The Proof is in the (lack of) Power for Kansas City Royals

The power has improved, but will it be enough in 2014? Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

 

Last year around this time, I talked about another lousy year of Royals baseball and blamed it on the lack of pitching. This year, we’ve seen the power of pitching propel Kansas City to the cusp of wild card contention. Now when I dissect the major deficiency of this team, it will be hitting, and more specifically, power hitting.

And yes, I know…the hitters on this team (some of them, anyway) are better than we’ve seen. Some of them have underperformed. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas got off to slow starts. Billy Butler’s had a down year. Alcides Escobar regressed. I mean…he regressed a LOT. Second base…don’t even go there.

Anyway, I don’t think the lineup needs the overhaul that our starting rotation got last winter. But it does need some help. We know we can count on Alex Gordon and Butler should have a nice bounce back year. It looks like Eric Hosmer has figured it out. Moustakas, too? Maybe. Sal Perez is fine. And some of the other pieces will fit together nicely enough. Guys like Lorenzo Cain, David Lough, and Justin Maxwell have their merits – but seriously, how many outfielders can this team carry next year?

Can KC count on Maxwell?? Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with what we know. This team has some of the best starting pitching in the AL. The bullpen? Maybe the best in the major leagues. The defense is arguably the best in baseball as well –according to Fangraphs the Royals have the highest UZR and UZR/150 in the league. They are also second to the Arizona Diamondbacks in DRS (defensive runs saved), only two behind the D-backs in that category. The hitting, though…it could be better, especially in the power department.

The Royals have outscored their opponents by 44 runs. Pretty impressive, but it’s completely due to pitching and defense, which is fine, but still. Imagine if this team could hit. Look, they aren’t horrible…they have hit .260 as a team, placing them sixth in the AL. And for the way this team is put together right now, it has worked fairly well. The get on base and run method has only resulted in 557 runs though, placing them in tenth place among AL teams. They have scored the same amount of runs as the Yankees, who have been a mess most of this year (you saw the lineups they were trotting out early on, right?) and the only teams who have scored less are the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago White Sox. Not great company.

As good as the team has been at slapping hits and running the bases, they have been equally bad at hitting for power, bringing up the rear in the AL as the only team below 100 home runs (they have 96).They are also towards the bottom in doubles, with only three teams trailing in that category.

So what’s the next move? Like I said – the team can do pretty much everything BUT hit for power, meaning…they need some power. Duh. Looking ahead to 2014, they SHOULD get more power from a few sources like Hosmer, Perez, Moose, and Butler…and I think Gordon will hit his usual 15-20 homers. But will a boost from a few guys be enough? Can the Royals get by with the same carousel of outfielders in center and right field? Maybe. Do I feel like they should risk it? Absolutely not.

This team is on the verge of being really, really good. I think the consistency at the plate for a lot of these guys will fix itself as we move forward. The power though…there’s got to be a boost from somewhere. I don’t want to just cross my fingers and hope for the best with Justin Maxwell.

Should we fire up the “Bring Back Beltran” Bandwagon? Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Of the top free agents listed in the MLBTR FA Power Rankings, 3 of the top 10 are outfielders, with 2 of the 5 honorable mentions making it 5 of 15. One of those honorable mentions is Nelson Cruz. I’m thinking…no thanks on Cruz. I don’t even want to deal with a guy coming off a PED suspension. The other is Hunter Pence. Pence is a guy I’d be more interested in, but I’m not sure he really brings enough impact power. He’s never topped 25 homers in a year before, and sits at 17 right now. That said, in addition to those homers, he’s got 32 doubles, 21 steals, and a .788 OPS. Good all around talent, as we all know.

Moving up to the top 10 FA’s, the outfielders included are Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Carlos Beltran. I have a feeling someone will give Ellsbury a lot of money. I mean…a LOT. So I’m counting him out. Plus he’s a bit injury prone for my liking. We’ve already got Lorenzo Cain to worry about. That leaves Choo and Beltran. Choo is making around $7.4 million this year, with Beltran at $13 million. Choo still has room to improve at age 31…while Beltran is coming off his age 36 season. Which means what? Choo will probably get a raise, Beltran probably takes a pay cut. How much of a raise/pay cut are we looking at? Hard to say.

Of course, keep in mind that part of my plan for 2014 success hinges on bringing Ervin Santana back into the mix…which probably takes something away from what KC can spend on an outfielder. That said, I don’t see why – with the influx of television money next year and David Glass’ repeated promise of increased payroll when on the verge of winning – we can’t sign Santana and bring in an impact outfielder. But what do I know? It’s not my money.

So the options in 2014, if we are really serious, probably boil down to hoping Beltran wants to come back to KC or going after a guy like Pence or Choo, depending on the bidding war that may surround those younger options.

