Grading the 2013 Royals: The Infielders

All of the pop-ups. - USA TODAY Sports

Our rite of mid-season returns.

The All-Star Break means it's time for my annual midseason report cards. My grading system hasn't changed since last year. It is sometimes based on production, sometimes based on a curve and usually highly arbitrary.

Performance will always count the most, but it has to be balanced with expectations. That's how a backup can get a higher grade than a regular while providing less value. Besides, as I said, it's still arbitrary. If you don't like the grade, see Dean Fosler.

Salvador Perez
.284/.314/.396
.311 wOBA
1.4 fWAR

After teasing us with a slugging percentage above .470 in portions of the previous two seasons, Perez has seen his power numbers plummet to below .400. While his 13.1% HR/FB rate was certainly high last year, a correction to 5.1% HR/FB hasn't been pleasant.

Perez earned his first ever All-Star selection in the player's vote portion, based on his brilliant defensive reputation. He's throwing out 33 percent of would be basestealers, above the league average of 26 percent. He has yet to be charged with a passed ball, but he's been behind the plate for a league-high 35 wild pitches. The Fielding Bible loves Perez's defense, crediting him with seven Runs Saved, the highest in the AL.

His 1.4 fWAR is currently fifth best in the AL among catchers.

Grade: C+

George Kottaras
.179/.352/.446
.354 wOBA
0.5 fWAR

There's something about that slash line only a sabermatrician could love.

Kottaras has hit with the bases loaded four times. He's doubled, struck out and walked twice. Those four plate appearances pretty much sum up his offensive production this year. I don't understand why he isn't used as a pinch hitter when the Royals desperately need a baserunner. Don't give me that, "What happens if Perez gets hurt," line. The Royals have played 32 one-run games. Think Kotteras could have made a difference in a couple of those coming off the bench for a Getz or a Johnson? He's pinch hit eight times, but only three times in a game with a one run margin.

Defensively, he's done OK. He's throwing out 27 percent of base stealers and has allowed three passed balls and eight wild pitches. While Perez is allowing a WP/PB once every 18 innings, Kottaras is allowing a WP/PB once every 13.5 innings.

Grade: B-

Eric Hosmer
.285/.332/.427
.330 wOBA
1.5 fWAR

I can't think of a single player who was so lost and experienced such a huge turnaround in the span of a month. While his plate appearances were cringe-worthy in April and May, they are must-see-tv in June and July. See what happens when you pull the ball?

While it's tempting to grade based on his resurgence, the season must be taken as a whole. His .332 OBP is within a couple of points of his rookie year and his .427 slugging is closing in on his rookie year mark of .465. Although both have stalled a bit in the last couple of weeks. Most promising is his 22 percent line drive rate and the fact he is finally correcting a GB/FB ratio that skewed so much to the ground ball side, you would have been forgiven for mistaking him for Derek Jeter.

While I'm still not sold on Hosmer's defensive reputation, The Fielding Bible is impressed, awarding him with seven Runs Saved. That's the best rate in the AL.

He's a work in progress. Still, who would have thought we could ever say that back in May?

Grade: C+

Johnny Giavotella
.206/.289/.265
.257 wOBA
0.1 fWAR

Oh, Johnny. Small sample sizes and everything, but this is about the worst start you could have in your third go-around with this team. They are just looking for excuses to dump you in favor of Getz. And you're making it easy for them.

If you're looking for positives, he's striking out just eight percent of the time. In his previous auditions, he was whiffing around 18 percent. Also, his walks - which are so key - are slightly up to just over five percent. Not near where he needs to be, but improved on his previous trips to the majors.

With a .226 BABIP, you may think he's hit into some hard luck. Yet his 12 percent line drive rate makes you think otherwise. In a season that's lost, I would hope the team would give him a long look.

But it's the Royals.

Grade: D

Alcides Escobar
.246/.277/.328
.265 wOBA
0.9 fWAR

The player formerly known as The SS Jesus is testing our collective patience. Of course, it's not his fault Frank Ned Yost insists on hitting him second. He doesn't help himself by hack, hack, hacking away.

Escobar is chasing over 38 percent of all pitches outside of the strike zone. That's an obscenely high rate for anyone, let alone your second place hitter. Sure, he doesn't strikeout, but he also doesn't walk and is hitting more fly balls than at any time in his tenure with the Royals. That's not helpful. Escobar is always going to be highly dependent on the BABIP fairy and this year, she's flipping him the bird. Offensively, his 2012 season has to be regarded as an outlier.

Defensively, while he has the tendency to frustrate (at least he does for me), he is more than capable of the astonishing, highlight-reel play. He's converted 90 percent of balls fielded into outs, which is just a tick above league average and is credited with five Runs Saved by the Fielding Bible, which has him tied for fifth in the league. The defense keeps him in the lineup and saves his grade.

Grade: C-

Mike Moustakas
.215/.271/.327
.266 wOBA
-0.3 fWAR

If you subject yourself to Royal broadcasts, you know the organizational mouthpieces celebrated Moustakas' recent eclipse of the .200 mark for batting average. While I will raise a glass to anything (Happy belated Bastille Day!) this was a diversion pointing the viewer away from his alarming lack of power and production with runners on base. Since homering in three consecutive games in May, Moustakas has made 182 trips to the plate and hit exactly 10 extra base hits. That's a .289 slugging percentage, a rate that would make Getz blush.

Meanwhile, among AL regulars, Moustakas has brought home only six percent of runners on base. That's not just bad, that's historically bad for a corner infielder. Then there's his whole .061/.169/.061 in 77 plate appearances with runners on base. Then there's his whole... Ahhh, screw it.

Basically, pick a stat. Any stat. None of them are flattering.

Grade: F

Chris Getz
.214/.276/.286
.245 wOBA
0.0 fWAR

You really have to watch Getz everyday to gain the proper perspective and appreciation. He knows how to move runners, how to position him self in the field and brings enough GR!T to power several third world countries. This Royals team isn't going to beat anyone on talent, so we need at least nine guys like Chris Getz on this team if we're going to contend.

Grade: A+


Awwww... Just foolin'. Only the Royals would give someone so bad, so many plate appearances.

Grade: F

Elliot Johnson
.210/.248/.283
.234 wOBA
0.3 fWAR

When being Not Chris Getz isn't good enough.

Grade: D-

Miguel Tejada
.278/.307/.371
.295 wOBA
0.1 fWAR

I've been pleasantly surprised Tejada hasn't been a drag on this team. Signed for $1.1 million, the Royals will still be hard pressed to get full value out of him by the time September rolls around. They're trying. Yost has had him in the lineup on average about every other day recently, filling in the vortex of suck that occupies second and third. He's slowing down, hitting .214/.214/.238 over the last month.

Grade: C-

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