Another week with very little news has made the natives a little restless. At least that’s how it seems. The Royals did make a small trade this week to add some power to the organization. Craig broke that down yesterday, so give that a read. I have to think/hope that we’re going to see some action from somewhere pretty soon now that the holidays are over, but I thought we’d have already seen it, so what do I know? I guess the good news is that we’re just 39 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting and getting live reports of players stretching. At least we’ll be able to find out who is in the best shape of their lives.
- One of the few positions likely up for grabs for the Royals in spring training is at second base where it seems Whit Merrifield will battle Christian Colon and Raul Mondesi for playing time. My guess is that Merrifield takes the job out of Surprise, and I’d argue that’s a very good thing. I don’t believe he has the ability to sustain the offensive performance he put up last season, but I do think he brings a lot to the table and can be close enough to decent offensively that with everything else, he’s a good piece. My big worry is that Mondesi muscles up in the thin air of Arizona and pulls a Ruben Gotay and hits enough home runs that the Royals give him the job out of spring. Maybe he’s made himself ready to be an every day big leaguer in the offseason, but I have my doubts about that. He was overmatched at the big league level and I believe he needs at least 200 plate appearances in Omaha before he should get another shot. So I guess what I’m saying is that this is my first reminder that spring training stats should all be viewed with a grain of salt.
- I understand why the Royals are talking about using a rotating DH this season. On the surface, it’s awfully appealing to be able to give guys half a day off and only focus on hitting while not losing their bat in the lineup. I think there’s actually some sense to it. But that said, I don’t think it works all that well in practice. It’s worth noting that in 2016, all five AL playoff teams had at least a quasi-regular DH. The same was true in 2015 and four of five playoff teams in 2014 did. That’s purely anecdotal, but it does show the success to some degree. I still believe the Royals should go out and find a right-handed bat to help anchor their lineup. Maybe Peter O’Brien is that guy. I doubt it, but it’s worth a look, I guess. But if not, I think people might be underselling Cheslor Cuthbert. And it’s not because I think he’s a great hitter, because he’s not, but we’ve discussed a possible late season injury before. He was held out of the second game of that series in Miami and I wonder if there was something going on at that point. Prior to that, he was hitting .292/.330/.441 with 10 home runs in 379 plate appearances. After that, he hit .218/.290/.328. I could be wrong and maybe Cuthbert just can’t really hit big league pitching, but I think we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t acknowledge there’s at least a chance that Cuthbert can hit enough to man the DH spot while trading off with Mike Moustakas at third (at least early in the year) and giving the Royals a little flexibility while not forcing a rotating DH.
- PECOTA projections have not yet been released, but I was thinking about what the Royals would need to happen in order to have a good season, and I think the key is for three players in particular to step up and play to their 80th percentile projections or higher. As far as position players, I think those two are Jorge Soler and Eric Hosmer. Both have enough talent that if they can find themselves a career year, the offense has a chance to not just be good enough but maybe potent. Of course, this is all assuming that nobody underperforms to the level of, say, Alex Gordon last year or something like that, but they just need to do what they’re expected to do. On the pitching side, that player is Yordano Ventura. If he can become a 1A to Danny Duffy, I think the Royals rotation will be just fine and can help to mask any deficiencies they have in other parts of the roster. Some might argue that hoping for career years isn’t a great strategy, and while I’d prefer the Royals have five guys guaranteed to get on base at a .375 clip and hit 35 homers, they simply don’t. Winning teams have some players experiencing career years. There’s luck with every season. The talent ceiling is there with this team to be very, very good. They’ll just need a couple guys to reach that ceiling in order for the team to reach theirs.
- It was announced yesterday that the Royals will be bringing back the whole announcing crew for the 2017 season. When Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler first came to Kansas City, I didn’t give them much of a chance. As I got used to Hudler (and got to know him a very little bit), I came to like him a lot. No, the grammar isn’t what you’d call “good” and sometimes he can be a little too excitable, but I think he gives some solid analysis. Then there’s Physioc, who botches routine calls on a regular basis. So I guess you could say that I’m not thrilled with the decision to bring everyone back, but if the Royals are winning, I won’t be too upset no matter who is calling the games.