Looking for a distraction from the news? I sure am, so I’m here to answer your questions.
Troy Caswell (@OldSoulTCas23): Is Hosmer the next James Loney?
A LOT of questions about Eric Hosmer this week. That will happen when you start the season hitting .242/.359/.273 after 12 games, after hitting .232/.304/.359 last season.
Loney is kind of a worst-case scenario for a first baseman who comes up and immediately rakes. In 2006 and 2007 Loney played in 144 games and hit .321/.372/.543. He then completely stagnated as a hitter, batting .281/.341/.411 over the next four years, and despite playing in at least 158 games each year, he never matched the 15 home runs he hit in just 96 games in 2007. He then completely collapsed in 2012, and is now a Tampa Bay Ray.
The Rays undoubtedly were willing to take a chance on Loney because they had already taken a chance on his doppleganger, Casey Kotchman, in 2011. Like Loney, Kotchman was a top first base prospect without huge power but with a sweet swing, and after some initial success (Kotchman hit .296/.372/.467 in 2007) had fallen apart (.254/.316/.378 from 2008 to 2010). With the Rays in 2011, Kotchman hit .306/.378/.422 while making peanuts. They let him go, Kotchman signed with the Indians last year, and he hit .229. And you wonder why I’m leery of dealing with the Rays…
I don’t think Hosmer is that comparable to Loney, for two reasons. One is that Hosmer was productive over nearly a full season at age 21, while Loney’s success came at ages 22-23. Even acknowledging Hosmer’s struggles last year, the ability to hit that well at age 21 is considerably more rare than the ability to do so even a year later.
But the other reason is that, from a scouting standpoint, they’re not that similar. Loney, like Kotchman, was considered to have an elite hit tool but only average power. Neither player hit more than 11 home runs in any minor league season. Hosmer was considered a step above both of them, as someone with elite hitting ability AND top-of-the-line power, which is why he was drafted #3 overall even as a first baseman. In his one healthy minor-league season, he hit 20 homers. Hosmer had 43 doubles and 9 triples that year, for 72 extra-base hits overall; Loney’s career-high in the minors was 44. Kotchman (who could never stay healthy) never had more than 41.
This is relevant because Loney’s success early in his career was highly dependent on his .321 batting average, and batting average is the most variable skill in a hitter’s arsenal. Hosmer’s skill set as a rookie was more diverse.
So no, I don’t think Hosmer is the next James Loney. His success came at a younger age, and he showed a more diverse and robust skill set. Also, it’s only been 12 games.
I’d sure like to see him pick it up, though.
Mouse in catspeak (@Meous): Is there any hope for Moose’s swing? Looks totally lost. Maybe an Omaha trip like it worked for Alex Gordon?
A LOT of questions about Mike Moustakas this week. That will happen when you start the season hitting .178/.245/.222 after 12 games, after hitting .211/.261/.325 after the All-Star Break last season.
Like Hosmer, in the long term I’m not really concerned about Moose. He’s young, and he was an above-average third baseman overall just last year. In the short term…um…I’m a little concerned.
Year FB% IFFB% POP%
2010 41.2% 21.0% 8.7%
2011 49.8% 17.6% 8.8%
2012 60.5% 26.1% 15.8%
“FB%” refers to the percentage of balls that Moustakas puts in play (including home runs) that are fly balls. “IFFB%” is the percentage of those fly balls that are on the infield – a fancy way of saying “pop-ups”.
“POP%” is what happens when you combine the two – it’s the percentage of all balls in play that are pop-ups. As you can see, Moustakas has always been a flyball hitter, and he’s always been prone to pop-ups – about a fifth of the balls he puts in the air stay on the infield. Given that pop-ups – unlike outfield fly balls, ground balls, and line drives – are almost always turned into outs, minimizing pop-ups is a key to success a hitter.
