The Royals have a lot of young, raw SS’s within their system that need a lot of time to develop. But at the major league level, they seem set for the next half-decade.
5. Mike Antonio (Idaho Falls) age 20
Photo Credit: milb.com
The Royals selected Antonio in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft out of high school. He is seen as more of a high-risk, high-reward type player. At 6’2″, 190, he’s already big for the position, leading many scouts to ponder a position change for him in the near future. But nonetheless, the Royals seem inclined to leave him alone at SS for now.
Mike is known more for his prowess at the plate than in the field, displaying a lack of range to both sides(his speed is below average as far as SS’s go), making routine plays look “flashy” (like Yuni), while botching a routine play every now and again (like Yuni, too). And with his poor .891 Fld% in 97 games thus far, you can see why many believe he won’t stick at SS for too much longer. But in 103 games with the bat, he owns a positionally exceptional line of .266/.311/.453, 12 HR, 27 2B, 6 3B and a 62:26 K:BB ratio.
Grade: B-. Right now, Mike is a work in progress. He’s a still raw, but very toolsy and athletic player. With him being selected out of high school at the ripe age of 18, the Royals absolutely should take their time with him. If the Royals were to put him on the fast track to Kansas City, he’d be either at 3B or in the OF by now. As of now, though, he’s still a project player with great potential upside with a plus bat.
4. Irving Falu (Omaha) age 28
Photo Credit: Minda Haas
For those Royals fans are as nerdy as I am, the case of Irving Falu is a terribly confusing one. He’s a 28 year-old, switch hitting utility infielder with a 9 year career minor league AVG of .275, OBP of .342, 170 SB, and a decent .968 Fld%. So why hasn’t this guy ever got a shot at being the Utility infielder for the Royals yet?
Is he great? No. No by any means. But he has value. How many teams would love to have a guy who can play SS, 2B, 3B every few days and can fill in at all three OF positions if the circumstance should arise? My guess would be probably about 100% of them. So who knows why Irving hasn’t been given a shot in Kansas City yet.
Grade: C-. He is what he is. Breeding a utility player isn’t something that GM’s dream of, but it happened. He may be more valuable to a team in the NL, given its nature of substitutions.
3. Orlando Calixte (Kane County) age 19
Photo Credit: scout.com
Dayton moore signed Calixte, an International free agent out of the Dominican, in 2010 for $1mil.,along with other top Royals prospects Cheslor Cuthbert and Noel Arguelles. At 5’11″ and 160 lbs., he has the ideal frame for the position and has enough speed to stick there without any problem. Scouts project him to hit for average and have some above-average power for a SS.
Thus far, Orlando has struggled at the plate (.211/.275/.273), but has of his 75 hits thus far, 15 have been for extra bases. He hasn’t looked great thus far with the bat, but two factors really come into play when it comes to his numbers: he’s only 19 years young, and he’s already competing in a league consisting of a lot of seasoned college pitchers.
Grade: B. His bat should come along, and his quickness will keep him at SS. He’s got plenty of time to figure out his swing and put it all together.
2. Yuniesky Betancourt (Milwaukee) age 29
Photo Credit: Ed Zurga AP
You know, I could sit here and Yuni-bash all day long. I could say something like “He’s statistically the Worst Player in Baseball”, but we’ve all heard that before. So if you really want to know what I think about him, you should look back at my Yuni post from last month.
Grade: C. Yuni has power potential, and will be best utilized from the bench backing up Escobar, Moose, and Gio. And that’s all I have to say about him.
1. Alcides Escobar (Kansas City) age 25
As of now, Alcides Escobar is the prize of the Zach Greinke trade (Jake Odorizzi pending), which wasn’t good news for the Royals faithful until June. Up until then, he was hitting a meager .216. His fielding was as graceful as could be though, conjuring up visions of Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel (both of which were/are superb fielders that more than made up for their lack of plate presence).
