After he blew apart my “DiMythio’s Sphinct-O-Matic Nine” team? Why should I care now…
For the first list, I looked at players since 1969 who had at least 1,000 plate appearances through their age-22 season. The players clustered from a 97 OPS+ to 103 include Roberto Alomar, Lou Whitaker, Ruben Sierra, Chet Lemon, Adrian Beltre and Buddy Bell. Good players, although they all played key defensive positions. They also included Rick Manning, Wil Cordero and Chris Speier. Washington was actually at 106—exactly where his career mark ended up. George Brett was also at 106. Brett won a batting title at 23 and then started hitting for power at 24. Hosmer probably won’t turn into George Brett, but George Brett didn’t look like George Brett at 22, either.
For the second list, I looked at all 22-year-olds since 1969 who had 500 plate appearances. There are 146 of them; Hosmer’s OPS+ of 82 ranks 124th, right below Jerry Remy (and right above Jose Reyes). Only two of the players below or right above Hosmer were first basemen, one being Daric Barton, who hit .226 for the A’s in 2008. Most of the players are middle infielders, catchers or center fielders.
There are a few interesting names to point out, however:
- Ryne Sandberg, 1982 Cubs (90 OPS+): Sandberg hit .271/.312/.372 as a rookie third basemen. He’s obviously a different type of player than Hosmer—moved to second base, more speed—but the point is Sandberg wasn’t all that great as a 22-year-old. His power developed at 24, and he turned into a Hall of Famer.
- Robin Ventura, 1990 White Sox (83 OPS+): This was Ventura’s rookie year, so he didn’t have the year of major league experience like Hosmer did; he hit a pedestrian .249/.324/.318. His walk rate was similar to Hosmer’s, and neither struck out much. (Hosmer struck out more but plays in an era with more strikeouts.) The next year Ventura hit .284/.367/.442 and increased his home runs from five to 23.
- Dale Murphy, 1978 Braves (80 OPS+): The other first baseman, Murphy showed power (22 home runs), but hit just .224 and led the NL in strikeouts. Similar build to Hosmer—tall and lean—although Murphy was athletic enough to eventually move to center field and become a two-time MVP. (Hosmer did steal 16 bases in 17 attempts, so it’s not like he’s Prince Fielder out there.)
- Larry Parrish, 1976 Expos (80 OPS+): Like Hosmer, Parrish played pretty well as a 21-year-old and then regressed at 22. He had a string of productive years starting at age 24.
One other guy worth mentioning is Johnny Damon, who posted a 73 OPS+ at 22 after playing better at 21. After hitting 17 home runs his first three seasons, he hit 18 at 24. But, again, he’s a much different type of player.