Archive for February, 2011

Royals Win, Royals Win! And Yeah, It Still Means Nothing

February 28, 2011 1 comment

First of all, how great is it to have baseball to listen to on the radio again? Even if it was just a Spring Training game and it wasn’t Denny Matthews, the sounds of baseball were back permeating my house, and that’s something that just can’t be replicated. It also feels good that the Royals won. In spite of the fact that it doesn’t matter one lick, it was nice to see the top of the lineup do their thing to get on base and Butler to drive them home in the first. It was nice to see Jeff Francouer absolutely launch a homer to left. It was nice to see both Kyle Davies and Bruce Chen pitch well. It doesn’t mean much of anything, but it was certainly nice.

A couple of things that stuck out to me both involved the shortstop position. There were two plays in particular where Ryan and Steve thought a ball was going to be a base hit up the middle, but Escobar snagged the grounder and threw the runner out. My question here is whether they were really nice plays by Escobar or if the announcers have just grown used to Betancourt having absolutely no range. Either way, it’ll be really nice to see a grounder go up the middle and past the pitcher’s mound and not resign myself to knowing it will be a hit to center. Ahh, if he can just hit a little then I have a feeling Escobar will be a truly special player. I think he’s got some pop in that bat based on his size and his swing.

We also got a chance to see/hear Moustakas and Hosmer. Neither had a game to remember, but it was really nice to hear their names called and give them at bats. I talked a few days ago about how it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to start at the same time, and I still believe that. However, it would be pretty cool if they both came up together and started on the same day. I just want to make sure people’s expectations for Moustakas are tempered pretty well as I just have a feeling he’ll struggle initially. I think Hosmer comes up and rakes from day one, but Moustakas might need a little time. I hope I’m wrong, but I see a rough first 20-25 games.

I read a few tweets and it was mentioned on the radio what an interesting vision a Royals Spring Training game is this year. Yesterday’s game in particular was a great example of that. Rangers fans were there to see the starters, the team that made it to the World Series last season. When they were gone by the fifth or sixth inning, so were many of the Rangers fans. To a Royals fan, though, the fifth and sixth inning is when it gets interesting. It’s when Johnny Giavotella replaces Chris Getz. It’s when Mike Moustakas replaces Mike Aviles. It’s when Eric Hosmer replaces Billy Butler and so on and so forth. There was a decidedly Royals tilt toward the end of the game.

There’s not much else going on in the world of the Royals today, so this is a pretty short post. I have an announcement coming up this week about the future of Royals Zone, and it’s pretty exciting for the readers. This week I’ll be profiling some of the new players acquired this off-season including Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. It’s just great to see Royals baseball being played again.


Predicting the Opening Day Roster

February 25, 2011 7 comments

As games are upon us now, I thought I’d take the opportunity to predict my 25 man roster for the team that will break camp and head to Kansas City on March 31. I don’t typically get a ton of comments, but if you’d like to put your prediction in, we can see who gets the closest. I think I’ve talked about this before that there aren’t as many competitions in camp as you’d expect from a bad team. Obviously that’s because a lot of these players are either placeholders until the prospects are ready or they’re young guys who are part of the future and are just waiting for the future to get here.

This is the spot where I think I’m more hopeful than knowledgeable. There’s every chance that Jason Kendall makes a miraculous recovery and is starting on Opening Day. That would be terrible. I’d kindly ask Kendall to rewind himself if this is the case. I think we see the expected duo of Brayan Pena and Lucas May to start the year. It’ll be interesting to see who gets to keep their job when the great leader returns.

First base/Designated Hitter
These two positions are the easy ones to predict. Barring any spring injuries, it’s going to be Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue. Butler’s a given. He’s got the track record and he’s now got the contract, so he’s a Royal for the foreseeable future. Ka’aihue needs to build on his solid September if he wants to keep his job beyond July when I think Hosmer will be ready. These two spots will be the most productive spots in the lineup all season long.

