As we sit at the All-Star Break, we take some time to reflect on the Kansas City Royals performance by position in the first half of the season.
There is no denying that expectations were higher for this Royals team. With this being the first year having most of the young players Royals’ fans have been hearing about starting the season with the team, it is only natural that fans expected to see production right away. Well, for the first week, things looked pretty decent. Then Johnny Broxton blew a game in Oakland and everything went to hell in a handbasket for 2 weeks. The Royals proceeded to get blown out on their home opener in front of a sold out crowd, in the second of 12 consecutive losses. Once the Royals finally snapped their losing streak, they actually began playing well. Despite several more injuries to key players, they managed to claw back to 5-6 games out of first place. Then they hit a swoon last week that puts them currently at 37-47 and 9 1/2 games out of first place in the division. How has each position performed? We will fill you in on that right now:
Starting Pitcher-C minus
People may feel like this is being too generous. But based on the injuries to guys like Duffy and Paulino, what more could you expect? Bruce Chen has regressed a little, and Luke Hochevar has been his same unreliable and inconsistent self. But Luis Mendoza has been a pleasant surprise, and guys like Vin Mazzarro, Nate Adcock, and Everett Teaford have done an ok job filling in. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Sanchez, I might be able to give this group a B minus.
Brayan Pena will always be Brayan Pena. But this year he has solidified himself as a solid clubhouse presence as well as a high quality backup catcher. He and Humberto Quintero had to start more games than the Royals would have preferred due to Salvador Perez‘s knee injury, but that’s what they’re there for. Quintero is now gone, and since Perez returned from injury, he has been a monster in every respect. It would not surprise me if the Catcher position receives an A for its final grade based on what Perez is able to contribute in the second half of the season.
First Base-D plus
Eric Hosmer now has his batting average up to .231. This is saying something, considering it doesn’t seem that long ago that he was hitting a meager .179. The Royals and their fans expected more out of Hosmer this season, as they should have. I believe he will turn it around and have a very solid 2nd half of the season.
The tandem of Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz (when he as been healthy) has certainly outpaced expectations for this year. Johnny Giovatella’s less than inspiring performance after getting called up is certainly a downer, but overall I think the Royals have gotten more offensively than they expected to out of the 2nd Base position.
Mike Moustakas has exceeded all expectations both offensively and defensively. He is currently on pace for 29 HR’s and 91 RBI. While nobody doubted he could put up numbers like this eventually, nobody expected it to come this year. On top of that, he is playing gold glove calibur defense.
Alcides Escobar is hitting .307 and slugging .410. He also has 21 doubles at the break. And is probably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Yes, we will take that.
Defensively, the trio of Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, and Jarrod Dyson has performed quite well. Offensively, however, the production coming from the 3 outfield spots is well below where it was last year and well below where anyone expected it to be this year. After a slow start, Alex Gordon has now raised his batting average to .274 with 27 doubles. However, his 5 HR’s are well off the pace of the 23 that he clubbed in 2011. His speed on the basebaths has also somehow disappeared, as he sits at 3 SB’s after swiping 17 bags last year. Jeff Francoeur has been similarly disappointing at the plate. After hitting .285 with 20 HR, 85 RBI, and 22 SB’s a season ago, he currently sits with a batting average of .251, 7 HR, 25 RBI, and just 1 SB. This is far from the kind of production they were hoping for in 2012, and is the primary reason Royals fans are clamoring for Wil Myers to replace Frenchy in RF. And the lack of production in CF is almost entirely due to the injury of Lorenzo Cain, who is scheduled to return this coming weekend. Jarrod Dyson is a nice player with a limited skillset, so he is performing about as well as one could reasonably expect him to. So once Cain comes back we should see an uptick in production from the CF position.
A lot has been asked of this bullpen and for the most part they have delivered. Even with Joakim Soria going down before the season, Jonathan Broxton has stepped up and performed admirably in the closer’s role. Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, Jose Mijares, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow have also been very reliable options out of the pen. The hope is that this group was not over-used in the first half of the season and doesn’t break down, but time will tell.
Looking at these performances, it is hard to not feel somewhat optimistic about the 2nd half of the season. With drastic increases in production expected from Catcher (Perez), Right Field (Myers), Center-Field (Cain), and the opportunity for Gordon to show improvement from the first half, the Royals could find themselves in position to make some noise in the 2nd half of 2012.