At this point, we have a running joke on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast about Eric Hosmer. It started out with a few simple requests from our audience when he started the season hot, as these things often do: “Can you talk about Eric Hosmer?” So, we talked about Eric Hosmer and didn’t find much worth talking about despite a hot start.
But the thing is, Hosmer hasn’t really cooled off, so the question turned into, “Why aren’t you guys taking Hosmer more seriously?” And those questions turned into statements that bordered on admonishments: “You need to take Hosmer more seriously!”
We’re more than a month into the season and Hosmer is hitting .367/.434/.550. He’s the No. 6 first baseman in Roto leagues right now, leading the league in batting average, and he’s one of just five players in the entire league currently hitting better than .300. He’s top 10 in RBI and his four homers put him well ahead of the pace he had in 2021, this all coming following an offseason where the Padres nearly dumped his salary to the Mets and he was all but ignored in many Fantasy leagues.
So, do we need to take Hosmer more seriously? The thing about Hosmer is, the question has never been one of talent with him. Even when he’s been a disappointment, he has consistently hit the ball hard – in the StatCast era, dating back to 2015, he has never been below the league median in hard-hit rate and has only once been below the 73rd percentile among hitters. And he has consistently been above average in terms of average exit velocity.
The problem has been that Hosmer just hits the ball on the ground too much, so any analysis of whether he is going to have to start there. And, unfortunately, Hosmer looks a lot like he always has there. His average launch angle is up to 4.8 degrees from 3.3, and it would be the third-highest of his career going back to 2015, but he’s still hitting way too many balls on the ground. In fact, his groundball rate is actually higher than all but one prior season, at 60.2%.
So that’s a bad start. You don’t need to hit the ball in the air to be an effective hitter, but Hosmer’s profile kind of begs it – he’s not going to beat out a ton of infield singles, and he has been pretty shift-able. And, on that front, he’s arguably been even worse this season, with a pull rate on ground balls of 47.3%, compared to 38.6% a year ago. Hosmer is hitting as many balls on the ground as he ever has and he’s hitting them to the pull side, which should make it even easier for defenses to rob him of hits.
And yet, he’s having this success, and we can’t ignore that, can we?
I think you probably should. Right now, he’s sporting a .404 BABIP compared to a career .316 mark, and he doesn’t have an abnormally high line drive rate or the kind of all-field’s approach that suggests that success on balls in play is sustainable. His .318 expected batting average suggests this isn’t all a fluke, but even that is likely overstating things – given the new offensive environment around baseball, expected stats are likely overstating things for everyone,.
Now, none of this is to say Hosmer has no Fantasy appeal. He can be a decent source of batting average and RBI if he maintains his current place in San Diego’s lineup, and there’s value in that. It would also be pretty tough to go away from a player who is actually hitting right now when so few are.
Hosmer is an obvious sell-high candidate, but it’s also possible nobody in your league really values him – they can read the same articles pointing to the same underlying numbers as you, and they certainly know his middling recent track record, too.so it wouldn’t take much for any trade to be a win for you in the long run, at least in my eyes.
So your best bet might just be to ride him while he’s hot while keeping the door open for opportunities to upgrade at first base beyond him. If Josh Naylor or Rowdy Tellez are available in your league, I prefer their long-term upside to Hosmer’s. I would rather have Luke Voit, who isin two games since coming back from the IL, too.
Maybe Hosmer will keep proving me wrong, of course. He’s done it so far, for sure. But, I’m willing to bet against it.