A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend (and then a whole bunch more!).
Offense: Jarrod Dyson-CF, Alex Gordon-LF, Billy Butler-DH, Eric Hosmer-1B, Jeff Francoeur-RF, Mike Moustakas-3B, Brayan Pena/Humberto Quintero-C, Chris Getz-2B, Alcides Escobar-SS. Bench: Johnny Giavotella-INF, Mitch Maier-OF.
Jarrod Dyson is one of those success stories announcers love telling you about. Dyson was a 50th round draft choice, which in all honesty, is pretty neat. Yeah, he's not going to be a player anyone really remembers ten years from now, but he beat the crap out of the odds that he wouldn't even make it this far. Good for him. He has absolutely no power and fairly poor plate discipline for such a slap hitter. But boy is he fast. Even if (read: when) he gets relegated back to being just a bench player, he'll make a decent enough 4th/5th outfielder on the cheap. Alex Gordon finally had the breakout year that made him look like the player the Royals thought he was when they drafted him second overall in 2005. Sure, he's not a third baseman anymore which depresses his value a bit, but he's a damn fine left fielder. While he likely won't hit around .300 again, an average near .280 with an OBP in the .360-.370 range is more than reasonable to expect. He's a legit 20-20 threat as well, and that's always fun to watch.
Billy Butler is one of the few professional baseball players I think Paul Konerko may actually be able to beat or at least tie in a foot race. Maybe. Butler isn't what you'd expect from a 6'1"/240 lbs DH. He's never hit more than 21 homeruns in a full season and has a career batting average just under .300. He's doing things all backwards! As you'd expect from someone hitting with such a high average, he doesn't strikeout very often. Country Breakfast is off to a good start this year, already having six homerun and nine doubles. Here's hoping we can slow that down. Eric Hosmer is the most recent young Royal to assume the mantle of "Savior of the Plains" in KC. He put up a pretty good rookie year, hitting 19 homeruns and stealing 11 bases in only 128 games as a 21-year-old (Jerrod Morris assures me this is the proper hyphenation). Hosmer is off to an awful start this year, which will happen when you're putting up a BABIP of .168. Expect a slightly above-average bat with double digit steals and maybe 20+ homeruns when the season is over. And then expect improvement every year after that for quite some time.
Jeff Francouer made everyone not named Dayton Moore look silly last season by putting up his best numbers since 2007. Whether you want to begrudgingly give the embattled Moore credit or mock him by saying even a blind squirrel finds an acorn is up to you (blind squirrel is the right answer). But was that the real Frenchy? Probably not. There is no way in hell in steals more than 20 bases again either. That is one weird outlier. Personally, I expect him to revert to 2009 Francouer. Mike Moustakas is my favorite of the young Royals hitters. Why? Because his nickname is Moose and he plays third base. Not everything is complicated with me. Moose has legit power, never recording an ISO under .174 in any full season in the minors. In all honesty, he should not be hitting sixth in this lineup and I don't expect him to be for too much longer. If he still is after the ASB, Ned Yost is as dumb as Trey Hillman. Moose doesn't walk though, which will ultimately hamper his value as a hitter.
There appears to be a bit of a platoon situation going on at catcher. If Quintero is behind the dish, run! If Pena is suited up, we should probably stay put. Neither can get on base worth a tinker's damn. Also, neither one has any power. Man, losing Salvador Perez to an injury really hurt. Colin's favorite second baseman is off to a pretty good start so far. The ever-so-grindy Chris Getz has no power, but good plate discipline and the speed of a lesser demigod (like one of Hermes' sons or something). He's good defensively and cheap, but always a major injury risk. When he gets hurt, Johnny Giavotella will take over for him. Alcides Escobar will probably not get much better with the bat, which is kind of disappointing. He easily has to speed to be a 30-40 SB threat, but will have trouble doing so until he manages to get his OBP regularly above .300. He has more power than Getz or Dyson, but we're talking half a dozen homers tops. He is very good defensively.
Bruce Chen is a weird man. The Panamanian had arguably his best season last year, despite being in what should have been the twilight of his career. Is he the next Jamie Moyer? Are you as tired of hearing media types ask who will be the next Jamie Moyer as I am? Cool. How he had that success is beyond me. He doesn't strike anyone out. He walks an okay amount of hitters. He doesn't keep the ball on the ground. What is your secret Cy Chen? He throws a four-seamer in the mid-80s, a cutter, a curveball and a changeup. Luke Hochevar is not good. I mean, you can have a guy like him in your rotation and be fine. But the Royals don't have enough other talent to make up for it. He doesn't have strikeout stuff and walks too many hitters, but somewhat survives by keeping the ball on the ground. His four-seamer sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He also chucks a cutter, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider.
Danny Duffy is one of many young southpaws the Royals have developed as of late. He's the only one deemed ready for the majors though, so here we are. He's only 23, so there are obviously going to be growing pains, as evidenced by his high BB/9. Once he trims those down though, it's going to get scary for hitters. Duffy has good strikeout stuff, highlighted by his mid-90s four-seamer from the left side. Sexy. He also throws a curveball, a changeup, and the occasional slider/cutter. Felipe Paulino is who Luke Hochevar aspires to be. Paulino isn't great by any means, but he's more than serviceable. He gets strikeouts, his command has been improving, and he keeps the ball on the ground. Felipe could be a valuable part of this rotation for a while, at least until the talent in the minors ripens. Paulino lives on a mid-90s four-seamer, a strong slider, and the odd smatterings of a curveball and a changeup.
But that's only four men, you say. Are you getting lazy again U-God? Nope. Jonathan Sanchez just went to the DL and they haven't announced who is replacing him yet. So deal with it, you big jerk. Jonathan Broxton, how far you have fallen. The once mighty Dodgers closer signed with the Royals as a set-up man this winter. Then Joakim Soria got a case of elbow exploditis, and he was thrown back in the closer role. Broxton has been on the decline the past two years, as he's been dealing with the always treacherous and confounding elbow pains. His strikeouts have gone down, which is not good for a guy who likes to walk hitters. Broxton essentially throws nothing but a mid-90s four-seamer and a biting slider.
Outlook: So much for it being their time. Until they actually get bodies to fill out an entire pitching staff (look how many innings that bullpen has pitched), the Royals won't actually be competing for a division crown. 11-7 season record.