Making a case for the young corners

“(He) should hit for power and average because he has a sweet left-handed swing, strength, exceptional strike zone discipline and the ability to make adjustments. He uses the entire field and can drive the ball where it’s pitched.”

That was a scouting report by Baseball America of a Royals’ player before he was drafted.

MooseAndHos

The sweet lefty swing would probably lead you to believe that the player in question is one of the team’s up and coming stars, Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer. Both were first round draft picks, who joined the Royals with plenty of acclaim. Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft and Hosmer was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft.

But the player reviewed above is neither Hosmer nor Moustakas, but rather Alex Gordon, the second overall pick of the 2005 draft.

After Gordon was drafted in 2005, he quickly made a name for himself in the minor leagues and Baseball America named Gordon its 2006 Minor League Player of the Year.

All the praise, all the numbers and all the awards for Gordon didn’t immediately translate into success at the big league level. Gordon did have a solid rookie season, hitting .247 with 15 homers, 60 RBI and 14 steals. But after that year (2007), his batting average steadily declined over the next few years until it reached .215 in 2010. Injuries limited Gordon to 164 at-bats in 2009 and 242 at-bats in 2010.

After four seasons in the big leagues, many Royals fans and baseball experts wondered if Gordon would live up to the promise he showed in college at Nebraska and in the minor leagues.

The situation was very similar to what Moustakas and Hosmer are facing right now. Plenty of hype, but limited results early on.

Here are some early scouting reports on Hosmer and Moustakas from Baseball America.

“Hosmer’s approach is very advanced for his age, and one scout likened it to Joey Votto‘s. He already likes to use the opposite field and has the strength to drive the ball out of the park while going the other way.”

“With his (Moustakas’) excellent bat speed, he can drive the ball out of the park to any field. He may never walk a lot, but he also has an uncanny ability to make contact.”

Gordon’s early reviews as well as his numbers from his first two seasons, closely resemble those of Hosmer and Moustakas.

These are two young lefty’s career stats with the Royals compared to Gordon’s first two seasons:

Moustakas: 1040 AB, 107 runs, 29 HR, 114 RBI, 8 SB, .240/.294/.384.
Hosmer: 1202 AB, 149 runs, 34 HR, 150 RBI, 30 SB, .263/.321/.403
Gordon: 1036 AB, 132 runs, 31 HR, 119 RBI, 23 SB, .253/.332/.421

Gordon switched from third base to left field in 2011 and his numbers quickly transformed. For the 2011 season, Gordon scored 101 runs, hit 23 homers, drove in 87 runs, stole 17 bases and boasted a .303 batting average. After a solid 2012 season, Gordon has great numbers early in the 2013 season.

While Gordon is flourishing, Hosmer and Moustakas are struggling out of the gate in 2013.

Moustakas is hitting just .176 this year with an OPS of .550 and Hosmer only has one home run on the year and has .264 batting average. To his credit, Hosmer had a good rookie year, with 19 homers and a .293 batting average in 523 at-bats. But he took a step back in his second year (2012), with his average dropping all the way down to .232.

Because they were praised and looked upon so highly by scouts and analysts, many Royals fans expected the early numbers would be better. But not every player progresses the same way. Not every young player is Mike Trout or Bryce Harper or even Manny Machado. Struggles at the highest level are not uncommon.

While Royals fans may be frustrated with the progress that Hosmer and Moustakas have made, they have to look no further than left field for an example of what the talented duo can become.

Gordon is proof that talent can take time to develop. So if Royals fans can take a patient approach while critiquing Hosmer and Moustakas, in a few years the results may match the hype. And that could be scary for Royals’ opponents.

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