It’s Not Easy Being On the Royals Playoff Roster

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It’s that time of year, where the leaves turn colors, the hoodies are dragged out of the closet and, if you are lucky, your favorite baseball team can start thinking about the playoffs. This also means that as a fan you can start piecing together how you think your team’s playoff roster will look. As a Kansas City Royals fan, we never knew this was a ‘thing’, since up until last year we never had to worry about the Royals playing October baseball. But with Kansas City’s magic number currently sitting at ‘3’, it is pretty safe to say they will be playing past October 4th and hopefully deeper into the postseason. With that said, I was asked over the weekend what I thought the Royals playoff roster would look like. So here is my guess, although to be honest it looked a bit different than on Friday.

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Catchers(2): Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

Infielders(5): Eric Hosmer, Ben Zobrist, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Christian Colon

Obviously, this was fairly easy, since you have the four starting infielders and a backup. Originally I felt like Omar Infante would get picked over Colon, despite the fact that Colon is more versatile whereas Infante is solely a second baseman. Then Omar came up with an oblique injury on Friday, which could sideline him for close to a month if not longer. As most also know, Zobrist can also play the outfield so he could almost be counted as an infielder and an outfielder if necessary.

Outfielders(5): Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios, Jarrod Dyson, Jonny Gomes

There was some debate just a week ago that Rios could be on the outside looking in for a roster spot due to his poor performance most of this year. Then he went out last week, continuing his hot hitting since his return from the chickenpox(which is not a minor league team in the Frontier League) and pretty much sewed up a spot for the playoffs. In my mind this pushed Paulo Orlando off the team, as I think the Royals will want Jonny Gomes’ bat for pinch hitting late in the game or against a tough lefthander. I had an argument with someone over Gomes being on the team, as I am of the belief that he was acquired for the sole purpose of being used in the playoffs while this other person who will not be named believes he won’t because the Royals aren’t using him much. I guess we will see, but in the playoffs I can’t see the reasoning behind six outfielders, or having Orlando on the team for solely defensive purposes. But, there might be a spot for him otherwise, which I will get to later.

DH(1): Kendrys Morales

Starting Pitchers(4): Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen

This seems pretty self-explanatory, especially once Danny Duffy was sent to the bullpen. I still laugh when thinking about some of the Royals fans believing that Cueto might not be on this roster if he continued to under-perform. The wild card in this group is Yordano Ventura; if he pitches like he has over the last 4-6 weeks then he will be a solid number two. If he reverts back to his form from earlier this year there could be an issue. I also think Medlen could be a major player, which seems a bit inconceivable considering where he was at when the season started(starting the climb back from Tommy John Surgery). This isn’t the most solid group but if they can go 5-6 innings every game in the playoffs, hopefully the bullpen can do the rest.

Relievers(8): Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales, Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar, Chris Young, Greg Holland

Speaking of, the bullpen is still a strong suit for this Kansas City team but not quite the monster it was last year. Greg Holland has fallen from grace and it was announced earlier today that Wade Davis is the closer going forward while Holland’s role on the team is to be determined. It also came to light that Holland has been dealing with an elbow issue since the All-Star break and isn’t reliable enough to close games for Kansas City. I’m not shocked to learn Holland was hurt, as I have suspected it most of this year, but this puts a giant question mark into the playoff roster. Can Holland be relied on to perform in any close game, even if that means coming in as early as the 6th inning? Or is he past the point of being trusted in such a situation and be completely left off the roster? I really don’t have an answer to this, but I also know manager Ned Yost is a loyal person and might keep Holland around for that reason only. The other options would be to leave him off while adding Paulo Orlando to the team, trusting that a 7-man bullpen is good enough in the ALDS, or you add young pitcher Miguel Almonte to the pen. Almonte has been a mixed bag so far in September and probably isn’t ready for the big stage, but he does have electric stuff and if used in the proper situation could be a viable option. IF Holland is left off the roster, Orlando very well could be the one given the nod.

July 03, 2015: Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost relieves Kansas City Royals' starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) in the seventh inning during a Major League Baseball  game between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The Royals won in ten innings, 3-2.

