Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

What the Royals Should Do With Eric Hosmer

The Royals are now entering yet another extremely important stretch of their schedule. They currently sit 3.5 games out of first place in the division, and their next 9 games are against the Twins, Indians, and Rays, so this could be a chance to make up some ground on the Tigers. Oh, and following that 9-game span, the Royals will be facing those very same Tigers for 4 games just before the All Star break. Obviously some work still has to be done, but the Royals are in a decent spot, and they’ve gotten to that point while employing arguably the worst first baseman in baseball.

Eric Hosmer finished last season on a tear, and many people expected him to pick up this season where he left off. Needless to say, he has not done that. Hosmer is currently hitting .246/.286/.344, which comes out to a wRC+ of 72. The only regular position player in the lineup performing worse is Mike Moustakas, who has a wRC+ of 61. However, the two have been trending in opposite directions. Since Moose’s recall from Omaha on June 1, he has an 85 wRC+. In that same timeframe, Hosmer’s wRC+ is 42. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Moustakas surpass Hosmer’s overall numbers within the next couple of weeks.

Hosmer’s atrocious offensive numbers rank him dead last among qualified first basemen. He’s also one of the very worst baserunners in all of baseball – only Kurt Suzuki has been worse, according to FanGraphs. Defensive metrics don’t love his glove either, although I do think he’s better there than what the numbers say. Still, his ability to pick balls out of the dirt isn’t close to enough to provide positive value to the club at the moment.

So now the question becomes: what should the Royals do with him?

The first and most obvious step is to drop Hosmer in the lineup. There is literally no reason for him to be receiving more plate appearances than Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez, or any other regular, really. As I mentioned, Hosmer’s hitting worse than every other player. He’s made more outs than any other player in baseball, and that’s not a category anyone wants to be leading. Continuing to bat Hosmer second or third in the order is akin to grabbing a log from a fire, over and over again. It’s foolish, and it’s only going to bring pain and anguish. 

Beyond doing that, the next thing I would do is demote Hosmer to Omaha. If you’re surprised by such a suggestion, consider this: when Moustakas was sent down, he was hitting .152/.223/.320 over 139 plate appearances. In Hosmer’s last 161 plate appearances, he’s hitting .192/.230/.278.

Hosmer is hitting worse than Moustakas was when the latter was optioned to the minor leagues.

If Moose was struggling badly enough to deserve a demotion, what does that say about Hosmer? The Royals badly need offense from first base, and Hosmer isn’t providing it. He may have some value with his glove, but again, it’s not nearly enough to make up for his complete lack of offense.

Surely some of you are wondering who I would suggest take over the first base duties if Hosmer did get sent down, and that’s a fair question. Here’s my answer: anyone who won’t hit worse than every other first baseman in Major League Baseball. That bar his replacement needs to clear isn’t so much a bar as it is an extension cord laying on the ground. It won’t take much to produce at a higher level.

Just about any option would be better than Hosmer right now. Butler may not be a Gold Glove winner, but he’s not completely incompetent there. Plus, he has been hitting the ball more lately (134 wRC+ in June), so he can help overcome some of his defensive deficiencies. The Royals also could then rotate the DH spot between multiple players, including whoever actually replaces Hosmer on the roster.

The only real first baseman in Omaha who could potentially provide some offensive value is Matt Fields, who has been hitting extremely well lately, posting a .942 OPS in June, with 7 home runs. He’s not really a prospect at all, but I think he’s done enough to earn a shot, and it’s not like he could hit that much worse than Hosmer. Granted, Fields has struck out in almost 30% of his plate appearances, and defensive reports aren’t exactly glowing, so he may not be someone you want there for an extended period of time.

If neither of those options sound appealing, the Royals could look to the trade market. I’m the first to admit I’m terrible at hypothetical trade scenarios, but a guy like John Mayberry or Garrett Jones could probably be had relatively cheaply. It is somewhat difficult to find a trading partner with a major league first baseman, because most of the teams with good first basemen are also good teams. Weird. The other options are bad teams with first basemen signed to long deals, like Anthony Rizzo and Paul Goldschmidt, both of whom are obviously going nowhere. 

The next possibility is to find guys performing well at Triple-A who are blocked at the major league level. Here we find players such as Allan Dykstra of the Mets (blocked by Lucas Duda), and Nick Evans of the Diamondbacks (blocked by Goldschmidt). These players are likely too old to be considered real prospects, which means the Royals wouldn’t necessarily have to invest much into them if things didn’t work out. They could just be placeholders for as long as it takes for Hosmer to get right in Omaha.

Unless, of course, the Royals take another course of action. They could look to trade Hosmer.

