Happy playoff season, fantasy fans.
The MLB postseason is generally a quiet time for fantasy owners. The majority of us still have the bitter taste of defeat in our mouths, while a select few are plotting how we’ll spend the money we’ve earned through our fantasy victories.
That being said, it’s never too early too look ahead to 2015, and the playoffs have provided us with a bevy of interesting players to evaluate for next season and beyond.
We’ll lead off our Playoff Spotlight series with a destroyer of fantasy dreams, Eric Hosmer.
Drafted third overall in 2008, Hosmer's fantasy prospect stock really took off in 2010, when he hit .354/.429/.545 in High-A and then .313/.365/.617 in Double-A as a 20-year-old. Billed as a prospect with a unique blend of power, speed and the ability to hit for average, Hosmer was able to overcome the "yeah, but he's a first base prospect" caveat and still rank quite highly on top-100 lists for many publications.
The hype seemed well founded in 2011, when Hosmer hit .293/.334/.465 in 563 MLB PA, hitting 19 homers and stealing 11 bases. He looked poised to contribute as the ever-rare five-category fantasy first baseman, and it was easy to project stardom in his future.
2012 was less kind to Hosmer, as the 22-year-old hit just .232/.304/.359 with 14 homers and 16 steals after generally being drafted as a top-5 first baseman. Still, that was easy enough to dismiss and those who maintained their faith in Hosmer were somewhat rewarded in 2013. He hit .302/.353/.448 with 17 homers and 11 steals, though the general consensus was that Hosmer would hit for more power.
The fantasy industry seemed somewhat split on Hosmer headed into 2014, with one camp suggesting he was more of a solid CI than a true starting first baseman, and the other camp (to which I belonged, certainly) maintaining that Hosmer was a star-in-waiting.
What Went Right in 2014
Hmmm … the Royals made the playoffs? It's hard to find much else what went as planned for Hosmer, who hit .270/.318/.398 in 547 PA in 2014. With just nine homers and four steals to his name, Hosmer finished as the 28th best fantasy first baseman in his age-24 season.
If we're looking for positives, Hosmer hit .280/.328/.449 in the second half as opposed to .268/.315/.382 in the first half, so he did add some power late. Hosmer significantly increased his line drive percentage in the second half, too, largely at the expense of some groundouts. He also didn't show a massive platoon split, though his numbers were a bit better against righties than southpaws.
Obviously I'm cherry picking here. Hosmer's 2014 was a pretty big disappointment, and there aren't a ton of statistical reasons for optimism.
What Went Wrong in 2014
A little bit of everything, really.
Hosmer saw his walk rate decrease, his strikeout rate increase and his ISO decrease in 2014. His line drive rate fell from 22.4 percent in 2013 to just 16.9 percent in 2014—well below league average—while his fly ball rate jumped from 24.9 percent to 31.9 percent. For a player who's having trouble hitting for power, the problem with such a shift in batted-ball tendencies is obvious.
The 24-year-old also missed 29 games due to a stress fracture in his right hand in 2014. It's tempting to blame his lack of pop on such an injury, but the truth is Hosmer wasn't hitting for any power well before he hit the DL.
From a fantasy point-of-view, his season was disastrous. Hosmer's aggregate ADP before the season began was 57, courtesy of FantasyPros.com, but he performed as just the 241st best fantasy player in standard 5×5 leagues, behind the likes of Casey McGehee, Ryan Howard and Michael Morse in value. He undoubtedly sunk many a keeper and dynasty league team, and with just 54 runs and 58 RBI accompanying his nine homers and four steals, Hosmer failed to serve as a boon for any category.
What to Expect in 2015
Hosmer is still young, yes, but we now have 2,388 MLB PA that tell us what he is; a .275/.328/.418 hitter with decent patience and a low strikeout rate, but without much power. At this point, it would be somewhat irresponsible to assume he’s going to sustain a performance that’s significantly better than what those numbers suggest.
I do believe Hosmer will hit more than nine homers if healthy for a full season in 2015. His swing might not be geared for massive power, but there’s too much natural pop in his bat for him to fall short of double-digit bombs again. Plus, Hosmer already began to correct his approach in the second half of the 2014 season, and I doubt he once again posts a LD percentage significantly below league average.
Still, you can’t go into 2015 with Hosmer as your starting first baseman in a 12-team league. He’s unlikely to surpass 15 homers or 15 steals, his average should be good but not really a boon, and there’s no reason to expect him to post incredible R/RBI totals, either.
In redraft leagues, let Hosmer fall to you. If you can draft him in the 150-200 range as your corner infielder, sure, pull the trigger. There’s still some upside here. If someone loves Hosmer and wants to overbid for him or pop him in the first 10 rounds, though, you’ll need to let him go.
In keeper leagues, you need to be willing to cut bait on Hosmer at this point if you’re keeping 150 or fewer players. If you’re still ultimately a believer as I am and you play in a deep keeper where a ton of players are retained, you can make an exception, and I think Hosmer is still a borderline top-200 option. But for most keepers, he’s out.
The Great Beyond
I compared Hosmer to a Thanksgiving Dinner (Pilgrim) Sandwich in the first installment of Sandwich Prospectus, and I’m sticking by my bizarre analogy. Hosmer’s not as good as all of his raw ingredients/parts would suggest, but there’s still the chance that we get some bites that are quite delicious.
While it’s tough to project Hosmer for a breakout in 2015, that doesn’t mean he can’t have a few peak seasons that will offer us a glimpse at what we thought he would become. Could Hosmer hit 25 homers with 10 steals and a .280 average some day? Sure. You just shouldn’t bank on him performing as such with any regularity.
In dynasty leagues, you really have no choice but to hang on to Hosmer, because dumping him now would be selling at the nadir of his value. If you own Hosmer, you should try to shore up your first base situation and consider any contributions from the Royals first baseman as an added bonus.
Thank you for reading
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But basically, he's become James Loney.