Well, I didn't win the Powerball jackpot, so here I am writing about Royals baseball instead of sitting on a tropical island somewhere blogging about cocktails with tiny umbrellas. The Royals have Alex Gordon back in the fold, but the nerd stats still don't think much of them. The Royals probably still have one significant move left in them this off-season, which now only has 34 days until pitchers and catchers report.
Let's answer some fan mailbag, which I have to get myself, instead of paying a butler to read it to me.
@royalsreview who do you think is the best choice for the Royals, as far as getting another starting pitcher goes?
— Allison❤️ (@allisonshimel) January 14, 2016
The Royals seem to have their focus down to Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy, the two best pitchers left available, with Mat Latos seemingly a Plan B in case both of those options go off the table. Both Gallardo and Kennedy are right-handers. Both will require the Royals forfeit their first round pick. Gallardo turns 30 in a few weeks, Kennedy just turned 31. Let's look at the tale of the tape over the last three seasons.
The two things that stand out are Kennedy's strikeout rate and Gallardo's groundball rate. Kennedy just flat-out misses bats. When hitters do make contact, they hit fly balls against Kennedy a fair amount of time, which should play well with Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Jarrod Dyson playing behind him. Gallardo has seen his strikeout rate decline in each of the last four seasons with a drop in velocity as well. That is supposedly by design as Gallardo has looked to become more of a groundball pitcher. But if you're asking me which of those two pitchers would be the better fit for the Royals, I would go with Kennedy. Additionally, my bet is that Kennedy comes at a much lower price than Gallardo, although the market may be cratering for both.
However, giving up that draft pick is a high cost for a team like the Royals that really needs that pick to rebuild the system. I think Dayton Moore might be able to find another low-cost, high-reward pitcher as he did in Chris Young last season. This year that option could be Mat Latos. He is still young (28) and it wasn't that long ago he was considered a frontline starting pitcher. His skillset - flyball pitcher who can miss bats - should fit Kansas City well. he has had some clubhouse baggage before, but I trust the strength of this clubhouse to be able to absorb such a personality. He would likely come cheap on a short-term deal, which fits into the payroll as well.
Other pitchers that could come into play include veteran Cliff Lee and sinkerballer Doug Fister. I'm wary of Lee because he's the same age as me, and I know how much it hurts just to get out of bed in the morning. I can't imagine how healthy a man coming off career-threatening elbow surgery must feel. Fister's drop in velocity is pretty alarming, and after reading Kevin Ruprecht's piece, I'm not encouraged he'll bounce back all that well.
The Royals may very well be on the verge of signing Ian Kennedy, which I am comfortable with at the right price. I would prefer Latos due to the lack of draft pick compensation, but the Royals are in "win now" mode, so I suppose I understand their point of view. Winning championships is neat.
@royalsreview who do want to have more playing time, Dyson or Orlando
— Nick (@NickBlock68) January 14, 2016
Jarrod Dyson, hands down. Paulo Orlando is such a fun guy to root for with a compelling backstory and he certainly provided some exciting clutch moments last season. He also had a .269 on-base percentage, the second-lowest out of 114 outfielders last year with at least 250 plate appearances. In other words, he was making a lot of outs.
Dyson, at least against right-handers, has shown an ability to get on base (.320 career on-base percentage). And of course, once he gets on base, he's a huge threat on the basepaths. He has also been a tremendous defender, and frankly one of the more underrated players on the team. I know there is a worry among fans that if Dyson plays more he will get worse, but I think if he plays primarily against right-handed pitchers he can be a very solid semi-regular for the Royals, while we can hope that Orlando can still serve as a useful bench player.
@royalsreview Will Ned have two LHs in the pen? No great, confident options in-house right now.
— Kevin Ashcraft (@kevinashcraft) January 14, 2016
Ned has never seemed too wedded to the idea of using a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy), so it seems rather doubtful he would need two lefties in the pen. The wrinkle this year could be the possibility of Danny Duffy joining the bullpen, which would give them more of a power lefty that can face hitters from both sides of the plate.
Duffy could theoretically join Tim Collins as a second lefty in the pen, although Tim is returning from Tommy John surgery and may not be ready to start the year. Brian Flynn and Scott Alexander are your other options, although they are likely on the outside looking in at this point. The fact that a really useful LOOGY option in Buddy Baumann was never given a shot here is an indication on how valuable they consider a situational lefty.
Frankly it doesn't seem like a championship roster, but I didn't see them as a championship roster last year and all they did was win the most games in the American League and the first franchise championship in three decades. Baseball is really changing though, so while it may not seem like a team that leads off with Alcides Escobar and gives regular playing time to Omar Infante and has Chris Young in its rotation should win many games, perhaps we have to re-think what a good team looks like. Cleveland certainly has looked like they should be playing in October, but they've barely sniffed contention.
I think the Royals could use some more depth. They could probably use another starting pitcher. I'd feel better about the outfield if they added a legit right-handed bat. They could always use more bullpen depth. But the core of this team is returning, so there is every reason to think another run is at least plausible.
@royalsreview thoughts/likelihood of signing Esky/Hoz/Cain/Moose before their FA date? See Cain as likely, Esky depending on Mondesi...
— Mark Johnson (@mark_s_j_11) January 14, 2016
I would honestly be very surprised if any of those players failed to hit free agency after the 2017 season. Cain would seem like the likeliest option, but he'll be nearly 32 when he hits free agency, and he'll want a bigger payday than Alex Gordon was seeking. If his injury problems re-surface, or he regresses sharply in 2016, perhaps that asking price lowers to a level the Royals are comfortable with.
Alcides Escobar, as you imply, will probably be replaced eventually by Raul Mondesi. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are Scott Boras clients, which means they will very likely reach free agency and seek large contracts. Hosmer seems as good as gone, and I think he will be overpaid by quite a bit because he will still be young. There is a chance at re-signing Moose, I think, although if Cheslor Cuthbert emerges as a solid player or Hunter Dozier is ever able to get back on track, or, the Royals may not need him.
@royalsreview when will Kyle Zimmer debut?
— Mike Engel (@michaelengel) January 14, 2016
August 10 vs. Chicago
I mean, it all comes down to his health, doesn't it? If he's healthy, the Royals will probably give him a bit more than a half-season to build his arm up, show his curveball is still a hammer from Thor, then bring him up to demote Duffy or Young to the bullpen. If he's hurt, we'll just continue to pester Andy McCullough in Los Angeles every few days about updates on Zimmer.
@royalsreview do u see Bubba Starling getting a chance to play in the majors this year?
— ROYALStotheGIANTS (@FOREVERaGIANT) January 14, 2016
Barring catastrophic injury, Bubba Starling will almost certainly make his Major League debut some time in 2016. The Royals have pretty much said as much, and at the very worst I think you will see him have a cup of coffee when rosters expand in September. Bubba's glove is already reportedly good enough to help the team on defense, it has been his bat that has been the major question mark.
Bubba made some progress last year, enough that the team can talk about him being a starter in 2017. He'll have to capitalize on that progress however, which means making more contact and continuing to cut down on the strikeouts. Its looking unlikely that he'll become the big impact player we envisioned when he was drafted, but there is still a decent chance he at least becomes a useful regular player at the big league level, and it seems clear the Royals will give him every opportunity to do so.
@royalsreview When will the Star replace Andy?
— Smith (@smith2049) January 14, 2016
My sources say the Star are zeroing in on candidates, but low-balled their primary target with an offer. According to recent reports, there is "no chance" their prime target will sign on as things currently stand. The Star is still holding out hope, but my sources indicate they are now looking at internal options to fill the position.