But once June hit, so did Escobar, hitting .305/.353/.432 with 8 extra base hits for the month. He cooled off a little after that, hitting .253 in July and .224 in August. He became red hot once again in September and October, putting up a .324 AVG in the last month-plus of the season.
The moral of the story is: no matter how poor or great his offense seemed, his defense never faltered, which can happen to players who find themselves in a prolonged slump.
Escobar possesses great speed as well, leading the team with 26 SBs and 8 3Bs.
Grade:B. Escobar will be one of the better fielding SS’s in the league for the next 4 or 5 years and should have enough of a bat to keep him in the lineup nearly everyday. I expect him to hit in the 9 hole for KC this season and be at or around the top of the team in SB’s.
Other names to watch: Jack Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, Alex McClure
Four Royals minor leaguers were named by Jonathan Mayo in MLB.com’s list of the top 100 prospects for 2012. Actually, the Royals four named were in the top 50 of the list, including two in the top 20.
17. Bubba Starling OF (age 19)
19. Wil Myers OF (age 21)
31. Mike Montgomery LHP (age 22)
47. Jake Odorizzi RHP (age 21)
Oakland, Tampa Bay, and San Diego lead the way in this seasons’ rankings, as they each had six prospects each included, while the Yankees and Braves placed five of their own. The Royals are tied with seven other teams at four.
Second base is without a doubt the position the Royals have the most unanswered questions about. Johnny Giavotella, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Chris Getz all have very legitimate shots at making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. One will win the starting job, one will be the back up, and one will be sent to Omaha or released. It’s not particularly a deep position within the organization, but it contains a few names that are worth keeping an eye on.
5. Tony Abreu- (Reno – Dbacks) age 27
The Royals signed Tony Abreu, a switch-hitting IF, to a one-year minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training this past December. He spent all of last season in Reno (the Dbacks AAA affiliate), where he .292/.335/.429, though he has a career line in parts of three big league seasons with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks of .251/.279/.309. He showed a little bit of power last season (10 HR, 26 doubles), but failed to earn a big league promotion. For his career he’s hitting left-handed than right-handed, but not by much (.255 to .241), and has almost a 4:1 K/BB ratio, which doesn’t bode well for him.
His value though lies in his versatility on the defensive side of it all. In the majors, he’s played 49 games at 3B, 38 games at 2B, and 22 at SS; though in the minors he’s played 531 games at 2B, 105 at SS, and only 28 games at 3B. His defense itself leaves a lot to be desired (career dWAR of 0.03), but as a guy off the bench who can play twice a week and occasionally pinch hit, he holds some value.
Grade: C-. Tony mainly provides the Royals with organizational depth this season with the potential of playing in a handful of games in Kansas City this summer barring injuries. His value lies in his utility-ness (submit that one to Webster’s) and his ability to switch-hit. He’ll be in Omaha for sure.
4. Rey Navarro- (Northwest Arkansas) age 22
Up until this past season, Rey Navarro was a primarily a SS in the Diamondbacks organization (the Royals acquired him 2010 for Carlos Rosa). After becoming a member of the Royals, he was switched over to the other side of the bag, however. After a hot start to his season that started in Single-A Wilmington, hitting .285 with 8 HR and 7 triples in 72 games, he was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He cooled off a bit after the promotion, but maintained a decent ability to get on base (.332 OBP) and a 2:1 K:BB ratio. He is a high contact middle infielder, which is why I am fairly high on him.
Grade: C+. I see Navarro starting the season in Northwest Arkansas. Though if he starts the season off on the right foot like he did in 2011, he could quickly earn a call-up to Omaha. As far as his position, I’m not quite sure though. It all depends on if the Royals plan to keep Christian Colon at SS for another season. Rey’s ceiling may be as a Tony Abreu-type player, given the fact that he is also a switch hitter and has the ability to play all over the field.
