Thursday May 24th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: This season was all set up to finally be the year that the Royals would have a good chance to contend. The division became less competitive than normal with the White Sox losing Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen, the Twins not making any big moves in the offseason besides signing Josh Willingham, and a second wild card being added to increase the possibility of making the playoffs. Royals’ fans have long waited for the team to make the playoffs as they have only had a winning record once since 1993. This year, the Royals have no shortage of hitting with young stars Eric Hosmer (first base)—who is struggling as of late but is showing signs of coming around, and third baseman, Mike Moustakas who is hitting .285. The Royals also have a strong outfield with Alex Gordon and veteran Jeff Francouer. Prospect Wil Myers, who was just promoted to Triple A, may offer more strength in the future, and Billy Butler, hitting .301 is the designated hitter. With a strong bullpen and hitting lineup beside the slumping Hosmer, right now the only weakness for the Royals is their starting pitching. Presently, Felipe Paulino is an exception with a 1.93 ERA, but it is doubtful that he will keep up his performance. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday November 17, 2011
Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Of the five categories in standard 5X5 roto leagues, it is SB’s that fantasy owners most commonly have the incorrect approach. In this article I will highlight players to target and avoid in the stolen base department, as well as discuss basic fantasy strategy.
There are certainly several one trick ponies, such as Brett Gardner, Michael Bourn, and Coco Crisp, who provide elite production in this department. However, there are a couple of things you must consider. These types of players, who will hopefully hit for average and contribute to runs, will hurt your team’s HR and RBI performance. Therefore, be sure that you have excess value dispersed throughout the rest of your lineup to compensate. Secondly, you are heavily relying one on player for your production in this category, and as a result an injury can leave your team devastated. Thus, it is essential, particularly in the early rounds, that you find players who do everything, including steal bases. Even 5-10 steals that a player contributes above the position average will give you a significant edge.
A player to target next year, Eric Hosmer, quietly stole 11 bases in 2011. The young left-hander batted .313 with 11 HR and 44 RBI’s in the second half last season. While his still progressing power production puts him the second tier of first baseman, his double-digit stolen base potential makes him intriguing and perhaps underrated. Still, this guy finished the season with 19 home runs and 78 RBI’s in 128 games played. Since there are a slew of first baseman that finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBI, they will likely be targeted before Homer. Therefore, I like Hosmer as a guy who might just as well approach these power numbers but also steal 15 bases. For this same reason, I like Joey Votto over any other first baseman not named Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera. While, Adrian and Gonzalez and Prince Fielder might put up higher power numbers and similar batting averages, Joey Votto’s 10 stolen bases will make him significantly more valuable. Albert Pujols is also good for ten stolen bases as well. Only Miguel Cabrera out produces Votto enough in the other four categories to excuse his lack of stolen bases.
Now extend this approach to each position. Dustin Pedroia and his 25-30 stolen bases is more valuable than Robinson Cano and his 5-10 stolen bases, despite the fact Cano finished with 7 more home runs and 25 RBI’s. A player I like at this position if you can afford to take the hit in HR’s and RBI’s is Jemile Weeks, who finished with 22 stolen bases in just 97 games. He will get to play full-time in Oakland, and as long as he is hitting above .290, can be valuable to your roster as a good source of steals. On the decline is Brandon Phillips who has dropped from 25 to 16 to 14 stolen bases the last three seasons. This makes him no longer elite, especially when Ian Kinsler is doing 30/30. An interesting group of players, Kelly Johnson, Danny Espinosa, and Ben Zobrist each his 20 home runs and stole over 15 bases. However, they each struggled with average. Again, take not of your team’s strengths. If you own Votto and a couple of other average anchors, these types of players can be good sources of power and stolen bases at the second base position.
Instead of continuing on and telling you the elite base stealers position by position (you can easily look this up), I will give you my 2012 sleepers and busts.
Stolen Base Sleepers:
Don’t forget that Brett Lawrie’s one-quarter of a season not only put him on pace to hit 36 home runs and 100 RBI’s, but also projected him to finish with 28 stolen bases.
Peter Bourjos made noise at the end of the season and once stole 50 bases in the minor leagues. For the speedy outfielder, it was all about getting on base after a 2010 debut in which he batted .204 in 51 games. However, he greatly improved his contact ability, although still needs to improve walk rate, and batted .271 and stole 21 bases for the Angels. He also hit 12 home runs, and has the potential for a productive .280 15 HR 30 SB stat line in 2012.
