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Reading Tea Leaves: Dayton on 610

Hopefully you got a chance to tune into 610 radio tonight to listen to Ryan Lefebvre and Denny Matthews on the Royals Hot Stove Show.  If not, you missed not only a chance to hear the voices of the Royals (and it’s been way too long since I heard these guys), but you also missed a discussion with General Manager Dayton Moore.

Between the typical platitudes you’re going to hear from a public address by a GM, there were a few nuggets of information if you were looking for them.

Moore made it clear that he expects the team to compete this year, even though the Royals will have the youngest collection of players of any major league team in their spring training camp.  The pressure shouldn’t be on the young players like Eric Hosmer and John Lamb to try to win a job out of camp, but they should aim to show something special to the coaches and rest of the team.  With players of this caliber, they shouldn’t have a problem competing since they should have a competitive mindset already.

It’s probably difficult as a GM to invite someone to camp when you know there’s not really a chance they’re going to make the team.  In the case of Hosmer and Lamb, they could do everything perfectly, but due to service time issues and rebuilding timelines, you’d need to see about 30 different contingencies to see either in Kansas City this year, and especially out of camp.

Dayton addressed the pitching rotation, and between reminders that Kyle Davies is 27 (like you’re not really a bad pitcher until 30), he mentioned that the Royals would like to add “a pitcher or two” to allow time for Everett Teaford and Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery to develop in the minors.  He made no mention of Aaron Crow, interestingly.  Perhaps a bullpen move is in the big plans for him, or they’re tempering expectations to see how he does in a second stint with Northwest Arkansas.

The most interesting part of the show discussed some minor leaguers and the potential to bring them into the big leagues.  In addressing the catching situation, he said they expect Brayan Pena and Luke May to handle the duties at least until around June when they expect Jason Kendall back.  He also mentioned Manuel Pina as someone who might play his way into the majors this summer.

He also discussed Lorenzo Cain and the outfield logjam.  One name that got left out among the discussion of potential center fielders was Mitch Maier.  They brought up Jarrod Dyson and Gregor Blanco as well as Lorenzo Cain and Melky Cabrera, but no Mitch.  With the idea that “Kauffman Stadium demands speed in the outfield,” that probably give Blanco a leg up on Maier, but Moore mentioned that Cain will get a very long evaluation in spring training and should be with the club early if he’s not on the opening day roster.  Moore said Brewers GM Doug Melvin described Cain as a “young Torii Hunter” defensively.  My first hunch has always been that Cain will be the opening day starter, but they seem to be hedging their bets to levy expectations.

Moore’s mindset has always been “better to be a month late than a month too soon” with prospects, so maybe that’s his caution speaking.  He did mention that it’s harder to gauge how position players will adjust because once they hit a level of production at one level, they can’t really improve until faced with the new challenge.  In that context, he says, he expects Alcides Escobar to put in that work to make adjustments.

All that being said, he still feels good about the Zack Greinke trade – of course he’s going to say that – since the move allowed them to fill their priorities while blending with the prospects already in place.

I gathered a few things from Moore’s comments.  First, he feels comfortable with the bullpen, calling Joakim Soria the anchor to a strong group of relief options.  He mentioned “two left-handers” so expect Tim Collins before too long.

Also, he mentioned the makeup of the infield, stating that Chris Getz should play a lot at second or may platoon with Mike Aviles (who should see time at third as well).  Wilson Betemit got no mention in that segment and Moore named Mike Moustakas specifically.  He later said Moustakas should be up sooner rather than later.  Seems they’re awfully confident in his abilities to adjust to big league pitching.

With all that in mind, the trio discussed if 2011 could be a better year than some expect.  It’s tough to win with young players, but there are no expectations to win and baseball players are proud and may play with a chip on their shoulder.  Count them out and they might jump up and surprise some people.

Still, it’s going to be a rough year in some ways (exciting in others) and there’s no way to really sugar coat that unless you outright ignore it.  Dayton expressed the difficulty in being patient, and while we’re all anxious as fans to see the Process work, it’s going to take time.  By the second half of the year, there should be anywhere from two to four prospects at the big league level.

So there’s that.

The Hot Stove show will be on next week from FanFest in Overland Park, Kansas.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Chris Getz Dayton Moore Gregor Blanco Jason Kendall Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals KC Lorenzo Cain Melky Cabrera Mike Aviles Mike Moustakas MLB Royals Zack Greinke

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