Great Lakes Royals

March 20, 2010 7:37 PM

This team has been Impressive this Spring

I haven't yet engrossed myself in the baseball season, in part because there's not really a whole lot to be excited about with the Royals this year, and in part due to just being too busy, but it's hard not to notice that in spring training this year, the Royals have been really quite good this spring--by the standards of a professional team.

Losing both ends of a split squad match-up between the Royals and the Brewers/Cubs has dropped the Royals' "record" to 7-8-1 on the year, but I don't think that begins to tell the story of how different things would be if baseball was played with a 40-man roster.  It's also a major problem that this team is not built to compete with other teams' 25 man rosters because of a lack of top-end producers.  The Royals have won with pitching and offense.  They've scored 9, 11, 12, 14, and 24 (!) runs this spring, and they've pitched well, particularly in the bullpen. They've scored 102 runs, against 98 runs.  Yeah, it's spring training, so it's meaningless, and for a good organization, that's a fairly forgettable spread.  6.4 runs per game over a 16 game stretch is not uncommon, even in a regular season.  For the Royals, it's enough to throw everything we perceive about the game off-tilt.

Greinke and Bannister both have WHIPs under 1.00 (Greinke is at 0.50, which in a larger sample, would be preposterous by his own standards).  Aaron Crow threw out of the bullpen this spring, and was highly effective.  The team has given back a lot of these runs saved on the back end of the rotation: Luke Hochevar has a run average that rivals his ERA from last year, and the 5th starter competition between Robinson Tejada, Kyle Farnsworth, and Kyle Davies just looks downright scary: hopefully there's another option.

And a bunch of players are producing on the offensive end.  Bubble guys Kila Ka'aihue, Mike Aviles, Mitch Maier, Alberto Callaspo, and even Yuniesky Betancourt are having great springs, while Brian Anderson, Scott Podsednik, and Wilson Betemit are all offseason acquisitions who have contributed to an overall offensive "explosion."  Billy Butler's power outage (.067 isolated power) is kind of disturbing, given the offensive environment factors of Arizona: now is when you would expect the obscene power numbers.  While I'd say this is probably the only truly disturbing thing about the spring training statistics (ignoring that awful mess of terrible pitchers who might fill out the rotation), injuries to Rick Ankiel and Alex Gordon are obvious setbacks, and the highest paid player on the team (Jose Guillen) is a serious threat to not even make it out of camp with the team (spring line: 238/273/333) thanks to the production the team is getting from both Anderson and Maier.  I would argue that this is a good thing, though, as an undistinguished line from Guillen might force the Royals to DFA a contributor like Maier.

Who Stays, Who Goes?

The problem with the way the team has played is that because of the way that Dayton Moore has constructed the Royals roster, he cannot possibly afford to keep all of the players who are producing this spring.  Despite a much-needed OPS over 1.000, Ka'aihue doesn't have a spot on the 25 man roster unless the Royals are willing to eat all of Guillen's salary, and just dump him.  Thanks to the Gordon injury, and slow starts by Josh Fields and Chris Getz, Callaspo figures to have an everyday role, if not a consistent position and lineup place.  If anything, the pitching depth appears to be more of an issue than a problem of having to sort out.  Greinke, Bannister, Meche is an easy front three, and Hochevar is a pretty safe four.  Then there are eight more spots the team is going to hand out, of which Soria is one.  It's sensible that Farnsworth, Tejada, and probably Davies all make the team, even if none make the rotation.  Juan Cruz is safe if he's not to be traded.  That leaves three spots.  It looks like Brad Thompson and rule five pick Edgar Osuna (the only lefty) are both being used enough in spring training where I would expect them to make it, and both could be darkhorses to land the 5th starter spot.  I would think Roman Colon is the last guy in the bullpen, but you'll have to check back with me.

The pitching staff that the Royals break camp with is probably going to be the group they go with all year, whereas on the offensive end, they'll leverage their options (literally and figuratively) and break camp with a group of 13 guys who will best allow them to keep everyone in the organization.  Chris Getz is going to be the one guy with an option that gets through, while I feel that Anderson and Ka'aihue are going to be optioned to Omaha, while Aviles, Ankiel, and Gordon will not begin the season with the 25-man team (DL/extended spring training), this could change if, again, the team makes a radical move with Guillen.

So, unofficially: Podsednik, Maier, DeJesus in the outfield with Fields in reserve, Callaspo, Betancourt, Getz, Butler, in the infield with Wilson Betemit and Willie Bloomquist off the bench (Betemit would need to be added to the 40-man roster), Kendall and Pena the catchers, and Guillen at DH.  Unofficially, I'm predicting that to be the 25 man roster. 

Officially, you'll have to check back next week to hold me to any predictions.

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