Eric Hosmer is entering year three with the San Diego Padres, let’s review his 2019 season and identify a couple of areas that he can improve.
Coming off a career-year in 2017, Eric Hosmer found himself on the free-agent market torn between returning to Kansas City and seeking a mega-contract with the San Diego Padres. He opted for the latter, signing an eight-year, $144 million deal. At the time, the 28-year-old was instrumental in leading the Royals to their first World Series title since 1985.
The Padres were hoping he’d provide consistency at first base long-term, and while his numbers on paper look solid, Hosmer logged a -0.2 WAR last year. In two years with the Friars, Hosmer has produced a .728 OPS, which is well under his average in Kansas City. Last season, he smacked 22 home runs and drove in 99 runs, but he registered just a 93 OPS+, suggesting that he’s a below league-average player.
Statcast Batting Statistics
Per Statcast, Hosmer recorded a 7.2 barrel percentage, which was a slight improvement from 2018 and right in line with his career-year in 2017 (7.0). And while his average exit velocity was 90.5 mph, they came at an average launch angle of just 2.1 degrees. He’s struggled mightily with breaking balls during his tenure in San Diego.
Last season, he hit just .189 off them but performed well off fastballs and offspeed pitches, hitting .295 and .304, respectively. His launch angle off fastballs was 5 degrees but against breaking balls and offspeed pitches, -2 degrees and -4 degrees.
With those launch angles, it’s no surprise that Hosmer hit a lot of ground balls; 56.0 percent, to be exact. It was a marginal improvement from 60.4 percent in 2018. This actually doesn’t deviate much from his career-average 54.5 percent groundball rate, but teams have a book on his spray chart, and defensive shifts may be hurting him.
He’s always been a well-rounded player in terms of hitting to all parts of the field, and last year was no different. Hosmer hit 33.0 percent to right, 39.9 to center, and 27.1 to the opposite field. 2019 was the best hard-hit rate of Hosmer’s career at 40.1 percent, with 41.6 percent medium contact, and 18.2 percent soft contract rates rounding it out.
He was much more of a threat on the basepaths earlier in his career, especially in Ned Yost‘s lineup that consisted of a lot of speedy, slap-hitters. He attempted just three stolen bases last season and was caught all three times. In terms of baserunning, it wasn’t a banner year for Hosmer as he recorded eight outs on bases. He recorded seven in the same fashion in 2018, with ten being a career-high back in 2014.
Hosmer is below league-average in terms of fielding at first base. Last season, he registered a .989 fielding percentage while committing 14 errors. He had a much better year in 2018, recording a .997 fielding percentage with just four errors, so it’s frustrating to see him regress considerably defensively.
Last year, Hosmer committed four errors catching the ball, six errors fielding, and four errors throwing. It was the most errors catching the ball, which likely didn’t help from Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s poor play at shortstop and the number of errant throws he had. Look for both guys to clean up their defense this year.
Fangraphs pegged him with a .262/.320/.425 line with 22 home runs and 90 RBI (94 wRC+), which would nearly mirror his 2019 season. I’d like to see him improve his launch angle off breaking balls and offspeed pitches. That, alone, should help Hosmer become much more of a threat offensively.