Welcome to the first Royals week in review/preview of the year. The title pretty much describes what you will expect to find, however I will be experimenting with the format throughout the season to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The idea is that if this was the only Royals related thing you read all week, it should provide you with everything you need to know. If there's anything you think is missing or would like to see, let me know in the comments
It's only the first week of a very long season, but the Royals are in first place right now. It's not likely going to last, but it gives us one more week to dream and keep our hopes alive. Crazier things have happened than this year's Royals contending for the division.
- White Sox -0.5
- Indians -1.5
- Tigers -1.5
- Twins -1.5
Game 1: Angels 4 – Royals 2 - Boxscore
Opening Day. Everything is over-analyzed on this day. The Royals lost, so everyone assumed they would never win again. The Royals faces Jered Weaver who is one of the best pitchers in the American League. The Royals never scored when he was in the game, but they were patient and ended up scoring two runs off of the Angels bullpen. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough as the Angels scored 4 runs against Royals starter Luke Hochevar.
Game 2: Angels 1 – Royals 2 - Boxscore
The Royals signed Jeff Francis as a free agent hoping he would pitch close to the way he did prior to his injuries. On this day, he did just that. He went 7 innings, walked 1, stuck out 4 and allowed one earned run. It was the only run the Angels scored as the Royals bullpen again kept their opponents scoreless. With the game tied at 1 in the bottom of the ninth, Kila Ka’aihue smashed a solo homerun to give the Royals their first win on the season.
Game 3: Angels 4 – Royals 5 - Boxscore
Royals starter Kyle Davies gave up four earned runs in 5.1 innings, but again the bullpen stopped the Angels offense in their tracks. The Royals scored a pair of runs on singles by Matt Treanor and Chris Getz in the bottom of the 8th to take their first lead of the game. Joakim Soria earned his first save of the year by shutting out the Angels in the 9th inning.
Game 4: Angels 9 – Royals 12 - Boxscore
On a very windy day, runs were plentiful. At the end of the 9th inning, the game was all knotted up at 9. In what was déjà vu all over again, Royal relievers Joakim Soria and Tim Collins combined for four scoreless innings and in the bottom of the 13th Matt Treanor again got a clutch hit. This time, it was a three-run homerun that sealed the series for the Royals.
Position Player of the week: Kila Ka'aihue
He hit .231/.412/.538 in 4 games with a game-winning walk-off homerun. He currently leads the team in walks with four.
Starting Pitcher of the week: Jeff Francis
He pitched seven innings, gave up one earned run while striking out four and walking only one.
Relief Pitcher of the week: Tim Collins
The diminutive rookie reliever threw four scoreless innings in which he struck out six and walked only one. Three of those four innings were in extra innings with extremely windy conditions.
On The Farm
None of the Minor Leagues have actually started their seasons yet, however two of the Royals affiliates faced off against each other in an exhibition game at Kauffman Stadium Saturday. The Omaha Stormchasers (AAA) beat the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) by a score of 4-1.
The Week To Come
The Royals will get their first taste of Division play when they face the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. If they have any hopes of holding onto first place for another week, winning three of the five games this week is a necessity. The Royals will send their Opening Day starter Luke Hochevar to the mound to face the White Sox to begin the week on Tuesday at 7:10.
4/5-4/6 vs Chicago White Sox
4/8-4/10 @ Detroit Tigers
Prior to the 2010 season, I had predicted that the starting rotation would easily be the most productive part of the Royals team. On that point, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Going back and trying to understand why I was so wrong is enlightening. Primarily it started with the fact that Zack Greinke was coming off one of the finest pitching performances Royals fans have ever seen. I also envisioned a step forward for Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies which didn’t come to fruition
I’m not making the same mistake in 2011 and I’m not going to sugar-coat it, this rotation will almost assuredly not be the strength of the team. They lost Zack Greinke in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers which alone would make that an easy prediction. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the rotation performed better than it did in 2010. I say this for two reasons:
Improved Defense – The defense in 2010 was abysmal. It was one of the worst collections of defensive players ever assembled. However, in 2011 the most egregious offenders should be upgraded. Aviles over Betemit at third. Ka’aihue over Butler at first. Escobar over Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop. It’s not a team filled with Gold Glovers, but it should boost the effectiveness of the entire pitching staff.
