KC Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was ranked no. 71 among the top 100 players by Baseball Tonight on Thursday.
Hosmer is a former no. 3 overall pick from the 2008 draft who most pundits believe has failed to live up to “superstar” expectations projected by scouts. While his .297/.363/.459 triple slash in his age 25 season for the Kansas City Royals hardly makes him a superstar, it’s still a measure of validation.
Eric Hosmer might not be a superstar, but he’s a really good player most teams would be very happy to have in the lineup.
Hosmer’s 3.5 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) ranked no. 50 among position players in 2015, making his no. 71 overall rating by Baseball Tonight well within objective sabermetric wisdom.
I’ll contend that both fWAR (Fangraphs) and bWAR (Baseball Reference) undervalue Hosmer’s defense. Both systems rely primarily on range to estimate defensive value, and exclude digging throws out of the dirt—which is a key skill for a first baseman. Consequently, Fangraphs and Baseball Reference estimate negative WAR values for Hosmer’s defense.
Those estimates fly in the face of Hosmer’s three consecutive Gold Gloves and Baseball Info Solutions metrics that Hosmer made 53 “Good Fielding Plays” for handling difficult throws (best in MLB among first basemen). Thus, a significant chunk of Hosmer’s value gets credited to the positive defensive ratings of his infield teammates.
Make no mistake, Eric Hosmer is a big help for the guys on the left side of the diamond. Shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas can throw at Hosmer with confidence when trying to make an off-balance throw. In effect, Hosmer increases the effective range of KC Royals infielders.
Hosmer’s mad dash to home that tied up Game 5 of the World Series probably helped Baseball Tonight recognize his value. Making the signature play of a World Series, and probably this era of Kansas City Royals baseball, has turned Hosmer into someone that fans across the country recognize.
Along with his under-rated range and his World Series Q factor, Eric Hosmer has been the best clutch hitter in baseball since his debut season in 2011. According to Fangraphs.com’s “Clutch” metric, Hosmer has a cumulative clutch rating of 5.49 (vs. a -0.38 average). Jacoby Ellsbury ranks no. 2 among current players at 4.41.
That cumulative clutch ranking puts him ahead of KC Royals legend George Brett (4.79) and undoubted superstars Ken Griffey Jr. and Rickey Henderson. Remember, Hosmer has only played FIVE seasons. He has plenty of time to run down all time leader Tony Gwynn (9.49).
That’s why Eric Hosmer might be underrated at no. 71, despite his rather pedestrian triple crown numbers (.297, 18 HR, 98 RBIs).