Tagged: Kelvin Herrera

Royals Swept by Tribe, But May Have Found a True Rival

The Indians dominated the Royals’ first home series of the 2012 season, sweeping all three games of the series and outscoring KC 32-19. And with the exception of one game (game 2), it wasn’t even close.

Game Notes

  • Game One: Loss, 8-3 Cleveland
    • Jarrod Dyson starts in CF, leadoff spot. Frenchy batted in the second spot in the order, with Gordon moving down to the no. 5 spot.
    • Luke Hochevar surrenders 7 runs on 8 hits in the top of the 1st inning. He then settled down, allowing just one hit after the 1st.
      • Luke left the game after the 4th inning. He took a Carlos Santana line-drive off his left ankle. The ball hit his ankle so squarely that it ricocheted 90 degrees, right at first baseman Eric Hosmer – who picked it up for the out. Luke wasn’t able to put any pressure on his left ankle as he was helped off the field. Hoch has been listed as day-to-day, and will most likely miss his next start.
    • Everett Teaford pitched 4 scoreless innings after Hoch’s injury, giving up only 1 hit and striking out 3. He has the upper-hand when it comes to filling in for Hochevar while he’s recovering.
    • Kelvin Herrera hit 101 on the radar gun. He was able to balance that out with an 88 mph changeup. Closer material.
    • Jarrod Dyson made an awful read on Jason Kipnis’ 1st inning triple, chasing the ball over his back shoulder. With speed like his, getting burned like that is unacceptable.
    • Even though the Royals outhit the Indians 12-11, they grounded into 3 double plays.
  • Game Two: Loss, 11-9 Cleveland
    • Scoreless until the top of the 3rd:
      • After a run scored on a single by Asdrubal Cabrera, pitcher Jonathan Sanchez hit Shin-Soo Choo with a fastball in the back of the right leg. (Some history: in 2011, Sanchez hit Choo with a pitch that broke his thumb and wrecked his season). Unhappy, Choo turns around and starts barking at Sanchez, with Indians 3B Jack Hannahan rushing over to get in Sanchez’s face. Both benches and bullpens cleared, causing the umpire to issue warnings to both teams.
      • With Sanchez struggling with his command, the Tribe were able to post 5 runs that inning – causing Yost to go to his bullpen early for the second day in a row. Enter Tim Collins. Sanchez gave up 4 BB and 5 runs in 2.2 IP.
    • In the bottom of the 3rd…:
      • Indians hurler Jeanmar Gomez threw a first-pitch fastball inside to Moustakas, which he was able to evade. But the next pitch plunked Moose in his lower back, prompting the home plate umpire to eject Gomez from the game. Once again, the becnhes cleared and Jack Hannahan stuck his nose in the middle of it all by trying to get in Moustakas’ face before being detained by the umpires – and eventually Ned Yost. In all, three were ejected: Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez, 3B Jack Hannahan, and manager Manny Acta.

        Photo Credit: Ed Zurga / Getty Images

      • The Royals went on to score 2 runs in that half of the inning, which included a RBI triple by Alcides Escobar.
    • Cleveland was able to tag Tim Collins for two HRs in the 5th, moving the score to 9-2. That’s when KC started chipping away at the lead
      • Bottom 5: Moose doubles to deep right, Yuni scores. Alcides Escobar then drives in Moose with an infield out. 9-4.
      • Bottom 6: Billy hits a RBI double to left-center, driving in Frenchy. After a Gordon fly ball out, Yuni reached on a throwing error, moving Butler to third base. With two outs and two on, Moustakas hit a deep fly ball to right that was initially caught by Choo before he ran into the outfield wall, causing him to drop the ball. Billy scores third, Yuni (who should have scored from first since there were two outs) moved up to third. 9-6.
      • Bottom 7: With two down and Dyson on second, Eric Hosmer sends on to deep left that was about three feet from being a HR. He wound up with at second base with a RBI double. Billy drove in Hoz with a single to center. 9-8.
      • Bottom 8: After seing four straight fastballs from reliever Vinnie Pestano, Yuni sent a 2-2 slider down the left field line for a solo HR – tying the game at 9-9.
    • Cleveland didn’t score again until the top of the 10th, when facing Greg Holland, the now-extremely-hated-and-booed Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run double off the wall in deep center that just cleared the glove of Jarrod Dyson. 11-9.
    • The Royals went down in order in the bottom half of the inning. Game over.
    • All of the Royals hitters in the starting lineup except for Alex Gordon had at least one hit, with Butler, Yuni, and Moose each getting two apiece.
    • There were a total of 15 different pitchers used throughout the game (KC – 7, CLE – 8). Jonathan Sanchez threw 75 pitches through 2.2 innings. Only 38 of them were strikes.
    • Jarrod Dyson walked to leadoff the bottom of the 9th, which usually has been a good thing for the Royals. With one out, Dyson attempted to steal second base off of rookie Jairo Asencio – who has a relatively quick delivery to home. Dyson was thrown out by catcher Carlos Santana. Hosmer then struck out to end the inning.
      • The whole point of having speed is not to steal a base every time you get on, but to also use it to distract the opposing pitcher. Everyone at The K that night knew that Dyson was going to attempt to steal second at some point. It was just a matter of when.
    • Shin-Soo Choo later said that he regretted how things went down in the 3rd inning and acknowledged that Sanchez most likely didn’t throw at him intentionally.

In between games 2 and 3, the Royals re-called reliever Louis Coleman from Omaha and optioned Jarrod Dyson back to Omaha.

  • Game Three: Loss, 13-7 Cleveland
    • Facing off against Ubaldo Jimenez, KC was able to get their first lead of the entire series in the bottom of the 2nd.
      • Moose and Pena both reached to leadoff the inning. With one down, Moose on 3rd and Pena on 1st, Escobar doubled to drive in Moustakas and move Brayan to 3rd. With two outs, Chriz Getz hit a single to right field that scored both Pena and Escobar. 3-0 KC.
    • Cleveland retaliated, scoring 6 in the top of the 3rd against Royals starter Luis Mendoza. 6-3 CLE.
      • Mendoza went 4 innings, surrendering 9 runs (5 earned), walking 4.
    • Louis Coleman gave up back-to-back HRs in the 8th to Casey Kotchman and Jason Kipnis in his season debut.
    • Mitch Maier made his second career relief appearance in the 9th inning of last night’s game. He gave up a one-out single that was quickly erased by an inning-ending 4-6-3 double-play.