3. Chris Getz- (Royals) age 28
More affectionally known as “Getzy”, Chris Getz will find himself this Spring competing for a spot on the 25-man roster. Last season, Getz struggled to stay consistent. He was above average in May and June, hitting .274 and .292. He cooled off quickly after that though, hitting .233, .217, and .235 in the remaining three months of the season; thus losing his job to the Royals organizational hitter of the year, Johnny Giavotella.
After Gio’s call-up, Getz was relegated to Utility duty, backing up at 2B, SS, and 3B. He would occasionally pinch run in the later innings of close games for Billy Butler due to his speed (84% career SB rate).
Grade: C. If Getzy is on the 2012 Opening Day roster, it will be as a UTIL player. His defense is sub-par (as well as his arm) and his bat is not good enough to make up for it. But a speedy, left-handed hitting utility infielder who is regarded as the best bunter on the team could be of value as Ned plans to make more in-game substitutions this year.
Christian Colon- (Northwest Arkansas) age 22
SS Christian Colon was the Royals first round pick (4th overall) out of Cal-State Fullerton in 2010. Regarded as a slight reach, but one of the safest picks in the draft, Colon signed quickly enough that he was able to get in 60 games at Wilmington where he hit .278/.326/.380 with 17 extra base hits while playing exclusively at SS.
He spent all of the 2011 season at Double-A NW Arkansas, where he was solid, but unimpressive, hitting .257 with 24 extra base hits. The most exciting thing was his nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio (51:46). His advanced plate discipline and ability to consistently make contact have put Christian on the fast track to Kansas City.
Due to his slower speed (as far as shortstops are concerned) and lack of range for the position, I see him moving to 2B full-time this season (he played 15 games at 2B in 2011).
Grade: B-. Colon has a real chance at making an appearance at the K this September if his transition to 2B goes smoothly. He has the ability to become a steady player at the big league level, but he most likely won’t be a star. He is very comparable to Orlando Cabrera.
1. Johnny Giavotella- (Kansas City) age 24
Although Gio’s debut in Kansas City left a lot to be desired, he absolutely killed it in Omaha last season, hitting .338/.390/.481, including 34 doubles, 9 HR and a 57:40 K:BB ratio. Putting up numbers like that will always get a player recognized, earning him the Royals’ George Brett Hitter of the Year award, a spot on the Topps AAA All-Star team, and a promotion to Kansas City.
Johnny’s bat is what got him here and it’s going to have to be what keeps him here, as his defense leaves a lot to be desired (-0.6 dWAR) and he’s not particularly quick on the basepaths (though Doug Sisson will probably change that). His line drive stroke though is too sweet to overlook. Some of those deep gap doubles will turn into HR’s as his pitch selection improves.
Grade: B-. To me, Giavotella is one of the most exciting young players on the roster right now. He’s a “lightning in a bottle” type of player who gives everything he’s got for all 9 innings. I’m not sold on his defensive staying power yet, but if he can come close to replicating what he did in Omaha last year, his bat will be more than enough to keep him around.
Next time – Moving our way across the diamond: Shortstops
The Kansas City Royals first base situation right now is the best that it has been in a long, long time. So let’s get right into it.
5. Richard (Dean) Espy- Rookie (Idaho Falls) age 22
Heckuva last name, right? The Royals selected Espy in the 15th round of this past year’s draft. He projects as more of a line-drive type of hitter given his level swing path. He has never hit for very much power for a first basemen (as evidenced by his 7 HR’s this past season in Idaho Falls), but was able to hit 17 doubles in those same 62 games. His defense is average to above average, so think along the lines of Casey Kotchman. Grade:C+. He did hit .318/.391/.489 in his first pro season, showing he can handle the bat thus far. But being in the Rookie league at 22, while Hosmer is in Kansas City at age 22, does not bode well for him.
4. Murray Watts- A (Kane County) age 24
Grade: A+. This may be the only A+ I hand out, and if you can present an argument against, I would love to hear it. Enough said.
