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Positional Focus: 1B


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In a multi-thread series I'll focus on the different positions on the field, in the following order...

Part One: Catcher

Part Two: 1B

Part Three: 2B

Part Four: SS

Part Five: 3B

Part Six: Corner Outfielder

Part Seven: CF

Part Eight: Starting Pitcher

Part Nine: Closer/Reliever

Positional Focus: 1B

Ahhhh... so many fine choices this draft year. :)

While Pedro Alvarez has been projected by some scouts to switch to 1B from 3B, I'll keep Pedro at third and lead off this impressive group with switch-hitting South Carolina star Justin Smoak. Smoak is a fine defender with soft hands and solid range, but it's his bat that has scouts excited. He hits well from both sides of the plate, with solid pitch recognition, and while he'll strike out a fair amount as a pro, it will be reasonable compared to the production he'll likely deliver. Best guess... .290 hitter, 30'ish HR's and a .875 OPS. Very fine indeed.

Although I personally have American Heritage (FL) HS 1B'man Eric Hosmer a shade better than Smoak, most scouts have Smoak as having the edge. No one however can debate 6' 4-210 lbs Hosmer's enormous potential. The comparisons to Casey Kotchman are for his stellar defensive skill set, discernible eye, and sweet left-handed stroke, but it's those features coupled with Hosmer's power potential that has scouts drooling. He has excelled in All-Star competition and also was the World Wood Bat Tournament MVP in October. Coming up big against the best puts Eric in the discussion as being among the better HS bats in years. Hosmer could be special. Scott Boras reps him, and some teams may shy away from his asking price. One thing is evident... whomever takes him will have an elite bat in their system, and while it will likely take longer to reap the rewards, it could be more than worth the wait.

Miami of Florida's Yonder Alonso may not be the defender that Smoak or Hosmer are, but props to Yonder for improving his defense after seemingly being destined to DH. Alonso is arguably the match of any hitter in the draft. He has a great eye, taking a walk with the best of them, controls the strike zone and has solid power to punish pitchers who challenge him. If he remains able to handle 1B defensively, Alonso should be a very good pro hitter and have a long and successful career.

The hits keep coming... Arizona State has two potential 1B'men in Brett Wallace and Ike Davis, but I have Davis appearing later as a corner OF'er. Wallace is somewhat similar to Alonso, in that he is a strong lefty bat and isn't known as a good defender, but Wallace has a good eye and simply knows how to hit. Also like Alonso, he'll be a solid pro hitter with great power potential packed into his 6' 1-245 lbs frame.

While 6' 1-200 lbs California 1B'man David Cooper may be the smallest among the best 1B prospects, he is yet again a prime lefty bat from the college ranks. A borderline 1st rounder, Cooper falls into the Alonso/Wallace mold as decent at best defenders with nasty lefty bats. While Cooper will never challenge for a GG at 1B, he could be another Tino Martinez with the bat. Like Tino, Cooper will probably take a bit of time to develop real power, but he should offer a very good average and plate discipline. One to watch.

Finishing up is Wake Forest's Allan Dykstra. Not to be confused with HS'er Cutter, who is former all-star Len Dykstra's son, the large (6' 5-250) lefty first sacker has as much power potential as anyone in the draft. He will have trouble with pro pitching, and will likely strike out a ton and bat under .270, but if he can improve his pitch recognition, he could be a great power bat at the only position he has hope of playing. A probable 2nd rounder.

Next> Positional Focus: 2B

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Greg,

Nice write up. I keep going back and forth between Smoak and Hosmer. I think Smoak is much closer to being Major league ready and the safer bet to reach his potential. Hosmer probably has a slightly higher cieling, but will take longer and is a slightly higher risk of not making it. Keith Law has Smoak as his # 3 prospect and Hosmer as #5.:wedge:

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Greg,

Nice write up. I keep going back and forth between Smoak and Hosmer. I think Smoak is much closer to being Major league ready and the safer bet to reach his potential. Hosmer probably has a slightly higher cieling, but will take longer and is a slightly higher risk of not making it. Keith Law has Smoak as his # 3 prospect and Hosmer as #5.:wedge:

Thanks. I love Smoak and would love to take him at pick #4. So, for me I'll be happy either way. Alvarez would also be sweet. :)

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It probably serves mentioning that this appears to be one of the deepest classes of 1B talent.

