PEORIA, Ariz. -- In May 2011, Eric Hosmer arrived in a championship-starved city with his focus set squarely on reversing those fortunes. It didn't happen instantly. But the process worked as well as anyone in Kansas City could have hoped. By '14 the Royals were American League champs. A year
PEORIA, Ariz. -- In May 2011, Eric Hosmer arrived in a championship-starved city with his focus set squarely on reversing those fortunes. It didn't happen instantly. But the process worked as well as anyone in Kansas City could have hoped. By '14 the Royals were American League champs. A year later, they won their first World Series in three decades.
Hosmer has once again arrived in a city desperately searching for a title. It's been 20 seasons since San Diego's last trip to the Fall Classic and nearly a decade since the Padres contended for a playoff spot.
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Now, Hosmer gets to see things from a different angle. Seven years ago, Kansas City was primed to cash in on one of the game's top farm systems. Hosmer, the No. 3 overall Draft selection in 2008, was a pivotal part of that process, in which the Royals stockpiled young talent in hopes of a future payoff.
The same is true of San Diego -- except now Hosmer is the $144 million man and not the bright-eyed youngster. The 28-year-old first baseman was unveiled in a news conference Tuesday morning, and he compared the two situations.
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"A lot of similarities," said Hosmer, who dug deeply into the intricacies of the Padres' farm system before he signed. "It's something I went through as a young guy. I'm excited to go through it now, not being the young guy anymore and being the guy that can be there for the young guys."
Padres general manager A.J. Preller called Hosmer a "bridge" between the current team and the group that will arrive in the future. The Padres boast six of MLB Pipeline's Top 50 prospects and arguably the best farm system in the sport, and they believe Hosmer's presence will only help to nurture some of those youngsters.
Ideally, Fernando Tatis Jr. (ranked No. 8 overall), MacKenzie Gore (No. 19) and Luis Urias (No. 36) can comprise a prospect core that resembles what Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez became in Kansas City.
"Each situation's different," said Preller. "But [Hosmer] had the experience of being a young player that's come to the big leagues, struggled as a group, then ended up being really successful at the Major League level. Those experiences played into our evaluation of him and are pretty valuable to our club and our clubhouse."
Hosmer was quick to note the mood among the Royals fanbase when those prospects landed in Kansas City, one after another. It's begun to happen in San Diego already, where Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe made their full-season debuts last year. Urias and Cal Quantrill could arrive later this season. Tatis isn't too far away.
"In 2011, it seemed like every other week a different prospect was coming up," Hosmer said. "It's a fun process. It's an exciting time because everybody hears about all these guys, and once one guy comes up, it seems like the fanbase really latches on and appreciates that player. Before you know it, there's another guy rolling in and another guy rolling in."
Part of Hosmer's job is to nurture those youngsters -- a role he's eager to undertake. Of course, he's also been tasked with anchoring first base and the middle of the San Diego lineup for the foreseeable future. Hosmer is coming off a career year, in which he batted .318/.385/.498 with 25 homers, and the Padres are expecting more of the same.
"First and foremost, he's a good player," Preller said. "Then, on top of that, he's had experiences that are similar to what some of those guys are going to go through in the next few years. We saw that as a really good fit for us."
News and notes
• The Padres designated catcher Rocky Gale for assignment to clear room for Hosmer on the 40-man roster. Gale was set to compete for the backup job behind starter Hedges (and if he clears waivers, he could still do so). For now, it's A.J. Ellis and Raffy Lopez battling for that spot.
• The Padres held their first full-squad workout Tuesday morning -- pushed back three hours because of damp fields and an early morning chill. Sixty-seven players in camp will compete for 25 available roster places.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.