Over the final four months of 2013, it had appeared as though Eric Hosmer had turned a corner. Coinciding with the moment that George Brett took over as the Royals hitting coach, Hosmer produced a .318/.367/.494 batting line with 16 home runs. With that finish to his season, it seemed as though Hosmer was poised to take that leap forward that the Royals had been expecting.
When Hosmer started off slowly through the first two months of the 2014, there were some grumblings, but it was not a cause for concern. After all, Hosmer has been a notoriously slow starter, hitting for minimal power over the first two months of the season before finding his groove as the weather heats up. It was hoped, and even expected, that Hosmer would start to produce once the calender flipped to June.
Instead of the typical Eric Hosmer surge in June, his production has taken a turn for the worse. While Hosmer has hit three home runs this month, the rest of his production has waned. Heading into last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, Hosmer had produced a .200/.245/.316 batting line. To put those struggles into context, the much maligned Mike Moustakas has hit at a .233/.291/.438 rate with four home runs this month.
That is not to say that there have not been positives to Hosmer’s 2014 campaign. He already has 21 doubles, and is seemingly on pace to destroy his career high of 34 set last year. He has been one of the top defenseive first basemen this season by virtually any metric that one cares to look at. However, even with Hosmer’s excellent defense, he ranks as below replacement level with a -0.3 WAR this year, equal to Nori Aoki.
Even though Eric Hosmer has plenty of time to turn around his season, it may be time to start to wonder if the Royals have already seen his best. As Hunter pointed out earlier in the month, Hosmer was the worst first baseman in the major leagues in May, and even with the three home runs, he has been even worse this month. Unfortunately, with Hosmer being such an integral part of the Royals offensive strategy, they need him to begin to produce.
Maybe Hosmer, much like Brett Saberhagen decades before, simply performs well in odd numbered years. Baseball is a strange game at times, and strange things happen. Yet, it could also be that the four month run that Hosmer had last year was simply the best case scenario, and the Royals may have to adjust their expectations for him much like the expectations for Moustakas have been lowered.
Eric Hosmer is still a young player and has plenty of time to continue to develop. It is now a matter of wondering how long it will take for Hosmer to be that player that he was last year, and if he can even recapture that magic.