San Diego Padres: 3 Friars making a big impact early on

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Edward Olivares #71 of the San Diego Padres looks on during their summer workout at PETCO Park on July 10, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 10: Edward Olivares #71 of the San Diego Padres looks on during their summer workout at PETCO Park on July 10, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer is finally hitting the ball a little bit differently.

Since signing an eight-year/$144 million deal with the San Diego Padres ahead of the 2018 season, first baseman Eric Hosmer has been worth a combined -0.5 Wins Above Replacement, per Fangraphs. He is one of just three qualified first basemen with a negative WAR value over the last two seasons.

Not exactly the type of production you like to see out of someone who was the highest-paid Friar in franchise history before Manny Machado came along.

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Dare we say that Hosmer is evolving in front of our eyes?! Hosmer has played in just three games after missing some time due to a non-COVID illness, so we’re going off very, very little playing time here, but the numbers have been very impressive.

Hosmer has already accumulated 0.4 fWAR in his three games after going 5-10 with two doubles, one home run, seven RBI, and two walks to only one strikeout in his 12 total plate appearances.

Hitting the ball hard has never been an issue for Eric Hosmer, posting above-average exit velocity numbers on batted balls every season in the Statcast era, but the overwhelming majority of those hard-hit balls were driven directly into the ground.

Hosmer’s average launch angle on batted balls has been 3.8 degrees, -1.4 degrees, and 2.1 degrees over the last three seasons. League average is around 12 degrees, for reference. That’s led to groundball rates of 60% and 56% in his two seasons in San Diego.

His average launch angle in 2020 is currently 31 degrees and he has yet to hit a single ground ball. Those numbers won’t last very long, obviously, but maybe, just maybe, Hosmer is turning a corner.

The 2020 season is all about embracing the weird, so why can’t Eric Hosmer join the launch angle revolution? It looks like he’s joining the dark side and the early returns are highly positive.