With the arrival of the World Baseball Classic this past week, I have to admit, I was excited. Baseball fans finally had real baseball to watch, that actually mattered from a win-loss perspective.
The Royals were sending a few players to the spring fling and the guys, who I felt needed the most work in camp, stayed in Surprise under the watchful eye of the Royals’ coaching staff.
However, then Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira went down with an injured wrist. The news that followed made me cringe slightly.
Mar 6, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Team USA infielder Eric Hosmer (35) reacts to contact during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
With Team USA picking up the Royals’ young first baseman Eric Hosmer, I immediately felt this was going to spell trouble for Hosmer and the Royals down the road. But, considering Kansas City sent a total of nine players, two of which are minor leaguers, I was skeptic whether or not the Classic would benefit a few of the younger participating players.
My biggest concern is obviously Hosmer. The first baseman is coming off a ridiculously poor season and needed all the time he could get in camp, working with new hitting coach Jack Maloof. When Hosmer left camp to join up with Team USA, he was hitting .391, with a .462 on-base percentage and .696 slugging percentage. These were the solid numbers Hosmer needed to back up his offseason changes, however, since the start of the Classic, Hosmer’s numbers have quickly dropped off (.231/.231/.308) through only 13 at-bats. Hosmer did come through in Sunday’s game against Canada with a bases-loaded double, but other than that shining moment, it’s been a dismal showing for him. Offensively, Hosmer wasn’t the only one who had a slow Classic offensively.
Catcher Salvador Perez, one of the bright spots for the Royals’ lineup last season, split time behind the plate for Venezuela with Miguel Montero. In Perez’s limited plate appearances, Perez hit .200/.200/.400, but keep in mind, this sample is the product of only five at-bats. However, Salvador and Venezuela made an early exit from the tournament, allowing the young back-stop to return back to the Royals’ and the pitching staff. His time with the staff will dictate how fast the team gets out of the gate. Hopefully, a good working relationship with Perez and the new arrivals, James Shields and Wade Davis, along with the rest of the crew from last year will translate to a fast start and strong bond as the season progresses.
The most impressive, and newest, Royals performance may go to the seasoned veteran of Miguel Tejada. The 15-year vet is currently hitting .500 for the Dominican Republic, with a .571 OBP and .667 SLG. Again, Tejada’s performance only comes from six at-bats, but prior to making his way to the tournament Tejada was still hitting .294 for the Royals in camp.
As for the rest of the Royals playing in the Classic, there has been little to be displeased with. A trio of Royals pitchers has already made appearances: Tim Collins (USA) picked up a third of an inning with a strikeout, Luis Mendoza (Mexico) hurled two innings with three strikeouts and Kelvin Herrera (Dominican Republic) pitched a third of an inning while surrendering two hits.
Irving Falu (Puerto Rico) is hitting .250 but leading his nation’s team in at-bats with 12.
The final two players sent to the tournament from the Royals farm systems, Atahualpa Severino is sporting a 13.50 ERA through two-thirds of an innings work for the Dominican Republic while outfielder Paulo Orlando carried a .167 AVG during Brazil’s short stint in the tournament.
The World Baseball Classic is a great competition, which will benefit Major League Baseball for many years to come. Unfortunately, for the Royals it may have been poor timing to send some of the team’s brightest stars to the Classic with so much riding on this season. When the season unfolds, fans will truly see whether or not the Classic helped or hindered the franchise’s chance at a playoff-birth.