Up next: Second baggers.
*Hat tip to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports for breaking the news via Twitter (@TBrownYahoo)*
The Detroit Tigers have signed 1B Prince Fielder to a… wait for it… 9 year contract worth $214 million, officially making themselves a “mystery team”. Scott Boras worked his magic again this offseason, getting a team that already has a mashing All-World 1B in Miguel Cabrera and a veteran DH in V-Mart (Yes, out for the year. But he’ll be back, mind you), to commit $20+ million a year to a third player (Cabrera and Verlander being the first two).
Wow. Just… wow. So much for the Royals and Indians taking advantage of the Martinez injury.
And for 9 years? Does the Tigers’ brass really think both Prince and Miggy’s body types will hold up for that long?
For the 2013 season: Where do you play Fielder, Cabrera, and V-Mart? Fielder can only be a 1B/DH due to his…ahem… large figure. Cabrera began his career as a LF, then a 3B with the Marlins. But he only lasted two weeks as the 3B in Detroit before Jim Leyland shifted him over to 1B. And at this stage in his career, Miggy’s gotten a little too slow to play either LF or 3B (though I would love to see him field bunts for the foreseeable future). V-Mart’s knees will never be 100% ever again, which means he’ll be relegated to a DH/1B/occasional catcher after he returns from injury next year. There’s a reason the Tigers normally carry 3 catchers on their 25-man roster.
The Tigers’ offense and rotation could be pretty scary this year. But then again, Fielder may not adjust to the AL very well (Adam Dunn, anyone?). As Royals fans, we can only hope.
Over the next several posts, I’ll be breaking down the entire Royals organization, position by position. My rankings shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and most of the top players at each position will be names that you are very familiar with. I’ll be giving you my top 5 guys at each position (excluding outfielders and pitchers, which I’ll expand to 10), a brief synopsis on them, and how I believe their careers shake out. I’ll hand out grades in a typical A-F scale.
Tonight, I’ll start with the grittiest of the grit: Catchers.
5. Jin-Ho Shin- Rookie League (Burlington) age 19
The Royals signed Shin, an international free agent, out of Korea in 2009. He has been promoted as a Kurt Suzuki type of catcher (advanced eye at the plate, moderate power, and sure-handed defense). To date, he has done little to back that up. After 85 games in two seasons, he’s hitting .189 with 17 extra-base hits and 102 K’s. On defense he hasn’t been any better, throwing out only 14% of base runners. Not exactly awe-inspiring numbers.. He’s only 19 though and still has a chance to prove his worth. Grade: C+. Could increase his grade with a decent showing this season. May be in the major leagues in the next 5 years, but no sooner than that.
4. Manny Pina- AAA (Omaha) age 24
The Royals acquired Manny Pina from the Rangers in 2009. He split 2010 at AA and AAA, and made his major league debut this past season. Many see Salvador Perez as the Royals catcher for the next 10 years.. Well Manny Pina could be the guy that backs him up. He’s still very young and possesses great knowledge of how to operate behind the plate (35% caught stealing, 31 passed balls in 435 career minor league games). His OBP jumped from .310 in 2010 to .365 in 2011, showing that his plate discipline has taken a step forward (though his batting average hovered around .239 last season). Think Matt Treanor when it comes to Manny’s career. He’ll always be a defense first guy, which is a dying breed as far as starting big league catchers go. Grade: C. See last two sentences.
3. Brayan Pena- MLB (Kansas City) age 30
How could you not like this guy? He is a clubhouse dream, and one of the nicest, most humble guys you will ever meet, and loves the organization. Brayan, like most Royals these days, is a former Atlanta Brave brought to the heart of America by Dayton Moore. Brayan spent 2010 backing up Mr. Grit himself, Jason Kendall, and split time behind the plate in 2011 with Matt Treanor and Manny Pina before Salvador Perez was called up to take his rightful place.