You never want to trade a player at his lowest value, but as Dave pointed out the other day, Hosmer’s best days may be behind him. He might still improve this season, but the longer that takes, the more difficult it will be for him to get back to the level he was at in 2013. Instead of spending more time and energy on a player who may not become the star many hoped for, the Royals could consider shipping Hosmer to a team who still sees some potential.

A lot of people in baseball have big egos, and they think they can fix talented and underperforming players. Some team may look at Hosmer and think they can get through to him and turn him into the legitimate middle-of-the-order bat the Royals see. He’s shown flashes in the past, and another team may simply think they can do what the Royals could not.

I don’t think an in-season trade of Hosmer is all that likely, but perhaps a team has a first baseman they are willing to deal in exchange for a package of players surrounding Hosmer. Gaby Sanchez is a nice platoon bat in Pittsburgh, and unless they really believe in Ike Davis, Hosmer could be appealing to them. I’m not a huge James Loney fan, and he’s still owed $15 million over the next two seasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rays wanted to make another deal with Dayton Moore.

Still, it may be best to wait until the offseason to try and move Hosmer. Giving him a few months to improve – even at the Triple-A level – could boost his trade value for the winter, and because he’s not likely to stick around Kansas City when he becomes a free agent in a few years, the Royals wouldn’t necessarily need to worry about him long-term. Besides, I have serious doubts that Hosmer ever returns even to his career high level of production, let alone anything above that.

Hosmer is an unrepentant hacker at the plate, swinging at pitches out of the strike zone more frequently than all but 11 qualified hitters. He also hasn’t proven he can consistently hit those kinds of pitches with any sort of authority, unlike some of the players above him on that list. Hosmer’s line drive rate is currently at 14.4%, and he also is hitting far too many ground balls (53.4% ground ball rate). He’s simply not driving anything, even pitches in the strike zone, and the consistent inconsistency in his mechanics suggests finding a solution may be difficult.

So, let’s recap. Hosmer needs to be dropped in the batting order at the very least. A team contending for the playoffs makes it very difficult on themselves by employing an out machine near the top of the lineup. Secondly, Hosmer deserves to be demoted to Omaha. I don’t think it will be some magic cure-all or anything like that, but again, his offense is hurting the team, and just about anyone could likely provide more value at the plate.

Finally, I would begin shopping Hosmer around the league to gauge his value now, although I’d probably end up holding off on trading him until the offseason. Some teams may feel he still has some untapped potential, and while I wouldn’t expect a massive haul of prospects, I do think the Royals could receive something of value, particularly if they include other pieces in a trade with Hosmer. I doubt the Royals do all of these things, but they do need to do something if they hope to stick around in this playoff race.

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Tags: Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals

  • unclejesse40

    It is at this moment where I wish we still had George Kottaras! Sure would be nice to be able to drop Hosmer down to Omaha, move Billy to first base and then allow Kottaras to play a day a week behind the plate to give Sal a rest and then let him have the DH duties the rest of the time. At least we would have a guy that can get on base and hit for power. And he would be playing everyday so I doubt that the attitude in the club house would be much of a problem. Not that I care to much about that because I would rather have a club house brawl a week and make it to the playoffs then to have a bunch of hugs and kisses and never reach their potential. The truth is leaders lead regardless of the situation and right now somebody needs to step up and say enough, we need to do things that help us win now and not give hugs to guys that are holding us back.

    • Eric Akers

      I was hearing how we were dropping Kattaras because of what his salary would require. He signed for about $1M, and we are paying Bret Hayes about $900k. With as little as Hayes played behind the plate, I can’t believe Kattaras would be that bad back there given the same amount of time. Playing 1st/dh once in a while wouldn’t be bad either.

      • jimfetterolf

        Kottaras is a bad defender, which is why he’s been unable to stick with any of the clubs he’s been with and is in the minors last I heard.

  • jimfetterolf

    “Still, his ability to pick balls out of the dirt isn’t close to enough to provide positive value to the club at the moment.”

    A hit saved is a hit made and Hosmer’s glove ability makes Escobar and Moustakas great and above average defenders respectively rather than error machines or fielders who eat balls because of the risk of extra bases from a bad throw..

    As for what Hosmer’s problem is, it’s mainly mechanical, so is fixable. Like Moose he probably needs a few weeks in Omaha but the team can’t afford to give up the glove at this point.

    • Geogman

      He has obviously tuned out any coaching as evidenced by Sveum’s comment about him the other day. I still think that both Hosmer and Moustakas have been terribly mishandled at the major league level. The organization just assumed that given their talent they would eventually figure it out. All they needed was time. That approach has really worked to date. The reality is this year is a critical one for both. They’re both in their 4th year as major leaguers. The dye is getting close to cast.

