For the last two years, the Kansas City Royals have been blessed with relatively good health. They’ve lost pitchers to Tommy John surgery, such as Tim Collins, Greg Holland, and Jason Vargas, but other than that, it’s been pretty much smooth sailing. Now, nearly two months into the 2016 season, Royals’ players are dropping like flies, leaving them to call up guys from AAA Omaha who may not be quite ready. With Alex Gordon out for a few more weeks, and Mike Moustakas done for the year, there are a lot of things that need to happen in order to fill the shoes of two key players.
By now, everyone has heard of “the collision” that has knocked both Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas out for significant amounts of time. Some are saying that it’s the most costly collision in Royals history. Gordon, though he’s only hitting .211/.319/.311, is still a valued commodity on the field, as well as in the dugout. The offense won’t be significantly worse with Gordon out, but since Kansas City is a defensive-minded team, his absence may loom large in the coming days.
To fill Alex Gordon’s spot, the Royals called up Whit Merrifield, who has already played in six games. In those six games, he’s hitting .348/.348/.478 with three doubles. They have also called up Brett Eibner, who can play all of the outfield positions, and has been tearing it up at the dish in Omaha for the last two seasons. Last year, Eibner crushed 19 longballs, and has already compiled 10 of those this year. He finished last year just above a .300 batting average, with 81 RBIs. While he’s no Alex Gordon, he rarely makes errors in the field, but may not see a ton of playing time, as he’s the team’s fifth outfielder behind Merrifield, Paulo Orlando, Lorenzo Cain, and Jarrod Dyson.
For third base, the team recently recalled Cheslor Cuthbert, who was sent down to see significant playing time at second base in case the need should arise.Cuthbert has been playing fairly decent, and even has a home run this year. He’s proven to have a solid glove in the field, while hitting “just enough,”and has a very good personality in the clubhouse.
Obviously, it’s very devastating to lose any player for an entire year, but when it’s a key player, such as Moustakas, it hurts even more. Moustakas is the kind of player that, even when he’s not going well, you still notice the little things. How he picks guys up, how he always makes that valiant effort to field the ball, and how he runs hard up the line, even on the simplest of groundouts. Alex Gordon is the same way, but fortunately, he’ll only miss a few more weeks.
As the Kansas City Star spoke with Ned Yost about missing Gordon and Moustakas, Yost said, “To lose two All-Stars… It’s kind of tough.” When asked specifically about missing Moustakas, Yost also inquired, “We’re going to have to pick up his offense as a group, but we’ve been doing that here lately. That’s a pretty big chunk of offense that you have to pick up. But it’s a good opportunity for Cheslor." Last year, when Alex Gordon was hurt, it was Paulo Orlando who stepped up in Gordon’s absence. Orlando filled in just fine, and ended the second half of the season with a batting average of .250. It was enough to earn him a spot on the 2016 club and he has managed to bat .397/.408/.534 in limited action so far this season.
Right now, the Royals sit just two full games out of first place, with an important series against the Chicago White Sox coming up. They weren’t playing great ball during the first part of May, but luckily, are back to their winning ways, and still a series win away from being in first place. If the Royals are going to get back to the playoffs, they need their young group of players to step up. Good teams adapt, and the Royals are definitely one of those. They’ll find a way, but it might not be easy.