Brayan is not your typical big league backup catcher, in that he is better known for his bat than his glove. He possesses a little bit of pop (no more than Mitch Maier does) and gets an extra-base hit every now and again, making him a viable bat off the bench. But he has been looking to improve his glove game recently, as he sees what his future in the majors is beginning to look like. In 69 games last season, he had an impressive .995 Fld% while with a caught stealing percentage of 36%. Brayan is an honest, hard-working, and fun-loving guy. Signing a veteran catcher is never off the table to replace him, but as for now he will serve as a decent choice for our backup to Sal. Grade: C. He’ll never be more than what he is now. And I think he’s ok with that.
2. Cameron Gallagher- Rookie League (Idaho Falls) age 19
Cameron was the Royals’ second round pick in this past season’s amateur draft. He has only been catching for the past two years, so he will need (and get plenty) of time to grow into the position. At 6-2, 210, he already possesses a big enough frame that some scouts don’t see him sticking behind the plate in the big leagues. But his above average hands could keep him there. His bat should come around, and bring power along with it, supplying offense to a defensive position. If he doesn’t stick behind the plate, however, look for him to take the route of Wil Myers and switch to a corner position. Grade: B. With Salvador Perez being just 22 by Opening Day this coming season, I don’t see Cam sticking as a catcher for too long if the Royals want him to be a part of their big league team in the future. Could serve as trade possible trade bait, but possessing organizational depth is a great asset to have as well.
1. Salvador Perez MLB (Kansas City) age 21
Salvador Perez is the catcher of the present and future of the Royals. He has all the tools to be a Sandy Alomar type of catcher. Nobody in Kansas City expected him to be playing at The K last season, and certainly nobody expected him to perform as well as he did. Sal had a slash line of .331/.361/.473 in 39 games at the highest level last year with 13 extra base hits (including 3 HRs), and even came within a triple of hitting for the cycle.
We haven’t had anyone with a gun for an arm like his in a long time, as he was seemingly throwing out runners on the corners once a week. And at 6-3, 230, he’s a monster for his position, but he shows the agility and quickness of a shortstop. Perez still has plenty to prove, but he’s off to a tremendous start and has already become a fan favorite. Grade: A. As young and as good as he’s been, I just can’t see him being any worse than a top 10 catcher for years to come.
Next up: First base.
Last season, the AL Central was dominated by two teams. The first half of the season, it was all the Cleveland Indians. After they flamed out, the Tigers took over – winning the division by 15 games. The Twins and White Sox both took unexpected plunges after they placed first and second in the division respectively in 2010. All the while, the Royals were busy promoting talent from their #1 ranked farm system
Before the All-Star Break, the Royals took their lumps, going 37-54 and getting outscored 449-402. During this time, rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Louis Coleman, Nate Adcock, Everett Teaford, and Tim Collins were getting their feet wet at the Major League level, while fellow rookie Aaron Crow was busy earning a spot on the AL All-Star roster. Gordon, Melky, and Frenchy were forming (at least offensively) the best OF in all of baseball. Billy Butler was still a doubles machine, but wasn’t putting up the power numbers that the fans and organization were looking for (until that unforgettable series in Boston). Matt Treanor and Brayan Pena were doubling up behind the plate, Escobar’s bat was ice cold then red-hot while his glove was consistently pure gold, and Chris Getz was… well… Chris Getz. The rotation got knocked around quite a bit. As did Vin Mazzaro …
Post All-Star break, the Royals went an unimpressive 34-37. They did, however, outscore their opponents 328-313. With August came the debuts of Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Prerez. Gio put up lower numbers than expected, while Perez dominated behind the plate as well as in the batter’s box. The Royals’ highlight of the second-half was their 7-game winning streak in mid-September against the hapless Twins and White Sox. Regardless, this showed me something: these young guys, this entire roster, played like they were in the middle of the pennant race. Every game was exciting. Nobody seemed like they were going through the motions of a lost season, because this season was anything but. It was a stepping stone, building block, spring board… however you want to put it. And they knew it, too.
