Royals Enter the Dog Days of Spring

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The Kansas City Royals are heading on the road to Minnesota to begin a 3 game tilt against the Twins, and thus begins the long journey that is baseball season. While the Royals already have 8 games in the books, the first few games carry with them a different distinction than the ones that follow. Losing the first 2 in Detroit, and especially the WAY Kansas City lost those games carried far more significance in the minds of fans than any 2 game series will for the rest of the year until possibly September. The Royals should have, could have, would have won those two games if not for many of the factors that causes fans all over to overreact. Our offense stinks, Billy Butler ONLY grounds into double plays,  our bullpen is going to finish with a 12.00 ERA this year, how could we not hang on to Emilio Bonifacio when he is OBVIOUSLY a .500 hitter! Mike Moustakas is never going to hit….wait, that one might not be a stretch….Over reactions Galore

Mike Moustakas is a concern that I think may be valid. While he isnt going to be a .038 hitter for all of 2014, the fact that he is unable to produce any well struck balls goes against all hype surrounding his hopeful ascension to becoming the player we had all envisioned he would eventually be. After spending the off-season playing winter ball and being guided under the watchful eye of Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol, it seemed Moose had begun making actual progress. He entered spring training in the much cliched “best shape of his career” and proceeded to absolutely rake in Surprise, finishing with an OPS of 1.290. While it is doubtful there were many outside of Moose’s Mom who actually felt he would be capable of carrying that torrid hitting throughout a very long regular season, it was hopefully going to be a sign that the pieces were finally falling in place to reaching his real potential. So far, this has not worked out, as his only hit in 7 games is a slow dribbler that snuck by the second baseman. Time will tell, but with Danny Valencia on the roster for seemingly no other reason that to play behind Moose, I cant help but wonder if his leash will be shorter this year than in the past. At this pace, fans might find out sooner rather than later.

The Royals Bullpen will be ok. They have been, at best, shaky so far in this young season, but there is far too much talent on the roster for it to fail as a whole. While individual pieces the Royals have expected to be reliable contributors may falter, the Kansas City farm system is ripe with arms that can be brought up to mitigate the failures. It is also quite early in the season, and if memory serves correct, there was a swelling support for Greg Holland to be replaced in May of last year as the Royals closer after he had looked vulnerable at the beginning of 2013. Thank goodness that did not happen, as he went on to produce one of the greatest and most dominant stints a Royals reliever has ever enjoyed, with a 1.21 ERA, and 103 strikeouts in 67 innings.

Alcides Escobar is really playing fantastic defense thus far. While it is early, he has made several incredible plays including this one. While his batting average is still very low at .185, he has begun to show signs of life at the plate, including a 3 run double in the Monday night 4-2 win against the Rays.  The Royals defense is going to need to remain one of the best in baseball again this year if this team is to be successful. With a pitching staff built around “pitch to contact” one of the most important pieces in that puzzle will have to be Alcides Escobar manning the middle of the infield. It would be a major blow if his lack of offense also weakened the defense in the event he has to be replaced at some point during the season. Lets all hope he gets hot.

The Royals are entering a very very weak portion of the schedule. They will face the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and the Twins again. While there is no such thing as “must win” games in April baseball, these are the types of stretches which can no longer be considered a luxury if the Royals hope to contend. There was a point in time where these were simply fun games to watch with the hope the Royals might look like a viable big league ball club. Now has come a time when these are games that must be taken very seriously as if they wish to be enough games above .500 in September, it MUST come from winning against lower competition.  I feel we will learn more about the 2014 Royals during the next 9 games than we did against Detroit.

Food for thought: Salvador Perez set his carreer best mark for most walks in a month with 9 on April 9th. If this isn’t some sort of aberration, and Sal truly is learning to be a more patient hitter at the plate, that opposing pitchers are in a LOT of trouble. He has shown an incredible ability to make contact with ANY pitch, and if he is actually willing to wait for a GOOD pitch before he swings, the sky is the limit for what he is capable of. It should also be noted that having Mike Moustakas batting after him in the batting order may have also contributed to his higher than normal walk numbers.



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Author: lukegoosen

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