The Royals had planned for their prospect pitching to be in their rotation by this year. Highly touted starters such as lefties Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Chris Dwyer and Danny Duffy were among the highest rated prospects in the organization. Only Duffy has emerged as a starter, and he has been shaky at best. Right-handers Tim Melville and Aaron Crown helped round out the stable of pitchers that caused scouts to drool over the Royals' future. Righty Jake Odorizzi came over in the mega trade with the Brewers and he isn’t quite ready for Prime Time. Crow was flirting with a slot in the rotation, but he is returning to the bullpen at least for the start of the season. Jason Adam and Kelvin Herrera are also among the deep pitching roster of Royals youngsters.
So what has happened with all that pitching? Lamb had Tommy John surgery. Montgomery needed a GPS to find the strike zone. Dwyer had a back injury and severe control yips. Duffy has been mediocre as part of the Royal's rotation. Melville hasn't shown improvement within the organization.
As a result, the Royals have turned to the Bruce Chen's and Felipe Paulino's of the world as rotation starters. That wasn't supposed to happen.
The prospect position players have been outstanding.
First baseman Eric Hosmer has been better than some expected, generating power and making consistent contact. He has driven the stone handed Billy Butler to full-time designated hitting duties. In fact, with so many good hitters, Butler may have the ability to fetch a pitcher in trade.
Alex Gordon has finally come into his own and shown his club and all of baseball why he was a top draft selection. His improved plate discipline and pitch recognition are the differences. He isn't swinging at every pitch and trying to hit a five-run homer. He is much shorter and more measured in his stroke. I think it's for real.
To date, Mike Moustakas has been as effective as a bird trying to fly with a broken wing. He just can't take off. However, a leaner, meaner Moose showed up in Surprise for spring training. The roll around the middle is gone and he looks to be in shape. It still remains to be seen if he will hit major league pitching. I have my doubts. But the team can always move Alex Gordon back to third and insert a guy that can hit in left field. That would be Wil Myers. The man can punish a baseball with solid barrel contact. He also has the ability to steal bases with good speed and baseball instincts. Rightfully so, Moustakas will be given an opportunity to keep his job if his bat cooperates.
The team is excited about the emergence of Lorenzo Cain has a power hitting No. 2 hitter. I'm only mildly impressed. I've not seen that power in the past. I haven't seen that contact in the past. I'm reserving judgment, but I hope he is who the Royals think he is. What a trade they made. Cain, Odorizzi, shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitcher Jeremy Jeffers for what has essentially been Zack Greinke.
Escobar is a magician at shortstop. It's a shame he hits eight in the order because I think his prowess as a basestealer would lead to a lot of runs scored if he were closer to the top. Escobar is a dream for the Royals pitching staff, gobbling up anything hit in his area code.
I have always liked Johnny Giavotella, the second baseman that was sent to Triple-A this past week to work on his defense. Giavotella has a nice bat for average and he makes contact at the plate. He just has defensive issues the club can't tolerate. The job has gone to Chris Getz. He should help a fantasy team with stolen bases, but little else. Yuniesky Betancourt may take some starts away from Getz, but he's the utility middle-infielder.
Why is it I have no faith in Jeff Francoeur as a hitter? I had him for $1 in a keeper league and traded him for much needed pitching last season. (I still won the league anyway.) I keep waiting for him to return to being Jeff Francoeur. He will. I know he will. But it was just yesterday I saw him smack a double down the right field line in Scottsdale (Giants) on a pitch he caught way out in front. If you want Francoeur you won't be getting him from me. I'm not drafting him. Anywhere, in any format.
A huge blow in spring training came when catcher Salvador Perez blew out his knee warming up the pitcher in the bullpen. It's beyond sad. It's just plain unfair. I watched him work and work and work to help his pitchers, to improve his own defense, to learn how to hit the ball to all fields and he was having great success. In one instant, his season was shortened considerably by surgery. Who knows if he will return to the form he showed last season? He was very high on my catcher rankings. His teammate Manuel Pina also blew out a knee this spring. Both are on the shelf.
I am not giving up on the young pitching. Montgomery will be a good one. He's just a little behind but he'll catch up. The rest of the group will have some pitchers among them that succeed and some that don't. I'm banking on Crow to be very effective. I like outfielder Bubba Starling to be a big part of the offense in a few years. Starling, Myers, second baseman Christian Colon and the great young group of hitters and pitchers now on the big league team will help lead the Royals to the playoffs.
What I Like About The Royals:
- Eric Hosmer is the real deal. He can drive in runs, hit with power, steal some bases and play defense. He may become Joey Votto before it's all said and done.
- Alex Gordon has turned the corner and has now begun to realize his potential. Upside remains.
- When healthy, Sal Perez is an outstanding catcher. He can flat out hit.
- Alcides Escobar may the best shortstop in the American League. He makes every play look easy. He's starting to hit as well.
- The bullpen could be very solid with Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland at the back end.
- Very solid talent and depth is available in the organization, allowing the club to make changes in mid-season or whenever needed.
What I Don't Like About The Royals:
- The starting pitching is weak and lacks depth
- Second base still seems unsettled
- Mike Moustakas hasn't proven he can hit big league pitching
These Are Players I Would Draft or Win At Auction:
- Eric Hosmer
- Billy Butler
- Lorenzo Cain
- Alcides Escobar
- Alex Gordon
- Sal Perez (waiver selection later)
- Jonathan Broxton
- Greg Holland
- Wil Myers (keeper league)
- Jake Odorizzi (keeper league)
These Are Players I Want The Other Guy To Draft
- Mike Moustakas
- Chris Getz
- The Entire Starting Rotation
- Jeff Francoeur
*Chris Young has tweaked his swing and is getting good results for the D-Backs.
*Alfonso Soriano is hitting the ball with authority once again. He will make a fantasy owner very happy with his power numbers.
*The Indians are worried about Michael Brantley's hamstring issue and the fact they have nobody on the roster that can play center field.
*Even in the difficult Arizona pitching environment of dry, hot air Drew Pomeranz is pitching like the ace he will become.
*With the departure of Casey Blake, Chris Nelson will staff third base for the Rockies along with Jordan Pacheco until Nolan Arenado arrives in mid-summer. I believe he will be on the big club this season.
*Bobby Abreu could cut in to Kendrys Morales' at-bats unless the Angels release Abreu. Regardless, Morales looks just fine, Thank You.
*Andre Ethier is a doubles machine. The man is on fire. Looks very fit.
*I'm drafting Mat Gamel on lots of my teams in the UT position. Why? I think he'll hit some long home runs. Miller Park here he comes.
*Try the Kettle Corn at the Brewers Maryvale Spring Training facility. Amazing, amazing.
That's it for this week. Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. I tweet from every spring training game I attend. Follow me on MLB.com in the Voices section. As always, your comments and questions are always welcome.