Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer Considered Biggest Free Agency Risk

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 01: Eric Hosmer /

Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is one of the most coveted free agents this offseason. He may also be the biggest risk of any player available, considering what he is likely to receive on the open market.

There is no questioning what Eric Hosmer has meant to the Kansas City Royals over the years. He has been a key part of their lineup, a solid hitting first baseman who also has an excellent glove. For the Royals, whose best years were built on timely hitting and excellent defense, Hosmer was the perfect player.

Given his relatively solid offense, and excellent defense, he is expected to command one of the top contracts in free agency this offseason. However, given his lifetime .284/.342/.439 batting line, with 127 homers and 206 doubles, he does not strike one as the usual top of the market first baseman. Even his past three seasons, where Hosmer has put together a .294/.359/.463 batting line with 68 homers and 88 doubles, is barely better than the production of Carlos Santana over that same time period.

Given his reputation, and expected salary, Hosmer is considered to be one of the biggest risks in free agency. In fact, Fangraphs argues that a lot of his perceived value comes from his reputation and expected improvements, instead of his actual results. That sort of anticipation can lead to disaster.

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Defensively, Hosmer is a four time Gold Glove winner, a player whose ability around the bag has been key to the Royals defense. However, the metrics do not support his reputation. Over his career, Hosmer is considered to have cost the Royals 35 runs, while having a below league average range factor. In fact, he has only been in the top five in runs saved once, when he finished third with five runs saved in 2013.

Likewise, Hosmer’s batted ball profile does not support the idea that he would suddenly become a power hitter. While moving away from the spacious Kauffman Stadium may lead to an uptick in home runs, Hosmer just does not generate a lot of lift with his swing. His career 21% line drive rate is below the league average, and he has a 1.18 ground ball to fly ball ratio. If we go back over his past three years, Hosmer still has a 24% line drive rate, barely above league average. Even then, he has hit 1.28 ground balls for every fly ball, a profile that does not suggest that he will suddenly become a power hitter.

The hope may be that giving Hosmer a different batting coach will lead to a different approach. A reworked swing, designed to generate that loft, could untap the power that he possesses. However, any changes to his swing could change his solid contact rates, which is one of his strengths.

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Eric Hosmer could get a contract for far more than he would be worth. Even though he is a perfect fit for the Kansas City Royals, Hosmer may not be the right fit for any other interested teams.