Third Time’s A Charm: KC’s 2011 Lineup

On the I-70 Baseball Radio Hour last week, I-70 editor Bill Ivie slandered my good name, accusing me of milking this “Predicting the 2011 starting lineup” storyline for all it’s worth. Slanderous, but also one hundred percent true.

Every time the Royals have made a big move this offseason, I’ve been able to write a story about what Kansas City’s starting lineup would look like on Opening Day. And now that they’ve made the biggest move of all, shipping Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee, I get to do it all over again.

Hopefully Dayton Moore will keep making trades and I won’t have to come up with an original story idea until April.

All kidding aside, the Royals’ potential starting lineup was seriously reorganized following the trade, and it’s important to see where the new faces fit in.

Just to review, here’s the first starting lineup prediction I made:

1. CF Jarrod Dyson, 2. RF David DeJesus, 3. 1B Billy Butler, 4. DH Kila Ka’aihue, 5. 2B Mike Aviles, 6. SS Yuniesky Betancourt, 7. LF Alex Gordon, 8. 3B Mike Moustakas, 9. C Lucas May.

Then DeJesus was traded, the Royals signed Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, I realized Moustakas was probably not going to make the Opening Day roster and I flip-flopped my starting catcher prediction. So the second iteration of my proposed lineup looked like this:

1. 2B Chris Getz, 2. CF Melky Cabrera, 3. 1B Billy Butler, 4. RF Jeff Francoeur, 5. DH Kila Ka’aihue, 6. 3B Mike Aviles, 7. LF Alex Gordon, 8. SS Yuniesky Betancourt, 9. C Brayan Pena.

Then the Greinke trade came to pass. So here we go, Round 3 in a bout of who-knows-how-many rounds:

1. Alcides Escobar, SS

I think the young shortstop, acquired in the Greinke trade, will be thrown right into the fire. He should be a good leadoff hitter (of course, the Royals have seen lots of shoulds come and go over the years). He should also steal a lot of bases. And he will definitely be a defensive upgrade over every Royals shortstop since, I don’t know, Fred Patek. I’m excited to see Alcides in Royal blue.

2. Mike Aviles, 3B

I’ve shuffled Aviles all over the field and all over the lineup in this little simulation, but he’s always been a good fit in the No. 2 spot.

3. Billy Butler, 1B

Only Butler has remained in the same lineup spot in each of my proposals. I think that speaks to how important Butler is to this team, especially now that he’s the biggest star in town.

4. Jeff Francoeur, RF

5. Kila Ka’aihue, DH

No change in the 4 and 5 spots.

6. Melky Cabrera AND/OR Lorenzo Cain, CF

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a platoon situation here. Although he was a free agent signing, Melky was inexpensive, so salary alone will not win him a spot. Expectations are high for Cain, and I’m hoping he plays at least 100 games in 2011. Either one of these guys can play any outfield position, which is good, and eventually I’m hopeful that Cain can take over the leadoff spot, since he’s probably a more natural leadoff hitter than Escobar.

7. Alex Gordon, LF

I have a bad feeling that Gordon may be the reason I make a fourth proposed lineup. The Royals’ outfield situation is more confusing than ever, and since the team also has guys like Mitch Maier, Jarrod Dyson and Gregor Blanco available now, I would not be shocked to see a Gordon trade before Spring Training. Of course, if that happens, it’s almost inevitable that Gordon would win an MVP award with his new team.

8. Brayan Pena, C

No changes here except a new spot in the lineup.

9. Chris Getz, 2B

Getz is much more suited to the bottom of the lineup than the top.

Some people are saying the Royals will be horrible next year, maybe the worst team in baseball. And with this lineup, that may be true. But it doesn’t matter. Next year is the time we evaluate guys like Escobar, Cain and Pena, and the time we see how Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Clint Robinson and a whole slew of pitchers progress through the minors.

Just don’t ask me what the starting rotation is gonna look like.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the associate editor of I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey14@yahoo.com.

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