Prospects – The Royals pitching prospects are getting close to being ready for Major League action and if there are injuries or the team is somehow in contention near the All-Star Break it’s possible we could see some guys promoted. Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow and John Lamb all have a legitimate chance of starting some games for the Royals in 2011. Each would likely be an improvement today in the rotation, but they do need further work in the minors.
Let’s take a look at the rotation as it’s going to be on Opening Day.
Luke Hochevar – The 2006 first overall draft pick has been a disappointment in relation to his draft position. He’s a ground ball pitcher that didn’t really get that many ground balls in 2010. It’s possible he changed his approach or wasn’t exactly confident in the defense behind him. He’s probably best positioned to take advantage of an upgraded defense.
Jeff Francis – Acquired via free agency from the Colorado Rockies on a one year deal. Francis has had some injury problems and missed the entire 2009 season. Before he was hit with the injury bug, he was an emerging ace. He doesn’t have a high velocity fastball, but relies on using command and pitch selection to get hitters out. If he can regain any semblance of the form he showed prior to his injuries, the Royals will be thrilled. If he can’t get it back, there is very little risk. It was the best off-season signing the Royals made.
Kyle Davies – Davies has been a whipping boy of the Royals fanbase for going on four years now. He’s still relatively young and has fantastic stuff, but he can struggle with command and when he’s not on he can’t seem to muddle through and survive. That, however can skew his numbers. He puts up a lofty ERA, but can give his team a chance to win more often than people realize. He had 14 quality starts in 2010 which was good for second on the team behind Greinke. He’s not a great pitcher, but he’d represent an upgrade for many rotations in the MLB. He’s at the point in his career where he is what he is. Projecting great improvement out of him is likely futile. For now, he is an asset to the Royals at the back of the rotation.
Bruce Chen – He’s as likeable a baseball player as there is in the game today. He’s funny, personable and someone that everyone roots for. He’s of Chinese descent, however he was born and raised in Panama and I always get a kick out of hearing a Latin accent coming from an Asian guy. Beyond being likeable, he was very valuable in the rotation for the Royals in 2010. He’s the definition of a crafty lefty, who uses deception, different arm angles and experience to get hitters out. However, when that fails it fails spectacularly. I think that the numbers over-rated Bruce Chen in 2010 and he’s likely due for a significant drop in production in 2011. I believe he’s in the bullpen by the time the All-Star Break rolls around.
Vin Mazzaro – Due to the way the schedule works out, the Royals won’t need a fifth starter until April 16, so Mazzaro will hang back in Surprise, AZ for extended Spring Training. When he does make it to Kansas City, he’s going to be one of the more intriguing pitchers on the staff. He was acquired in the off-season from the A’s in the David Dejesus trade. He’s young, and was a pretty decent pitcher in 2010. He would’ve led the Royals in the percentage of his starts that were "quality"with 67%. That’s a higher rate than Zack Greinke had in 2011. He represents a departure from old-retread pitchers being acquired by the Royals, so he'll be interesting for that at least.
It’s not a good rotation; in fact it could be quite horrible, but I don’t think it will be as bad as some are predicting. If some younger guys like Mike Montgomery or Danny Duffy have a good start to their Minor League seasons they could be promoted and be instant improvements. It’s hard to improve when you lose one of the best pitchers in the game, but it’s possible the defense could be enough to even out that curve.
According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Royals have cut four more players in the quest to get closer to the roster size of 25. He reports that right-handed bullpen candidates Blake Wood and Greg Holland have been optioned to the class AAA Omaha Stormchasers, as was catcher Manny Pina. Left-handed prospect Mike Montgomery has been reassigned to Minor League camp.
Pina and Montgomery aren't surprises. They're still young and need to spend some more time in the Minor Leagues before making the jump to the Royals. Wood seemed to be on the outside looking in, but Holland seemed to be a lock for the bullpen.