Second Base
Second base belongs to Chris Getz, as much as that pains me to say. He’s not much of a hitter. He’s really not much of a fielder, but he’s almost assuredly your Opening Day second baseman. There isn’t much to say here other than hope that he gets replaced by Aviles when Moustakas replaces Aviles.

Third Base
This spot is being kept warm for a couple of months by Mike Aviles. After a rocky 2010, I think Aviles is ready to get back to being a very productive member of the lineup. I’m not sure that we’ll ever see him hit .325 and slug .480 again, but he’s a solid bet to put up a .775 OPS or so with double digit home run power and some doubles. His time on the Royals as a starter is probably about out, so 2011 is a big year for his career. Come June, Mike Moustakas will be up and as much as I love Aviles, he just can’t block one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Only one other spot provides less competition in camp than shortstop which belongs to Alcides Escobar. That spot is Billy Butler’s. Escobar was probably the focal point of the Greinke trade (though I think Odorizzi is the real gem here), so the Royals will give him every chance to validate Baseball America’s ranking of him as a top prospect prior to last season and to wipe away the tough year he had last season. I’d be pleased with a .330 OBP and great defense. Hopefully this is the answer at shortstop for years to come.

Left Field
The left fielder for the Royals is pretty well decided, but the reason it’s in some doubt is that I think there’s a chance for a spring trade. As it stands right now, though, Alex Gordon is on the team and he’s the Opening Day left fielder. I’m very excited to see this rebuilt swing we’ve been hearing about and see if he can regain the value he showed in 2008 at least. There’s a ton of talent here, probably more than anyone else on the team. If it can be unlocked, it’ll be like found money for the Royals at this point.

Center Field
Sadly, this position is almost assuredly going to Melky Cabrera. I’ve gotten further and further down on this signing as time has passed. He’s just a bad baseball player. At one time he was highly regarded, so hopefully he can regain some of that luster and turn in a good season and become a solid trade chip. Remember, if he rebounds and the Royals trade him, whatever team acquires him has his rights for next year as well.

Right Field
Jeff Francouer is your man out here. I still don’t like the signing, but I’m over it. It’s one year for a low base rate salary. If he’s terrible, then he’s terrible. If he’s great and has figured it out a little bit, then he’s a good trade candidate or he’s young enough to be a part of this team in the coming years. I find it hard to get too worked up about him.

I’ve already mentioned Lucas May in the catcher section as he think he and Pena will probably share the starts pretty evenly. Wilson Betemit is a lock to make this team as well as sort of a super utility guy who can’t play middle infield. He can give middle infielders a day off by playing third and having Aviles shift to a middle infield position. I think we’ll see both Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco make the team as outfield reserves, though they’re similar players, so that seems a little pointless. Lorenzo Cain is on the outside looking in for now, but will be up at the first injury or sign of struggle from Cabrera.

Starting Pitchers
The weakest point of the team is the starting staff. It’ll be led by Luke Hochevar who needs a big year. In some order after him, I’m pretty sure we’ll see Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro. There’s nothing terribly inspiring about this group, but with the exception of Chen, they all have some upside, so there’s at least that chance they’ll surprise.

Two locks in the bullpen are obviously Joakim Soria and Robinson Tejeda. Everything else is a pure guess at this point. I feel pretty confident in Tim Collins, Greg Holland and Blake Wood. I get the feeling that Danny Duffy makes the team out of the bullpen as well just based on a few things that we’ve heard from Bob McClure. The last spot in the bullpen is a tough decision, so I’ll go with what I hope we see and pick Louis Coleman for that spot. The bullpen will be young, they’ll throw hard and a few of them will even throw strikes.

So that’s my team. Put yours in the comments and then in a month or so we can laugh at how far off we all were.