The other roster question for the bullpen is whether to go with Chris Young or Jeremy Guthrie as the long reliever. I know there some Royals fan snickering right now for even mentioning Guthrie, but hear me out. Over the weekend I felt like it could be Guthrie, since he was given the starting nod once Duffy was shuffled to the pen and because Chris Young hasn’t been used much over the last couple months. In fact, in August Young didn’t throw more than an inning in any outing, and only appeared in five games during the entire month. Young does have a 2 and a 3 inning outing so far in September, but I would imagine his arm isn’t stretched out like it normally would be. Plus, I couldn’t imagine Young, an extreme fly ball pitcher, to see any action in Toronto, New York, or even Arlington or Houston’s ballparks. Those ballparks are pretty much all hitter’s parks, or in other words a nightmare for a guy who gives up lots of fly balls. So the only action Young would see would probably be at Kauffman Stadium and that cuts down how often you could use him. But then Guthrie looked atrocious on Tuesday night against Seattle and pretty much assured that he would be left off of any and all playoff rosters. Great guy, but Guthrie has had an awful season that isn’t getting better. So Young gets the nod over Guthrie, but hopefully there won’t be much of a need for him come October.

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So there you go, my guess as to what the Royals first round playoff roster will look like. Like I said, there could be a few slight changes to this and with a week and a half left in the season there is the possibility someone else could get hurt or there could be a need for a bit more depth in an area I hadn’t thought of. At the end of the day it is great to even be able to have this conversation, no matter how much bickering goes on about which player stays or goes. With September being a rough month, I think I speak for lots of Royals fans by saying “let’s just start the playoffs already”. Trust me, it will be here soon enough, as we get to engulf ourselves in another ‘Blue October’.

No Love From Oakland: Royals Sweep A’s

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As the Royals headed to Oakland this past weekend there was a ton of speculation about just what might happen as these two teams clashed for the first time since April. Most remember that tension filled series a few months back, as what started as a rematch of a great wild card game from 2014 turned into a heated and bitter battle that saw fielders injured and batters getting thrown at. If you forgot or were in a coma back in April, here is my summary. So with all this said, there was hope that all the drama had vanished and these two teams would just focus on the game being played. The A’s came into the series on a bit of a winning streak and the Royals were just the team with the best record in the American League. So what unfolded? Just a fun three game series that sure didn’t bring the dull.

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Series MVP: Kendrys Morales 

I was wrong. When Royals General Manager Dayton Moore signed Kendrys Morales this past offseason, there was a lot of worry that the Royals had gotten rid of one regressing DH(Billy Butler) for another regressing DH(Morales). Morales was coming off of a disaster of a season, as he didn’t even sign with a team until a few months into the season and just never seemed to get his feet out from underneath him. Morales had a line last year of .207/.285/.347, an OPS+ of 83 and a WAR of -0.3. I was one of those worried that Kansas City got a player on the decline and locked him up for multiple years(he is signed through 2016 with a mutual option for 2017). Instead, Morales has been one of the(if not the most) consistent hitter for the Royals this season and has solidified the middle of the order for Kansas City. This series was no different, as Morales was 4 for 11 against Oakland this series, 1 home run, 3 RBI, and 2 walks and had a number of key hits for them this series. His clutch percentage this season is 0.6 compared to last year’s -0.5 and is close to his best seasons of 0.8 back in 2010 and 2013. Morales even got some time at 1B in this series, as Hosmer was the DH on Sunday, thanks to sprained finger on his left hand. Even when others in the middle of the batting order have been slumping, Morales has been the rock of this team. There is still another half of the season to go but at this point you would have to say that this has been a plus signing for Moore and shows sometimes a player will play above his peripherals. A great signing that continues to pay off for Kansas City.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez     

Speaking of great signings this past offseason, it is safe to say that Edinson Volquez is also in the plus section of that category. Volquez continued to marvel on Friday night, throwing 7 innings, giving up 3 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 3. It was also a milestone game for ‘Easy Eddie’, as it was his 200th career start and he achieved his 1,000 career strikeout. It was Volquez’s best game in over a month, as he had a game score of 69, his best since May 17th against the Yankees. At this point it appears that when Volquez keeps his walks down(2 or less) he seems to shine. When he walks 3 or more, he seems to struggle a bit more. One would assume more baserunners mean more trouble, and the walks have always been Volquez’s big issue throughout his career. The positive is that with some of the Royals younger pitchers struggling this season(Ventura, Duffy) Volquez has been a steadying force in the rotation and has kept his team in games while eating innings in almost every start. In fact so far this season he is averaging 6 innings a start, well above the rest of the Royals rotation. As we get deeper into the season, the need for a starter like Volquez is a must and will help keep the team atop the American League hierarchy. Now, if only the Royals could get some of his consistency to rub off on the rest of the rotation…

