Buster Posey helped the Giants surge toward the World Series. Jason Heyward arrived and immediately impacted the starting line-up. Whenever a well-renowned slugger hits the major leagues, it’s easy for fans to get excited over the great possibilities. Unfortunately for most prospects, that’s when reality steps in to squelch the excitement.
Enter Kansas City Royals first base prospect Eric Hosmer. His arrival in Kansas City for last night’s debut against the Oakland Athletics prompted over 9,000 game day ticket sales and far more media coverage than a normal Royals-A’s contest. Fans want to be able to say, “I was there from the beginning,” in the hopes he turns out to be the next great Royals player.
History, however, is not always so kind. For every Buster Posey, there are numerous other players who have to wrestle with the realities of minor league inflation and the adjustments to the major league level. Freddie Freeman is another heralded first base prospect for the Braves who is struggling after posting impressive numbers like Hosmer in the last two years. Even KC’s own Alex Gordon can attest to the difference between the two levels. Projection isn’t that easy.
While Hosmer was hitting an incredible .439/.525/.582 this season in AAA, Dave Cameron over at the essential baseball blog Fangraphs suggests you can’t expect numbers remotely close to this at the ML level. By looking inside the numbers, Cameron says expectations should remain pedestrian for a 21-year-old making the adjustment. Hosmer, he says, has been lucky alongside his talent:
Hosmer is probably Major League ready. He’s probably going to be a good player for a long time. The Royals probably made the right call in promoting him now. None of this is a critique of the move, or the Royals handling of Hosmer this year. I will, however, suggest that we shouldn’t view it as a disappointment if Hosmer’s batting line in 2011 ends up looking something like Posey’s career mark to date – .288/.341/.468, which would represent a really nice rookie performance, and should be viewed as an accomplishment, not a disappointment, even with his staggering numbers in Omaha.
Cameron certainly isn’t down on Hosmer, but he encourages fans to remember that Hosmer alone isn’t going to save the Royals or win the AL Central. Instead, if he can solidify an infield defense and provide a solid batting line near the bottom of the order in his rookie year, that’s a good beginning to what should be a very productive career.