Royals Invade BA’s Top 100

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Validation is something we all crave whether you want to admit it or not. The Royals as an organization haven’t been validated too often over the years. Since Dayton Moore took over, validation has been much more common than at any other time in the 12 or 13 years prior to his arrival. It began with his first big free agent signing, Gil Meche, when he actually turned out to be a top of the rotation type pitcher. It continued when he was able to get Joakim Soria signed and then Zack Greinke and then Billy Butler. This off-season, though, has been an entire winter of validation for Dayton Moore and the Royals organization. As a fan of the team for my entire life, I’d say it’s about time.

Yesterday, Baseball America released their list of the top 100 prospects in baseball and a record nine Royals made the cut. In theory, if every team had equal representation they would have three or four representatives each. I’ll give the Royals number again – NINE. That’s insane. When the Royals were named the number one system in baseball it seemed a bit anticlimactic because we had expected it. It was a foregone conclusion since about August. This, though, was different. We knew the Royals would have at least seven players on the list and we knew that it would likely be more than that, but nobody had given a definitive answer prior to yesterday who would be where on the list. In a blog post on Baseball America’s site, they gave each player ranked points based on their ranking where the top player is worth 100 and the 100th player is worth 1. The Royals total number of points exceeded that of the second best farm system they’ve ranked by more than 20 points.

The thing I found most interesting about the list is that Baseball America seemed to have as much trouble separating various players as we have. Three Royals round out the top ten with Eric Hosmer in the eighth spot, Mike Moustakas in the ninth spot and Wil Myers tenth. Think about that for a second. Three Royals are among the top ten prospects in all of baseball. Even the harshest critics and the most pessimistic fans have to admit that there’s never been this much high-end talent in the system before. Then toward the bottom of the top 20 we have Mike Montgomery and John Lamb, checking in at 18th and 19th respectively. Yep, BA has just as much trouble figuring out who belongs where as we all do.

It’s awhile longer before we get to our next entry on the list, and it’s really the first surprise I saw among rankings of the Royals. Christian Colon checks in on the list at number 51, which is probably about 20-25 spots higher than I had expected. You should know by now that I’m a big fan of Christian Colon, but to have him that high was a bit of a shock to me. He’s listed as a shortstop, which is where the Royals say he will play in 2011, but I wonder if his ranking would be a bit lower if he had already been moved to second base. Either way, it was a nice surprise. They get back to grouping Royals together as Danny Duffy and Jake Odorizzi hold spots 68 and 69 respectively.

The other surprise I saw was that Chris Dwyer was ranked at 83. I’m not sure anybody would have blinked if he and Colon had been flipped. The list is a combination of upside, proximity to the majors and bust potential, so I can see why Dwyer was ranked as low as he was. Aside from the injury concern of Montgomery, I think Dwyer is the most likely to flop in the Majors because of his control. Also, it’s silly to nitpick individual rankings, though I did find this somewhat interesting.

The other interesting point that I took from these rankings was the ETA listed for the players. Every Royal on the list but Jake Odorizzi was listed with an ETA of 2011 or 2012. And to be fair, Mike Moustakas was the only Royal listed as 2011. Now, I think that a couple of these players will make their debuts in 2011. Based on some things that Bob McClure has said about Mike Montgomery, I don’t think he’ll spend too much time in the minors if he’s healthy and performing well. He mentioned on Petro’s show on 810 the other day that Montgomery has both the best stuff and the best fastball in camp. A tall lefty with good stuff and a hard fastball plays in the Majors and plays well.

The funny thing about prospect ratings is that they mean nothing. Ultimately, number one prospects sometimes don’t make it and guys who were complete afterthoughts for the list become superstars. It’s similar to the draft but with a little more information on hand to make decisions. As scouting and statistical analysis gets more sophisticated, these lists become a bit more of a science, but the human element has to be taken into account on every single one of these players. There wasn’t a scout in the world who thought Alex Gordon wouldn’t have appeared in an All-Star game by now. Instead he’s fighting for his Major League life this season. So while all the validation is nice, it isn’t the final step. These prospects need to bring winning baseball back to Kansas City or else it means nothing at all. I’m pretty confident that with this much talent, winning will be back very soon.

