Tag: Alex Gordon

2015 Season Previews: Kansas City Royals

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Kansas City Royals

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 72-90 (4th in AL Central, 27th in MLB)

Manager: Ned Yost (373-402 in five seasons with the Royals, 830-904 overall in 11 seasons)

Top Three Players: OF Alex Gordon (4.4), C Salvador Perez (3.6), 3B Mike Moustakas (2.6)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Mike Moustakas

It is hard to say that a player will rebound, especially when they haven’t had a single season of league-average wRC+ in their entire MLB career, but Moustakas is certainly capable of better than he has shown in his career. After dropping to a career-worst .212/.271/.361 triple-slash and 76 wRC+ in 2014, there isn’t really much further down Moustakas can go offensively before he’ll be out of a job. He will get to respectable levels because he won’t have a .220 BABIP, which is heavily weighed down by defensive shifts. Add in the career-low strikeout rate (14.8 percent) and a career-high walk-rate (7.0 percent), and Moustakas, while regressing, is, at the same time, showing progress offensively. Who is Mike Moustakas? Is he the kid who hit 36 home runs in 2010 in the minors at the age of 22, or is he the guy with the .669 OPS over his 1,993 MLB plate appearances. He hasn’t ever really been in the middle, but there is still potential for that, even as he enters only his age-26 season (he seems like he should be older, right?).


Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Yordano Ventura

If you look at the numbers for the Royals pitching staff in 2014, you may wonder why Ventura is a player to watch. He tied for the team lead in wins (14) with James Shields, and was second to Danny Duffy in starter ERA (3.20). The petite right-hander logged 183 innings while averaging 97 mph on his dominating fastball. He will turn 24 in June, and he should improve his command to bring his walk-rate down a bit from the 3.39 that he had in 2014. With the stuff and a bit of control, the sky is the limit for this kid, even if he must continue to overcome the diminutive label. Look for more from the already impressive power-arm.

Offseason Overview: The Royals had an interesting offseason, losing their ace (James Shields), an outfielder (Nori Aoki), and their long-time DH (Billy Butler); however, they filled those holes by signing RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Kris Medlen, OF Alex Rios, and 1B/DH Kendrys Morales. The big question is: is that going to be enough? With Shields gone, the ace of the rotation (at least in label) will likely be RHP Jeremy Guthrie. Volquez isn’t going to replace the production that Shields had, at least (based on his track record) there isn’t enough consistency to warrant his elevation to being considered at top-tier pitcher, and Medlen, after two Tommy John surgeries, has been good, yet, he can’t be counted on. They will, instead, hope to get more production out of Ventura and LHP Danny Duffy to off-set the loss of Shields. A healthy Rios should be an upgrade over Aoki, even with the difference in on-base skills that Rios brings, and Morales was once capable of better production than the .702 OPS and 95 OPS+ that Butler provided from the DH slot in 2014, so they’ll hope for a return to that level with a full offseason to prepare.

The Verdict: PECOTA wasn’t kind to the Royals, just an offseason removed from appearing in the World Series. The AL Central seems quite competitive, especially with the White Sox buying in this winter. The Royals need to see improvements by Moustakas, OF Lorenzo Cain, and their young starting pitching. The additional unknown in year-to-year reliever success can go a long way in the Royals’ future, as well, as the dominance from RHP Greg Holland, RHP Wade Davis, and RHP Kelvin Herrera may not be the same in 2015. While PECOTA, once again, wasn’t very kind, the Royals seem more like, as they were last season, to exceed expectations. They have a lot of good, young talent still, and if things break right, even a little, they are capable of outperforming expectations, just as they did in 2014.


Hosmer Owes Brett His Next Contract

HosmerOn May 29, the Kansas City Royals had just lost to the St. Louis Cardinals and Eric Hosmer was hitting .262/.323/.331 with just one home run and 10 RBI over the season’s first 50 games. On May 30, George Brett was hired as the Royals‘ hitting coach. Today, July 25, Brett resigned from the position to return to his role as Vice President of Baseball Operations for Kansas City, after serving roughly eight weeks as a coach.

However, Brett’s impact may live on for some time, specifically for Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Hosmer hit .309/.349/.531 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI over his last 48 games. His approach at the plate has changed, as has his ability to drive the ball.

After a tremendous debut in 2011, Hosmer seemed to fall off of the face of the earth in 2012. His .232/.304/.359 line was supported by a miserable .255 BABIP and a 53.6 percent ground ball rate; Surprisingly, the 2013 ground ball rate is worse, 55.9 percent, but his line drive rate is up to 21.9 percent in 2013 from 18.5 percent in 2012. He is making more solid contact this season, which has put his BABIP in 2013 back up to .309.