      Photo Credit: John Sleezer

Even though the Royals were swept by the Tribe, they may have gained something they have severely lacked since the 1980’s New York Yankees: a rival. If you watched the game on Saturday night, you saw the real anger between the two teams. Shin-Soo Choo has become public enemy no. 1 in Kansas City, and I’m sure Jack Hannahan isn’t too far behind him.

The Royals and Indians may even have bad blood that boiled over from last season when Carlos Carrasco threw a fastball over the head of Billy Butler, causing Carrasco to be ejected from the game.

At any rate, the Royals are now 3-6 on the young season and will begin a three game series against the division leading 6-3 Detroit Tigers tonight. It will tout Detroit’s ace Justin Verlander (0-1, 2.20 ERA) against the Royals’ young lefty Danny Duffy (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Here are the pitching match-ups for the three game series:

Monday: Justin Verlander vs. Danny Duffy

Tuesday: Drew Smyly (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Bruce Chen (0-0, 1.64 ERA)

Wednesday: Max Scherzer (0-1, 10.38 ERA) vs. TBD (likely either Hochevar or Teaford)

All games begin at 7:10 pm CT.

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Royals Win 7-3, Take the Series

There was no rest for the Royals on Sunday, but they didn’t really seem to need it anyway.

Offense

The Royals cmae out swinging in the 1st inning against Ervin Santana (0-1). After an Alex Gordon groundout to start the game, Santana plunked Alcides Escobar. Alcides stole second in retalitation, and came around to score after he made a terrific read on Eric Hosmer’s bloop single to LF, putting KC up 1-0. Billy Butler (1) one-upped Hosmer by sending a Santana pitch to the deepest part of the park where Peter Bourjos nearly robbed him of a HR. Billy’s blast made the score 3-0. The Angels got a run off starter Jonathan Sanchez in the bottom of the frame on an Albert Pujols groundball -Albert’s lone RBI in the series (3-1 KC).

The Halos got another run in the bottom of the 3rd by Torii Hunter, bringing in Erick Aybar (3-2 KC).

The Royals had a great scoring opportunity that was nullified by a Lorenzo Cain baserunning gaffe. With Butler on 2B and Cain on 1B, Humberto Quintero lined a single into right. We all know that Torii Hunter has a great arm, and so does Billy apparently. Billy stopped at 3B, and apparently Cain wasn’t paying attention. Hunter’s throw came to the infield, who recognized right away that Cain was stuck in no-man’s land and was promptly tagged out – ending the inning. At the time, this was a gleaming mental mistake that could have cost the Royals a big inning.

Photo Credit: Reed Saxon / AP

In the top of the 5th, with Chris Getz on base, Eric Hosmer (2) continued his hot hitting by sending an Ervin Santana cutter about five rows deep in the RF seats (5-2 KC). That was hosmer’s 2nd HR in as many days. He’d end the day with 3 RBI.

The Royals kept things going in the 6th. Francoeur led the inning off with a single and advanced to 2B on a wild pitch two batter later. That batter, Lorenzo Cain, would reach 1B on an error by Angels 3B Mark Trumbo (3). Humberto Quintero then sent a flyball to CF, which was deep enough for Frenchy to move up to third. The Angels proceeded to pull Santana and brought in Hisanori Takahashi to face Getz. Getz hit a ball up the middle which, after it was deflected by Takahashi, made its way to 2B Howie Kendrick. But by that time, all of the baserunners had advanced, bringing home Francoeur (6-2 KC).

The top of the 7th brought in another Royals run on a double down the LF line by Billy, which brought Hosmer around to score, stretching the lead to five runs (7-2).

Things got a little hairy in the 8th for the Royals. Kelvin Herrera served up a leadoff HR to Vernon Wells (1), shrinking the score to 7-3. After retiring Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo singled to CF. The Royals then swapped Herrera for Aaron Crow, who struck out the next hitter (Bourjos) and retired Erick Aybar on a groundball back to the mound.

The Angels threatened again in the 9th, but were unable to force anymore runs across the plate.

Pitching

Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez was “effectively wild” yesterday, throwing 99 pitches through 5 innings. He got off to a rough start in the bottom of the 1st after the offense gave him a 3-0 lead to work with. After a one-out single by Howie Kendrick, Sanchez threw a wild pitch to Pujols which popped up behind catcher Humberto Quintero. That little bit of air time allowed Kendrick to move from 1B to 3B on the miscue. Pujols went on to drive in the run with a groundball out to Moustakas. Sanchez proceeded to walk the next batter Torii Hunter. Hunter was able to move up to 2B on an errant pickoff throw over to Hosmer at 1B, which Hoz never had a chance at catching. Sanchez was charged with the error (1), Kansas City’s lone error of the day. It didn’t hurt the team however, as Sanchez struck out Vernon Wells to end the frame.

Photo Credit: Harry How / Getty Images

Trouble reared it’s ugly head again in the Angels’ half of the 3rd when Sanchez struck out leadoff man Erick Aybar. But the third-strike made it’s way passed Quintero, allowing Aybar to reach 1B. Howie Kendrick then doubled, moving Aybar to 3B. In what proved to be a great move, although unintentional, Sanchez walked Prince Albert to load the bases. He then got Hunter to groundout to Hosmer, which allowed each runner to advance (3-2 KC). Sanchez then struck out Wells swinging and induced a Kendrys Morales groundball to short.

The 4th inning was the only inning that Sanchez was able to retire in order. He allowed 2 hits in the 5th to Aybar and Pujols, but nothing came of it and he left the game wil a line of 5 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 99 pitchs (59 S, 40 B).

Yost brought in lefty Jose Mijares to pitch the 6th, faced 4 hitters, giving up one hit and striking out 2.