So with that all said, this is how I see the most winnable division in baseball shaking down in 2012:
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
I think that the Tigers’ pitching staff will be what allows them to just squeak by the Royals this year, as it is just that much better than those of their division foes. Offensively, the Royals should have one of the top 10 offenses in the league (#8 according to Buster Olney). I don’t buy into the hype of the Indians’ pitching staff. The White Sox are selling off their top pieces left and right, and the Twins are in the middle of a re-building process.
2012 is going to be a huge step in the right direction for Kansas City, and may possibly invigorate a hungry fan-base for a strong run for a division title in 2013.
Every year Baseball America releases it’s list of the top 10 prospects for each franchise, and today was the Royals’ turn to be revealed. For the first time in a few years though, the list won’t feature the names of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, or Aaron Crow, which is a terrific sign that the franchise is moving closer to where it wants to be. Another positive sign is that it includes the names of a few international players whom the Royals scouted and signed (afterall, this is a World game now). But enough banter.. Here you go:
1. Mike Montgomery LHP
2. Bubba Starling CF
3. Wil Myers RF
4. Jake Odorizzi RHP
5. Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
6. John Lamb LHP
7. Kelvin Herrera RHP
8. Jason Adam RHP
9. Chris Dwyer LHP
10. Yordano Ventura RHP
A solid list overall that I cannot argue against. The only question I have: Why Mike Montgomery at #1? I mean I get it.. His upside is high (most say #2 starter potential), he’s left-handed, and throws a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90′s and a changeup that’s rated (by Baseball America, no less) as the best in the Royals’ minor league system. Wil Myers had a down year at Double-A and Bubba Starling has yet to play in a professional inning yet, so I guess it makes sense logically. Just from the way Myers has been hyped up for his pure-hitting ability over the last few years, I would have thought he’d be at the top of the list. But if Wil Myers is your 3rd best prospect, then you must have a pocket full of gold.
Baseball America also shelled out what it believes could be the Royals starters at each position in 2015. Yeah, it’s a little far-sighted, prospects bust, free agency and trades happen and all that jazz.. But it’s fun to think about, right? Check this out:
C- Salvador Perez
1B- Eric Hosmer
2B- Johnny Giavotella
3B- Mike Moustakas
SS- Alcides Escobar
LF- Wil Myers
CF- Bubba Starling
Rf- Alex Gordon
DH- Billy Butler
1. Mike Montgomery LHP
2. Danny Duffy LHP
3. Jake Odorizzi RHP
4. John Lamb LHP
5. Luke Hochevar RHP
Joakim Soria RHP
From here folks, the future looks looks like a bowl of cherries. Enjoy.
According to ESPN and Baseball America’s Jerry Crasnick, the Royals have signed 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff to a minor league deal that includes an invite to Spring Training. Kouz will make $1M if he makes the big league roster. The deal also includes $300K in performance incentives. He can choose to opt-out of the contract if he isn’t in the majors by May 1st.
Kevin Kouzmanoff’s career started off with a bang in 2006 with the Cleveland Indians. On the very first pitch he had ever seen at the big league level, Kouz hit a grand slam – being the first player ever to do so. In the succeeding offseason, he was dealt along with pitcher Andrew Brown to San Diego for 2B Josh Barfield.
He had the best 3 seasons of his career thus far with the Padres (2007-09). During his time with the Friars, he had a relatively pedestrian average (.263) and a poor OBP (.309). (It should be noted that Kouzmanoff strikes out a ton and takes walks like Miguel Olivo) But his value was in his power (59 HR) and his glove (.966 Fld%). In 2009, he set a MLB record for Fld% by a 3B in a single season by committing only 3 errors in 309 chances (.990 Fld%). In the following offseason though, Kouz was again traded – this time to Oakland (along with 2B Eric Sogard for OF’s Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham). This was the beginning of a downward trend for the 3B.
