Spring training is winding down, players are getting cut, and still other regulars are being cut down in droves by the injury bug. As such, I feel that now would be an ideal opportunity to investigate what Royals fans should take from this eventful spring. Who will exceed expectations? Who will fall short? Who out there can differentiate the real from the mirage?
I’m glad you asked. As always, the players I choose to feature are based loosely on their inherent value to the club, as well as a healthy dose of pure unadulterated subjectivity.
The MIRAGE DIVISION
Max Ramirez – Spring stats: .391/.481/.826 with three home runs and 11 RBI’s.
I predicted a while back that Ramirez would get play with the Royals this season, and in the meantime, Salvador Perez’ injury has made that notion a greater possibility. That being said, I find it hard to believe that Ramirez will be a 1.307 OPS player moving forward.
Instead, it seems like Ramirez is cleaning up in the scenario best suited for him – against quadruple-A pitching. He may well get forty games on the big league roster, but a period of sustained success would be a first in the big leagues.
In the meantime, I’ll air on the side of caution.
Chris Getz – Spring stats: .333/.370/.375 with three stolen bases.
Saying that Getz is due to regress is as drab as saying that the sun is hot. Nonetheless, it is always terrifying to see Getz swing the bat well in spring training because we can never predict what Ned Yost might do under the spell of a couple gritty Getz performances. Just know this: the closer we get to the regular season, the more likely it becomes that Yost picks Getz to man second base over the struggling Johnny Giavotella (who we’ll get to later).
Mitch Maier – Spring stats: .333/.394/.500 with four extra base hits.
See Getz, Chris.
Maier has always had the innate ability to crush the ball during spring training, but so far it has never translated into consistent regular season success. He’ll probably make the team again, but his .894 spring training OPS should not illicit much optimism. Maier will be 30 in June and he’s more likely to regress at this point than make significant strides I’d love to be wrong on that though.
Wil Myers – Spring stats: .278/.278/.278 with no extra base hits
Myers wasn’t in camp long enough to form a solid opinion on, so I’ll provide you with an unsupported one. Despite hitting for zero power this spring, Myers is due for a breakout season at AAA Omaha. He’s the best of the hitting prospects left at the minor league level, and he should be more comfortable beginning his second season in the outfield. I think Myers will display enough power to go with his sweet swing to earn a late-season promotion.
Salvador Perez – Spring stats: .000/.000/.000
This is an easy one. Perez suffered through a wild spring training that saw him sign a club friendly contract extension, promptly go 0-15 in his first spring training at-bats, and then suffer a knee injury that will cost him at least the first two months of the season. Admittedly, all those zeroes across the board are pretty jarring.
Perez’ spring was a mirage, though, because I expect him to be a reliable player moving forward. His bat, which looked too good to be true during his call-up last season, was too bad to be true during his miniscule spring sample size. His offense should eventually be more than capable as a supporting skill behind his stellar defense.
The Royals will closely monitor Perez as he rehabs this injury and he should be re-installed as a lynchpin of the organization by the All-Star break.
Tommy Hottovy – 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks.
Great story, seems like a great kid. The peripherals are there too. It’s funny, we aren’t supposed to take too much stock in spring training stats, unless of course there is competition at a position. Then those stats suddenly become a deciding factor in the shaping of the roster. Hottovy has been excellent this spring, but that doesn’t mean he’s making the team. There are simply too many other players ahead of him, even with the almost certain extended loss of closer Joakim Soria.
-Mike Montgomery – 20.50 ERA, 2.2 IP, 1 strikeout, 3 walks.
Montgomery was simply too bad to be believed in his limited time with the big club this spring. Royals Nation now just has to hope that Monty can avoid the type of early season swoon that submarined his 2011 campaign.
Even with the struggles, however, Montgomery is arguably the best arm in the Royals farm system, and he’ll get plenty more chances. I think he’ll pull himself together and make his major league debut during 2012.
-Jonathan Sanchez – 21.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts.
If Sanchez’ spring is not an aberration, then may God have mercy on my soul. Sanchez has made Bruce Chen look like Steve Carlton in managing to pitch only three innings this spring. Sanchez has, however, packed a lot of work into those innings, giving up seven runs and walking two batters during what has been a disastrous introduction to Royals fans.
Something tells me Dayton Moore is not in a rush to get Sanchez signed to an extension.
The Real Division
Billy Butler – .415/.478/.732 with 3 home runs, 4 doubles, and 7 walks.