Kelvin Herrera came into the game in the 7th, giving up a leadoff single before inducing a Howie Kendrick 6-4-3 double play. Pujols doubled to left, but Torii Hunter hit an ending-inning groundball to 3B. He stayed in the game to start the 8th, giving up a HR to Wells, a groundout, a Trumbo single, and a Chris Ianetta double before being pulled for Aaron Crow. His final line was 1.1 IP, 5 hits, 1 ER, 0 K, 0 BB.

Crow came in and retired the next two batters to end the inning without a blemish. Ned left him in to begin the 9th inning, where Crow ran into some trouble. He gave up a leadoff single to Kendrick and a walk to Pujols before being pulled for closer Jonathan Broxton. Line: 0.2 IP, 1 hit, o ER, 1 K, 1 BB.

Broxton was thrown into a two-on, nobody-out situation and did not disappoint. He stranded the two baserunners by striking out the side to end the game, which included Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and Kendrys Morales; earning his first save as a member of the Royals. Broxton appeared to be back to his old self, dialing fastballs in the upper 90’s.

Game Summary

Sanchez gave the Royals another strong outing from the rotation. He only lasted 5 innings and was a bit wild at times (2 wild pitches and 1 error on a pickoff attempt), but he maintained the early lead that the offense provided him with. You’ll notice now that Ned isn’t leaving struggling pitchers out there to take their lumps like he did in 2011. If he senses trouble, he’s got someone in the bullpen ready to go.

The bullpen had a solid day as well, combining for 4 innings and only 1 ER, striking out 6 and surrendering 1 walk. Kelvin Herrera had a balk, however. But it didn’t lead to any Angels runs.

Alex Gordon had another hitless game, and has yet to record his first hit on the season. He would have had one if it weren’t for a terrific diving stop by Albert Pujols down the RF line. Moose and Cain went hitless as well, but they both recorded a hit on Saturday, giving them identical averages at .091.

Hosmer and Butler had a HR and 3 RBI apiece, Humberto Quintero hit his third double in 2 games and Chris Getz earned an RBI – both going 2 for 4 on the day. Frenchy and Escobar also had one hit each. Both Hosmer and Escobar had a stolen base. The Royals were 4 for 10 with RISP (runners in scoring position).

The Royals won the series 2 games to 1, and very well could have been 3-0 to start the season if it weren’t for one bad inning on Opening Day.

Game MVP

Eric Hosmer: 2 for 5, 3 runs, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB. Hosmer had a complete game and helped the Royals get off to a great start with a RBI single in the 1st, as well as his two-out, two-run blast in the 5th.

Noteworthies

  • Ned Yost has said that he may give LF Alex Gordon a night off in the opening game of the A’s series tonight, citing Alex’s 0 for 13 with 6 K start to the season. I see no reason to panic here. We’re three games in. If Alex had an 0 for 13 stretch in mid-June, nobody may have even noticed. There’s no reason to fret about Alex; he’ll come around. Either Mitch Maier or Jason Bourgeois will get the start in left tonight if Yost does indeed sit Gordon.
  • If Gordon is infact out of the lineup tonight, who hits in the leadoff spot? It would almost have to be either Lorenzo Cain (.091 AVG)  Alcides Escobar, who is hitting .300 thus far and was in the second spot in the order last night, or Chris Getz. All three have great speed and are threats to steal if they get one. My money would be on either Getz or Escobar for tonight.

The Royals begin a 3 game series against the Oakland A’s tonight in the “lovely” Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Game time is 9:05 pm CT. It’ll be the Royals’ righty Luis Mendoza vs. A’s rookie lefty Tommy Milone.

2012 Spring Training Recap

With a 7-6 victory over the Padres last night, the Royals wrapped up Spring Training at 16-15. Hey, take it for what it is. Yeah, it’s only Spring Training. But you have to start somewhere, right?

The Royals 2012 Spring Training was… interesting. We saw injuries (both significant and not), position battles/tinkering, rotation and bullpen shuffles, promotions, demotions, trades, off-the-chart performances, contract extensions, etc.

So here’s a quick recap of it all:

  • Significant Injuries
    • Manny Pina C: Feb. 22 – torn right meniscus (knee), 60 Day DL
    • Salvador Perez C: Mar. 14 – torn left meniscus (knee), 60 Day DL
    • Joakim Soria RHP: Mar. 19 – Tommy John surgery (right elbow), 15 Day DL – will miss 2012
  • Slightly Less Significant Injuries
    • Blake Wood RHP: Mar. 26 – sore right elbow (ulner nerve), 15 Day DL
    • Felipe Paulino RHP: Mar. 26 – sore right elbow/forearm, 15 Day DL

Each one of the injuries required reactionary moves from the club. The injuries to Pina and Perez forced the Royals to look for a veteran, defense-first catcher; leading to the acquisition of Humberto Quintero. Soria’s injury opened up the closer role to one or all of Holland, Broxton, and Crow. It also opened up a full-time spot in the bullpen for a fresh face. Blake Wood’s spot became up for grabs, but he was a fringe bullpen guy to begin with. The loss of Felipe opened up two rotation spots for Mendoza and Duffy, as well as the long-relief spot for Everett Teaford.

  • Position Battles
    • Second base

      Photo Credit: Rob Tringali / Getty Images

      • Injuries aside, the combo of Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt winning the 2B job over Johnny Giavotella was the biggest shock of the Spring. Virtually everyone, myself included, basically gave Gio the job before the Royals arrived in Surprise. But, to their credit, Getz and Yuni outperformed Gio and currently present better options defensively for KC.
    • Fifth Starter
      • The first three rotation spots were a given: Chen, Hochevar, and Sanchez. The last two spots were up for grabs, but Paulno and Duffy basically had dibs on the spots. But the performance of Luis Mendoza changed all of that. He was without a dout the best pitcher in Royals camp, forcing the Royals to give him a rotation spot. And once Paulino went to the DL, Duffy had the fifth spot locked up.
    • Lefty Relievers
      • No lefty had a bullpen spot given to them coming into Sporing Training, although Jose Mijares was close. Every bullpen should have at least one lefty, but two would be more ideal, and three would be perfect; and that’s what the Royals wound up with. Jose Mijares, Tim Collins, and Everett Teaford comprise the left-side of the bullpen – beating out other lefties Tommy Hottovy and Francisely Bueno. Mijares and Collins will serve as middle relief/situational lefties, while Teaford will be the swing-man/spot-starter
  • Eric Hosmer: Right Fielder

