Spring Training Review: And the Award Goes to….

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By: Zachary Hodson


Goodbye Arizona.  The time has come for the majority of the Royals franchise to pack up the conestogas and head north (let’s hope no one dies of dysentery along the way).  As April quickly approaches, we head back to the land of Boulevard and BBQ; back to the beautiful confines of Kaufmann stadium (via a weird weekender to Milwaukee and opener in Detroit).  All in all, it’s been a good spring.  We brought you the greenbacks of plenty of lovely blue bloods and in turn you spoiled them with copious sunlight and a relatively injury free spring training.  You can now return to your regular programming of bingo halls and golf courses until we meet again in ten and a half months.

As my post earlier this month detailed, spring training results really don’t matter much when it comes to predicting regular season performance.  But, sometimes it just feels good to be a little asinine.  So in that spirit, here is my take, a look back at the spring training that was.

The George Brett Award for Excellence goes to …

Yordano Ventura.  I’ll admit, I didn’t used to believe the hype surrounding this guy.  To me he was just one more candidate in the long line of “can’t miss” Royals pitching prospects that would eventually miss in miserable fashion.  However, Ventura continues to look like the real deal.
 Though his slight frame might not prove durable enough for a long MLB career, he should be a fireworks show finale until his chicken wing gives out.  With a .93 WHIP, a 1.73 ERA, and enough fantasy buzz to illuminate all the liquid crystals of Crown Vision, Ventura catapulted himself from a major-league-roster-maybe to a solid #3 in the rotation (depending on who you ask).  With Shields most certainly moving on after this year, Ventura looks like a guy who could step in as a legitimate home grown ace.

Honorable Mentions:  Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Norichika Aoki, and James Shields (this award was hands down his until his very poor last start).  All put together solid spring training numbers (Perez more so than the others) and look in position to carry it over into the regular season.

The Juan Gonzalez Award for Awfulness goes to …

As much as I hate to say it, Danny Duffy.  I really, really like Danny Duffy.  I still think he is going to be at least a league average starter for the Royals in the coming years.  Maybe he can glean some “lefty craftiness” from Bruce Chen and combine it with his velocity and natural stuff to finally become a reliable major league pitcher.  But not quite yet it seems.  An 11.45 ERA, 2.00 Whip and 1.5 K/BB ratio in spring training quickly  removed him from consideration for this year’s team in that capacity.  Hopefully, his stay in Omaha is short and he can come replace one of the honorable mentions listed below in the rotation.

Honrable mentions:  Bruce Chen (though he was doing OK until his disastrous last start), Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Valencia.

The “Insert Any Highly Touted Prospect We’ve Had in the Past 30 Years Here” Award for “I’ll Believe It When I See It” goes to …

Mike Moustakas.  Mike Moustakas might consider one day signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He absolutely rakes in the Copper State.  This spring was no different.  .431 BA, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .531 OBP.  Those are Konami Baseball Stars type numbers.  But, please also consider this:  .394 BA, 5 HR, 16 RBI, .421 OBP.  That would be the Mike Moustakas 2013 spring training line.  I think we all know what happened during the regular season last year.

There is a variance that proves promising: he has 11 walks to 8 strikeouts this spring.  Perhaps he actually improved his plate discipline to a point where he can finally peak around the corner at his potential.

Honorable Mentions:  Alcides Escobar (though a small sample size, he has also raked in limited action this spring), Johnny Giavotella, Wade Davis.

The Mark Quinn Award for Most Bizarre Injury Related to Kung Fu Fighting goes to …

Brad Penny.  He sucked.  He reportedly punched a wall and injured his non-throwing hand (clearly proving that he has seen Bull Durham).  He was released.

The Max Ramirez Award for Best Showing by a Player With Absolutely No Chance of Making the Major League Roster Award goes to …

Carlos Peguro.  His numbers were solid, though not astronomical, but announcers and fans alike always seemed to be drooling over this guy when he appeared in the late innings of what seemed like every game this spring.  They are going to try to sneak him through waivers.  Lets hope he makes it for the “eye test” community out there.

Honorable mention:  Jason Donald

Final Takeaways from Spring Training 2014

This is the first season in awhile that the Royals have had real expectations.  Anything less than a playoff berth will be considered a disappointment.  How will these Royals handle that pressure?

So far, so good.  The young players seem to actually be progressing.  Hosmer and Perez look to be on the verge of breaking out into stardom.  Butler (though having an alarming number of Ks this spring) and Gordon aren’t showing any signs that they won’t be the consistent players they have been in the prime of their careers to this point.

Dayton Moore made some small yet strategic moves in free agency, which look pretty good so far based upon the spring performance.  Aoki looks like a real leadoff hitter, taking pitches, slashing the ball the other way, and disrupting the game on the basepaths. 

Jason Vargas looks like a solid innings eater (which apparently you have to pay 8-million-per year these days for one of those).  Omar Infante, while showing troubling signs already of not being able to stay healthy, looks like a great fit for the number 2, both in the field and at the plate.

Still, the main question I see with this team is what they call the currency of baseball: pitching.  Guthrie and Chen, two starters we are heavily banking on, both look somewhat suspect.  Can Ventura live up to the hype when the lights are really on?  Will Wade Davis be as near as good in the 8th inning as Hochevar was last year?  Can the faceless crew of middle relievers repeat their dominating 2013 performance?

We are only a few days away from the six (hopefully more) long months that will tell the story.  It’s time to fire up the old hot dog gun at the K and start learning the new creepy 6th inning sing-a-long.  The boys in blue are almost back in town.

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