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, right, scores beneath Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt in the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

‘C’ is For Clutch

Let’s venture back to the 6th inning in Sunday’s game. Jesse Chavez was still on the mound for Oakland as they led the game 2-0 and he would give up a leadoff double to Mike Moustakas followed by a single to right from Kendrys Morales. Chavez would get Eric Hosmer to fly out to center field, with neither runner advancing. This would bring Salvador Perez to the plate and he would hit a chopper to third base. Max Muncy fielded the ball cleanly but with Moustakas chugging it home, Muncy would throw the ball high to catcher Steven Vogt, allowing Moose to score and also allowing Morales to get to third base while Perez would safely advance to second. Chavez would then intentionally walk Alex Gordon, loading the bases and making it possible for a force out at any base. Alex Rios would follow by hitting a fly ball to center field, a sacrifice fly and a productive out, to score Morales and tie the game, while Perez advanced to third. To cap off  the Royals rally, All-Star hopeful Omar Infante would line a single to right, scoring Perez and putting the Royals in front for good. The Royals have been about as clutch as humanly possible this season, leading the American League at 3.06 clutch percentage. In fact, the Royals are one of only 4 teams in the league hitting above average in those situations. There is a lot to be said for a team that steps up when necessary, but when you are doing it as often as Kansas City it also means you have the best record in the American League. Can you imagine just how much higher this stat would be if the Royals took a walk even occasionally?

Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer flings his bat after hitting a two-run single off Oakland Athletics' Jesse Hahn futinh the third inning of a baseball game Friday, June 26, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

There was much more that went on in Oakland. Here is just a few items of note:

  • Most of us were wondering if there would be some retaliation from the A’s in this series from their last encounter in Kansas City, but it appeared revenge was not on the menu. There was some concern after Franklin Morales hit Steven Vogt on the wrist Friday night, but no one took it as a purpose pitch. Speaking of Vogt, I felt for the guy this weekend. Between the hit by pitch and a couple other instances of balls hitting him while he was behind the dish he was the definition of the walking wounded.
  • I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the gap between the Royals and A’s defense was very present in this series. I’ve mentioned this before when comparing the Royals to other defenses, but I feel it can’t be stressed enough. While the Royals are near the top of the league in Defensive Runs Saved and UZR, the A’s are near the bottom. If you want to point to some of the struggles Oakland is having, looking at a UZR of -23.9 for a starting point. I hate picking on Marcus Semien, but his problems are very apparent. Semien was basically a second baseman and third baseman before this year, so in some ways Oakland should have seen some of this coming when they shifted him to shortstop. The A’s are always good at moving players around the diamond and getting as much as they can out of what they have. Sometimes though the focus on offense hurts them on the defensive side of the coin.
  • Chris Young bounced back from his rough start last weekend against Boston to hurl a 6 inning, 1 run outing. Young is currently sitting at 69 innings so far this season, and one wonders how deep the Kansas City coaching staff will let him continue to start this year before he is shuffled back to the bullpen. Royals manager Ned Yost has mentioned he has an innings limit in mind; I have to believe he probably isn’t too far off from that total.
  • Omar Infante continues to hit, as he has now gotten a hit in 12 of his last 13 games. The current top vote-getter in the American League at 2B, Infante is hitting .360 over the last 2 weeks, with 5 doubles, 6 RBI’s and a BAbip of .419. The Royals are still looking at possible second base trade possibilities before the deadline, but for now Infante is earning his keep in the lineup.
  • Wade Davis came close to losing his streak of innings pitched without allowing a home run. Marcus Semien hit a ball off the wall in left center Sunday afternoon that was a little too close to the top. I did a little digging, and the last time Davis gave up a dinger was on August 24, 2013 to Ian Desmond of the Nationals at Kauffman Stadium. I don’t know if we will see this streak fall this year but it really puts in perspective just how impressive Davis’ performance these past couple years is.
  • Salvador Perez’s reached a milestone with his home run Sunday afternoon:

Congratulations to Salvy on this achievement, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to gain control of the ball afterwards:

Although I think Salvy might know who has it:

I’m going to die laughing if a guy named Mike Stone actually has the ball. If not, Mike Stone is getting unjustly blamed for being a jerk.

