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Playing Pepper 2011: Kansas City Royals

Posted on March 7, 2011 at 4:00 PM
Filed Under: Kansas City Royals | Playing Pepper
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Kansas City Royals (67-95, 27 GB and fifth in the AL Central)

It could be that the clouds are breaking.  Kansas City is generally regarded to have the best minor league system in the game, with prospects sprouting up like the weeds in my yard.  While there's been hope in the past, this time that hope looks to be legitimate and close at hand.

How close, though?  Will 2011 be much better than recent history?  Or will these guys spend a lot of time seasoning, making for another long season on the other side of Missouri?

Kansas City is an interesting situation when it comes to writers.  A team that has been so weak has produced a number of great literary fans (Rob Neyer, Rany Jazayerli, Joe Posnanski) and that's carried over into the blogging world, as the Royals have one of the strongest chapters in the BBA.  I was able to get a few of them to get involved in this year's Playing Pepper.

Brian McGannon writes over at Royals Kingdom on a regular basis, which you can follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Matt Kelsey does the Royals half of the state for our friends over at I70 Baseball.  I70 is on Facebook and has a Twitter feed as well.

Michael Engel takes care of covering Kansas City over at Fansided with Kings of Kauffman.  He joined the site in March of 2010 and has been the lead writer and editor since May.  He wanted to point out (which I'm not sure is wise on a Cardinals blog, but whatever) that he's been a fan since being introduced to baseball at five years old--during the 1985 World Series.  Again, you can find him on both the Facebook and the Twitter.  (You can really get your feeds loaded up with Royals if you want to!)

Royalscentricity is penned by Josh Duggan, following the Royals with a bit of humor.  He's got Facebook and Twitter covered as well.

Ray W not only follows the Royals, but also where you can find them over the air at his blog, Royals On Radio Etc. He also has Facebook, but I think Ray hasn't gotten on the Twitter bandwagon just yet.

Finally, Jeff Parker was one of the first members of the BBA before leaving late last year thinking that he was going to slow down the blogging thing.  Once that bug has you, though, you can't let it loose.  He's still going at Royally Speaking (no Facebook but Twitter) and I hope to get him back into the fold.

Sit back, pour a drink and get comfortable.  We're in for a long one after the jump!

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C70: What was your opinion of the Kansas City offseason?

RK: Overall, I thought it wasn't bad. Acquiring Jeff Francouer AND Melky Cabrera is really the only baffling move that Dayton Moore made. It was obvious that this team needed to trade Zack Greinke. Some people might complain that we didn't get enough in return for Greinke, but in all honesty, I thought Dayton Moore did a great job in that trade. According to Moore, only three teams were interested in Greinke and two were on his no trade list. We addressed needs in our minor leagues (OF, starting RHP, bullpen, shortstop). The signing of Jeff Francis was refreshing. He's a guy who won't be a frontline starter, but could emerge as a stabilizing force in the rotation. As for the David DeJesus trade, I think we got the best deal we could get for him. DDJ wasn't a very sexy player and the market for outfielders was watered down with the Carl Crawford free agency bonanza. I give the Royals offseason a B-. 

I70: The Royals' offseason moves ran the gamut from brilliant to awful. On the brilliant side are the long-term deal given to Billy Butler and the signing of Jeff Francis. On the awful side are the signings of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. Somewhere in the middle falls the Zack Greinke trade and the Bruce Chen signing. 

KK: By the middle of November, it started to seem like a foregone conclusion that the Royals and Zack Greinke would part ways. Being one of my favorite players of the last ten years, it was a tough realization to make, but that's baseball. Once the trade was completed, it felt a bit flat to me, but the more I look at it, the more I like it. There aren't any huge superstars, but the return still features guys who will contribute and have upside for a couple of All-Star appearances. 

Signing Jeff Francoeur seemed inevitable as well, and the most surprising thing to me was the actual contract itself. One guaranteed year and a cheap $2.5 million? It could have been much worse (see Kendall, Jason, 2009). I disliked the Melky Cabrera signing but loved the Jeff Francis deal. Overall, the Royals didn't block anybody, got the best return out there for Greinke, and even extended Billy Butler with a fantastic contract. I'd give Dayton Moore and the front office a B for the offseason. 

RC: Any offseason that consists of the trading away of the team's sole superstar and the signing of both Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur cannot be great. 

I think most Royals fans were hoping to get the world back in return for Zack Greinke. Clearly that didn't happen. I did not hate the deal, though. I'm hopeful about Alcides Escobar recovering from a lackluster rookie campaign and hope that the defensive statistical shortcomings were the product of a small sample size and not indicative of true skill. Lorenzo Cain certainly would seem to have the most realistic chance of becoming a solid ML center fielder. Jeffress will likely break camp in the bigs as well and should be an integral part of one of the team's only true strengths this year--its bullpen. Odorizzi could easily be the player who breaks this deal in the Royals' favor, but this is something we won't know about for four or five years (at least). 

