The Royals in 2010 — What Did We Learn?October 3rd, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
The Royals are just hours away from wrapping up the 2010 season. With a record of 67-94, I guess my prediction of 73-89 was too optimistic. Did the Royals accomplish anything this season?
Ned Yost: The Trey Hillman experiment came to a screeching halt this season. Thank you Dayton. Hillman may be a great guy, but he was clearly in over his head. The losses were not his fault. At least most of them. But it was impossible to look at Hillman and believe that he’d ever be a great manager in the big leagues. I’ve been really impressed with Yost. He’s upbeat. He’s good with young players. He knows baseball, and has a philosophy that can actually win games. How do we know? Because he’s already helped turn around one franchise. This was the best decision made by the franchise this season. Other than his love affair with Jason Kendall hitting second in the lineup, Yost has done all he can with the hand he’s been dealt.
Trades: The Royals went out and signed players this last off-season (such as Podsednik and Ankiel), and were able to convert them into trades to help stock their minor league system. I was skeptical of these signings, but they proved to be smart moves. They didn’t block any minor leaguers ready to play at the big league level, and the Royals received value in return. Good move Dayton.
Player Development: This may be the most disappointing aspect of the 2010 season — did we learn anything about these players that we didn’t already know?
Joakim Soria: The best player on the team, and the best closer in baseball. He’s been phenomenally consistent.
Zack Greinke: I’m a Zack fan, but I think there’s a good chance that we’ll look back on Zack’s career and realize that 2009 was his best year. The clock is ticking in Kansas City. Zack will not be here forever, and the Royals have to decide what to do with him. And I think they have to trade him sooner rather than later. The risk is that Greinke will never again be as dominate as he was in 2009, and the farther you get away from 2009, the less value he will have in a trade. I think the Royals should look to trade him during the off-season, but if they don’t get the right package, then wait till the trade deadline next summer. If Zack is still on the team this time next year, that will be unfortunate for the Royals.
Starting Rotation: Gil Meche is in the bullpen. Zack needs to be traded. Brian Bannister will be gone. Kyle Davies continues to struggle. Luke Hochevar is the only one from this group who still might be in the rotation come 2012. That’s bad news.
Bruce Chen was a very nice surprise. The Royals will likely try to resign him to a two or three year contract. The team has tried a few other guys this year with little success. The Royals have pitchers in the minors that they’re very high on, but not sure that any of them will be any help in 2011. The Royals are hopeful that these guys will start pitching at the big league level in 2012 or 2013. Looks bleak for 2011.
Bullpen: The Royals have some nice arms in the pen with Soria, Tejeda, Wood, Texeria and Meche. In the short term, the Royals appear good here. And there is no such thing as a long term view when building a bullpen, other than locking up your closer. And the Royals need to keep Soria as long as possible. Nothing is more demoralizing than blowing a game in the ninth. And nobody has been better than Soria at closing the door. If the Royals are going to spend money on any current players, spend it on Soria.
What I Like: I like David DeJesus in the outfield, though it’s uncertain how long he’ll be with the club. And I like Mike Aviles at second base. Am having a hard time liking anything else on this team.
What We Hope: The Royals are still hoping that Alex Gordon can learn to hit in the majors. He’s converting well to left field. He’s a good athlete. He takes a few walks. But doesn’t look like he’ll ever hit for average or much power.
The Royals are hoping that Billy Butler can avoid the double play, and hit with more power. Butler is slow, and hits ground balls. His power numbers will probably improve a little, and he hits for average. He’s a below average first baseman. Not sure that he’s a good long term fit on a team like the Royals.
What We’ve Got: Other than that, we’ve got players who are just holding spots.
At first base we’ve got Butler and Kia Ka’aihue until Eric Hosmer is ready. One of these guys ends up at DH. The other will have to go. Personally, I’d trade Butler if you could get anything good for him, and move Betemit to first.
At short we’ve got Betancourt until Christian Colon is ready for the big leagues, which is at least a couple years from now. Betancourt has been decent this year, but that’s all he’ll ever be.
Wilson Betemit has been a nice surprise at third. He’s hit with consistency, and hit with some power. He’s a bit of a liability at third. But out of all the Royals prospects, the one who appears closest to being ready for the bigs is Mike Moustakas, who could begin the season with the Royals next year. Where does that put Betemit? Not sure. His best defensive position is probably at first, but we’ve got a logjam there already. The Royals may attempt to make a utility guy out of Betemit to keep his bat in the lineup. But most utility guys are a plus defensively. That’s not Betemit. The other option is to try to make a right fielder out of him.
DeJesus is the team’s only legitimate starting outfielder, and he might get traded. The Royals appear determined to give Gordon every opportunity to become an effective player. We’ll see. I’m not optimistic. We’ve got a bunch of role players with Blanco, Miller, Dyson and Maier. Not optimistic that any of them will do more than be a fourth outfielder, though I’ve been somewhat impressed with Dyson. Like his speed on the bases, and his coverage in the outfield. The Royals have catcher Wil Myers in the minors who may end up in right field. His bat is advanced, and the Royals have been attempting to make a catcher out of him.
Which brings us to catcher. Brayan Pena has been OK filling in for the injured Jason Kendall. I don’t see a long term solution anywhere close in the minors. Looks like we’ll have more of Kendall and Pena next year.
Yost has been doing a good job of getting guys at bats. But what about Josh Fields? He’s a guy that I find somewhat interesting, but doesn’t appear to be able to find any playing time. He’s hitting over .300 in very limited at bats. Has a little power. He’s probably a better third baseman than Betemit. And probably a decent outfielder.
It will be interesting to see what the Royals do this off-season. With Guillen gone, the team will have a little money to spend. The Royals are doing a fine job of drafting and developing talent in their minor league system, but most of these guys appear at least a couple years away from Kansas City. Will the Royals grab a couple veterans like Podsednik and Ankiel to fill some holes? Or will they be content to give these young guys playing time to see if any of them can develop at the big league level?
What I Would Do: I don’t see the Royals being truly competitive until 2013 at the earliest no matter what they do. This current crop of players (Butler, Gordon, Greinke, Davies, Hochevar) are not likely to be the foundation for the future of the team as the Royals had hoped. I would trade Greinke, Butler and DeJesus while they still have value, and stockpile as many prospects as you can. Sign a couple of stopgap veterans — you need some experience to help the youngsters along. And play the kids.