  • Speaking of milestones(not #mikestones), Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie piled up his 1,000th career strikeout on Sunday. A nice achievement for a guy who is not a strikeout pitcher. The Royals were able to procure this ball though, so Mike Stone can’t be blamed for keeping another ball with significance.
  • And finally, Mike Moustakas continues to put himself in the front of the comeback player of the year category:

Not only are those numbers highly impressive, but Moustakas is also currently sitting at 85 hits for the season. In 140 games last year he got 97 hits.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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With only three games remaining on the road trip, the Royals are 5-1 so far with Houston on the track for the next series. The Astros could be a fun series, since they have played above expectations this year with a nice core of younger players. The Royals are surely going to try and stretch out their 5.5 game lead in the American League Central before Minnesota ventures into Kansas City this upcoming Thursday for a 4 game series. Right now this Royals team is looking unstoppable, but we have all seen what happens once you assume it is easy sailing. Hopefully Hosmer, Cain and Escobar can all get healed up this week and the Royals can take two more series. The All-Star game is around the corner and should give this team a much needed break. At this point, the positives far outweigh the negatives as we approach the halfway point of the season. Revel in this, Royals fans; we are truly seeing one of the best teams in Kansas City in years. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then you must be a Cardinals fan…

 

 

Knocked Out: White Sox, Mother Nature Take Out Royals

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Most baseball teams don’t aspire to be the bad guys, the team that everyone loves to hate. For years the New York Yankees have held that position in baseball, no matter the makeup of the roster. A week before this series against the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Royals were busy making enemies with the Oakland A’s(and vice versa) and the Royals were starting to get the image of a team of hot-heads. Then a series with Minnesota calmed the team down, getting back into the swing of things and extracting revenge on the Twins by beating them. So the last thing really expected by venturing to Chicago is to once again have our baseball inundated with boxing. Yet here we are, with more suspensions and fines to discuss after what was supposed to be a 4 game set in the “Windy City”. So what about the play on the field? Glad you asked. Here is a deeper look into how the Royals lost the series against the White Sox, with a little bit of help from Mother Nature.

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Series MVP: Alex Gordon

It was just a matter of time. During the offseason Alex Gordon would have wrist surgery, which also caused him to start Spring Training a bit later than everyone else. So it was no big surprise when Gordon started off the year badly, as he did appear to be 30 or so at bats behind everyone else. Probably also didn’t help that he is a notorious slow starter. So it only makes sense that as April gets close to wrapping up and May is looking to take over that Alex Gordon would start hitting. Gordon was 4 for 12 in this series, with most of the offense coming in Sunday’s game, including his 2nd home run of the year. But this series wasn’t just about the offense for “A1”. No, it was also about his defense, the defense that won him a Platinum Glove Award this past offseason. Sunday alone you saw a diving sprawled out catch in left. Then he made a running catch, immediately wheeling around and throwing Melky Cabrera out at second base for his first assist on the season. Then finally, a catch that hopefully we will see on highlights for years to come. The White Sox Micah Johnson would hit the ball off to the left side, careening towards the stands. Gordon runs over, makes the catch while diving into the stands, landing on a White Sox fan in the second row and holding onto the ball. Go ahead and watch it here, even if you have already seen it. Trust me, it is worth it:

I think I agree with Denny Matthews’ commentary during that inning where he stated that the degree of difficulty on that catch was greater than the Derek Jeter catch where he runs into the stands and comes out bloody. Jeter caught his ball then couldn’t stop his momentum into the stands. Gordon caught the ball while he was diving into the stands, focusing on the ball and stands at the same time. Either way that was an amazing catch and it would probably come as a shock that it would be the beginning of an inning where the White Sox would score 5 runs(which it was). A great series for Alex and hopefully the beginning of a hot streak for him.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura

 

Through 5 innings Sunday I was pretty sure this honor would go to Edinson Volquez(again!), but alas he would fall apart in the bottom of the 6th inning after being dominant against the Pale Hose for the first half of the game. Instead it will go to Yordano Ventura, despite the fact that he would be ejected for the 2nd straight start. Before he was tossed for getting into it with Adam Eaton, Ventura had tossed 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs with 1 walk and 8 strike outs. Ventura looked miles better than he did last weekend against Oakland, where he couldn’t find the strike zone and when he did he was pummeled. Not only do the Royals need more starts like this from “Ace”, but they also need him to control his temper so he can stay in the game longer. That leads us to the story of this series…

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Again??? Can’t We Just All Get Along?  

