I was watching the local baseball team--it has kind of a niche fandom, you probably haven't heard of them--play the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS last night. All I could think about for the first couple innings was how the Royals had, somewhat inexplicably, beat up on both teams this season. Baseball's a weird sport, random variability in performance manifests in some strange ways.
You know what isn't weird or random? The Royals offense. They were just bad this year, though the defense was a different story. To see which of the Position Players earned, over the course of the season, a shiny green arrow, a weird gray minus sign, a horrible red arrow, or a bag of dog poop, read on!
RP Aaron Crow -
"But wait!" says the astute reader. "Aaron Crow is not a position player! And besides that, he was kinda crap this year!" You'd think this was true, but if you were to think this, it'd be because you've missed the Royals totally under-the-radar move to convert Aaron Crow into a third sacker, and because once you click the link, you'll truly understand the reason for the Green Arrow.
Alex Gordon - LF -
Gordon and Butler are too players who I'm tempted to give the down arrow based on expectations, but I can't bring myself to that let weight my evaluation of them to heavily. Gordon had a decent year. The Royals need him to have more than a decent year, most likely, to be truly competitive. Alex's defensive and offensive value both dropped, even as he saw an uptick in his dingers. Here's hoping he has a walk rate rebound in him, because his plate approach appeared to decay a bit this season.
Eric Hosmer - 1B -
It took him awhile, but he had the breakout year we all hope for. Hosmer crushed the ball in the last four months of the year after a powerless start, and while it wasn't enough to power the Royals into the pack at the end, it was still hella fun to watch. He will need to add more power to be an impact bat, and his defense only "improved" in the sense of going from "oh my Jesus, don't touch that" to "oh, that's fine, I'll get the swiffer," but everyone went in a positive direction for Hoz this year.
Billy Butler - DH -
Just kidding. I kind of had to - Butler's value compared to last season was basically halved, and even if the results were still pretty good at the plate compared your average MLBer, they were pretty mediocre for Billy Ray's standards. Of course, a down year for Butler still entails him posting a .370 OBP. Yes, he GIDPs too much, and he's not exactly my pick for the next Marathon winner, but then there's the fact that he's generally very good at not making outs. That's important. The question, going forward, is whether odd year Butler (.352 wOBA in 2011, .345 this season) is real, even year Butler (.377, .373 in 2012 and 2010) is real, or if where on that spectrum we can expect him to be. Butler is one of the "star" players on this team that needs to perform around their peak for the Royals to contend next year, and he was pretty far off that peak this season.
It's worth noting that his GB% was the highest of his career, and that his HR/FB dropped...closer to his career average. I'm not saying this is the end of seeing Butler hit as he did in 2012, but I have sinking feeling that it might have been the outlier in terms of baseball leaving the yard.
Salvador Perez - C -
WYSIWYG. Solid defender who's been overrated by local scribes and casual fans, decent hitter who must be 1/100 Vlad Guerrero to maintain a decent batting line despite his hack-happy approach. Perez is a bargain at his current price, and will continue to be - just having a hitter of his caliber at the catching position is huge, as not many organization have been able to find good two-way catchers of late.
Ahem, you might say they don't grow on trees.
Justin Maxwell - OF -
It's cool when guys like Maxwell make the bigs, and make an impact. The downside is that most often, players with his skill set don't tend to hang around very long after their "breakout." He's one of those dudes that I constantly have to remind less-obsessed baseball fans that he's already pushing 30, and thus not a player on the rise. He was fun to root for this season, and was a big part of that stretch where the Royals could do no wrong.
George Kottaras - C -
Kottaras was a breath of fresh air in terms of plate approach, even if it seems fairly clear that he'd be exposed in a large role. He chipped in the exact way that Royals Review patrons expected, pretty much, and more teams probably could gain a slight shot in the arm by going with the "back up catcher who can actually get on base occasionally" approach.
Lorenzo Cain - CF -
I have to keep giving him down arrows, which makes me sad. I like LoCain, I love that picture of him break dancing out of the way of the pitch. I don't like the fact that his bat died in the second half, injuries wore on him again, and it took a ridiculously good Fangraphs defensive rating to bring his WAR to 2.6. This should be the prime of Cain's career, or close to it, and he's running out of time to make more of an impact. I probably shouldn't be as unhappy about the end of Cain's season as I am, but these are subjective so blahblahblah please hit more.
Alcides Escobar - SS -
Klaasen has basically already said it all when it comes to Escobar. Very good defensively, perhaps still overrated by some metrics. Escobar will have miserable years at the plate sometimes because he's almost entirely dependent on the BABIP fairy. This year, with help from the FB% Gremlin and the "swinging at crap" gopher, Escobar had one of those years. He should rebound to somewhere inbetween 2012 and 2011, and the result is a guy you can win with at SS. Just not someone who drives you towards division title. Stop me if you've heard a similar player comment elsewhere in this post...
David Lough - "CF" -
Lough basically proved the idea of replacement level this year, as he played the part of "random dude everyone has in the organization who is kinda crappy but still miles better than Jeff Francoeur.
Jarrod Dyson - OF -
Dyson makes his living in the weird zone where he is a good value for his salary, and also not really more than an average player. Even that may be generous, considering he also struggled with injuries. Regardless, he's a much better player than the guy that the Royals started in RF this past season, and he could continue to contribute pretty well in a fourth outfielder/"not a platoon" role.
Emilio Bonifacio - Util -
Had the Bonifacio-est season ever. With a bat that might aspire to being average, a glove that just stinks, and good baserunning, Bonifacio's a below average starter who's decent as a pinch-running utility guy. He earns the thumbs-sideways here thanks to stinking less than any other Royals 2B.
Johnny Giavotella - 2B -
He might be the next Ken Phelps All-Star who pops up sometime later, maybe with the Royals, maybe with the A's or somebody else known for giving this type of player a shot, and hits for awhile before fading away. More likely, he's just a second base version of Cal Pickering. A dude who we can argue a case for, but his career prospects mostly come down to wishcasting with how many chances he's had to perform.
I have nothing constructive say about this group - they've really been talked about too much at this point, given their relevance as baseball players.
Mike Moustakas - 3B -
I'm thinking the best idea for Moustakas would be...crap, I really have no idea. There's no way he's THIS bad again, right? Right? Someone please say "right."