Homer and Hosmer: Worth the add?

Fantasy GM’s went rushing toward their free agent wire yesterday. First due to an outstanding performance from high upside starter Homer Bailey and then upon the news that one of baseball’s top offensive prospects, Eric Hosmer, would be replacing Kila Ka’aihue as the Royals everyday first baseman. What can we expect going forward for these two?

Homer Bailey generated some sleeper love this preseason after posing a 2.5 K/BB rate in 109 innings last season. Shoulder woes in spring training led to a DL trip and a spot in many league’s free agent pools. However, his return to major league action yesterday (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) put him right back in the mixed league picture.

Bailey, who was once part of the debate “Better prospect, Lincecum or Bailey?”, has not found close to the success that Lincecum has (obviously). However, despite his battles through arm and attitude problems, Bailey’s upside always remained high. One of his biggest issues at the big league level had been Bailey’s lack of command/control. Last season, he took steps to improve in that area, lowering his BB/9 to a league average 3.3. Yesterday, that improved command was quite present, as Bailey was able to locate his fastball and slider consistently on the outside corner (to right-handed hitters).

While his preseason sleeper status and impressive 2011 debut are a lot to get excited about, we also have to keep in mind that his excellent outing came against a not-so-impressive Astros lineup.

For teams needing some type of pitching upside — I’m in that boat in a few leagues — Bailey is a fine add based on his 2010 improvements and high strikeout upside. If I had to guess on a rest-of-season outlook, I’d say 3.85 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and 8.5 K/9.

One batter that Bailey might be happy not to have to face is top prospect Eric Hosmer. Hosmer, just called up from triple-A, will mark the beginning of Kansas City’s youth movement and bring along with him some exciting offensive potential.

Last season, between high-A and double-A, Hosmer hit a combined .338/.406/.571 with 20 home runs in 586 plate appearances. The Royals started Hosmer at triple-A this season, but it was clear from the get-go that he was not overwhelmed by the competition. Hosmer hit .439/.525/.582 with three home run in 118 plate appearances during his short stint there. Granted, the sample size is very small, but anytime a player can put up RBI Baseball numbers, you know he’s doing something right. If there is any concern about his triple-A numbers, it was that only eight of his 43 hits went for extra bases. However, Hosmer’s power numbers would probably have started to increase as the hot and humid summer of the Pacific Coast League North rolled in.

While Hosmer made big strides in his power progression last season, it would be a lot to expect big power numbers from him as a 21-year-old in his first major league action. Even without big power numbers, however, Hosmer has the plate discipline and line-drive skills to hit for AVG/OBP right away. Then again, so did Brandon Belt.

In deeper leagues, Hosmer was probably added quickly upon news of his call-up. However, 10-team and some 12-team mixed leagues don’t have to be as aggressive. Of course, it all depends on who you drop to acquire Hosmer. I was able to swap him out for Kila Ka’aihue in a 15 teamer and for John Lackey — whom I did not start yesterday, thank goodness — in a 12 teamer. I wouldn’t drop a struggling veteran player the likes of Alex Rios to attain Hosmer, but obviously if your team is still carrying the dead weight of a floundering late round pick there’s no reason not to take a shot on his upside. If we’re talking about an OBP league, then Hosmer’s value has the potential to be even higher.

If you were one of the ones quick enough to snag Hosmer in your league, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to shop him around and see what type of offers you get.

I’ll eyeball his 2011 MLB forecast at .281/.340/.468 with 14 home runs in 515 plate appearances.