Dirty Dining

The high cost of royalty
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - First base is usually a position from which fantasy teams draw power, so in order for Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals to live up to his average draft position (ADP) he's going to have to progress in that department this season.

Hosmer is coming off a season in which he hit .302 with 17 home runs, 79 RBI, 11 steals and an .801 OPS. Good, but not great for a fantasy first baseman. However, that included a .274 average, one home run, 21 RBI and a .670 OPS in his first 61 games. Kansas City made a key switch on May 30 by naming Pedro Grifol and Royals legend George Brett co-hitting coaches (Brett stepped down in late July and returned to his job in the front office, but Grifol remains in the dugout).

From June 13 on, Hosmer batted .318 with 24 doubles, two triples, 16 round- trippers, 58 RBI, 59 runs and an .874 OPS in 436 plate appearances. His strikeout rate in that span was just 13.5 percent, compared to 16.8 percent in his first 244 plate appearances.

Fantasy owners are going to need Hosmer to add to that pace over a full year in 2014 to justify his 69.8 ADP, ninth among first basemen (11th if you include players like Buster Posey and Joe Mauer who are eligible at catcher and first base, but nobody is going to use them at first).

Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt had a similar season to Hosmer's in 2012, hitting .286 with 20 bombs, 82 RBI, 82 runs, 18 steals and an .850 OPS, and he made the jump to .302, 36 home runs, 125 RBI, 103 runs, 15 steals and a .952 OPS last year to finish second in NL MVP voting.

But Hosmer is more of a groundball hitter than Goldschmidt and doesn't hit nearly enough flyballs to reach the 30-homer mark. In fact, his flyball rate has declined in two straight seasons and it wasn't very high to begin with at 31.7 percent his rookie year. He hit just 24.9 percent flyballs in 2013, though he did have a higher flyball rate in the second half (29.1 percent to 21.6 percent).

Goldschmidt's flyball rate last season was one of the lowest among hitters who launched at least 30 homers, but it was still 34.6 percent. And the Arizona first baseman hit a home run on 22.5 percent of his flyballs, fifth best in the majors.

Hosmer's HR/FB last year was 13 percent and his career rate is 12.6 percent. Even when he hit 16 homers in his final 98 games, his HR/FB was 15.8 percent. Any way you slice it, Hosmer doesn't profile as a 30-homer bat, and he'll need a significant change in his approach at the plate to become one.

What the Royals 24-year-old does do well is hit the ball hard consistently. He had a line-drive rate of 20.2 percent or better in every month last season. That combined with his ability to hit to all fields led to a .335 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

He'll probably hit .300 and contribute solid numbers in RBI, runs and steals, but with a 25-homer ceiling he's being overvalued.

He isn't much different than San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who hit .289 with 17 home runs, 67 RBI, 76 runs, five steals and an .841 OPS in 114 fewer at-bats than Hosmer last season, and Belt is going off the board at an ADP of 143.8.

At that markup, maybe Lorde was right. We'll never be royals, and we'll never own them either.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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