After stealing 19 bases in 2011, I expect Shane Victorino to reach the 30 mark once again in 2012. It’s not that he didn’t run when he was on base, but his lower than usual BABIP and high than usual ISO (measures true power) simply meant he was not on first base as often as he normally is. With Rollins likely out of Philadelphia, I expect Victorino to ne at the top of the lineup and as aggressive as ever on the base paths.
Keep you eye Cameron Maybin, who stole 40 bases in 137 games for the Padres. As long as he has the chance to play semi-regularly, he is elite in the stolen base category. Furthermore, he appears to be approaching double-digit home run output as well, although he is only a career .255 hitter.
Monitor where Coco Crisp ends up in 2012. I loved him at Oakland in 2011 because he was one of the better hitters on the team (sadly) and at times batted third, but also batted lead off and in the second spot. In addition to leading the American League in steals, he had decent contributions in other categories (8 HR and 54 RBI) compared to some of the other stolen base leaders.
Dexter Fowler is a name to remember because he is simply one of the fastest players in baseball. However, he only stole 12 and 13 bases during the last two years, respectively. He was also caught an alarming 25 times. If he can learn to run on the base paths, he can be elite in this category. It is possible for major leaguers to learn the art of stealing bases. Look at Adam Jones, who was 12/16 on the base paths in 2011 after a 7/14 2010. I expect Jones, who is approaching a contract season, to come closer to 20 steals in 2012.
Speedsters to avoid? Juan Pierre. He really contributes in no other categories and is getting slower, getting caught 17 times in 44 chances in 2011. Furthermore, I do not expect any team to give him the 639 at bats that the White Sox foolishly provided him. Sadly, Ichiro Suzuki is clearly on the decline and appears to be a shell of his former elite self. The same is true with Bobby Abreu.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***
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Tuesday November 15, 2011
Sam Evans:If you haven’t heard already, on Monday, Major League Baseball announced the rookie of the year winners. Craig Kimbrel won the NL ROY, and Jeremy Hellickson won the AL ROY. Let’s look at the winners and whether or not each deserved their respective awards.
Craig Kimbrel: National League Rookie of the Year:
Craig Kimbrel received a whopping 32 out of 32 first place votes, becoming the 17th player to receive all first place votes. In my opinion, the Atlanta Braves closer Kimbrel definitely deserved this award. He was not only extremely impressive to the eye, but the numbers backed it up. Kimbrel finished with 18 earned runs in 77 innings. He finished with 46 saves and struck out 14.84 K/9. Coming in second place was Kimbrel’s teammate Freddie Freeman with 70 votes, but no first place votes.
I would usually be hesitant to give a closer the award over a player who plays every day. However, Craig Kimbrel is just downright filthy. He might have the best curveball in baseball, and he is only 23 years old. It is impressive for a young flame throwing reliever to be consistent throughout the whole regular season. Not to mention, Braves Manager Fredi González, probably used Kimbrel more than he should have. This was evidenced when Kimbrel had a rough last month of the season with an ERA of 4.76. It should be noted that Kimbrel threw more innings in 2011 then he threw in any one year throughout the minors. Overall, I think that the voters made the right decision here. Kimbrel was the best reliever in all of baseball and was a very valuable asset to his team.
Jeremy Hellickson: American League Rookie of the Year
Hellickson received 17 out of 28 first place votes. This award was a surprise to a lot of people, including Hellickson,””I guess I was a little surprised, there was a handful of guys I think all had the same amount of chance to win.” If you remember back to September, I wrote that I thought Mark Trumbo should win the AL ROY. Well, I admit that I changed my mind since then. I came to the conclusion that either Michael Pineda or Eric Hosmer were more deserving of the award. Trumbo came in second place with 63 votes (5 1st place votes), thirty-nine behind Hellickson.
I can’t say that I was surprised when I heard that Hellickson won the award. After all, he pitches in by far, the strongest division in the league, he almost threw 200 innings, and he had an ERA under 3.00. Unfortunately, when you take a closer look at his peripherals, Hellickson really didn’t have the year that his standard numbers suggest. He had a SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) of 4.63 and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.44. Who knows what Hellickson’s numbers would have looked like without an outstanding defense behind him! He only struck out 5.57 batters per nine innings, and an 82 LOB %. What these numbers tell us is that Hellickson really had luck on his side and he likely wasn’t even the best rookie pitcher in his division.
