Eric Hosmer: Is This a Hot Streak or Is It Real?

Only one other first baseman has as many homers as Chris Davis over the past 14 days. Since you are reading this post you can surmise that it is Eric Hosmer, and the hot streak over the past few weeks has pushed his wRC+ up to 109. Prior to that streak, his year was looking much more 2012 like than 2011, and although Hosmer generated some value in his legs last year, it is great to see him finally starting to hit for a bit of power.

Prior to June 21 he held just a .357 slugging percentage. Since then it has risen all the way to .431 and is seemingly growing every day. Now the big question is will this pace continue and will his batting average also continue to rise at a rapid rate.

It should be noted that all seven of his home runs since June 21 have been hit in either neutral or pitcher’s ballparks, which is definitely a good sign. It should also be noted that he has struck out just three times in that span in 70 plate appearances. Along with the three strikeouts have come just three walks – one of which was intentional. Cramming together 10 extra base hits in 70 plate appearances is definitely impressive, and he seems to finally be getting the ball in the air a bit more.

That final point has been his biggest issue all year. Among qualified first basemen, none have a lower fly ball percentage than Eric Hosmer. His home run per fly ball ratio has jumped up to a respectable 15% for the season after this hot streak, but he is still hitting fly balls at just a 21.8% rate. That is a serious cause for concern for his power potential. Even in 2011 when he had an impressive rookie campaign he hit fly balls at just a 31.7% rate, which would rank 25th out of 29 this year.

The good news is that the fly ball rate is continually rising since May. He went from 19.1% to 22.7% to this month’s 28.6% rate (obviously in a small sample). It is far from certain that this month’s will remain above his roughly 23% rate last month, but he is off to a good start with a third of the month behind us.

The only thing missing from him almost matching his 2011 season is about 30 points in slugging percentage. ZiPS does not have Hosmer reaching that point over the remainder of the year, but it does have him hitting a decent .277/.337/.434 with nine homers and seven steals. Is that starting 1B material in standard leagues? No, definitely not. But it is worthwhile of a utility spot and a corner infield spot at worst if that is how your league works.

I made the mistake of dropping Hosmer early in June in one league while I held onto him as a bench option in another league. I missed his first big week in the league I kept him in but the dividends are starting to be paid for my patience. In the other league, I just faced him last week and he pretty much knocked me out of playoff contention on his lonesome barring a crazy run (this one is h2h, the other is roto).

The moral of the story is to be patient with guys who have a plethora of skills, even if it is at first base where it is difficult to wait on anyone. If your team lacks balance or has a lot of power from middle infield and outfield spots and you can use some help in steals, Hosmer is a great trade target to grab some stolen bases from an unusual place. Some owners may be willing to deal him quick as well as they may not believe in the hot streak. I am not saying I believe in it either, but I think a .280 average with 8-10 home runs and a similar amount of steals is certainly attainable and reasonable. If you think that can help your team, make the move.

Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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