Friday, May 6, 2011

The Harvest of the Process

Well that was probably the shortest shelf life ever for a Royals blog poll. Just over twenty-four hours ago I asked the fans: which of the Royals elite prospects would be the first to reach the Majors. Of course if it is any consolation Eric Hosmer was leading the race with 6 votes compared to 2 for Danny Duffy and 1 for Mike Moustakas.

Eric Hosmer's promotion to the majors has already become a symbol for the Royals' fan base. It reprsents the moment that the Royals transitioned to a new stage of the Process. The stage in which the Process transitions from an underground operation with a cult following into the limelight with every Royals fan taking notice on a daily basis.

Sure the Royals have already received major contributions from several rookies. Actually six are already on the roster. Aaron Crow has been dominant in the back end of the bullpen. Jeremy Jeffress has dazzled fans with an upper 90s fastball. Tim Collins has corkscrewed his way into a key relief role. Louis Coleman has deceived hitters throughout his first couple of weeks in Royal blue. Nate Adcock has transitioned from mop up duty to sinker ball specialist. Jarrod Dyson has almost single handedly stolen multiple wins from the jaws of defeat.

But now the Royals will finally tap into that cashcrop of prospects that set a record for placing the most players ever on the Baseball America top 100 prospect list. Eric Hosmer, who many regard as the third best hitting prospect in all of Minor League baseball will make his debut tonight.

We are no longer tasting the appetizer and we are no longer seeing the tip of the iceberg. What is about to happen in Kansas City will be the main course of what Royals hope will be a five course dinner that leads to multiple postseason appearances and dare we say World Series titles.

Prior to the season it seemed that every major publication that predicted future World Series winners was calling for big time results in Kansas City as soon as 2013. Royals fans have even discussed Mission:2012 as the calling card for the Royals ascension to contention. But now, with the Royals 17-14, just 4.5 behind the surprise Cleveland Indians and tied for first in the AL Wilcard race. Royals fans look at how Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are struggling.

Royals fans look at Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, and Wilson Betemit, all guys who have been previously regarded as top prospects who are now entering the prime of their careers. All of which are currently in the process of breaking out. Sure in a month we could be talking about how all have fallen off after their blazing starts. But is it totally unreasonable to hope or even assume that this could be more?

What if Gordon, Francoeur, and Betemit really have turned a corner in their careers? Shouldn't the Royals attempt to grab the race by the throat and go for it? Apparently the organization feels like they should. With the promotion of Eric Hosmer the Royals have announced to the rest of the AL Central and the American League that it is time to stop messing around. If Gordon, Francoeur, and Betemit can continue to rake we won't be looking forward to 2012 anymore. Instead the Process will be looking at Operation:2011.

Tonight the Royals will improve the heart of their order by hitting Eric Hosmer sixth and they will improve their infield with Eric Hosmer at first. Eric Hosmer will be granted the luxury of hitting in the middle of the order with hot sticks in front of him and on most nights Wilson Betemit hitting behind him.

I prefer Hosmer in this spot. It is the perfect place where Hosmer can produce and come up to the plate in important situations, but also not have the weight of the offense on his back. I also believe that on night's when Wilson Betemit is hitting 7th Hosmer will benefit from a strong bat in the on deck circle. Teams will be forced to pitch to the rookie much more than if his protection was Matt Traenor or Brayan Pena.

This brings up an interesting point. Was Kila Ka'aihue really granted a fair opportunity? He hit in the heart of the order at the start of the season but after a dreadful start was bumped all the way down to the 7th spot. Once there he was afforded no protection and continued to struggle. Eventually he found himself in a platoon and finally he found himself on the bench before his eventual demotion.

In Kila's last eight games there was evidence that he had begun to turn things aroud from a statistical standpoint. Obviously these cues were lost on Manager Ned Yost and General Manager Dayton Moore. Kila Ka'aihue will likely join the immortal likes of Calvin Pickering and Ken Harvey in the Royals blogosphere. Always wondering what could have been had he been granted a longer opportunity or not struggled so much out of the gate in 2011.

Ultimately though the Royals future didn't fall on the back of Kila Ka'aihue in anyway. Truth be told the best case was that he raked in 2011 and the Royals could have netted a decent prospect in return. It came to a point though that Eric Hosmer could no longer hold Hosmer back.