I’m not so sure that Hellickson deserved this award. I’m not saying he didn’t have an amazing year helping lead the Rays to the playoffs. I just think that their were stronger candidates to win the ROY award in the AL.
Monday September 12, 2011
Sam Evans (Intern Candidate- MLB reports): With the regular season coming to an end, it’s time to start looking at baseball’s awards. The American League Rookie of the Year will definitely not be an easy choice for BBWAA voters. Even though the top candidates are pretty clear, there is still about 20 games left for most teams. This last month is important for candidates to solidify their numbers and argument for the award. Here is my opinion on who should win the award.
Three of the five last winners of the AL ROY award have been pitchers. When choosing who I think deserves the award one of my key requirements is playing time. In my opinion, a mediocre pitcher who pitched the whole season is more impressive than a position player who was only in the majors for half of the season. Also, I don’t think the team of the players record is important enough to be a consideration for voters. This award should be chosen for a player’s impact in the majors, not how hyped up of a prospect he is. So I’ll try to look past the shock value and breakdown some of the candidates.
Eric Hosmer: Kansas City Royals
Hosmer made his Royals debut on May 6th and has been the Royals starting first basemen ever since. For the year, Hosmer has batted .286/.334/.462 with 17 HR and 69 RBI’s. He has been the consistent middle of the order bat that the Royals have lacked ever since Carlos Beltran got traded.
Michael Pineda: Seattle Mariners
When Pineda was named the Mariners fifth starter right before the season started, most Mariners fans didn’t know what to expect. Michael was an American League All-star and has slid into the Mariners #2 starter spot. His numbers have tailed off a little as the season has gone on, but the Mariners still haven’t made the decision to shut him down. He has a 3.72 ERA in 167 innings with 171 strikeouts. That’s more than Jon Lester and Matt Cain. Also as his 3.42 FIP suggests he has actually been better than his ERA suggests. However, he has pitched in a pitcher’s park this year which have probably helped his numbers.
Ivan Nova: New York Yankees
Nova just barely has eligibility, but he has had a surprisingly solid season as one of the Yankees backend starters. He is 15-4 with a 3.94 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 144 innings. Obviously, the number that stands out is the fifteen wins, which is impressive for any pitcher. Still, with the Yankees offense wins aren’t a great stat to judge performance. Speaking for myself, I just don’t think his numbers are impressive enough to be the 2011 AL Rookie of the year.
Jeremy Hellickson: Tampa Bay Rays
Going into the season, there were pretty high expectations set for Hellickson. ESPN fantasy baseball teams were drafting him at an average of 163rd. He definitely has lived up to those assumptions and maybe even exceeded them. He is 12-10 with a 2.96 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 170 IP. Not to mention, he has done this while pitching in the toughest in baseball. He has had a lot of luck this season, as his 4.30 FIP and 4.57 xFIP suggest (courtesy of fangraphs.com). Also, he has the highest LOB% among all pitchers that have thrown over 100 innings.
Mark Trumbo: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
After the Angels received the news that Kendry Morales would start the year on the disabled list, the Angels first base options looked bleak. Trumbo was the favorite to win the job but wasn’t a very heralded prospect. Baseball America had him as the Angels 9th best prospect. Trumbo not only won the job, but he ran with it. On the season, he is hitting .256 with 26 HR and 80 RBI’s. He leads all rookies in homers, RBI’s, and SLG%( for rookies with more than 300 plate appearances). Not to mention, he has provided an above-average glove at first base. His batting average is not great, and his OBP% is under .300(.295), so he hasn’t been perfect this year. In the end, he has made contributions to his team unlike any other candidate.
I think Ackley and Jennings didn’t play enough games to deserve the award, and Walden has been too inconsistent. However, if Jennings were to lead the Rays to an improbable playoff spot, I think he should win the award or receive strong consideration by the voters.
If I had a vote at the end of the day, I would vote for Trumbo- with Pineda, and Hellickson following. There is still plenty of time left, but in my mind Mark Trumbo deserves the 2011 American League Rookie of the year award.
