Can Padres’ first baseman Eric Hosmer regain his mojo?

Credit: Padres

Credit: AP Photo

Will Eric Hosmer ever regain the mojo that landed him a huge free-agent contract with the San Diego Padres?

One of the (many) big questions surrounding the upcoming Padres’ season revolves around Eric Hosmer’s performance. Can he at least play at a level commensurate with his average performance over his career? Even better, can he achieve the success he had the year before he signed that $144 million contract with the Padres?

In 2017, when the Padres signed Hosmer, he had just had his best year at the plate for the Kansas City Royals. He batted .318/.385/.498/.882 with an OPS+ of 133 the highest in his career.

Thanks to his history of on and off years, as well as playing for a new team in a new league in a new town, his first year with a slash line of .253/.322/.398/,720 and OPS+ of 100 could be considered somewhat acceptable.

However, Hosmer has not bounced back to a level that would in any way justify his $21 million annual salary, especially when combined with the salary of the first baseman he replaced. Wil Myers and Hosmer together will eat up $43.5 million of the Padres’ $130 million payroll for 2020.

In the meantime, Hosmer’s biological baseball clock keeps ticking. Signed at 28, Hosmer has now reached the age of 30 when performance starts to decline, according to statistical aging curves for major league baseball players. If he plays out the contract, he will turn 35 in a Padres uniform.

Last year, the first baseman batted .265/.310/.425/.735, earning WAR of -0.3 and OPS+ of 93 according to Baseball-Reference, lower in every regard compared to career performance. A downturn in his first year could be explained away, but no so much in the second year.

Hosmer did knock in 99 RBIs, leading the team. He also led in at-bats with 619 and doubles with 29, and came in second in runs scored with 81. But he also struck out 163 times, second only to Wil Myers’ 168.

Speaking of Myers, who has been relentlessly shopped by the Padres, his success against lefties should earn him playing time at first while he’s still in San Diego. Against right-handed pitchers, Hosmer batted .276/.321/.460/.781, against lefties .231/.280/.321/.600.  While not setting the world on fire, Myers at least managed to bat .233/.365/.512/.877 with an OPS+ of 127 compared to Hosmer’s 66 against left-handed pitchers.

Hosmer did bring four Gold Gloves to San Diego, but a closer look at his defense reveals a disconnect between those awards and his actual performance at first base.  (“Did Eric Hosmer leave his Gold Gloves in K.C.?”  Dave Cameron, now with the Padres, argued strenuously against the signing when he wrote for FanGraphs. Newly hired bench coach Bobby Dickerson will work with infielders and undoubtedly will be spending time with Hosmer, who topped his yearly total of errors at 14 last year.

In his favor, Hosmer does show up to play, appearing in 160 games for the Padres last year. And, he checks the right boxes on intangibles. Although not an outspoken leader, he has a positive attitude and is a good teammate. Plus, he has experience in the postseason, having won a ring with the Royals in 2015.

However, unless Hosmer can defy the aging curve and improve on his performance on both sides of the ball in 2020, he could be considered an expensive albatross hanging around the neck of A. J. Preller and the San Diego Padres.

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8 thoughts on “Can Padres’ first baseman Eric Hosmer regain his mojo?

  1. I believe Myers has a higher ceiling and the possibility of being of more value to the Padres than Hosmer does. I hated this signing as soon as I heard it while driving. It was a bad signing from day one. Yes, the Myers signing has the appearance of being a flop. I wonder if Green and other issues have t put Myers where he’s at currently.

    New coach and team atmosphere could have an impact on both. I think Myers will bounce back this year. Maybe not worth his full contract but far closer than Hosmer will.

    I think Hosmer can get better and play better with hard work. Maybe not quite what we hoped for, or paid for, but better numbers offensively and defensively. If he’s hitting like he is with his brother as his hitting coach… restrict his brother from the field. Control Hosmer’s coaching. They’re working on his fielding. Lose the brother and get a different hitting voice in his head.

    I might not be popular for giving Myers a pass and another opportunity for this year, given what they put his through, I believe Hosmer needs a spotlight on him. If he was playing like this in NY, Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities… he would have been crushed publicly daily. I’m a SD native. SD has always been easy on their athletes and teams. The teams and players give the same enthusiasm and concern as we do and allow. We’re supposed to start being better this year and content next year… the fans and media needs to start holding ALL involved accountable.

    1. Hello Tony,
      Thanks for your observations, Tony,
      I agree about the higher ceiling for Myers. He appears to be a bit of an airhead, but his confidence has undoubtedly been adversely affected by his treatment at the hands of the Padres. So much of baseball is mental.
      San Diegans do tend to be more laid back as fans, but I think the natives are getting restless. With the Chargers gone, the Padres have a golden opportunity to take over the town.
      Tingler has a huge challenge as a first-time manager to gain the respect of the veterans especially and to set some high standards for effort, etc. I love the fact he’s focusing also on making the routine plays.

  2. I don’t live in the SD area anymore. How does the local media handle Hosmer? Does he get overtly challenged? Does he get coddled? Does he avoid answering tough questions? Does he make excuses? Does Preller get asked tough questions about Hosmer? What’s the deal?

    1. Hi m,
      I appreciate your reading EVT and taking the time to comment. I think the local media, especially the San Diego Union Tribune’s writer Kevin Acee, gives the team and Preller a whole bunch of slack. However, in the past year, he has been a little more critical. I am biased, but I think EVT writers are much more balanced. Plus, we have a wide range of opinions among ourselves on any subject regarding the Padres.

  3. Nice article. 3 good years out of 9 in the league doesn’t really suggest there’s a higher standard to rebound to, rather that the 3 good years were the anomalies. Platooning him now is a must. He can’t hit lefties at all, and the club has to prepare for getting rid of him as soon as next year. Hosmer, not Myers, is the source of roster problems.

    1. Thanks much, Tom,
      The team has to adjust to the situation. At 30, Hosmer isn’t going to become something he’s never been. If not the first year by the second Wil Myers should have been playing first against lefties. Seems like a no brainer.
      I agree about Hosmer being more of a problem especially in regard to salary than Myers.

        1. Yep,
          Great minds think alike. Remember Dave Cameron who was with FanGraphs before coming to the Padres warned against signing him.

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