This is the first in a series about AL Central rivals and the race to be the tallest midget.
Offseason Comings and Goings
KC has been roundly ridiculed for their moves this offseason. The trade for Mike Jacobs drew perhaps the most strident criticism but the signing of Kyle Farnsworth to, ahem, bolster the bullpen and giving guaranteed money to Horacio Ramirez and Willie Bloomquist to do, I don’t know, whatever also caused consternation amongst the Royals faithful. For those of you scoring at home, that’s about $11M pissed away on what is effectively replacement level talent across the board.
I would be remiss, though, if I just criticized all of Dayton Moore’s moves. While I understand the argument some advance about acquisitions like Coco Crisp and Juan Cruz (why is a team like the Royals making what are probably marginal upgrades?), on the other hand, after a look around the division, I don’t think there’s any team that can’t legitimately think that a few breaks their way could mean contention. The problem is that the moves I outlined in the first paragraph are incongruent with the moves I’m discussing in this one.
Mark Grudzielanek is probably the only departure worth mentioning. Bobby Jenks’ nemesis Joey Gathright is gone, too, but his production was so horrid that he should be. They sent reliever Ramon Ramirez to Boston to get his replacement.
A Projected Lineup: Coco Crisp CF, Mike Aviles SS, David DeJesus LF, Jose Guillen RF, Mike Jacobs 1B, Billy Butler DH, Alex Gordon 3B, Alberto Callaspo 2B, Miguel Olivo C.
Bench and Spare Parts: Mark Teahen (UT), Willie Bloomquist (UT), John Buck (C), Ross Gload (1B), Ryan Shealy (1B), Tony Pena Jr. (UT), Luis Hernandez (UT), Shane Costa (OF).
Doesn’t take a genius to see this isn’t that good of an offense. They lacked both OBP and SLG last year and not all that much has changed, especially on the OBP front. But there are some positives. People are probably sick of hearing about how Butler and Gordon are going to breakout. Well, Butler is still just 23 and Gordon is 25. They still have significant upside potential. Aviles and his ridiculous BABIP are going to come back to earth but he’s still a solid SS. Callaspo is a good defender, a legit .300 hitter and draws enough walks to make his lack of power quite acceptable; however, he's having a poor spring and Bloomquist may be winning the second base job. Guillen and Jacobs are going to be drags on production, especially on the OBP front. Teahen, for better or worse, is going to get significant playing time all around the diamond. The problem is that they've got a bunch of adequate to bad offensive players. Gordon and Butler have a chance to change that but even sizeable breakouts from both probably wouldn't be enough to get this offense to respectability.
Rotation: Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister.
Bullpen and Spare Parts: Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, Ron Mahay, Jimmy Gobble, Horacio Ramirez, Robinson Tejada, Brandon Duckworth, Carlos Rosa, John Bale, Bruce Chen, Doug Waechter, Joel Peralta.
The one-two punch of Meche and Greinke is about as good as any as you’ll find in the division – and some will argue is the best. After that, Hochevar and Davies are entering their age 25 season and may be primed for a breakout into solid mid-rotation types. Brian Bannister, while earning accolades from seamheads for his heady approach to pitching, really isn’t that good – which is why he needs to take a heady approach. Top to bottom, they’re a solid rotation with some significant upside potential. Just like with most non-Red Sox teams, things get shaky in the spot start area with guys like Ramirez and Duckworth being Masset-ish.
The bullpen has at the end of it one of the best closers in the game in Soria. Cruz is a superb set-up man as he is a strikeout artist while limiting the home run. Mahay and Bale are solid lefty options, though the timing of Bale's return from thyroid surgery is uncertain. Relief should be a strength for the Royals.
Most of the Royals’ farm talent is a few years away from the big leagues. However, there are a couple guys who could provide reinforcements during the season that make a difference.
Kila Ka’aihue: One of the reasons the Mike Jacobs acquisition was so puzzling was that the Royals have a bunch of guys who could play 1B as good or better. While Kila would have been a stretch to make the team out of Spring Training, he shouldn’t need much more time. He had a break-out season in 2008 and most believe it to be a legit jump to a new performance level. He provides plus power and plate discipline but, like many "1Bs", lacks a glove or much speed.
Daniel Cortes: Had a good year at AA and should start the year at, or move up quickly to, AAA. The 22 year old likely needs a full year at Omaha to continue to develop his repertoire – his low to mid 90s fastball and curve are both good, but his change requires more work –but, if there is a rotation need midseason, he may be a better option than the replacement level schlock that will be hanging around the KC bullpen and upper minors.
The shortest of the midgets but with growth potential.