Not everything went wrong for Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer in 2012.
The second-year slugger’s season was submarined by an awful start, and a poor finish accented how forgettable the season was. But in the middle, the 23-year-old Hosmer showed signs of the player that made him one of the most anticipated Royals prospects in recent memory.
From May 26 through Sept. 12, a span of 96 games, Hosmer batted .270 with a .747 on-base plus slugging percentage. His power numbers even in that stretch were far off the levels he established in his rookie season, but a prolonged period on the fringes of success gives Hosmer something to build on for his third year.
Hosmer, along with teammates Everett Teaford and Aaron Crow, ex-Royals outfielder Willie Wilson and broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre, participated in a Royals caravan event Friday afternoon at the Kansas Sampler store in Wichita.
"I use it as a learning experience," Hosmer said. "It’s a motivation to go home in the offseason and work hard. The offseason is good because you have a lot of time, and you have time to work stuff out. I just sat back, cleared my head a little bit and got back to work."
Hosmer’s batting average didn’t permanently rise above .200 until May 26 and it lingered in the low .200s throughout the season. Without the power he displayed as a rookie — Hosmer hit 19 homers in 128 games in 2011 — and with an on-base percentage not boosted enough from 56 walks, Hosmer’s average appeared particularly soft.
The importance of Hosmer to the offense was emphasized during his 96 games of a near-turnaround. The Royals went 48-48 in those games and 24-42 when Hosmer’s struggles were at their apex. He went homerless in his final 15 games, batting .109 in that stretch.
Royals executives don’t appear discouraged, however. They’ve kept the young offense virtually in tact after an underperforming 2012 and saved the most significant changes for the pitching staff, adding James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis to the rotation and re-signing Jeremy Guthrie a few months after they traded for him.
"That makes us feel great, especially as a group, for them to keep the core offense together," Hosmer said of players such as Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez. "They let us grow up in the minor leagues together and now in the big leagues, it’s great."
Even after a disappointing 2012, expectations haven’t left Hosmer. He created them with astronomical numbers in the minor leagues and enhanced them by batting .293 while finishing third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012.
The expectations now are on Hosmer reverting back to or exceeding the success of his first season and to pull the Royals up with him.
"I just want to do my part and help the team win," Hosmer said. "If you’re going out there and trying to help the Royals win a ballgame every day, I think at the end the numbers are going to be there."