PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this week, the Padres' coaching staff devised a situational-hitting contest called "target practice." They chose four veterans to serve as captains who would divide the camp into four teams.The newest Padre, Eric Hosmer, was one of those captains. And when it was his turn to pick,
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this week, the Padres' coaching staff devised a situational-hitting contest called "target practice." They chose four veterans to serve as captains who would divide the camp into four teams.
The newest Padre, Eric Hosmer, was one of those captains. And when it was his turn to pick, he chose a couple players with whom he's become very familiar: shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and second baseman Luis Urias, the two best hitting prospects in the system.
When Hosmer considered signing with San Diego during the offseason, he did plenty of research into the organization's future. In particular, he liked the potential of the farm system, and he figured he could have an impact on some of those young players.
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"To watch the videos and just read up on these guys was extremely helpful," Hosmer said. "... But that's one thing. To get out here and get on the field with them and see how they go about it, it fires you up as a player, because the talent's real."
It's no coincidence that Hosmer routinely found himself in batting-practice groups alongside Tatis and Urias. The Padres have done their best to mix their youngsters and veterans during drill work.
Beyond that, however, Hosmer has clearly taken to Tatis and Urias, who could one day share an infield with him in Petco Park. They've spent time chatting around the cage and in the clubhouse, with Hosmer making himself available for any questions.
"It's great learning from a guy that's been around this game for so long, is a World Series champion," said Tatis. "You just learn a lot. We're always having fun with him, and it's great to be a part of."
Added Urias: "I see him like a leader. He laughs with us and wants to have fun with us, but when we have to work, he works hard."
Urias was playing instructional ball as a 17-year-old when Hosmer led the Royals to a World Series title in 2015. Tatis recalled watching Hosmer in consecutive Fall Classics as a teen growing up in his native Dominican Republic.
"I always admired him, because he's a great player," Tatis said. "Kansas City never backed down, played hard, and he was a part of that."
Hosmer has already compared these Padres to the early-2010s Royals, who were loaded with homegrown talent. Tatis and Urias are ranked eighth and 36th, respectively, among the game's top prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
They're both destined to start the season in the Minors. But the Padres haven't been shy about putting their top prospects on a fast track to the Major Leagues, and both could arrive in San Diego before season's end. They've impressed thus far in Spring Training.
Hosmer has certainly enjoyed working alongside the young talent in Padres camp.
"The other day, we had an infield that wasn't old enough to buy a drink yet," he joked. "The wave of talent we have coming up, it's pretty special to watch. You hear about it, you kind of hear about prospects and all that. But to finally see the guys -- and see the [pitchers] as well -- it gives you a lot to look forward to."
Ultimately, Hosmer's team fell to A.J. Ellis' squad in the first round of target practice. But Hosmer wasn't about to second-guess his selections.
"Tatis and Luis are two of the best players walking in this room," Hosmer said. "If it's any competitive situation, I'd want to pick those guys."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.