It's the calm before the proverbial storm. That storm being the start of the Royals defense of the Cactus League title. Flags fly forever, you know.
There's been little news out of camp the last couple of days. Sure, inter-squad games are nice diversions. And I welcome the Tweets with the updates. As I said on the Twitter machine, baseball is my drug and even games that are meaningless that are played before games that don't count can still serve as my fix.
Ned Yost's mini-rant about the rule change on Tuesday was kind of fun. Ned needs to get in game shape, too. He can't just walk into a post-game presser on March 31 without doing the proper prep. What piqued Yost's ire was a question about the pending rule change about collisions at home plate. From what I gather, Yost is correct in saying that nothing has really changed with the exception you can't "barrel over the catcher." Still, it was good to hear Yost was getting set for his nightly verbal sparring sessions with the ferocious Kansas City media.
Otherwise, there's word the Royals will probably - like every other team in baseball - keep 12 pitchers on their roster when they break camp. Like most observers, I think this trend to stocking the bullpen in this manner is lunacy. I also think that giving
Ned Frank Yost this many options is just asking for trouble. Still, a trend is a trend and if one team does something well, the rest will fall into line. So it goes. Twelve pitchers. Five starters. Seven relievers. Oh, good.
That basically serves as confirmation of our suspicions all along about how the Royals will stock their bench. They will have four spots available. We know one of those will go to a backup catcher.
In the outfield, the Royals have three players who will get looks. Jarrod Dyson, Justin Maxwell, and Carlos Peguero are all in the mix. The kicker is all three are out of options. The Royals will have to pass at least one of these guys through waivers before camp breaks at the end of March. I suppose we could throw Jimmy Paredes in the mix, too. Although like the other three, he is out of options.
If I had to place money on a couple of these outfield horses, I'd go with Dyson for sure. We know the Royals love Dyson's speed. And his ability to fill in for the months Lorenzo Cain will spend on the disabled list. (I kid about Cain. It's not nice, but I enjoy pushing the "Player X is fragile" meme. It's a personal weakness of mine.) They will probably go with a second backup outfielder and right now I'm leaning Maxwell. Nothing certain, just call it a gut feeling. The right-handed power plays well and while he has a strong platoon split for his career, he did hit well against right-handed pitching last summer.
The dark horse is Peguero. If they kept the left-handed hitting outfielder, that would give the Royals a more balanced bench. My thinking is Danny Valencia makes the club as the backup infielder (and potential platoon partner to Mike Moustakas.) If Peguero makes the squad, that gives the Royals two left-handed bats in him and Dyson and a pair of right-handed bats in the form of Valencia and Brett Hayes.
But despite my Twitter conversation with Rany Jazayerli, I remain convinced that the correct adjective for Peguero is "hacker." The guy simply swings at everything. He makes Jeff Francoeur look disciplined. Sure, he's got some pop in the bat, but damn if he isn't a candidate to post a sub .280 OBP. Even in limited action, that's scary. Be Royal!
So we've two outfielders and a catcher, so that brings us back to the infield. Which is the home of the aforementioned Valencia.
Yost said Valencia could play some left field, even second base at spring training.
"We're going to move guys around," Yost said.
Fun fact #1: Valencia has played in the field for a total of 2,376 innings in his major league career.
Fun fact #2: For every single one of those innings, Valencia was at third base.
Fun fact #3: In minor league data going back to 2011, besides his copious third base work, Valencia has appeared in a total of six games at first, four games in left and one game in right.
Naturally the Royals are going to use him at second. And left! Because they won't have enough backup outfielders on their bench already.
This talk of Valencia as super utility man could be akin to the Hosmer Experiment when we were told Hosmer was such a great athlete, it wouldn't be an issue for him to play right. That was thankfully short-lived and we were spared the spectacle of Hosmer stumbling around right. It has never been spoken of again.
That's not to say Valencia couldn't roam around the diamond with glove in hand. Except we're not talking about a great defensive player here. Nor are we talking about an average defensive player. So let's just say I have my doubts about Valencia playing any position other than third base. If you were to keep just a solitary backup infielder, I suppose you would prefer to have one who could play all positions around the horn. The Royals have had such players in the past and it was thought they sort of saw the value in the versatility of the backup.
It is early days of spring, though. This is the time for crazy talk before cooler heads can prevail. Maybe they will decide to go with two backup infielders. Or maybe they will go with a more versatile utility man. But this is the Royals. So much crazy talk.