Im just going to say it. I dont think anyone who plays fantasy baseball knows who Eric Hosmer is. Why do I say that? Within an hour of the news breaking on Thursday that Hosmer was being called up by the Royals at the expense of Kila Ka’aihue, I honestly received about 45 questions from people on Twitter about Hosmer (you can find a link to my Twitter account at the bottom of this article). People know the name, and know that he is one of the top prospects in baseball, but that’s the extent of their knowledge. How can I say that? Here is a sampling of the players I was asked about dropping to add Hosmer:
Nick Swisher, Adam Lind, Rajai Davis, Jose Tabata, Aubrey Huff, Vladimir Guerrero, Sam Fuld, James Loney, Bud Norris, Freddie Freeman, Justin Smoak, Ricky Nolasco etc.
You get the point. People have no idea who Hosmer is and what he brings to the field. Laughably, someone even asked me if he Hosmer had a shot at 30 homers this season.
Let me put an end to all of that. In what follows I’m going to give an honest assessment of who Hosmer is and try to find a way to fit him into my first base rankings for the Rest of the Way (ROTW).
WHO IS ERIC HOSMER?
6’4‚ÄĚ, 230 lbs, 21 years old, swings left-handed, throws left-handed, plays 1B
Drafted: 3rd overall in 2008 by the Kansas City Royals
2008: After being selected as a High School All-American, Hosmer reported to the Idaho Falls Rookie League as an 18 year old. He produced four hits in 11 at-bats.
2009: In 79 games at Low-A he hit .254 with five homers and 49 RBI. He then moved to High-A at Wilmington where he failed to produce at all as he hit just .205 with one homer an a .579 OPS in 97 at-bats to end the year on an extreme sour note.
2010: He again began the year at High-A and acquitted himself quite well this time being named to the Carolina League All-Star team as he tore up the league hitting .354/.429/.545 with 51 RBI in 87 games. He was pushed up to Double-A to end the year and he just kept on hitting with 13 homers and a .980 OPS in 50 games. In the end, he was chosen the Baseball America First Baseman on their Minor League All-Star team.
2011: Showing that Triple-A pitching wouldn’t be an impediment to his development, Hosmer produced a slash line of .439/.525/.585 in 26 games before he was called up to the big leagues.
So will Hosmer hit .330, bash 30 homers and leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Hosmer covers the strike zone very well, and he’s always been solid in the BB/K area (0.77) which will obviously serve him well in the bigs (this obviously also speaks to his outstanding pitch recognition). Hosmer also hits them where they are pitched spraying the ball all over the field. Hosmer also has the rare ability to fight off pitches he really can’t handle allowing him to extend at-bats. To hear some scouts talk his approach and swing reminds some of a combination of Joe Mauer and Joey Votto, obviously lofty comparisons.
Hosmer, with the approach and swing of a champion, shouldn’t have too much of a problem in hitting for a decent average right off the hop. However, the power department is where he might be lacking a bit at the moment. Given that he plays first base, patience could wear thin if he is a 20 homer bat and not a 30 homer bat long-term. Of course, we’re not concerned at the moment with where he will be in five years. With his hit the ball where it is pitched approach, and a lack of big time power numbers in the minors, it’s best to think of him as a Joe Mauer type of power hitter ‚Äď the comparison to Joey Votto, at least in the power respect, isn’t applicable at the moment.
IMPLICATIONS OF PROMOTION
Do the Royals really think they can win this year?
By promoting Hosmer in May, they’ve started his arbitration clock a year earlier than if they had waited another month (the Giants did the same thing with Buster Posey last year and that turned out pretty darn well for the World Series champs). This brings up the obvious ‚Äď while Hosmer has been killing it in the minors, does it really make sense for a small market club to bring up a building block this early in the season potentially costing themselves $10 or more million dollars in the long run? If they were going to do this, why not just let Hosmer begin the year as the Opening Day starter at first? You also have to worry about the Royals and their every changing front office plan. I admit that Ka’aihue was slumping horribly (.195-2-6), but after years of waiting for his chance the club gave him all of 82 at-bats before moving on? Will they have patience with Hosmer if he struggles out of the gate?
WHERE DOES HE PROFILE ROTW AT FIRST BASE?
So where does Hosmer fit amongst first basemen? That’s probably the most pertinent question I’ve been asked to answer. Being that I’m nothing if not accommodating, just ask the hundreds of women that I’ve dated in my life (maybe that number is inflated somewhat). Here are my ROTW rankings for first basemen irrespective of what they have done on the field until this point.
That means I have 21 other first basemen ahead of Hosmer and I’m not even including Brett Wallace who has been killing it thus far. Is my bias against rookies shining through here for all to see? Am I being completely unkind to a player who is roundly regarded as one of the top-20 prospects in baseball by every reputable source? Perhaps. But still…
* Hosmer isn’t going to sneak into the top-10.
* I’m not going put him ahead of a guy who has hit 38 homer for 7-straight years in Dunn.
* Berkman might be the NL MVP right now.
* Lind has a 10 game hitting streak and is hitting .314 with 25 RBI in 30 games.
* You could start to make arguments for slotting Hosmer ahead of Huff, but I’m going to go with the guy who was 7th in the NL MVP vote last season.
* Davis and Sanchez? Call me Hosmer matches their rookie production from last year.
* Smoak has found his stroke and is hitting for average and power.
* I’m not going to say that Hosmer doesn’t have a solid chance of surpassing the final four men on the list, he certainly does since all are struggling big time right now, but it will still be a challenge.
I think the fervor over Hosmer is a bit out ow whack right now. Long-term I have little doubt that his name will be in the discussion for All-Star honors many times over his career, but in terms of his 2011 fantasy outlook I think too much is being expected too soon with this rookie first sacker.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
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