***Today’s feature was prepared by one of our intern candidates, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***
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Wednesday June 8, 2011
Q: Do you think that Kansas city will trade Wilson Betemit to a contender while he his playing well and with Mike “Moose” starting to hit great in Triple-A? If so to whom will he get traded to possibly? From Pam
MLB reports: Thank you for the question Pam. I see that you have beeen following the Reports closely, as you know that I enjoy discussing Royals prospects, especially the up-and-coming bats. With Hosmer on board, it is only a matter of time before Mike “Moose” Moustakas is next. In 54 games played in Omaha, the Moose has 10 home runs, 43 RBIs, 36 runs scored, .282 AVG and .835 OPS. His 18/43 BB/K ratio does not get me terribly excited, as it does not appear that Moose will ever have the batting eye of Eric Hosmer. That being said, Moustakas should hit for decent average with a ton of power. At 22 years of age and on his second tour of duty in AAA, it is only a matter of time before he gets called up. Wilson Betemit, on the other hand, has played fairly well this year, with a .297 AVG and .776 OPS. The power is down with only 2 home runs but he has 13 doubles already. I see the Royals keeping him around for insurance and versatility. With the Royals very much in contention, they do not have an incentive to trade Betemit unless they got young pitching back (which few teams would give up at this stage). Betemit also has a very affordable contract ($1 million/2011) and will not likely be moved.
Q: What do you think of the rumored group of Garvey and Hershiser to purchase the Dodgers? From Larry, Laughlin.
MLB reports: This story has surfaced and has started to gather steam. If not for Steve Garvey, I could see the Orel Hershiser name attached to the bid providing a great deal of credibility. Hershiser is seen as a clean-cut individual with great heroics in years past for the Dodgers. Garvey on the other hand, while a strong player in his day, does not have the best reputation. Based on the news that I am hearing, I think having Garvey on board will likely kill the chances of this group winning any future bids to control the Dodgers. Frank McCourt is still lurking in the background, but his time is almost done. With all the turmoil surrounding the Dodgers in recent years, MLB and Selig will take their time to find the best possible ownership situation for one of its prized franchises. Stay tuned as this story is far from over.
Q: So has Matt Purke pitcher for TCU been drafted yet? If so, where to? From Nolan, Texas
MLB reports: What a fall from grace. Purke, drafted by the Rangers 14th overall in 2010, was drafted in the 3rd round, with the 96th pick by the Washington Nationals this year. After battling a sore shoulder and having signability issues based on the Rangers failure to sign him, many teams got scared off from this prospect. I expected Purke to go in the 1st round this year, likely to the Jays or back to the Rangers. But the Nationals, who continue to stock up top prospects, landed a 1st round talent in the 3rd round. A very successful selection as Purke will become a solid #3 solid for the Nationals down the road, as early as 2013.
Q: Hosmer have a legit chance at AL ROY this year? From Jerry, Lawrence KS
MLB reports: You think? At age 21 (a year younger than Mike Moustakas), Eric Hosmer has simply dominated major league pitching since getting the call to join the Royals. In 29 games, Hosmer has 5 home runs, 20 RBIs, 14 runs, .304 AVG and .834 OPS. His batting eye has not been on par with his numbers from the minors, as he sits at a 7/22 BB/K. But with his strong average and power to-date, Hosmer will cut down the strikeouts and increase the walks as the months and years go by. We are watching the Royals first baseman for the next decade or so. He has the potential to match the bat of Will Clark and Mark Grace and the sky is the limit for this future all-star. I compare him most to Logan Morrison of the Florida Marlins, as they are very similar players. Great company to be in. Michael Pineda has been outstanding for the Mariners but as the summer is upon us, his arm may get tired and innings become limited. On the flip-side, I can see Hosmer getting hot as the season progresses and could make a strong push for the Rookie of the Year award in the American League. Definitely keep an eye on this kid.
Q: What’s your thoughts on the White Sox drafting Keenyn Walker at 47? From James, London, ON
MLB reports: I was very surprised to see Walker drafted this early. After being drafted by the Cubs in the 16th round in 2009 and the Phillies in the 38th round in 2010, I did not expect Walker to go as high as he did. The kid is a speedster, stealing 65 bases in 63 games played this year. Compared by some to Devon White, he sees himself as the next Torii Hunter. Despite his strong bat and 6’3″ frame, I have concerns if his bat will translate to the major league level. The speed and defense are definitely there, but it’s the power and batting eye that he will need to prove to advance in the minors. A good project player with a high ceiling, but much too early for the White Sox at this slot.
