Forward Thinking


With this week’s excitement of having the next in a loaded queue of Royals future stars making his big league debut, it’s normal to wonder what else is coming. In baseball, and all sports really, the players and coaches must stay focused on today’s game.

We, however, are neither players nor coaches.

Today is June 11th. When you flip the page on the schedule, you will see that the 82nd Major League All-Star Game is just 30 days away. While the Royals work on hitting and pitching matchups in Anaheim, I want to take a look at what will happen between now and Phoenix.

We’ve seen Hosmer and Moustakas make their way to the show as expected. We’ve been thrilled by walk-offs, been impressed by Alex Gordon, and pleasantly surprised by Melky and Frenchy.

We’ve been both dazzled by – then embarrassed by – the young bullpen.

The Royals spent six glorious days in first place. But alas, that was April. Today, the Royals sit at 28-36 and are in 4th place – 7.5 games behind the Indians. A year ago today the boys in blue were 25-36 – a record eerily similar to this season.

So, let’s look ahead…

In the next 30 days, the Royals will play 27 games. 17 of those will be away from Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have played surprisingly well against the Angels this season, holding a 6-2 record. The team then heads to Northern California to take on the A’s, who they are 1-2 against in three games.

After that, Interleague play picks up beginning in St. Louis (1-2). The Royals finally come home to KC and play three against the Diamondbacks and Cubs. Then it’s back out on the road to San Diego and Colorado.

With games against NL foes over, it’s back to focusing on the AL Central with three in Chicago against the White Sox (1-1). The final series before the All-Star break is a four game set against the Tigers (2-3) at home.

Throw out the 28-36 record for a minute. With a solid starting infield finally in place, the Royals will need only to work around Moustakas’ learning curve over the next month. They should have a consistent starting lineup. As far as pitching goes – well, that’s the wildcard. The team should get Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies back during that time, so we’ll say that the starting pitching will get better. After losing his job as the closer for a couple of days, Joakim Soria has returned to form after back-to-back saves and a 1-2-3 9th last night.

The Royals get comfortable and confident and go 20-7* to get to the All-Star Break.

They would be 48-43 at that point and would turn into buyers as the trade deadline approaches. Stay with me.

What are the needs? Pitching, pitching, pitching. Oh, and Jason Kendall (who could also return during this stretch). The infield is solid. The outfield is solid. We have more prospects in Omaha that could continue to work their way to the big leagues. I think that Mike Montgomery is the next to make the trip, and that could very well be during the next 30 days.

If his first game is any kind of indicator, I think Moustakas feels really comfortable playing with these guys. He’s spent a lot of time with Hosmer during the past three years. And Hosmer being someone who just recently went through the same thing that Moose is going through now, should prove to be a great mentor. I think that #8 is chomping at the bit to get his career rolling, and if he doesn’t press too hard, he’s going to have the same kind of success that Hosmer is having. I’ll say it again, having Hosmer 34 days ahead of him is going to be huge for Moustakas.

OK, so then we’re at the All-Star break – who is the lone Royals representative this year? Right now, all signs point to Jeff Francoeur, who is 11th in fan balloting for A.L. outfielders. For every season since 2003, the Royals have only had one (required) player on the roster for the mid-season showcase. If things continue down this hypothetical yellow brick road, KC could have three or four All-Stars next year and into the future.

One funny (sad) thing I noticed when I was filling out my ballot at the K last week – we now have three players who are on the ballot but not on the roster. Really?? Sorry, but it is true. It seems ridiculous to think about, but Kila Ka’aihue is the printed option for the Royals at 1B. Kila was sent down to Omaha on May 6th, and although he’s hitting well down there like he always does, he’s not likely to come back to KC for a while. Mike Aviles is our option at 3B. At least Kila and Aviles have played a few games this season.

The printed option at Catcher is Jason Kendall. And while he’s certainly more of an All-Star (1996, 1998, 2000) than Matt Treanor or Brayan Pena, he’s been on the Disabled List since the season began. Frankly, it’s a bit of an insult to the guys who have actually been doing the catching. Now, I understand that these ballots have to be printed out & distributed long before today, but what about making updates to the online ballot? The best we can do is a write-in vote? I’m sure the MLB has rules about this, but it seems a bit strange.

Seems to me that if Hosmer was on the ballot, Royals fans might get behind a movement to vote him in. He is a Future All-Star, so will just have to wait.

For now though, the Royals have to get back to taking them one game at a time.

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*My bold prediction has the Royals going: 1-1 vs Angels, 2-1 vs A’s, 2-1 vs Cardinals, 2-1 vs Diamondbacks, 3-0 vs Cubs, 2-1 vs Padres, 3-0 vs Rockies, 2-1 vs White Sox, 3-1 vs Tigers.