Saturday, March 5, 2011

Position Battles: Royals Spring Training

We are getting closer and closer to the regular season and the position battles are becoming much clearer.  With spring training wrapping up soon it is a good time to take an in depth look at the position battles and how they are most likely going to play.

Fourth Outfielder battle:  Ned Yost has let it be known that the starting outfielders will be Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur for at least the first two or three months of the season and then he will reevaluate them from there.  That is unless Lorenzo Cain hits three home runs every game from now until the season starts, but we will just assume he won’t and that he will be optioned to the minors to start the season as planned.  So now the battle for the fourth outfielder spot lies between Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco, and Jarrod Dyson.

Maier has put on a clinic so far this spring batting .667 with four stolen bases in four attempts.  Every spring Maier makes your eyes light up a little bit but he can never seem to get those numbers to even remotely transfer to the regular season.  Gregor Blanco has batted a modest .286 this spring stealing one base in one attempt while Jarrod Dyson has batted a very below average .167 stealing one base in one attempt. 

Fourth Outfielder winner – It’s a tie.  No one in this group has much power and everyone is an above average defensive outfielder so it will come down to options.  This most likely means the Royals will keep both Maier and Blanco, because they are out of options, and send Dyson back to the minors.

Starting Pitcher battle:  Luke Hochever, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, and Vin Mazzaro are all pretty much locks.  Hochevar is a former number one pick and is expected to try and take over the vacant Ace role for the Royals with Greinke gone. Francis is out of options and signed a one year contract to revive his career and is possibly the most accomplished starter on the Royals staff.  it’s a make or break year for Davies, who has shown flashes but has been very inconsistent throughout his career.  Luckily for him he is a favorite of Dayton Moore’s.  And then we have Vin Mazzaro who is young and has gotten better every year he is been in the league.  Not to mention the Royals gave up fan favorite David Dejesus to get him. 

That leaves the veteran Bruce Chen and the young gun Sean O’Sullivan fighting for the final starting spot.  Chen shockingly was the Royals best starter last season, and when healthy has been a very solid starter his entire career.   It is very exciting to see if Sean O’Sullivan, who the Royals traded Alberto Callaspo for,  can put it all together and be legitimate Major League starter.  He has the stuff to do it and is still only 23, but he can be very erratic at times.

Starting Pitcher winner – To start the year, Bruce Chen will most likely be the starter and Sean O’Sullivan a reliever.  The pitching staff is very young and any sort of veteran leadership and stability is needed, which is why Chen will probably start in the rotation.  O’Sullivan has relief experience and will start the year in the bullpen, but will most likely be the first person called on to start if anyone goes down with an injury.

Catcher battle:  Jason Kendall is out until at least May recovering from shoulder surgery, which opens the door for Brayan Pena  and Lucas May.  Brayan Pena has shown some power when given an opportunity to play, but his defense has been suspect a lot of the time.  He lost twenty pounds this off season and won best defense catcher in the Dominican Winter League, which should give Royals fans some hope.  Lucas May is a converted outfielder the Royals acquired from the Mets organization.  He hasn’t had much Major League experience but according to his minor league statistics, he has a little pop but doesn’t have much plate 

Catcher winner:  Brayan Pena.  He has more major league experience and the Royals want to see what he can do with regular playing time.  He has shown he can hit, but if his defense has really improved and the team is doing well when Kendall gets back, who knows?  Maybe he will stick as the starter for the rest of the season.  Lucas May will most likely be the back up, or at best be in a time share with Pena.  When Kendall gets back he will probably get lost in the shuffle with Manuel Pina and Salvador Perez, being younger and more talented, coming up in the organization.