The 2015 RoyalsBlue.com Spring Training AwardsFollow @RoyalsBlue_com
Once again, the Royals are just about wrapped up with their yearly soiree to the copper state. In typical fashion, the boys in blue have performed very well under the high sky, filling the box scores with crooked numbers and residing third in the Cactus League standings (17-10 as of the time this post was written). Opening day is less than a week away and we fans are chomping at the bit to start nitpicking games that actually matter.
Admittedly like many others before us, we here at Royals Blue would like to take this opportunity to give out some completely arbitrary hardware. Without further ado, here are your 2015 Royals Blue Spring Training Awards.
We’ll hold for your applause …
The George Brett “Award for Excellence” goes to …
It feels so ridiculously good to write that. We have been waiting for years to see the consistent beast of a ballplayer that Hosmer was advertised to be. We’ve gotten glimpses, of which this is probably just another, but over 52 spring at bats he is slashing .365/.389/.634 with 3 HR and 11 RBI. Other than a few minor league guys who scorched in their brief time in major league camp (Eibner, Calixte, and Bonifacio), he leads the team in OPS at 1.024. For the moment, we’ll look past the 12 strikeouts …
What’s even more exciting is that one could make an argument for at least 5 of the projected starting 9 hitters for this award, including two of the highly criticized free agent pickups this winter: Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales. The latter especially is proving he will absolutely be ready to go come April 6th as he is far and away the team leader in AB this spring (and doing well with them at .297/.328/.516 with 3 HR and 7 RBI). Again, at this point we’ll turn a blind eye to his team leading 16 K.
Now, we all know that Spring Training numbers mean just about nothing when it comes to predicting regular season success (I actually did an in depth post about this last year that appears to have been eaten by the Internet gremlins). Still, it is nice to see our team in the top 10 in all major offensive categories this spring (save for HR of course).
Honorable Mentions: Alex Rios, Paulo Orlando, Jason Frasor, Wade Davis
The Juan Gonzalez “Award for Awfulness” goes to …
Just as there were many offensive options in contention for the excellence award, unfortunately there are several starting pitchers that could have taken home this dubious honor. We choose Vargy due to one alarming statistic: 7 HR surrendered in only 17.2 IP. Even prefaced with the fact that the ball flies in Arizona unlike it will in the large confines of the K, this is well above his 1.1 HR/9 career average (admittedly a much, much larger sample size). A 9.68 ERA and 1.92 WHIP further shows that Arizona has not been kind to Mr. Vargas.
We hope the starting staff was simply working on specific things and will perform adequately once we get to games that matter.
Honorable Mentions: Edinson Volquez, Franklin Morales, Alcides Escobar, Eric Kratz
The Mike Moustakas “I’ll Believe it When I See It” Award goes to …
As long as he keeps raking in the southwest sun (.300/.352/.500, 2 HR, 10 RBI) and doesn’t back it up in the regular season, this award will permanently reside on his mantle. However, it is nice to see him finally being cognizant of the shift and trying to beat it with any pitch on the outer half. We’ll see if that continues in Kansas City.
The “Prospect I am Most Excited to See Knocking on the Major League Door” Award goes to …
Over the years, I have gotten to see a handful of minor league games graciously broadcast in the Kansas City area. Many names have flashed and gone, but I seem to remember taking notice of Paulo Orlando most games for one reason or another. He *looks* like a major leaguer. This spring in an extended look, he has played like one with a .341/.386/.923 line and 9 RBI over 41 AB.
I got in a bit of a Twitter spat this offseason about whether we had an internal replacement for Aoki. Orlando was one of the names I threw out and his success this spring seems to be reinforcing this thought. Especially considering the health of Rios’s thumb, Orlando has a real shot to break camp with the club as a reserve outfielder.
Honorable Mentions: Christian Colon, Whit Merrifield, Brian Flynn
The Max Ramirez “Best Showing by a Player With Absolutely No Chance of Making the Major League Roster” Award goes to …
Usually this award is reserved for the guy brought in to kick the tires, a AAAA player in the organization as an insurance policy (see Casey Kotchman). This year we go the prospect route. Eibner was always ticketed for the minors, but his brief time in major league camp (26 AB) opened more than a few eyes with a .500/.519/1.077 line, 3 HR and 6 RBI. Over half his hits went for extra bases. He won’t see the majors for a bit yet, but the buzz has officially begun.
Honorable Mentions: Christian Binford, Orlando Calixte, Jorge Bonifacio
The “Still a Long, Long Way to Go” Award goes to …
It was a disastrous start to major league camp for Starling, striking out 7 times in only 14 AB. As he settled in, he did warm up a bit and finished with a .286/.375/.357 line while showing his advertised prowess in the field. Still, there is considerable work to be done before we see Bubba in center at the K.
Honorable mentions: Hunter Dozier, Miguel Almonte
Final Takeaways from Spring Training 2015
More of the same that we’ve come to expect from Royals spring training baseball. The offense raked. The pitching on the whole was not very good. It was a remarkably healthy endeavor, losing only Tim Collins to a serious injury. Our highest profile free agents Rios and Morales both showed well as they try to resurrect their careers. Some of the prospects are showing they are ready for the majors. Others are still far away. All in all, it was very typical spring training.
The difference is that the 2015 Kansas City Royals wear a big old bull’s eye on their back. Even with the reserved hype that surrounded the team coming out of Spring Training the past two years, this crop of players has never been “the defending” anything. Last year, they showed an ability to thrive under pressure. Can they do the same over the course over a whole season?
Most pundits agree they will backslide this year. The magic that propelled them through the second half and especially the playoffs last season will vanish into the ether and we will be left with what the numbers predict: an average major league baseball team. In a division as improved as the AL Central, that’ll get you a third place finish right around (or slightly below) .500. The homer in me thinks this is ridiculous. I hope he is right.
But the truth is to some extent they are probably right. Whereas the Royals will be a statistically better team year, especially offensively, it is hard to count on all the breaks that led this team to being so incredibly close to winning the second World Series title in club history (no, I still don’t want to talk about it).
Still, these young pups don’t seem to know any better. They may just go out and win the whole damn thing.
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