This past Sunday, Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon and third baseman Mike Moustakas collided in foul territory chasing after a fly ball. The collision looked nasty for both parties, with it seemingly being worse on Gordon, as he seemed to bang his head on the back of the tarp lined against the stands. Gordon was taken out of the game in the following inning and the news for him dropped on Monday:
The initial diagnosis was that Gordon would miss about 3-4 weeks , which would mean Gordon will probably be back in late June:
Moustakas meanwhile was considered “day to day”(but aren’t we all) by the club with a contusion to his knee. Moose had sat out the entire three game series in Minnesota this week and went in for more tests on Thursday. The news was not positive:
A torn ACL is bad news, as it means Moustakas will be out for the remainder of the 2016 season, a season that saw his power numbers soar. With the Royals losing two All-Stars for a significant amount of time, this means that someone will have to attempt to fill their shoes. It appears for the moment that Cheslor Cuthbert and Brett Eibner will get that opportunity.
This is not Cuthbert’s first rodeo with the Royals, as he spent a bit of time with Kansas City last year while also working on his second stint so far this year. Last year Cuthbert produced a line of .217/.280/.370 in the big leagues with 1 homer, 8 RBI’s and an OPS+ of 75 in just 19 games. So far this year in 15 games, Cuthbert has a line of .237/.250/.339 1 home run, 3 RBI’s and an OPS+ of 60. Obviously both years have been just a small sample size for Cheslor, but in that time he has shown an ability to get on base and has played slightly above average defense at third base. Cuthbert got off to a hot start down in Omaha this year and while he got off to a quick start his first few games in Kansas City (.286/.310/.464 in his first seven games), he has tapered off just a bit over the last eight games. I don’t believe Cuthbert will produce the kind of power Moustakas was producing early this year, but he does have a little pop in his bat and is more than adequate on defense. Now that Cheslor knows he will probably be seeing regular playing time for the Royals(and I’m sure the occasional Whit Merrifield start sprinkled in there as well), it will be interesting to see if he relaxes a bit and embraces the playing time he will be receiving the rest of this season.
Then there is Eibner, just recalled earlier today. Eibner has been an intriguing prospect for Kansas City, a former second round draft pick back in 2010. Eibner put together a strong 2015 campaign for the Royals AAA team in Omaha(.303/.364/.514 with 19 homers, 81 RBI’s and 200 total bases) and was looking to do the same early in 2016(.309/.411/.537 with 10 homers, 28 RBI’s and 80 total bases in just 41 games). Now what Eibner brings to the mix is not only a solid bat and solid glove, but also a little bit of speed. Many have felt Eibner should have been given a shot at playing a bit in right field last year in Kansas City and his name was even thrown around a bit this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get regular playing time on the corners in the outfield while Gordon is out, with some mix of Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson in right, while Eibner and Merrifield patrol left. You hear a lot about players just wanting a chance to prove themselves and Eibner looks to be getting his now.
I know many will view Gordon and Moustakas’ injuries as a negative(and trust me, it is) but there is also a positive to them missing time. The positive is that the Royals will now get a chance to view Cuthbert, Eibner and Merrifield on a semi-regular basis and assess just how they help the team moving forward. Obviously how they play will determine how much we see of them this season but if any of them produce on a consistent basis, that might help their spot in the organization in future years. Merrifield’s versatility is a big bonus for this Royals team and probably has the best chance of sticking but both Cuthbert and Eibner could increase their value this year. With Moustakas becoming a free agent after the 2017 season and right field not fully secured, both could work their way into a spot on the team. You hear a lot spoken from teams about “grabbing the brass ring” and “play well to force their hand”, and all three players have a chance to do just that moving forward. They might not be future All-Stars or middle of the lineup producers, but your entire team is not made up of MVP caliber players. Sometimes you just need a steady hand that a manager knows he can rely on.
Opportunity is a beautiful thing, as it can spread surprise and unlock production in an unlikely way. Losing Gordon for a month and Moose for the rest of the year are big blows to a team that is hoping to contend again this year, but it’s not always the end of the world. The Royals have been a lucky team these last few years as they have not had to deal with very many major injuries to their key players. The true mettle of a team can be measured by how they react to adversity and things are as adverse as they have been in Kansas City in awhile. Eibner, Merrifield and Cuthbert have an opportunity before them that most did not expect when the season began. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if any of them step up and lock themselves into a regular spot on the roster. To be continued…