Seeing as the season has 6 games left, and the team has pretty much mailed in the last 5 games, it couldn't do any harm to bestow the end of season evaluations and rants on the 2012 Royals right now. Not sure if the new SB Nation Parade-Magazine Super-Gloss layout means I have to feature photos of the Royals in action this year or not. But I'll deprive you of that luxury for the sake of evaluations.
One of the universal phrases that seemed to come up whenever some random guy would get called up is the phrase "taking a look at this guy". Francisely Bueno, a guy who spent most of the Obama Administration pitching in random foreign countries; Tony Abreu, a guy in his third organization; Irving Falu, the Puerto Rican Rex Hudler (if 10 years in the Minors means you are now Rex Hudler in some sort); all of these guys were given runs with the idea of "seeing what they had". So what did this entire roster have?
Unless you use multiplication and insist that defense is half of a players potential value, Billy Butler is the team MVP for this year. Only two players were above-average hitters and regulars from opening day. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Butler's 2012 included lots of home runs (for a Royal), fewer doubles than usual (Butler has the same extra base hit total now, that he had in 2010, and he has a career high for total bases, so in other words, a good kind of problem, in a way). Butler also got a National Cameo as the power of sports
talk radio led to the fans booing Robinson Cano out of the Home Run Derby. Which was pretty much the highlight of the All-Star week as the actual game pretty much ended early.
Billy Butler is in the prime of his career, and may be aging unusually well for a full-time DH. For example, his current 2012 Home Run Total of 28 is the 6th highest by a DH aged 26 or younger. The top 5: Jim Rice, Adam Lind (ouch), Albert Belle (who spent the next year in the outfield), Frank Thomas (Spent the next year at First) and Brad Fullmer. So you can see how the record of full-time DHs who are 26 or younger is a bit light.
The other MVP on this team is Alex Gordon. Gordon is always going to be a bit under-appreciated officially because of State Laws and the sort (that'll get worse in a few years when Gordon is really getting paid big and the team isn't performing). Gordon's hitting may still move closer to his 2011 hitting than his 2008 hitting in the last week of the season. But 2012 Gordon also brings critically acclaimed defense to go along with his hitting. Sure Gordon has barely over half of the home runs he had in 2011, but he's within 30 total bases of his 2011 total. Gordon could always win a Gold Glove, seeing as the Gold Glove voting system is essentially plurality voting (similar to legislative elections in Papua New Guinea and Hawaiian special elections). But I'd have to check the hitting stats to see which player is the best contender for the Left Field Gold Glove.
Of course, the Missouri General Assembly also passed a bill mandating that Salvador Perez be mentioned in the list of the good players from 2012. Sal Perez still doesn't have a full year in the majors. But he has hit well so far (similar to a Pudge Rodriguez when things are going well) and Perez is fielding pretty well so far (lots of pickoffs). Perez followed up a surprisingly subpar 2011 caught stealing percentage (21%) by upping his percentage to 46% this year, leading the league. Salvador Perez's hitting profile is still not set in stone. But official Royals PR says he could be swinging a sock and hitting as bad as a post-ASB Moustakas and he'd still be tremendously valuable.
Also, the only other part of the team that can be accurately described as good in 2012 is the Royals bullpen.
Greg Holland is proving that an apprenticeship isn't exactly required to become a useful closer. Holland's time as Closer has been good enough to presumably put an end to Joakim Soria's time with the Royals (he's not seriously coming back for $8M next year).
Kelvin Herrera is kind of a tweener, as he hasn't been firmly put in the 8th inning 'role', but he's essentially been around that area of the game in recent months. Herrera may be experiencing late-season wear and tear as nearly 1/3rd of his walks for 2012 were in September games (6 of 20).
Speaking of late season wear and tear, Tim Collins' 2012 has been better than his 2011, but both years had the same usage of Collins by Yost. Tim Collins is essentially the cellphone who keeps needing to be recharged due to overuse. For the sake of Collins having a good 2013, we hope there's a second lefty around who can actually handle situational-lefty moments (memo to Ned: Collins is better v. Righties, we're sending Bibi Netanyahu over with a diagram to help hammer that point)
Aaron Crow is essentially the relief pitching equivalent of Alex Gordon at this point. The fact that Crow isn't going to be a starting pitcher and that he wouldn't be a good starter anyways, means that there'll always be grumbling. After all, Crow was picked in front of players who have started games and hit home runs and the such. Crow has been perfectly fine in the bullpen this year (better in the 2nd half) but mainly drifting between the 7th and 8th, depending on how exhausted Kelvin Herrera looked on any given day. Could Aaron Crow be good in a higher profile relief role? Perhaps. Could it be a good idea to drop him if some team overvalues an 8th inning reliever? Yeah. Also, much like Gordon, Crow went to a local university that can always be cursed by fans of other universities whenever Crow has a bad night.
