If you had been asleep since March and woke up and looked at the Major League Baseball standings, you would see that the Kansas City Royals are currently sitting in 4th place with a record of 24-34, 1/2 game out of last place in the American League Central, with only the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres having fewer wins in all of Major League Baseball. And if this was all you saw, your reaction would be “same old Royals”. However, it isn’t quite that simple.
In 2011, the Royals as a team stayed remarkably healthy. No everyday position player spent any considerable amount of time on the Disabled List. Danny Duffy got shut down early, but otherwise the starting rotation stayed relatively healthy.
2012 has been an entirely different story. 2 key position players that were penciled into the starting lineup for the entire season, Catcher Salvador Perez and CF Lorenzo Cain, have been out all and most of the season respectively. Starting 2nd baseman Chris Getz has been on the DL for about a month. Closer Joakim Soria was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament in Spring Training and is out for the season with Tommy John surgery. SP Danny Duffy was diagnosed with the same a month ago and is finished for the year. SP Felipe Paulino, sandwiched around a very impressive month in the rotation, has 2 stints on the DL, the 2nd of which he is currently serving. And even though he wasn’t very good before the injury, SP Jonathan Sanchez is also serving time on the DL.
Even in their worst of nightmares, Dayton Moore and Ned Yost couldn’t have planned for this sort of contingency. 4 out of every 5 nights (Bruce Chen‘s outings being the lone exception), the Royals are bringing a knife to a gun fight with the starting pitchers they are sending out there. Of the 5 pitchers in the Royals current starting rotation (Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Vin Mazzaro, Nate Adcock, and Luis Mendoza), only Chen figures at this point to be a sure thing in next year’s rotation, and none of the 5 would figure to be in the rotation beyond next year unless something goes terribly wrong. So what are we supposed to be watching? This is basically a competition between a bunch of guys who would all figure to be 5th starters at best, to determine who is worth keeping around at AAA for an emergency spot start in 2013.
So Royals fans, it is time to quit paying attention to the standings. Things to pay attention to going forward would include:
-Eric Hosmer‘s ability to continue to break out of his extended early season slump
-Alex Gordon as he continues to recover from his slow start to the year
-Mike Moustakas as he emerges as one of the best offensive and defensive 3rd basemen in the game much earlier than anyone anticipated
-Salvador Perez as he returns from the Disabled List this week
-Alcides Escobar as he continues to establish himself as the premier defensive SS in the game
-The development of SP Jake Odorizzi as he continues to excel at AAA Omaha
-And of course, the inevitable call-up of the later “golden boy” of the organization, Wil Myers.
There are plenty of things to be excited about the rest of this Royals season. Unfortunately, contending for the playoffs is no longer one of them. Perhaps 2013 will be “Our Time”