In 143 games with Oakland in 2010, Kouz had a sickly slash line (.247/.283/.396), but still managed to produce a 1.2 WAR (mostly due to 32 doubles, 16 HR, and a .968 Fld%). In 2011, he played in 46 games with the A’s before he was shipped in August to Colorado for a PTBNL/cash. Ouch.
He managed to take part in 27 games with the Rockies at the tail-end of the 2011 season before being outrighted from the 40-man roster and thus electing free agency.
And that brings us to today.
This is most likely an insurance signing for Mike Moustakas. I would say, with how the everything currently looks, Kevin has a very small chance of breaking Spring Training as a part of the 25-man roster. But he does have value as a Defense-First, Power-Second, all-others-last role player. It’s another low-risk, low-cost signing by GMDM. And it, in all likelihood, won’t matter much.
Now I know there isn’t much of a guessing game going on this offseason as to who is going to be on the Royals 25-man roster, which I see as a HUGE step in the right direction for this franchise. As of now, all of the positions in the field are virtually filled (even though Gio is pretty much a shoe-in at 2B). The rotation appears to be mostly set for the time being, and the bullpen has just maybe one or two question marks. So this is how I see it shaking down:
C: Salvador Perez R/R
1B: Eric Hosmer L/L
2B: Johnny Giavotella R/R
SS: Alcides Escobar R/R
3B: Mike Moustakas L/R
LF: Alex Gordon L/R
CF: Lorenzo Cain R/R
RF: Jeff Francoeur R/R
DH: Billy Butler R/R
Bench: Brayan Pena (C) S/R, Yuniesky Betancourt (SS/2B/3B) R/R, Jarrod Dyson (OF) L/R
This is solid. If this group of players can stay consistently healthy like they did last season, I assume they’ll form a top 10 offense and average to slightly above-average defense. And with Doug Sisson for another season as the First Base Coach, it’s pretty reasonable to expect 20 SB’s from Escobar, Frenchy, Gordon, Cain, and possibly Gio.The only question marks I can see here are at 2B and fourth OF’er.
Gio didn’t have the greatest debut last season (.247/.273/.376 in 46 games while working a Yuni like 6 BB’s) and still has minor league options left. Plus he is recovering from off-season hip surgery, but is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Chris Getz is still hanging around like that annoying gnat that buzzes by your ear every 30 seconds in the summer that you’ll never be able to swat. He has some value as a good situational hitter and solid pinch runner, but his defense is sub-par and he hardly has the range to backup at SS, nor the arm strength to backup 3B. Like Gio, though, he does have a minor league option left. Then we have Yuni… Ah, Yuni. The enigma that Dayton rid us of last offseason, only to bring him right back to where he belongs. (Now if we can only sign Greinke next winter, we will have pulled off the best trade of all-time!) Yuni was brought in to be a “Utility” infielder who could spell Moose against tough lefties and occasionally get the nod at SS and 2B. With the exception of a handfull of games in his rookie season at 2B, Yuni has experience exclusively at SS. Which means he’s compiled a grand total of…. 0 innings at 3B. But he does possess a little bit of pop in his bat, which is a major plus since Yost claims he will be doing more in-game situational substitutions this year. In the end, however, my money is on Giavotella, with Yuni serving off the bench as needed, and Getzy playing a utility role in Omaha. Gio is that “gritty” type of player that Ned Yost just drools over (see: Jason Kendall).