Honorable mention in the Bullpen to Louis Coleman. I'm pretty sure Yost has no idea how to consistently use Coleman. But Coleman is better than most "4th best bullpen righties". I can't really think of anything memorable that Louis Coleman did this year.
The most controversial pick for the so-sos would be Alcides Escobar. But let's be honest here. For all the critical acclaim focused on Escobar for no longer hitting like a National League pitcher (we'll see if that sticks), Escobar is pretty much the same player that he was last year. Escobar is getting to fewer balls than he did last year (that's indisputable). Whatever voodoo you wanna prescribe to that occurrence is up to you as a Citizen. But Escobar should have been more valuable for a guy who has a lot of defensive tools and was a good hitter for most of 2012 (he slipped pretty hard in the 2nd half with the bat). Also, lots of random bunting. But apparently that's a good thing because you want to give up outs with your #2 hitter because occasionally the other team screws up and you get on base.
Oh yeah, the other controversial so-so is Mike Moustakas. If not for the defense being similar, you could make a case that Mike Moustakas was abducted at the all-star break and replaced by a really bad hitter. How bad? .255 OBP bad. Not sure what in the hell the hitting plan is for Mike Moustakas, but if it involves the hit to left field stuff that certain guys do well, then Mike Moustakas is not going to be hitting well. Mike Moustakas is a pull hitter, no matter how much that's a reason for distress for some. Mike Moustakas hit 3/4ths of his home runs before the all-star break.
Whoever the Centerfielder is at the moment is a good candidate for a so-so. Lorenzo Cain swung like Jose Guillen during his stint on the abled list this year. Cain could be a solid centerfielder (good bat/an incomplete on defense because he really hasn't shown us what he could do while healthy), but I don't think we should have any blind faith that Cain's going to make it though a year without diving and injuring himself again. But that may open the door to a certain blocked prospect.
As for Dyson. Dyson is a frustrating player to watch because he could be so much more useful, but he has holes in his offensive game. His defense has been useful (when not colliding with other outfielders or misplaying flyballs). It was surprising that he healed enough to take the field, but his throwing is not exactly confidence-inspiring and he hasn't played 9 innings in a row on the field since August 29th. If Jarrod Dyson is getting regular playing time next year, then something has gone horribly wrong between now and next year.
Oh yeah, Jason Bourgeois. All he does is hit some lefties. But he's terrible on defense and doesn't do anything against righties.
The 2nd base situation has a package of unknowns who can't fairly be graded at this moment.
Chris Getz is the rare unknown who has played for this team since 2010, and really hasn't been very good as a Royal. As with all players who can't hit, Getz is hailed as a defensive wizard, which is not exactly accurate. Chris Getz is competent at 2nd base and his power-stroke got his SLG% up to .360. But he's 29. The only thing worse than In-His-Prime Chris Getz is Approaching-30 Chris Getz. But Getz will get to start next year on opening day and continue to do whatever it is that he does well.
The problem with figuring out a grade on Johnny Giavotella is that whenever he gets a hit or knocks in a run in a game, there's a solid chance that he will be benched the next day. Giavotella has hits in 4 of the 6 games preceding a game(s) where he was benched. That includes going 2 for 3 with a triple, and hitting the bench for 2 games last weekend. There's no evidence to suggest Yost would seriously stick with Giavotella though hard times and no real evidence that Giavotella is good enough to hit well despite being benched at random.
Tony Abreu is essentially a dude who'd be a great pinch hitter if pinch hitting were relevant in the American League. Abreu doesn't really add much aside from batting average and the total-art of 'clutch hitting' (which totally is a skill and not a random habit). An extended Tony Abreu run in 2013 is also a sign that something is not going well. Abreu also plays multiple infield positions, although Escobar and Moustakas pretty much play every day.