    Photo Credit: John Sleezer

    • Say what? That can’t be right, can it? Yep. It happened. A few times, actually. In order to maximize offense against NL teams, the Royals tinkered around with Eric Hosmer in RF (and Jeff Francoeur in CF) so they could have both Hoz and Billy Butler in the lineup. Hosmer is a good enough athlete that playing RF shouldn’t be difficult at all for him. He has a terrific arm and good enough speed that I thought he could have been an everyday right fielder in the minors (this was all before we had Frenchy, Wil Myers was still a catcher, and Kila Ka’aihue was mashing in Omaha).
  • 12 Man Shuffle
    • Rotation (5)
      • Chen L, Hochevar R, Sanchez L, Mendoza R, Duffy L
        • No, Montgomery won’t be opening the season in Kansas City. Neither will Felipe Paulino, but not for the same reasons. Monty didn’t perform well in his few outings, and Paulino was sent to the DL, which opened up spots for Mendoza and Duffy.
    • Bullpen (7)
      • Holland R, Broxton R, Crow R, Herrera R, Mijares L, Collins L, Teaford L
        • Without Soria, the roles in back-end of the bullpen are up in the air. Holland and Broxton are the clear front-runners for the closing position, with Aaron Crow not far behind.
        • The most notable surprise here was Kelvin Herrera taking a spot away from Louis Coleman. Herrera had a great Spring, and Coleman scuffed a bit as roster cuts loomed. Herrera has the potential to be a closer someday. Luckily for him, someday may come soon.
  • Notable Promotions
    • Kelvin Herrera RHP, Everett Teaford LHP
      • See above.
  • Notable Demotions
    • Johnny Giavotella 2B, Louis Coleman RHP, Jarrod Dyson OF, Sean O’Sullivan RHP
      • If you’ve been reading, you already know why Gio and Sweet Lou were demoted to Omaha.
      • Jarrod Dyson became expendable with the acquistion of OF/U Jason Bourgeois. Dyson has the speed and defensive tools down, but he really needs to learn how to keep his flyball rates down so he can appropriately use his speed (similar to Juan pierre). Afterall, you can’t hustle out a pop-up.
      • The demotion of Sean O’Sullivan is no surprise. But in order to do so (since SOS was out of minor league options), the Royals had to place him on waivers – making him available to the rest of the league. Since nobody placed a claim on him, the Royals were able to send him to Triple A.
  • Trades
    • LHP Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL (KC) for C Humberto Quintero and OF/U Jason Bourgeois (HOU)
      • Chapman is a solid C+ to B- lefty reliever who would have been a welcome addition to the Royals in the future, but he (along with an unknown) helped the Royals land two veterans who can help the team this season.
      • Quintero is a career backup, but has seen enough playing time throughout his career that you pretty much know what you’llget out of him. Solid defense, below-average-but-acceptable offense. He’ll compliment Brayan Pena, as they’ll likely be splitting time at the catcher position until Sal Perez returns.
      • Jason Bourgeois is capable of playing all three OF positions, as well as some 2B and 3B. So, needless to say, his versatility is his biggest tool. And although he isn’t as fast as Dyson, he provides extra speed off the bench.
    • OF Greg Golson (KC) for cash considerations (CWS)
      • The Royals made an inter-divisional trade by shipping Golson to the White Sox for cash. Golson is a quick OF capable of filling in at each spot, but his bat has never really been there. He was a non-roster invitee this Spring, so nothing was really lost. He never really had a shot to make the roster anyway.
  • Performance Reviews

    Mark Kartozian - US Presswire

    • Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler each hit over .360 this Spring, with Hosmer leading the league in RBI. If they can carry their performances into the season, the Royals may have one of the best 1-4 hitters in baseball in 2012.
    • Hopefully, since Mike Moustakas is a notorious “slow starter”, he got all of that out of the way this Spring. He only his .240, but came around a little bit as ST came to an end.
    • Bruce Chen and Jonathan Sanchez had rough Springs, as did Danny Duffy (even though he did show flashes of dominance).
    • Luke Hochevar showed that he may have gotten his career on the right track, and Luis Mendoza made Royals fans, scouts, and coaches a believer.
  • Extensions
    • Dayton Moore was hard at work this offseason, signing three key Royals to long-term contract extensions.
      • Salvador Perez through 2016 with club options for ’17, ’18, and ’19
      • Alcides Escobar through 2015 with club options for ’16 and ’17
      • Alex Gordon through 2015 with a player option for 2016

The season begins tomorrow night in Anaheim against Prince Albert and the Angels at 9:05 CT. It’ll be Bruce Chen vs. Jered Weaver.

Here’s to hoping the Royals can make this a fun, interesting, and competitive season! Do your part and get out to The K!

Analyzing the 25-Man Roster

It’s set. That’s it. No take backs, do overs, quitsies, or anti-quitsies. Triple stamped it, no erasies, touch blue make it true. (Dumb & Dumber, for the layperson)

The Royals have officially set their 2012 Opening Day 25-man roster. And aside from maybe one or two guys, it’s pretty much what we all should have expected it to be. So they’ll break camp with 13 hitters and 12 pitchers.

Catchers (2): Brayan Pena, Humberto Quintero

Photo Credit: John Sommers II / Getty Images

  • C’mon… Did you really expect Cody Clark to make the team? Quintero is a proven catch and throw guy, who will give the Royals solid defense when he’s behind the plate 3-4 days a week.

Infielders (6): Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire

  • The demotion of Johnny Giavotella (and thus the presence of Chris Getz) was the only real surprise here. Yuni and Getz will share the 2B/Utility role until Gio earns another look. Other than that, after the Yuni signing, you could have pegged everyone else from the get go.

