Coming into the season, I anticipated that the All-Star Game would help me judge the state of the young Royals. Three All-Star reps, and I’d be ecstatic. With two reps, I’d be content. Three, disappointed.
But now the circumstances have changed; the Royals have faced injury, ineffectiveness, and an insufferable losing streak. They are toeing that “disappointed” line in a dangerous way.
As we move into June, the players listed below have only a few more weeks to prove that they deserve to be the Royals single, obligatory All-Star selection. I’ve now come to the realization that it would take a run of epic proportions to catapult a second Royal onto the American League roster*. But we’ll see over these next weeks if any of these players (or the team as a whole) can take the league by storm.
*anti-jinx alert. Come on boys.
OFFICIAL ROYALS ALL-STAR POWER RANKINGS, Vol. 3
1.Billy Butler – Season: .289/.352/.521 with 11 home runs, 11 doubles, and 35 RBI. Last Week: .217/.308/.478 with 2 home runs.
Butler takes the top spot this week mostly by default, after a week in which most of his competition stalled. But Butler’s .478 slugging percentage does incite optimism. As Mike Moustakas encountered a mini-slump, Butler has emerged as the lineup’s best hitter.
The main reason that Butler has elevated to the top spot is an obvious one: He’s been the best hitter on the team. Butler has also put in his dues by being the team’s best hitter over the past several seasons. He’s one of the longest tenured Royals, which means that, for better or worse, Butler is practically synonymous with Kansas City baseball. As long as he is producing at his current clip, I’m not sure it matters what position he plays. While the designated hitter position continues to boast a wealth of worthy All- Star candidates, it remains plausible that Butler would be an enticing bat to stash in the American League line-up for a pinch-hitting opportunity.
2. Mike Moustakas – Season: .272/.335/.485 with 8 HR, 12 doubles, and 24 RBI. Last Week: .227/.346/.409 with 5 RBI, 4 walks.
Moustakas has spent the better part of the past two weeks in a certifiable free fall. On May 27th, his slash numbers had fallen down to .264/.320/.465 from his season-high of .313/.370/.545 on May 7th. It looked like the Royals third baseman may have reverted to his form of those dark days immediately following his call-up in 2011.
But Moustakas has recorded hits in each of the past three games, including a 4 RBI game on Tuesday in which he hit his 8th home run of the season. So the potential crisis may have been averted.
The bad news for Moustakas is that Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera has been raking in recent weeks, and has raised his OPS to a robust .882. Mark Trumbo of the Angels presents another potential dilemma now that he has been moved to third base. Although Trumbo is not on the All-Star ballot as a third baseman, he is certainly in line for a coach’s pick with his 1.029 OPS.
Moustakas’ drop in rank is more of a product of what’s happening around him than of a short slump. A strong week (or a Butler slump) could bring him back to the top of these rankings.
3. Tim Collins – Season: 2.42 ERA in 26 IP, 38 strikeouts, 7 walks, 18 hits. Last Week: 4.1 IP, 2 hits, o ER, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts.
Now here’ s a guy who has done nothing to diminish his chances of representing the Royals at Kauffman Stadium this summer. Collins has been electric this season, and last week was no different.
In fact, Collins has not given up a run since May 7th. In that time, he has pitch 9.2 innings, allowed 4 hits, walked 3, and struck out 16 batters. He’s been the best reliever on the team, and it hasn’t been particularly close. Before you mention Jonathan Broxton, keep in mind that in his 19.2 innings of work, he’s struck out only 12 batters while allowing 18 hits.
Collins, for his part, has struck out 26 more batters in just 6.1 more innings of work. The cherry on top of this argument, if it’s necessary, is that Collins has allowed the same number of hits and walks as Broxton despite those 6.1 extra innings.
Am I getting too excited about two months worth of dominant relieving from Collins? Maybe.
But keep this in mind: through this season’s first two months, Collins has a K/9 ratio of 13.2. Retired 7-time All-Star closer Billy Wagner, who at the (listed) height of just 5 feet, 10 inches is a popular comp for Collins, recorded a career K/9 ratio of 11.9.
Obviously, it’s unfair to compare an entire career of one player to two months from another player. But Collins has the potential to turn that comp into a legitimate one.
Just some food for thought.
4. Alcides Escobar – Season: .303/.344/.404 with 13 doubles and 8 stolen bases. Last Week: .292/.346/.292 with 4 runs.
Despite maintaining a relatively high batting average throughout the season, Escobar has had difficulty hitting for power. Last week was a perfect example of that trend, as Escobar hit .292, but did so without the benefit of an extra base hit. As such, he finished the week with an identical .292 slugging percentage.
All that being said, Escobar has still put together a fantastic season. And of course, his defense certainly helps erase any offensive deficiencies he may possess. But defense is not easily quantifiable in terms of All-Star worthiness, especially since Escobar doesn’t (yet) own an entire shelf of Gold Gloves, as does direct competitor Derek Jeter.
Unless he can put together a ridiculous offensive stretch, Escobar will likely be overlooked at the shortstop position.
5. Felipe Paulino – Season: 2.03 ERA in 31 innings, 34 strikeouts, 12 walks. Last Week: 5.2 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts.
Paulino struggled a bit with command in his last start, although he pulled himself together for long enough to put up a reasonably effective outing. He dropped a spot this week, however, because he showed his first chinks in the armor by walking five batters.
The walks are an area of concern, although I can excuse them if the trend doesn’t continue into Friday’s planned start against the historically lowly A’s offense. Seriously, go look at their lineup on Friday, I’ll wait*.
*If you are one of those who believe that Jeff Francouer was overpaid by Dayton Moore last season, just be thankful that the Royals don’t owe Coco Crisp and his .440 OPS $14 million over the next two seasons.
I’m of the opinion that the walks were a result of Paulino’s awareness that he didn’t have his best stuff that night. If he felt that his stuff was hittable, I can at least understand the control issues. Who wants to voluntarily serve up meatballs?
He’s essentially become the ace of the Royals pitching staff, and as such carries with him the expectation of recording a quality start every time out. He couldn’t afford a quick hook. I expect him to get back on track Friday and continue to pitch effectively leading into the All-Star break.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jonathan Broxton (3 saves in past week), Jeff Francouer (1.306 OPS last week!!!), Bruce Chen (just pulled career win percentage over .500)