A slow MLB offseason has started to pick up a bit, with spring training starting. One of the bigger free agents, Eric Hosmer, has reportedly agreed to an eight-year, $144 million deal with the San Diego Padres. The long-time Kansas City Royal will now move to the National League.
Leaving aside the wisdom of an eight-year deal for any player or pitcher, we’re here to break down Hosmer’s fantasy baseball prospects for 2018. So how will the move impact him, if at all?
Based on ESPN’s Park Factors for 2017, Hosmer’s previous home park (Kauffman Stadium) was 20th or worse (pitcher-friendly) in all of baseball in runs, home runs and hits. The Padres’ home park, notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park, finished 29th in all three of those categories. San Diego’s offensive ineptitude deserves mention, but Hosmer is moving to one of the few venues worse for hitters than the one he’s leaving.
Hosmer has hit 25 home runs in back-to-back seasons, with more than 90 RBI in each of the last three campaigns (104 RBI in 2016). He makes plenty of contact and takes plenty of walks (9.8% in 2017), but a deeper look reveals a flimsy facade of power numbers.
Simply put, Hosmer hits a ton of ground balls (55.6 percent last year; 58.9 percent in 2016). There is also a big black mark with his launch angle, where he is toward the bottom off all qualified hitters over the last three seasons, and his exit velocity numbers in 2017 leave a lot to be desired. Good fortune on fly balls, with back-to-back career-highs in home run/fly ball rate (22.5 percent in 2017), brought the two straight 25-homer seasons.
Even Hosmer’s .318 batting average last year appears to be vulnerable to a correction, with a BABIP (.351) far exceeding his career mark (.316). A bottoming-out like 2016 (.266 average) is not likely, but a drop into the .285-.290 range is in the cards for Hosmer this year.
Fantasy Pros.com’s rankings has Hosmer No. 10 among first baseman, and the site’s consensus ADP has him No. 11 at the position right now. Based on what’s almost certain to be a notable erosion in power production, which will be assisted by his new home park, both of those numbers are a little rich for me.
Hosmer’s new teammate Wil Myers is close in those ranking and ADP measures among first baseman (No. 9 and No. 10, respectively). But with added eligibility as an outfielder early in the season, as he’ll be shifting to right or left field, Myers is far more appealing than Hosmer in mixed leagues.
Eric Hosmer 2018 Projection: .285/.360/.480 slash-line, 18 home runs, 75 RBI, 75 runs scored, 6 SB