The State of the Kansas City Royals Depth Chart
By Aaron Reese
Oct 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Kansas City Royals deprived their dedicated fans of news this week by wheeling and dealing early in the off-season. They filled every hole in their lineup and even added a few surprises. Once we get into a closer look at the depth chart, we’ll notice that the team’s improvement, while good, still leaves concerns with the team’s depth.
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The ERA and OPS projections are taken from Steamer. The current depth chart is according to Royals.com and ESPN.
Unsurprisingly, the Royals are projected to be a light-hitting team. By the year’s end, there are bound to be discrepancies between these projections and actual results, but for now, they’ll serve as useful enough starting points.
There are a few promising aspects to this depth chart, but before we look at those, let’s start with the worrisome parts and hypothesize workarounds that the Royals might try to compensate for their shortcomings.
The first thing that jumps out is the back up designated hitter–Jarrod Dyson and his .638 OPS. The Royals made it clear that they plan to rotate players through the DH spot, but if Morales gets hurt, no one hits well enough to serve as an extended replacement. That isn’t the best news because Morales has a concerning injury history dating back to a 2010 ankle injury that kept him out of the league for nearly two years. Dyson can’t be the backup designated hitter.
If some unfortunate circumstance befell Morales, the most likely solution would be to put Alex Rios in the DH spot, move Jarrod Dyson to center and Lorenzo Cain to right field. It would serve as a tolerable half-measure until a suitable replacement could be found. Dyson is a fine center-fielder, but the team couldn’t afford to frequently bat him in an already light-hitting lineup. Rios isn’t a bad hitter and has some pop to his bat. He should be able to hold down the position for a few weeks.
The infield is in good shape defensively. There are Gold Glove finalists or winners at every position including catcher. The only potential problem is depth. Christian Colon is responsible for backing up all three infield positions to the left of first base. This is not necessarily bad news (I like Colon), but while in the minors the organization questioned his range at shortstop and his arm at third base. It’s just the type of news to cause minor hand-wringing.
As you can see in the depth chart above, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Omar Infante are projected to hit better than in 2014. Until last year, Colon struggled with hitting through the minors. Colon proved that he can perform well in short stints at the Major League level but so did Angel Berroa. In the few MLB plate appearances, Colon had an unsustainable .366 BAbip. Don’t expect him to hit anywhere near the same level. It’s difficult to tell how well he can truly hit until we see some more from him. He still has a lot to prove.
This last concern should be temporary. The bullpen is thin. With Kris Medlen and Luke Hochevar starting the season on the disabled list, Ned Yost will have to rely more heavily on Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Jason Frasor. That doesn’t sound too bad, but no one wants those guys to get so tired that they start blowing games. If the game is tight, we might see Herrera come in instead of Louis Coleman. I’d certainly feel more comfortable if that’s the case. Hochevar and Medlen are out until, at earliest, late April.
The bullpen has the biggest potential for disaster. If one of HDH hits the disabled list early in the season, we could see a few unexpected losses becaue Ned would be forced to rely on middle relievers Louis Colemen, Tim Collins and possibly a minor league promotion such as Aaron Brooks. Overall, those guys are decent middle relievers, but not who the team wants to rely upon in high-leverage situations. I’m partial to Collins, but he’s shown decreased fastball velocity and command in recent outings.
Now for the good news.
Oct 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura during game six of the 2014 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
The rotation doesn’t stand out as a glaring example of dominance, but it is solid. Yordano Ventura looked like he can easily repeat his 2014 results, which exceeded most expectations. Danny Duffy, as Kings of Kauffman‘s own Hunter Samuels pointed out last year, may have the most valuable fastball in baseball and had among the highest quality innings in the American League. Starting with those two guys at the top of the rotation is a good foundation to build upon.
The rest of the rotation doesn’t sparkle, but is without a black hole that was so commonplace in the Royals rotation just two years ago. Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie can all eat innings and give the bullpen a few nights of light work.
You may have already guessed the main strength of the team. Looking at the depth chart, it’s hard not to notice just how amazing that defense is. The Royals have Gold Glove defenders at catcher, first base and left field along with a world-class center fielder and Shortstop Jesus. Jarrod Dyson is the fastest center-fielder in the American League and defensive metrics love him. Even when Alex Rios is battling nagging injuries, he is capable of fighting right-field defense to a draw. If needed, the Royals can move Cain to right in late innings and have Dyson take over center, giving the Royals one of the best outfields in history. Literally.
The current state of the Kansas City Royals’ depth chart has many of the same characteristics we noticed last year around this time. There are spots that can be better, but for the most part, the team is above average. The one noticeable difference is the absence of James Shields, who sure seemed like the clubhouse leader the team made him out to be (his 227 innings and 3.21 ERA didn’t hurt either). If a few breaks lean their way, and maybe Edinson Volquez recaptures his youth, they could land in the playoffs again.