Number Munchers: Back to the Minors – Part 1

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We as humans just cannot resist the bright, shiny and new. In the immortal words of the legend … wait for it … dary Barney Stinson, “New is always better.” New clothes, new cars, new phones, new people, new new new! We really don’t care that what we have is just fine and perfectly functional. We just want new.

2010 draft

On June 7th, 2010, the Kansas City Royals selected Christian Colon with the fourth overall pick of the 2010 MLB amateur draft.  The organization touted him as an advanced bat with off-the-chart clubhouse peripherals. He would be a strong and vocal leader, a sure thing that should be major league ready around the same time as Moustakas and Hosmer.

The pick was received in a more or less lukewarm fashion. Many fans and pundits expected the team to go after a higher ceiling player, such as Chris Sale, Matt Harvey, or Yasmani Grandal. Some of us (including myself) bought into the idea. 2012 was going to be a hell of a year for the boys in blue!

We all know history has proven otherwise. Hosmer and Moose have not turned into the saviors of the franchise they were supposed to be. Colon, while never outright failing in the minors, did not fast track to the majors as expected. Without showing the gaudy minor league numbers that his fellow top 5 first round picks did, he was quickly labeled a bust.infante

Fast forward to 2014. Newly inked free agent Omar Infante roams the dirt at second base. He plays better defense than he gets credit for and has shown the ability to get a big hit in the clutch, currently being second on the team in RBIs. However, he is also too much of a free swinger and usually seems pretty out of place and/or overmatched in the second position of the batting order. That’s not really his fault as he doesn’t make the lineup, but certainly noticeable all the same. When it came time for his usual annual DL stint, it was Johnny Giavotella and Pedro Ciriaco to the rescue. Neither of which are still with the big league team.

Mike Moustakas, while showing the occasional ability to yank a ball over the fence, has been overall abysmal at the plate. In regards to his approach, Thesaurus.com has nowhere near enough synonyms for terrible. He was never supposed to hit for average, but consistently playing the guy hitting .199 day in and day out is borderline insulting to fans that have waited too long for a contender.

moose

In the off season, Danny Valencia was traded for in jest as a third base insurance policy. In his brief time with the club, he played like … well, Danny Valencia. He batted excellent against lefties (.373 / .418 / .518) and struggled against righties (.203 / .244 / .257). He eventually platooned with Moose for a short while before hitting the DL, and was flipped to Toronto for a major-league-capable backup catcher and future starting pitching depth.

Alcides Escobar has been one of the more consistent performers for the Royals this season. Now that the days of trying to use him in the one or two hole are behind us, he has become a sound American League eight or nine hitter in the everyday lineup, slashing .280 / .316 / .373 with 42 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. His defense is widely considered one of the best in major leagues at his position. Knowing this, Yost has played him in all 123 games so far this season.colon

All the while, Colon had started to figure it out at AAA. We, as fans, had written him off. The organization that drafted him in the top five only four years previously had seemingly written him off. Once projected to be a solid everyday player with some advanced offensive potential, he was now being molded into a utility minor league infielder.

But In 2013, he hit .273 / .335 / .379 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI. Nowhere near astronomical numbers, but promising. In 86 games in 2014, it really started to come together as he slashed .311 / .366 / .433 with 8 HR and 47 RBI. Still, only those of us that actively checked the minors on a regular basis took notice. And even then, he was an afterthought in the box scores to Dozier, Starling, Mondesi, etc. Almost out of nowhere, he got the call up the majors on June 30th and made his major league debut on July 1.

Some players take time to adjust to the vast increase level of talent in the major leagues. Others just come up and hit immediately. Although an admittedly very small sample size (only 26 AB), he has done the latter, slashing .385 / .385 / .615 with four doubles and six runs scored. After watching Moose continue to struggle and the roller coaster ride that is Infante, Colon has become fascinating, shiny and new.

And so, if you give much credit to social media (which is a very dangerous proposition), you would think he is the second coming of Mike Trout, Babe Ruth, Jimi Hendrix or Hercules. The people so desperately want anything different than what we have currently. Even as our team plays the best baseball this town has seen in decades, we still want our shiny and new.

Time will tell what kind of player he will become. His numbers in the minors were not eye popping in any fashion. They’re actually rather pedestrian overall: .281 / .344 / .385 with 37 HR and 232 RBI over 2167 plate appearances. But who actually knows whether minor league numbers have actual relevance upon whether or not a player will succeed at the major league level? Lucky for us all, that will be what we look at in part 2 of this post.

back to the minors

Still, we as fans wait with baited fingertips daily for the lineup to come out and post a slew of filth when we see Moustakas in there against a lefty or Infante’s name for the 7th day in a row. Colon is our new toy, and damnit, we want Ned Yost to play him.

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Author: Zach Hodson

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