Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Opening Day! Questions and Concerns From the Offseason

             From the offseason to the start of Spring Training there were many questions and concerns about the 2011 Royals.  It is safe to say the majority of fans considered 2011 a lost season and anticipated the 2012 team and the raw talent of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Montgomery.  However, spring training went far better than anyone could have hoped for.  It seems as if Royals fans have become a little more perky and excited for opening day as well as the 2011 team in general after watching spring training, and they have every reason to be.  It would be hard not to be after watching the potential of so many younger players being reached, even if it is only spring training.

Here are just a few of the bigger questions and concerns that fans were talking about before spring training started and my not seem as concerning after spring training.

Question/Concern: “Why did the Royals sign Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera?  They are no better than who we already have.  Damn Daytons Atlanta connection…”

Now:     Melky is in the best shape of his career and dominated in spring training hitting an insane .468 with an on base percentage of .471.  Melky also played incredibly solid defense and flashed some speed which earned him the second spot in the batting order.
             Jeff Francoeur has gotten hot towards the end of spring training, mashing a couple home runs while picking up a some RBI’s in the last few games.  Jeff looks genuinely happy to be in Kansas City and seems to be a very good person to have to in the locker room, not to mention his gold glove caliber arm he has displayed over spring training.

Question/Concern: “Our bullpen is still the worst in baseball, we didn’t change anything… get ready for another long season of losing late in games”

Now:     Although no big names were picked up, getting Jeremy Jeffress in the Greinke trade was huge.  He can be erratic at times but a 23 year old who can throw 100 mph that comes out of the pen is not easy to find.  Tim Collins developed far more than anyone imagined before spring training started.  The 5’7 Collins is the only lefty in the pen and has shown wicked movement on his breaking balls.
             Sean O’Sullivan returns as the long reliever/back up starter and is a very solid option if a starter gets hurt or in trouble early in games.  Aaron Crow is another case of developing way ahead of schedule.  Crow, a life long starter, will unexpectedly begin the season in the pen for Royals after showing that he has gained control of his fastball and has the ability to strike out major league level hitters after struggling in AA last season.  He also has been rumored to be dating Ke$ha, yes the one with a dollar sign, who is sadly more popular than any Kansas City Royals player.  Fancy that.

Question/Concern:  “Will Alex Gordon finally contribute on offense after moving to the outfield?  Will Kila Ka’ahue produce now that he is going to be in the majors full time?”

Now:     Gordon started slowly and most people gave up on him, then he got very hot and hit six home runs, collected 21 RBI’s, and batted .343.  Now there is talk of him hitting over 30 home runs and battling .300 this season.  While those are unreal expectations, it is a very good sign that he is healthy and seeing the ball, and maybe most importantly, he is confident.  It is very likely that he will have a career year if he stays healthy, but an all star appearance might be a little farfetched.
             Kila has shown the ability to hit with some serious power this spring.  The Hawaiian Punch cranked seven home runs while batting .397.  Don’t expect him to continue to hit for an average, but his power is for real.  He has played better defense than Billy, winning the first base job (although he will see time at DH too).  The same goes for both Gordon and Ka’ahue.  The talent is there, they have proven that much, but actually putting it together in the regular season has yet to be seen.

Wrap Up:  Yes all of this is just spring training, but it is a good sign none the less.  Spring training has eased the fans and given them something to look forward to this year.  A lot will be answered this year.  Best of luck to the team in their first series of the year against the Angels, starting March 31st at Kaufman!