Spring Training Storylines

Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday. I’ll pause and let you regroup as you’ve certainly fainted from pure joy.

Pitchers and catchers reported and while some teams are set to show off their new faces by way of free agency or trades, the Royals still take up a lot of the narrative around the game because of the incredible farm system. Most baseball outlets, most recently AOL decided they should finally join the party, have named the Royals the possessor of the best minor leagues in all of baseball. With these accolades though, comes a lot of attention to Spring Training that wouldn’t normally be appropriate for a team that’s lost as much as they have the past decade.

While baseball and most Royals fans are fixated on the progress of Moustakas and Hosmer, or Montgomery and Lamb, and wondering just when the first batch of prospects will start to rise to the majors, there are still questions to be answered with the big league club that, while you wouldn’t think are all that important, have a lot of meaning for the team looking ahead to 2012 and ’13.

Is this the Year of Luke Hochevar?

We can hope, can’t we? The flashes of brilliance sprinkled in with the tonnage of awfulness are not what an organization would expect from a No. 1 pick. (The circumstances around that picked have been hashed out enough here recently, so let’s just not go there again.) But because of those flashes there’s still enough of a “yeah, but” when talking about Hochevar that leaves critics to pause when doubting his success moving forward.

Some players rise to the occasion when thrust in the Opening Day, staff leader role, and their true talent shines through. If at this point in his career Hochevar can’t grab on and establish himself as the best pitcher on the staff, and instead perhaps loses the title to newly acquired Jeff Francis, then he most likely never will.

Is this the Year of Alex Gordon?

Well look, a theme with Royals top picks of years’ past. Every year about this time it seems we get inundated with stories about Gordon and how hard he’s working and how this year will finally be the year he stays healthy and puts it all together. (In fact I think Kaegal is dusting it off as I write this.) Hopefully though, this year, it won’t be like that.

This Spring Training I’m taking a “no news is good news” approach with Gordon. No more stories about how he’s a bust; no more stories about his wrist or his hip; no more talking about how much he strikes out. This Spring Training I’m hoping for a business as usual “been there done that” attitude from Gordon and the Royals. Hopefully it will mean everyone is done talking about how he’s a bust and can finally realize he’s actually been a pretty good player. Maybe then he’ll finally be the star we all thought he would be.

Then again, I am the author of this.

Centerfield: Cabrera or Cain?

This is a no brainer. I know there are some that will give the same old excuse: “well we’re not going to win this year anyway…”

Yeah, the Royals probably aren’t going to win this year. That’s great. But at some point winning has to start in order to completely develop all the young players about to come up, and Melky Cabrera does nothing to help that process move forward. He’ll be here for one year at the most. Keeping Cain in AAA in order to fulfill whatever promise* was given to Cabrera before the trade occurred doesn’t help this team in 2012.

*It was mentioned on the radio the other day that because Moore may have made some kind of guarantee of playing time, or at least promised a “fair shot” to earn the job that would undoubtedly lead to playing time, to Cabrera that the Royals have to start him because of the fallout that would occur in free agency moving forward if they didn’t. Nonsense. Melky Cabrera was signed and then a better player was acquired. Other players know how things work. Other players also know money in Kansas City is the same color as the money anywhere else. Other players also know Melky Cabrera isn’t good.

It would be better to have a few core players with major league experience established and hopefully enjoying individual success once the First Wave starts to come up, so there isn’t the crushing weight of consistently losing heaped upon Moustakas and company.  Cain is better for now and better for the future because of what he’ll mean to the team as a second full-year pro, and not just another one-year youngster.

Tags: Alex Gordon KC Royals Lorenzo Cain Luke Hochevar Melky Cabrera Mike Moustakas

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