Royals mailbag: What happens next with Eric Hosmer?

08/15/2014 9:28 AM

08/15/2014 10:32 AM

In the last three weeks, the Royals have won 17 of 21 games, enjoyed an eight-game winning streak, collected seven consecutive series victories and posted a 5-2 record against Oakland. They just completed a 6-1 homestand, complete with a sweep of the Giants.

Yes, all is well in RoyalsLand, even if their lead over the Tigers in the American League Central is merely a half-game. So there are still questions to be answered. Most center around the immediate future of first baseman Eric Hosmer, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his right hand.

Let’s get to it, in the weekly edition of the mailbag.

Not precisely, but the addition of Josh Willingham does protect against a setback in Hosmer’s rehabilitation.

A few factors conspire against him. It is a hand injury, which is always tricky for a hitter to manage. The minor-league seasons run out soon, so he won’t be able to take an extended, minor-league rehab stint.

Let’s postulate on his timeline: He won’t be cleared to swing a bat for at least another week. Once he starts, on, best-case scenario now, Aug. 22, he would likely need at least two weeks to build up the strength in his hand. He has to pass tests hitting off a tee, hitting soft toss, hitting inside a cage and then hitting live batting practice. This may be a lengthy progression.

Even if he returns during the first weeks of September, can Ned Yost insert him right back into the lineup? It’s a question worth considering, especially with the way Billy Butler has responded while playing first base every day.

On Sept. 1, the rosters expand and the team no longer operates under the constraints of a 25-man unit. I doubt Hosmer will be back before then. So he can be integrated onto the roster without incident. Where he fits in the lineup and in the field will be a more intriguing situation for Ned Yost to handle.

I say “false.”

Then again, Ned Yost was interesting when discussing Hosmer’s absence. I asked Yost a question about Nori Aoki on Thursday afternoon. Yost answered by talking about Billy Butler.

“Billy has turned his whole season around,” Yost said. “When Hoz got hurt, you know you’re going to lose defense over there. But we really haven’t. Billy’s played spectacular defense at first base . . . Billy’s always had good hands. He’s played tremendous defense at first, and really been one of the keys to our resurgence, or this hot streak that we’re on.”

I would not say he is a “bust.” Let’s take a look at a 10-year period of No. 3 overall picks.

2010: Manny Machado (10.4 WAR)

2009: Donovan Tate (never reached majors)

2008: Eric Hosmer (4.8 WAR)

2007: Josh Vitters (-1.3 WAR).

2006: Evan Longoria (38.5 WAR — probably not a bust).

2005: Jeff Clement (-1.2 WAR).

2004: Phillip Humber (0.9 WAR).

2003: Kyle Sleeth (never reached majors)

2002: Chris Gruler (never reached majors)

2001: Dewon Brazelton (-3.0 WAR)

When you hear the phrase “the draft is an inexact science,” lists like this are why. Good grief.

Anyway, in this context, the resume of Hosmer looks much more impressive. To be sure, he has fallen short of expectations. He has been a disappointment. But he is still 24, and he has shown flashes of excellence. He may not become a perennial All Star in Kansas City, not with free agency only a few seasons away. He has still been a useful contributor.

All together now:

James! Shields!

James! Shields!

James! Shields!

If the Royals can set up their rotation as they wish, I would be stunned if anyone other than Shields gets the ball.

Nope. Those aspects emerged when the Brewers stopped hitting. While the Royals aren’t exactly obliterating baseballs, they score enough most nights to win. The run prevention is sufficient to make that combination quite successful.

For what it’s worth, Yost insists he has dialed back his personality in this regard in recent years. Back in the spring, I wrote a lengthy feature about this battle within himself.

He never threw it that much to begin with. According to FanGraphs, heading into Thursday’s games, he threw it 3.3 percent in 2012 and 2.6 percent in 2013. So his 1.9 percent usage in 2014 is a slight decline, but it was never his out pitch, anyway.

Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between his slider and splitter, anyway. They both disappear.

This is all junk science, but here are a few factors:

1. Detroit is a bigger market. Kansas City is one of baseball’s smallest.

2. Detroit has a more favorable television contract. The Tigers pull in about $40 million in TV revenue per season, per FanGraphs. The Royals make about half that.

3. Detroit has been a more successful franchise in recent seasons, which has increased their attendance and merchandising revenue.

4. But the last point is probably the most prescient: Owner Mike Illitch has been willing to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into the club. The Tigers have had a payroll above $100,000 million every season since 2008 (when the club leapt from $95.18 million in 2007 to $137.685 million). David Glass has been less interested in this approach. He explained his reasoning in this interview from July.

Probably. At this rate, he will be join George Brett as a vice president for baseball operations, and become Brett’s assistant when George is recalled to be the hitting coach again in 2016.

I would probably suffer through Nickleback and Creed. I saw Nickleback live once. It was the Y100 Feastival in 2001. Blink-182 was the headliner, Sum 41 played and so did Bush. I remember Gavin Rossdale running through the crowd.

Nickleback was terrible. The lead singer told security to eject a fan for flipping them off. I guess Chad Kroeger had a point. I block people on Twitter sometimes, too.

The only Creed anecdote I can relay is this prank O’Brother pulled on Thrice’s farewell tour was funny.

The obvious answer, I suppose, is a dune buggy with unlimited fuel, but I suppose that doesn’t honor the spirit of the question. I would probably say one of those 64-ounce jugs of water. Or a tent. Or a copy of “Clarity” by Jimmy Eat World inside a Discman that always has headphones.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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