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

February 23, 2011 1 comment

I talked a few weeks ago about ways the Royals can compete in 2011. I think I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a whole lot that could happen to make the Royals a playoff contender but a few breaks their way could make them a .500 team. I don’t think that’s likely, but all the things it would take are within the realm of possibility if only barely. I’ve also talked a lot about how I don’t think the 2011 Royals will be that bad. Yes, they will lose some games. Yes, there will be games where they will be embarrassed and fewer games where they will do the embarrassing. But I don’t think they’ll be historically awful. I think there will be eight teams worse than the Royals in 2011. That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement of the upcoming season, but it’s better than some prognosticators are indicating and expecting.

What if I’m dead wrong about that, though? What if the Royals are terrible in 2011? This post is about how that would happen and what ingredients it would take to turn the Royals from a team I think will win between 70 and 75 games to a team that wins 55-60. This is probably the last bit of pessimism you’ll read from this blog for awhile as spring brings optimism and stories about players in the best shape of their lives and guys who have added 15 extra pounds of muscle that they think will help their warning track shots go over the fence. And before you get too upset that I’m thinking in these terms, it’s not exactly a long shot that this season absolutely blows up on the Royals and they get the top pick in the draft…again a year too late.

If pitching and defense win championships, then it follows that without pitching and defense you better have an outstanding offense in order to compete. Without an outstanding offense, bad pitching and bad defense can be a death knell for teams. We’ll start there because there is potential on this pitching staff to be among the worst ever. I feel like I’m in the minority, but I feel like Luke Hochevar is going to break out in 2011, but if he doesn’t that spells very bad news for the Royals. Like it or not, Luke is the leader of the Royals starting staff and him not taking that step forward that I expect will cause huge ripple effects in the rotation. Beyond Hochevar, there are no sure things at all. Jeff Francis used to be a very good pitcher, and now he’s coming back from an injury. Bruce Chen has had one good year. Kyle Davies has never harnessed his stuff that Bob McClure calls the best on the team. And Vin Mazzaro may be a fantastic number three starter or he may be a product of that spacious park and great defense in Oakland. This is the part of the equation that’s the easiest to imagine. Even if the Royals win 80 games in 2011, their rotation will likely be their downfall.

Moving to the bullpen, it’s a little harder to predict a collapse because of the talent that will be out there, but it’s not impossible. Any idea of a bad bullpen has to start with the premise that Joakim Soria gets injured and misses significant time. If that happens, then all bets are off for the Royals. His supporting cast has a chance to be great, but in their role as supporting cast. There might be some younger guys who could step into the closer role eventually, but putting a rookie there is a bit scary. Even with Joakim Soria, the Royals had Octavio Dotel in the role in order to allow Soria to get acclimated to the Majors. As it turned out, he didn’t need it, but he’s a special case. To imagine the rest of the bullpen collapsing around Soria is not difficult. Relievers vary from year to year and with so many young players having to deal with the pressure of replacing Soria, the bullpen could very easily falter. The only other veteran I foresee in the bullpen is Robinson Tejeda, and while he can be flat out dominant at times, we all know he’s prone to bouts of ineffectiveness.

