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Looking Ahead: 2011 Outfield

Last week we looked at the infield picture and I mentioned that how the infield looks in April would be very different than it’s appearance in September. The same is true with the outfield for the 2011 Royals, but for different reasons. The infield is loaded with prospects while the outfield isn’t…yet. If players like Wil Myers or even Eric Hosmer are shifted to the outfield, then the outfield picture gets crowded. Right now, it’s filled with guys who have potential, but aren’t quite there yet. Let’s start with the guys who will be here in April.

David DeJesus: David is easily the most consistent performer the Royals have had for years and was working on a career year before a thumb injury ended his season prematurely in July. I personally think that injury will turn out to be a blessing for the Royals as rumors were swirling that he was on the verge of being traded, probably to the Red Sox. I’m firmly in the keep DDJ camp for a number of reasons. One is that he’s a good player at a good price. Another is what I mentioned above. There’s just not much in the pipeline. He’s not blocking anybody.

What you’re getting with DeJesus is a completely known commodity. He’s going to hit around .300, he’s going to get on base at around a .365 clip and he’s going to hit a handful of homers and a bunch of doubles. Defensively, he’s going to be solid to fantastic wherever you put him. He won’t steal many bases, but he will be smart on the basepaths. He’s a perfect #2 hitter, but can masquerade as a #3 hitter on a team like the Royals. If he’s with the team next year, he’s probably the easiest player to project in the entire organization.

Now here comes the problem with the Royals outfield. DeJesus is the only sure thing. And he might be traded. Yikes.

Alex Gordon: I do think that Gordon has the best chance to be the team’s left fielder next year and he should be. But this is it, the very last chance. I’ve sung his praises and predicted a breakout, but it just hasn’t happened. Sure there have been reasons and his 2008 season was very encouraging, but the 2010 season was equally discouraging. The future third baseman couldn’t play there and was forced to move into the outfield. Credit I will give him is that he progressed quickly and turned into at least an average left fielder with room to grow into much more than that. That said, left field isn’t exactly at the top of the defensive spectrum.

I still like Gordon, but I’ve gone from believing he’ll finally put it together to hoping that he finally puts it together. He told us recently that he planned to dominate next year, and I really hope he does. I think, though, we need to temper expectations a bit. I just don’t see the .320/.430/.580 hitter we thought we’d see. I think a good season would be something like .275/.360/.500. That’s nice enough and would be a huge asset in the lineup. It’s just not what we thought.

Jarrod Dyson: If I had started this list a month ago, there wouldn’t have been a chance in the world that I’d have included Dyson on this list. You all know the story. He’s the 50th rounder who made it to the Majors on the strength of some pretty pedestrian minor league numbers. But he can run. Oh can he run. And he’s spectacular defensively with a fantastic arm. He actually flashed some extra base power in his September call-up and looked pretty decent with the bat. If he can hit .240/.320/.350 with his defense, then he’s a perfectly acceptable #9 hitter for this team next year. The future in center is someone from the Eibner/Robinson/Orlando trio, but at least early in 2011, I think center will belong to Dyson.

Gregor Blanco: I think the Royals carry four true outfielders which leaves the fourth outfielder job to Mitch Maier. I really like Mitch Maier and what he can do. His problem is that he’s not so great unless he’s playing daily and even then his numbers are simply mediocre. He’ll be 29 years old and is expendable. I hope he catches on and has an Aaron Guiel season. Right now, though, Blanco is the best choice to back up all three outfield positions (sort of, we’ll get to that). He plays solid defense and has a decent stick. If he played everyday, he’d probably put up better offensive numbers than Dyson but his defense just doesn’t match up.

The other pieces of the 2011 outfield will come from the 2011 infield. I think Wilson Betemit and Josh Fields will factor prominently in the outfield plans. It’d be tough to put both of them in the same outfield against a tough lefty because that would require putting DDJ in center with these two flanking him, but either of them can spell any outfielder. This is also a possible landing ground for either of these two once Moustakas comes up. If Gordon is still struggling by Memorial Day and Moose is ready to come up, Wilson Betemit may become the every day left fielder.

A timeline for some of the prospects:

David Lough – late July if/when DDJ is traded
Jordan Parraz – various points of the season as an injury replacement if needed
Paulo Orlando – September
Derrick Robinson – September

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