Joe Torre has made his decision. Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer will be suiting up for the red, white and blue and replacing Mark Teixeira on Team USA for this year’s World Baseball Classic.
Hosmer, 23, burst on to the big league scene in 2011 when he hit .293 with 19 home runs and 78 RBIs in 128 at bats during his rookie season with Kansas City. But he had a major setback in his sophomore season, batting just .232 with 14 home runs (though he increased his stolen bases from 11 to 16). It appears that Hosmer is ready for a rebound in 2013. In nine spring games, the young first baseman is 9 for 23 with a home run and eight RBIs.
There are several reasons why Hosmer made sense as a replacement for Teixeira.
First, the Royals’ Spring Training complex is located in Surprise, Arizona, which is less than an hour drive from Scottsdale where Team USA was preparing for its final exhibition game against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. The close proximity allowed Hosmer to arrive with Team USA on Wednesday in time to join them for the team photo.
Second, he is a pure first baseman – and the only one on Team USA’s current roster. There had been some speculation that Joe Torre might call upon a catcher or designated hitter who might be capable of playing first part-time, with utility players Ben Zobrist and Willie Bloomquist manning first base part time as well. By adding a full time first baseman, Torre gave himself greater roster flexibility by freeing up both utility players to use as needed.
Third, he is a pure left-handed batter – something that is much needed in a lineup dominated by right handers. Joe Mauer is the only other pure left-handed hitter in the lineup. Team USA also boasts three switch hitters in Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ben Zobrist.
There are just as many reasons why the selection should make Hosmer and the Royals very excited.
The World Baseball Classic presents a world stage for the biggest and brightest stars in the game today. Hosmer’s addition to Team USA will shine some of that spotlight on the good things that are happening in Kansas City this season. It will also give Hosmer, who is looking for a bounceback season in 2013, the opportunity for on-the-job learning while playing with some of the baseball’s greatest players.
“Regular spring games don’t mean a dadgum thing,” Royals manager Ned Yost is quoted as saying in an Associated Press article posted on ESPN.com. “They’re playing in a tournament that means something, so it’s a great experience.
“It’s playing with stars from different organizations. There’s a lot you can learn in those types of situations, and it’s a competitive tournament that’s going to be watched by a lot of people, and it’s played to win. There’s a lot of benefits for a guy like Hos.”
Not everyone is in agreement with Torre’s decision, however. Columnist Chris Stephens writes that picking Hosmer over Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman was a mistake. In yesterday’s post, Seeds All Day had selected Freeman as one of its top three candidates to replace Teixeira. But we feel Hosmer’s addition is a positive one, and believe he will be key to at least one victory in the WBC for Team USA.