      • cardsfanatik

        I didn’t see Dales comments. What were they? But even if he won’t listen, that’s organizational failure. This is a game yes, but it’s a business as well. They need to be put in their place. We pay you to play. We pay these guys to coach you. Listen to what they say, or play in Omaha.

    • cardsfanatik

      I love Hosmer, but he needs to hit. I would rather have league average defense, with some offense. The only 3 players right now that I want to see hitting with RISP are Cain, Gordon, and Perez. That doesn’t equal post season. I don’t care how many throws he picks, he can’t hit like shit all season. I don’t really want to trade him just yet, but I wouldn’t mind seeing someone else get some reps either. I’m beginning to wonder if the KC coaching staff knows how to help players hit. It just seems that EVERYONE they try to develop, doesn’t develop. And while I know, your going to miss more often than not with “can’t miss” prospects, but give me a damn break, the Royals can’t seem to make ANYTHING work at the major league level. It’s getting stale.

      • jimfetterolf

        I would add Infante, second only to Gordon last I looked.

        As for picks, there is a variety of opinions. I think picking a 96mph knuckler from Escobar and keeping it from bouncing up the sideline for a two base error is equivalent to hitting a double. If Bill is at 1st Eskie doesn’t even make the throw on quite a few plays, nor does Moose, so that’s an infield single.

        As for “stale”, 42-39 and a couple of games back at halfway isn’t bad. A good part of that is Hosmer’s picks.

  • Edward Bajgerowicz

    Is this author for real? Hosmer is only 24. What should happen is Hosmer should be dropped to 6th or 7th in the lineup. He’s a career .297 hitter in the 6th spot and his ops numbers for his career is more than 91 points higher during the 2nd half of the season.

    • Michael Engel

      Well, the first approach the author mentioned was to move Hosmer down in the order.

      Are you asking if he’s for real because he didn’t just say that, but also offered some contingencies in case a move in the lineup didn’t work?

  • Schawn McLeod

    I am not sure who the Hell you are but You are an IDIOT. Hosmer is still very young. We just need a veteran with the same range to mentor him.

    • cardsfanatik

      I’m not sure you actually know what your talking about?. Have you watched Hosmer? Why are you so in love with him? Is it his 3 HR’s this year? Or is it his .250 BA? Hosmer is below average. Thats pretty simple. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, which judging by your comment, your not. The Royal’s could have MOST of any of the other first basemen in baseball playing there, and be better off. So explain to me where you get off calling Hunter and idiot. I’m curious ‘O wise one. Just FYI, 24 years old, with 4 years in the big leagues, and over 2000 PA’s isn’t “very young”. He is NO LONGER a prospect there bud.

  • Blaster14

    The person that wrote this article is a complete buffoon and knows nothing about baseball. Please disregard his ignorance. That is all.

    • Ryan Caltrider

      The person who wrote this article has quite a bit of baseball knowledge. I enjoy reading the stuff he writes and they are usually very informative. I don’t always agree with him and you may not agree with what he has to say in this article but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good points.

  • jimfetterolf

    In defense of Hunter, he is a stat head and has yet to develop the eyeballs to make judgments beyond the stats. He needs a full page to reach the same conclusion an older guy who has played a little reaches after watching a couple of videos, Hosmer gets too big and too long and that makes his mechanics suck. His swing is uncoordinated and his results are starting to look like 2012 Jeff Francoeur. That’s not a good thing but is fixable.

    After the ASB when Aoki comes back I might think of demoting Hoz and moving Gordon to 1st, as the few times he’s played it he’s shown exceptional quickness and reflexes. Hosmer should have been sent down in ’12. It’s not too late. Might bring Paulo Orlando up to back up the OF, he’s earned a chance this year. That would allow the Dyson/Aoki platoon to continue.

    • Michael Engel

      You are just dead set on moving Gordon out of left field. He’s the best left fielder in the game, has a killer arm, and you’ve wanted to move him to third all spring and now to first?

      I dunno, I didn’t play much more than summer leagues and I’m not much older than Hunter, so what the hell do I know, right? Making my appointment with the eye doctor tomorrow. Askin’ for the baseballin’ special surgery.

      • jimfetterolf

        Third and first are more important defensive positions. People who wish to move a Gold Glove 1st baseman to Omaha should probably consider that that would turn Escobar and Moustakas into below average infielders and destroy the infield defense. Which is more important, a great defensive LF or a great 1B, 3B, and SS? Seems fairly simple math.

