With a few exceptions the 2011 Royals campaign is going like most of us thought it would. There have been some nice surprises. The two Braves castoffs in the outfield are having produtive seasons, Alex Gordon is finally being the player we thought he should be.
The wave of prospects has finally arrived and began contributing at the Major League level. The big names of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have done as well as anyone can expect from rookies. Alcides Escobar, a key component in the Zack Greinke trade is making a good bid for a Gold Glove, and seems to have found his stroke at the plate after a woeful start. The young bullpen has shown flashes of brilliance, and had plenty of “learning opportunities”. This is all playing out as expected. No one thought the team would contend. It’s essentially still spring training.
The one thing we knew wouldn’t be nice was the starting pitching. And they have lived up to expectations. Some times to the point of being historically bad. Luke Hochaver is not an ace, and Vin Mazzaro has no business in the majors. We knew this going into the season. Although, it would be nice if they didn’t embarrass themselves.
My concern is that beyond Danny Duffy, Dayton Moore has not called up anyone else. If you look at the in-season roster moves it seems pretty clear that the front office is taking the approach: “If you’re not getting it done. You’re going down, and we’re giving the prospects a shot.”. However, when Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies went to the DL; Danny Duffy was called up to the rotation, and the other spot was filled by Nate Adcock until Felipe Paulino was acquired from Colorado, and earned himself a spot in the rotation.
On top of the big league pitching troubles the magnificent pitching prospects in the system are facing some adversity. Mike Montgomery has not built upon his success from last year and is rocking an ERA of 5.00. I saw Montgomery pitch in the Futures Game on April 3rd. I was excited at the thought he would be up with the big club this summer. That still might be the case, but it’s still troublesome to see him regress. Prospect John Lamb is going to have Tommy John surgery. Not the end of a career anymore, but a disappointing setback. Chris Dwyer is sporting an ERA of 6.12 in AA NW Arkansas. That is not good regardless of level. Jake Odorizzi, another piece in the Zack Greinke deal is having an awesome season. However, he’s still at Class A Wilmington and won’t be ready for a few years. These two and a half months have shown how fragile prospects can be.
I’m excited about the progress of the position players. However, if the front office does not find some pitching, both at the big league level and deeper in the system I fear this Youth Movement will turn into the Royals of the late 90s/ early 2000’s. All hitting, no pitching and never making a run at a play-offs. There is some talent in the system, but is there a division leader type ace among that group? I think the Royals will need more than one to contend. See 2010 San Fransisco Giants. Should the front office look at stretching some of talent in the bullpen? Can the front office trade Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, or Wilson Betimit for more pitching? That’s a lot of questions for a time when we should be close to answers. The Royals can hit home runs all they want. Until two or more pitchers can out pitch Luke Hochaver as the “ace” of this rotation the Royals aren’t going anywhere. Except from illrelevant to medicore