In this morning's iteration of the Royals Rumblings, an article from Fake Teams noted that Hosmer still has some MVP upside, but it's not exactly likely anymore. I think that's a fair assessment, but I'd go a bit further. I don't really see any MVP upside anymore.
For a first baseman to be an MVP, he's got to hit like Miguel Cabrera. You know, the guy who actually won an MVP recently. He may have been a third baseman when he won those MVP awards, but he's really a first baseman. Cabrera's wRC+ during his 2012 MVP season was 166. It was an absolutely absurd 192 during his 2013 MVP season. They say Hosmer is a better defender (Gold Glove winner!), so I'll be generous and say that Hosmer doesn't need to reach Cabrera's offensive heights in order to be considered for an MVP award. I'll say a 150 wRC+ gets him in the conversation.
When was the last time Hosmer showed 150 wRC+ offensive ability over an entire season? Never. His highest single-season wRC+ is 120. What about flashes? Sure, he has some good months in there. The recent postseason run comes to mind. He had a 173 wRC+ fueled by a .421 BABIP during July this year. Hosmer sustained a 135 wRC+ in the second half of 2013. He had several months in a row of a wRC+ 130 or better that year. Don't look at 2012. He had a 144 wRC+ in the final month of his rookie year and a 136 wRC+ in July of the same year.
There are a lot of players who can hit like Miguel Cabrera over the course of a month. The difference is that those players return to their mediocre levels, while Cabrera is still out in LaLa Land doing his thing.
It might be instructive to look at the peripheral stuff. How about batted balls first? Here's a comparison of the two over their careers.
Hosmer doesn't have Cabrera's power. That's not really something Hosmer can model after the MVP. Notice the GB%, though. What gives? Hosmer hits the ball on the ground way more than he should. He also doesn't square the ball up as well as Cabrera as shown by his lower LD%. It's really hard to take advantage of any power if you don't hit the ball in the air. You could maybe say that Hosmer's GB% is trending in the right direction, since it's decreased two years in a row, but it's still entirely too high.
Here are their career plate discipline stats.
The little differences add up. Somehow, Cabrera has gotten more pitches in the zone over his career. He's thrown more strikes than Hosmer is. Hosmer swings outside the zone more and makes more contact with those pitches than does Cabrera. Hosmer swings less inside the zone. Utter silliness. This adds up to a massive difference in BB% while also preventing Hosmer from taking advantage of what power he does have. Hosmer makes contact with poorer pitches, and the pitches he does contact are on the ground more often than not. There doesn't appear to be a trend in any direction with Hosmer here.
MVP upside? Not unless Hosmer swings at strikes more, swings at balls less, and puts the ball in the air more. You could say this about a ton of players. A ton of players aren't MVP candidates every year. As usual, I'd love to eat some crow here.