There is no way around it. 2018 was very disappointing for Eric Hosmer in his first year as a San Diego Padre.
Eric Hosmer accepted the Padres’ offer in February to become the highest-paid free agent signing in club history, with an eight-year, $144 million contract. He arrived with much fanfare, coming from a World Series championship, World Baseball Classic title, and All-Star Game MVP. With a big contract came big expectations.
Those expectations went widely unfulfilled.
It was fun to see a player like Hosmer don Padres’ threads, someone with national notoriety with accolades under his belt and trophies on his shelf.
He got off to a good start, hitting .290 in his first month, but his power numbers were lacking. He was steady for the first few months, batting .282 with a 127 wRC+, numbers Hosmer is accustomed to putting up, through the end of May.
Then the bottom fell out. From June 1 to the MLB All-Star break, he hit .207 with a minuscule 47 wRC+ and a .240 on-base percentage. He had 10 extra base hits in those 40 games.
He pulled himself out of that funk in the second half, but not all the way up to his career averages. After the All-Star break through the end of the season, he hit .259 with a 98 wRC+, certainly numbers that are far below what Hosmer is capable of.
With the season now over, Hosmer ended up hitting .253 with 18 home runs and a 95 wRC+. All of these numbers are not what Hosmer nor the Padres wanted for his first year in that big new contract. Hosmer’s lifetime average is .279 with a 109 wRC+, and he had hit 25 home runs the previous two seasons heading into 2018.
So where does Hosmer go from here?
One of Hosmer’s most common critiques was his inability, or unwillingness, to hit the ball in the air. That was manifest by having the second-highest groundball rate in all of baseball at 60.4% and second-lowest fly ball rate at 19.7%, both being the most extreme of his career on each end. That had a lot do with his power numbers being down.
Yet in a recent article by The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, Hosmer said “Obviously, I feel like I’ve got enough pop to where, if I get the ball in the air on a consistent basis, I can really drive the ball and drive the ball out of the ballpark. I’m going to start right there in the offseason, and I’m going to see if I can get that down.”
It sounds like he might finally be jumping on the launch angle train. If a hitter of his talent and pedigree can start lifting the ball more, his power numbers should explode.
I am not ready to call Hosmer’s contract a bust. Calling it a bust after one-eighth, or at least one-fifth (player opt-out after five years) of a contract is like leaving a movie 20 minutes into it because you think it stinks. This was a learning experience for Hosmer and the Padres. This year was sub-par and both sides know it.
Eric Hosmer is still a good player that can do a lot of good for this young, rising Padres organization. 2019 is a very important year in the progression of this rebuild and Hosmer needs to work hard in the offseason if he wants to be the face and leader of this team moving forward.