Q: Looks like Francisco brought his “A game” again. Why is he still closing? From Jennifer, Toronto
MLB reports: For some reason, there is a code in baseball that you stick with your “established” closer(s) and keep trotting them out there until they absolutely cannot be trusted. Looking at the Frank Francisco’s numbers, I believe that time has come. He has given up far too many hits and runs on the season and with a 6.06 ERA and 1.78 WHIP, in my opinion he should have been pitching in middle relief long ago. With Jon Rauch also struggling to maintain consistency, many so-called experts have looked to Octavio Dotel to take the closing job in Toronto. While Dotel has been steady, he has not shown the necessary consistency in my estimation. If it were up to me, I would call upon Casey Janssen or Jason Frasor to become the new Jays stopper. Both have brilliant on the season and earned the right ot pitch in the 9th inning. Frasor has the experience but I would give the role with Janssen and see if he can run with it. The Jays are fortunate to have so many closing options and can try out different pitchers until they find the right fit. But why Francisco continues to get the call is beyond me. He is most suited to pitching the 7th or 8th inning and has proven in Toronto, like he did before in Texas, that he is not a dependable closer.
Q: What are your thoughts on the season that Jonny Venters is having so far? Also what about how terrible Uggla has been? From Kyle
MLB reports: Craig Kimbrel has pitched well this season, with 17 saves (2nd in the NL), 2.79 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. But while Kimbrel has been good, Venters has been great. All Jonny Venters has done is given up 2 ER in 35.2 innings pitched, to a the tune of a 0.50 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. Kimbrel is younger at 23 compared to Venters at 26 and was seen as a stronger prospect going into the season. Also Venters is a lefty and baseball for some reason favors right-handed closers. But the numbers don’t lie and should Kimbrel falter at all, Venters will be given the first crack at the job. The Braves are in a really good situation with these two youngsters pitching at the back end of their bullpen. If their worst problem is who should pitch the 9th, the Braves will not mind that at all. As far as the slumping Uggla goes, there are several factors for his poor season. At 31-years of age, he starting to hit his decline. He always had high strikeout numbers but his walks have taken a huge dive this season. For whatever reason, he has not been comfortable playing in Atlanta and has had troubles adjusting to his new team. Add to that the pressure of living up to his new 5-year, $62 million contract and you have a case of player that is out of place and playing under pressure. Uggla though is a solid veteran and I expect him to heat up as the summer is upon us. The only direction for him is to go up and as long as he goes back to basics and does all the little things that has made him successful in the past, he should rebound nicely. Uggla is still Uggla, give him time.
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MLB reports: Another week, another rescheduled Friday Faceoff. Originally scheduled to go head-to-head were Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves and Mike Stanton of the Florida Marlins in the battle of young and up-and-coming National League outfielders. But with the burst of MLB reports favorite Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals on the MLB scene a week ago, we couldn’t resist switching up the story. With the e-mailbag being flooded for Hosmer requests and the promise I made last week for a Heyward feature, MLB reports is proud to present in the Friday Faceoff: Heyward vs. Hosmer.
Both Hosmer and Heyward are still pups at the tender age of 21-years-old. It’s hard to believe that Heyward was an all-star and finished second in the NL ROY balloting last year at 20. Incredible. Born only 2 months apart, Heyward was the 14th overall selection in the 2007 draft and Hosmer- the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft tie in this category. In terms of experience, Heyward has a year’s worth of experience in the majors over Hosmer, but then he was drafted a year earlier. A draw in round 1.
Looking at Jason Heyward’s numbers from a year ago, I am completely blown away. By hitting 18 home runs last year with a .456 SLG, Heyward was one of the most consistent Braves hitters last year. This year, Heyward already has 7 home runs, although his SLG is down to .433. The trouble with measuring Heyward so far this year is that he has been bothered by a sore shoulder early on, missed some games, taken his cortisone shots and may only fully return by early next week. While he is ready to pinch run and may pinch hit soon, Heyward’s health is a question mark at this point. Comparatively, Hosmer had 3 home runs in his first 26 games at AAA this year and 2 home runs in his first 6 games since being called up. While Hosmer has flashed power in the minors, including 20 last year between A+ and AA last year, Heyward has shown the steady power in the majors already. Heyward for me is already at the 30+ home run capabilities while Hosmer is more of a 15+ home run hitter for me at this stage of his career. Based on raw power, Heyward wins this round.