Outside of that…we can always hope Cain stays healthy and some kind of combination of David Lough, Justin Maxwell, and Jarrod Dyson can do the rest.  Is that enough to get it done? Again, it might be, but when we are so close to the playoffs…why leave anything to chance?

Topics: Carlos Beltran, Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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  • jimfetterolf

    Was listening to a little talk radio yesterday and heard some clown jabbering about the Royals needing a 40 homer guy to win the series. Seems an obsession, rather an odd one considering the Royals’ home run record is 36. Power doesn’t really play at the K, so I don’t pay much attention to it. We ‘ve tried to buy it before, folks like Guillen, Jacobs, Francoeur.

    I could see Choo at a 4/60-64 range, but he will be a defensive downgrade and is probably unlikely to even want to come to KC when there are band box parks and clubs on the coasts that would be more attractive professionally and personally.

    Beltran has been discussed, but his defense looks better suited to DH at this stage of his career and we already have Billy at about half the cost. Not sure El Carlos would be an upgrade over Lough as an overall player and would cost the equivalent of maybe a Garza in salary and be a Frenchy on defense.

    For next year, signing Santana is most important, rehiring Seitzer is an idea, and trading some of the excess of #5 starters and relievers for low minors prospects is the most reasonable approach.

    • Bob Ellis

      Jim I agree on the 40+ homer guy. I don’t think they need that. I think Hosmer SHOULD be a 25ish HR guy next year (I’m not going to plan on anything more than that until I see it). But outside of that we are going to have many question marks on that front. Butler (I expressed concerns about his HR ability a while back…but didn’t imagine this much of a slide)? Gordon? Moose? Sal? Maxwell? What do we expect from those guys? I think we still have two holes we could to fill at 2B and RF, and I’d like one of those guys to be a guy with SOME kind of pop. 20+ is all I’m asking. Choo could do it. Beltran could play RF 4-5 days a week and DH a bit (giving Billy a rest at times) and so on.

      I don’t think we need to bring in much…which is why I’m mentioning guys like Pence or Choo (20-25 HR types). What we don’t need to do is carry 5 outfielders again. We need 3 we can rely on quite a bit and a fourth to play when needed, in my opinion. If Hosmer hits 25, Sal hits 15, Butler hits 15-20, Gordon hits 15-20, Moose hits 20ish, we can get by with just a slight improvement in power. But I don’t think we want to finish dead last in homers again next year…as well as this team does everything else, be nice if they could have a little more punch next year. especially at a position (corner OF) where it’s kind of expected.

      • jimfetterolf

        Good points, agree. I like Choo the best of the possibilities, but not sure he’s $15m of an improvement over Lough.

        I’m less worried about homers than the drop in doubles. Seems like everything the Royals hit is pretty much at the outfielders, hard hit singles. Choo has some pop and he has nice OBP, could give Billy some coverage in the line up and isn’t terrible in a corner OF spot, has some SLG. At 2B I’m liking Bonafacio so far, looks solid on defense, gets on base, and his steals add some virtual SLG as a walk or single ends up with him on 2nd fairly often.

    • Bob Ellis

      And yes…I agree…Santana, to me, is the #1 priority. If not him, they better have a damn good plan B that doesn’t include reliance on a young pitcher blossoming into a 2. Like I said…let’s not leave a lot to chance here.

  • LastRoyalsFan

    If the Royals can continue to de-Maloof the hitters they stand a better chance in 2014. Don’t know whether Seitzer is the answer but his results were undeniably better than what they’ve seen this year. Maybe with a full year Grifol can build some power back into Hos, Moose and Butler and can get Esky back on track.

    As to pitching, I agree with you and don’t understand why everyone seems to think the team will have such a challenge in retaining Santana. I believe the Royals are paying $12 million of his salary this year. Assuming he wants a 3 or 4 year deal at an average of $15-16 million the club should be in range, particularly with Francoeur and Chen’s salaries coming off the payroll. I think money-wise it is a wash to keep Erv, and then the team can use the new TV money to upgrade at 2B and maybe RF.

    • Bob Ellis

      Exactly…If some team really goes bonkers with an offer to Ervin, I understand the Royals not matching and grossly overpaying…but there’s no reason in my opinion they can’t make him a fair market offer and retain him. No reason at all. It wouldn’t take much more than what he’s making now. In fact, you let Hochevar and his salary go (I’m impressed with him, but we’ve got lots of guys who can do what he’s done, at a much lower cost) and you’ve got enough to make up the difference. Not to mention Chen’s salary coming off the books, and so on.

      Glass says when we’re close, he’ll spend. This offseason will put that remark to the test. I think they have to go all in on a winner.

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  • Berdj Rassam

    Yes, they are towards the bottom of the league in home run production, yet interestingly in the middle of the pack in scoring runs.

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