The KC Royals promoted recent trade acquisition Billy Burns on Wednesday, and optioned reliever Brooks Pounders to AAA Omaha.
Kansas City Royals fans will get their first glimpse of the speedy outfielder that general manager Dayton Moore landed from the A’s in return for OF Brett Eibner on July 30. The 26-year-old Billy Burns was hitting an unimpressive .234/.270/303 in 73 games with the A’s this season, after a strong rookie season in which he slashed .294/.334/.392 with 18 doubles, 9 triples, 5 home runs, and 26 stolen bases. Burns finished fifth in the 2015 AL Rookie-Of-The-Year vote.
For Wednesday night’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, Cain will remain in the lineup with Alcides Escobar hitting leadoff. If Burns can channel some of his rookie-year mojo, he could become the KC Royals no. 1 hitter for many years to come, but I suppose he will have to start hitting before dethroning Escobar from his perch.
It’s gotta happen someday, right? Escobar hits free agency after this season, but the Kansas City Royals hold a very reasonable $6.5 million team option for 2017. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t exercise it at that price given that free-agents got around $8 million/WAR on the open market last winter. However, it is possible that the KC Royals decide to deal Escobar and install rookie Raul Mondesi at short in 2017.
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If Burns can hit enough to hold down an outfield job, then he would become a leadoff candidate in Escobar’s absence, along with Raul Mondesi.
In the immediate term, don’t expect Burns to become anything more than a reserve outfielder and late-inning pinch runner/defensive substitution similar to Jarrod Dyson. In fact, if Burns can show that he can fill Dyson’s role on the roster in the last two months of the 2016 season, Moore could deal Dyson this winter with one year of team control remaining before Dyson hits free-agency.
Meanwhile, Brooks Pounders is heading back down to Omaha. Though his 13.50 ERA in 4.2 inning pitched is hardly impressive, the 25-year-old Pounders has enjoyed a strong season at AAA at 5-1, 2.94 ERA in 70.1 inning pitched with a 10.5 K/9. Pounders ability to miss bats suggests he at least figures to latch on as a reliever in MLB, and could become a bottom of the rotation starter in the future.