Patience and Batting Eye
Good luck in finding two better hitters with strong eyes at the plate compared to Heyward and Hosmer. Heyward finished with 91 walks last year, unheard of for a 20-year-old hitter in the majors. The strikeouts though did pile, up as Heyward whiffed 128 times in 2010. This year Heyward has a 18/32 BB/K ratio, good for a young player but not quite the level we expect from our budding superstars. Part to blame is his shoulder woes and the rest is the developing patience at the plate. Hosmer on the other hand, is slowly becoming the new MLB king of patience. In 2010 in the minors, Hosmer had a 59/66 BB/K ratio, almost 1-1. In his call-up this year, Hosmer sits at 5/5 BB/K ratio. With high walks and low strikeouts, round 3 goes to Eric Hosmer. Heyward ranks high in this category, just not Hosmer good.
This category, as with the others, is based on a small sample size and considers results to-date and expected performance. Some categories are easier to predict than others. This one appears very apparent to me. While I see Heyward having more future long balls, I can see Hosmer finishing with a higher batting average. Heyward had close to a .400 OBP last year and his .270-.280 average potential with 100 walks per year are fantastic numbers. But Hosmer has the .300+ average potential and will likely exceed a .400 OBP year-in and year-out. Last year in the minors, Hosmer had .338 AVG and .408 OBP. In AAA this year, Hosmer was hitting .439 with a .525 OBP and is already hitting .333 in the majors with a .444 OBP. The result is another victory for Hosmer.
A tricky category to utilize in comparing the two sluggers, who are known more for their bats than their speed. Heyward had 11 stolen bases last year, although he was caught 6 times. So far this year Heyward has only stolen 2 bases. Hosmer himself is not much a burner, although he did steal 11 bases last year while only being caught once in high A ball. On the season, Hosmer has stolen 3 bases in AAA and 1 steal in the majors, while not getting caught at either level. My impression overall is that Heyward will steal more bases as he will take more opportunities, while Hosmer will take fewer chances but have a higher success ratio. Pick your poison, I am calling this one a draw.
A great matchup this week of two future MVPs and part of baseball’s changing of the guard as the kids begin to take over. I am very excited about the prospects for both Heyward and Hosmer, as both are complete packages and truly the real deal in my estimation. It is always my goal not to go too far in projecting prospects as too many factors can take over, including : injuries, faded confidence, legal troubles, bad teams, bad lineups…you name it, one factor can arise and sideline a bright star in a hurry. Watching both Heyward and Hosmer, I have the impression that both are intelligent young men with good heads on their shoulders. Both play with enthusiasm and heart, two strong qualities I look for future in players. Going head-to-head, both are very young, with Heyward having a year experience on Hosmer. Both are showing good power, although Heyward has greater power. Hosmer though won out on batting average and batting-eye, displaying in his career patience personified, exceeding even the talented Heyward. After both players tied in the stolen base category, this week’s winner is Eric Hosmer. The future of the Kansas City Royals along with Moustakas and Myers, the George Brett comparisons are already ringing in for Hosmer. My hope is that he will handle them better than once golden boy Alex Gordon, who has finally got his career back on track this season after enduring many hardships and failed expectations along the way. Heyward, on the other hand, is becoming the new face of the Braves as Chipper Jones slowly begins to play out his last string. Both are excellent players with each team very high on its respective budding superstar. But the winner tonight is new MLB sensation, Eric Hosmer.
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MLB reports: The long-suffering fans of the Kansas City Royals have reason to celebrate. Their team has played fairly steady baseball this year, sitting above .500 at 15-13. The young bullpen has been lights out and Alex Gordon is reborn and hitting the cover off the ball with Billy Butler. But in the hope, continued promise exists. The Royals have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and have been ranked number one on many experts lists. A big reason for the top mark is the three prized hitters looking to graduate to Kansas City in the near future: Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. With so much fanfare and excitement surrounding these top prospects, who are receiving press through MLB circles, let’s take a look at how each player has fared thus far this year: starting with the top prospect, Mike Moustakas.
2011 has not been kind thus far to the third baseman of the future for the Royals. Moustakas has been walking at a decent clip but striking out far too much for AAA. His .227 average, to go along with four home runs says that the power is there, but the strike-zone discipline is still developing. After miscalculating on Alex Gordon, the Royals are by no means in a rush to promote Moustakas to the majors. Likely to finish below .500 on the season, the Royals are prepared to give Moustakas a full season at AAA with a possible September call-up depending on his progress. The talent is off the charts and we are looking at a possible forty home run caliber hitter in the future. But at 22 years old, the former #2 overall pick has time on his side. Based on his free swinging ways, Moustakas actually ranks third on my list of top Royals prospects. But he has the most potential for power and with the admiration for the long ball, we will see Moustakas arrive to great fanfare once he gets the call in the next year or so.