There are a few angles to view the fracas that happened at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday night and a lot of what occurred was leftover from the first series of year in Kansas City. If you can remember back to that series, in that first game of the year, Jeff Samardzija had just given up a home run to Mike Moustakas when he would hit the next batter, Lorenzo Cain, on the next pitch. At the time most of us gave Samardzija the benefit of the doubt and we hoped it wasn’t done on purpose. Honestly though, we were pretty sure that pitch was on purpose and might have even been left over feelings from the Wild Card game from last year, one in which Samardzija was a member of the Oakland A’s. There was a lot of blame to go around here, as it appeared as if Samardzija had been yelling from the dugout earlier in the game and Chris Sale had hit Mike Moustakas with a pitch that looked to be an accident, as it hit his shoulder and grazed his jaw. But Eaton yelping at Ventura seemed to set off the youngster and things got ugly fast. The funny thing about this was that almost instantly Moustakas grabbed Yordano and started escorting him toward the dugout, away from the argument. That didn’t stop everyone else from going at it, as the melee ensued. Samardzija seemed to be the most active participate, seemingly going after Cain, as the two of them yelled at each other back and forth. This also got Edinson Volquez to take a swing at ‘Shark’, although he missed his target and was then restrained. There was so much going on that I can’t cover everything here. Here is a better look:

So what set Eaton off? No clue, although there was later mention of him not taking kindly to Ventura ‘quick pitching’ him. If that is so, then Eaton is way out of line. A quick pitch is just a part of the game and if the White Sox feel like that is some kind of ‘unwritten rule’ in baseball then they have proven my point that most of baseball’s unwritten rules are dumb and taking out of context. Whatever the reason, the Royals were in their second major scuffle in less than a week and when the suspensions were handed out over the weekend it appeared that MLB offices did not take kindly to the Royals coming across like the modern day version of the NWO. Ventura got 7 games, Volquez got 5 while Cain and Kelvin Herrera(who I still can’t find anywhere in the rumble) got 2 games. I was a bit shocked that Samardzija got only 5 games for the White Sox, as he seemed to be more the aggressor than anyone else. I was thinking he was more likely to get 10 games, honestly. But the message sent by the Commissioner’s office was plain and simple; knock this crap off or we will continue to punish you and your team. I think the bigger issue is that cooler heads need to prevail. It seemed a bit like Eaton was goading Ventura, and if that is so he needs to ignore it. Teams have figured out now that the Royals have a chip on their shoulder and it isn’t hard to get under their skin. Problem is, once these players start serving their suspensions(and Volquez is serving his right now) that will be time that the Royals don’t have them on the field, which hurts the team. More than anything else this needs to stop for the sake of keeping the main components of this team on the field. It might not always be easy, but it is time for the Royals to turn the other cheek.

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Onto the other mayhem from this series:

  • One thing glossed over from Thursday night was how the bullpen for Kansas City was lights out for the rest of that game. Ventura was ejected at the end of the 7th and the game would go 13 innings, which left the Royals bullpen throwing 6 shutout innings. In fact, this pen keeps mowing down batters left and right, which has given them some mind blowing numbers early on:

What is most impressive to me that a few guys seem to getting their feet underneath them, like Ryan Madson and Franklin Morales. Madson seems to be looking like his old, pre-injury self(which could be important later in the summer) and Morales has being throwing gas, showing he is more than just a LOOGY for this team. All this and Greg Holland has been out for over a week now and Luke Hochevar has yet to appear in a game this year. This could be interesting to follow all year, as in just how good this Royals bullpen can be.

