Friday, April 29, 2011

Newest Kansas City Chief Jonathan Baldwin


If you are like me, you haven't seen much, or even heard much about Jonathan Baldwin until yesterday.  Just from what I can gather from scouting reports and his game tape, he seems to have solid hands and isn't afraid to go over the middle.  At 6'4 he is another big target and has above average speed (4.49 40 time).  I'm not real sure how good his route running is or how well he can block, but I guess we will find out!  More to come....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Royal Surprises: What is Different About 2011?

           How fun has it been to watch Kansas City Royals baseball this season?  Most fans can probably agree that this is the most fun to watch team Kansas City has had in well over a decade.  This is due to a number of things falling into place, one of the most important and overlooked being the chemistry.  It seems as if this year’s team genuinely enjoys playing together and just loves playing baseball.  That aspect has been missing for a number of years.  Thanks to the perfect combination of eager rookies, passionate veterans, and a collection of players who just needed a vote of confidence, the Royals have found that “we deserve to win every game” attitude.

                Credit must be given to guys like Jeff Francoeur and Matt Treanor, who were acquired this off season.  Treanor has handled the younger pitchers unbelievably well and has showed no fear while being run over multiple times in plays at the plate.  Oh yeah, and there was that walk off home run, no big deal.  Jeff Francoeur has always played well without trade rumors and the harsh criticisms of media swirling, but as soon as he hits a slump and no longer feels comfortable, he loses himself.   Kansas City and Dayton Moore have provided that stable and easy atmosphere for him so far, but it will be interesting to see how he handles his first slump.

                The real surprises of the young season are the emergence of Alex Gordon and the “Puerto Rican Sensation” Bruce Chen.  Gordon seems to have finally figured it all out.  Watching the way he carries himself in the batters box, on the field, and even during interviews, you can tell he finally has that swagger that he has been missing.  The swagger that says “I am really good, you know it and I know it”.  Many people called Bruce Chens 2010 a fluke, but he is quickly putting that to rest with his great command and control.  More importantly he has been consistent, which is the hardest thing to do to be a good major league starting pitcher.
Not to go unnoticed is the sensational rookie relief trio of Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and Jeremy Jeffress.  Obviously we can assume there will be times this season where they will struggle, but they have done an incredible job getting the ball to Joakim Soria so far, who has oddly enough been the most inconsistent pitcher in the Royals bullpen.  Billy Butler isn’t getting the credit he deserves due to his reduced defensive role and being the only player worth noting the past two seasons.  Even though Billy is playing as well as he ever has; now that the team is winning the attention is going to be put on the new faces that are contributing.

The season is young, but this team has been very fun to watch and have given fans hope that this year could be different.  If nothing else, it's fun to watch the Royals compete past the first Twins series (which seems to be the one that starts the down hill spiral every year).  

Honorable mention: Alcides Escobar’s spectacular defense and highlight reel throws.  Chris Getz showing that he can in fact hit a baseball out of the infield.  Melky Cabrera’s weight loss paying dividends.  Ned Yost, for giving the team a chance to win by being aggressive on the base paths.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What's Wrong With Mike Aviles?

            Mike Aviles ended last season on a hot streak, he had a very good spring training, and hit a home run in the first game of the season.  All signs point to a good year right? Not so much.  Aviles is 2 for 21 on the season, one of those hits being his home run on opening day.  Not only has Aviles not hit well, he has walked a measly one time and has played atrocious defense.  So what is wrong with Mike Aviles?  The answer could be a number of things depending on how we look at it.  In 2008 and 2010 Aviles batted over .300 in more than 400 plate appearances.  In 2009, and so far in 2011, Aviles has hit under .200.  You might be asking “what in the world can we take from that?” 