At 21 years of age, Hosmer is a year younger than Moustakas but playing at the same level in Omaha. Hosmer has been the strongest out of the game for the Royals and making the push for an early season call. With a 16/14 BB/K ratio, 1.049 OPS and .322 Average, the Royals will not be able to keep this future star in the minors for long. Kila Ka’aihue has not hit much going into May and is looking to wind down his Royals career. Kila is long considered a AAAA player, too good for AAA but never able to adjust to the majors. Hosmer is blessed with the same strong batting eye and sweet swing, but will make a stronger impression once he joins the Royals. The only knock on Hosmer is the two home runs thus far. But when he is hitting the ball otherwise at the rate that he is, the Royals will be patient in waiting for the power to develop. A mirror image of Logan Morrison in Florida, Eric Hosmer is my pick for the top Royals prospect, most likely to make the majors this year from this list and a future all-star and batting champion in the making.
The youngest player on this list, Myers is playing in AA at the tender age of 20. Considering his age, the numbers thus far have been decent. A .261 average combined with two home runs for a teenager can be considered promising. His 3/12 BB/K ratio and .735 OPS suggests that he remains a work in progress. A converted catcher, the Royals moved to Myers to the outfield to allow his developing bat a chance to make it to the majors soon. The Bryce Harper express route as I call it. Myers, while not quite in the Harper mold, is as solid as they come. With time, Myers will challenge Moustakas and Hosmer for top spot on the Royals, as the batting eye and power are all within this kid. He will require time for seasoning and a year or two at AA is not out of the question. I do not expect the Royals to rush him, as 2013-2014 is the expected time frame for the top Royals prospects to reach the show and play together. I was hoping for bigger things from Myers this year, but it is early and there is still a lot of baseball to be played. The key with prospects is to be patient and give them time. By season’s end, the good ones usually end up rising to the top.
By 2014-2015, imagine a Royals lineup with Butler, Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers. Kansas City is clearly on the rise and building their team in the right mold. The road to respectability has been a long and painful one for this one perennial successful franchise. But strong drafts and development has led to a farm that is producing top prospects at a rapid rate. While Hosmer is likely the first to make the leap, Moustakas and Myers will get there in their own time. The Royals have decided to manage their farm system in the right manner and not rush and burn out their future stars. The fans of Kansas City are grateful, as the promised land lies up ahead.
MLB reports: In 2005, B.J. (Bossman Jr.) Upton went first overall in the MLB draft to the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now shortened to “The Rays”). The Kansas City Royals, with the second pick nabbed University of Nebraska sensation Alex Gordon. After being named college player of the year and minor league player of the year, Gordon made his long anticipated major league debut on April 2, 2007. The then 23 year old Gordon was the then star prospect for the Royals. Comparisons to George Brett were prevalent and after unlimited success through collegiate ball and the minors, a quick adjustment was expected for Gordon. A player with his skills and natural ability simply could not fail. Or so many of the experts in baseball thought. The next four years began a stream of injuries, hardships, trips to the minors and position changes for Alex Gordon. A difficult road indeed.
I was fortunate to watch many of Alex Gordon’s games in 2007. The rookie third baseman ended up playing almost a full season that year and finished with six hundred plate appearances. Fifteen home runs and sixty RBIs were seen as decent, but a .247 average and 41/137 BB/K ratio indicated that Gordon was still very much inexperienced and required seasoning. In my estimation, Gordon simply needed some seasoning and getting further experience in baseball would help me grow into stardom. I saw some very bad habits back in that rookie year, including impatience at the plate and instances of a lack of confidence in himself as he suffered through various slumps that year. But in no means could any expert envision what would transpire over the next three years.
As the Royals continued to lose and fall in the standings, so did Alex Gordon’s stock. After playing in 134 games in 2008, Gordon only played partial seasons in 2009 and 2010. Injuries continued to mount and when Gordon was not in the minors or the DL, he was struggling in the majors. Gordon actually fell to a .215 average in 2010 with a .671 OPS. Stories continued to mount that as he was approaching the age of twenty-seven, his time in Kansas City was done and a change of scenery was needed. To further cause insult to injury, Gordon’s defense at third base was considered so below average that the Royals moved him to the outfield in 2010. Now an outfielder learning a new position and hoping to get his career on track, few people knew what to expect from Gordon in 2011. But there were signs of a rebound coming.
