The Kansas City Royals first base situation right now is the best that it has been in a long, long time. So let’s get right into it.
5. Richard (Dean) Espy- Rookie (Idaho Falls) age 22
Heckuva last name, right? The Royals selected Espy in the 15th round of this past year’s draft. He projects as more of a line-drive type of hitter given his level swing path. He has never hit for very much power for a first basemen (as evidenced by his 7 HR’s this past season in Idaho Falls), but was able to hit 17 doubles in those same 62 games. His defense is average to above average, so think along the lines of Casey Kotchman. Grade:C+. He did hit .318/.391/.489 in his first pro season, showing he can handle the bat thus far. But being in the Rookie league at 22, while Hosmer is in Kansas City at age 22, does not bode well for him.
4. Murray Watts- A (Kane County) age 24
Never mind that Murray Watts has the same name as your grandfather. At 6-7, 255-270 lbs. (depending on who you ask), Watts is nothing short of an intimidating force at the plate. Like Espy, the Royals selected him out of the college ranks, so he is going to be older than most other players in his league. He is a pure masher, and a “Three True Outcomes” guy, which means he will most likely strikeout, walk, or hit a homerun in any given AB. For instance, in his first two minor league seasons (169 games), Watts has 31 HR, 110 BB, and 193 K’s with a slash line of .244/.364/.447. To give you a comparison, think Adam Dunn. For his career, Dunn has a 162 game average of .243/.374/.503, 38 HR, 110 BB, 197 K’s. Those two sets of numbers are eerily similar. Given their similar body types, Watts is also destined to be primarily a DH. But if he can avoid going totally anaemic like Dunn did in 2011, he could be a major league contributor in some capacity in the next few years. Grade: C. Odds are, given his older age and lower level, he may be more of a Craig Brazell than Adam Dunn. He has to improve his plate discipline and make more of a home at 1B though if he wants to be a big league hitter. The guy could be a monster in Japan right now, much like the next Royal on my list.
3. Clint Robinson- AAA (Omaha) age 26
Clint Robinson will forever be mentioned with the likes of former Omaha greats Kila Ka’aihue and Craig Brazell. In 2010 at Northwest Arkansas, Robinson won the triple crown award, leading the Texas League with a .335 AVG, 29 HR, and 98 RBI. He did little to disappoint in Omaha last year as well, hitting .326, 23 HR, and 100 RBI. So, with numbers like that, some would probably wonder: What are the Royals waiting for?
Well, it’s pretty simple. Robinson has been blocked ever since he can remember. First by Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs, then by Billy and Kila, and now by Billy and Eric Hosmer. A lack of a big league promotion doesn’t mean that he isn’t worthy, and if he were on almost any other team he would be in the bigs right now. It’s the fact that he is now stuck behind two young, promising and producing former first-round picks. As you can see, it’s not his fault that he hasn’t played an inning at the big league level yet. He’s an injury away from making his debut though.
Grade:B-. Robinson would be a welcome addition to any AL team looking for a 1B/DH with plus power (and who isn’t?), since his glove isn’t much to brag about. Trade bait.
2. Billy Butler MLB (Kansas City) age 25
Billy Butler has been the Royals most consistent hitter for the past four seasons. Although his power still isn’t quite where Royals fans want it to be, you can’t complain with what you get from him. Afterall, the man can’t help but hit doubles. He has had at least 44 doubles in each of the past 3 seasons. Over time, as his swing matures, his power will definitely come; turning some of those doubles into home runs.
“Country Breakfast” is on this list because, even though he is the epitome of a DH, he is still technically a 1B. I don’t believe I need to elaborate more on him, since I’m sure we all know enough about him by now.
Grade: A. Billy hits. Period. He’ll anchor this lineup for the next 4-5 years at least.
1. Eric Hosmer MLB (Kansas City) age 22
I bet you didn’t see this one coming…
Hosmer is going to be the best player on this roster for the for the near distant future. He has every intangible you want in your 1B: size, Gold Glove potential, Silver Slugger potential, above average speed for the position, a great clubhouse guy, and a team leader. Forget about him being the best 1B in the organization, he may be the best all-around player. Hoz did well enough in his rookie season to garner a second-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Being as good as he is, combined with how young he is, the Royals need to do themselves a favor and lock him up to a substantial contract now.
Grade: A+. This may be the only A+ I hand out, and if you can present an argument against, I would love to hear it. Enough said.
Up next: Second baggers.