By Mark Collier
1B - Eric Hosmer
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
Eric Homser has been a four time Gold Glove award winner, a World Series champion, a Silver Slugger recipient, and a one time all star, who brought home the games MVP trophy when the mid-summer classic was hosted by San Diego in 2016. AJ Preller liked what he saw in Hosmer (he hit the game winning HR for the American League squad), enough so that he brought Hosmer to San Diego on a seven year $144 million contract as spring training began two seasons later in 2018.
After two underwhelming seasons as a Padre, Hosmer now moves into his third season in San Diego with a clear expectation for the success of the team. A new decade, a clean slate, brown is back, a healthy face of the franchise in Tatis, the addition of Tommy Pham and some other up and coming talent may be just what Eric Hosmer needs to right the ship. Hosmer is an energy guy. He’s not the same type of “energy guy” as Tatis but in the same way that he is a better player when there is some pressure to the situation. He is a ballplayer who plays for big moments and feeds off the energy of his teammates and the fans. Remember when Hosmer helped the Royals win a championship in 2015? He had had plenty of big moments in clutch situations and was brought to San Diego in part because of his experience in the postseason and his leadership in the clubhouse.
Eric Hosmer led the team in RBI’s in 2019 with 99 and also led the team in average at.265 (excluding Fernando Tatis, .317 in 334 AB’s.). Hosmer also hit 22 HR’s in 619 at bats.
When he has two outs with runners in scoring position, he hit .373/.472/.537 where he had 34 RBI’s (more than a third of his season total) and six walks in 74 plate appearances. He also had great success against his old pals in the American League hitting .350/.381/.688 in 80 at bats in interleague play. The Padres had one of the worst months of September to my recollection going 7-20 and Hosmer was hitting equally as dismal, hitting .170/.218./298 which supports the case that he is an “energy” guy and the games need to effectively matter for him to be at his best. It was pretty clear the team had thrown in the towel on Andy Green and the 2019 season and his production was simply uninspiring in September.
Many Padre observers are frustrated by Hosmer’s splits, righties versus lefties. His inability to hit lefties last season leaves the Padres wondering what 2020 will hold. If the organization is serious about trying to compete for a Wild Card spot or division title, this will not get it done while trying to dethrone the Dodgers. Speaking of the Dodgers and the NL West, perplexed is a good description to go with to describe his performance against the NL West teams in 2019. Here are the numbers for Eric “Papo” Hosmer in 75 NL West games.
BA/ OBP/SLG - (Batting Average, On Base %, Slugging %)
Perhaps facing the Dodgers the games are on a bigger stage. With numbers not great, but certainly better than the rest of the NL West it makes you wonder. Eric Hosmer played 56 games against the Dbacks, Rockies, and Giants and was lackluster, there is no way to sugar coat the numbers. That is more than a third of his games played against the teams they are going to play the most, the teams they have to beat to win a division. It’s nice to see the performance against the Dodgers. However, the Padres need more consistency in 2020 from their first basemen with the bat as well as the glove. His 14 errors committed, are the same amount he had across the previous three seasons combined.
If Hosmer does continue to struggle against lefties and division foes what are the Padres coaching staff supposed to do? Can the Padres justify a platoon for a $20 million player? Are the Padres willing to swallow their pride and sit Hosmer against lefties or do they give him a chance to make adjustments? It seems they would need to prepare for both scenarios as we are no longer on the cusp of 2020. The year we start to compete is upon us.
If Wil Myers is with the club still on Opening Day he would certainly be a platoon option at first for with Hosmer. Front office executives literally cringe at the thought of suggestion of this idea I’m sure, but with Myers having less assurance of having an outfield spot a platoon could work if the Padres continue to be saddled with his contract. What I am suggesting is two $20+ million per year players platooning at first base. The idea of any coach or executive having to step up to the microphone to answer questions about a platoon of $40+ million in team salary may be enough for this to never come to fruition. In admittance of poor judgement and failed signings is never easy, but in terms of roster construction, this could make a lot of sense as long as egos aren’t crushed and feelings prove to not be fragile.
Obviously, It really makes very little financial sense, but is probably the best scenario today assuming Myers is still with the club. To be fair to AJ Preller, I don’t think many of us could have predicted Myers stark production decline after he signed the first mega deal with the club.
Here are the splits for Myers and Hosmer from 2019:
Based on the current roster, other options that could platoon with Hosmer at first base are newcomer Jurickson Profar and holdover Ty France. Depending on health and camp, Profar could slot anywhere from the starting second baseman to a super utility player roving around the diamond. Ty France would be a logical platoon partner, with a .509 slugging percentage against southpaws last year in limited duty. Ideally, Hosmer rebounds to his 2017 form that saw him make an all star appearance in route to a .318/.385/.498 slash line which encouraged the Padres front office to make a Jayson Werth style signing to signify a change in culture and competitiveness that the new Padres ownership are embracing.
With spring training upon us there is uncertainty at a position where the Padres are paying for certainty. The path to the first winning season in over ten years becomes a lot more clear with a successful Eric Hosmer in the middle of the lineup.