As I have watched the projections roll out, my first person to check has repeatedly been Eric Hosmer. He is, in my opinion, the single Royal in the lineup that could explode into the upper echelon of hitters in the coming year. None of the projections are expecting this, generally projections are conservative, but they are not giving him much credit for the ability to grow at all.
Here are the projections that Fangraphs have available:
It is pretty easy to see that they are all very similar, so we can focus on the composite (combination of the four). Everyone expects the average to be slightly lower, the on-base to be about the same, and a small uptick in slugging. That is to say that they sort of believe in his ability for droughts like the first two months last year, and they believe he can hit well for long stretches like he did for the rest of the season.
Before I go on, let me just say that if our 24 year old first baseman hits like these projections all year that he will be a really solid player. I will be perfectly happy if this is Eric Hosmer of 2014, but I am expecting him to be better.
Projections like historic data a lot. They should like it because it is real, but what Hosmer did last year makes me think that his rough 2012 and beginning of 2013 are making his outlook overly pessimistic. The systems regress his outcomes to a baseline that I think is below what expectation should be. So let us take the overly optimistic view and then reassess Eric for the coming year.
Since I am being overly optimistic, I am going into fan-brain for a bit. The horrible 2012 carried into 2013 for Hosmer until George Brett showed up and fixed him, right? If we are thinking that way I can do the homer thing and cut off the data I don’t like! If you ignore the first two months last year, Hosmer hit .318/.373/.494 over a four month period. This is covering 109 games with his worst month having an OPS of .844 (projections above have him at .817). I just want to point out that this is not a small sample and that he was consistently good over the whole period.
What if that is the new baseline that he should be regressed to? That changes things
Sep 21, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first basemen Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates with teammate Billy Butler (16) after hitting a solo home run against the Texas Rangers during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Texas beat Kansas City 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
substantially. If his season had looked like those four months, his OPS of .868 would have been 20th in the majors for qualified hitters. Instead, the first 2 months dragged him down to a middle of the pack first baseman. Those two things are quite different.
So, here is my take on Eric Hosmer for the coming season. He is better than what his overall numbers last year showed. Meaning that in expectation I would put him above what the projections are showing. That doesn’t mean he won’t repeat last year, but that if he does it should be viewed as slightly underperforming, and it means that a year of good luck or better than expected play should put him up into the second tier of all major league hitters (below the Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout division).
If I am setting up what Hosmer should be in expectation, I am going to go somewhere between last year’s overall numbers and his great final 4 months. That just moves him from a 3ish WAR player up to a 3.5 to 4 WAR player, but that could be a huge deal for this team in a crucial year.
Oh, and if he could improve his defense…