Butler has been clinical this spring in what has been a welcome continuation of his late-season surge in 2011. He is absolutely mashing right now, and seems poised to become a feared hitter this season.
In fact, Butler even showed up to camp in good enough shape to convince Yost to give him an occasional start at first base. He appears ready to put together is best season yet. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
Alex Gordon – .405/.460/.643 with 2 home runs, 4 doubles and 6 walks.
Any lingering reservations about the long-term ability of Gordon should be put to rest by his torrid spring. I won’t take too much time breaking down Gordon, since I’m fairly sure that 99.9% of the fan base saw last season as a true breakout, but I must admit it’s been nice of him to spare us a spring worth of questions regarding his long-term prospects. This guy is ready to be the star he was always supposed to be.
Lorenzo Cain – .486/.537/.1000 with 4 home runs, 7 doubles, and 4 walks.
I thought Cain was too good for Triple-A last season and his scorching spring training performance this season will be taken as proof of that notion. Cain may be the most impressive Royal in Arizona right now, as his .500 spring average has just been ridiculous. I don’t think Lorenzo lamented playing in Omaha last season while Chris Getz and Mitch Maier earned major league paychecks. Oh wait, no, he definitely did.
Cain is proving that there is no fire quite like the one lit under somebody who is blocked for an entire season by wholly insufficient roster filler. Although even Cain must have understood how crazy it was that all three of KC’s outfielders had career years and stayed healthy throughout 2011.
Eric Hosmer – .367/.431/.571 with 2 homers, 4 doubles, 7 walks, and 17 RBI.
At this point it has almost become a bore to wax eloquently about Hosmer. He is one of a handful of the best young players in the game, and has also solidified himself as a clubhouse leader to boot. Interesting fact that made me like Hosmer even more this spring: he is half Cuban, and thus bilingual. It wasn’t hard to understand why Hosmer is the most popular player on the team before, but now it makes even more sense.
All that being said, is there a player you would trade Hosmer for straight up right now? I say no.
Greg Holland – 3.86 ERA with 7.0 IP, 11 strikeouts and 1 walk.
This spring Holland has shown exactly what he is. He’s a strikeout machine who is a could easily become a top-flight closer, perhaps as soon as this season. Holland is also the main reason why Royals fans seemed strangely ambivalent about the loss of closer Joakim Soria to Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen should be one of the best in baseball this season, and Holland is the best of the bunch.
Alcides Escobar – .324/.359/.459 with 2 triples.
I’ve always believed that Escobar will eventually hit acceptably, so I can only hope that his spring performance is a sign of things to come. If so, then Escobar’s recently minted contract extension might be even more favorable than that of (recently injured) starting catcher Salvador Perez.
Luis Mendoza – 0.77 ERA with 11.2 IP, 12 strikeouts, and 1 walk.
Okay, I must say that I didn’t see this one coming. Admittedly, I’ve frequently written Mendoza off as a rotation candidate before, but those days are over. The Royals have been insistent in their assertion that Mendoza has it figured out, and I finally believe them.
Furthermore, if Mendoza was “in the mix” for a rotation spot coming into March, then what has he possibly done to hurt his chances? Do I even need to mention that two Royals starters have put up an ERA over 20?
My prediction: Bruce Chen starts the season on the DL, Mendoza makes the rotation.
Bruce Chen – 15.00 ERA with 12 IP, 6 strikeouts and 1 walk.
Spoiler Alert! I think Chen might have some sort of injury, and if not, needs to fabricate on immediately. That two-year contract he signed in the off-season has an ominous feeling to it already. After a couple of above average seasons, Chen may be ready to become the rotation’s resident albatross. I’d like to think he is simply taking time getting comfortable, but at his advanced age, it’s prudent to be skeptical. I hope I’m wrong.
Mike Moustakas – .216/.275/.243 with 1 extra base hit and 9 strikeouts.
Moustakas has had a rough spring, as is evidenced by the fact that his slugging percentage rest 32 points below his OBP.
Haven’t we seen this story before? I know it’s tempting to say that Moustakas will simply get through this and pick up where he left off last September, but I have a foreboding feeling that tells me otherwise. Moustakas may end up being more Alex Gordon than Billy Butler, as in, he might take some time to realize his considerable potential. Sure, he should be able to improve upon his Spring Training line (how could you not), but by how much*?
*Was that previous paragraph designed as a complicated jinx intended to spark Moustakas into a fantastic April? Absolutely! I’m definitely ready for Opening Day.