At the age of 23, Hosmer appeared to be headed in the same direction as Mike Moustakas and the early career of Alex Gordon, but, like Gordon, he made some adjustments to make stronger, more consistent contact to solidify himself in the Royals future plans.

After 3,154 hits, one MVP, 13 All-Star appearances, and one tremendous tirade over pine tar on a bat, George Brett proved his worth as a hitting coach. After watching such great, quick improvements with Hosmer, it is incredible that more teams don’t reach out to former players who could actually hit. Instead, Major League Baseball hitting coaches include names like Brook Jacoby (Cincinnati, .270 career average with 1,220 hits), Lloyd McClendon (Detroit, .244 with 294 hits), Tom Brunansky (Minnesota, .244 with 1,543 hits), and Dave Hudgens (New York Mets, .143 with ONE career hit in 7 at-bats).

Hosmer2As Brett steps away from the field once again, it is proof that you can’t teach greatness, but you can be touched by it. Hosmer should be very grateful for getting his career back on track with help from one of the best ever.

Are the Royals Good Enough to “Go for It”?

ShieldsKansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore apparently thinks that his team is good enough to win within the next two years. That has to be the case after Moore traded one of the best prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for two years of RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis.

For whatever reason, the Royals looked like they were going to go with Jeff Francoeur in right field in 2013, despite Myers ripping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. Was Myers expendable at the cost of playing Francoeur, who, after posting a .665 OPS in 2012, is in the final year of his contract in 2013?

While Kansas City has Wade Davis under contract through 2017, one has to wonder if he is really a starting pitcher. Davis posted a 2.43 ERA over 54 appearances and 70.1 innings, posting an 87:29 K:BB pitching only out of the bullpen in 2012. Prior to last season, Davis was 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA in 64 career starts, posting a 254:138 K:BB in 388.1 innings for the Rays.

While James Shields has a 31-22 record and a 3.15 ERA over the last two seasons, posting a 448:123 K:BB in 477 innings, Davis will be the wildcard in this deal, especially considering the amount of young controllable talent the Royals gave up in the deal.

Beyond the trade is the makeup of the current Royals roster. Is it championship caliber? Can the Royals compete with the Tigers, who have reloaded the pitching staff by re-signing Anibal Sanchez, teaming him with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer to form one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, while still packing the Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera punch?

The Royals will need more than a couple of dynamic seasons out of Shields and Davis to make it work. Moore acquired Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels, while committing $25 million over three years to journeyman Jeremy Guthrie. Can Shields, Davis, Santana, Guthrie, and Will Smith, Luke Hochevar, or Bruce Chen be enough to become a contender?

The answer will lie in the bats of the young stars on the Royals roster. Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer have shown glimpses of superstardom, while mixing in a lot of inconsistencies. Shortstop Alcides Escobar looks like he is heading towards becoming a star, while catcher Salvador Perez looks to be on the same track. Designated Hitter Billy Butler is the leader of the team and all he does is hit. If the team gets a little consistency out of Moustakas, Gordon, and Hosmer, while hoping that Lorenzo Cain stays healthy in center and Francoeur looks like a baseball player again (like he did in 2011 when he posted an .805 OPS), the Royals may have enough to compete.

However, the Royals are a small-market team. If the team is able to create extreme revenue with a new TV contract, then this type of trade makes sense, but it is unlikely that the team will have the cash to re-sign Shields after the 2014 season, if he is even worth re-signing at that point. Is that worth the seven years of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery?

The Royals have positioned themselves well by acquiring a lot of veteran arms to upgrade their rotation; however, Davis, Guthrie, and Santana aren’t models of consistency. If each of their starters reach their peak levels of performance, they could very well become a true force in a weak AL Central. They will need a lot of help from their young position players, though.

The Royals will be good enough to compete with the Detroit Tigers if Mike Moustakas hits like he did in the minors, if Eric Hosmer hits like he did in his rookie year, if Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez continue hitting like they did in 2012, if Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur do anything, and if Billy Butler keeps hitting like the All-Star that he is.

Those are a lot of if’s.

myersBecause of all of those if’s, the Royals are going to regret the trade of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery. While we’ve seen many Brandon Wood, Brandon Larson, and Corey Patterson-types get hyped and fail, we’ve also seen the Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Miguel Cabrera-types get hyped and exceed expectations. For a team who can’t land the top free agents, dealing away all of that potential for two years of a reliable arm and five years of a wildcard is and will be a huge mistake.

Some teams just need to remember who and what they are. With so many teams banking on revenue streams increasing, MLB could have parity like the NFL in coming years…but they could also have owners who are shy to spend due to the market limitations. Kansas City has been shy to spend for so many years that they can’t be counted on to start anytime soon. They weren’t close enough to a championship to make a deal like the one that they did with the Rays.

daytonThat will be Dayton Moore’s legacy…unfortunately.