It’s almost New Year’s Day, which means we’re about a month and a half away from pitchers and catchers reporting. It also means you’re probably being inundated with New Year’s Resolutions updates from your friends and family all over the internet and social media.
Personally, I’ve never really understood New Year’s Resolutions. If I want to start working out more, or eating healthier, or make any other lifestyle change, why should I wait for the calendar to turn before doing it? But then again, maybe I’m just the crazy one.
Anyway, since it’s the end of December, and since this is a website on the internet, I think we’re obligated to talk about New Year’s Resolutions And with baseball season inching closer and closer, I decided to come up with some resolutions for the Royals. Today, I’ll go over the infielders, and I’ll cover the other parts of the team in later posts.
Perez needs to do a couple of things in 2014. First, he needs to stay healthy. Whether that means spending extra time in the training room after games, or taking a few more days off during the season, or taking up hot yoga, he has to find a way to keep himself in the best shape possible next summer. An injury to Perez could sink any playoff hopes this team has, so the Royals need to do everything they can to keep him on the field. Wrap him in bubble wrap if necessary. Secondly, Perez should resolve to improve his plate discipline a little. He’s never going to be a walking machine, and his contact skills keep him from striking out too often, but he could be a much more dangerous hitter if he would learn to lay off the pitches with which he can’t do much. Perez can hit line drives all over the field, even balls thrown off the plate, but his power could see a big boost if he forces pitchers to throw him more strikes.
Hosmer’s resolution should be to continue what he did in the last few months of the season: hit the ball with power. Through the first two months of last season, Hosmer had a slugging percentage of .333. But from June 1 through the end of the year, his slugging percentage was .494. Part of Hosmer’s problem was that he wasn’t hitting anything to his pull-side, so once he started pulling balls to right, his power increased. It also helped that he wasn’t hitting ground balls over 55% of the time like he did in April and May. As long as Hosmer continues hitting the ball hard, and in the air, we should see another solid season from the young first baseman.
The newest Royals’ second baseman should resolve to hit as many line drives as he can, and to do what he needs to do to receive as much help from the BABIP Fairy as possible. Infante’s elevated BABIP from last year isn’t all that out of the ordinary (.333), particularly since he hit line drives at a 23.6% clip. However, his previous two seasons were not as fortunate, with BABIPs of .291 and .298. For a player whose offensive value is largely dependent upon his batting average, it’s imperative that Infante maintain an above average BABIP, especially if the Royals plan on batting him near the top of the order.
For the much maligned Moose, he needs to do quite a few things better next year. Some would argue he needs to get in better shape, listen to coaching, and watch more film. I tend to agree with those things, and I would add that he needs to see the acquisition of Danny Valencia, coupled with his trip to Venezuela, as a clear sign that the Royals plan to keep him on a short leash in 2014. While a true platoon would probably be the best plan in April, I expect Moustakas to still start almost every day early on. But if he struggles, Valencia and possibly even Emilio Bonifacio could start to take a bit more time from him at third. As a secondary resolution, Moose definitely must work on his swing to cut down on the number of infield flyballs. It’s tough for those pop-ups to third base to clear the outfield fence.
Escobar’s New Year’s Resolution should be to stop swinging at so many pitches. I realize that’s a tall task for a player who just came off a season in which he swung at over half of the pitches thrown to him, but he simply doesn’t have the power to drive balls that are out of the zone. Escobar hit the ball hard last year (LD% of 23), but he also hit a lot of balls in the air, and for a speedy slap hitter with no pop in his bat, a flyball rate of nearly 31% is not a good thing. In his 2012 season, Escobar had the same line drive rate, but a flyball rate of just 23.7%, so he was able to use his speed by keeping the ball on the ground more. Also, despite having similar infield flyball rates in both seasons, the fact that Escobar was hitting more flyballs meant he was also hitting more pop-ups. Escobar doesn’t have to hit a ton in order to have value to this team, but cutting down on his hacktastic ways could result in a more productive offensive season.
I realize Butler is more of a hitter than an infielder, but I’m including him here anyway. Butler should resolve to hit the ball in the air more frequently. Not necessarily all flyballs, since Butler is a terrific line drive hitter, but his groundball rate in 2013 was 53.1%, and a player with his, um, speed, isn’t going to get as many hits from that as a player like Escobar will. Despite the nonsensical criticisms of Butler last season, he was still a very good hitter. Getting on base is what every hitter should be trying to do, and Butler did it better than anyone on the team. If Butler can get some of those batted balls off the ground, he could see an even better 2014.
Tags: Kansas City Royals