In 2011, Eric Hosmer was third in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting. This season, Kansas City’s first baseman was second to none in terms of fantasy disappointment. The numbers were down everywhere.
His batting average dropped more than 60 points, from .293 to .232. Homers went down from 19 to 14 and his RBI dropped from 78 to 60. His slugging percentage took a deep drop from .465 to .359. Sure, he walked 22 more times, but that couldn’t help his OBP, which fell from .334 to .304.
Adding to the frustration is that the 2011 numbers came after a May call up, while he spent all of 2012 in the majors. Fantasy owners expected an extra month of solid production, but instead were likely benching him with more than a month left in the regular season.
After a disappointing 2012, he will certainly fall down draft boards in 2013, but how far should he drop?
Well, basically, 2012.
Even if you took his best month from 2012 and averaged it out over a full season, Hosmer would have fallen short of expectations. In August, he hit .287 with three homers and 10 RBI. Multiply that by six months and you still only have 18 homers and 60 RBI to go with the kind of batting average you probably expected.
In no other month did Hosmer even hit .270.
The 14 homers were obviously disappointing, but it was even worse than that if you look at his full body of work. Recall that he hit five homers in April and only nine the rest of the way in 450 at-bats. That’s one every 50 at-bats, or one every two weeks.
Hosmer particularly struggled against lefties. That’s not a particular surprise for a 23-year-old left-handed hitter in his second Major League season, but still you should expect more than three homers, 14 RBI, and a .592 OPS in 182 at-bats from a fantasy first baseman against southpaws.
Those are numbers that scream for a platoon situation, but that is certainly not what the Royals want from their potential superstar.
In addition to his physical struggles, 2012 seemed to take a mental toll on him as well. Hosmer finished the season hitting seventh in the order, which is what Kansas City wanted from a guy who should be a 3-4 hitter, especially in a weak line-up.
Hosmer’s track record in pro baseball is a short sample size because he played only three games in 2008 after signing late and then went from Single-A to the majors in less than three seasons, making short stops at each level.
There was however a season of struggles in there that quickly turned around, which gives hope that Hosmer can do that again, albeit against much better pitchers in the majors.
Take a look at 2009, when Hosmer combined to hit .241 with six homers in 106 games for a couple of Single A clubs.
The next year, he started again at Single-A Wilmington and hit .354 with a .954 OPS in 87 games. He was promoted to Double-A Arkansas and hit .313 with a .980 OPS in 50 games.
His numbers only improved at Triple-A Omaha in 2011 when he hit a staggering .439 with a 1.107 OPS, forcing the Royals to call him up to the bigs where he was solid the rest of the season.
So Hosmer has put a bad season behind him in the past and succeeded the next year. He has to do that again.
The Royals aren’t going to go out and spend a ton of money on their line-up, so the top of the order will still not likely give Hosmer the ability to drive in as many runs as you’d want from a first baseman, but Wil Myers should be on the roster on Opening Day and that will give a boost to the line-up. Billy Butler is the most consistent offensive player for KC and if Mike Moustakas makes the improvements at age 24 that you hoped Hosmer will make, the middle of the order could be improved.
That would give Hosmer better pitches to see and some guys to drive him in, if he can play well enough to put himself in the heart of the order.
The angst amongst Kansas City fans and fantasy owners towards Hosmer’s disastrous 2012 season is understandable. Royals fans are constantly waiting for next year when their prized prospects finally turn the franchise into a winner again and Hosmer showed that potential over almost an entire season, but then, like the team, disappointed for an entire season.
Yet, he is just 23 and has put up good enough numbers at the highest level of the minors and the majors to make you believe last year may just be a blip in a successful career.
Whenever a player has such a steep decline in production, you look at BABIP and not surprisingly, Hosmer fell from .314 in 2011 to .255 in 2012. It’s part of the explanation for his struggles at the plate and although you can’t just assume that rises back to the top or settles somewhere above the median, it is a sign that he should be able to boost his average back up closer to his .293 average as a rookie.
I don’t expect his average to rise that high just yet, but it will, and I do think his power should return to 2011 form next year.
He’s going to drop in fantasy drafts this year and he is still way behind the head of the class of AL first basemen like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols or NL guys like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez. I’d also put him behind the consistency of Paul Konerko and Mark Teixeira because of the line-up around him.
However, I’d take a flyer – particularly in keeper leagues – on Hosmer in that next group of first basemen, ahead of guys like Adam Dunn, Justin Morneau, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis. He’s got more all-around tools than each of those guys and they should start to return in 2013.
Projection Range for Hosmer in 2013
|Best Case Scenario||155||525||90||28||95||25||.295|
|Worst Case Scenario||126||525||68||13||62||15||.240|