This year, in an admittedly small sample size, Moustakas is hitting the ball in the air more than ever – and more of those fly balls than ever are on the infield. He’s popped up six times in just 45 at-bats. By comparison, Joey Votto has popped up four times since the start of the 2009 season.
I don’t think we’re anywhere close to a remedial course in Omaha. Moustakas is still contributing on defense, he’s a streaky hitter who could hit three home runs in the next week and calm everyone down. If you send him down, you’re looking at Elliot Johnson playing third base, or Miguel Tejada, or maybe Irving Falu. You could put up with that in order to help Moustakas out in the long run if you weren’t trying to win this year, but you are. The best thing to do is to just ride it out for now. Also, it’s only been 12 games.
I’d sure like to see him pick it up, though.
Brian Ayers (@Brian_Ayers29): If you were the GM of the Royals, which prospects would you give up if you were to deal for Giancarlo Stanton?
Way too early, guys. Stop tempting me.
Bryan Larson (@jbryanlarson): Should the Royals look into acquiring Chase Utley?
Well, that’s certainly a more realistic question, given that Utley is in the last year of his contract, he’s still an elite player when healthy, the Royals have a need at second base, and the Phillies might be punting later this year.
But it’s waaaaaay too early to start looking for trades. We don’t know if the Royals are legitimate contenders or if they’re two weeks away from being 10-18. The Phillies still think they’re legitimate contenders – and Ruben Amaro, their general manager, is the kind of guy who yells “flesh wound!” after all his limbs are hacked off. Chris Getz, as I write this, is slugging .488 and is second on the team in home runs
. There’s no urgency to make a deal, and there aren’t that many
sellers to deal with yet.
This is a good time to remember what Billy Beane says about splitting the season into thirds: the first third of the season is to see what you have, the second third of the season is to fix it, and the final third of the season is to let it ride. A third of the season is 54 games. So talk to me at the end of May and – if the Royals are above .500 – it will be time to talk about trade proposals.
ScottKCMO (@ScottKCMO): The team looks significantly better than last year. How many games until I’m allowed to do more than fantasize about September & October?
Dayton Moore himself says that you don’t anything about your team until 40 games into a season, which seems reasonable. But allow me to suggest another cutoff point, which is 46 games. Why 46? Because aside from 2003, the Royals have not had a winning record after 46 games in the last 17 years. (In 2003, they were 25-21, after starting 17-4.)
The Royals have had hot starts before – 18-11 will live in our hearts forever – but larger sample sizes have generally done us in by late May. If the Royals are over .500 after 46 games – meaning if they can play .500 ball over their next 32 games – you have my permission to start dreaming a little.
Ed Bartel (@EdBartel): If Duffy and/or Paulino are ready by the trade deadline, will or should the Royals try to move Santana? What could they expect?
If the Royals aren’t playing well, Santana’s a trade candidate regardless of what Duffy and Paulino are doing. If Santana isn’t pitching well, no one’s going to want to trade for him regardless of how the Royals are playing.
And if the Royals and Santana are both playing well, it’s hard to imagine the Royals trading him away just because Duffy and/or Paulino has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. For a team in contention to trade away a player who is performing well for them just because he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year…I’m sure it’s happened at some point, but it’s exceedingly rare.
These things have a way of working themselves out. The odds that all five guys currently in the Royals rotation will all be healthy and effective into July, when Duffy is expected back, are pretty small. If they aren’t, Duffy would be an excellent candidate to replace one of them. If they are, the Royals will have a delightful dilemma on their hands. Duffy was throwing 95-96 as a starter last year; I’m sure the Royals won’t be devastated if they’re forced to let him throw 97-98 from the left side out of the bullpen for the second half of the season.
And mind you, given how splendidly John Lamb’s recovery from Tommy John surgery is going (hint: it’s not), it’s best not to assume that either Duffy or Paulino will be good as new by mid-season. At the very least, we’ll want to see a half-dozen starts in the minors first.