        As for your little snit, I was defending Hunter’s approach from a couple of folks not familiar with him. Perhaps you didn’t read the thread.

  • Hunter Samuels

    I’ll add a few more points here, instead of responding to each comment. First of all, thanks for reading!

    Hosmer is young, but he’s now over 2200 career plate appearances, and his career wRC+ was 99 entering tonight. That’s below average for all hitters. There are 47 first basemen with at least 1000 plate appearances since 2011, and 40 of them have been better hitters than Hosmer. He might still improve, but clearly there are plenty of first basemen capable of performing at his level offensively.

    Also, between 2012 and 2013, Jeff Francoeur had a wOBA of .277. In 2014, Eric Hosmer has a wOBA of .278. Hosmer’s currently hitting worse than Frenchy hit in 2012. If nothing else, that kind of production merits a demotion. I also doubt the Royals actually trade Hosmer, but there is no reason he should be considered even close to untouchable. As noted above, decent offense from first base can be found fairly easily, and there isn’t enough evidence to support his glove being valuable enough to make up for his bat.

    I would love to see him make the necessary adjustments, but his swing and approach both need a complete overhaul. I don’t know if he’s worth the time it will take to get right, especially when the team is trying to contend for a playoff berth.

    • cardsfanatik

      The Royal’s might talk the Cardinal’s out of Matt Adams……..they have a logjam. Not sure what it would take though. Adams has been hitting fairly well, and the home runs he hits will leave the yard even at the K. I would actually like someone with a bit more proven history, just thinking outside the box.

    • tool_gary14

      You don’t know if he’s worth the time?! Spare me…he’s 24 years old. If anyone is to blame it’s the organization for pinning such high pressure on a player who is obviously not ready for it. Move him down in the order, see what happens then but to question whether a 24 year old in the top third of your MLB lineup is worth the time is just ignorant.

  • tool_gary14

    Trade?! You’ve gotta be kidding me…MAYBE a trip to Omaha but no way should he be traded. I don’t even like the idea of a trip to Omaha. I don’t see a better lineup justifying giving Hoz the boot. Move him down, take some pressure off of him, but for goodness sake there’s no need to move him from the 2 or 3 hole straight to Omaha. For whatever reason he’s a 2nd half of the season monster so hold off on the panic button, please. Are you people the same ones who said Billy belonged in Omaha after the first 3 weeks of the season? Probably…

    • Michael Engel

      Eric Hosmer’s 2nd half split, career: .293/.348/.442 – good, not really monstrous. He needs to make adjustments and I think he’ll be able to turn it around, but I can get the argument to trade him – he still has name recognition, and if he is thoroughly broken, it’s not to the point Moustakas is, so he can still be a commodity. If a team was willing to give up a batch of their top 20 prospects for him, I don’t think it’d be an obvious no. I don’t think they’d make a trade, but there’s merit to the idea BUT it would have to be exactly the right deal.

      And it’s Facebook saying that about Billy. Blogs seemed to be the only place where people didn’t panic about Billy’s start.

      • tool_gary14

        So we trade away Hoz for some good prospects…who do you see stepping in and matching or even coming close to that second half slash line that he’s got? Billy in the field and Justin Maxwell/Raul Ibanez at DH? Now I know that there’s no guarantee that Hoz will match those numbers after the All Star Break Again, he’s 24 and coming off of his best year yet, you think a trade is warranted after a not so good first half? I just think it’s way too soon to call for something like that, especially without an obvious plan if we were to deal him for young minor leaguers.

  • nathan82

    First, all of the people attacking Hunter are ridiculous. He laid out his argument using facts and solid reasoning. You may not agree with him, but stop acting like children. Second, Hosmer and Moose need to go to Omaha. I don’t think you can trade either, but you can’t leave them here. I know that the team will take a defensive hit, but if, and its a big if, we can fix hosmer in Omaha, then this becomes a pretty good team moving forward. I know that he is a historically second half hitter, but its July, and he is only getting worse. Remember, the goal is to win a World Series. Does the team have a better shot of that without Hosmer for a month, or with him? I think fixing him, if possible, is in the best interests of this team long term, and even short term. As for Moose, I would be interested in seeing a Valencia/Colon option at third for awhile. Great article Hunter.

  • Edward Bajgerowicz

    If you go by stat history the way Hosmer starts and finishes the season, he should finish the season with an average of .265 batting .711 ops with 12 homers and 70 rbi’s by my estimation. i can agree with Hunter in 1 way and that his season would be below average for a 1st baseman.

  • Edward Bajgerowicz

    One last comment. he could have the Saberhagen gene. One quality season followed by a horrible season.