Back in May of 2011, Eric Hosmer made his major league debut for the Kansas City Royals with expectations soaring through the roof. The world was his oyster and the belief was that Hosmer had the potential to be a future middle of the order run producer and possibly even future MVP candidate. Unfortunately, life and baseball don’t normally follow a movie script. Hosmer would struggle mightily in 2012 and would be up and down offensively from 2013 to 2015. Defensively he would accumulate a few Gold Gloves at first base and would be a big part of two Royals World Series teams. He had built up a nice career but maybe not the one everyone was hoping for. Luckily, sometimes it just takes a bit of time for a baseball player to figure things out, which is what has happened for Eric Hosmer in 2016.
To this point in the new campaign, Hosmer has looked like the offensive force most of us expected upon his arrival. This year he is batting .311/.367/.522 with 8 home runs, 21 RBI’s and an OPS+ of 140 (or a wRC+of 145 if you prefer that). He has already racked up 1.1 bWAR and has become a complete player. The lone knock on Hos had been a lack of power, or more to the point that he seemed to prefer an opposite field approach to driving a ball for power. Now, I am a proponent of hitting the ball to all fields, which Hosmer is still doing(30% of his hits to left, 30 to center and 38.9 to right) but there is also a time for driving the ball, especially with good pitch recognition. Hosmer has so far racked up 17 extra base hits out of his 50 hits, or 34% of the time. His ground ball percentage is up(58 from 52 last year) but his fly ball percentage is up as well(26 to 24). Add in an ISO of .211(up from .162 last year) and you have the making of a guy more fitted to hit in the middle of the order. So what do the numbers tell us?
What it tells me is that Hosmer’s main approach (which has always been to hit according to the situation) hasn’t drastically changed, but his ability to lift the ball has improved. Hosmer’s hard hit percentage this year is up, 35 from last year’s 32.9 and his HR/FB percentage is way up, 23 to 15. Obviously there is a smaller sample size at this point in the season compared to 2015 but even a slight dip should keep his numbers above what he did last year. What is most impressive is the increase in Hosmer’s exit velocity this year. Not only has his exit velocity gone up but it has progressively gone up:
Hosmer has an average exit velocity this year of 93.5 mph, compared to 90.4 mph in 2015. Many of his home runs have not been ‘barely shots’, as he has had some massive bombs this year like last week against Boston. It shows that Hosmer has been taking advantage of pitchers mistakes, something he wasn’t doing earlier in his career. The fact that he is but 26 years old really makes one wonder what he will be able to do when he actually enters the prime of his career.
There is no way to tell whether or not Hosmer will be able to keep up this pace, especially since over his career he has been an extremely streaky hitter. Just looking at 2015, by month Hosmer had slugging percentage’s of .488, .520, .322, .577, .434, and .410. There is an over.250 percent difference between his best and worst month. For as steady and consistent as he has been this year, Hosmer has a history of going from the top of the mountain to the depths of the basement. The hope this year is that Hosmer has started figuring things out and won’t fall to the inconsistentcy of his earlier years. It’s just two months(yes, small sample size; take a drink) but so far this year he has slugged .506 and .542. Time will tell but his numbers are definitely potruding in the correct direction.
The Royals count on Eric Hosmer for a number of items-clubhouse leadership, popular hairstyles, steady, Gold Glove award winning defense(even if the defensive metrics don’t always agree) and a run producing bat in the middle of their batting order. Over the years he hasn’t always lived up to that last one but this year he has been the rock in the middle of a questionable Royals offense. Hosmer will be a free agent after the 2017 season and he looks primed to cash in when the time comes. There is no way to tell if that means a longer stay in Kansas City or elsewhere, but he has picked an excellent time to improve on his value. He has taken that power potential and made it a reality, a consistency long-needed in Kansas City. Earlier in the year I thought Steve Balboni might have his single season home run mark(36) threatened by Mike Moustakas; now I’m wondering if maybe ‘Bye Bye’ Balboni should worry about both Moose and Hos. For Royals fans, this is a good problem to have.