Billy Butler’s Extension: What Does it Mean for Eric Hosmer?

26 01 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

Dayton Moore signed one of the game’s young dangerous hitters to an extension, locking up  first baseman Billy Butler until 2014 with an option for a fifth year. This contract makes him very affordable, as the most he makes is 12.5MM in 2015 if the Royals pick up his option that year. While that’s very good and all, there’s a looming problem at hand: Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is another 1B within the Royals stellar farm system. Hosmer was arguably the best high school hitter in the 2008 Draft, and was taken 3rd overall by the Royals. He played 3 games in Rookie League Idaho Falls, and hit .364.

The following year, Hosmer was moved up to Class A Burlington,  and had a respectable slash line of .254/.352/.384 in 79 games. He moved up to Class A+ Wilmington for 27 games that year, however he struggled, with a slash line of .206/.280/.299. That was all at age 19 in 2009, and overall he hit just 6 home runs. At age 20, he again returned to Wilmington last season and hit a sizzling .354/.429/.545 with 7 home runs in 87 games. The Royals decided to move Hosmer up to Double-A  Northwest Arkansas, and he responded with 13 home runs and a slash line of .313/.365/.615 in the 50 games there. His defense has also been very good.

Eric Hosmer is a very promising prospect in Kansas City's stellar farm system.

With those stats, it wouldn’t be crazy at all to assume that the Royals will move Eric up to Triple A Omaha during this year, or even to start the year. Most likely, a Double A callup to Triple A will come for Hosmer in mid-2011. That means it also wouldn’t be crazy to say that Hosmer should be ready by mid to late 2012, which is what I believe will be the case if injuries don’t get in the way. But the problem still exists: What will they do with him with Butler locked in at 1st?

There’s a comparable situation in baseball for the Cincinatti Royals. Joey Votto, the league’s reigning MVP, is signed through the next three years, blocking another first baseman with the Reds, Yonder Alonso. Alonso was moved up to Triple-A this season, and hit .296/.355/.470 there at age 23. The Reds are going to look to try Alonso at an outfield position this season, but his best position is at first. The Reds could probably trade him for more prospects this summer or perhaps trade him in a deal to acquire a piece to help them during a playoff run, like the Twins did with blocked catcher Wilson Ramos when they acquired Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals.

So, what can the Royals do with Hosmer? There are 3 ways I envision them handling things:

1. Trade him. I seriously doubt this happening, but it could. Hosmer would surely net a very good return for the Royals farm system. They could get a blue chip outfield guy and/or a very good pitcher for him. Hosmer is ranked second on many lists I’ve looked at for the Royals Top Prospects, so you have to imagine they’d need a very good return in order for him to get pried away. Heck, they’d have to get  BLOWN away by an offer if they were to deal the guy only ranked behind Mike Moustakas for the title of Top Royals’ Prospect.

2. Keep him and move Butler to DH. This solution I find much more likely than anything. Hosmer is very good at manning first, with surprisingly good range and soft hands. His arm is also very strong for a first baseman, making him a rare complete package fielder at first. Meanwhile, Butler isn’t so good. While the 1B UZR formula is pretty screwed up, Butler’s negative UZRs since 2008 make you wonder. If we look at his fielding % it’s not as bad. He’s posted a .995% in 2010 and a .992% in 2008 and 2009. But I’ve seen the guy, he’s really no wiz in the field. Any report you read will mention Butler’s glove as iron. Which makes Hosmer the ideal 1B guy and Butler the guy who could move to DH.

Billy Butler could force Eric Hosmer out of KC, or vice versa.

3. Trade Butler. This is a little bit more likely than the first, but several steps more unlikely than the 2nd. Bear that in mind, folks. When Hosmer comes up in 2012, Butler will be 26 and into the 2nd year of his 4 year contract. That means teams might try to grab him since he has an 8MM contract and could very well be one of the premier hitters in the game by that time. A trade of Butler could earn them a stellar return of at least an A prospect and 2 Bs. This could very well be what they need to finish off their young nucleus and finally be good. And Hosmer would get that position spot left open by Butler. This probably won’t happen, but at least it makes SOME sense.

4. Move Hosmer to the outfield. Didn’t originally want to put this one in, but let’s put it here for arguments’ sake. Hosmer could be a player who could be suited for the outfield because of his arm and surprising range. Butler could remain at first and problems would be solved. Except I don’t think Hosmer would be a good outfielder. His speed is below average, and Kauffman stadium is a doubles and triples type of park. I think Hosmer is just like Mark Teixeira. He’s a great fielder at first base, but he can’t play any other position. So I could be wrong, but I don’t envision this one happening.

Hosmer is up and coming for the Royals team. What do you guys think about this little situation?

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4 responses

26 01 2011
glp

There is a fourth possibility: The organization asked Hosmer last summer to start doing some outfield work, and scouts feel he’s plenty athletic enough for it. They may move him. Left field perhaps?

26 01 2011
Teix4MVP

I considered that, but to tell you the truth, I seriously doubt he’d be a good outfielder. I think he’s more of a Mark Teixeira type of defender, great at 1B, but can’t play any other position.

28 01 2011
WAMCO

If you’re going to try and hide a bad glove in the outfield, LF is the place to do it, but I agree with you, not sure Kaufmann Stadium is the place you want to try that.

If the Royal’s vaunted farm system starts bearing fruit soon, they’ll need to make some deals from areas of depth to fill areas of need. It would be awesome if they would turn it around; they’ve needed a winner for a long time. KC vs Pittsburgh, 2016 World Series! Haha….

5 02 2011
Drew Osborne

Hosmer really has the potential to be a Gold Glove first baseman. I think the Royals would much rather have him on the field at 6’4 than Butler who is not nearly the target size. I’ve been very impressed watching Hosmer a few times in the Texas League. He is a very athletic defender who picked just about everything I saw. He’s the kind of player you move a major leaguer out of his position for.

My comp after watching him was Rafael Palmerio. I hope he gets to that potential or comes close to a career like that.

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