (big if, but go with me for a minute) Hosmer can repeat his June-September numbers over a full 162 games, that grades out to nearly 100 runs, 100 RBI, 24 home runs, 200 hits, one hell of a baseball season.

Meanwhile, from a purely fantasy perspective, Hosmer is one of only two first basemen to steal double-digit bases in 2013; he's stolen at least 11 in all three of his seasons. No, he's not Billy Hamilton, but a handful of stolen bases at a non-stolen-base position is a definite perk.

ANALYSIS BREAK

Okay, I made it more than 550 words into this piece, and I have something I have to say. Eric Hosmer is my favorite player going right now. When the "claim the piece you want to write" email was sent around among the Fake Teams writers, I claimed Hosmer within, I don't know, 15 seconds? I love him so.

The plus side of that is that I can dive into Hosmer stats for a week and still have fun with them. On the other hand, it was all I could do not to spend the few hundred words talking about how delightful a baseball player he is. I just read over those few hundred words, and frankly, I didn't do that well. Heck, by trying to be all objective and stuff, I think it hurt my writing. That was choppy.

So I'll just lay it out there, as one Hosmer fan to another (If you aren't a Hosmer fan, don't correct me; just let me have that one) - He's a top-ten fantasy first baseman in 2014. I think his power ceiling is only in the mid-20s at best, but dude's going to be a .300 hitter, steal double-digit bases, and - in what promises to be an improved Kansas City offense - should offer plenty of runs and RBI.

Okay, I'll try to be an analyst again the rest of the way.

ANALYSIS BREAK OVER

Let's get back to the "One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other" game with a little chart:

Avg OPS OPS+ HR BABIP wOBA wRC+ K% oWAR
2011 .293 .799 118 19 .314 .343 113 14.6 2.6
2012 .232 .663 81 14 .255 .291 79 15.9 0.4
2013 .302 .801 118 17 .335 .350 119 14.7 3.1

Batting average. OPS. OPS+. Homers. BABIP. So much. I mean, we have three sets of data points, and two of them are damn near identical. Maybe you want to say Eric Hosmer isn't going to be a superstar first baseman. Sure. I can accept that argument. But if you want to say he's not the top-ten guy, the definite producer he was in 2013, the onus is on you to prove that, because all the data seems to argue the other way.

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