With the release of Emilio Bonifacio I feel that the penny pinching has begun. There are only two things I can see as making sense. One is the lovely Mr. Glass made Dayton offset Bruce Chen’s contract with a similar savings which was Bonifacio since he did not have a guaranteed contract. The only other explanation I can come up with is that Emilio was turning into a malcontent after the signing of Omar Infante.
Either way, I am starting to feel like the current Royals roster is the one Ned Yost will being going to war with. So it is time to see if the new roster is good enough to compete. My plan is therefore to compare the Royals roster position by position to the two teams that they will be competing head to head with all season. My apologies to the Twins and White Sox, I am writing you both off before the season begins and will only be looking at the Tigers and Indians. The Twins might be interesting in a year or two, but for now I think the central is a three team race.
Without further ado:
Catcher – Advantage Royals
Since Alex Avila’s fantastic (and lucky) 2011, he has become consistently worse
hitter each year. Last year Salvador was better at basically any hitting metric you want to pick. Add to that Salvador being one of the best catchers in the game defensively compared to Avila who is mediocre at best, and this is clearly a position where the Royals have a significant advantage.
1B – Advantage Tigers
There are over 7 billion people in the world and Miguel Cabrera is probably the one who hits baseballs best. Unless Eric Hosmer developed similar super powers over the off season I am going to give this one to Detroit.
2B – Advantage Tigers
The trade of Prince Fielder made Detroit’s second base situation better, though Ian Kinsler is not elite. By names it looks like Detroit has a large advantage at second, but Omar Infante has been every bit as good as Kinsler the last two seasons going by WAR. Fangraphs’ WAR favors Infante based on defense and Baseball-Reference favors Kinsler slightly both offensively and defensively for 2012 and 2013. I am giving the Tigers the edge since Kinsler has shown the ability to be much better than those two years and Infante has not, but don’t be surprise if the Royals end up getting more out of their second baseman.
SS – Push
Which Jose Iglesias is real, and for that matter, which Alcides Escobar is real? Iglesias is probably a slightly better defender, but projections are showing them to be very similar players. This may be blue colored glasses, but I believe that Pedro Grifol can get Escobar to get back to hitting the ball on the ground, and he will be a better hitter than last year if he does. If that is true, I think he is the better player, but for now I will call it a tie.
3B – Push
Again, it is hard to tell what these particular players will be. Projections are showing similar sorts of batting projections with Mike Moustakas having an advantage defensively. Nick Castellanos was pretty bad last year, but in only 11 games. Still, his OPS in triple-A was .783 so he was exactly killing it in the minors either. In a little over a week I am expecting to hear about Moose being in the best shape of his life, and he worked in winter leagues. Hopefully last year was a wakeup call to him and we will get a lot more production out o third base. Until I see it though, I will call this an even position between the two teams.
RF – Advantage Tigers
Torii Hunter is a fascinating player. It’s like he decided to stop aging after 2010 when it looked like he was started his slide toward irrelevance. Defensively he is no longer a stud, but his bat just keeps putting up good seasons that are only lacking some of the power of his peak. Norichika Aoki does not even have that amount of power. He slugged .370 last year, not to say he is bad player or anything, but his value is in getting on base. Aoki is less likely to fall completely apart, but until Hunter does that he is the better player.
CF – Advantage Tigers
A tale of two injury prone center fielders. Austin Jackson has missed time each of the last two years, but only 20 games or so each time. He is a solid lead-off guy with pretty good defense as well. Lorenzo Cain set a new record for games played last year! Too bad it was only 115 games. Cain is a fantastic center fielder, but his bat leaves a lot to be desired. Jarrod Dyson is likely to spend a pretty good chunk of time in center as well, and his speed allows him to make some great plays at times, but he also makes some bad mistakes in the field too. Dyson also lacks power at the plate in a way that will prevent him from ever being much at the plate.
LF – Advantage Royals
doesn’t seem to do much of anything all that well. I don’t see anything that Detroit has that can really replace Dirks either. This is a big advantage spot for the Royals.
DH – Advantage Royals
Billy Butler had his worst year at the plate in half a decade last year and still outhit Victor Martinez. Martinez is also way on the wrong side of the aging curve. Country Breakfast is a safe bet to give the Royals the advantage at DH.
In total the Royals took 3 spots, 2 pushed, and Detroit has the advantage in 4 places. These offenses look relatively similar with the Royals likely to have a better defense. Before we take this simple look and start assuming the offenses will produce similar numbers we need one glaring set of numbers. In 2013 Detroit scored 796 runs and the Royals only scored 648. Almost 150 runs different is an excessively large gap to close. I think the KC offense is better this year and the Detroit offense is set up to be worse, but closing that much would be pretty surprising. No one on the Royals can, as Hud would say “drive the bus”, like Miguel Cabrera. Since I am over a thousand words already we will talk about the pitching in a separate post, but just to prepare you, this is the rosy part of the comparison to Detroit.