Last February, I asked the question “is this the year David Lough makes his debut?”
After a 2009 where he hit a combined .325/.370/.496 between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas and a 2010 season where he reached double figures in doubles, triples and homers in Omaha (oh, and stolen bases too), it seemed he would have a shot to be a September callup – but was left out in the cold while Jai Miller got an opportunity to do, well, not much.
The call never came in 2010, but it seemed like he might get a look at some point in 2011. The Royals even traded David DeJesus, creating an opening in the outfield. Then the Royals got Lorenzo Cain in the Zack Greinke deal after signing Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur.
Obviously, Lough didn’t get his shot, as Cabrera and outfield convert Alex Gordon had career years, while Jeff Francoeur came close to one.
Lough put up great numbers in Omaha last year, his second straight year in Triple A. His .318/.367/.482 line in 516 plate appearances suggests that he would be worth a look in the big leagues, but, again, the Royals had three players in the outfield putting up collective numbers rivaling many of the best outfield trios in recent memory. They all stayed healthy, too.
It’s hard to say that the performance and consistency of Gordon, Cabrera and Francoeur is a bad thing, because it certainly isn’t, but in Lough’s case it was since it held him out of Kansas City.
There are questions about what kind of impact Lough would have as a major leaguer. Many think he’d be a capable big leaguer, but don’t think he’d be a regular. He’s drawn comparisons to DeJesus in that both are left-handed hitters and fielders, both feature good contact skills at the plate, and both have occasional pop.
Both are also of the “jack of all trades, master of none” variety. While DeJesus had strong years in Kansas City, he wasn’t considered a star outside of the Metro area, and when it came time to return value for him, the Royals got bit players for him.
Lough may never be more than a fourth outfielder, but given the opportunity, he’s shown the ability to hit line drives consistently, suggesting that he may be able to hit for average, even if in a limited role. As stated before, he doesn’t strike out much (he struck out in 14.1% of his plate appearances in 2007, which is the highest such percentage of his minor league career). One knock against him is that he also doesn’t walk that much. In 2010, he walked 7.6% of the time, a rate that would probably have to increase for him to get on base at the major league average.
Going into 2012, Lough is in a tough spot. His performance to date has earned him a look at the big leagues, but with the aforementioned outfield trio firmly entrenched and Lorenzo Cain in line for his own shot, Lough may be in the same boat as Clint Robinson – stuck behind top performers but ready for an opportunity. If the Royals make some moves this winter, his name could be pitched as a young, major-league-ready outfielder. If he logs any time in the majors with the Royals, it may be as a fifth outfielder or injury replacement.
If nothing else, Lough (and Robinson) give the Royals something they typically haven’t had – depth. If injuries occur this spring, Lough would be a fine option to jump in and fill a role.