Mar 042011

Major Moves

Of the Royals’ nine most used position players according to Baseball-Reference, ONLY Jason Kendall, their 1.0 bWAR 37-year-old catcher will start opening day at the same position he played last year. Two more, star-in-the-making Billy Butler (then 1B, now DH) and 29-year-old mostly-utility-man Mike Aviles (then 2B, now 3B) will have starting jobs at all. Replacing them will be players like Jeff Francoeur (ask Met fans about him) and Melky Cabrera (ask Yankee fans). On the pitching side, Greinke is gone, replaced by Jeff Francis, and Bannister is gone from the rotation, and Farnsworth and Hughes from the bullpen. The Royals reputedly have the best minor-league system in baseball, but they are not yet bringing up their 22-year-olds, so this is primarily a retread team.

Hitters 2010 D 2011 F (- 5.0 WAR)

It is impossible to predict what the Royals will do this year; they have enough young and unproven guys, on both sides of the ball, to surprise in either direction. I have tried to project the “proven” players via my WAR formulas, and the minor-leaguers based on a rough minors-to-majors translation, but it is mostly guesswork. That said, there is nothing in THIS group of players to suggest that they will win any games at all. If Kila Ka’aihue is as good as people think he might be, and if Butler hits a ton, then this team will score as poorly as last year; if not, they will do worse.

Starters 2010 D- 2011 F (-0.5 WAR)

They traded Greinke, who earned half their starter’s WAR last year, and Chen (who earned the other half) does not project into this rotation for some reason, but they also dumped below-replacement Bannister and this year’s group seems reasonably mediocre. And of course, young, so anything could happen. I have seen O’Sullivan pitch (his first two starts were against the Yankees) and I am not impressed, even though he shut them down one of the two.

Bullpen 2010 C 2011 C

Joakim Soria, all by himself, is a mediocre bullpen. One of the most consistent closers in the game (non-Rivera division) he has earned between 2.7 and 3.8 bWAR each of the last four years, and is only 27 years old this year. The rest of the pen is unproven, but young unproven relievers can actually make a decent pen (ask the Rays) – I can’t really predict good things for this group, but it could happen.

Overall 2010 F 2011 F

The Royals calculated as a D team last year, but won only 67 games. This calculation suggests that they are likely to win about 6 fewer in 2011. Sadly, that feels about right. On the other hand, if they begin to work the kids in, if a couple of the young pitchers can really pitch, if Gordon flashes some of the ability that made him a top prospect a couple of years ago, if Butler can improve instead of regress, why this team could climb all the way up to bad.

Charts

Player Position 2011 2010
Jason Kendall Catcher 0.7 1.0
Kila Ka’aihue First Base 2.5 4.5 Butler
Chris Getz Second Base 0.7 0.9 Aviles
Mike Aviles Third Base 0.7 1.3 Callaspo
Alcides Escobar Shortstop 0.5 1.3 Betancourt
Alex Gordon Left Field 0.7 1.3 Posednik
Melky Cabrera Center Field 0.0 0.7 Maier
Jeff Francoeur Right Field 0.3 2.9 DeJesus
Billy Butler Designated Hitter 3.0 0.8 Guillen
9.1 14.7

_____________________________________________________________

Jeff Francis Starting Pitcher 1.0 2.4 Greinke
Luke Hochevar Starting Pitcher 1.0 0.5
Kyle Davies Starting Pitcher 0.7 0.2
Vin Mazzaro Starting Pitcher 0.5 2.1 Chen
Sean O’Sullivan Starting Pitcher 0.5 -0.9 Bannister
3.7 4.3

_________________________________________________________

Blake Wood Relief Pitcher 0.3 -0.2
Jesse Chavez Relief Pitcher 0.0 0.4 Hughes
Kanekoa Texeira Relief Pitcher 0.5 1.2 Farnsworth
Greg Holland Relief Pitcher 0.0 -0.3
Robinson Tejeda Relief Pitcher 1.0 0.8
Joakim Soria Closer 3.7 3.8
5.5 5.7

2 Responses to “2011 Projection – Kansas City Royals”

  1. Having seen this team last year in person multiple times last year, I can say with feeling that there is nowhere to go but up. KC fans are actually great fans and it seems they get a fair amount of people to the ballpark. The stadium is surprisingly nice. If there was ANY sort of product on the field this team would draw pretty well. Though the team has a goal to be a winner in 2012, I have my sights on 2013.

    • I had forgotten that you lived in/near Kansas City. The “winner in 2012” or 2013 really depends on which kids step up, and how many of them. It is unfortunate that their two best position prospects (Butler and Ka’aihue) both play first base. Butler, by all accounts, was a solid defensive firstbaseman – it is a shame to put that talent to DH at a tender age. Still, you want both bats in the lineup every day, and apparently neither can play the outfield or third.

      The exciting prospects are still in the minors: the Royals boast FIVE four-star prospects (according to Baseball Prospectus): three pitchers, a catcher and a third-baseman. Then there are five more 3-star prospects: 3 pitchers, a shortstop and a first baseman (as if they needed ANOTHER young first baseman!). Obviously, if most of these prospects were to hit, it would transform the club.

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