Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
After ten games, the concerns about the Royals are chirping. Loudly.
The bullpen looks regressed. Bruce Chen looks a little spotty. The left side of the infield can’t hit it’s way out of a wet paper sack. Ned Yost has made some head scratching decisions, and Dayton Moore’s roster construction has been questionable.
That said, there are silver linings to this Royal cloud. For starters, it’s early. It is really, really early. The bullpen has been snake bitten with injuries and will certainly give the team better results moving forward. There are just too many great arms in that pen for it to be anything less than above average. They can’t repeat last year’s numbers, but they are going to be a strong unit this season.
The pen’s latest addition, Danny Duffy gave much to smile about against Minnesota. Duffy looked calm out there. I howled, like many, when the Royals alluded to adding him to the pen this Spring. The Royals said Duffy didn’t need more work as a starter in Omaha, but needed work learning how to get major leaguers out. Maybe they were right and we were wrong. It looks like the Royals are going to need more long relief help than expected. If Duffy can take some deep breaths and throw like he did against the Twins for a month, he may just swap roles with Chen. The Royals post season chances hinge on both Yordando Ventura and Danny Duffy “arriving” this season. Perhaps this development may allow for just that.
Not only has Mike Moustakas struggled at the plate, but his defense has been very poor. Moose is playing so bad that the Royals are going to be forced to platoon him. This, sadly, is a good thing. Mike is not and likely will never become an above average every day major leaguer. Mike, like Luke Hochevar, is getting more chances than his play warrants because of his draft status. Mike, like Luke, may very well become a valuable piece for the Royals with a reduced role. If only he and the Royals can adjust their expectations. The Royals are very concerned about his confidence. What good does his confidence gain by flailing away at left handed pitchers? How well have high expectations treated him so far? Danny Valencia is on this team for a reason, and there is no way he, and his power, won’t be utilized very soon.
Last year’s hot mess at second base and right field has been cleaned up. Nori Aoki and Omar Infante have not set the league on fire, but both look steady. The fact the Royals played meaningful baseball last year without even average players at second and right field makes even average output very impactful. Having those two at the top of the lineup has allowed Alex Gordon to bat fifth and see more RBI opportunities. He’s capitalizing on many of these chances, and his high strike out ratio is no longer planted firmly in the first inning of every game. Once Hosmer and Butler start driving the ball better, and they will, the team will start to score more runs.
The brightest new star has been Jason Vargas. Many, including yours truly, mocked the Royals for giving him such a long and lucrative contract. Defenders of the deal said Vargas would shine with the Royals excellent defense, the larger park, and the grounding stability his deal offered. Maybe it’s time to start giving Dayton more credit for his ability to identify starters. He may not have any track record for developing starters, but, for the money, Shields, Santana, and Chen have all performed very well. Early returns on Vargas follow suit.
Yes, the Royals are off to a cloudy start, but their May forecast looks bright.