  • I’m a bit surprised that 8 innings of Friday’s night game got played. By the 7th inning that field was a mess and in all honesty those players should have been pulled off the field. It made no sense to me, since they could make the rest of the game up over the weekend or the 2 other trips the Royals will make to Chicago this season. This only normally happens when a team is making only 1 trip to that city, which wasn’t the case here. Both teams were lucky that no one came down with a serious injury.
  • Speaking of weather issues, Mother Nature continued to wreck havoc, postponing Saturday’s game and making this 4 game series a 3 game series. The game will be made up in July.

  • Paulo Orlando continues to hit. He went 3 for 3 in Friday nights game and is hitting .289 so far this season. With Alex Rios still out with an injury, it has made manager Ned Yost’s job harder, as he now has to choose from day to day who plays in right field, as Jarrod Dyson deserves playing time as well. Trust me, this is a nice problem to have.
  • It’s early, but Danny Duffy really hasn’t looked like last year’s version of himself. He has only had one start reach the 7th inning and he doesn’t seem to be as efficient as he was last year. His last few starts have been concerning(especially the 5 walks allowed last week against Oakland) as his pitch count has neared 100 by the 5th inning. For the Royals to keep up their pace they are going to need Duffy to be more efficient and pitch deeper into games. Now about that strikeout rate…

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So the Royals lost their second series of the season and now sit at 12-6. Kansas City will continue to play within their division, as they have the Indians up next for 3 then the Tigers roll into Kauffman Stadium for a 4 game set starting Thursday. A win of both series’ would go a long way to building up a lead at the top of the division for the boys in blue. Hopefully by next Monday we are looking at a first place team who slayed both Central Division foes. I’ve said it before but man, this division is going to be fun this year. This is just the beginning of a four team race that could go down to the wire.

 

 

Royals’ Spring Hopefuls

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One of the great things about Spring Training every year is that it’s the beginning for younger players to show what they can do. It’s also a proving ground for wily veterans to work with a clean slate and start anew. Every year there is a surprise(Arizona) player(or players) that the big league club didn’t have penciled in as a part of the major league team that leaves them with no other choice than to bring them up north to begin the season. There is no guarantee that any of the players I am going to bring up here will be with the team on Opening Day against Chicago but they are all interesting cases that are with the Kansas City Royals this spring for a variety of reasons. Some you will have heard of, others this will be the first time. But what they all have in common is they want to be in Kansas City to start the year.

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1) Christian Binford

If you follow this blog even mildly you know this isn’t the first time I have mentioned Binford. In fact last year I mentioned he was a prospect to keep an eye on and the Royals had even considered him to be a September call-up out of the pen. This spring is his first in Royals camp but he comes in as the Royals 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and has a good shot of getting the call to the big leagues at some point this year. Binford isn’t going to break any radar guns but he throws strikes(and has a great walk ratio) and great command. The Royals had tried him in the bullpen late in the season at Omaha with less than spectacular results but that doesn’t tarnish his abilities or how the organization views him. Binford compiled 8 starts in AA last year before the experiment in Omaha, and it is a good bet he starts this year back in Northwest Arkansas. But honestly, probably not for long and there is a chance if the Royals need a starter at some point later in the summer Binford could be the one who gets the call. In fact Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland has liked what he has seen from Binford this spring, as he wonders if some of the tinkering with his delivery would add a few miles an hour to his fastball:

“What I’ve seen, I like,” Eiland said. “He’s a strike thrower. He’s got movement. He’s much more downhill, better angle now, once we moved his hands a little bit.”

Binford won’t ever be a top of the rotation starter but could very well fill out the back end of the rotation sooner than later. Binford’s ability to throw strikes and pitch to contact should be a plus with Kansas City’s defense. So don’t be surprised if you hear Binford’s name again before this season is over.

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2) Bubba Starling

Let me clarify here–Bubba Starling will not be on the Royals 25 man roster on Opening Day. That is not why Starling is in camp this spring. He is in camp to get a feel for what goes on at big league camps and learn from the Royals coaches and players. It at least sounds like he is getting adjusted, as Starling started hitting the ball finally in a game, as he struck out his first five plate appearances this spring. The Royals are still holding out hope for the 2011 first round pick, as he is still only 22 years old. Starling’s struggles have been well documented and there is some concern that he might never reach the majors, at least with the numbers he has compiled so far in his minor league career. The hope is that rubbing elbows this spring with the likes of George Brett, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer will light something under him and will at least bump his career in an upward trajectory. No matter what, the experience of being at big league camp this spring has to be viewed as a positive for ‘The Man They Call Bubba’.

