The Kansas City Royals have built a team through the draft and player development, turning home grown players into Major League mainstays. Many of the accolades afforded to the players coming through the system, as well as some players acquired from elsewhere, is focused on the offensive production they have produced. Quietly the players that make up the starting eight have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball as well.
The voting for last year’s Gold Glove Awards consisted of votes cast by each manager and up to six coaches from each team. Voters were given a list of players they could vote for and were restricted from voting for anyone on their own team. When the dust settled, the Royals had four players finish in the top three of their position, more than any other team in the American League. Only the Cincinnati Reds can claim more, having six players finish in the top three at the respective positions. Beyond those four, a good case can be made for two more Royals to have received consideration.
During a recent interview with a local radio station, Royals manager Ned Yost made sure to point out the hard work and effort that third baseman Mike Moustakas had put forth in getting better defensively. Long before the remainder of the team would report for batting and fielding practice prior to a game, Yost stated that you could find the man known as “Moose” taking ground balls at third base, determined to make himself a asset to the team when in the field.
Moustakas and his counterpart across the diamond, Eric Hosmer, both finished second in American League voting results for Gold Gloves at the close of the 2012 season. The two talented infielders have represented the youth movement of this franchise for many years now and seeing them develop into strong defenders in 2012 has got to please the manager.
In addition to the corners, the Royals enjoy one of the most dynamic and talented shortstops in all of baseball. Alcides Escobar was not recognized this year for his defensive talent, but most scouts and players will tell you that he is widely respected as one of the best at his trade. His appearances on the nightly highlight reels across the country would support this claim as Escobar continues to become a large part of the Royals future success.
Behind the plate, another home grown talent patrols the field with a highly impressive arm and an ability to control the field the way most teams hope their backstop will. Salvador Perez was given a substantial contract extension last year and, while his production at the plate is impressive enough, the way he controls the field and works with his pitching staff leaves very little doubt as to why the team extended the young man who had barely seen major league service before then.
The outfield reveals another player who finished close to a Gold Glove Award and one that took home a second consecutive Gold Glove of his own. Alex Gordon has become one of the best left fielders in the game today and his counterparts rewarded him as such in 2011 and 2012. His range, arm, and ability have solidified him as an outfielder that commands a lot of respect around the league. He has quickly become known as a player that runners do not try to advance on and has established a presence that makes the fans pay close attention to any ball hit to left field. Any ball that ends up within the range of Gordon quickly becomes capable of becoming that day’s “did you see that?” play.
The opposite corner of the outfield finds a player that many fans are ready to see the team cut ties with. Offensively speaking, Jeff Francoeur is statistically speaking one of the worst players in Major League Baseball. His veteran leadership, his glove, and his arm keep him on the field every day. One of the most impressive throwing arms in recent memory, “Frenchy” routinely makes up for a lack of range with an impressive accuracy that holds runners at bay.
Six positions on the field are capable of amazing plays that everyday players can only dream of. Four of those positions were considered to be one of the best three at their position in the American League last season. The other two figure to be in that discussion for a long time coming.
While the Royals continue to find themselves offensively and with a rebuilt pitching staff, they know what they have on defense. What they have is, in fact, golden.