Friday, March 13, 2009

Reasons for Realism in KC

A couple of days ago, we went over several reasons Royals fans should be optimistic about the future. Today, let’s look at a few of the question marks that surround the team heading into 2009:

The Rotation

After Gil Meche and Zack Greinke, we see a drop off. Kyle Davies seems to have a firm hold on the third spot in the rotation. He had a great September last season (a 2.27 ERA for the month) and if you look at his overall numbers in 21 starts (9-7, 4.06 ERA), he was good—much better than he’s been since his rookie season in 2005 in Atlanta. Much like I believed the success of the Royals hinged on Zack Greinke last season, I believe that Kyle Davies is a huge key to the 2009 season for the Royals.

Horacio Ramirez is believed to be on track to win the fourth spot in the rotation—mostly because Hillman wants a lefty in the mix. He has struggled this spring (1-1, 5.25 ERA). The last time he was a starter was 2007 in Seattle. He put up awful numbers that season: 8-7 with a 7.16 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in 20 starts. How in the world did the guy win eight games that season? He had some solid years in Atlanta, so you have to hope that he can tap into seasons gone by for a productive 2009.

Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar are locked in a battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. Hochevar has the advantage with a 3.38 ERA while Bannister is at 6.75. Both have options, so one will probably end up in Omaha. Neither had a good season in 2008. We know that Bannister is capable of pitching at this level, but my gut tells me that he’ll lose out to Hochevar and he’ll have to prove himself in Omaha. We don’t know what we have in Hochevar yet. He’s just going into his second full season, so he has plenty of time to develop.

All in all, we have more questions about our rotation than we do answers, which is why I think we need to watch the rotation carefully because as the rotation goes, I suspect the rest of the team will go.


I’ve been rooting for these three guys since they put on Royal blue. Gordon seems to be on the verge of breaking out. He’s shown moderate power and a good OBP. But he still strikes out too often. By anybody’s standards, Billy Butler had a disappointing 2008 season. Will this be the year he settles in and puts up good numbers? I hope so. Mark Teahen is a total question mark for 2009. He’s a man without a position. He’s another guy with moderate power who strikes out too often. If these guys aren’t able to get on track, the Royals are going to struggle offensively. Adding Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs will help, but the Royals need these three guys to put up better numbers as well.

Alberto Callaspo

If the Royals do indeed go with Callaspo as the everyday second baseman, he’s going to have to produce better offensive numbers than he ever has before. He’s played in 153 games in his career and had 399 AB. He’s never hit a single home run and he has just 29 RBI in those 399 AB. This spring, things aren’t going much better. He’s hitting just .200 in 11 games with 0 HR and 3 RBI. Willie Bloomquist, on the other hand is hitting .320 with a .346 OBP in 10 games with 0 HR and 3 RBI. But if you look at his career numbers, they aren’t impressive. While he’s never had the chance to start for an entire season, his best season was probably 2007 when he hit 2 HR and drove in 13 runs in 91 games. So, we certainly can’t expect much offensively from Bloomquist either. This is why I’d really like to see the Royals give Teahen a chance to win this position. Teahen’s offensive numbers would look pretty good as a second baseman if he can just figure out how to play the position adequately.


With Mike Sweeney long gone, and Mark Grudzielanek gone as well, you have to wonder who will step up and become the leader of this team. Gil Meche seems to fit the bill, except he’s a pitcher. Do the Royals have a position player who has earned enough respect from the other guys to get after them when necessary? Mike Jacobs is new to the club. I doubt that Jose Guillen has earned much respect from his teammates. Miguel Olivo is a possibility, if he’ll finally stop whining about his playing time—which will improve since he’s going to be the number one catcher this season. Hopefully somebody emerges to fill the leadership role.

The Royals are having a good spring so far. They are 8-4-2, just 1.5 games out of first place in the Cactus League. But they have played well in previous springs only to come out of the chute lethargic. So, I’ll be watching with guarded optimism as Spring Training winds down while staying realistic about our question marks.

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