Outfielders (5): Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bourgeois, Mitch Maier

Photo Credit: James Guillory / US Presswire

  • The addition of the speedy and versatile Bourgeois made light-hitting Jarrod Dyson expendable. Bourgeois mashed lefties in 2011 (.395 AVG), and spent significant time at all 3 OF positions, as well as a few games at 2B. He also can play at 3B if needed.
  • Lorenzo Cain has been off the charts this Spring, leading the league in what seems to be almost every offensive category. I don’t think we’ll see any loss of production from Melky to Zo in CF.

Starters (5): Bruce Chen-L, Luke Hochevar-R, Jonathan Sanchez-L, Luis Mendoza-R, Danny Duffy-L

Photo Credit: AP

  • Flip Paulino going to the DL really set up the rotation. If it weren’t for his injury, Duffy would have most likely been reassigned to Triple A.
  • Luis Mendoza has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball this Spring, essentially forcing the Royals to give him a spot in the rotation.

Bullpen (7): Greg Holland-R, Jonathan Broxton-R, Jose Mijares-L, Aaron Crow-R, Tim Collins- L, Everett Teaford-L, Kelvin Herrera-R

Photo Credit: Chris Vleisides / Royals

  • Once again, Paulino’s injury helped someone else make the roster: Everett Teaford. By all accounts, Teaford earned his spot on the team, but without Paulino or Mendoza in the bullpen, Teaford becomes the long reliever / spot-starter.
  • Kelvin Herrera was the true dark horse here. Louis Coleman had the job locked down until he allowed runs in 5 of his last 6 appearances, basically handing the job over to Herrera. Kelvin has been dominant so far, even earning himself 2 Saves this Spring.

Disabled List (5): Salvador Perez (60 day), Manny Pina (60 day), Joakim Soria (IR), Felipe Paulino (15 day), Blake Wood (15 day)

  • How disappointing… The loss of Sal Perez stings the most. Given the severity of his injury, he most likely won’t be able to return to the team until after the All-Star break.
  • Losing Soria, although it may appear huge on the surface, doesn’t really affect the Royals as much as people may think. Yes, he is a proven performer, but he plays a position that is way overvalued. He got knocked around in ST, looking an awful lot like he did at the beginning of 2011.

And incase you’re wondering where everyone else who was left in camp went, here you go:

Reassigned to Triple A Omaha (2): Louis Coleman-R, Jeremy Jeffress-R

Reassigned to Minor League Camp (4): Tommy Hottovy-L, Francisely Bueno-L, Max Ramirez-C, Kevin Kouzmanoff-3B

This flurry of moves leaves the Royals with 26 healthy players in camp. But you can only break Spring Training with 25 players on your active roster, so one guy has to go. And that man is…

Sean O’Sullivan.

SOS is out of minor league options. So in order for the Royals to rid him for good, they’ll have to place him on waivers, meaning any other team can claim him for themselves. O’Sullivan will be the starter for tonight’s game against the White Sox, basically auditioning for any team who might think about claiming him.

Surprises from Surprise

  • Chris Getz/Yuni combo over Johnny Giavotella
  • Kelvin Herrera over Louis Coleman

Paulino’s Elbow Paints a Clearer Picture

If you haven’t heard yet, another Royal has succumb to the injury bug: Felipe Paulino. The Royals have sent the righty to the 15-day DL with a sore right elbow/forearm. Although an injury is always a cause for concern, the shift of Paulino to the DL falls more on the side of precaution and seriousness; and the last thing you want is a pitcher who continues to throw despite a sore throwing arm (I’m talking to you, Joakim…).

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

And although this may seem like bad news for the time being, Paulino’s injury rids the fuzziness from the picture that is the Royals’ pitching staff.

With Flip^ out of the picture for the near future, both Luis Mendoza and Danny Duffy will open the season as the no. 4 and 5 pitchers, respectively. Before the injury, it was unclear as to who had the upper hand between Paulino, Mendoza, and Duffy. To me, Mendoza was the most obvious lock for the rotation out of the three. If Paulino won the 5th spot, Duffy would have most likely opened 2012 in Omaha. If Duffy won the spot, Paulino would have either been shifted to the bullpen or placed on waivers (which thankfully, for right now, isn’t the case).

^Im introducing this as Felipe’s nickname, btw. It’s mine. I was the first.

The injury also helps the Royals balance out their rotation in the sense of lefties and righties.

1. Bruce Chen LHP

2. Luke Hochevar RHP

3. Jonathan Sanchez LHP

4. Luis Mendoza RHP

5. Danny Duffy LHP

Balancing lefties and righties in your rotation may be arbitrary to some, but to deeper baseball minds, it’s an advantage that some teams don’t have the priviledge to take advantage of. For any given series, Royals’ opponents won’t most likely see a starter throwing from the same side as the day before (unless it’s back-toback lefties), meaning they’ll have to play more of a guessing game with their lineup rather than just using practically the same lineup for the entire series.

Not only does Flip’s injury help the Royals settle their starting rotation, it also helps clear up some of the foggy spots in the bullpen.

Now, the Royals will most likely carry 12 pitchers. 5 of those spots are reserved for the starters, and of the 7 spots left for the ‘pen, 4 of them are most likely already locked up by righties Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, and Jonathan Broxton and lefty Jose Mijares. Meaning that as many as 6 guys are fighting for those last 3 spots: lefties Tim Collins, Everett Teaford, Tommy Hottovy – and righties Louis Coleman, Kelvin Herrera, and Jeremy Jeffress.

It orginally seemed that if Danny Duffy made the rotation, the loser between Mendoza and Paulino would shift to the bullpen and serve as the long reliever / spot starter. But with the current state of affairs, it appears that lefty Everett Teaford (who has looked great so far) has that position secured – allowing the Royals to lock in at least 2 lefties for the bullpen. I would guess that of the final 2 spots up for grabs, the Royals will take a long look at possibly keeping another lefty for the ‘pen; thus giving them even more flexability to work matchups appropriately.

I’m sure all of you are with me in wishing Flip a speedy recovery. But for right now, when it comes to the Royals, there is a little bit less weighing on my mind.

