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Arguing With Myself: Eric Hosmer

Last week I had a little fun and decided to have a debate with myself about Brett Lawrie. Since it was a genuinely enjoyable article to write, I am going to do it again. This time I will be debating the merits of Eric Hosmer, with my friends Bull and Bear starring in the show.

Bull: 3rd place in the ROY voting, 19 home runs in 523 ABs while hitting .293. Sounds darn good to me!

Bear: 19 home runs from your 1st baseman is replacement level. And finishing third in the ROY is not something worth bragging about!

Bull: Of course, it wasn’t even a full season, pro-rate that home run rate to 600 ABs and you’re up to about 22. Besides, 11 steals. From a 1st baseman.

Bear: Hosmer is 6’4 and 229 pounds and was only successful 69% of the time he attempted a steal. I would consider any double digit steal total a complete bonus and it would be unwise to project any more than the high single digits.

Bull: Well, he has stolen a handful of bases in the minors at various stops, so this is not out of nowhere.

Bear: Yeah, at High-A! Over his career, he stole 20 bases in 1,241 plate appearances and for obvious reasons, it is easier to succeed in the minors than the Majors.

Bull: Okay, enough about his speed. Fantasy owners are drafting him for his power potential. And what potential that is! During his breakout Double-A campaign in 2010, he ISO’d .303 at the tender age of 21!

Bear: What a coincidence, the Royals’ Double-A squad played in a park that inflated lefty homers by a whopping 27%! He never even reached a .200 ISO at any other stop of his professional career. And again, this is from a 1st baseman.

Bull: Fine, but he makes great contact, which will ensure a pretty good batting average, and displayed good patience during most of his minor league stops.

Bear: His good contact rate translated well to the Majors, which is definitely a positive, but his plate patience disappeared. His walk rate was just 6.0%, which is the lowest mark he has posted. His BB% has really jumped around, so unfortunately it is difficult to get a read and what to expect going forward. But if he doesn’t improve it, his runs scored total will suffer.

Bull: We see this all the time, the rookie being less patient once he hits the Majors, but then seeing his walk rate return to his past levels the following year as he becomes more comfortable.

Bear: We’ll see. Oh, and back to his power…dude hits way too many ground balls. Poor worms. A nearly 50% ground ball rate is the same level at which powerless speedsters like Michael Bourn and Ryan Theriot sit. Good luck coming anywhere close to 30 homers.

Bull: He doesn’t even need to hit 30 homers to produce good roto value. The handful of steals alone make up for the near replacement level power and the fact that he will actually contribute in batting average means he is a potential five category guy.

Bear: Or, he ends up stealing only 5 bases, his walk rate doesn’t improve and he hurts fantasy teams in runs scored, the Royals offensive breakouts of 2011 regress and fewer ducks are on the pond for him to drive in and he has a bit of bad luck on balls in play. Suddenly, he is above replacement level in only one category, steals, and barely even contributes value there.

So how do I actually feel about Hosmer?

I think the Double-A breakout gave many some inflated expectations about Hosmer. If his power breakout was sustained in Triple-A this year and then only dropped off a bit on the Royals, I would be much more optimistic. He does hit too many grounders to get real excited, but Bull is right in that he does not need to swat 30 to generate some solid value. The Royals should continue to run, so although Hosmer might not steal 11 bases again, I think he will come close. He will also contribute in batting average, and hitting in the middle of the order should mean he should at least be decent in runs and RBI. I don’t think his upside is that high this year, but I think he is pretty safe given his potential across the board contributions.