Kansas City Royals Spring Training 2015: Early Question Marks

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Every major league baseball teams enter camp with some question marks, and AL Champions are no different, especially when said AL Champions are projected to win just 72 games. Lets take a look at some of the early questions Ned Yost and company must answer before camp breaks, beginning with replacing Big Game James.

The Rotation

In case you haven’t heard yet, James Shields is now a San Diego Padre and leaves a huge vacancy in the Royals starting rotation.

As a group in 2014, Royals starters had an ERA of 3.60, which was good for fourth in the AL, as well as throwing the third most innings among AL rotations at 986. With Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy coming off strong, breakout campaigns, it would seem that Shields left the rotation in good hands, but there are still question marks.

During his time with the Royals, Shields was the model of consistency, as well as eating innings faster than Costanza eats ice cream. Although Ventura and Duffy both have the stuff and upside to be top flight-starters, there is still the question of whether Shields’ consistency can be mimicked by the two flame throwers.

There is also the question of durability, with Duffy’s prior run-ins with injury and Ventura’s frame being closer to a Kevin Durant than a James Shields. However, if those two stay healthy and build on 2014, the rotation should be in good shape.

If either of them has health issues or regresses, it will be up to the rest of the rotation to pick up the slack. The combination of Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez, Jeremy Guthrie, and Kris Medlen will be a huge factor in the Royals success in 2015.

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Second Base

Yeah yeah, this one is a little premature. Actually, is it? I’m not so sure. Christian Colon was the Royals first round pick in 2010, and the organization has stood by him through all of the should have drafted Chris Sale crap. He is already 25. It’s approaching that time when the Royals either need to give him a shot or trade him.

The only thing that stands in his way is a 33-year old Omar Infante, who was signed to a four-year deal last winter, and proceeded to be the third-worst hitter in the American League according to wRC+. The Royals have a lot of money invested in Infante, which is why I have no reason to believe he won’t exit camp as the team’s starting second baseman, but if Colon performs well in spring, it would be in the Royals’ best interest to at least give the kid a shot.

It also helps that he got a little cup of major league coffee last season, albeit only 49 PA. It did give us a decent look at his skill set, however, which surprised some people. My personal theory is that the whole Chris Sale narrative went just a step too far and led fans to believe Colon wasn’t a good prospect. By no means is Colon on the same level as Sale, but he isn’t a slouch.

He is a guy that doesn’t have a high ceiling, but also doesn’t have much of a cellar. He has a great eye at the plate and gets on base, which is something the Royals desperately need. He also has very good contact skills, with a career strikeout rate of just over 8%. I don’t think Colon is a star by any means, but he may very well be an upgrade over Infante, especially if the latter can’t stay healthy. He also may be that prototypical number two hitter that Ned so dearly craved with Infante.

Brandon Finnegan

Finnegan became an instant star in 2014 when he became the first player ever to pitch in the College World Series and Major League World Series in the same year. He was the Royals first round selection in the MLB Draft in June and found himself on the big league stage just three months later. That was out of the bullpen, of course.

The Royals have drafted relievers in the first round before (cc: Aaron Crow), but it shouldn’t become a pattern. That is why it is important that Finnegan starts the season at the minor league level and that the Royals at least try to mold him into a starter.

Scouting wise, Finnegan is a wild card. His strenuous delivery and short stature don’t scream major league starter, but he possesses three pitches that are being graded out in the future as major league average or better. He lacks a dominant pitch, but if he can command three major league average pitches, he could feasibly be a starter.

His velocity, which sat around 92 mph in 2014, will likely drop as a starter due to his delivery and extended workload, so we will have to see how he adjusts. He is also a fairly risky prospect due to his size and the potential arm issues that linger with his rough delivery.

Finnegan is an interesting prospect and has already become a fan favorite. However, he still needs to be groomed as a potential starting pitcher at the major league level. Getting him out of the bullpen is a must if the Royals want to find out if he can be that starting pitcher. I suspect he will start the season in the minors, but I have seen stranger things happen.

Next: Royals Position Players in Winter Ball

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