Irving Falu is the favorite of all fans who think players primes go from 29 to 34. Falu is not exactly in a good position to get an extended shot. Not sure we can figure out a difference between Abreu and Falu aside from age/ML experience. Falu is also the subject of a great possible-logical fallacy, where Royals development (which has a mixed record over the last few decades) is seen as having kept Falu in AAA for a reason, and not because the people running the team thought Yuniesky Betancourt was a viable infield option.
As for other unknowns
David Lough is essentially the 2012 award winner for "the guy who looks better than his hitting line" (an award won by Jarrod Dyson in 2010). Lough is a guy who probably could have gotten a shot earlier if not for the love of proven quantities (and a long Mitch Maier run in KC). Lough could be useful as a backup, but I doubt that'll happen. But the monologue I heard a few nights ago on the Postgame about Lough's lack of bunting prowess hindering him was.. kind of amusing. In the sense that it's talking about pieces of flair.
Clint Robinson got to randomly play for a few days in June. He should get another shot in the last week if Hosmer is going to be injured. But he probably won't. Clint Robinson is a AAA all-star 1B/DH type who will get sympathy from the people who think every good AAA player should get an extended run.
Out of fairness to the 11th best pitching staff in the AL, we'll talk about the Rotation right here.
The best part of the rotation since the All-Star Break has been Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie's good run has went on for 11 starts (1/3rd of a season) and may be good enough to get him paid handsomely by some team in 2013. I'm expecting them to drop lots of money on Guthrie for 2013, and then for Guthrie to turn into Bruce Chen.
Bruce Chen has not exactly been the best use of money this year. Although he has a shot of getting his post ASB ERA below 5 in his next start. Chen turned into a pumpkin pretty quickly and he'll be around for 2013. Yay.
At least we don't have to worry about Luke Hochevar turning into a pumpkin, because turning into a pumpkin would be an upgrade for Luke, who hasn't been good for any full season ever. In a fair and just world, Luke Hochevar won't be back next year. But some people think $5M for Hochevar is affordable. Hochevar might be useful as a reliever occasionally. But not as a starter. Please give it up.
Luis Mendoza has been surprisingly good as a starter (the winner of the 2010/2011 Bruce Chen award). Mendoza's K:BB numbers don't scream "success" in any year after the mid-80s. But he has been the best non-Guthrie starter on the team.
Will Smith is still surprisingly young, despite a low K-rate. Smith could be a starter somewhere down the road or be someone useful on a staff.
Vin Mazzaro got 6 starts. He was good as a one-inning reliever in Omaha for a bit. But he wasn't used in that role in September and there's no indication that he's being considered for any sort of substantive in the Major Leagues.
Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will be back sometime after the 2013 ASB, in all likelyhood. On a good team, Duffy and Paulino could be used to supplement the other starters. On the 2013 Royals, they'll probably be 2/5ths of the rotation by August.
Everett Teaford also got random starts. He's a bit old and in a role where Yost doesn't really have a place to use him since the rotation doesn't get torched as often as it was earlier this year.
And Jake Odorizzi is probably going to be servicable sometime in 2013, but none of his 2012 starts will be televised.
Eric Hosmer has had year-long buzzard luck. Or he has just sucked. Depending on your point of view of his season. Hosmer will have to prove that his partial-2011 is closer to his real self than his full-2012. But all the national experts say Hosmer is a multi-time all-star. So he'll be that sometme, I'm sure. Hosmer's problems seem to involve bad judgment on swinging at pitches. As with all bad offensive players, Hosmer is now a better defensive player as a result of his hitting woes. Hosmer's defense is fine for a first baseman, despite some annoying habits of handing throws in his direction.
Brayan Pena's season has been pretty forgettable, and barring more random catcher injuries, his surprisingly long time in KC will be over after next week.
Jeff Francoeur. How many ways can we approach this topic in a new and fresh fashion? Despite leading the team in smiles, Francoeur has shown himself to be a mistake extension. Francoeur's OPS isn't on the scoreboard out of courtesy. Francoeur's OPS in April? 574. May? 934. June? 515. July? 502. August? 662. September? 758 (before Thursday's mess of a game). So obviously the real Frenchy only showed up in May and September, and the Frenchy whose OPS was barely over .500 is an aberration. By the way, his best RBI total in a month? 12 in May
Don't worry, Francoeur won't be displayed by Wil Myers. It just wouldn't be fair to replace the worst player on the Royals with the best hitter in the minor leagues. Anyways, best hitter in the minor leagues obviously doesn't mean better than Jeff Francoeur.
