Ned Yost and the Kansas City Royals have an opportunity this year to have two positions with very good platoon advantages. A platoon is when a certain position in the field gets played by multiple people. The multiple people that play the position usually get playing time based on offensive splits that they might have against a pitcher - or the quality of their defense and who is pitching for their team. I'm going to look at the offensive splits against pitcher handedness today to show what the Royals could offer in their lineups throughout 2014.
The Royals are set with obvious starters at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, left field, and designated hitter. Their third base, center field, and right field spots are not quite as set in stone. I believe that Norichika Aoki should and will get the majority of games in right field. I will not call that a platoon until someone else (with more official power than I do within the organization - i.e.
At third base, Mike Moustakas and Danny Valencia will represent the Kansas City Royals much of the year. In center field, Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, and Justin Maxwell will get the majority of the starts - my guess is that Maxwell would get very few in CF.
Over the last three years, the Royals have had the following PA totals, then the breakdown of how many v. RHP and how many v. LHP.
2013 - 6,093 PA (4,418/1,675) v. R/L
2012 - 6,267 PA (4,364/1,903) v. R/L
2011 - 6,149 PA - (4,604/1,545) v. R/L
In the three years combined, 72.3% of the Royals' plate appearances came against right-handed pitching, because there are so many more right-handed starters and relievers than there are left-handed. This is not a small sample size issue. However, let's say that it's really 70% to 30%, just to make numbers easier. Let's also assume that the Royals get about 700 plate appearances from both the CF and 3B spots in the order, also to make things a little easier.
Let's look at Third Base First:
Moustakas is the proposed left-handed bat in the third base platoon.
He is a career .244/.296/.385/.681 hitter OVERALL.
He is a career .252/.304/.404/.708 hitter against RHP.
He is a career .222/.275/.332/.607 hitter against LHP.
Valencia is the proposed right-handed bat in the third base platoon.
He is a career .263/.302/.412/.714 hitter OVERALL
He is a career .229/.269/.360/.629 hitter against RHP.
He is a career .329/.367/.513/.880 hitter against LHP.
If you platooned them simply a random 70% for Moustakas and 30% for Valencia (as they want to get Moustakas more time played than Valencia due to age and perceived potential), the Royals would give Moustakas about 490 plate appearances to Valencia's 210 plate appearances. The platoon would be projected to combine for a split of .250/.298/.393/.691.
However, platooned completely correctly giving Moustakas 490 plate appearances all against RHP and Valencia 201 plate appearances all against LHP would give the Royals a projected .275/.323/.437/.760 line instead! It is not likely (nor likely possible) for the Royals to get a perfect platoon anywhere in the order, so let's back off those numbers just slightly.
If Moose got 80% of his plate appearances against righties and 20% against lefties, and vice versa for Valencia, that would be a very good platoon that is quite likely. The two would be projected to hit .265/.313/.417/.730.
Which would you take if offered up as projections?
Platoon A: .250/.298/.393/.691 (that's if just randomly assigned 490 PA for Moose and 210 PA for Valencia) or
Platoon B: .265/.313/.417/.730 (that's assigned mostly toward the better portion of their career splits)?
I think the answer is obvious. The answer is much murkier elsewhere:
Center and Right Fields:
Let's take the other four players alphabetically.
Norichika Aoki is the proposed left-handed bat who will likely get the large majority of PAs in RF.
He is a career .287/.355/.399/.754 hitter OVERALL.
He is a career .279/.357/.402/.759 hitter against RHP.
He is a career .304/.351/.395/.746 hitter against LHP.
Aoki's splits are not very pronounced at all. He actually hits for a higher average against lefties, but doesn't walk as much nor get as much power behind his swings.
Lorenzo Cain is the proposed right-handed bat in the center field platoon.
He is a career .266/.318/.380/.698 hitter OVERALL.
He is a career .267/.316/.388/.704 hitter against RHP.
His is a career .262/.324/.361/.685 hitter against LHP.
Cain doesn't have much of a platoon split either. He is actually better at taking a walk versus lefties than righties, but hitting against the same-handed pitcher has been his forte, with a higher average and more power.
Jarrod Dyson is the proposed left-handed bat in the center field platoon.
He is a career .251/.322/.338/.660 hitter OVERALL.
He is a career .266/.355/.368/.703 hitter against RHP.
His is a career .192/.273/.224/.497 hitter against LHP.
Basically, Jarrod Dyson should never see another left-hander as long as he lives!, unless the Royals just have to get a bunt down in which the batter has a chance of also reaching first base to save their entire season. That and if he's in the lineup and nobody else is on the bench would the only times it would be acceptable.
Justin Maxwell is the proposed right-handed outfielder also on the roster because he's not as good a CF defender as the other two and Norichika Aoki is the best overall player out of the four, leaving Maxwell less time to play in RF as well.
He is a career .228/.316/.430/.746 hitter OVERALL.
He is a career .220/.287/.429/.716 hitter against RHP.
His is a career .241/.358/.431/.789 hitter against LHP.
Maxwell is a much better hitter against left-handed pitching. He makes more contact, walks more, and slugs about the same. His split is nowhere near as pronounced as Dyson's, but his defense isn't nearly as good either.
This is a really strange one to me. If you just gave Aoki/Maxwell an ideal platoon split in RF and Cain/Dyson an ideal platoon split in CF (both based simply on handedness), the two positions would combine to hit .262/.337/.378/.716 on the season. What I would suggest is only a moderate improvement over that offensively, but I think defensively could be better if Cain is healthy.
For my money, I would try to give Dyson 210 PAs mostly against RHP and Maxwell 210 PAs mostly against LHP, then have Cain and Aoki split the other 980 plate appearances between them somehow. Those 980 plate appearances could be split evenly (compared to each other) against lefties and righties, leaving them with (in this approximation) 385 PAs v. R and 105 PA v. L apiece. The center and right field positions would then combine to hit .267/.336/.389/.725. Basically, there would be a higher average (with less walks) and more pop in the bats.
The Royals are a team desperate for power, so that slight upgrade would help significantly.