Royals believe Hosmer is just scratching surface of his talent

Eric Hosmer caught fire last season after George Brett and Pedro Grifol started coaching hitters.

Peter Aiken/Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At one point last summer while on his interim stint as the Royals hitting coach, George Brett watched Eric Hosmer slash line drive after line drive during batting practice and said, smiling, "That guy has so much talent, it’s absolutely unreal."

It was no coincidence, though, that it was Brett’s emergence as hitting coach in late May that helped harvest at least some of that incredible Hosmer talent.

After a rough first two months (.261, one homer) that had even the most die-hard Royals fan doubting him, Hosmer suddenly bloomed over the final four months, hitting .318 with 16 homers and 63 RBI.

And Hosmer’s teammates believe there’s plenty more to come from the first baseman.

"He’s just starting to realize what he is as a hitter," designated hitter Billy Butler says. "And that’s scary, because he’s only scratching the surface."

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Hosmer credits Brett and Pedro Grifol — now the team’s full-time hitting coach — with the profound turnaround. Grifol, Hosmer says, got him to use his lower body and leg strength for more leverage.

And Brett talked with Hosmer daily about the mental aspects of hitting.

"One of the biggest things George told me was it’s a battle between you and the pitcher and you might not get him the first time or the second time," Hosmer says. "But you’ve got to know that deep down he’s not going to get off that mound without you doing some type of damage to him."

Brett also taught Hosmer about the value of preparation.

"When I first came up, you’re doing stuff to get ready for the game, but you’re kind of just doing it, because you see the older guys doing it," Hosmer says. "You don’t really know what you’re doing. For me, the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to prepare myself for a game and what I need to do before to get ready to go."

Butler also credits Hosmer’s resurgence to maturity.

"He learned to take pitches," Butler says. "You can take a strike if it’s not your pitch. That’s something you learn as you get older."

Hosmer posted a career-high .353 on-base percentage to go with his 17 homers and 79 RBI last year. Those numbers led to a huge raise, from $528,500 to $3.6 million. He vows to demonstrate patience while spending that money, too.

"I’m going to be smart with that," Hosmer says, smiling.

If Hosmer continues to hit like the Royals believe he will, there will be far bigger paydays on the way as well.


But for now, Hosmer’s goal is to finish what the Royals nearly accomplished last season — making the playoffs.

The pieces are there, Hosmer says, especially with the additions of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante at the top of the order for an offense that figures to be much improved.

"I think it makes our lineup a lot deeper, obviously," Hosmer says. "(Alex Gordon) did a phenomenal job in the leadoff spot, but he’s big and strong and needs to drive in runs. If we can bump him down (in the order) and have him come up with guys on base, that makes our lineup deeper.

"We get those two guys at the top of the lineup setting stuff up for us. Then if you get any of those guys on and you’ve got me, Billy, Gordon, Salvador (Perez) and Moose (Mike Moustakas), there’s a lot of guys who have potential to knock them in. So if those guys are getting on and doing what they’ve done in the past, which we’re confident they will be, then we think it’s going to make our offense really good."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.