Can you name the last American League World Series champion? Sure. It was two years ago when the New York Yankees won their bazillionth world title (Ok, I think it was only number 27), but still they’ve won a lot in their grand history. My point is since 2006 the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Francisco Giants have won four of the last six titles.
What are NL teams known for?
Having stronger benches. Granted it’s for various reasons like the pitcher bats meaning changes late in the game need to be made. This topic got me to thinking about the 2012 Kansas City Royals non-starters. The starters are set with Alex Gordon in left, Lorenzo Cain in center, Jeff Francoeur in right, Mike Moustakas at third, Alcides Escobar at short, Johnny Giavotella at second, Eric Hosmer at first and Salvador Perez behind the plate plus Billy Butler as designated hitter.
To be honest, the signing of Yuniesky Betancourt really spurred this, which has led to looking at available free agents who are versatile. We’ve been told that Betancourt will back-up Escobar in addition to play some third base if need be. Chris Getz is the next guy off the bench who will get playing time when Giavotella needs a day off or heaven forbid starts slow and Ned Yost benches.
If you look at Kansas City’s current depth chart, it lists both as the only reserves at second, shortstop and third base. Pretty thin if you ask me. Butler is listed as the next man at that position, but this isn’t a huge concern in my book because Billy seems to have gotten a little better at 1B. The occasional start at first doesn’t bother me.
Continuing on in the infield is back-up catcher, which is an afterthought to many, but let’s face it this is an important position since they don’t play 162 games. Also some pitchers prefer the other guy which isn’t uncommon at all. When Perez isn’t catching it’ll be Manny Pina or Brayan Pena who’ll spend spring training battling to see who the second catcher is.
Moving on let’s examine the guys who will be playing behind Gordon, Cain and Frenchy. Jarrod Dyson figures to have a spot on the team and hopefully he does more than fulfill a role of Butler’s personal late inning runner. Seeing him in Omaha this past summer, you can tell he can play when given the chance to, but Ned needs to give him the opportunity.
Mitch Maier has shown he is extremely valuable being able to play three infield positions well and he can also be an emergency option at first base. Maier was also used as a pinch runner in late game scenarios for KC, but normally we saw him on Sundays or when guys needed a break. When given the chance he’s played well and gotten the job done for the organization.
So now that we know the pieces of the bench, how much better does that make the Royals when guys are on the DL or underperforming? Being in the American League your back-ups aren’t as important as being in the National League but teams that compete have guys who are valuable. I can’t tell you how many times over the last five years I’ve said, “Boy do the Twins and Rays, who spend as much as KC, have guys that are versatile and help the club consistently!”
Of the previous players on this roster, only Maier fulfills what you want in a bench player. Although there is a drop-off from the starter he is replacing, he won’t hurt the team. I might be pretty harsh on Yuni or Getz but due to previous track records, they leave me and probably many of you skeptical for good reason.
Can these spare parts or after thoughts help Kansas City move towards respectability? Sure they are all more than capable, because let’s face it, making it to the show isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But winning titles takes the entire 25-man roster. There will be times during the year Dyson will need to steal third or Getz to come in only lay down a bunt. Yuni might come in needing to pinch-hit with the game on the line.
All are more than capable should they be called upon during the grind of a 162-game schedule and hopefully in the postseason. I don’t mean to over think this during the offseason, but the non-starters are just as important. Even if that means having Clint Robinson, David Lough or Derrick Robinson sitting on the bench to make the Royals better, then so be it. Having Kevin Kouzmanoff will be great to have in camp since he can help the team from a competition side even if he starts off in Omaha.
Feel free to share any of your random thoughts in the comments below.