It is February 5th today. Pitchers and catchers do not report for over a week, and the positions players are not due until two weeks for today. Yet, that did not stop Ned Yost from naming his starting lineup and batting order the other day. As things stand, here is the lineup as Yost envisions it:
1. RF Norichika Aoki
2. 2B Omar Infante
3. 1B Eric Hosmer
4. DH Billy Butler
5. LF Alex Gordon
6. C Salvador Perez
7. 3B Mike Moustakas
8. CF Lorenzo Cain
9. SS Alcides Escobar
With this lineup, Yost gets his left-right-left lineup that he desires, making it impossible for an opposing manager to bring in a lefty specialist for more than one batter without facing a right handed bat. Yost also feels that the bottom of the lineup is going to produce for the team this year, maintaining his belief that the Royals have a strong lineup from top to bottom.
“You’re not going to have any dead spots,” Yost said. “You’re not going to get something going, then bam! You run into a wall and have to get it going again. At least I hope not.”
Having that belief in the bottom of the lineup is certainly a leap of faith for Ned Yost. While it appears as though Mike Moustakas is responding to coaching and is looking to get himself on track to be the player that the Royals thought he would be, he still needs to prove that he can carry that over to the regular season. Lorenzo Cain needs to prove that he can last through an entire season. And Alcides Escobar will need to hit at a level that does not draw comparisons to Rafael Belliard.
There is no question that the Royals lineup is improved. Based off the expected improvement from the middle of the lineup and the improved top of the order, the Royals should be able to outpace their mediocre run total from last year. Yet to say that the lineup is not going to have any dead spots before Spring Training has even begun is quite optimistic.
A lot can change between now and the start of the regular season. Players can get hurt, or someone can appear out of nowhere and claim a starting job that appeared to be locked in for another player. Yet, in the mind of Ned Yost, the Royals starting lineup is virtually etched in stone. Hopefully, he is correct with his feeling about the lineup, and the Royals bats can propel the team into the postseason.