It is... There are other youngsters who I could have mentioned, but I feel I should limit the discussion to only top round guys because I'm trying to keep each thread fairly short.

I wouldn't mind seeing us take a young HS 1B'man from Florida named DJ Hicks in R4-R6. He is a big lefty with so-so athleticism yet a solid power stroke. He is a project, and may be Adam Dunn-like as his ceiling, but he is a real risk. I would rather take a guy with a high ceiling and less of a chance of making it, than a guy with good odds to make it, but is just ML average. Keiron Pope is an example (so far) of just that sort of thinking not working out, whereas stud athlete Tyler Henson seems to be heading in the right direction.

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We can agree that Smoak and Hosmer are rated fairly close on talent, I think. I just know that Hosmer is facing pitchers the same caliber that Smoak faces, on a nightly basis, about once or twice per season. We have a guy like Ryan Adams who was a very highly thought of HS hitter. I keep seeing numerous reports that the kid just can't plain hit a curveball. How can a kid get drafted as high as he was (2nd round) and people not know this? Because he might have faced one guy, if even that, with a professional caliber curveball his whole career, and maybe he didn't even have to swing at it that day. Smoak has been facing a good number of pitchers with professional stuff throught his career. I think we have a much better read on what he can and can't do. As great as Hosmer might look, there is still a lot of unkown about what he'll do against a higher caliber of pitching. Unless Hosmer is considered way more talented than Smoak (and he's not), you gotta go with Smoak all the way. JMO

Hosmer is a better hitter at 18 years old than Smoak was. In actuality, Hosmer has excelled against the top pitching prospects at the all-star competitions, and even was the MVP of the World Wood Bat Tournament this past October. I understand your line of thinking however.

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Greg, Hosmer played with Midland (Ranked #1 in 18 and under baseball this season) all Summer as they won the Connie Mack Nationals in New Mexico and Hosmer won the MVP award at the Connie Mack World Series. He then hopped on a flight after midnight and joined the East team at the Aflac Game in San Diego later that morning. That Connie Mack Tournament, along with the U.S.A. tryouts, and the WWBA wood tournament had some of the top amateur pitchers in baseball. Wood or metal, the kid can MASH that ball and is special. He will not take as long as some people speculate to reach the majors. No disrespect to Smoak who is a great player, but Hosmer can reach the Majors just as quick if not quicker than Smoak can.

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Greg, Hosmer played with Midland (Ranked #1 in 18 and under baseball this season) all Summer as they won the Connie Mack Nationals in New Mexico and Hosmer won the MVP award at the Connie Mack World Series. He then hopped on a flight after midnight and joined the East team at the Aflac Game in San Diego later that morning. That Connie Mack Tournament, along with the U.S.A. tryouts, and the WWBA wood tournament had some of the top amateur pitchers in baseball. Wood or metal, the kid can MASH that ball and is special. He will not take as long as some people speculate to reach the majors. No disrespect to Smoak who is a great player, but Hosmer can reach the Majors just as quick if not quicker than Smoak can.

Yeah, I'm familiar with Hosmer's history, and he has simply risen to the occassion every chance he gets. When Hosmer faced likely first-rounder Ethan Martin early this season, Martin finally K'ed Eric after a nice battle, getting Hosmer on a backdoor slurve. Martin struck out 11 American Heritage HS hitters (#1 team in HS) but Hosmer learned from facing Martin's 94 mph fastballs and nasty 81 slurves and hit a laser Home Run to left center field that was said to nearly knock the scoreboard over. LOL. You're right, he is special... at least all indications are that he will be.

However, to say he'll beat Smoak to the bigs is a bit of a stretch. I expect Smoak to hit the majors by sometime in 2010 and Hosmer sometime by 2012. Just my take. :)

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