Right now, we know that Joakim Soria, Robinson Tejeda and Sean O'Sullivan are in the bullpen and that the Royals plan on having an eight man bullpen to start the season. That leaves eight players vying for five remaining spots. Here's how I'd rank their likelihood of making the pen: Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress, Nate Adcock, Robert Fish, Kanekoa Teixera, Luis Mendoza, Louis Coleman and Aaron Crow.
In an unsurprising announcement, manager Ned Yost confirmed that Luke Hochevar has been named the Opening Day starter for the Kansas City Royals. Following Hochevar will be Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro. Due to the way the schedule works out, the Royals won't need a fifth starter until April 16th, so Mazzaro will stay in extended Spring Training with the Omaha Stormchasers until he's needed. Sean O'Sullivan who was acquired along with Will Smith from the Angels for Alberto Callaspo will be slotted as the long relief man out of the bullpen.
I'm not convinced that having O'Sullivan in the pen rather than in the rotation for Omaha is the best choice, but at this point it's splitting hairs. He can give the royals a spot start if needed, so that makes him a decent option for the 'pen. He's only going to be 23 this season, so youth is on his side. The rotation is exactly what most people have predicted since the signing of Jeff Francis. Luke Hochevar will be the 20th pitcher to start Opening Day for the Royals. Kevin Appier holds the record with 7 Opening Day starts.
Look for a preview of the rotation and the bullpen later on this week.
In 2010, there wasn't much that the Royals did well, so saying that their offense was probably their best component is damning with praise. You'll get no argument from me, but it is a little surprising that they had a somewhat decent offense. They scored 4.17 runs per game, which was good for 10th in the American League. Not great, but that's the highest the team has ranked in that category since 2003 when the team was 4th and won 83 games.
The 2011 version of the lineup should be at least as good if not better offensively and it's one of the reasons that the team should be at least somewhat improved in the win-loss column in 2011.
Projected Starting Lineup
1. Mike Aviles 3B - Usually the leadoff spot is reserved for speedy guys who can get on base, however the Royals won't have a guy like that, so placing Aviles up top is an inspired choice. He's one of the best hitters on the team and should be able to set the table. He'll start the season at third base, but as soon as Mike Moustakas is promoted he'll almost certainly going to move to second where he's best suited anyway.
2. Melky Cabrera CF - The Royals never really needed Melky Cabrera. He hasn't been as good as Mitch Maier or Gregor Blanco recently, but he's still young and has been raking in Spring Training. He's a good bet to be traded to make way for Lorenzo Cain who the Royals acquired in the Greinke deal.
3. Billy Butler 1B - One of the best hitters in baseball and he's still only 24 years old. People talk about how many double plays he grounded into, but the GIDP leaderboards are littered with some of the best hitters in the game. If he develops some power this year, he could become an elite offensive player.
4. Kila Ka'aihue DH - He's got fantastic patience at the plate and a true power stroke. It's a combination rarely seen and therefore rarely appreciated. Kila will likely get the entire season to prove to the Royals he is a Major League caliber player. He might be auditioning for the rest of the league since top prospect Eric Hosmer is breathing down his neck.
5. Alex Gordon LF - The one-time top prospect has lost some of his luster and he's now moved from third base to left field. He was solid defensively in 2010, but his bat is going to have to get even better to justify a corner outfield spot. He spent the off-season completely re-tooling his swing with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and has been hitting .349/.500/.651 in Spring Training.
6. Jeff Francoeur RF - He had one good season with the Atlanta Braves, but since then has been one of the worst offensive players in baseball. He is still a very good defender and he's young, but he doesn't have a future with the ball club. He's likely to be trade-bait if he can somehow find what made him successful when he first came up.
7 Brayan Pena C - Jason Kendall will start the season on the DL so Pena is likely to get the nod as the primary catcher. He isn't great at anything, but he's good enough to play the position and he's a significantly better hitter than Kendall. He and Lucas May will be vying for the role of "guy who isn't dropped" when Kendall makes his inevitable return to the team.
