Aug 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) connects for a double in the first inning of the game against the Miami Marlins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Passing the Torch to Eric Hosmer


Sep 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals Eric Hosmer (35) doubles against the Texas Rangers during the 10th inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals beat the Rangers 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

During most of his tenure with the Kansas City Royals, Billy Butler has been their best hitter. In a lineup that was, at times, devoid of major league talent, Butler stood out as one of the few professional hitters on the roster. Yes, he may not hit for the power that had been expected aside from his excellent 2012 season, but there is still value in a .300 hitting doubles machine.

However, when Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas joined the Royals permanently, it was expected that Butler would eventually have to pass along the mantle as being the Royals best hitter to one of them. While Moustakas has disappointed thus far in his career, Hosmer appeared to turn the corner. He was one of the Royals best hitters in the second half of the season, and, based on OPS+, was actually the Royals best hitter over the course of the season. In the past five seasons, this marked the second time that Butler had not led the Royals in that category.

This time, Butler may not regain that title. Following his disappointing 2012, Hosmer looked more like the player that he was expected to be following his rookie season. From June 1st through the end of the season, he produced at a .318/.367/.494 rate, hitting all but one of his home runs during those four months. Should Hosmer be able to produce at that rate over an entire season, he would be a Gold Glove caliber first baseman who also could hit 25 home runs, reach double digits in stolen bases and could approach 100 RBIs with the improved top of the order.

While Steamer’s projections for the 2014 season still have Butler as the anticipated best hitter for the Royals next season, Eric Hosmer is right on his heels. If those projections prove to be correct, then Hosmer would produce at a .288/.353/.462 rate, hitting 21 home runs. Those numbers may even be a conservative expectation. With his production last season, it is possible that Hosmer could hit .300 as the 2014 season serves as his springboard towards an excellent career.

Should Hosmer produce as expected, then Butler may not reclaim his title. With his contract set to expire in 2015 and Hosmer’s probable maturation at the plate, it is conceivable that Hosmer will retain the mantle as the Royals best hitter for the next few years. With the potential talent in the lineup, that title may no longer be a hollow accomplishment.

The torch is about to be passed from Billy Butler to Eric Hosmer. In fact, we may find out that it already has been.

Tags: Billy Butler Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals

  • KCMOWHOA

    I expect (nee “hope that”) Hosmer hits around .300 with 20+ home runs. At this point, much less is a disappointment since we know what he’s capable of.

    • Dave Hill

      I could live with a batting average in the high .280′s from Hosmer, but I’m with you as to what I expect. He seems to be right as the cusp of breaking through, and I truly expect that 2014 will be that breakout season.

      • grantastica

        I still think Butler has a chance to win a batting title before his career is finished. I could care less what Hosmer’s BA is, as long as he continues to climb towards a .850-.900 OPS. If Butler ends up hitting directly behind Hos this year, you can bet your britches Hos hits .300 again. If Gordon hits in the five hole and can limit his K’s, I see all three driving in 100 runs this year. With Salvy in the six hole, this lineup is plain dangerous.
        I see a regression from the starting pitching this year, compared to last year, but I also see a marketed improvement in the offense. I anticipate the Royals will be on the winning end of a lot of 6 to 5 ballgames.

        • KCMOWHOA

          That would be quite an improvement offensively and quite a regression pitching wise. We’ll still have a strong bullpen and at least a decent rotation, so I gotta think that giving up 5 to 6 runs a game would not bode well for us. The team is still built around pitching and defense. I seriously doubt we’re going to morph into an offensive powerhouse. I think we’ll improve, sure. But it would be hard not to improve on the numbers we put up last season.

        • augustoperez

          I know I’m being hopeful, but assuming that Moose gets back on track, and his splits are not as marked as last season, Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, Perez and Moose (in almost any order depending on the starter) behind aoki and Infante could be a steep proposition for a lot of pitchers. I see plate discipline as the rising issue in wringing the most out of our particular type of offense. As for Hosmer, IMPO, he can be a .300 hitter, but with a lowered power expectation. If you want to pop it out of the K, you will give up some hits and doubles. For our offense, he will have to pattern himself after Billy Butler and make contact and OBP paramount over power.

  • jimfetterolf

    If Billy has Gordon or Hosmer batting behind him he could easily equal those numbers.

  • moretrouble

    If Aoki and Infante fill it up this year, the middle of the order will see more FB’s and better pitches to hit. It could be a big year. Let’s hope so.

  • moretrouble

    I can see you have a sense of humor, David. The picture accompanying this article is a very ugly swing by Hosmer. He was badly fooled on that pitch — I’m guessing by an off-speed pitch — he’s out on his front foot, he’s swinging more than one bat thickness under the ball, arms fully extended way too early, he’s not opened his hips properly — wow. Kind of reminds me of myself, LOL.

    • Dave Hill

      Just couldn’t pass up the opportunity with that picture. The swing reminded me of my own exploits in the batter’s box as well – that’s part of why I pitch.