That’s more like it. After the horrific month of May, the Royals bounced back this week, going 5-1. They’re riding a five-game winning streak into a very important series against the division leading Detroit Tigers. This recent bout of success is marked by more offensive output and stellar bullpen play along with consistent starting pitching.
For the week, the Royals get an A-, which is pretty good. There are still issues to work out, which is bound to be the case when Jeff Francoeur, Chris Getz, and Elliot Johnson receive as much playing time as they do, but this series against Detroit is a fantastic opportunity to reassert themselves into the AL Central conversation.
Onto the themes:
Can/Did miss prospects?
I’d like to make this point extremely clear so I’m going to caps it all, which is a move that I think gets too much criticism: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CAN’T MISS PROSPECT. Every prospect can miss. I watched Mark Prior’s career fall apart as a Cub fan in the early 2000s, and at the time, he was a “can’t miss prospect.” That’s why there has never been a number one overall pick make it into the Hall of Fame (though that’s going to change soon). Because every prospect can miss.
ESPN.com’s Joe Werner in an article about the Royals “can’t miss prospects” of a couple years ago believes the Royals, in fact, have missed on a long list of players (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Chris Dwyer, Christian Colon). I have a hard time deciding on when to call someone a “miss.” Is Hosmer a miss? He’s only 23 and so far he’s been worth .9 fWAR in 57 games this year. That’s actually pretty decent, but it’s clearly not the superstar level people thought he would be. Is Moustakas a miss? He’s only 24 but mired in a hitting slump that makes Hosmer’s 2012 look desirable. I think Werner is probably premature in his assessment of all these players as misses, perhaps especially Duffy and Hosmer. I also think he’s misleading in his assessment of Dwyer and Colon as prospects of great note. They certainly weren’t in the same camp as Hosmer or Moustakas and nowhere near “can’t miss” status.
This is a theme for this week for two reasons: 1) Hosmer is hitting better lately and Moustakas continues to flail at the plate. I’m not sure when/if Hosmer’s power will develop. I think it will because we’ve seen it before and the bat speed is still there. I think eventually he’ll find his power stroke, but I can’t be sure of that; I suppose no one can. Lately, he’s been driving the ball for doubles but still not hitting it out of the park. I’m not sure why Moustakas can’t shake this slump. Maybe he needs to go down for a while. At this point, that seems like the only answer. 2) The Royals drafted a new crop of players this week. Many dogged the pick of Hunter Dozier in the first round and some wisely retracted that assessment (like Keith Law) when GMDM was able to land Sean Manaea with the 34th pick, making the gambit of draft-pool-money manipulation clear. I think Dozier will be better than people think, and I love the way he talks about his own personal fitness (reminds me of Alex Gordon). The criticism of him is confusing to me with some labeling him as the most likely bust. People say he’s a good hitter, athletic, and has power potential but he can’t play shortstop, and all I can think is who cares? He can play third base, second base, or right field (he also has a great arm). So, if he can hit and play a few different positions, works hard, and has a good sense for base running, what’s not to like?
This is all in the way of saying I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can say that most of the prospects listed are misses, and we need to try to temper expectations when it comes to players who “can’t miss” (Hosmer) or “will miss” (Dozier). And when thinking about the Royals specifically, it’s also important to see the players who to this point haven’t missed (Gordon, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez).
People made a big deal out of the lineup change Ned Yost decided to employ early this week. In part, the hubbub was over the fact that he sought the help of the statisticians in the front office. Not coincidently, the team has played better with the lineup the nerds came up with, moving Hosmer to second, Perez to third, and Alcides Escobar to ninth. While I think lineup construction is a little overrated in its importance, I’m glad to see the team consulting a group of people whose job it is to see the game in the macro, detached from player relationships and the Yostian, folksy wisdom that apparently believes Getz deserves playing time for his ability to sacrifice bunt (that’s a polemic statement but I really don’t like that he’s on the team and I really don’t like Yost for continuing to play him). Perez has thrived in the three-hole. Butler is hitting well and taking walks in the four-hole, and Hosmer is locked in as well. Maybe, and this is a wild concept I know, Yost should continue to seek the input of the nerds moving forward. Dayton Moore could stand to listen a little more too.
Get Lough, get Lough, get Lough, get Lough
To the window! To the wall! No? Nobody digging Lil John and the Eastside Boyz? Ok. Let me tell you a great fear of mine. Soon, Jarrod Dyson will be back, and Dayton Moore and Co. will have a decision to make between Lough and Francoeur. In fact, I think Dyson’s rehab assignment (and the desired length of it) is the result of wanting to put this decision off. I think if there were no decision to make, Dyson wouldn’t even have a rehab assignment and certainly not a lengthy one. But when he does come back, I have this great fear that the powers that be will find a way to keep Francoeur on the 25-man roster and send Lough back to AAA Omaha. Don’t ask me to understand why they would do this; I have no idea. But I can imagine how they would justify doing it. There are four justifications, three of which are completely ridiculous and one of which is still not good enough: 1) Francoeur is a solid defender in right field. He isn’t but this is what the team seems to believe as he’s been acting as a defensive replacement late in games. In fact, he is a below average right fielder with a great arm. 2) Francoeur is a good clubhouse leader. Hard to lead a team when you’re actively keeping that team from winning. 3) Lough has options and it’s about inventory and the long haul. No, it’s about winning. 4) Francoeur is right handed and hits left-handed pitching well. This is the only justification that isn’t completely untrue, though it’s also not as true as people believe either. Against lefties this year, Francoeur is hitting .255/.296/.333, not exactly Miguel Cabrera like, though good compared to how he’s hitting righties. His numbers against lefties in 2012 were even worse. I think his career numbers against lefties are inflated by good years early in his career, which is why it makes more sense to let Lough or Dyson bat against a lefty than Francoeur.
Over the last week, Lough has been vital to the Royals success. He’s played good defense in all the outfield spots. He’s taken extra bases and hit in the clutch. He’s hitting .293/.317/.431. I’d like to see him take more pitches and draw a few more walks, and I think that will happen when he’s comfortable in knowing that he has a spot on the roster. Keeping Francoeur on the roster when Dyson returns is a colossal mistake I hope they don’t make. I’m not sure what the process for getting rid of Francoeur would be but if they send him through waivers, no one will claim him and he’ll probably end up at AAA Omaha where he truly belongs.
That’s all for this week. I haven’t covered everything so if there’s something about this week you think is super important, leave a comment and I’ll respond by quoting lines from Real Genius.