The Extreme Makeover, Outfield Edition hit Kansas City this winter with the recent additions of two 26-year-old former Atlanta Braves, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. Their past is not the only thing they have in common – they are both very average.
The Royals will field a completely revamped outfield from last year’s opening day trio of Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel, and David DeJesus. With Mike Aviles’ move to third base, Alex Gordon will join the aforementioned Francoeur and Cabrera to complete the outfield makeover.
But when Ty Pennington shouts “Move That Bus!” on opening day at Kauffman Stadium to reveal the American League’s least potent outfield, will Royals fans be pleased with their beloved team’s renovations? Only time will tell, but they have to be excited with Cabrera and Francoeur’s playoff experience.
With the return of Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier, the Royals’ veteran outfielders appear to be very run of the mill. The better of the two, Maier, hit 15 doubles, 5 homeruns, with a tolerable .263 average and .709 OPS last year.
Blanco, who will turn 27 this Christmas Eve, is not far behind in terms of skill, but does not quite possess the pop (2 career homeruns) that Maier has. Youngsters like David Lough, Jarrod Dyson, and Derrick Robinson are all chomping at the bit for a roster spot as well and could prove to be a difficult challenge for Blanco and Maier this offseason.
Of the three young bloods, the former 50th round draft pick, Dyson, saw the field for the Royals in 2010. He had some opportunities to display his lightning-fast speed, but ultimately did little to impress in 18 games, hitting .211 with 1 homerun.
Amid the second rate makeover, which feels like a few patched holes more than anything else, glimmers two gems for Royals fans – Lough and Robinson.
Last year, the versatile Lough led all Royals minor leaguers with a promising .375 average. He’s comparable to David DeJesus, according to Royals’ scouting and development.
The youngest of all the names vying for an outfield spot is the 23-year-old Derrick Robinson. He led the Texas League in stolen bases last year with 50 on 67 attempts. In his minor league career, the speedster has accumulated a total of 236 steals.
The question still remains, which of the aforementioned will patrol the outfield for the Royals in 2011? On opening day, fans will most likely see Alex Gordon in left field, Melky Cabrera in center field, and Jeff Francoeur in right field. Maier will be a corner outfield back up, sprinkled with a little Gregor Blanco in all three positions from time to time.
Do not be surprised if the speedy Dyson makes the roster and even sees some time in center this season, but it is unlikely that David Lough and Derrick Robinson will make enough waves in training camp to earn a spot over the veterans. Both are still young and developing.
Versatility and speed are commodities in Major League Baseball and David Lough has them both. Here is a bold prediction for the Royals’ outfield in 2011: Lough’s stellar play will propel him to the big leagues sooner rather than later. With inconsistencies and less than average play in the outfield, do not be surprised if David Lough is called up earlier than September. He can play all three outfield positions, he can hit, and he can run.
Hopefully Alex Gordon can live up to his uber-prospect status, Melky Cabrera can play like he did with the Yankees, and Jeff Francoeur can show us why Dayton Moore seems to have a man crush on him. Citing the inner-optimist, the hope is that the Royals improve in the outfield this season but in reality, this feels like a quick fix until Major League’s best farm club reaches maturation and joins the big league ranks in 2012 and beyond.