Reasons to Remain a Royals Fan (Volume 1)

People have given up.  The bandwagon that was crowded in early May now stands empty up on cinderblocks in a field.  The Royals haven’t won 90 or more games since 1989 when they were 92-70.  Since the 1989 season they have a W-L record of 1,461-1,797 which is good for a 0.448 win percentage.  Getting back to that level of play would be a relief at this point.  From 2000-2009 the Royals are 644-902 with a win percentage of 0.417.  To make matters worse, Tony Pena Jr. is still a member of the Kansas City Royals organization.  The reasons to abandon the Royals are plentiful.  Poor record, managerial incompetence, questionable roster moves, and puzzling player acquisitions are just a few of the problems that plague this organization and the fans who follow it.

All is not lost.  It is never lost.  Even the Royals can turn things around.  These facts have inspired my crusade to demonstrate there are still reasons to remain a Royal fan.  Without further adieu I present volume 1 of Reasons to Remain a Royals Fan: Rumors of Eric Hosmer’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Okay, demise might be a little strong.  No right thinking person would already be writing off a 19 year old kid playing in low-A with only 279 professional at bats under his belt.  Yet somehow people are disappointed in Hosmer’s 2009 season to date.  Already the buzzards have started circling with nonsense about how the Royals should have drafted Justin Smoak, selected 11th overall, because he is already in Triple-A for the Texas Rangers.  Smoak, for his part is doing fine in the minors with a career line of 0.307/.419/.493 with 12 home runs in 274 AB, but those numbers are not earth-shattering.  They are certainly not a reason to suggest that the Royals and Dayton Moore may have erred by selecting Hosmer.

Unlike Smoak who was drafted out of college, Hosmer came to the Royals from high school.  It is quickly forgotten that Hosmer is a full 3 years younger than Smoak but it is a fact that cannot be easily dismissed when comparing their minor league performances, upside, or ML time of arrival.  No matter what Smoak does in his career, Hosmer will have 3 years to get to the same point.  There is no denying that Justin Smoak is in Triple-A, but while he has been moved up aggressively by the Rangers, it seems a certainty that he won’t reach the majors this season.  Smoak is hitting 0.103/.278/.207 in 29 PCL at bats since his latest promotion to the PCL.  Bottom line is that Justin Smoak may be in Triple-A but he isn’t setting the world on fire, his minor league numbers have not been that impressive, and being a college hitter, he should be further along than Eric Hosmer.

So what about Hosmer?  As mentioned above, he has 279 at bats as a professional and a career 0.265/.368/.401 line.  This season he has hit 0.261/.360/.396 despite being placed with the Burlington Bees in low-A ball.  Call me crazy, but that line from a 19 year old in his first full professional season hardly seems like a disappointment.  Last year he was placed with Idaho Falls and was hitting 0.364/.533/.545 in 11 at bats before being caught up in the Pedro Alvarez contract shenanigans.  The Royals were forced to pull Hosmer off the field until the Pirates and Alvarez resolved the contract dispute.  Hosmer lost his 2008 season for circumstances largely beyond their control.  Of course a good way to stay out of the path of such circumstances is to sign your draft picks well before the deadline, but I digress.

Let’s take a look at Hosmer’s 2009 season a little more closely.  If you are one of those disappointed by Hosmer thus far, perhaps this will put things into better focus for you.  If you are in the camp that believes Hosmer was the right pick for the Royals and you believe he will be a force at the ML level, perhaps this will help to solidify your opinion of him.

In addition to the 0.261/.360/.396 line I referenced above, Hosmer has hit 17 2B, 2 3B, and 5 HR.  More importantly to me he has drawn 43 BB while only striking out 66 times.  He started out slow in April and hit 0.222/.342/.286 with 12 BB and 21 SO in 63 AB.  In May he fared a little better and hit 0.299/.413/.483 with 3 HR, 17 BB and 21 SO in 87 AB.  June brought more struggles as he hit 0.211/.274/.316 with 0 HR, 7 BB, and 20 SO in 76 AB.  This is the point where “the Royals should have drafted Smoak” BS started to get louder.  He has responded in July hitting 0.333/.420/.524 with 2 HR, 7 BB, and 4 SO in 42 AB.

One potential concern for the Royals are his splits when facing LHP (0.139/.207/.203) versus RHP (0.312/.419/.476).  This could be a legitimate concern if he continues to have such a massive discrepancy as he advances in the system.  I stress “could” because I believe he will hit better against lefties as he gets more at bats against them.  Most left handed hitters struggle with LHP at the beginning of their careers, and some like Mike Jacobs never do get it figured out, but I think Hosmer will solve the LHP puzzle in time.  Part of the reason I feel this way is because LHP versus RHP is not the only split that is out of whack right now.  He is hitting .225/.345/.380 in home games versus 0.302/.377/.413 on the road and he is hitting 0.246/.322/.372 in night games versus 0.311/.469/.475 in day games.  Those splits suggest that Hosmer is still adjusting to life as a professional ball player as well as getting used to life on his own.  He is after all a kid that should have just completed his freshman year of college.

The potential is there for Eric Hosmer to be a force and impact bat for the Royals at the major league level.  It is a potential for greatness that a guy like Justin Smoak does not possess.  The Royals don’t need guys that are okay or decent at the ML level, they need game changers at the plate.  Something that outside of Billy Butler they currently lack.

I am confident that Hosmer will continue to improve in the 2nd half of the season and we will get a lot more months like what he has done thus far in July.  Even if he ends the 2009 season with a line of 0.261/.360/.396 it will still be a success for Hosmer.  At worst he will start 2010 in high-A Wilmington and a promotion to double-A NW Arkansas won’t be far away.  He is not a bust, he is just getting started.

Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Eric Hosmer, Justin Smoak, Kansas City Royals, KC, MLB

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