The DeJesus deal was very unpopular. Vin Mazzaro will have to do a lot to make this not look like a bad deal. 

Cabrera and Francoeur are not likely to go over well with most of the blogging community, but it is very likely that Cabrera won't make it through June in the starting lineup. Signing Cabrera made zero sense when he was signed and made less sense after the Greinke trade. 

Some people were up in arms about the signings of Pedro Feliz and Bruce Chen, but I didn't have a problem with either one. 

I liked the Jeff Francis signing, and the Billy Butler extension was a big plus. 

Mostly, this offseason was one in which Moore was filling gaps. I loathe fewer players on this year's team than last year's, so there is that. Moore didn't seem to do any long-term damage this offseason. For him, that's a step forward. There are still huge question marks as to whether he can evaluate free agents on the Major League level, and this offseason did little to combat the blogger groupthink. Officially, this offseason was overwhelmingly so-so. 

RR: Short and simple version: the Royals payroll and put themselves in a great spot to compete in the future. 

The Greinke trade was a huge part of the offseason, and for me (personally) it was really a wake up call in a way. When you look around and your #1`and #2 (Meche) starters the last few years are no longer on the team you kind of get worried, but then you look at all the young talent that's in KC and Omaha (and NW Arkansas). And it really gets you excited. 

The trade of fan favorite David DeJesus to Oakland for Vin Mazzaro was at the time a trade I really didn't like. But now thanks to the ZG trade, that netted us CF Lorenzo Cain I'll change my opinion of the DDJ trade. 

Other then those two trades the acquisition of Jeff Francoeur was a nice cheap signing that I think just about everyone saw coming. And although a lot of people aren't big fans of Frenchy he's still only 27 and he can't be worse then Jose Guillen. Plus the Royals are still a year out from having a power hitting corner outfielder therefore Frenchy is blocking no one. The Melky Cabrera signing gives us a little extra depth (and hopefully that's all) in the outfield. And the only other major move was the signing of Jeff Francis, he's a guy I always liked in Colorado and hopefully he'll be able to bounce back to his former ace ability. 

RS: Except for the pointless Melky Cabrera signing I thought Dayton Moore had a great offseason. The Greinke trade split the fan base but the fact is KC received plus defenders with plus speed at SS (Alcides Escobar) & CF (Lorenzo Cain), a power bullpen arm (Jeremy Jeffress), and a minor league pitcher with #2 starter potential (Jake Odorizzi). At SS and CF, in particular, this trade fulfilled short and long term needs. One year contracts handed out to Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francis, and Bruce Chen fall in the low risk/high reward category.

C70: Can we write off Alex Gordon as a bust or is there still hope?

RK: In my opinion, not yet. Gordon has not played a full season since 2008, which he posted fantastic offensive stats. He's said he's going to "dominate" in 2011, but right now, that just seems silly. Of course, there was a ton of unfair pressure placed on Gordon from the get-go, with most of the Royals' fanbase and media contingent crowning him the next George Brett. Time is definitely running out on him. I think if he stays healthy and plays 150 games, we could see a great comeback story develop. But if injuries once again become a concern, I think it would be wise for the team to cut ties. 

I70: Gordon has one last chance to prove himself as a major leaguer. I believe he'll have at least half a season to develop himself in left field. If he doesn't, the Alex Gordon experiment is over. 

KK: I think I'll be the last person clinging to the Alex Gordon bandwagon. He was a no-brainer pick to me in 2005 and while he obviously has his warts, I think that once he gets into a groove, he'll stay there. There's too much talent there to write him completely off, and he's adjusted well defensively to a shift to the outfield. Maybe that'll help him when he works on his hitting? 

RC: Royals fans have to hope that he will finally live up to the promise he once showed. I don't know that this is prudent, though. I'm not willing to write him off, but my expectations are low heading into this season. 

RR: There is always hope, and I still think Alex will become a pretty solid player in the future. But personally I don't think he'll be a Royal when it does happens. Now will he ever reach the platform people built for him as a rookie, no I don't think he will. But he could become a solid middle of the order guy. 

RS: There is still hope for two reasons, last year he had a career high 12.1 BB% and a career low .254 babip. If his babip approaches his career .294 mark, and he remains a patient hitter, I expect he'll have a fine year. It's clear labeling him the next George Brett was a mistake but I see no reason why he can't be the next David DeJesus.

C70: Do you think Joakim Soria will be dangled come the trade deadline?

RK: No. Club-friendly contract, signed through 2014. In all honesty, I think Soria is a lifetime Royal. 

I70: Dangled, yes. Traded, probably not. It would take an overwhelming package to pry him away, and I don't think teams are willing to offer that much for a closer. 

