Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Diagnosing Hosmer and Moustakas' woes
By Keith Law
The Royals are off to a solid start despite the struggles of Moustakas and Hosmer.
HOUSTON -- Eric Hosmer looked like a future MVP as recently as spring training of 2012, but since then his failure to develop as a hitter has been one of the more surprising developments on the prospect front, and it's a major reason why the Kansas City Royals haven't played up to expectations. I scouted his game on Wednesday to try and get a sense of what has gone wrong.
Hosmer, the third overall pick in the strong 2008 draft -- two picks ahead of someone named Buster, and I don't mean Bluth -- was below-replacement level last year and is on pace to be worth less than a win above it this year. The most likely reason I can see is in his hands.
When Hosmer was tearing through the minors, his approach was exceedingly quiet, but since then it's become more and more complicated and less efficient at producing hard contact. Before reaching the majors, Hosmer would start his hands back by his left shoulder and load them behind him with one quick movement, putting them on a level with his lead shoulder and over a spot just behind his back foot. He'd step forward, start his weight transfer and then explode with a very rotational swing without moving his hands until he began that forward motion. It was simple and devastating.
Now, Hosmer starts his hands just behind his ear and they are in constant motion from when he gets set in the box to when he loads them in a position over his rear foot and lower than his front shoulder, which causes his back (left shoulder) to start to point up and back at the first base dugout. His hands continue moving as he strides, further back and further up, tracing half a circle, counterclockwise, before he brings them forward -- by which point he's already turned his hips most of the way. The torque he generates through hip rotation is wasted, and I think that's where his impressive raw power has gone.
If you want good news, Hosmer's bat speed is intact, and he's still in great shape. His at bats are solid, and he even hung in there on Tuesday night against a lefty specialist, Wesley Wright, brought in specifically to face him with two on in the eighth inning. But there is way too much untapped potential here, and if I can spot these alterations to Hosmer's swing mechanics, there's no reason the Royals couldn't do the same.
He's hitting .271/.342/.347, which shows he's not a lost cause, but the lack of power is alarming.
• I wish I could offer such a concrete opinion on Mike Moustakas' struggles, but there's nothing so glaringly different about his swing today. He's taking a much longer stride -- he used to have a minimal stride, just a short step forward that was more about having a trigger than transferring his weight -- and rather than whipping the bat through the zone as he used to do, he's almost dragging it behind him. It's possible that shortening his stride would help restore the lost bat speed, or at least keep him a little more closed through contact.
He always rolled over his lead foot a little, but that's more pronounced today than it was when he was in the minors. Hosmer can at least get by now because his plate discipline is so strong, but that's always been a weak point for Moustakas. He needs to hit to justify his place in the lineup, and right now his line is .180/.252/.309. I'd at least start by shortening his stride, if only to see if that can produce some short-term benefits.
• I should be back at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night but will be bouncing between the Southland and Conference USA tournaments during the day, starting at the former at 9 a.m. and moving over to Rice's Reckling Park to try to catch Memphis' Sam Moll and Tulane's Tony Rizzotti in the late morning and afternoon. I look forward to seeing some of you along the way.