Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals first baseman Kila Ka'aihue is off to a slow start, hitting just 174/.304/.283 in his first 13 games. He's drawing walks (nine so far in 56 plate appearances) and hasn't lost his spot in the lineup yet, but he needs to get the bat going soon or the Royals may turn to Plan B. Plan B is sitting at Triple-A Omaha, hitting .409/.485/.523 in his first 11 games. Plan B is Eric Hosmer.
Drafted in the first round (third overall) in 2008, Plantation (Florida) high school product Hosmer was considered the top high school bat available in that draft class, probably needing just three years before being ready for major league action. His pro career got off the mark sluggishly when he hit just .241/.334/.361 in A-ball in '09, and he entered '10 as a bit of a question-mark. However, nagging hand injuries and a vision problem veiled his true level of talent.
With his hand healed and his vision issues cleared up with laser surgery, the result was a stunning .338/.406/.571 2010 season between High-A and Double-A, with 43 doubles, 20 homers, 59 walks, and just 66 strikeouts in 520 at-bats. He's maintained the momentum this year. Even with his difficult 2009 season on the books, his career minor league line is now .304/.381/.485 in 257 games.
Although Hosmer can pull the ball for power, he is often content to drive pitches to the opposite field. He has an excellent batting eye, and while he isn't a huge walk machine at this point, he seldom strikes out, giving him a potent combination of power and contact. After some awkward moments in '09, his swing mechanics have been smooth and consistent over the last year. He runs well for a first baseman, has a strong throwing arm, and rates as an excellent defender with enough athleticism to play a corner outfield spot if necessary. His makeup and work ethic also rate as large positives.
Hosmer was seen as a possible September promotion entering spring training, but Ka'aihue's slow start and Hosmer's fast one might alter that timetable. Either way, he's the best overall first base prospect in baseball.