One theory is that Mike Aviles in uncomfortable starting the season as an everyday player.  In his productive seasons, Aviles has come to the team at least a month after it has started.  He was called up in 2008 from the minors, coming to a losing Royals team with low expectations.  In 2010 Aviles came to the team from the minors after missing the majority of 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, also to a losing team with low expectations.  However, in 2009 and 2011 Aviles was penciled in as a starter and had big expectations to produce everyday.  There are many players who don’t handle that kind of pressure very well, and Aviles could be one of them.

Another theory is that he is uncomfortable both on the field and at the plate.  It is a season of firsts for Aviles, he is playing 3rd base and batting leadoff for the first time in his career.  Aviles has made numerous fielding errors, and they could be killing his confidence as a hitter.  A lot of the time when a player is struggling in one aspect of the game, he starts second guessing themselves as a whole and it gets in their head.

If Wilson Betemit continues to swing a hot bat and plays solid defense at 3rd, Aviles might be held to a utility role.  Even if Aviles makes it back to the everyday lineup, he needs to bat farther down in the order to take some of the pressure off.  If he continues to struggle at 3rd and Betemit goes cold maybe the powers that be should consider calling up Moustakas a little early, especially if the team keeps winning.  Regardless, the team is winning, Betemit is playing very well, Chris Getz is batting over .300, and Jason Kendall still isn’t back from the DL.  All of which calls for celebration.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Power Rankings: Royals Players After First Four Games

  1.Jeff Francis
-          Showed ace-like stuff in his first start for the Royals.  He played seven innings of one run baseball and corrected his few mistakes early.  Let’s hope he gives the Royals more of the same for the rest of the season.

2. Kila Ka’aihue
-          Walk off home run to get the first win of the season, no errors, and hit a deep shot to drive in two RBI’s that would have been a home run in just about any other park.

3. Joakim Soria
-          Joakim is being Joakim.  He pitched in all three of the Royals wins and already has a win and a save on his 2011 record with a 0.00 ERA.

4. Matt Treanor
-          Whoa who saw that coming?  Treanor had two crucial plays at the plate that he handled with ease and then hit a walk off home run in extra innings.  Fans were already growing tired of Jason Kendall, but if the Treanor/Pena combo keeps rolling it is going to be even harder to welcome Kendall back with open arms.

5. Jeff Francoeur
-          Francoeur has found a way to drive in four RBI’s in his first series as a Royal while maintaining a solid average.  He looks very comfortable batting sixth behind Ka’aihue. 

6. Alex Gordon
-          Gordon is hitting with confidence batting .316 with an on base percentage of .350.  You can’t ask for much more at this point.

7. Billy Butler
-          Billy leads the team with five runs and hit a crucial home run in game four of the series against the Angels.  The early home run is a good sign as it usually takes Billy a lot longer to hit his first home run.

8. Aaron Crow
-          He is making Ned Yost and Dayton Moore look like baseball geniuses for keeping him on the team as a reliever instead of sending him back to the minors.  Even though it's early, Crow looks like a polished veteran.

9. Chris Getz
-          His bat has shown signs of life! Getz helped the Royals get the win in game three with a two RBI performance.  Defense is never an issue as Getz and Escobar have shown great chemistry.

10. Melky Cabrera
-          Bruce Chen owes him one after he made the beautiful double play to bail him out.  Melky also has hit a home run and stolen a base.   

11. Luke Hochevar
-         He didn’t look like an ace, but he did keep the Royals in the game and pitched fairly well overall.  

12. Tim Collins
-          Collins has been very strong and has shown amazing control and bite on his pitches.  Fans should feel a little more at ease with the bullpen situation after watching Collins and Crow pitch so well. 

13. Alcides Escobar
-          Escobar is a defensive beast at shortstop but looked very uncomfortable at the plate in the first four games.

14. Mike Aviles
-          The new leadoff hitter has a solo home run but made a couple crucial errors at third base, showing that he hasn't fully adjusted to his new position.

15. Wilson Betemit
-          Clutch hit that tied the game in the ninth inning of game four.