Yesterday and today have brought great news for two of the brightest minor league prospects in all of baseball as Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran both learned that they are getting the call up to the show.
Both were top 10 prospects on just about any list that you looked at this preseason and I had Teheran atop my list of National League pitching prospects back in March. The call ups are very different in terms of what they mean for fantasy owners both in the immediate future and going forward.
Hosmer is chief among the coming wave of blue-chip talent for the Royals so him being the first to reach the majors amongst the hitters isn’t terribly surprising. He probably could’ve broken camp with the team, but they wanted to see what Kila Ka’aihue could do with a legitimate shot at every day at-bats.
The Kila Monster raked his way through the minors including smashing 24 home runs in 94 games a season ago. And at 27, the organization owed it Ka’aihue and themselves to see if he was going to be a major contributor for what they hope is a winning ballclub in the near future. Or at the very least he could prove his worth at the major league level and then allow them to either flip him or Billy Butler for even more parts as those two plus Hosmer had the potential for a major logjam.
Well Ka’aihue couldn’t even hit his weight (240 lbs.) which might have been enough to stave off Hosmer a bit longer even though it would’ve been a far cry from the .319 he hit a year ago and the .292 he has posted in the last three years in the minors. By the way, for those concerned with the financial implications of calling up Hosmer, check out this tweet from Royals aficionado Rany Jazayerli:
Absurd is right. I understand gaming the system and keeping a guy down until late May or early June of a given year, especially if you don’t really have a shot to contend in a given year like KC this year, but keeping Hosmer down that long was just never going to happen.
So Hosmer gets the call due not only to Ka’aihue’s failures but also his own excellence. He has punished AAA in his first tour of the league hitting .439 in 26 games along with 19 walks in 118 plate appearances giving him a .525 on-base percentage. He actually had more walks than strikeouts (16), something he also did in an 87-game sample in High-A at the start of last year.
The power hasn’t been as prevalent as expected with just three home runs and five doubles in his 43 hits, but after posting a .233 ISO in his breakout season across two levels last year as a 20-year old, many believe it is simply a matter of when, not if in terms of his power production. ESPN’s Eric Karabell made a strong comp to that end likening him to Logan Morrison. Morrison showed power early on his career, but it tapered as he climbed the minor leagues though the batting average and on-base percentage remained elite.
Morrison hit just two home runs in his 62-game debut last year and was pigeonholed at some outlets as a no-power, high-average asset despite being just 23 years old coming into this season. In his first 15 games he ripped four home runs while improving both his average and on-base percentage. Of course that is a tiny sample, but you can see where Karabell was headed.
One aspect of Hosmer’s game many might not be aware of is the speed dynamic. He stole 14 bases a season ago and amassed nine triples. So while he may not deliver the punch right out of the gate (remember, he is all of 21 this year), he could offer some sneaky speed at the 1B or CI slot on your roster.
And let’s not completely rule out the power, either. We are dealing with a whopping 26 games and if just two more balls had found their way over the wall, he’d be on a 31 home run pace over 162 games instead of the 18 we see now.
He is undoubtedly already on a roster in any keeper league that has minor league rosters, but of course check just in case. He is probably rostered in most AL-Only leagues even if they are re-draft leagues as long as they have some kind of bench, but again, check. In leagues where he is available, he is an asset worth going heavily for just about regardless of format.
The trickiest league for determining his value is the 10-team mixed league. With legitimately talent consistently on the wire throughout the season, you don’t want to get sucked in by the potential of the shiny new toy. Just remember what happened to Brandon Belt earlier this year (.569 OPS and demotion back to AAA in 17 G) and how underwhelming Freddie Freeman has been thus far (.700 OPS in 32 G). Hosmer rates higher than both on virtually all prospect lists, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t end up performing quite similarly.
Rostering him in a 10-team mixer depends entirely on who you would be cutting to get him. If you want to run your scenario by me, feel free to do so in the comments below or on Twitter (@sporer). If it’s a luxury spot for you and you want to see if the lottery ticket hits, go for it. If you’re cutting a contributing member of your team to take a shot on him, consider the potential downside, too, instead of just dreaming of what might happen.
Also, I would raise my bid substantially in OBP leagues.
The Braves calling up their top pitching prospect was a bit more unexpected than Hosmer, but once the confetti settled and everyone read the fine print, the excitement was tempered after learning Teheran would only be up for a start on Saturday against Philadelphia because of a doubleheader before heading back to the minors.
As such, he should be treated as any other spot starter that you would use from the Trolling the Wire pieces I post here. If you have been streaming starters this year, then I would consider him just ahead of Tom Gorzelanny, who is one of my recommendations for Saturday. He isn’t without risk, but the Philly lineup is hardly daunting.
Teheran, younger than Hosmer at just 20 years old, has a 1.80 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 30 innings at AAA-Gwinnett going 3-0 in his five starts. His 3.1 K/BB ratio is strong, but down significantly from his previous marks thanks to a 7.5 K/9 which is 2.5 off of last year’s pace. In sort of an odd pattern, he has done this before, though I’m not sure how much stock I would put into it.
In his 15-inning debut back in 2008, he struck out 10.2 per game. He followed that up with 7.4 per game in 81 innings as an 18-year old in 2009. Then he ramped it back up to an even 10 last year in his best season yet which totaled 143 innings. It could just be him getting used to the tougher competition, too.
Looking deeper we see the following:
Every promotion except the one from A-ball to High-A sees a drop in K/9, but when he repeated A-ball from 2009 to 2010, the strikeout rate climbed back up to an elite level. In other words, as he gets used to a competition set, he adds the strikeout back into his arsenal as the premier way of getting outs. These are all tiny samples, but the biggest simple sample is the High-A one which is nearly twice as long as most any other one and we see that he also put up his best strikeout rate there.
It would be more helpful to see splits from that stint to see if there is anything to this notion, but my general inclination is to not worry about the lower strikeout rate at the outset of his AAA career as I believe it will rise over the summer.
I wouldn’t read anything into why he is being brought up instead of, say, Mike Minor, either. Minor pitched yesterday (May 5th) and pitched quite brilliantly mind you as he has all year so far, while Teheran hasn’t pitched since April 30th. This allows them to build in a longer break for their 20-year old elite prospect as they find ways to limit his workload as well as give him a taste of the majors and perhaps learn something about just how close he is to sticking at the big league level.
Do not cut anyone of value to pick up Teheran in your league. He should be a daily-league only play for those who are spot starting. He will be back down to the minors after the start regardless of how well it goes. The Braves have their five starters and if they need one on a long-term basis, it’s going to be Minor.
Just enjoy Teheran’s sip of coffee and hope that we get to see some of the excellence that is expected from this youngster in the years to come. But if he’s pounded and lasts just four innings, don’t panic. It means nothing.