Dark Horses

Coming into Spring Training this year, the Royals were pretty much set at every position, with a few exceptions: 2B, CF, #4 and #5 starters, and LH relievers. That may seem like a lot of positions to have uncertainty at, but a lot of them are truly position battles. In the darker days of this franchise, it used to be there was one clear-cut favorite for a position. And no matter how he did, all he had to do was basically show up every day and the job was his. The Royals have some legitimate position battles going on this Spring, and within these battles there is always at least one dark horse.

Catchers

If Salvador Perez hadn’t torn his left meniscus the other day, there wouldn’t be any questions as to who the two catchers on the roster would be coming out of camp. But now that it’s looking like Sal could be out until at least mid-June or later, a few new names have come up as the potential #2 to Brayan Pena.

Cody Clark – 30

Photo Credit: John Sleezer

At 30 years young, Cody Clark is hardly a young up-and-comer. He’s spent the last 2 seasons at Triple A Omaha, primarily as the backup catcher. He isn’t a great hitter, but his numbers are pretty much what you’d expect from a catcher (career .254/.320/.394). And although his arm isn’t much to brag about (33% career caught stealing), his glove is major league quality (career .992 Fld%), never committing more than 6 E in one season.

He is making his first start of the Spring today against Cleveland, ahead of Max Ramirez.

Max Ramirez – 27

Photo Credit: John Sleezer

Max Ramirez is an offensive-first catcher, period. Once a top catching prospect for the Rangers, Max has done nothing but hit during his 8 seasons in the minors, with a line of .295/.389/.478 with 85 HR and 146 2B. His glove is average at best, and his arm is less than stellar (27% CS).

With Brayan Pena already on the roster, having two mostly offensive catchers might not make much sense. But if Max keeps hitting like he has been this Spring (7 for 15, 3 HR, 9 RBI) it’d be hard not to bring him on board.

Infield

Kevin Kouzmanoff – 30

Photo Credit: John Sleezer

Kouz has been playing well this Spring, going 3 for 10 in 7 games played, including a walk-off double. He’s always had the ability to hit if given the chance. But the real reasons he’s here are the fact that he’s a vacuum over at 3B, and he’s a right-handed hitting alternative to Mike Moustakas against tough lefties.

If the Royals keep Johnny Giavotella and Yuni Betancourt (thus sending Chris Getz to Triple A), Kouz has a real shot at breaking camp with the Royals as the backup corner infielder.

Clint Robinson – 27

Clint Robinson

He may be a AAAA player, but right now he’s just a guy who’s never gotten a real chance to show his stuff. Clint profiles as a DH/1B, mostly due to his size (6’5″ 235) and raw power. He won the hitter’s triple crown in 2010 in Double A(.335/.410/.625 29 HR, 98 RBI, 41 2B, 58:86 BB:K ratio, and almost replicated those numbers again last year in Triple A (.326/.399/.533 23 HR, 100 RBI, 35 2B, 58:86 BB:K ratio). If he had been in almost any other organization, there’s no doubt that Robinson would have made his Major League debut by now. But since he’s been blocked by Billy Butler, Eric Homser, and Kila Ka’aihue, he has yet to see an at-bat in KC.

If he wants to make the team out of Spring, he’ll need to log more innings at one of the corner OF spots and prove he isn’t enough of a defensive liability to offset his bat. He could be a great left-handed power bat coming off the bench for Ned in 2012.

Outfield

David Lough – 26

Photo Credit: Minda Haas

Lough does everything right. He hits, runs, and fields well, while occasionally flashing a little bit of power. He’s been compared to David DeJesus, except that he runs much better. He’s already hit 2 triples this Spring, and has logged significant innings at all 3 OF spots. Lough could very well supplant Mitch Maier as the 4th OFer on this roster.

Rotation

Luis Mendoza RHP – 28

Photo Credit: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

Without a doubt, Luis Mendoza has been the Royals’ most outstanding pitcher this Spring. He’s 3-0 in 10.2 IP with a 0.84 ERA, 11:1 K:BB ratio, .135 AVG against, and 0.56 WHIP. He seemed to get is act together last year in Omaha, and was called up to Kansas City to make two starts in September, going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 IP.

Mendoza is in an all out brawl with Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino for that 4th or 5th spot in the rotation. At this point, Mendoza is almost a near lock to make the team out of Spring Training. But  the question is whether he winds up as a part of the rotation or the bullpen.

Bullpen

Kelvin Herrera RHP – 22

Photo Credit: Chris Vleisides

After being converted from a starter to a reliever and pitching at almost every level in the organization last year, Herrera has an outside shot to start the season in KC. He’s got a true power arm, being able to hit the upper-90’s consistently. He currently sports a 1.50 ERA in 6 IP this Spring with 9 K to 2 BB and a .190 AVG against.

It might take an injury to one of Coleman, Holland, or Broxton for Herrera to make the 25-man roster this April, though anything can happen between now and then.

Tommy Hottovy LHP – 30

Tommy Hottovy

The hometown kid has been impressive in his short time as a Royal. He hasn’t surrendered a run in 4.2 IP thus far, giving up only 5 hits while striking out 5 and walking 0. Tommy has started games before earlier in his minor league career, though his TJ surgery probably put that part of his career in the rear view. But he is capable of going more than one or two innings.

Yost has stated that he wants more than just one lefty in the bullpen, and Tommy could be that guy given the fact that he could fill a number of bullpen roles (long reliever, middle reliever, situational lefty).

The 10 From the ‘Pen

In order to make this process a little easier on me (which didn’t really help at all), my reliever rankings are based on who I project could be potential 8th and/or 9th inning guys.

10. Tyler Sample RHP (Wilmington) age 22

As of right now, Tyler Sample is trying to work his way through the Royals’ system as a starter. After a good showing in 2009, he’s been dipping ever since; and 2011 was his worst season yet. He went 7-12 in 27 games (22 starts), averaging less than 6 innings per start, serving up a 5.25 ERA and 10.1 H/9.

Once a top 20 organizational prospect, control issues have caused Sample’s stock to fall a bit. His career 1.42 K:BB ratio (289:204 incase you were wondering) as a starter has lead me, along with fellow Royals blogger Landon Keefer at Royal Revival, to believe that Tyler would greatly benefit from a shift to the bullpen.

