Every year, we come out with our best value pick in fantasy baseball. Last year, we picked J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles. All Hardy, a career .263 hitter, did was hit 30 home runs and drive in 80 for the Orioles–numbers that even exceeded his 2007 and 2008 stats from Milwaukee.
In Hardy’s case, our selection was based more on a guy moving from pitching friendly Target Field to Camden Yards. It was also a case of a healthy J.J. Hardy that did not have the 2010 season we all anticipated. It was also the case of having seen Hardy in action on my annual Spring Training visit to Florida.
None of these same factors had any bearing on our 2012 Best Value Pick of Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals.
Eric Hosmer is one of those guys that we talked about a few years ago when the Royals were known as having the deepest minor league system. The Royals no longer have that deep talent in the minors; they’re mostly all playing in the Bigs instead. In addition to Hosmer, there’s third baseman Mike Moustakas, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Everett Teaford. These guys will be fixtures in the Royals lineup for many years to come. The Royals hitting is there today, but their pitching will likely hold them back from contending in 2012.
Hosmer was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft out of high school. The R0yals wasted no time in moving him up rapidly through their minor league system. In 2009, Hosmer hit just .206 at Wilmington (NC), but he was moved up to High-A Burlington regardless where he hit .254.
In 2010, however, it all came together for Hosmer. His line at Northwest Arkansas was .313 with 13 homers and 35 RBI and then he really flourished at Double-A Wilmington (DE) Blue Rocks where he hit .354 with 7 home runs and 51 RBI.
Last year, the Royals wisely kept him down at the beginning of the year so as to prevent him from accruing enough service time to become a free agent until 2018. Hosmer wasn’t going to go down without making enough noise to ensure his return to Kansas City. A .439 aberage with Omaha ensured his promotion to the Royals where he hit .293 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI–good enough for third place in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Hosmer became just the fifth player in history to bat at least .293 with 19 homers and 27 doubles in his first major-league season by the age of 21. The others were guys by the names of Albert Pujols, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Orlando Cepeda. Convinced now?
There’s a lot of reason to have Hosmania coming into the 2012 season. There is the fact that Eric is just 22-year-old and has perhaps the prettiest left-handed swing in baseball. You could also point to Hosmer’s bad luck in 2011 with only a .314 BABIP compared to a .382 BABIP from the year before in the minors.
Then, there’s the Spring stats for Hosmer. A batting average of .398, on-base of .453, slugging of .675 and OPS of 1.127. That goes with 5 home runs and 29 RBI to lead the Cactus League. On Tuesday, Hosmer belted home runs off of Yovani Gallardo and Mike McClendon of the Brewers to stretch his Spring hitting streak to 12.
Hosmer is a talent that has thus far lived up to, and actually exceeded, expectations. He’s been as good as advertised and has a lot of upside remaining at age 22. One guy that recognizes this is super agent Scott Boras who represents Hosmer and will make it tough on the Royals to sign him to a long term deal.
2012 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Eric Hosmer — Eric Hosmer still doesn’t have enough tilt in his swing to become a prolific home run hitter, as his bat angle is more of the gapper line drive variety. While I suspect this will change over time, he’s still good for 27 round trippers in 2012 to go with a .300 batting average and 95 RBI on an improved offensive team in Kansas City. If you play in a keeper league, this is a guy you want to lock up…just like the Royals would love to.