We’re still more than a month away from the beginning of spring training, but the Royals 40 man roster looks more or less intact. Wild cards such as Mike Montgomery and Kevin Kouzmanoff will have their chances to make the team, and the signing of a cheap veteran pitcher is a foregone conclusion. But most of the key players are in house.
With that notion in mind, now seems as good a time as any to break down the 40 man roster and rank them in descending order. I’ll rank the roster based on my expectations for the 2012 season; it is my position that 2011 is old news and therefore will serve as a mere afterthought during this breakdown.
Royals 40 Man Roster Rankings:
40. Derrick Robinson: Five years ago I remember being unreasonably excited about Robinson’s potential. The fact that he’s barely clinging onto a roster spot now is an indictment on the state of the Royals farm system at the time. Robinson simply never learned to hit.
38-39(tie). Sean O’Sullivan and Vin Mazzaro: If either of these two guys starts a game for the Royals this season, either something has gone terribly wrong or they will have greatly exceeded expectations. Sure, it might not be fair to place these guys below players who haven’t (and probably won’t in 2012) made their major league debut yet. But I’m going to do it anyway.
37. Noel Arguelles: Arguelles is a legitimately interesting player who is now entering his second season following serious shoulder surgery. He just turned 22 and is signed to a major league contract. Although he toiled in High A ball last season, Arguelles could be a candidate for the fast track in 2012.
36. Ryan Verdugo: Verdugo struck out a lot of batters last season at AA, but at 24, he definitely should have. I’ve never seen him pitch, which gives him a leg up over O’Sullivan and Mazzaro.
35. Clint Robinson: He’s an interesting player who has been raking in the minor leagues for years. But his only chance at playing in Kansas City is a disastrous injury to Eric Hosmer or Billy Butler.
34. David Lough: Like Robinson, Lough would need an injury to a starter to crack the big league squad this year. If that happens, I like Lough slightly more than Robinson to be a replacement level player.
33. Chris Getz: We’ve all seen plenty of Chris Getz by now. He can steal a base and he plays adequate defense. Saying that, I can’t think of a single fan who wants him to break camp with the Royals.
32. Yuniesky Betancourt: Yuni and Getz are like distant cousins, twice removed. Both have earned the ire of the Royal fan base, and both will likely see more time with the big club than many fans will be able to tolerate.
31. Jeremy Jeffress: Maybe I’m crazy, but I haven’t turned the page on the Jeremy Jeffress era yet. The guy throws baseballs in the triple digits. One way or another, I’ve got to think that he’ll make some appearances this season.
30. Manny Pina: A backup catcher with a little bit of defensive upside, Pina could probably have handled the backup role if the team had opted to part with Brayan Pena.
29. Nathan Adcock: Adcock showed himself well this past season despite skipping the high minors altogether. I honestly have no idea if or how much he pitches in the majors this year, but I like him better than all of the guys listed above him on this list.
28. Luis Mendoza: I don’t buy Mendoza’s 2011 numbers, and don’t think he’ll break with the team out of spring training. If he’s willing to accept an assignment back at Omaha, the Royals should bring him back.
27. Mitch Maier: As the 27th best player on the 40-man, I don’t think Maier is good enough to make this team anymore. That doesn’t mean he won’t still make the squad, but nevertheless, congratulations to the Royals on outgrowing the Mitch Maier era!
26. Blake Wood: Wood is the most replaceable of all the young arms from the 2011 bullpen. Throws hard, but straight.
25. Jarrod Dyson: I don’t buy that he will ever hit at the major league level, but if he can provide the kind of late-game spark he brought in 2011, he’ll be better for the Royals than the 15 guys listed above him here. He’s got two excellent tools in speed and defense, which gives him value.
24. Everett Teaford: I’m on the record as liking Teaford a lot, and I think he’ll get a chance to start, either due to injury or inconsistency.
23. Brayan Pena: At this point, Pena is what he is: a decidedly below average fielder with a slightly below average bat. He’s a good clubhouse guy, though, and probably won’t have to play much.
22. Tim Collins: Collins could be fighting for a job in the spring, but I think his pure stuff will land him a role as the bullpen’s second lefty.
21. Jose Mijares: Not sure what to think about Mijares, who’s ERA has risen in each of his big league seasons. I think I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.
20. Louis Coleman: Coleman ends the current run on relievers, as I think all of the bullpen guys in front of him are on a level above what he’s capable of producing.
19. Johnny Giavotella: I like Giovatella a lot, and I take his ranking here as a testament to the caliber of player currently on the Royals major league roster. He’ll put up Grudzielanek-esque numbers in 2012.
18. Bruce Chen: I realize that Chen is my first starter on the list, which might seem strange considering that starting pitching is the team’s greatest weakness. Basically, there are a lot of mediocre starters on this team, and starters are generally more valuable (i.e. less replaceable) than bullpen guys. I know we say this every year, but Chen is really due to regress now, right?
