What Do The Royals’ Recent Setbacks Mean?

In the midst of a hopeful season, it’s been a tough few weeks for the Kansas City Royals. Let’s take a look at some of the team’s recent setbacks, as well as the bright side of each:

Soria loses closer role

The setback: Joakim Soria, among the most dominant closers in the game over the past few years, was demoted last week after blowing several save opportunities. Soria’s struggles are baffling; it’s been difficult for anyone inside our outside the organization to pinpoint exactly what’s not working. Except for this: his pitches seem a whole lot more hittable to opposing batters this year.

The upside: As Soria moves down, rookie Aaron Crow steps up to the closer role. This is a great opportunity for the Royals to see what Crow, who has been effective as a reliever, is made of. Also, Soria pitched well on Friday in his first non-closer appearance, so maybe the demotion will be short term. If not, this could push the Royals in the direction of converting Soria to a starter.

Moustakas struggles in AAA

The setback: Everybody and their brother would have bet that Mike Moustakas would have been the first Royals prospect to crack the big league roster this year. But a handful of young pitchers beat him to it. Then, Moustakas was relegated to second-class citizen when breakout star Eric Hosmer blasted his way to the majors before Moose. Hosmer was stunning in AAA this year, and so far he’s proven he can play in the big leagues. Moustakas struggled early on, and his title of “Third Baseman of the Future” seems a bit shaky now.

The upside: Every player goes through struggles. And Moustakas has been playing really well the past week in Omaha, where he leads the team in RBIs. If not for Hosmer’s meteoric rise, Moustakas’ struggles wouldn’t be as pronounced. And there’s still a high probability that Moose will be the starting third baseman in Kansas City before the end of the year.

John Lamb to have Tommy John surgery

The struggle: Lamb, the Royals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, will likely be out for a full season – if not longer – after last week’s announcement that he’s headed for Tommy John surgery. Prior to this move, Lamb was projected as a possible future ace for the organization. Now? It’s anybody’s guess.

The upside: Ten years ago, Tommy John surgery was nearly a death knell for a pitcher. But medical technology has made the procedure much more common and routine. Lamb has a really good chance to bounce back from this and become an even better pitcher. You could make the argument that it’s good this happened now – instead of three years from now, when the problem could have been much worse and harder to fix.

Royals lose 17 out of 25

After a promising start to the season, the Royals have dropped to fourth place in the A.L. Central after losing 17 of their last 25 games. The starting rotation is a shambles, and has been pinpointed as the biggest part of the problem.

The upside: At the beginning of this season, nobody expected this team to contend, so nobody should be surprised now that they’re struggling. And as for that starting rotation – yes, Luke Hochevar’s struggles are troubling, but did we really expect Sean O’Sullivan and Kyle Davies to pitch well?

Ned Yost goes crazy

The struggle: This may be the most troubling development of all. The Royals’ manager has had a standoffish approach to the media ever since his days in Milwaukee, but he sunk to new lows last week in crazily contradictory statements. On the day before Soria’s demotion, Yost said the worst thing the team could do was remove Soria from the closer’s role. Soria was demoted the next day after another blown save. Reports came out that Soria asked to be removed from the role, but when confronted about it, Yost said he had made his decision before Soria asked to be removed. WTF?

The upside: At least he’s not this guy:

Trey Hillman

Or this guy:

Buddy Bell

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

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