For the fourth OF position, it’s going to be a tough decision. On the one hand, you have the incumbent: Mitch Maier. Mitch has been a model citizen for this franchise. He steps up when his number is called, and keeps his mouth shut and chin up when it’s not. He can play all three outfield positions well, serves as the emergency catcher (he played catcher in college), and has even taken practice reps at 1B and 3B. Oh and don’t forget about his stint as a reliever! (http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=17333401) He is the type of bench players that managers dream of. On the other hand, you have Jarrod Dyson. He has the speed to change games, especially in the late innings of those close ballgames we have all become accustomed to over the past few seasons. He has the ability to turn a single or a walk into a double, and there is little opposing teams can do to stop him. He is capable of playing all outfield positions, but is best served in CF given his extreme speed and lack of arm strength (think Coco Crisp weakness). He has limited power; but like I said, his speed changes everything. And with basecloggers like Butler, Pena, and Yuni, you have to have someone who can be their ghostrunner. This is why I’d go with Dyson over Maier. It’s one of the tougher roster decisions to make, and that’s a good thing. The tougher it is to decide who your bench players are, the better your starters must be.
1. Bruce Chen L
2. Luke Hochevar R
3. Jonathan Sanchez L
4. Felipe Paulino R
5. Danny Duffy L
Barring any major trades, FA signings, or a miraculous Spring Training, this will be our starting rotation heading into the season. Overall, it’s respectable (mostly because of the addition of Sanchez and the retention of Chen). Hochevar has to continue to progress like he did after the All-Star break last season, where he became a groundball machine. If he stumbles back into his old form though, expect this to be his last season in Royal blue. Sanchez needs to prove he was worth being the only major upgrade to the rotation this offseason by proving he’s totally healthy and improving his 2:1 K:BB ratio. Bruce should be Bruce, and will allow us all to scream “C’MON CHEN!” for another summer. Duffy needs to show that he has learned how to make it past 5 innings without throwing 100+ pitches. Granted, he seemed to get his strikes fouled off more than any other pitcher this past season. But he still walked 51 batters in 20 starts, so his command needs some improvement. Paulino was solid, if un-spectacular. He proved that he could be a contribution to a winning team though, which is a step in the right direction for KC. If the Royals do add another impact starter or if one of Crow/Mendoza/Montgomery prove they’re up to the task, Paulino could be easily moved into the bullpen as the long reliever.
CL: Joakim Soria R
SU: Greg Holland R
SU: Jonathan Broxton R
MR: Louis Coleman R
MR: Tim Collins L
MR: Blake Wood R
MR/LOOGY: Jose Mijares L
LR/MR/SU/Spot-Starter: Aaron Crow R
I would say of this group Soria, Holland, Broxton, Coleman, Collins, and Wood are sure shots to be in the ‘pen. All of them but Soria and Broxton had solid seasons last year and help shape a young, terrific bullpen. Broxton is more of an unknown in this situation due to an elbow injury that kept him out of action for all but 14 games last season. But coming into last year, he had been to two straight All-Star games. This was a low-risk, high-reward signing for Dayton Moore and helped add to a scary-good bullpen. Jose Mijares was claimed by KC after the Twins DFA’d him last month. Over his career he has averaged less than one-inning/appearance, which is why I think this is a good pick-up for us. He’s a typical LOOGY (Lefty-One-Out-Guy), a la Jimmy Gobble that one year. He has a career ERA of 3.16, a 2:1 ratio, and has held opponents to a .243 AVG. Not spectacular. Yet prototypical. He and Broxton should enjoy many-a-barbecue nights in the bullpen. I left Crow off my “sure shots” list for one reason: if he’s a starter in the Spring, yet doesn’t earn a rotation spot, he may be sent to Omaha where he can start every fifth day and begin to stretch his arm out again. If that does happen, then either Everett Teaford (L) or Nate Adcock (R) fills out the long reliever role. But as for now, he is the best option for this “Utility” bullpen role.
Grand Total: 12 hitters, 13 pitchers
Yost has been talking about going with a 13-man pitching staff coming into this season so he could play a more National League brand of baseball, subbing multiple pitchers in an inning or even pulling off the famous “double-switch”. So with this roster set-up, he’ll be able to get his way and have just enough bench to scrape by.