17. Jonathan Broxton: Broxton is a wild card as far as I’m concerned. He can’t be ranked higher unless I know he’ll be ready to pitch early in the season.
16. Kelvin Herrera: This may seem high to some, but I love Herrera to have a “Greg Holland in 2011” type of season for the Royals in 2012. He’s got a three pitch arsenal and a menacing fastball.
15. Felipe Paulino: Paulino could be another candidate to regress, but I like him to be a serviceable innings-eater this year. He had great strikeout numbers for the Royals last year.
14. Alcides Escobar: Playing a high caliber shortstop is nothing to sneeze at, and Escobar does that as well as anyone. It also seems unlikely (read: impossible) that Escobar will start this season as bad as he did last season offensively.
13. Aaron Crow: Crow is another question mark, because he could spend time in Omaha if the team maintains their desire to use him as a starter. #13 seems fair considering the uncertainty.
12. Lorenzo Cain: I’m all in on the Cain train. I think he’ll be a surprising early contributor offensively, and fans will notice the gigantic difference defensively in center field between Cain and Melky Cabrera. Personally, All things considered, I don’t think Melky will be missed.
11. Jeff Francouer: Here’s another (somewhat obvious) regression candidate. Francouer enjoyed his best season in years in 2011, and even if he continues to play well, it would be difficult to match his offensive numbers. He obviously will still have value, but will look more like the old Francouer and less like an All-Star in 2012.
10. Greg Holland: Holland will be manning a primary set-up role this season, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. He looked like the real deal last year, to the point where I toyed with placing him above the next player on this list…
9. Joakim Soria: What is there left to say about Soria? His numbers took a dip last season, and Soria was even demoted from the closer position for a short stretch. He should be better in 2012, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.
8. Danny Duffy: Placing the young Duffy ahead of Joakim Soria may be blasphemy, but I wouldn’t do it unless I thought Duffy would be a legitimate force in 2012. I understand that I’m more bullish on Duffy than most, but I absolutely loved the way he struck major leaguers out last year. Anybody with that kind of ability has a future in front of him.
7. Mike Moustakas: I couldn’t decide if this spot was too high or too low for Moustakas, who endured a tumultuous 2011 campaign. Ultimately, I think #7 is just right, as I consider all of the players below to be a safer bet to have above average seasons next year. I have a feeling Moustakas will regain his power stroke in 2012, though, and very well could lead the team in homers.
6. Luke Hochevar: Hochevar was, simply put, a solid starter for the better parts of 2011. He seemed to grow over the course of the season, eventually putting together his best statistical season. In the past, Hochevar would reveal his tantalizing potential in mere flashes. Look for him to be a complete and steady pitcher in 2012.
5. Jonathan Sanchez: This guy has thrown a NO-HITTER! He’s also put together a 200 strikeout season, so he isn’t just a flash in the pan. Sanchez may walk batters, but Royals fans should understand that’s the price you pay for a pitcher with his kind of raw stuff. I like him to be a steadying force in the rotation in 2012, as well as, of course, its best chance at a no-hitter.
4. Salvador Perez: Speaking of bullish, I am absolutely giddy at the prospect of Sal Perez playing a full season for the Royals in 2012. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a better pure young defensive catcher. I’m too young to remember Pudge Rodriguez’s ascent, so perhaps someone can put me in my place on that front. Perez also looked surprisingly adept at the plate last season, so he’s definitely facing growing expectations this season. Here’s to hoping he embraces the challenge.
3. Billy Butler: My longtime favorite Royal, it really is a joy to watch Butler hit. Some might lament the high ranking I’m doling out to a designated hitter, but I warrant it based on Butler’s remarkable consistency. He’s been the steadiest hitter on the team for three full seasons now, which is not something to scoff at. Those who might want to place others above Butler would do well to remember their thoughts on the oft-injured and underperforming Alex Gordon in 2009-2010. Consistency is a real skill.
2. Alex Gordon: So, yeah, I pointed out Gordon’s inconsistency immediately prior to ranking him above Butler. I won’t apologize for it. Gordon looked like a legitimate force last year while, yes, dominating the American League. Gordon should have been the team’s All-Star representative, and it shouldn’t have even been close. He also won a gold glove in left field, which is pretty impressive for a converted third baseman. Look for him to rake again in 2012, dispelling any doubts about his long-term viability.
1. Eric Hosmer: There was no way anybody was getting ranked above Hosmer, who may just be the best young position player in the game. Of course I am wildly biased, but I can’t think of another position player I would trade him for (Bryce Harper maybe? Okay, probably). Hosmer possesses every skill to make front office personnel drool: the ability to hit 30 home runs, to put up a .330 average, to win multiple gold gloves at first base. I can’t wait for every team in baseball to put together massive trade proposals for him, only to get shut down by GM Dayton Moore.
In fact, after perusing this talented list one more time, I’m smiling already.