At some point, the Royals are going to have a decision to make. Eventually, Eric Hosmer is going to return, and the Royals will need to figure out what to do with Billy Butler and Josh Willingham. As it turns out, that decision looks like it is going to need to be made sooner rather than later.
Hosmer began a rehab assignment with the Omaha Storm Chasers yesterday. He will finish out the season in Omaha before being sent to Idaho for a couple of games to get his swing back. Ned Yost is not expecting it to take long for Hosmer to return.
“Twenty at-bats to get his eye back,” Yost said. “He’s already taken BP today, he feels fine. He’s ready to go.”
The general assumption is that the Royals will put Eric Hosmer back at first, slide Butler back to his accustomed role as the designated hitter and find a way to work Willingham, Nori Aoki and Jarrod Dyson into the outfield rotation in right. Yet, while the Royals could use Hosmer’s glove at first, it may not be as easy as just plugging everyone back into their positions.
While Butler has not been stellar defensively at first as of late, playing the position has awoken his bat. Butler, along with Alex Gordon, have been the Royals best hitters for the month of August. Willingham, who has the range of a tree stump, just should not see the outfield. Yet, the Royals need his bat in the lineup, as Willingham is one of the few power threats that the Royals have.
That may be a part of the decision that the Royals, and Ned Yost, will need to make once Eric Hosmer is ready to return. Which is more valuable, the offensive production of Butler at first and Willingham, or the defense of Hosmer with Butler as the Royals designated hitter? As the Royals value defense and run prevention, it seems as though the latter scenario, where the Royals go back to the lineup they had before Hosmer was injured, is the most likely.
The decision to plug Eric Hosmer back into the lineup may not be as easy as it would have appeared it would have been last month. Now, the Royals need to figure out what to do with Hosmer.