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3) Ryan Madson

Madson is an interesting case for the Royals. On one hand, he is a former closer for the Phillies who has a lethal change-up. On the other hand, he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011 and last pitched in a regular season game back in 2013 for the Angels in A ball. Finally, on the other other hand(yep, he has three hands; deal with it), Madson is fighting for a spot in what is already a jammed pack bullpen. Even if the Royals decide to go with 8 pitchers out of the pen to start the season, Madson might be on the outside looking in. The best chance for Madson this season might be to get some velocity back in Omaha and wait for a bullpen arm to get injured. There is some positive to Madson’s story so far this spring, according to the Kansas City Star:

“Madson lacked accuracy with his four-seam fastball, but scouts still clocked the pitch at 91-92 mph, a tick below the 94-mph heater he unleashed with regularity for the Phillies through 2011. His changeup fooled his adversaries, even if they were of the lower-level variety. Manager Ned Yost referred to the offspeed pitch as “a real weapon.”

Hopefully the Royals are able to retain him and keep him stowed away until he is needed. He could be an interesting add to a bullpen late in the season, if the team is making a playoff push. Nothing like another solid arm for an already elite bullpen, if you ask me.

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4) Francisco Pena

I find Pena to be an interesting case. For one, he is the son of former Royals skipper Tony Pena. Two, Pena has been in the minors since 2007 and has cleverly avoided the “prospect” term for the majority of that time. In fact you almost wondered when the Royals acquired him before the 2014 season if they did it because a)of who his dad is or b)they thought his brother, Tony Jr.(former Royals SS) had changed his name or c)they just needed some depth at the catchers position. C seems to be the most likely answer but little did we know that Pena would put together a solid offensive season last year in Omaha, compiling 27 home runs, a.515 slugging percentage and an OPS of .795. Hey, not ‘blow you out of the water’ numbers, but impressive for a guy who had hit a combined 40 home runs the previous 7 minor league seasons. At this moment it appears that Salvador Perez’s personal caddy, Erik Kratz, will be the Royals backup catcher, but if something were to happen to Kratz while sitting on the bench(or getting Perez a cup of water), Pena could see some action in the big leagues. There is also the possibility that Perez will break down like an old Buick due to all the innings manager Ned Yost makes him catch, but I hate the idea that this thought even creeps into my brain. Instead know that Pena is an outside shot to make the big league club but a possibility to warm the bench later in the season.

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5) Franklin Morales

Morales might have the best chance of this group to make the Royals this spring, if for no other reason than because of an injury. Royals left handed reliever Tim Collins has ligament damage in his left elbow and very likely could have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2015 season. That would leave Kansas City with a decision to make in their bullpen, including whether the team should go with another lefty to take Collins’ place in the pen. If they go the route of adding another lefty, Morales very well could be the answer. Morales has flipped back and forth between being a starter or a reliever the last few years with Boston and Colorado, so he is familiar in either role. But the Royals specifically signed him to work out of the pen and that is his best shot at a job for the team. Last year Morales pitched well against left-handed batters, with his splits showing a noticeable difference. In fact if the team wanted to use him as a LOOGY(a left-handed specialist who would primarily pitch to left-handed batters) I think he would be quite successful in that role. A lot of factors will determine whether or not he goes north with the team in April, such as whether or not Luke Hochevar is ready or whether the Royals plan on carrying an 8 man bullpen or not. The other factor is whether or not the team wants to keep Brandon Finnegan as a reliever or if he gets sent to the minors to begin the process of starting again. Either way, a good spring from Morales would go a long way to deciding his fate. A good spring makes the Royals decision harder. A bad spring and Morales is either in Omaha or on the unemployment line, although not for long; I mean, he is left-handed.

Royals Spring Baseball

A few weeks still remain in Spring Training, so things could unwind even more before the team heads back to Kansas City to start the season. There’s a good possibility we see a few of the names mentioned here at the least or maybe even most of them. It’s one of the great things about baseball; you never know how a season will unfold. All we know at this point is most of these players are fighting for a spot and want to be with the team the first week of April at Kauffman Stadium. It’s been said before and will be said again; hope springs eternal.

 

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