But considering Lorenzo Cain's problems, it's probably a better bet that Cain goes down some time in 2013 and Myers can play in KC and learn how to play the right way from the veteran known as Francoeur. There's not a way to give Francoeur a passing grade for 2012 unless you use an ungodly curve or you place lots of value on assists (Francoeur is a clever foe there, as the balls he can't get to due to his lack of footspeed can be turned into assists against overconfident foes)
Perhaps some sort of pandemic or massive Melkyroids scandal will deplete the ranks of outfielders, allowing for Francoeur to be traded for the next Ryan Verdugo or Whoever We Got For Jose Gullen.
Dave Eiland. I don't know if you can really independently judge Dave Eiland. It's not his fault that Bruce Chen is Bruce Chen. He did have the sense to think Jeremy Guthrie would be good at a normal elevation. But unless your pitching pitch is conducting Navy SEALS training or is drunk during most games, the first year isn't make or break.
Kevin Seitzer. Here's a fun fact. The Royals hitting is ranked worse than the Royals starting pitching. The Royals are 12th in runs per game but the starters are 11th in runs given up per game. So that's not good. The pieces are there, but they haven't performed. Barring some sudden tide shift, i'd imagine Seitzer will be around because all hitters can hit the ball to the opposite field and be awesome.
Ned Yost. Ned one win away from being the first Royals manager to lead the team to 3rd place since Tony Pena, so that's nice. Overall, he doesn't quite seem as glaringly bad since the bullpen is great and other people can absorb the blame for problems that have hindered the 2012 Royals (such as random downturns lasting weeks). Obviously Ned Yost isn't a playoff caliber manager until he can actually make it through a pennant race without choking it away. Will that happen? probably not.
Dayton Moore. He has a fun job this offseason since he's being expected to get some free agent pitching, a task he really hasn't done since Gil Meche. In all reality, Guthrie is the first starter signed. Then they start eyeballing random guys to be in a rotation with Guthrie, Chen, Hochevar and Mendoza. Which means we're gonna raid the Pirates rotation or something similar. I'd prefer 3 FA starters (one of which could be Brandon McCarthy) so that they can get rid of Hochevar. But could 2013 be the year that Moore feels more heat than ownership for a team that spun its tires for 3 seasons and is back to a level near the 2008 record? As for his 2012, most of his additions to the team were gone by the middle of August, which is probably not the sign of a good free agent season.
David Glass is the Gallbladder of the Royals. No matter the problem, he will absorb the blame for it by fans. Did Glass participate in a decade-long approach to running a team that led it so far astray? Yes. Has he opened up a checkbook for a general manager with questionable taste in free agents? Yes. Does he want to win something before he turns 80? Yeah. He has no excuse not to spend quite a bit more than what has been spent lately. The idea that other teams, with better homegrown pitching talent, are successful despite low payrolls, therefore KC can make it without a higher payroll is a flawed idea. If his general manager is willing to load the chambers, Glass better pull the trigger and get some more good players. But in the scheme of things, David Glass will always be the guy who followed Ewing Kauffman.
In the pollyanna world, the team is just 2 starters away. Which, more than likely, is a bunch of nonsense. The team needs 2 starters. The team also needs for their hyped prospects (Hosmer and Moustakas) to perform over a season. The team also needs for 2/3rds of the outfield to not be a net-negative. The team's hitting is just as bad as their starting pitching. The difference is that the hitters are guys who could improve in 2013 and most of the starting pitchers are better off replaced.
The team is 70-86 right now. So a .500 run now finishes them at 73-89, in-between the 2011 team and the 2008 team. For being a team that should finish in 3rd place, they're not as good as you'd think. They just didn't have enough consistent performances to get better. Having 3 mainstay hitters above average is not the hallmark of a good hitting team. They need more results than what can be provided by free agent pitching. And maybe they have the guys who can make those results happen. Instead of doing an eternal Pittsburgh Pirates tease run where they look really good eventually but never pan out. This is a team who is too similar to the late 90s Royals teams, which transitioned from random drifters to acclaimed prospects. But this time around, the team has the best farm system ever, and that certainly can't lead to anything short of the playoffs, could it?
So perhaps some players actually show up to play this weekend and change the evaluations slightly, but they just didn't show anything worth watching since losing their 82nd on Sunday.