The top factors behind an Alex Gordon breakthrough that I predicted for the 2011 season:
1) 27 years old: This is the age when most players seem “to get it” and there was no reason why Gordon would be different. After a great deal of exposure to the majors, I saw confidence more than anything else as the issue. As long as Gordon was healthy, as long as he believed in himself, there was no reason for him not to produce.
2) Talent: Talent does not disappear and as a former College and Minor League Player of the Year, Gordon obviously has an abundance of skills. When I read that Gordon was rated as the purest collegiate hitter in his class and George Brett is drooling over signing him, you know that the player is something special. Many players have heart. Many players have drive. But few, if any players, have the talent that Alex Gordon has. You can’t teach talent like his and as long as he was still young and playing, I was prepared to give Gordon the benefit of the doubt.
3) Pressure is Off: Gordon might have been one of the players that had too much expectations placed on him too soon and the goals set for him were almost too high that no player could reach them. Being expected to turn around the entire Royals ball club and become the next George Brett is a lot of pressure. I believe that the pressure got to Gordon and he cracked. Now, going into 2011, switching to the outfield and not being expected to be the foundation of the Royals, Gordon was going to be able to simply go out and play his game. His way.
4) The next wave: Going in line with the third point, the Royals have many prospects on the way. Fans of the Royals and prospects know the names Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers, the big three expected to land in Kansas City over the next two years. The media and fans have been clamouring for these prospects, which has created hope in Kansas City. From a team that was playing the last few years with little optimism, 2011 was promising to be the start of something very special for the Royals. Never discount the effect of winning or the hope of winning. It certainly has a way of uplifting players.
5) The vets: With the addition of Jeff Francis, Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera, the Royals added role players who would be strong in the clubhouse and held mold a young, up-and-coming ball club. One of the players most likely to benefit was Alex Gordon, who requires mentorship and assistance to build his career. Rather than getting lost in the shuffle, Gordon could be re-invented and re-born into a major league star.
I wrote several pieces and conversed with many fans during the offseason touting the return of Alex Gordon. The above factors being key in my mind, I saw Alex Gordon as the ultimate low risk, high reward player. For all the talk that the Royals might trade Gordon, I could not foresee that any MLB could offer a sufficient return to the Royals to cut loose a player of his potential. I was relieved to see that Gordon played full-time in spring training and would be in the Royals lineup every day starting opening day. The results: Gordon, 12 games into the season going into today’s action, is hitting .345 and has a .907 OPS. Leading the league in hits with 19 and 7 doubles, clearly Alex Gordon is finally starting to arrive. His Royals, with a 7-0 win over the Mariners today now stand at an imposing 10-4 record. Gordon, now the #3 hitter in the lineup, had a 3-4 day with 3 runs and 2 RBIs. To say that Gordon is starting to meet his potential is an understatement. Royals fans and Gordon supporters are excited, as everything seems to finally be going right.
Further, with a bullpen of Soria, Crow, Collins and Jeffress, the Royals pitching in the late innings has been lock-down and the team overall has received the pitching and hitting necessary to excel. But while the Royals and Gordon may be on a current high, warning signs are there for both. From a hitting standpoint, pulling Gordon and Butler aside, the Royals seem to be scoring runs with smoke and mirrors. I see little hitting for this team until the big-three hitting prospects arrive in the next two years. From Gordon’s standpoint, despite his newly rediscovered hitting stroke, has an alarming 3/11 BB/K rate. But striking out at a high clip with few walks, I am worried that Gordon is still continuing his free swinging ways and has not learned patience at the plate. So when pitchers will find his weaknesses and exploit them, the base hits he gets right now will become outs. I am by no means predicting doom and gloom for Gordon and the Royals, just showcasing potential red flags. But given his strong start, as long as Gordon continues his adjustments and has confidence in himself, he should be strong by the time Moustakas/Hosmer/Myers arrive.
For those that were ready to put Alex Gordon in the Hall of Fame back in 2007, that prediction may never come to fruition. Although it seems like he has been around forever, Gordon is still only 27. With a strong work ethic, confidence and health, Gordon could very well play for another decade in the majors. It is time to put the George Brett comparisons to bed. Alex Gordon is his own person and player. From the results so far from 2011, he is a pretty darn good one. The hope and promise continue to be there for Gordon. Here’s hoping 2011 will be the year that he finally arrives.