Spring Cleaning 3/27: Thoughts on Gio, Soria, the 5th Starter, and the Order

Johnny Be Gone

I think it’s safe to say “Um…. what?”

Even though the 2B job has been up for grabs this entire Spring, I’m sure we all assumed that this was going to be Johnny Giavotella’s job come Opening Day. Well, not so fast.

Photo Credit: KansasCity.com

After hitting just .250/.267/.318 through Sunday (11-44), Ned Yost decided that it was time to make a bold decision and send Gio to Triple A Omaha to get everyday work. He cited Gio’s defense as the main reason he was optioned to Omaha, stating in a Royals.com article, “Johnny was three days away from hitting .350. That wasn’t the issue. It was the defense. Johnny is a much better defender than he was at this time last year, but we had two better defensive options in Betancourt and Getz.”

Although I am not the biggest fan of sending Giavotella down, both Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt have been outperforming him this Spring, albeit not by a landslide. But offensive production isn’t the key here. It’s defense. Both Getz and Yuni are superior defenders to Gio, and both give the Royals versatility, as they can both play 2B, SS, and 3B.

Getz possesses better speed, is a terrific situational hitter/bunter, and adds another bat from the left side. Yuni has pop from the right side of the plate and is earning a nice paycheck, so the option of him not landing on the roster was never there.

Yost figures not to “platoon” Yuni and Getz and 2B, but to play them in a situational basis, albeit Getz will most likey play against RHPs, and Yuni against LHPs. When either one is not playing, they will serve as the backup/situational infielder.

The great thing I see about Gio being sent to Omaha is that the Royals now are in a position to play who has been truly the best at a given position. If you want to play, you have to earn it – which is a far cry from the organization’s former ways.

Though if Johnny gets off to a hot start in Triple A, I have no doubt that he’ll be back in Kansas City before long.

Also optioned to Triple A were OF Jarrod Dyson (due to the arrival of Jason Bourgeois), and RHP Vin Mazzaro. RHP Zach Miner, C Cody Clark, and IFs Tony Abreu and Irving Falu were all reassigned to Minor League camp.

So Long, Soria?

Photo Credit: RoyalsBlog.KansasCity.com

With Joakim Soria opting to undergo his second Tommy John surgery in the coming week, has he thrown his last pitch as a Royal?

The typical recovery time from TJ surgery is anywhere between 10-14 months, give or take. So if all goes according to plan, Soria won’t begin throwing again until around this time next year, meaning he may not even pitch at all next season (2013).The Royals hold two club options for Soria: one for 2013, and one for 2014. If the Royals decide to pick up said options, they would owe him $8 million in 2013, and $8.75 million in 2014. If the Royals decide not to pick up Soria’s options, they can choose to buy them out for $700K. If they do in fact buyout his options, Soria will become a Free Agent.

With the emergence of Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, and the presence of Jonathan Broxton, the Royals have a very difficult decision to make in the coming year. Do you keep Soria and pay him $8 million+, or do you buyout his options and hope you can re-sign him to a friendlier deal? It all depends on how Soria’s elbow takes to it’s second Tommy John surgery in 10 years.

Two for One

As we all know, the first 3 spots in the Royals starting rotation have been locked down since before the first ball was thrown this Spring: Chen, Hochevar, and Sanchez. And given his recent spurts of domination, Danny Duffy appears to have solidified his spot in the rotation as well, giving the Royals 3 lefties in the rotation.

And so it has all come down to two pitchers for one spot: incumbent Felipe Paulino vs. Luis Mendoza (both RHPs).

Photo Credit: KansasCity.com

Paulino came to the Royals last season from Colorado and didn’t disappoint, becoming one of the teams’ more reliable staters. But Felipe has been knocked around a bit in 2012, to the tune of a 7.71 ERA in 11.2 IP, with 9 Ks to 5 BBs and a .348 AVG against.

Photo Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / AP

Luis Mendoza was the PCL Pitcher of the Year in 2011, which earned him a stint in KC last September. Up to this point, Luis has been arguably the best pitcher in Royals camp this Spring, going 4-0 in 16.2 IP, with a 0.54 ERA (!), 16:3 K:BB ratio, while managing to keep opposing hitters below the infamous Mendoza Line (.180).

Right now, it appears that the job is Mendoza’s to lose, with Paulino heading to the bullpen to serve as a long reliever/spot starter for the time being. Neither Paulino nor Mendoza have any options remaining, so neither can be sent to Triple A without clearing waivers first, which in all likelihood would not happen.

Line(up) Dancing

All along, Yost has said that he wanted to have Gordon at the top of the order, with Johnny Giavotella hitting in the 2 slot. But with the recent demotion of Gio to Omaha, who will Ned slide into the no.2 slot? Here are a few looks:

vs. LHP

1. LF Gordon – L

2. CF Cain – R

3. 1B Hosmer – L

4. DH Butler – R

5. RF Francoeur – R

6. 3B Moustakas – L

7. 2B Betancourt – R

8. C Pena – S / Quintero – R

9. SS Escobar – R

Versus LHPs, Lorenzo Cain to me is the obvious choice here. He’s been tearing up opposing pitchers this spring, leading the team in AVG, OBP, SLG%, OPS, RS, H, 2B, HR, TB, and XBH. And right behind him in a lot of those categories is leadoff hitter Alex Gordon. So with Gordon’s high OBP, that means that he has a good chance to be on base with a competent Cain hitting right behind him. Cain also has above-average speed, so teaming him up at the top of the order with Gordon potentially creates a matchup nightmare.

vs. RHP

1. LF Gordon – L

2. 2B Getz – L

3. 1B Hosmer – L

4. DH Butler – R

5. 3B Moustakas – L

6. RF Francoeur – R

7. CF Cain – R

8. C Pena S / Quintero R

9. SS Escobar – R

Versus RHPs, Chris Getz fits into the 2 slot perfectly, giving the Royals three left-handed hitters at the top of the order against righties. Plus, as I said earlier, Getz is a great situational hitter, which could allow the Royals offense to get off to a quick start if Gordon gets on ahead of him, i.e. hit-and-runs, sacrifice/slap bunts.

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One comment

  1. Andrew Godfrey

    I like the lineup against left handers since it gives the Royals excellent hitters in the 1-4 slots, but Getz taking the place of Cain in the RH lineup makes it a weaker lineup with Cain batting 7th. Francoeur only had 33 extra base hits in 2010, but exploded last year with 71 extra base hits. Would like to see him drive in 100 runs, like he did for the Braves in 2006 and 2007.

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