Robert Ford came to 610 Sports Radio in 2009 as the station’s “Royals Insider.” He currently serves as the pre and post game show host for Royals Broadcasts on 610. The Syracuse graduate has been around professional baseball as a reporter and broadcaster for over a decade.
Eric Hosmer FAQs
by Robert Ford,posted May 6 2011 12:00AM
Now that Eric Hosmer has arrived, I thought I’d put together a list of frequently asked questions about the talented prospect. After all, a Royals prospect hasn’t prompted this much excitement since Alex Gordon opened the 2007 season in Kansas City’s lineup. So, without further ado…
Why now? I thought the Royals were going to wait until June 1st, at the earliest, to call him up?
Calling Hosmer up now does start his service-time clock as far as arbitration is concerned, making him a likely candidate for a fourth year of arbitration, which could cost the Royals a few million dollars more than if they waited until early June. So, what’s a few weeks, anyway?
You can go into a season with a plan for your prospects but, sometimes, they exceed your expectations. Coming into spring training, the talk was Mike Moustakas’ imminent arrival, as it seemed Hosmer would simply get his feet wet in Major League camp before preparing to start the year at AA Northwest Arkansas after getting 195 at-bats there last season. However, Hosmer went 9 for 20 with six extra-base hits in Major League camp, probably staying longer than expected and ensuring he’d open the year with AAA Omaha. Then, Hosmer goes out and hits .439 for the Storm Chasers, making the Pacific Coast League his playground. I think it got to the point where there was nothing to be gained by leaving Hosmer at AAA any longer. Sure, he’s not going to hit this well all year, but you’d like for Hosmer to come up to the Majors on a high note and you want to keep challenging the guy generally considered the best position-player prospect in the system. Hosmer’s done everything the Royals have asked him to do, and more. Now is the time.
I don’t think Hosmer’s call-up has anything to do with how well the Royals are playing. The Royals could be 10-21 right now and Hosmer still would be up here because of what he’s done so far this season. Certainly, Kila Ka’aihue’s struggles help prompt Hosmer’s promotion, but he would’ve been in Kansas City at some point in May anyway, with the way he was hitting.
Where will he bat in the Royals lineup?
Seventh. Jeff Francoeur and Wilson Betemit will bat fifth and sixth, respectively. Hosmer will be followed in the lineup by the catcher and Alcides Escobar.
I think seventh is where Hosmer should bat at this point. Batting him higher puts too much pressure on him and Francoeur and Betemit have both been hitting well, so why move them? I could see Hosmer moving up to sixth if one of them struggles or if one isn’t in the lineup. Potentially, Hosmer has a chance to be a number-three hitter, but no need to put him there before he’s proven anything in the Majors. What’s nice is that the Royals lineup, despite some holes, has performed well. As a result, there’s less pressure to bat Hosmer in a key run-producing spot.
What should we expect to see from him offensively?
Hosmer’s most impressive trait is his ability to hit for power to all fields, thanks to a balanced and level swing that stays in the zone for a long time. He hasn’t shown much power so far this season – only 8 of his 43 hits at Omaha went for extra bases – but he cranked 20 homers and 43 doubles in 520 at-bats between High-A and AA last season, so the power is there. I think it’s unrealistic to expect Hosmer to hit for power right away. The power will come as he learns more about his swing, gets used to Major League pitching and adjusts to what pitchers are trying to do to him. Right now, you want to see Hosmer hit the ball where it is pitched and use the whole field. If he does that, then he’s on the right track.
What does this mean for Kila Ka’aihue and Clint Robinson?
If Hosmer performs well, and he and Billy Butler stay healthy, we may never see Ka’aihue in a Royals uniform again. Even if Ka’aihue tears it up the rest of the year at Omaha, I still think his chances of returning to the home clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium are remote. The prevailing opinion among baseball talent evaluators before last season was that Ka’aihue was a “4A” player: good enough to produce at AAA, but not good enough to be a Major League regular. The Royals gave Ka’aihue an opportunity to dispel that notion, but he’s failed to do so. At the very least, you hope the demotion doesn’t wreck Ka’aihue’s confidence to the point where he struggles even in the Pacific Coast League.
Robinson’s situation is a lot more compelling. After winning the Texas League triple crown at Northwest Arkansas last season, Robinson has continued to produce at Omaha, hitting .340 with 8 homers and 20 RBIs in 26 games. If Robinson continues to produce, he gives the Royals a fallback plan should Hosmer struggle. If Hosmer plays well, I see the Royals leaving Robinson in Omaha the entire year. After all, an excellent year at AAA would increase Robinson’s trade value. I think he’ll get his opportunity in the Majors, but it probably won’t be with Kansas City as long as Hosmer doesn’t get hurt or fall flat on his face.
Will the Royals retire his number now or wait until next season?
Eric Hosmer is incredibly talented and has a chance to do some special things if he stays focused and stays healthy. However, it’s important to remember Hosmer’s just a 21-year-old rookie. Very few players get to the Major Leagues and start hitting from Day One; off the top of my head, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols come to mind as notable exceptions.
I think it’s unfair to expect a specific amount of production from Hosmer this season. I’m sure he’ll look great at times, but I’m also sure he’ll struggle at times. All you should hope to see from Hosmer is improvement. What’s most exciting to me is that Hosmer is the first of what will be a wave of talented prospects getting to the Majors.