By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Eric Hosmer, First Baseman, Kansas City Royals
2011 season: 128 G, 523 AB, .293 BA, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB
Hosmer was one of the most hyped prospects in the minors last year, and he lived up to the acclaim following his callup. Maybe his stats don’t jump out at you, but considering he was just 21 and that he missed the first month of the season, those are strong numbers. They’re also impressive when you consider the adjustments that Hosmer made in order to achieve them.
In his first month in the Majors, Hosmer produced quite well. He collected 12 extra-base hits, including five homers, in 23 games en route to an .836 OPS. The next month, however, the league caught up to him. Hosmer displayed a tendency to chase pitches out of the zone, and opposing hurlers took full advantage. It resulted in Hosmer batting just .253 and slugging a paltry .293 in June, failing to go deep at all. While Hosmer did not walk more after that miserable month, he did display more patience – patience in waiting for a pitch that he could hit, whether it was in or out of the strike zone. Over the final 70 games of the season, the former third overall pick batted .313 with 11 homers and 28 total extra-base hits.
Still, it would be nice to see Hosmer draw some more free passes going forward. He’s great at making contact out of the zone, but he will have to make pitchers come to him more often if he is to continue improving. Hosmer also has to get better against left-handers, against whom he batted just .237 with a .585 OPS last year. These are just minor critiques, though, as Hosmer is already well advanced for his age. Being so young, there is plenty of time for him to round out his game.
It’s dangerous to make comparisons, but there’s a clear best-case scenario for Hosmer. If he lives up to his potential, he could be a Joey Votto type – a guy who hits for average and power, can spread the ball to all fields and even swipes a base once in a while – though Hosmer ultimately will probably walk less and strike out less. He won’t get there this year, in just his age-22 season, but a .300 average with 25 homers isn’t out of the question. That’s a pretty good line for someone whose peers are generally in the low-to-mid minors. In a year or two, he could be an important piece of a Royals team that will likely be contending in the American League Central.
Next up on March 11: Minnesota Twins