The excitement of Opening Day is tangible in Kansas City, even if everyone knows this 2011 team is only going to be a footnote to the real future of the team.
But that’s not to say 2011 is not an important footnote.
A quick look at the Opening Day roster shows five rookies, all of whom could realistically be a part of a Royals renaissance:
RHP Nate Adcock, LHP Bruce Chen, LHP Tim Collins, RHP Aaron Crow, RHP Kyle Davies, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Luke Hochevar, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Sean O’Sullivan, RHP Joakim Soria, RHP Robinson Tejeda, RHP Kanekoa Texeira, C Brayan Peña, C Matt Treanor, INF Mike Aviles, INF Wilson Betemit, INF Billy Butler, INF Alcides Escobar, INF Chris Getz, INF Kila Ka’aihue, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Jarrod Dyson, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF Alex Gordon, OF Mitch Maier
* Rookies listed in bold
As you can see, the rookies are all pitchers with the exception of speedster Jarrod Dyson, who was a September callup last year but did not play in enough games to disqualify him as a “rookie” in 2011. In fact, half of the eight-man bullpen is made up of rookies. And some of them have even promised to wear a “faux hawk” in 2011, a style inspired by closer Joakim Soria. Who knows, maybe it will become a winning trend, like the shaggy-faced Red Sox of a few years ago.
What can we take away from all these rookie pitchers?
Well, folks, for those of you who are skeptical of a Royals renaissance, guess what? The first wave is here. It’s these four pitchers. With the possible exception of Adcock, a Rule 5 pick who has to be offered back to the if he doesn’t stay on the roster the full season, all of these guys have a serious chance to be involved in the next wave of Royals greatness. And we can go to Kauffman Stadium and watch them play right now.
And Aaron Crow has already proven to be an intriguing member of the team.
As I’ve written before on this site, I’m a huge fan of Jarrod Dyson. I really think he could be an every-day center fielder in this league. And I’m thrilled that he made the roster over Gregor Blanco who probably doesn’t have a chance at every-day duty.
The thing about Dyson, though, is he’s blocked: currently, Melky Cabrera patrols center field, and although Melky is probably not a long-term fit for this team, after him is Lorenzo Cain, who was brought over in the Zack Greinke trade and probably has even more upside (i.e. offense) than Dyson.
At the very least, Dyson could be trade bait in the future.
While all those things are promising, one thing in particular has me troubled: the trade that brought Matt Treanor to the team. To put it bluntly, I think this is just about the dumbest move the team could make.
According to the organization, veteran catcher Jason Kendall is about a month away from returning to active duty (whether or not that’s a good thing is a topic for a whole other article). So the Royals went out and brought in Treanor for… what, exactly? A month?
There’s this illusion that Matt Treanor brings veteran leadership to this team. That’s BS. Matt Treanor is 35 years old and has played in 362 Major League games as of Saturday. Being old does not make one a veteran. Brayan Pena, currently the Royals’ other catcher, has played in 196 games. Does that make him less of a veteran?
Fans of the Treanor move (if you can find any) say he brings better defense to the table. I argue that for the 2011 Royals, that’s completely irrelevant. Although they’re off to a 2-1 start, the Royals are still likely to lose 100 games this season. A good defensive catcher may mean the team only loses 98 games.
And… JASON KENDALL WILL BE BACK IN ONE MONTH!
The real tragedy of this move is that the organization has probably lost Lucas May, a catcher who is younger than both Pena and Treanor and, in my opinion, was the only one of the trio with a chance to be a long-term part of the team. But he’s out of options, so he’s likely a goner.
My biggest fear now is that when Kendall returns, the Royals will choose to keep Treanor as the backup – he has gotten off to a good start – and send Pena down to the minors. Pena is also out of options.
The catcher position aside, the 2011 Kansas City Royals could be remembered as the foundation upon which a championship was built. And that’s pretty exciting.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and associate editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.