Catcher – Advantage Royals
Yan Gomes had a better than expected bat last year, so good in fact that the Indians might move Carlos Santana to third base because Gomes is also amazing defensively while Santana is decidedly not. Actually, Gomes sounds a lot like Salvador Perez upon arrival. Better than expected bat and great defensively. Perez gets the nod because of his longer track record, and I expect he will be the better hitter.
1B – Advantage Royals
Nick Swisher has been a consistently good big league player for a long time, but he might be fading. They moved him to 1B from the outfield for defense and preservation purposes I would assume, and that might help a bit. Eric Hosmer should get on base at similar clip as Swisher, but hit for better average and power.
2B – Advantage Cleveland
SS – Advantage Cleveland
Kipnis’ alter ego in 2013 was Asdrubal Cabrera who posted his worst season as a major leaguer. He was still significantly better at the plate than Alcides Escobar was, but he is not the defensive standout that Escobar is. If Cabrera’s bat can’t bounce back he becomes a liability for Cleveland. I expect he will outhit Alcides by enough the two might not be very far apart overall. Francisco Lindor may at some point play some too. He is a highly touted prospect, but needs some more time in the minors yet.
3B – Push
There is little in Lonnie Chisenhall’s past that says he will ever be able to hold down this spot, so it will be very interesting watching to see if Carlos Santana can convert from catcher to the hot corner. Mike Aviles might end up here as well and is only marginally better than Chisenhall. If Mike Moustakas is fixed he is better than this mix unless Santana somehow holds the position down without being a huge defensive liability. The only problem is that Chisenhall actually hit better than Moose last year. I think this is advantage Royals, but I don’t have enough trust in Moustakas yet to call it that way.
RF – Advantage Royals
The Indians signed David Murphy to man right. Murphy is a hard player to figure out. He had a career year in 2012 and followed it up with a pretty terrible year last season. Projections have him bouncing back a bit, but not enough to catch up to Norichika Aoki. I trust Aoki a lot more so I am giving it to the Royals since 2012 is by far the exception for Murphy’s career.
CF – Advantage Cleveland
Michael Bourn has been a consistently good player for the past 5 years with last year being a little bit down with some missed time. Lorenzo Cain/Jarrod Dyson have never shown enough with the bat to think he can keep up with an established guy like Bourn.
LF – Advantage Royals
Though Michael Brantley has turned into a nice everyday player, he is not in the same class as Alex Gordon. Gordon’s gets on base at a higher rate, hits for significantly more power, and plays better defense. This is not a close comparison.
DH – Push
I have a feeling a lot of people disagree with me here, but I would probably prefer Billy Butler if it is just for 2014. Not sure what everybody seems to have against Country Breakfast, but last year was a down year for him and he was still an above average hitter by a decent margin. Carlos Santana has shown some growth at the plate and consistently gets on base, but he has never really shown the power that everyone expected. Billy has had the same issue at times, but he has slugged over .500 for an entire season. These are two pretty similar ball players.
Royals have the advantage at 4 spots and Cleveland only 3, and I think the Royals have two big advantages in LF and 1B. Offensively I like the Royals better, and if you include depth it becomes a bigger gap. Cleveland has a lot of places where time missed would cause a large decrease in production. The Royals have enough questions and the Indians have enough places with upside that I wouldn’t call it a slam dunk, but I am expecting the Royals to have the overall advantage.
I will move onto pitching to see the other side in a couple of days.