Offensively, I think the Royals will actually be about average, but they have huge bust potential as a unit. Let’s start off with the catching position. The worst possible thing that can happen here is if Jason Kendall actually is healthy to start the season there. If he’s on the roster from Opening Day, forget good numbers from behind the dish. The first base/designated hitter position is probably the best bet to produce, so an injury here to Butler is probably the only way we’re going to see below average production from his spot in the lineup. Kila Ka’aihue is another story. While I think he’s going to be great, there’s every chance that he hits around .220/.310/.390 which just doesn’t play from either first base or DH. He’s unproven, so it’s a very real possibility that this could occur. At second base, I don’t have a ton of confidence in Chris Getz, so that explains itself. At shortstop, Alcides Escobar had a very rough season offensively with the Brewers in 2010. If that line repeats itself in 2011 with an OBP under .300 the Royals will have somehow replaced Yuniesky Betancourt with someone worse offensively.  At third, we have Mike Aviles and Mike Moustakas. Aviles spent the better part of three months last year hitting for absolutely zero power. While he maintained a nice batting average, the Royals need him to be much better than that, and there’s always the chance that he won’t be. When Moustakas comes up, I think there’s a real chance he has a very rough go of it for a few months before adjusting to be the great player we all think he will be.

In the outfield, it’s not hard to imagine terrible numbers out there. Alex Gordon has seemingly been getting worse, and the retooling of a player’s swing is often a last resort. If this experiment doesn’t work for him, there’s every chance that he becomes a poor man’s Mark Teahen. That’s not good. In center, it looks increasingly likely that Melky Cabrera will be out there at the start of the season. Enough said. Right field is where Jeff Francouer will patrol. If we get the Francouer who has been masquerading as a Major League player for the last few seasons, well we’ll be longing for the offensive prowess of Jose Guillen by May.

There’s hope on the way, but this season could be an absolute disaster. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it’s not that far out of the realm of possibility. More than likely, this team is just bad rather than horrifically, historically putrid, but you never know. The thing that concerns me even from an optimistic standpoint is that rotation. It’s not hard to imagine that thing absolutely falling apart. The key, though, is for the Royals to take their lumps in 2011 and not rush any of the pitching prospects because they need to be handled incredibly carefully as they are the true future of winning in Kansas City. Okay, pessimism is out of the way. Time to psych myself up to believe the Royals can win the division.


Just a quick note for our friend, Joakim Soria. He’s looking for a new nickname. At first glance, that seems a bit narcissistic, but it does make quite a bit of sense. With all the violence going on in Mexico right now, the name Mexicutioner denotes something that Soria doesn’t want to be part of. I’ve heard some good suggestions, and my inclination is that if he’s unhappy with his nickname (for excellent reasons) that he doesn’t need one. He’s that good. Just something to think about.

Clearing Up A Potential Logjam

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

When the Royals drafted Eric Hosmer in the first round of the 2008 draft, they drafted him with an eye obviously on the future. At the time, I think they were looking to probably 2012, maybe as late as 2013, but far enough down the road that they couldn’t worry about who might be ahead of him at that time. He was one of the highest upside high school bats available at a position that produces more sure things than the others, so it was the smart draft choice. Obviously after a fantastic 2010 season that re-established Hosmer as one of baseball’s very best prospects, the decision has seemingly been vindicated. Now, though, the timetable has moved up and there’s serious talk of Hosmer being ready for the Majors in 2011. I talked about this a few days ago when I mentioned that Yost practically guaranteed that both Moustakas and Hosmer would be Major Leaguers this year.

The good problem that the Royals have is that they might have too many bodies for one or two places. As it stands right now, the Opening Day first base/designated hitter combination is Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue. We all know about both of them, and we all know that Billy is a legitimate Major League bat and that he just signed that team friendly contract extension. We also know that Kila Ka’aihue has put up video game numbers in the minors in two of the past three seasons and really needs a shot in the Majors. His progress and playing time is secondary, though, to Hosmer. So when Hosmer is ready, the odds are pretty good that Kila has to step aside in some fashion.

So the question is what the Royals will do when that time comes, apparently later on in the 2011 season. This is exactly why the Royals needed to give Kila Ka’aihue a shot to be the everyday first baseman or DH or some combination of that in 2009 rather than trading a viable bullpen arm for Mike Jacobs. As a bit of a sidebar, it’s moves like that particular one that will always leave me a little bit leery of Dayton Moore as a championship general manager no matter how many outstanding moves he makes or if he is able to lead the Royals to a championship. Had the Royals given Ka’aihue that shot, he’d be entering his third season or would have flamed out and there would be no problem at all. They’d know exactly what they had and wouldn’t have to work off minor league statistics plus a few months in the Majors to determine what to do with him. Instead, that’s all they have and come Hosmer time the Royals and other teams will only have about 500 at bats worth of data on Ka’aihue.

