Feb 24, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Francisco Pena poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Time for the Royals to Give Francisco Pena a Chance

As the baseball season slowly winds it’s way to the trade deadline, the Royals are expected to be looking at making a few moves. Right field certainly appears to be a position of need, and the Royals could possibly use help in the bullpen. However, aside from the obvious areas that the Royals could stand to improve upon, Dayton Moore could also look to upgrade his bench.

One potential area that the Royals could look to improve in would be at backup catcher. Salvador Perez plays virtually every day, so it is not as though the backup plays much in the first place. Yet, there are times when it seems like an APB needs to be put out on the present backup catcher Brett Hayes. At the same time, it is not as though Hayes has done much in his limited chances to warrant being in the lineup more often, as he has produced a .103/.125/.179 batting line, with an OPS+ of…. -17.

The Royals search for a backup catcher may not need to be very long. Sitting in Omaha is Francisco Pena, who had a brief one game cameo when Perez had his bell rung earlier in the season. This season with the Storm Chasers, the 24 year old has produced a .244/.298/.513 batting line with 15 home runs. Even though Pena has only walked 13 times in 219 plate appearances, that is still better than the one that Hayes has gotten this year.

Another area where Pena has an advantage over Hayes is in potential. We know what Brett Hayes is at this point – a AAA catcher who really does not provide much value either at the plate or behind it. Pena, meanwhile, has displayed a strong arm behind the plate, throwing out 31% of base stealers over his minor league career. He also has solid power potential, as those 15 home runs and his impending appearance in the AAA Home Run Derby can attest.

Even though Francisco Pena may not see much time playing behind Salvador Perez, he could provide a lot more than what Brett Hayes has to offer. Of course, providing even halfway decent production would be a vast improvement over what the Royals currently have backing up Perez. If nothing else, at least Pena is an unknown quantity and has the potential for upside.

Salvador Perez is going to need to get some days off at some point over the next few months. With Francisco Pena, there is the chance they could get some actual production from their backup.

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  • Ryan Caltrider

    I’ve been wondering for weeks when Pena would get his shot. An upgrade at the backup catcher is needed, and there is no need to give up something to get someone outside of the organization until you at least see what Pena can do.

    • jimfetterolf

      Agree. Pena has shown some stuff and could use a chance. Hayes just isn’t that good defensively to compensate for the limp noodle.

    • unclejesse40

      And if all you have to do is send Hayes down, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t.

      • Ryan Caltrider

        I think that the Royals initially chose Hayes over Pena partly because Pena has options left and Hayes does not. Another reason probably was to get Pena regular playing time, which he obviously wouldn’t get in KC. However, now Pena has had regular playing time and has shown he deserves a shot in KC. And, Perez is going to need more days off than he has been getting to stay healthy and productive. Also, I don’t see the options thing being a problem now because I don’t see anybody claiming Hayes. And if somebody does, then it is no big loss. Hopefully after the AS break, KC will have a new backup catcher.

  • jimfetterolf

    Are we on different planets, Dave? RF a need? Really? I like the Dyson/Aoki platoon. And if you tell me you want to trade Ventura and Duffy for an extra home run every couple of weeks along with poor defense, I shall derisively snort (old school LOL).

    • unclejesse40

      Jim I agree. Now if one of those 30-45 homer guys was available with some team control after the year I might listen, but their NOT. But right now I don’t think a little extra pop is worth giving up on guys who are showing that they could be the face of the organization. Heck I would say that Duffy and Ventura might already be our two best pitchers. And if we just stuck with the platoons that worked I don’t know if we would be in the shape we are in right now. Moose hits against righties and Valencia against lefties. Dyson in Center Cain in Right when a right handed pitcher is going and Maxwell in RF and Cain in Center when up against a Lefty. Aoki was an experiment that just didn’t work and I would be considering trading him if you can get anything for him.

      • jimfetterolf

        I’ld keep the Dyson/Aoki split for this year. Next year, I still have hope for the RH Paulo Orlando until Dozier comes up next June. I would note that J-Rod is hitting lefties better this year than career and may grow into a full time role. His OPS is about 100 points less against lefties but his defense is probably worth that much over Aoki or Maxwell. I will go to my grave thinking Will Smith for Aoki was a big mistake, but those around this past winter know my opinions on that. I’ld rather have Lough and Smith than Valencia and Aoki.

    • Dave Hill

      A need in terms of where it would be easiest to upgrade. I like a Gordon/Dyson/Cain outfield, with Aoki as a fourth outfielder. However, the Royals do need a legitimate power hitter. Of all the positions where they would have a possible opening, right is probably the spot that the Royals would consider.

      • jimfetterolf

        The question is, what do you trade for an extra home run a week? That’s what a 25 homer guy will give you. Do you bench an all-world defender with premium speed and decent average/obp for that extra homer every six games or so? I don’t see OF as a problem for this team. Of course, I consider Alex, Salvy, and Moose to have legit power, so not too concerned with getting more. Maybe we could get Adam Dunn for the cost of his salary, but a Stanton will gut the team and the farm.

        • Dave Hill

          As much as I hated myself for thinking about it, Dunn crossed my mind as well. He looks slightly closer to useful this year. If the Royals spot him occasionally in the lineup, he could be worthwhile. Just don’t know if they will actually only use him occasionally, or if his coming over would be an excuse to sit Cain or Dyson, like Ibanez has been.

          • jimfetterolf

            I was thinking more in terms of DH for Dunn. No excuse whatsoever for him ever wearing anything but a batting glove again. Maybe the Sox would take Billy straight up :)?

      • cardsfanatik

        The more I see Dyson, the more I like him. BUT, he’s going to HAVE to hit lefties better. The move I would like to see is Dunn. DH him, and an occasional OF start or 1B when someone needs a day off. He’ll hit, and that’s all he’ll be getting paid to do. I have said Dunn a lot lately. Glad to see I’m not alone now.

  • Joel Wagler

    If KC is serious about a run at post season, I like Pierzynski more, if he can be had for cheap. I like what he can bring to the table as a veteran catcher who has seen post season play. Hayes continues to be an unacceptable. Pena would be than Hayes.

    • Dave Hill

      Just keep hearing a lot of negative things about A.J. on the Boston radio. If he can fit in with the clubhouse, I don’t mind it. Just don’t know that he can.

  • Stan Colbert

    I would love to have a better performing backup at catcher, if, the intention was to use him! You aren’t doing Pena any favors bringing him up to warm pitchers in the BP!