If you’re a fan of your spring training baseball better mirroring the regular season, the next few days will be your cup of tea. Opening Day is now less than two weeks away and the Royals will break camp in Arizona a week from Sunday. That means you’ll see starting pitchers hopefully go deeper into games and see many of the starters begin to play close to full games, if not full games. It’ll be especially interesting for someone like Mike Moustakas. He’s expected to DH in today’s game before playing the field tomorrow in one of the games. One of my big concerns with Moose signing so late is that he’s not really a player who I see as being able to just hit the ground running, so he’s going to have to play a lot to get the at bats he needs before March 29.
- If you’re one who doesn’t understand how the Royals are handling first base, yesterday was a vindicating spring game for you. Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel both clubbed two home runs and now have three and four respectively. Schwindel has those four home runs, but isn’t really having much of a spring outside of them, hitting just .231 with a .259 OBP. O’Hearn, though, is a different story. He’s hitting .400/.464/.960 after his monster game. It’s just 25 at bats, and it’s still just spring training, but big springs give management notice. Back to the original point of how the Royals are handling first base. With Hunter Dozier having already been optioned to Omaha and the Royals announcing he’d play first and right, some have wondered what that means for O’Hearn and Schwindel. My gut here is that the Royals just don’t think that highly of these two as far as future pieces. It’s not so much that they left them off the 40-man roster because I think that was a calculated risk, but the organization clearly believes Dozier is the better bridge to Pratto. That said, If Dozier is going to be playing first base and outfield (and I assume DH), I don’t think that takes time away from either of yesterday’s stars. Schwindel is limited to first and DH, but O’Hearn can also handle the outfield, so they’re all going to get plenty of chances to prove themselves, so I look for whoever is playing the best to get the call when Lucas Duda either gets hurt or traded later in the season.
- I haven’t weighed in on the Jorge Bonifacio suspension, partly because I didn’t exactly know what I’d say. I still don’t really know, but I do know that I’m incredibly disappointed. I wrote just last week how good he looked, both physically and in his game. He was fun to watch and looked like he might be starting to develop into a middle of the order type hitter. Now we’re left to wonder if that was a product of the PEDs or if he can come back in a few months playing just as well as he had in the early part of spring. I’ve seen a lot of talk that the Royals knew about the suspension when they signed Jon Jay, and maybe they did, but I wonder if the Moustakas signing was more of a response. Hear me out here. The Royals were really excited to get Cheslor Cuthbert at bats this season to see what he could become. Then, all of a sudden, they sign someone to block his path to at bats. That seems a little odd to me. Maybe it really is all about the great deal they got for a franchise star, but I think they knew the at bats would open up, so they weren’t really worried about it. Now, Cuthbert can spend time at DH, first base and third base. I imagine Bonifacio’s boneheaded decision puts Jorge Soler in the outfield quite a bit, which opens up that DH spot and Cuthbert can give Moose a rest when they either want to give him a half day or a full day and he can play first against lefties. By the time Bonifacio returns, so much can and likely will have changed. I already mentioned Duda’s health, but Soler is just as much of a risk, if not more. To make a long story short, the at bats will be there and I really do wonder if the Royals signed Moose because they knew they would be.
- I hope the home office doesn’t read this far down into the Notes, but I have no idea what to make of PECOTA. Before the spring, the Royals were set to play a bunch of young guys and also-rans and were projected to go 66-96. Then they signed three solid veterans and now they’re projected to go 65-97. I think some of it is just recalibration, but I don’t really understand that projection. I still don’t think this team is especially good, but I think they’re more of 72-75 win bad rather than 65 win bad. Part of it is that the projections are really not a fan of the Royals rotation and I think Danny Duffy and Jake Junis can outperform their projections significantly, but part apparently just goes over my head. Oh yeah, I’d also bet on Whit Merrifield outperforming his projection, but I completely understand why his is as low as it is. Whatever the reason, the additions I think do help the team to look better in 2018, or as I’ve said in the past, at least more watchable. The offense looked like it could be world class bad, and now it looks like it has some upside, but won’t be nearly as awful as it could have been.
- I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that Ryan Goins is going to make the team, but I’m going to share something now that might upset some people. I don’t know how long Ned Yost is going to enjoy watching Jorge Soler play right field for most of the games. And when that time comes, I have a very real fear that the solution isn’t just to give Paulo Orlando more playing time, which is bad enough, but rather to give Goins plenty of reps at second and move Merrifield to right. I just want to remind everyone that Goins has a career line of .228/.275/.335 with a TAv of .217 and has been worth -1.1 WARP in his career. By comparison, former Royals great Chris Getz had a career line of .250/.309/.307 with a TAv of .224 and was worth 0.1 WARP in his career. Yes, Chris Getz was the better hitter. I’ll leave you with that. Have a great weekend.