We can be pretty confident that whenever Hosmer is ready, he will be in the Majors and somebody has to go. In spite of the big contract just signed by Butler, Hosmer may even precedence over him. So when Hosmer is ready for the big time, one of those two must go. The odds are pretty good that Ka’aihue will be the one to go so we’ll focus mostly on those chances, but let’s start with the Butler options to get them out of the way. The only thing to do with Butler if he is being replaced is to trade him. I think, from the right team, the Royals could get a fairly decent haul for him. A team like the Nationals might be a good fit for Butler as they are on the search for a long-term option at first base. This is not a move I’d advocate, but if they did decide to trade Butler I’d expect a top five prospect, a top 15 prospect and a solid bullpen arm in return. Between his production and the contract he has, he’s worth a lot. I shudder at the thought of trading him, though, because it’s important to have veteran, proven bats rather than forcing young players to have to shoulder the load.

So if Butler isn’t getting traded, that leaves something to be done with Kila. Obviously the preference is to trade him, so the Royals have to hope that he produces a big first half so they’re not trading him for peanuts. Ka’aihue’s trade value is pretty low, and I’m not sure how much that will change regardless of his performance in the first half of 2011. Based on his projections, I think most teams would be wary of a severe drop off in production within the next two or three years. A lot of people have compared Ka’aihue to Travis Hafner, and he fell off a cliff pretty quickly in his career. Now, a portion of that was aided by injury, but I just don’t think he was going to age well regardless, and I don’t think Ka’aihue is too different. Using Hafner as an example, the Indians traded Einar Diaz to the Rangers for him. Since Ka’aihue would be more established at the time of his trade, I don’t think the Royals would get swindled like that, but would not be able to expect much more than a bottom of the top 15 type prospect, and even that might be asking a little too much. A reliever prospect and a flyer might be what to expect for him, but sometimes those pan out.

The point is that Hosmer waits for nobody. Sure, if he has a down year in the minors, he probably won’t be up except for maybe a cup of coffee in September. Or if Kila hits .380/.520/.750, Hosmer will have to wait, but the odds of the latter happening are pretty slim and the odds of the former happening are not as slim, but still unlikely. Best case scenario for Royals fans is that Kila hits up to his PECOTA projects, gets traded for a modest haul and the flyer prospect in the deal becomes someone usable, someone like Ben Zobrist who the Rays got for Aubrey Huff a few years back. Still, though, too much talent? It’s a nice problem to have.

Second Base Job is Up for Grabs…Sort of

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

This isn’t exactly news, but it looks like the Royals have decided that the second base job is Chris Getz’s to lose in spring training. It’s kind of an interesting battle because if Chris Getz does not win the second base job he’s more than likely to be replaced by Mike Aviles. Of course, he and Mike Aviles aren’t in direct competition. As things are set up right now, Getz will play second while Mike Aviles will play third. If, however, Getz does not hit enough to keep the second base job, Aviles will play there. So technically, Getz is battling guys like Wilson Betemit and Pedro Feliz. Both have their flaws and neither are the defensive players that Chris Getz is, though I think that the defense of Chris Getz is a bit overrated by the Royals organization.

