As the 2011 MLB season quickly approaches, Adam Ganeles provides some insight into how some of the top corner infield prospects are progressing in spring training.
Royals first base prospect Eric Hosmer has imaginations running wild early in March. In 13 at bats this spring, he has six hits, two monumental blasts (including a grand slam) and six RBI. This is not foreign territory for the 6'4" 230-pounder who tore up the Carolina and Texas leagues last year to the tune of .338/20/86.
However, Hosmer's poor performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he notched just six extra base hits in 79 plate appearances, did raise some red flags. With Kila Ka'aihue splitting time between 1B and DH, there is no immediate need to rush Hosmer to the show.
The 21-year-old will begin the season in AAA, but will be tough to keep down if he continues to manhandle MiLB pitching. His teammate, third baseman Mike Moustakas (22), has a real shot to break camp with the Royals.
Freddie Freeman has been a fixture in Braves spring training since 2009, but in 2011 his starting first base job is locked up. His .319/18/87 line in the International League last year was his proving ground. Freeman was given a harsh introduction to major league ball in September, going 4-for-24 with zero walks and eight strikeouts—but the Atlanta brass didn't bat an eye.
They know full well the class of their 21-year-old phenom, and a small sample of failure will not alter that reputation. Freeman has 11 hits in 24 spring ABs, with three doubles and four runs batted in. Barring injury, he is the Opening Day first baseman. There is NO competition.
Drafted both in 2006 and 2007 as a left-handed pitcher, Brandon Belt is turning heads with his lefty bat. A fifth-round pick in 2009, Belt demolished the California and Eastern leagues, batting a composite .352 with 23 HR, 43 doubles, 10 triples, 112 RBI, 22 stolen bases and a 93:99 BB:K ratio. He didn't break stride in the Arizona Fall League, posting a .372 BA in 86 at bats with eight doubles and five triples.
The 23-year-old Belt—the Giants' top prospect—is on the ultimate fast track as he continues to develop power in his lanky 6'5" frame. He has a HR, two doubles and six RBI in 25 spring plate appearances.
Nevertheless, he's all but assured to begin the season in AAA Fresno. Keep tabs—if Pablo Sandoval or Pat Burrell struggle, look for Aubrey Huff to change positions and Belt to get the call.
In a perfect world, the Indians would like another year of seasoning for third-base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall. For better or worse, the 22-year-old left-handed hitter renowned for his "pure" swing could be forced to learn on the job. The club's lackluster options at the position—i.e. Jason Donald, Luis Valbuena and Jack Hannahan—don't bring much, if any, potential to the table.
In his third minor league campaign in 2010, Chisenhall hit .278 with 17 HR, 22 doubles and 84 RBI. He's looked sharp in 15 spring at bats, picking up seven hits, two HR and four runs batted in. "The Chiz" could break camp with the Indians, or at the very least join the team imminently.
Written exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com by Adam Ganeles