Sample has a huge frame, standing tall at 6’7″ and weighs in at a cool 245-250. Not many guys with similar frames find long-term success as a starter simply due to the fact that the size of a starter’s workload takes a bigger tole on bigger pitchers. So with Sample coming out of the bullpen, he’ll be able to hone in on just a few batters and really let his arm do the talking.

Grade: C+. Tyler is still young and learning how to pitch, so I’m sure he’ll get more reps as a starter. But if he begins to struggle early on this season, I fully expect the Royals to make the switch. He should start the season in Kane County.

9. Jeremy Jeffress RHP (Kansas City/Omaha/Northwest Arkansas) age 24

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America

I’ll admit that I was pretty excited to see Jeremy Jeffress’ name included in the Royals’ haul of the Zack Greinke trade. After all, the guy was a Top 50 prospect who could throw upwards of 100 mph and had the capabilities of one day being a part of the KC rotation. He had been racking up K after K in the Brewers system and had all the potential in the world.

But Jeffress came to the Royals with some baggage.

Back in 2007, he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana. But that wasn’t his first failed test. Apparently he had failed before, but the MLB doesn’t suspend first-time failures if they tested positive for marijuana. In June of 2009, Jeremy again failed a drug test, technically his third offense, and was served with a 100 game suspension. If he fails one more test, he will be banned for life, no questions asked.

Jeremy also suffers from another problem: control. Although he does have a career 10 K/9 in the minors, he also averages 5.7 BB/9. The ability to be consistent has been his kryptonite. He made the Royals bullpen out of Spring Training last season. But in 15.1 IP for the Royals, he gave up 11 BBs to 13 Ks, which averages out to 7.6 K/9 to 6.5 BB/9. He was then demoted to Omaha, and it didn’t get any prettier from there. He was sent to Omaha to be transitioned back into a starter, but only managed to get in 3 starts before being shifted back to the bullpen. His 7.12 ERA and 6.8 BB/9 in only 24 IP earned him another demotion; this time to NW Arkansas.

He was inserted into the Natural’s rotation, going 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in 31 IP (9 games 8 starts). Yet he still could not figure out the strike zone, and his BB numbers finally eclipsed his Ks (22 BB, 20 K). No doubt, a discouraging sign.

Grade: C-. Jeffress has the potential to grade as high as a B+ reliever in my opinion. He just has to somehow figure out what the hell is going on out there. Right now, he’s just a thrower. He wants to go to the mound and throw every single pitch at 99-100 mph, hoping he’ll gas every batter he faces. He needs to learn how to pitch, bottom line (very similar in stuff and inconsistencies to Edwin Jackson). Once he does that, he has the stuff of a potential closer. But until then, he’s just a guy moving in the wrong direction.

8. Brandon Sisk LHP (Northwest Arkansas/Omaha) age 25

Photo Credit: MiLB.com

Despite all of the famed lefties in the Royals’ glowing farm system, Brandon Sisk is the lone lefty on this list. Sisk split last season between AA NW Arkansas and AAA Omaha and put up fairly good numbers at both levels. In Arkansas, he had a 3.77 ERA in  28.2 IP with a 4:1 K:BB ratio and a 1.047 WHIP (BB+H/IP) (which is exactly what you would want out of any pitcher). He earned a promotion to Omaha and threw even better. In 32 IP, he had a 1.41 ERA, a WHIP of 1.0, and 2 Saves. His K:BB ratio struggled, as he had 30K’s to 16 BB’s (1.88:1 ratio).  But other than that, he had a solid season.

That solid season earned Sisk a non-roster invite to Spring Training 2012. He has an outside shot of making the Opening Day roster this season. I expect him to start the year in Omaha and could make his big league debut this summer.

Grade: C. He reminds me a lot of Jeremy Affeldt. He’ll never have a “true” role in the bullpen, meaning he could serve as sort of a Utility reliever.

7. Patrick Keating RHP (Northwest Arkansas) age 24

Photo Credit: Royal Revival

At 6’0″, 220 lbs., Patrick Keating is built like a stocky-power reliever a la Greg Holland. His fastball consistently sits in the mid-90’s and possesses an above-average slider- a great complimentary pitch that every reliever needs.

After being drafted by the Royals out of the U of Florida in 2009, Patrick has been used exclusively as a reliever. Keating had a solid 2010 campaign in Wilmington and NW Arkansas with 101 Ks in 71 IP and a 2.28 ERA, and has a minor league career average of 12.2 K/9 to 3.2 BB/9.

2011 was a rough season for Pat, as he got knocked around a bit in his first full season at the Double A level. In 38 IP, he had an ERA of 6.16 and a WHIP of 1.421. His strikeout numbers fell a bit to 10.4 K/9, but he was able to lower his number of free passes to 2.8 BB/9. He suffered a shoulder injury in mid-June which consequently lead to a stint on the DL. The injury no doubt had a role to play in Keating’s numbers last season.

Grade: C+. I think Keating, barring anymore injuries, could open up the season in Omaha. He looks the part of a serviceable major league reliever who could possibly come in late/close games (31 career saves). He’s been a K machine this far, so he has that going for him.

6. Louis Coleman RHP (Omaha/Kansas City) age 25

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Out off all of the rookies that made their Royals debut last season, Louis Coleman’s rookie season appears to be the one that is most commonly overlooked. In 59 2/3 innings in 48 appearances in 2011, he struck out 64 while walking 26, had an ERA of 2.87, and had the 5th best Inherited Runners Scored% in the MLB at 12.8%.

Coleman doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball. But given his sidearm angle, his slider is just vicious. His Swinging Strike rate was 22%, compared to the league average of 15%. Most of that can be contributed to Coleman’s extreme release point, as he’s able to hide the ball longer more than most pitchers and seems way too far in on right-handed hitters and way too far outside on left-handed hitters.

Grade: C+. Although I doubt Sweet Lou will ever become a closer, he has the ability to shutdown opposing hitters. Down the road he may be more of a specialist pitcher, entering the game in situations that call for a righty-righty matchup. But he shows a great ability to make hitters miss, and that can never be overlooked.