I think I’ve talked before about how I think there should be one more option for the second base job. I’m not sure if he’s ready, but I’d certainly give Johnny Giavotella the opportunity to win the job for a few reasons. One, I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Chris Getz is not the future at second base for the Royals. Two, Giavotella may be forced off second sometime in the near future by Christian Colon if and when the Royals ever decide to move him from shortstop. And finally, three, he gives the Royals a lot of the attributes that they are going to need to be successful. Offensively, I see Giavotella as sort of a Chuck Knoblauch type player without the stolen base efficiency. He gets on base at a high rate, has some pop in his bat and can run. The difference between him and Knoblauch is that Knoblauch was very good defensively until he inexplicably couldn’t throw anymore.

I have no basis for this, but I feel like Giavotella is the type of player who maybe doesn’t need a ton of seasoning. I also get the feeling that his peak is going to be a little shorter than most players, so the time is now to get the most value out of him. Similarly built player like Marcus Giles stopped being effective second baseman pretty early on in their careers after having some good seasons. Even Knoblauch fell off a cliff pretty quickly, though I think a large part of that was due to his defensive issues messing with his head. Still, 2011 might be the time to find out what the Royals have. Personally, I think he has a chance to be a fantastic leadoff hitter in the David DeJesus mold but with more speed. I’d love to see him get a chance.

The other options are the third base option to move Aviles over to second who I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Like I said, both have their warts. Let’s start with the more known quantity in Wilson Betemit. We saw what he could do offensively during the 2010 season when he put up a .889 OPS and showed why he was a top ranked prospect when he was much younger with the Braves. Defensively, though, he was pretty awful. Playing next to Alcides Escobar will help mask his defensive problems, but he’s still not much of a defender at third base. Plus, Ned Yost even came out and said last year that playing every day caused some problems for Betemit with his legs, so the Royals were going to try to keep him off the field a little more often which leaves the super utility role as the best spot for Betemit.

That doesn’t even take into account the fact that Betemit might not even be better than Aviles offensively, and it’s a pretty darn safe bet that he’s not going to be better defensively. Still, though, you have to wonder if replacing the incredibly weak bat of Chris Getz with the stronger bat of Wilson Betemit will wipe out whatever defensive you lose. My guess is yes, but that’s more because of the aforementioned reason of Escobar’s range replacing Betancourt’s than anything else because a regression is coming from Betemit. I still think he can hit .275/.350/.450, but that’s a far cry from his 2010 season.

The other option is about the least exciting option any team can have for any single position and that’s Pedro Feliz. Yes, that same Pedro Feliz who has had two average offensive seasons and a lot of well below average seasons. It used to be that his glove could carry his bat which at least had some pop in it, but even that has begun to decline. For awhile, Feliz was good enough at third base that he could be put at shortstop and actually look pretty solid there to the point that some thought he should be moved there because his offense just wasn’t good enough for the corner. He’s just on a piddly minor league contract that will probably amount to nothing, but it’s a little concerning that Feliz is the guy Dayton Moore picked as insurance against injuries. That is another topic entirely, but let’s just hope for now that Feliz doesn’t win the third base job out of spring training. At least Getz has some upside. Feliz is 36 and getting worse by the minute.

I do think it’s a little strange that the Royals are essentially handing second base to Chris Getz, but I can’t say I care all that much about the decision. I mentioned above that the competition is not between Aviles and Getz in the spring, but once the season begins, it’s a head-to-head battle to determine who stays as a starter when Mike Moustakas comes to the big leagues. On that day, presumably in June, the Royals have to make a decision who will be their second baseman. I suppose there’s the possibility that the Royals determine Giavotella is ready then and just go full on youth in the infield, but I have to assume it’ll be one of Aviles or Getz. I guess that’s why I don’t care all that much about this with the exception of the Giavotella non-possibility. I think when it’s all said and done, Getz will get two months at second base, prove he can’t hit enough and we’ll eventually get Aviles over there for the bulk of the season.

