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Friday Notes - February 28, 2020

Games are back and Bubba Starling is raking. Ahh yes, it’s spring.

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox
Aug 5, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Bubba Starling (11) hits a three run home run during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Men wearing pants and button up shirts have taken baseball fields in Arizona and Florida to play real life games this past week, and let me tell you something; it’s been glorious. We’re about to turn the Luke Hochevar corner into being tired of spring training here in a few days, but until then, we’re basking in the glow of baseball being back in our ears and on our screens. And we may have even learned something about some guys, in spite of the small sample. Responding to adversity, even in just a small blip, can start to piece part of the story together and we’ve seen some guys face it and power through and some others who still need the opportunity to respond. In 27 days, we’ll see what the regular season club looks like and how they respond to the adversity of being, well, bad.

  • Bubba Starling hit his second spring home run on Wednesday and has generally fared quite well offensively to start the Cactus League slate. Five hits in 10 at bats with those two homers, a double, a walk and a stolen base have led to a very tidy 1.745 OPS. It’s that small sample that I can already feel people starting to forget about with him. Let’s not forget that Starling hit .344/.432/.635 last spring with as many walks as strikeouts. Now, I’d have absolutely enjoyed letting him at least get a shot over Billy Hamilton, but that’s more about Hamilton than Starling. The point here is that Starling is starting to enter Mike Moustakas territory as a spring training phenom. The Royals outfield situation is weird. They’ve got two infielders and a 36-year old, so a backup outfielder or two is not necessarily a bad idea to carry, and they’ve talked about valuing versatility for the 26th man, but a good spring from Starling seems somewhat likely to land him a spot on the Opening Day roster. Just as we can’t forget Starling’s spring stats from last year as a cautionary tale of his stats this year, we also must not forget his .572 OPS as a big leaguer or his .138 ISO in AAA in a season when the whole world was hitting for huge power at the minor league’s highest level. It’s not that I don’t want Starling to succeed. I just feel like it’s not going to happen and a hot spring doesn’t change that.
  • The Royals lost 8-0 on Wednesday to the Cubs in Mesa and somehow that was the better game of the two in a split squad day when the team won the other game. Why is that? It’s pretty simple. Brady Singer started the game and pitched two scoreless innings. After the presumptive setup men, Scott Barlow and Tim Hill, gave up four runs over two innings of work, Daniel Lynch came in for two scoreless innings and then he was relieved by Jackson Kowar for one scoreless inning. The trio struck out five and walked two in that time, and while the results are fun to watch, that’s not what has me excited about the outing. All three of them had their share of trouble against a Cubs team that has some offensive talent on it. All three of them got out of it unscathed. Singer loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning. It looked bad. He struck out two and got a ground ball out to get out of the frame. As I mentioned above in the intro, getting through adversity is something we can watch for in the spring, especially with players who are in their first big league camps. It’s just a different environment and seeing them handle that adversity was really nice. Ultimately, it won’t mean much and will likely be forgotten by all three pitchers, but you have to start somewhere and even if they’re the best pitchers in the world at some point in their careers, they’ll face that adversity again. We’ve seen they can get through it, and that’s always good to know.
  • Our old friend Andy McCullough had a great article in The Athletic about our old friend Eric Hosmer. I’m not really big on fear mongering, but I’m honestly afraid. I’ve mentioned this a handful of times before, but any time Dayton Moore is quoted about Hosmer, it terrifies me. Ryan O’Hearn is coming off a brutal season. Ryan McBroom might be something, but might also be absolutely nothing. Hunter Dozier could play first, but the Royals also like him elsewhere. Nick Pratto is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons for a Royals prospect in quite some time. To paraphrase another old friend, Ned Yost, the first base tree isn’t in bloom right now for the Royals. And if Singer and Kowar and maybe Lynch along with some others come up during the 2020 season and make some noise, the Royals will likely (rightfully in my opinion if all that happens) feel that they need to start supplementing to fill in the gaps. You’ll have a hard time making me believe that the Padres wouldn’t be thrilled to move a first baseman who has hit .259/.316/.412 over the last two seasons. And you’ll have a similarly hard time making me believe that Dayton Moore wouldn’t at least be interested in bringing said first baseman back to Kansas City on what amounts to be a five year deal for $81 million. So yes, I’m looking ahead to the next offseason. And I’m going to say that a successful 2020/2021 offseason is that the Royals don’t trade for Eric Hosmer. Now I’m going to sit back and hope that one of the first base options emerges as a long-term possibility so that we don’t have to live in fear of this trade happening.
  • There’s a much bigger story here, but with the news that YouTubeTV is no longer going to be carrying any of the Fox Sports regional channels, it brings right back to the forefront how brutal Major League Baseball is in letting people actually watch their favorite teams. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’m not yet a cord cutter. I’ve looked into it, but when I was close to pulling the trigger on Sling last year, they lost the Royals package. Then as I’ve zeroed in on YouTubeTV, they do the same. So here I am, still with cable for the timebeing. I know that Hulu Live TV and AT&T still carry FSMW, but for how long? Who knows? Blackouts are obviously a huge issue that are handled so poorly, it’s almost funny. Almost. We know that people in Iowa are blacked out from something like six teams and people in Vegas are similarly limited. At some point, MLB is going to need to allow teams to be seen in their local markets via official streaming. It makes zero sense why they wouldn’t charge something like $15/month during the season for local access on because I would think that would sell like hotcakes, or whatever actually sells well in 2020. It would also likely increase the sale of the full product because it’s really not that much more to see every single team. Everybody wins. Fans spend $90 a year to see their team play every night on television, MLB gets the extra revenue because they certainly need it and that trickles down to the teams so all parties are happy. I’m not going to hold my breath that it’ll happen, but, hey, it’s nice to have dreams, right?