5. Yordano Ventura RHP (Kane County) age 20

Photo Credit: MiLB.com

Yordano Ventura is a 5’11”, 150 lbs. (when wet) starter right now in the Royals system. In his first full season as a starter in 2011, he made 19 starts, went 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA, giving up 82 hits in 84.1 innings pitched, with 88Ks and 24BBs. While this was no make or break season, given it was his first one as a full-time starter, I think Ventura is destined for a future in the bullpen.

Ventura is a max effort pitcher, often able to get his fastball in the 95-99 mph range. Given his body and delivery type, he would have an extremely hard time making it to the bigs as a starter. Being in the bullpen would allow him to pitch to his true style, dialing up fastballs for one inning 3-4 times a week, thus allowing his arm to last as long as it possibly can. He needs to develop a quality second pitch if he wants to move up quickly though.

Grade: C+. Ventura has drawn many comparisons to Pedro Martinez, given their similar size and arm strength. But odds are he’ll be a bullpen fixture sometime soon. If that does happen, he could be this year’s Kelvin Herrera.

4. Kelvin Herrera RHP (Wilmington/Northwest Arkansas/Omaha/Kansas City) age 22

Up until 2011, Herrera had been used exclusively as a starter and spent 3 straight seasons in Single A (2008-10). He was shifted to the bullpen this past season, and what a difference it made. He skyrocketed through the entire system, making stops at all of the Royals’ upper-level minor league teams, and eventually made it all the way to Kauffman for a few cups of coffee at the big league level.

Given his time as a starter, he has the ability to throw 3 pitches that are at or around the major league level, including a fastball that consistently flirts with 100 mph, an above average change-up, and a curveball that could one day be another plus-pitch.

Herrera will get a shot to make the Royals 25-man roster out of Spring Training as a middle-relief/set-up reliever.

Grade: B. It’s extremely hard to judge any reliever’s potential. But given how fast he rose through the Royals’ system, I have little doubt that he’ll be successful. He definitely has the stuff of a future closer.

3. Jonathan Broxton RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers/Albuquerque) age 27

Even though he’s only 27, it seems like Broxton has been around forever. The 6’4″, nearly 300 lbs. hurler had a rough 2011 season as a member of the Dodgers. He began the season as the closer for LA, but was placed on the DL due to pain in his right elbow. Before being placed on the DL in May, Brox racked up a 5.68 ERA and only 7 Saves. He made a few rehab starts in Triple-A before being shut down again. Hopeful to return to the team in September, Broxton tested his elbow by throwing from a mound. When it was clear his arm wasn’t ready, he was shutdown again for the remainder of the season and became a free agent after the season ended.

Brox has pretty decent career numbers thus far, compiling 84 Saves in 117 official chances (roughly 72% Saves converted) in 2+ seasons as the Dodgers full-time closer. Not a great conversion rate by any means. Just decent. But his career ERA of 3.19 is a plus, and along with that comes 503 K’s in 392 innings and the fact that he’s only given up 25 HRs in 7 pro seasons. Before 2011, it seemed like Broxton was in line for a big payday as he was heading into free agency for the first time, but his elbow derailed that dream for at least another season.

After a hunting trip with Ned Yost, Jeff Francoeur, and Jeff Foxworthy in his native Georgia, Broxton was convinced to sign a one-year, $4 mil. deal with the Royals. He’s in line to be a 7th/8th inning guy, along with Greg Holland, setting the table for Joakim Soria.

Grade: B. Broxton is a 2-time All-Star and a pure-power pitcher. His fastball has consistently sat in the upper-90’s throughout his career, but also possesses a power slider to complement it. This, to me, looks like a show-case season for Broxton, who’s looking to prove he can still effectively close games. If the Royals are out of contention by the trade deadline, expect to see him in a different uniform to end the season.

2. Greg Holland RHP (Omaha/Kansas City) age 26

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Greg Holland was one of the most effective relievers in all of baseball last season. Over 60 innings, Greg had an ERA of 1.80, 74 K’s to 19 BB’s, and had an MLB best 6.1 Inherited Runners Scored % in his first full season in Kansas City.

Holland has been a K’s machine throughout his baseball career, so that number never caught anyone off guard. But the fact that he allowed just 37 hits in 60 innings (.175 AVG) and only 2 of 33 inherited runners to score leads many to believe, myself included, that the Royals could shift him into the Closer role if something were to happen to Soria (converted 4 of 6 save opportunities and recorded 18 holds in 2011).

Grade: B. Holland definitely has closer potential, given his ability to locate his high-90’s fastball, an 11.1 K/9 ratio, and the ice water that apparently runs through his veins.

1. Joakim Soria RHP (Kansas City) age 27

Joakim Soria has been arguably one of the best Royals relievers of the last 20 years outside of Jeff Montgomery and the late Dan Quisenberry. Over his 5 year career, Soria has compiled a 13-15 record, 160 Saves, a 2.40 ERA, and 341 K’s (3.92:1 K:BB ratio) in 315 Innings Pitched.

Although he has been a top-tier, lights out closer thus far in his career, 2011 was undoubtedly his worst season to date. He blew 5 of his first 12 save opportunities, and was eventually replaced by Aaron Crow as the team’s closer for a few games. During that stretch however, the Royals didn’t play a single game that required a closer, and Soria resumed his familiar role about a week later.

There have been rumors and talk about the Royals shifting Soria to the rotation ever since he came to KC. Soria definitely has the skill-set to be a quality starter, as he possess 3 plus-picthes (FB, Curve, Change) and the cool, calm, and collected demeanor necessary to be a starter. Just after he was selected by the Royals in the Rule V draft in 2006, he threw a perfect game in the Winter League. So it goes without saying, he’s more than capable of making the switch.

But for now, Joakim is the team’s closer for 2012 and beyond.

Grade: B+. If he didn’t basically implode last season, I would have given him at least an A-. Given the shelf life of closers anymore and how they’re not as big of a commodity as they once were, Soria needs to come back in a big way in 2012 and re-prove himself to the Royals Faithful.

Other names to watch: Tim Collins, Ryan Verdugo, Kendal Volz, Blaine Hardy, Buddy Baumann, Michel Mariot, Bryan Paukovitz