Yesterday, I came up with some New Year’s Resolutions for the Royals’ infielders. Today, it’s the outfielders’ turn, and since many people have resolutions to get in shape when January comes, I think it’s best if we start this piece with the player who spends approximately 23 hours a day in a gym.
For 2014, Gordon’s resolution should be to remember how to hit changeups. In his breakout 2011 season, Gordon hit .263 with a .463 slugging percentage against opposing changeups. In 2012, he hit .286 with a .429 SLG. Last year, his average against changeups fell to .167 with just a .231 SLG. Tony Pena, Jr thinks those numbers are bad. Gordon’s struggles against that pitch are the biggest reason for his significant reverse platoon split in 2013. As Aaron Reese of KC Kingdom noted back in August, righties had an easier time getting him out than lefties because he just couldn’t seem to make solid contact against the change. In 2011 and 2012, Gordon’s whiff rates on the changeup were 14.29% and 16.24%, respectively. But last season, that number spiked to 19.94%. Gordon swung at over 53% of the changeups he saw, despite the fact that a large majority of the pitches were thrown out of the strike zone. David Lesky at Pine Tar Press wrote about Gordon’s problems after his run-in with the wall in early July, so perhaps getting farther away from that event could allow him to start to recognize the changeup out of a pitcher’s hand more easily. Whatever the cause, this Royals team needs Gordon to bounce back in 2014, and him returning to something close to his career average against changeups could be a big help in that regard.
Much like Salvador Perez, Cain should resolve to stay healthy in 2014. I’m not expecting him to play 150 games, nor am I expecting him to stop playing as hard as possible when he is in the game. Part of his defensive excellence is based on him running down balls in the gap or at the wall, and it’s hard to tell a guy to throttle down when he’s always been that kind of player. However, Cain needs to take care of his body in the best way possible during the offseason, and he needs to make sure he’s taking a game or two off each week during the season. Obviously Ned Yost is responsible for part of that, but Cain getting enough rest throughout the summer could be huge for the team as they get closer to September. Giving 1 or 2 starts per week to Jarrod Dyson or Justin Maxwell won’t hurt the team much at all, and when Cain takes a day off, he needs to make sure he’s spending time in the trainer’s room and tending to any minor nagging injuries to prevent them from becoming major problems.
As I suggested shortly after the trade for Aoki, his resolution should be to back off with the aggressiveness on the basepaths, if only slightly. I’m not overly concerned with Aoki becoming a major liability as a baserunner, because I do feel that his 2013 caught stealing numbers were probably a bit of an aberration, but the Royals can’t afford to have him repeat that performance. They need their new leadoff man to get on base, and to stay on base. Well, at least until someone can drive him in. The Royals have seemingly had enough problems with players getting thrown out on the basepaths in previous seasons, so I don’t think fans want to see any more of that. I also think it would be nice if Aoki would try to find the power he displayed in 2012 (.144 ISO) that disappeared in 2013 (.084 ISO), but I won’t expect too much. As long as Aoki is getting on base and not being too aggressive, he’ll be extremely valuable in 2014.