Prospects Taking Center Stage in Spring Training

February 18, 2011 4 comments

We’re only on our fifth day of spring training and already the reports are glowing about some of the big guns in the Royals farm system. Manager Ned Yost stated the other day that both Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer would be in the majors in 2011. He didn’t say he thinks they would. He simply said they would. Now it seems as if Eric Hosmer will begin the season in AAA with Mike Moustakas. I think the common belief is that Hosmer is a more advanced hitter than Moustakas, partially because he’s a little bit more complete of a hitter and partly because he’s just a little more polished, so I wonder if the opportunity is there for him to come up around the same time as Moustakas.

On one hand I really like the idea of them coming up together. First of all, it would be a huge boost to the fan base to see two of the teams’ best prospects coming up around June, especially in the midst of what might be a pretty rough season. Fan approval is never a good reason to do anything involving players on the field, but if they’re both ready, then it serves a dual purpose. On the other hand, though, thinking about the big picture, these two coming up at the same time is not a very good idea. Moustakas will be in the big leagues this year. There’s very little question about that barring injury. If he comes up in June or so as expected, he’d be under Royals control through the 2017 season. If they can just wait to bring Hosmer up until mid-April of 2012, they’d have him through the 2018 season. To put it frankly it sucks that the Royals have to think like this, but they really do. If Hosmer and Moustakas are as good as expected, the Royals DO NOT want the two of them hitting free agency in the same year.

Regardless, all the optimism surrounding the young players in spring training is really giving me a spring in my step these days. The player who I’m hearing the most buzz about lately is Salvador Perez, the young catcher who finished last season in Wilmington. Yost has said that he believes he could fare decently in the Major Leagues this year, but just needs a little more professional baseball experience before they can bring him up. I believe I heard that they think he could be a candidate to start in the majors as soon as 2012. If that’s the case, and that’s also the organization’s belief, it makes even more sense why they shifted Wil Myers to the outfield now rather than give him another year behind the plate.

I’m pretty excited to see Perez in action as I have not yet. I assume he’ll be in AA Northwest Arkansas at some point this year, and I’m planning to take a trip down there, so I’ll hopefully get to see him then. It sounds like he has a pretty good approach at the plate, some pop and calls a fantastic game. The Royals don’t need a stud at catcher with what they’re building around the diamond, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I’d like to see Perez get some experience catching the big time prospects in AA this season as well so he can develop a rapport with them before they all make their assault on the big leagues.

I’ve mentioned that Bob Fescoe has been down in Surprise all week and has been tweeting pictures and reporting on the radio just some fantastic things about almost all the young guys. He mentioned two players in particular yesterday in Everett Teaford and Jeremy Jeffress. The reports he gave could not have excited me more. He said that everything Teaford threw moved and Jeffress was throwing 100 MPH gas and dropping a devastating curveball. There’s a lot of really fantastic arms in this camp, and I’m excited to see all of them pitch in the majors at some point hopefully.

Someone I’ve got on my radar for this season is Aaron Crow. I, like many other fans I’m sure, am extremely curious to see what exactly happened last year and what he can do this year to make it back to the top of the prospect heap. At this time last year, there was talk that Crow might make the team in some capacity. When he didn’t, he went to AA and was downright bad. He then was demoted to A ball where his peripheral statistics were fantastic, but the results still weren’t there. On a minor league stat sheet, I’m much more inclined to believe the peripherals, but I’m also very curious to see what happens this season. If he gets back on track, he’s a candidate to be the first of the starting pitching prospects to make it to the Majors as I don’t think the Royals will mess around with him in the minors for too long if he shows the promise they were hoping for.

I’m getting the feeling from all these reports that a lot of these big time prospects will be making their debuts this season, which slightly differs from my thought originally that it’d be a few of the bullpen guys, maybe one of the starters and Moustakas. A lot can happen over the next six weeks before the season starts, but everything we’re hearing right now is that these guys like fantastic and have an opportunity to make a quicker impact than originally planned. I maintain that the final record won’t be nearly as bad as some people think, but the season could be rough in patches. The thing to look forward to will be seeing the prospects getting their chance to show us why they’re a part of the number one system in all of baseball.