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Every Day The Future Looks Brighter

From Jon Heyman’s Twitter
“there seems to be a consensus as to who’s the best #cactusleague team. Answer: the 2013 kansas city royals”

The accolades role in every single day for the young Royals as they make their impression on the Cactus League and Major League Baseball as a whole. They’re not for no good reason, either. The pitchers have struggled a bit here and there, but the offensive players have been pretty darn good in the first week of spring. If anything we’ve learned that of the Royals prospects, Eric Hosmer is probably the most ready. Talking about spring statistics is mostly an exercise in futility, but it’s hard not to notice Hosmer’s eye popping line of .462/.500/1.000. As usually, the sample size is way too small, but it’s still encouraging to see. Mike Moustakas will probably be in the Majors first, but the biggest immediate impact of the minor league bats will probably be Hosmer. His grand slam the other day was a thing of beauty, and I look forward to seeing him hit doubles and homers all over Kauffman Stadium for a long time to come.

The great thing about this spring is that the Royals are winning. For most teams, Spring Training is a time to work on issues, get in shape and generally just be more prepared for the regular season. For a team like the Royals, though, it’s actually sort of important to have success on the field as many of these young players need to taste Major League success even if it is in the form of being the best team in the Cactus League. A few people who aren’t so familiar with baseball have asked me why and how the Royals are doing so well this spring. My answer is simple, and it’s sort of a play on the old adage of “my dad can beat up your dad.” The Royals prospects are simply better than everybody else’s. It’s to the point that when the game moves into the middle innings, and both teams empty their bench and prospects get a lot of time that the Royals begin dominating games.

Is this a precursor to the future? Hopefully, but probably not. The difference is that an entire lineup can be made with players the Royals see as part of the future. Most teams do not have that luxury. While the Texas Rangers number five prospect pales in comparison to whichever one of the lefties you have in that spot, Josh Hamilton is still better than anybody on the Royals, Majors or minors, and he’ll still be there when the Royals prospects are getting their feet wet. Still, though, it’s awfully fun to have some success. To see the Royals at 7-3 is always fun, even when it’s just in the column that shows how they’ve done in the last ten games.

On a slightly disappointing note, the Royals have reassigned Johnny Giavotella to minor league camp. I think by rooting for him to make the roster on Opening Day, I may have convinced myself that it was an actual possibility. Based on the timing of his being reassigned, I have to assume it was never an option. I’m crushed, but I’ll get over it. In a very limited number of at bats this spring, we learned that Giavotella has gap power and an excellent eye at the plate. I really think he, one day, becomes a very good leadoff hitter on a good team. I’m not sure if the Royals have the space for him, but he seems like a guy to me who you find a spot for.  There’s been some talk of him possibly being able to play left field, which may be a position of need for the Royals down the road.

Of course, we talked about Hosmer earlier and how he’s going to be ready sooner than later. As you know he’s a first baseman. So is the player who just signed a long-term deal to stay in Kansas City, Billy Butler. And so is the Royals’ most potent bat in camp, Kila Ka’aihue. Kila’s hitting .389/.421/.889. I have to keep reminding myself of both the sample size and the environment when I get so excited about these numbers. I guess I just missed baseball and statistics so much that I can’t help myself. Either way, Ka’aihue is looking fantastic this spring in the batter’s box, which helps lends credence to my belief that the Royals offense will be at least average this season. It also means a potential logjam at first base in the much more near future than we had originally anticipated.

There’s no secret as to why the top six pitching staffs in the American League all train in Florida. It’s simply really hard to pitch, but there have been some nice performances by guys who are expected to make the team. Two of my least favorite pitchers on the spring training roster are Luis Mendoza and Sean O’Sullivan and they’ve both been fantastic in the early going. Of course, the team leader in innings pitched has five, so we should probably all temper our excitement for these two breaking out. Add in the fact that Joakim Soria has an ERA over 13 and it makes it difficult to trust too much in spring training statistics.

What we do know is that Everett Teaford has almost already pitched his way off the team with two terrible outings. He’s given up ten earned runs in 2.1 innings. His velocity is fine, and his stuff seems to be fine, but his command is shoddy and has been terribly ineffective. I’m beginning to wonder if he was the favorite for a bullpen spot coming into camp. Now, though, he’s ticketed to the minors again for at least the start of the 2011 season. As a lefty, he had an inherent advantage as Ned Yost wants two lefties in his pen. Tim Collins figures to be one, but the other one has not yet stepped up this spring. It’ll be interesting to see if the Royals use one of the many prospects in that role or if they do their traditional end of spring bullpen pick up.

Ahh, to be talking about baseball again. Positional battles and the whole works. It’s a beautiful thing. Opening Day is just 23 days away!

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