Padres’ Eric Hosmer is what he is and he’s not going anywhere
Eric Hosmer, the first baseman for the San Diego Padres, has always looked the part of a star major leaguer.
At times, he shows flashes of what many thought he would become, but then he slips back into what some might consider an underachieving career, especially in the context of his Padres contract, the richest in franchise history at the time.
Hosmer was selected as the third overall pick by the Royals in the 2008 draft. In 1,164 minor-league plate appearances, he slashed an exciting .312/.393/.494/.887. His home-run power didn’t develop much in those early years – he only hit 30 round-trippers in the minors, and 20 of them came in 2010 at High-A and AA. Still, 69 doubles and 13 triples hinted there might be more power as he got older and stronger.
He debuted in the majors in 2011, at the age of 21. He slashed .293/.334/.465/.799, mashed 19 home runs, 27 doubles, knocked in 78, and stole 11 bases for good measure. This was good enough to finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting and get Kansas City fans salivating.
Eric Hosmer continued to tantalize fans with possibilities. He was a key piece in back-to-back World Series appearances for the Royals, and his mad dash to home in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series was legendary. That season, the Royals won their first championship since their first-ever in 1985.
At the age of 26 and 27, he slugged 25 homers during each campaign the following two seasons, which were his career highs. His OPS was .882 in 2017; it looked like he was hitting his prime, and his power was developing fully. He turned that fine season into a contract with the Padres.
Eric Hosmer has never reached his potential with the Padres
Everyone knows about the monster contract the Padres gave Hosmer after the 2017 season. 8 years, $144 million. Yikes! At the time, Hosmer was in his prime and showing signs that the power was coming. Alas, over the first four years of the deal, he has hit just 61 total home runs. His Padres average is 20 points lower than it was with the Royals; his OPS has dropped 43 points.
The not-so-shocking news here is that at the age of 32, those numbers aren’t going to improve much. His last four seasons have mirrored his early days in the majors. His K% still isn’t bad. Despite a spike in whiffs in 2018 and 2019, the last two seasons have been in line with his career mark of 17.7%. His career 8% walk rate indicates that he still doesn’t walk much.
He still hits way too many ground balls, and in three of his four seasons with the Padres, that number has been higher than his career 54.4% ground ball rate. Only about 25% of his batted balls are fly balls and his home run to fly ball rate is only 15.4%. All of these numbers have remained steady through the years.
Eric Hosmer is going to remain with the Padres for the foreseeable future
According to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, with the acquisition of Luke Voit, it is likely Hosmer will sit against lefties. This makes sense because his career batting average against lefties is 39 points lower against southpaws and his OPS is a whopping 156 points lower. In nearly 2,066 plate appearances against left-handers, Hosmer only hit 39 dingers.
The good news is 2022 is the last year he will make $21 million. For the last three years of the contract (no way he opts out after this season), his salary will drop to $13 million a year. It was smart of the Padres to front-load this contract once you get past the questionable decision to offer it in the first place.
After this year, it may be easier for San Diego to find a trade partner looking for a veteran left-handed bat who can play first, DH, or come off the bench. If the Padres are willing to eat some of that $39 million, it could open up more opportunities to offload Hosmer, which they have been trying to do for a while; the exact term used by MLB’s Mark Feinsand is “aggressively shopping.”
To look for a possible silver lining if the Padres can’t find a trading partner for him, there is a chance MLB may limit defensive shifts in 2023. If that is the case, maybe Hosmer’s Batting Average on Balls in Play will rise, even over his better-than-average .315 career mark. Maybe more of those ground balls that now go right into shifted defenses will get through the infield as hits, which would give him a better average and On-Base Percentage.
It is doubtful that Hosmer is going anywhere, especially in 2022. Maybe the Padres can glean maximum value from his skillset by sitting him against lefties. It seems hard to imagine Hosmer lasting the length of his contract with the Padres, but he will probably be round at least one more season.