If you’re counting down days until the season, we’re down to 10 days left before the Royals and Twins are scheduled to start their respective 2017 seasons. I say scheduled because it’s Minneapolis in April and they built an outdoor stadium with no dome. I still don’t get that. But anyway, we’re finally getting close to baseball that actually matters, which is always a good thing. The Royals roster has shaped up with really just the questions of second base and the final reliever left to determine. I’ll be in Arizona for spring training for the next couple days before I have to get back to the real world, but rest easy in knowing that I’m in mid-season form already.
- With the end of the World Baseball Classic, it’ll be very nice to have the full Royals team back in action on the field in the Cactus League for the final week or so of play. Danny Duffy gets the start today for the Royals and Salvador Perez is expected to be back behind the plate with Alcides Escobar at shortstop. Perez and Escobar weren’t on a team that made it all the way to the finals, but they’ve both had time off since the end of their WBC for different reasons. With Perez, it’ll be so nice to see him behind the plate again after the scare we were given following his collision with Drew Butera. With Escobar, it might be telling who plays the most second base over the next few days to see if they can build a rapport as middle infield partners. In general, I’m interested to see how this team gels together over the final few days of spring training even though it doesn’t really matter that much.
- Paul Goldschmidt is better than Eric Hosmer. Now that we have that out of the way, the hand wringing over Hosmer playing in the WBC over Goldschmidt was absolutely ridiculous to me. I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe the plan was originally to play both of them, sort of in a similar way to how Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy were used. But what happened is Hosmer looked like he was locked in while Goldschmidt simply didn’t look good. We can argue hot and cold and whether or not that’s a thing all day, but hitters can be hitting better some times than others. I’d say that’s especially true during spring training when hitters are working to find their timing. And while I’m a big-time process over results guy, it’s hard to argue with what Hosmer did during the tournament. He hit .385/.500/.615 in 26 at bats and had Marcus Stroman been simply good rather than extraordinary in that final game, Hosmer likely would have been the MVP of the whole tournament. The gap between what he wants and what he gets as a free agent will likely be fairly large, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to get paid, and performances like this will help him get his money and then some.
- Jorge Soler is not good defensively. I know that the Royals have sung his praises and have talked about how he’s getting better and all that, but he simply isn’t good, and I believe it will be an issue the Royals struggle with at least during this whole season and maybe throughout his tenure as a Royal. With that in mind, I’m now starting to wonder if Alex Gordon’s time in right field isn’t more about Soler as a designated hitter than him as a left fielder. Why, you might ask? Brandon Moss is actually sort of almost competent in the outfield and what little I’ve seen of him tells me that he can handle playing the outfield, probably better than Soler can. Moss isn’t bad in right field, but he’s been better in left field in recent seasons and I’m sort of thinking that maybe Gordon is getting so many reps in right field to clear the way for Moss to play left. The question, of course, is how Soler would take to being the designated hitter. It’s not an easy role for a young player, which is part of the reason why it was so impressive that Billy Butler handled it so well so early in his career. To me, this is something to watch given the Royals emphasis on defense.
- I didn’t mention this in my Spring Training Diaries yesterday, but Cheslor Cuthbert did himself a world of good in the game against the Padres on Wednesday afternoon. He had an RBI double, a towering home run and made a really impressive play at first base to start a double play and then an impressive stretch to finish it. The question, of course, is whether or not Cuthbert is doing this to impress the Royals are to impress another team. I know the Royals would prefer to keep Cuthbert around because they want to ease Mike Moustakas back into action a little bit, but if they do choose Raul Mondesi for the second base job, they’re going to have a decision to make on the roster. The easy move is to send Whit Merrifield to Triple-A because he has options, but his versatility is so key for this team. So then it comes to Christian Colon or Cuthbert and Colon has played well this spring and has himself in great shape. I’ve mentioned this before, so I won’t go too deep through the possibilities, but Cuthbert makes a lot of sense as trade bait if the Royals can get a quality return for him. Sure they’d have a hole to fill at third base if Moustakas leaves as a free agent, but if they can plug a hole either on the big league team or in the farm system, it’s something they have to consider. He hasn’t had an especially good spring with the bat, but he’s looked better lately and he’s a guy who has shown he can play first and third and could probably dabble for a few innings at second. Maybe there’s a taker there.