There has been A LOT of coverage in recent days of Alex Gordon’s contract situation with the Kansas City Royals. I firmly believe he will return to the team. I desperately want him to return to the team. Whereas I know it would probably cost the organization the chance to re-sign some of the younger players that will hit free agency over the next few years (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, etc.), I still want nothing more than to see Gordo stay with the Royals for the lion’s share of his career.
Imagine coming to the K and seeing a gold #4 on top of the Hall of Fame. Whereas I believe his name already has a spot reserved inside that building, there is still work left to get his number emblazoned on the outside. Call me crazy or still drunk on World Series championship fervor, but I want that more than I want to re-sign those players above.
However, as we hit the wild west of free agency, there is a significant chance it will not happen. So for the moment (as much as it pains me), let’s assume the organization does not re-sign Gordon. Where does this leave us?
Much like Gordon’s situation, there will be thousands of articles posted over the next few months with free agent rankings and predictions. The Royals may very well pluck a second-tier free agent guy like Gerardo Parra, Delmon Young or (dare I even think of it) Colby Rasmus to fill either of the corner outfield spots. We’ll let you sift through those ad naseum at your leisure.
However, it is possible #GMDM will roll the dice and go with an unproven option from within. There are no obvious “NEXT BIG THING!” outfield prospects in the system at this moment, but we thought we’d take a little deeper look at some in-house options, both at the major and minor league level.
Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando
This was the organization’s choice when Gordo went down with injury this year. The results were serviceable. Nothing spectacular, but certainly not abyssmal either.
Throughout 2015, the duo combined to hit .244, with 9 homeruns, 45 RBI, 29 SB and 62 runs scored. Both were above average defensively, leading to a combined 3.2 WAR. They were a couple of fleet-footed, athletic guys that could play any of the outfield spots and be a weapon off the bench.
Assuming no major injuries or regression amongst the rest of the team in 2016, the Royals could certainly live with this as a platoon in one of the outfield spots. However, it is highly unlikely it will be the sole plan. One has to think at least some competition is in the cards.
Bursting onto the scene with an exhilarating 2015 Spring Training performance, the Royals fan base would have been screaming for his promotion had the major league club not been so dominant this year. His solid performance at AAA only furthers that mindset. Though missing a chunk of time due to injury, Eibner still clubbed 19 HR and drove in 81 in 103 games. His .303/.364/.514 (.878 OPS) was second on the team in terms of players with significant playing time (we’ll get to number 1 in a minute). He was prone to the strikeout (79 K in 389 AB), but that K/AB rate of 4.92 is a drastic improvement over his minors career mark to that point (2.91). At 26 years of age, he should certainly get an opportunity to crack the opening day roster for the 2016 Royals.
That Omaha team leader in OPS I mentioned earlier is none other than Jose Martinez. Unless you listen to the RoyalsBlue.Com Podcast (hi Mom!), you probably don’t know much about this guy. Martinez had a career offensive season for the Storm Chasers this year, hitting .384/.461/.563 (1.024 OPS) with 10 HR, 60 RBI, 25 doubles, and an outstanding 1.15 K/BB ratio over 341 at bats, a VAST improvement over his minors career to that point.
A somewhat traveled minor league ballplayer, there is something about his game that seemingly keeps the Royals from viewing him as a legitimate option at the major league level. After all, baseball can only be somewhat explained by pure number analysis. Still, if Martinez continues this patient offensive onslaught at the AAA level, it will become hard to continue to ignore.
After being written off “just another #GMDM draft pick bust” (which seems REALLY silly after watching his predominantly homegrown team dominate their way to a World Series championship), Bubba experienced somewhat of career resurgence in 2015. Destroying single A pitching over the first 12 games of the season to the tune of .386/.471/614 (1.084 OPS) with 2 HR, and 12 RBI, Starling held his own after a promotion to the elevated ranks of AA. His .254/.318/.426 (.744 OPS) line won’t blow up your skirt, but he did show some improvement in strike zone recognition (3.64 K/AB vs his previous minors career mark of 3.18). Couple this with him already being ready defensively for MLB, he should get at least an extended drink of water in major league camp next spring, yet is a LOOONNNGGG shot from seeing any significant time in Kansas City.
The 6th ranked prospect in the Royals organization, Emilio’s younger brother did not see much improvement overall in his second full year at the AA level. With a line of .240/.305/.416 (.721 OPS) and a 3.86 K/AB ratio, it is apparent that unless he takes a HUGE step forward this winter he is not ready for the big leagues at this point. Still, at only 22 years of age, there is time for this prospect to reach his potential.
There are other names in the minors that have briefly hit the radar for one reason or another (Whit Merrifield, Lane Adams, Rey Fuentes, Terrance Gore, Mike Bianucci, etc.). Whereas it is certainly possible any one of these players could have the winter and spring of their lives, it is highly unlikely any has a significant impact on the 2016 Royals.
I think we will re-sign Gordon. But even if we do, there is still a hole currently in right field. After overall disappointing results from second tier outfield free agent signings the past two years (Nori Aoki and Alex Rios), not to mention the even worse results from the Omar Infante contract so far, I think #GMDM will shy away from an older free agent this time.
And knowing that it would be nice to have some money “in the bank” to take a future run at any combination of Hosmer, Cain, Moose, Esky, etc., I would expect to see Brett Eibner, Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson battle next spring for the starting RF position.
And in the spirit of New Is Always Better, Brett Eibner will win.
As the euphoria of the first Royals World Championship in 30 years begins to wear off, the realization that professional baseball is a business begins to take front and center of our collective attentions. The Royals announced they have declined the options on Alex ... Read more