KK: With a very club-friendly contract, I don't see the Royals moving Soria at all unless they get bowled over by a deal with one impact hitter (probably a catcher) and two pitching prospects with All-Star upside. The Royals are just a few years away from seeing their investment in the farm system bear results and they'll need a closer for that period. Soria will be the standard by which other closers are judged at that point. 

RC: I think GMDM sees Jack Soria as a key to the team's future success. While most of the SABR community think this is foolish, the fan in me really likes The Mexicutioner. I know that too many franchises overvalue closers, and he'd yield a lot on the trade market, but his contract is extremely team-friendly. I don't think Moore will trade Soria, as he is an extreme traditionalist insofar as how he views roster construction. 

RR: We'll be first in the Central so I doubt it. (haha) 

Dayton has always said he'll listen to any offers. So will he be dangled, my guess is no. But will he be traded, I couldn't tell ya. 

RS: I really don't and I'm not sure he should be, this view places me in the minority among Royals bloggers and I'm fine with that. The argument goes that closers are overrated and can be easily replaced but consider this, of all the pitchers in the last 110 years who have thrown 200 or more innings only three have an ERA+ above 200 - Soria 219, Papelbon 209, Rivera 204. I'm sorry but guys with Soria's talent simply do not grow on trees.

C70: Is there a Royals prospect that will make a significant impact this season?

RK: Ha. Why yes there are. This is going to be the beginning of a new era in Royals baseball (or so we've been told). Mike Moustakas is likely to be the first of the prospects to arrive in KC this summer and he's as lauded as anyone in baseball when it comes to power bat potential. But my money will go to 1B Eric Hosmer as far as significant impact in 2011 goes. I think Hosmer will provide an Evan Longoria/Buster Posey type impact to the roster IF he is in fact called up this season. And of course, add LHP Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer and several others to that list. These prospects are going to start popping up on the roster within the next two seasons and I couldn't be more excited. 

I70: Mike Moustakas could be on the roster before the end of the year, but the guy with the best chance to make a difference is lefty relief pitcher Tim Collins. He was the hidden gem in last season's trades. 

KK: For the Royals, any impact will be significant for a prospect, but you have to look at Mike Moustakas first. He'll probably spend the first two months in Omaha before reaching the majors and he'll likely have an adjustment period, but once he's up and gets settled, he should get more fans excited about what lies ahead. 

Another group of prospects I see having an impact this year is the bullpen trio of Jeremy Jeffress, Tim Collins and Louis Coleman. All three have averaged 10 K/9 through the minors and could be utterly dominant at a young age in front of Soria. They're all likely to make the team at some point this year, if not all right out of camp. 

RC: There are quite a few that could. Mike Moustakas is probably the most likely to this season, but his low walk rates in the minors are worrisome. Any of the Dwyer/Montgomery/Duffy trio of lefties (John Lamb might actually be the best but likely plays in Northwest Arkansas and finishes the year in Omaha this year) could impress upon call-up. Jeremy Jeffress, Tim Collins, and Louis Coleman all have a shot at making the 25-man roster coming out of Spring Training, and all figure to be key arms in the bullpen. There is also hope that Aaron Crow fixes whatever mechanical issue he was having last year. It was thought heading into 2010 that Crow was the closest to the Majors then. Maybe those adjustments expedite the process. 

RR: Not really sure he could be considered a Royals prospect but if CF Lorenzo Cain can win the starting job over Melky Cabrera I think he'll really impress. Other then that I'm really interested to see what pitcher Mike Montgomery can do if he gets a shot. 

RS: I'm not sure if he'll make a significant impact but Mike Moustakas will be a mid season callup. I'm not sure if there's been a hitter in franchise that has possessed Moutsakas's power. Maybe Bo Jackson, maybe. I expect he'll struggle a bit to adjust to big league pitching but when he does he'll be fun to watch. 5'7" lefty reliever Tim Collins should be a formidable presence in the bullpen. In 223 minor league innings he has a 2.26 ERA and 329 strikeouts (13.3 SO/9).

C70: What's your prediction for Kansas City's record and divisional finish?

RK: 71-91. 4th place in the division. 

I70: I'll be disappointed if the Royals DON'T lose close to 100 games and finish last in the division. If they finish better than that, they're spending too much time focusing on the Major League team when they should be focusing on Omaha and Northwest Arkansas. 

KK: 2011 is still going to be a rough year. I think we'll finish 70-92, one game behind Cleveland. Another last place...but the last one for a while. 

RC: 63 - 99. Fifth in the division. Worst in baseball. Somehow I am actually looking forward to this. 

RR: Hmm I never do well with these at all. I'll be optimistic and say 71 - 91. Good enough for 4th in the Central barely ahead of Cleveland. 

RS: We're finally starting to see the process yield positive fruit but unfortunately they are still a year away from even breaking .500. I think a 70-92 season is a reasonable expectation, that would probably place them in 4th or 5th place.


2 Comments | Leave a comment

Nicely done. And I was comfortably safe in my basement.

4th Sounds about right for the Royals

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