8 Chris Getz 2B - He's fast and a fantastic base stealer. Unfortunately Getz hasn't gotten on base enough to make use of that skill. He's a good defensive second baseman, but if he can't hit any better than he's shown so far in his career he'll be relegated to a utility role in short order.
9 Alcides Escobar SS - Prior to the 2010 season Escobar was considered the best shortstop prospect in baseball. His meager batting line of .235/.288/.326 knocked him down a peg, but it's not unusual for a 23 year old rookie to struggle at the plate in his rookie season. Its also one of the reasons the Brewers were willing to let him go in the Greinke trade. Scouts say his defense could be Gold Glove caliber, so he won't have to improve his batting line too much to make him a valuable player.
It's not a lineup that will strike fear in many pitchers, but there are a lot of young talented players who could take a step forward in 2011. A lot of "ifs" will have to happen for the team to be a top ranked offense, however they should improve as the season moves on and top prospects like Mike Moustakas begin to make an impact. I don't believe it's going out on a limb to say this could be the best offensive Royals team in at least the last five years, but it's been a bad five years.
It’s been a long time since the Royals have been any good, a real long time. Some can point to 2003 when the team finished with a winning record, but that season was a fluke wrapped in a very hot start. You have to go back to the early 1990’s or even further to find a time when the Royals had a legitimate shot of winning a Division title. Draw the line wherever you want, but the point remains—it’s been a long time.
So when I start my preview of the 2011 Royals, I understand if you’re turned off when I use the word patience, but it’s the right word to use. This upcoming season isn’t one where the Royals are expected to contend for a title, but it will be another step towards that goal. Since Dayton Moore took over as General Manager in 2006, the process of building a contending team has seemed to take one step forward and then two steps back. The on-field performance of the Royals at the Major League level has consistently been terrible.
Some high-priced free agents were brought in to give the team a semblance of being Major League, all the while Moore and company have been attempting to re-build the franchise from the bottom up. He has consistently preached the message that the Royals had to be built from within. The organization needed to find and develop talent in their own Minor League system. Moore is fond of saying “building a team through free agency is a failed way of doing things.” Whether he learned that prior to taking the helm of the Royals or through the experience of his own failures in the free agency market is unclear, but unimportant. How he got to that ideology is less important than the fact that he got to it, because he’s absolutely correct. Building a team, even if a team has the ability to buy high-priced free agents is best done with a core of home-grown talent.
That “process” as it’s been dubbed by Moore and mocked by fans and pundits is finally beginning to bear fruit. Adding Minor League teams, being one of the biggest spenders in the draft and vastly expanding international scouting has begun to pay dividends. Pick any Minor League scouting service you want: Baseball America, ESPN or Baseball Prospectus. They all agree, the Royals not only have the best farm system of 2011 but one of the best farm systems assembled in recent memory.
The rightfully cynical fans will say “we’ve heard this all before” and “the Royals will just trade all of these players away” and they’d be at least partially right. However, the Royals have never had this kind of talent in the Minors, so this hasn’t been heard before. And the players are guaranteed to be on the team for 6 years before they can become free agents, let’s worry about that in 6 or 8 years. Besides, the Royals have had 4 players worth signing recently and every single one of them was given a contract extension: Billy Butler, Joakim Soria, Zack Grienke and David Dejesus. I completely understand the frustration, I know where it’s coming from but trust me, set it aside for now.
You’ve possibly heard of some of these young players who are so promising. Eric Hosmer, the big athletic first baseman. Mike Moustakas, the power hitting third baseman with a leadership mentality. Mike Montgomery, the fantastic left-handed starter. John Lamb, the other fantastic left-handed starter. Danny Duffy the third fantastic left-handed starter. Wil Myers, the catcher recently converted to the outfield. I could go on and on listing players who someday might turn into something great. It’s still all probabilities right now. There will be some busts, but there also might be some superstars. All we know now is that there isn’t a farm system in baseball with a better likelihood of creating a championship caliber baseball team than what the Royals have.
