Key Stats: Hosmer made a name for himself starting in the minors. His 2010 season in AA was particularly montrous, batting .313 with 13 HRs in 50 games, enroute to a .615 SLG and a .303 ISO. Baseball America ranked him the #9 prospect in baseball. He started out 2011 in AAA and made it through 26 games batting .439 and slugging .582. The Royals called him up, experts rejoyced, fantasy owners made the add and were treated to a .283 AVG, 5 HR and and an OPS of .836. He struggled in June, batting 30 points lower than May, without any homers and a .293 SLG. Rookies strugling isn’t anything new, but Hosmer showed the maturity to make adjustments and get out of the funk, finishing with 19 HR’s and a .293 AVG.
Skeptics Say: While 19 HR’s and a .293 avg are great for rookies, we’d like to see a first baseman have a little more pop than that. The .303 ISO he had in AA shows us the power is there, but really that was the only season he has ever had an ISO over .200 let alone .300. His ability to hit for average is not in question, but until he matures and grows a bit more he isn’t going to meet the power expectations that come along with a position like 1B. Also not in his favor? The fact that Kauffman Stadium is the 2nd hardest park in baseball for a lefty to his a HR in. That linked article also points out Hosmer’s Home/Road HR split, an ugly 3/16.
Peer Comparison: We have some pretty promising young first baseman in baseball at the moment (Trumbo, the reigning AL ROY and his attrocious OPB will not be part of this discussion), and the three that immeadiately pop into my mind are all lefties and all play in parks that negatively impact left handed batters. Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, and Ike Davis. The rookie year stats comparison follows.
As far as rookie years go, these guys are all basically a coin flip. Ike Davis was having a monster sophmore season until a broken ankle ended his season after 36 games. The last column above is the “park factor” for their respecitve home fields in regards to generosity of the park allowing left handed batters to hit homers. 100 is neutral, over is beneficial for hitters, under is not. While Hosmer has the highest avgerage of the three, his OBP is also the lowest. That product is a combination of poor walk rate (6%!) and the lowest BABIP of the three, .314. I think this is partly due to his month long struggles in his rookie season and near 50% ground ball rate. June wasn’t nice to him (remember the 0 HR’s) and his August while not nearly as bad, wasn’t very good either. It’s at this time though, I’d like to point out that while hitting a HR in Kauffman stadium might be really, really hard, it’s not as if Hosmer was sapped of his power there. He managed 15 doubles and 3 tripples there, while getting 12 and 0 on the road. His home AVG is also 48 points higher than his road AVG. The splits for Freeman and Ike are interesting too, with Ike matching the type of power output of Hosmer at home (less HR’s more extra base hits) while Freeman displays better power overall on the road.
Quick summary (cause there is a lot of stuff above); expect more power to come from Hosmer and Ike based on ISO and park factors… there is room for Freeman to develop there too, but I don’t think his ceiling is quite as high. Hosmer also flashed better zone and contact percentages than Ike did his rookie year. The question now, is can Hosmer build off a successful rookie campaign (as a more polished hitter) better than Ike Davis was at least on his way to?
Team Outlook: The Royals offense wasn’t half bad last year, but was it a perfect storm of guys all having career years, or a sign of things to come? In anycase, Hosmer probably isn’t going anywhere, and batting in the middle of the line up (even a poor one) will give him the counting stat bonus we look for.
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline – #14 Top 40 1B; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com – #10 Top 25 1B & #56 in the Top 250 Players; RotoChamp- #48 in the Top 300 Players; Mock Draft Central – #8 1B & 52 Overall
Projection: Hosmer is growing still and the power is there, just not the level of other premier 1B’s. That said, he should be solid across the board in all categories. Maybe a poor man’s Joey Votto?
.295 AVG, 24 HR, 90 RBI, 78 R, 9 steals, .342 OBP in 588 AB