PHOENIX—Search for the name “Eric Hosmer” on Twitter and you’ll find quite a few tweets talking about the hitting exploits of the Royals farmhand. Go back a little further in the Twitter archives and you may come across a tweet or two about the spiffy shoes that Hosmer’s been wearing since joining the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Rafters.
AFL opponents have taken note of Hosmer’s gray high-top Jordan brand spikes. During one game last week, visiting Scorpions coach Denny Hocking yelled out to Hosmer that Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash had called and wanted his shoes back.
The good-natured ribbing has primarily come from the opposition dugouts. Hosmer’s teammates are envious of the sporty footwear, according to Rafters outfielder Derrick Robinson.
“I’ve been getting a lot of fun and jokes from the players,” Hosmer said. “It’s fun to get something sparked up in the clubhouse, something that people can talk about.”
But Hosmer, 21, didn’t come to Arizona to model for Nike. He’s here to get more at-bats and to face experienced pitching in order to build on a strong 2010 regular season.
The third overall pick from the 2008 draft had a breakout year at two levels in 2010. He hit .354/.429/.545 with high Class A Wilmington before moving up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He continued his strong season there by batting .313/.365/.615, helping the Naturals win the Texas League championship.
Hosmer, a lefthanded hitting first baseman, also wore two USA uniforms this season. First, he played for the loaded American team in the Futures Game in Anaheim, going 4-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs. In September and October, he helped USA Baseball qualify for the 2011 Pan Am Games and World Cup by playing for Team USA in Puerto Rico before reporting to the AFL.
He started slowly in Arizona, batting .200/.250/.267 in his first 10 games, but says he’s not worried about his production to date.
“I feel I’ve put some good swings on some balls,” Hosmer said. “I might not have the numbers right now to show for it, but I feel pretty good for where I’m at right now for the season . . . My body feels great and my swing feels great. Hopefully, some of these hits start falling my way and we’ll see if we can turn it around.”
Hosmer can be excused if he’s starting to feel just a little tired with all those moves. The final trip for the qualifying tournament was a unique one, and Hosmer swung the bat well for Team USA, batting .389/.511/.639 in 10 games.
“To play with the ‘USA’ across your chest, to play with the best group of minor league guys and to represent your country was an unbelievable experience,” Hosmer said.
It’s been just over a year since Hosmer had laser eye surgery, a procedure he believes contributed to his big year in 2010. The Royals decided in the spring of 2009 that Hosmer would benefit from the corrective procedure. He was already out of the lineup with several nagging injuries suffered during the course of the season, so the decision was made to have the surgery in late August of last year.
“You need to see the ball . . . that’s a real big part of hitting,” Hosmer said. “Any time you can get your vision to almost perfect, you always want to do it. It’s worked out for the best. I’m glad I can just put it behind me.”
Hosmer is excited to be part of a rising tide of Royals blue chip prospects that are all within a year or two of making their big league debuts. Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Danny Duffy all reached either Double-A or Triple-A in 2010, and Wil Myers and Christian Colon aren’t far behind. Moustakas, Montgomery and Duffy all joined Hosmer with Team USA, as did lefties Everett Teaford and Tim Collins.
“That just goes to show you what Dayton Moore and JJ (Picollo) and all these guys are doing to the farm system,” Hosmer said of Kansas City’s general manager and scouting/farm director. “There are so many guys in this system that just want to win. The main thing they do is they draft winners. Just being on that Double-A team this year . . . going out and having that team face elimination and refusing to go down and refusing to lose. We’re hoping we can bring that attitude up to the big league level and turn things around in Kansas City.”
Hosmer is expected to bring more than his hitting and defensive skills to Kansas City. His AFL manager believes that he can also be a clubhouse leader.
“He brings more than that package,” said Surprise manager Mike Guerrero. “His attitude and the way he goes about his work . . . his work ethic is impeccable. He brings a lot to the clubhouse. Besides what he can do on the field, he’s a really good guy in the clubhouse.”
Regardless of Hosmer’s future role with the Royals, there’s one good bet—he’ll likely be sporting the snazziest shoes on the field.
• The annual Rising Stars Game, featuring the Arizona Fall League’s premier prospects, will be held on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 6:15 p.m. MST at Surprise Stadium. The game will be telecast live on MLB Network.
• While the parent Giants are playing for a World Series championship, Scottsdale second baseman Charlie Culberson, named player of the week for Week Two, has been on a torrid pace all fall. At the midway point of the season, the Giants prospect is hitting .472/.500/.811 and leads the league in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, runs scored and doubles.
• No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper (Nationals) hit his first professional home run Saturday in Scottdale’s 13-9 win against the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Harper hit a leadoff shot in the second inning off Padres farmhand Erik Davis, who at 24 is almost exactly six years older than Harper. Playing right field and batting sixth, Harper went 3-for-5 with a double and two strikeouts. He’s 6-for-17 (.353) with a homer, two doubles and five strikeouts in four games.