With just another month to go before the organization could have held off Super 2 status the team decided that Hosmer was too ready to hold back. Hosmer was hitting .439/.525/.582 through twenty-six games in Omaha. It was time to make the switch. The organization clearly felt that from both a developmental and competitive standpoint it was Hosmer's time to shine in Kansas City.

At this point in time I have little reason to doubt the Royals ability to develop prospects. Hosmer had a babip of nearly .500 and almost all of his offensive value while at Omaha had come by hitting singles. It isn't exactly what you'd hope for when it comes for a middle of the order bat, but reports are that Hosmer was hitting the ball hard almost every time up to the plate.

Hosmer has great plate discipline. He has a sweet stroke and uses the opposite field with ease. He commands the strikezone. He has been compared Joey Votto, Will Clark, Mark Teixeira, and Adrian Gonzalez. His line in Omaha doesn't scream power, but I have little doubt that he is going to rake in the Majors. He is the rare prospect whose back is going to immediately impact the Major League level.

Mark Hosmer's promotion as another tick in David Glass' favor as he continues to rebuild his fickle image. While reports that this promotion will cost the Royals upwards of $15 mill are exaggerated. There is a strong possibility that by promoting Hosmer on May 5th instead of June 15th, the Royals will have cost themselves some leverage in negotiating a long term deal and even about $7 million in his first arbitration case.

Although I don't think anyone would complain if Hosmer was awarded Ryan Howard's $10 million as a first time Super 2 arbitration eligible, given that it would mean that Hosmer will have already won an MVP award.

What Royals fans are all probably hoping is that the Royals will lock up Eric Hosmer sooner rather than later and all of the arbitration talk will be moot. It has become a popular move to provide a top young player financial security while also buying out arbitration and a couple of years of free agency.

Evan Longoria was promoted to the Majors with such a deal in place and now it is generally regarded as the most team friendly deal in all of baseball. There is a fear though that since Eric Hosmer's agent is Scott Boras the Royals won't even be granted an opportunity to lockup their young star. This fear is not necessary for Royals fans. Look at Carlos Gonzalez who just signed a 7 year, $80 million. Gonzalez, like Hosmer, is also advised by Scott Boras.

I believe that if the Royals win Hosmer will be in Kansas City longer than the typical six years of pre free agency service. Hosmer's best friend is Mike Moustakas and if the Royals start adding to the flags I have little doubt that Dayton Moore and David Glass will do everything they can to keep their superstars in Kansas City for as long as possible.

Speaking of Mike Moustakas. I am going to predict that he gets real hot starting yesterday. The promotion of Eric Hosmer to Kansas City is going to serve as a notice for all of the prospects at the triple A level. If you can help the Big club then you are going to be given that opportunity. The Royals aren't messing around and it is time to get this thing started.

Particularly Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, and Mike Montgomery could make impacts on the Major League club. The rotation has struggled this season and Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery could offer quick and effective upgrades. But guys like David Lough, Lorenzo Cain, and Johnny Giavotella could also get an opportunity to prove their worth this season.

The Royals offense, which is already tops in the American League with 162 runs scored just got another potent weapon to work with. With an offense that strong the Royals should continue to be right in the race and if the pitching staff can get an upgrade the Royals really could be playing meaningful games all season long. Something that I have a hard time even grasping, considering I have never witnessed it in my lifetime.

Perhaps in ten years the Royals won't celebrate on Cinco de Mayo because of Mexican heritage, but instead because they can look back on it as the day that Eric Hosmer got called up, the day the Process hit Kansas City, and the day the Royals organization finally revived itself into an American League power.

1 comment:

  1. Without having seen him play this season, it would seem that Hosmer has been making a conscious effort to use the entire field as opposed to simply trying to put on a show every time he steps up to the plate. Of course it would be nice to have more tangible evidence of him hitting for power, but all you have to do is look back to his performance in the AA playoffs a season ago. When development took a backseat to winning, he played like the monster we all hope he will become by hitting six (I think) homers in the postseason while leading the Naturals to the championship.

    The expectations may be huge, but I expect Hoz to deliver with a rookie season performance similar to that of Posey, Heyward, or even Longoria.