Wrapping Up Royals FanFest

I don’t know how your weekend has gone, but mine’s been fantastic.  Despite the large amount of snow on the ground in northeast Kansas, all I can think about right now is a clear 70 degree day and an acre of grass.

The Royals annual FanFest took place Friday and Saturday (with a special preview for season ticket holders on Thursday) in Overland Park, Kansas, featuring games, memorabilia, autograph lines, Q&A sessions and a lot of other exhibits.  I’d never been, so the appeal to me was to first, see what the fuss was about, and second to see if there might be some interesting information passed along.

My verdict: I had a blast hanging around talking baseball with some fellow Royals bloggers and putting faces to some Twitter handles.  I stood around a TV watching the Kansas Jayhawks take on Texas in the first half (before they forgot it was a basketball game) alongside Mike Swanson, a fellow Jayhawk and the Royals VP of Communications and Broadcasting.  Denny Matthews made fun of me.

That’s a pretty excellent day as a fan.  But as for information, there were a few interesting tidbits to pick up throughout the weekend.

First, there was the Digital Digest, which I covered at length earlier.  Dayton Moore waltzed around some questions but gave us some insight into how the club has approached their personnel decisions.  Ned Yost basically hinted that Jeff Francoeur is golden for right field, wouldn’t commit to Alex Gordon as an everyday player, and we learned that Melky Cabrera was signed mostly because the Royals weren’t sure they were definitely going to trade Zack Greinke.

In discussing other outfield options, Yost mentioned Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain and Gregor Blanco.  He did not mention Mitch Maier.  At all.  Not once.

Jeff Francoeur called Citi Field and its expansive dimensions “a damn joke” which got some Mets fans riled up.

On Friday, there were a few Q&A sessions going on.  I made it to the Overland Park Convention Center a bit later in the day, so I didn’t catch everything going on, but did manage to here some of Ned Yost‘s session.  Some early hints for the 2011 season:

  • He’s really thrilled about Tim Collins and Louis Coleman as members of the bullpen in Kansas City.  He relayed an anecdote from Luke Hochevar (who was rehabbing in Omaha) about Collins where he said “he’s just like a baby, you want to pick him up and burp him!” but that all changes once he takes the mound.
  • He likes managing in the American League more than the National League.  It’s more predictable and less complicated with specific plays and switches.  (Perhaps that’s an opening to try some innovative strategies…)
  • The Royals system of rebuilding is like Atlanta’s in the late-80’s and early-90’s.  He discussed this at Digital Digest as far as how the balance, depth and talent in the Braves system and the Royals system is the best way to go about it, but he also compared it to the Brewers and how they’re currently in position to have one shot at a title in 2011 without that depth and balance.  “Atlanta did it right.  They had waves of talent.”
  • In talking with some of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, they expect to win when they take the field and that expectation makes them good teammates and competitors.  Typical manager speak, but there probably is something to a team that’s named Baseball America’s Team of the Year and expecting to succeed.
  • When asked about the starting rotation, Yost mentioned Hochevar as a number one type, then named Jeff Francis, Vin Mazzaro, Kyle Davies and Bruce Chen in that order.

Later, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, Lorenzo Cain and Mitch Maier came on stage to talk about playing in the outfield.  I may have gotten the number wrong and didn’t have a note down, but Cain said his 60 yard dash speed is 6.26 seconds.  That seems really, really fast to me, but I know it was six point something.  Bottom line is he’s fast.

Jeff Francoeur stated that if he could rob any one player of a homer with a catch at the wall, it’d be A.J. Pierzynski.  Everyone applauded.  Francoeur also mentioned that other than baseball, the other sport he’s most active in is golf.

On Saturday, Ned Yost went a bit further, stating that he didn’t know yet if Blanco or Maier would make the team.  With all that writing on the wall, my guess is that the last spot in the outfield comes down to those two.  That’s not even a hard guess to go with.  I’ve thought that Maier would have been designated at some point over the last two months to make room for someone, especially after the Royals signed two outfielders and traded for another.  Meanwhile, he and Blanco are nearly indistinguishable.

Also on Saturday, a big bit of news, as Dayton Moore said that Wil Myers, regarded as one of the top catching prospects, will be moving to the outfield this spring.  I’m giving that one to Aaron Stilley of Kansas City Baseball, since I wasn’t at that Q&A session.

That’s a big shift and has some sizeable ramifications for the organization and the further development of prospects.  I’ll get into that more in depth later on, but for now, that’s a great move and should enable Myers to devote more time to develop his already potent hitting ability.

All in all, I think FanFest is a worthwhile experience.  If I had kids, it might be better since a lot of the games are geared towards those 10 and younger, but the Royals Hall of Fame exhibit was great, there were representatives from the Omaha Storm Chasers and Northwest Arkansas Naturals on hand and a mob of Royals fans out there.

The best part (which I hope they continue to do at FanFest in the future) was the Royals Awards ceremony.  It’s a bit hokey, sure, but if you want a way to get pumped up about the upcoming seasons of Royals baseball, listening to Art Stewart and George Brett present awards is a pretty nice way to do it.  My full recap of that event comes tomorrow.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Dayton Moore Gregor Blanco Jeff Francoeur Kansas City Royals KC Lorenzo Cain Louis Coleman Luke Hochevar Mitch Maier MLB Ned Yost Royals Tim Collins Wil Myers

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