Back to 2011. While a couple of these high profile prospects will begin filtering onto the Major League roster at some point this year, they won’t all burst on the scene, start producing at a high level and win games immediately . It just doesn’t work like that. So in some ways 2011 is a season to endure, a penultimate season before the real fun begins. But it’s also a little more than that.
This season will be one of the most interesting Royal seasons in recent memory. It’s looking like they will have the youngest team in franchise history. The team will have a bunch of fresh faces competing to become part of the bright future. The days of random aging free agents being thrown in to the mix are gone. In the coming days, I’ll be previewing more of the team to help you get re-acquainted or introduced to the team.
I know the frustration of being a Royals fan. I also know the joy of watching a talented baseball team. It can be a lot to emotionally invest in a team only to be let down year after year. I pride myself on being critical, skeptical and realistic, but I believe it’s a great time to start following the Royals.
Nick Scott is a contributor to Royals Authority and is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast, you can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.
I really didn't plan on my first post here being a video about Jeff Francoeur, but I can't help it. This thing just fell in my lap today. The ominous music alongside the typically smiling Jeff Francoeur just kills me. I met Francouer and asked him some questions at the Royals FanFest and I think he really is a great guy, but I'm still not a fan of seeing him in a Royals uniform. I hope that he proves me wrong.
Hello and welcome to the very first post here at the Broken Bat Single Royals Blog* at the Lawrence Journal-World. First, I want to thank the editors at the LJ World for allowing me to create this blog and for featuring it on the site. I hope that I can provide content that is up to their very high standards.
*The name is currently pending. I reserve the right to change it the moment I come up with something better or you suggest something better in the comments.
Quite simply, this will be a blog about the Kansas City Royals baseball team, however I hope for it to become more than just that. I want this to be a blog that can re-ignite the passions of Royals fans who read the LJ World and conversely I hope I can introduce the LJ World to Royals fans who may not have looked to it in the past.
I love the blog format, because when it's good it becomes a conversation. The readers and reader comments can become as important as the content provided by the author. In some ways I feel like it's a discussion that I get to lead. So I want to encourage you to join in the conversation via the comments. I welcome criticism, praise and everything in between. My only request is that you keep it clean, follow the rules of the LJ World and try and be as thoughtful and intelligent as possible. I'd like any commenter to think prior to posting "does this add or subtract from the ongoing conversation", if it adds then post it. If not, then just hold it in.
I will be engaging with the commentariat as well. I think it's vitally important that the author of a blog responds to criticism and attempts to drive the comments in the proper direction. I believe the tone of the comments are largely if not completely due to the way in which the author engages with the readership.
So my idea here is to have a conversation about the Kansas City Royals. I'll do my best to come up with thoughtful and intelligent articles which will hopefully spur similar comments. Primarily you will see a post every Monday of the baseball season. That post should be a week in review and week in preview. If I do my job right, if you only read that post you should have a good idea of what's going on in the land of the Royals, and it should be accessible to casual and hard core fans alike.
At this point, you may be wondering who I am. Good question. Hi, I'm Nick. I've been writing about the Royals on the internet for a few years now. For the last year, I've been a weekly contributor to the Royals Authority, I've had my work featured on other sites including ESPN.com and I also host the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast.
I'm a Royals fanatic, but I'm realistic. I'm not here to pump sunshine and rainbows in regards to the Royals. I'll do my best to be unbiased and to bring you accurate and interesting information on the team. I'll expect you to call me out when I don't fulfill that promise. In the coming days, I'll bring you a preview of the team and I'll be in Surprise with first hand accounts of Spring Training.
I truly believe that this is a great time to re-ignite or begin a passion for the Kansas City Royals. I know how hard it has been to be a fan for the last couple of decades. I understand that there is a lot of apathy and anger directed towards the team, and rightfully so. I also know that this region contains a lot of passionate baseball fans who yearn for a winner and a team that makes them proud.
I hope this gives you a sliver of insight on what this blog will be about, what I hope it can be and what I expect in the comments. I'm really excited to create this blog from scratch and can't wait to get started. I hope you'll follow along with me.