Tag Archive | "Jeff Franceour"

The real life: Kansas City

Two years waiting for the All Star Game to come to Kansas City is over.  Not only is the wait over but also the game is over.  It was a great three days in Kansas City and by all accounts the city was a great host for the 83rd All Star Game.  Not only did record crowds head out to Kauffman Stadium for all of the activities but the fan base showed just how loyal that they can be to their hometown boys.  All of that being said, reality has set in and the Kansas City Royals still have just under half of their games yet to play.  It could be an interesting second half for the boys that play at the K.  An array of story-lines could occur in the next couple of months that would send the media in Kansas City stirring.

What will the Royals do in the trade market over the next few weeks is probably the biggest current question that fans and media have surrounding the organization. For the first time in a long time the Royals could be both buyers and sellers.  Selling their stock in guys like Jonathan Broxton, Jeff Franceour, and Yuniesky Betancourt.  No doubt will these three names be on the top of Dayton Moore’s list of players that other teams may need.   Broxton has shown this season that coming of of an injury he is still able to close games, even if he does give everyone watching a heart attack while doing so.   There are always a few teams looking for that closer at the deadline and with the way that the Royals bullpen is set up if Broxton is moved they have many that could step in a fill his role. Some teams have stated that they are in need of a right handed bat and the Royals have two that are expendable at this point.  Franceour, even though having what most would say is a terrible year, could still give a lineup some pop and nothing would make fans in Kansas City happier than to see room on the field made for number 1 hitting prospect Wil Myers.  Betancourt could also be a movable piece not only because over the last month he has turned in on as a run producer but also because the Royals have a plethora of serviceable second basemen that could fill right in. These guys would probably just bring prospects back but could be packaged together to get something in return that could help both this year and for the future.

The proof will be in the pudding whether the Royals truly are buyers in this years market. Tim Collins name has been thrown into the trading pool and could be a good addition to a trade that could bring more pitching to the Royals organization.  The thing that every team needs when they are buyers are numerous guys that can be plugged into a trade that could give good value to another organization.  The biggest thing that the Royals need if they are going to buy is pitching.  There are a few pitchers out there that could help this team out not only for this year but also would be able to sign here and stay on for the future.  The biggest names that the Royals could trade for would be Zach Grienke and Cole Hamels but  are they going sign here after this season woudl be the biggest question that they Royals will have to ponder when making a buyers trade.  One pitcher that would seem to fit nicely in the Royals staff and on that would have no problem signing here would be Milwaukee Brewers starter Shaun Marcum.  A local guy from Excelsior Springs that would love nothing more than to be able to come home and pitch for a team that I am sure he grew up watching.   The things that this deal and a future contract for Marcum could do for the team is show other free agents of the future that they Royals are willing to pay.  If they truly want to win they are going to have to pay at least two top starters to come to Kansas City and then fill in the other slots in the rotation with guys that they either already have or are developing.

The Royals have a lot of work to do over the next couple of weeks.  They could sell some guys to continue to build the minor league system and they could buy players with prospects that they already have in the system that could help with the big league club now and in the future.  General Manager Dayton Moore will have to prove to fans that he is able to go out and get a guy to help the team because his trade for Jonathan Sanchez last winter seems to continue to haunt fans as Melky Cabrera cam back to Kansas City and was named the All Star Game MVP.  Do the knives in the backs of Royals fans ever stop?

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Will the Royals be buyers, sellers, or window shoppers?

So far, 2012 is a disappointing season for the Kansas City Royals. Marred by injuries, a mediocre at best starting rotation and the sophomore slump of first baseman Eric Hosmer, the Royals are 37-47 and 9.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox. In an uphill struggle, the Royals are stuck in neutral and rolling back down the hill.

The Royals are getting outfielder Lorenzo Cain and infielder Chris Getz back from the disabled list. But Cain and Getz will not provide the dramatic turnaround the team needs to contend in a weak American League Central. What the Royals need is to get players via trades. But how the Royals play the next couple of weeks will determine if the Royals are buyers, sellers or window shoppers.

Buyers: If the Royals go 2-8 in the next ten games like they did in the previous ten games, they won’t be buyers until the off-season. And unless General Dayton Moore is willing to give up top prospects for starting pitching, the Royals won’t be buyers. Yes, it would be nice to think the Royals would have a chance with a Matt Garza, Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. But at 9.5 games out and Moore’s aversion to trading prized prospects, this is a pipe dream. And would Moore trade for a front-line starter even if the Royals were in a tight A.L. Central race? I get the feeling he would say “trust the process,” and stand pat.

If the Royals go on a 8-2 run and play well the rest of the month, they might go for a Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Vargas. But it’s likely the Royals will wait until the off-season to get a starting pitcher through free agency or a trade.

Sellers: This is the likely scenario for the Royals, a path the team has traveled too many times. The trade rumors for closer Jonathan Broxton are warming up and the trade rumors of outfielder Jeff Franceour will intensify as the trade deadline approaches.

In Broxton’s case, teams like the New York Mets need bullpen help and he might fit the bill. I wonder if the Mets would trade starter R.A. Dickey straight up Broxton? It’s doubtful, but it would be cool for the Royals to have a Dickey on the team. If the Mets aren’t interested, perhaps another team will show interest in Broxton.

Another player likely to be traded is Franceour, but don’t underestimate the love Moore has for Frenchy. Franceour’s defense is above average, but his offense has slipped from his numbers last year. And if you think we’re getting top tier prospects for Franceour, keep dreaming. But some low to mid-level prospects or a league replacement level player or two would be a fair trade.

Last month, I wrote an argument for keeping Franceour. But Wil Myers is close to Major League ready and if some other general manager gets the love jones Moore has for Franceour and gives up good players, the Royals have to trade him.

Then there’s outside trade candidates like infielder Yuni Betanourt and starter Bruce Chen. Yes, I said Yuni. Offensively, he had a great June and if Betancourt keeps it up, some team desperate for a utility infielder with some pop might be willing to trade. If that’s the case, Yuni needs to go.

As for Chen, he’s a dependable pitcher who can help out a contending team. The Royals shouldn’t give Chen away, but if the team can get some value, he needs to be traded. Chen’s exit would make way for Jake Odorizzi to join the Royals rotation and get a jump on 2013.

Window shoppers: This is an unlikely scenario, but it’s possible. The Royals wouldn’t get anyone in a trade and keep Broxton, Franceour, Chen and Betancourt. The team would shuttle starters like Nathan Adcock and Everett Teaford back and forth between Kansas City and Omaha. They might call up Myers and Odorizzi and whomever they replace will go to the bench, to AAA Omaha or be designated for assignment.

This scenario could happen if the Royals keep playing like they are or if the team doesn’t get the players they want via trades. They would play out the season and wait for 2013.

The reality is the second half of the 2012 season is shaping up like the second half of previous seasons. Middling to mediocre baseball, young players finding or losing their way in the Majors and a few bright spots in an otherwise dull campaign.

Will this ever change? I hope it does. I was heartened by the cheers fans gave Billy Butler during the All-Star Game. And when fans booed Yankees infielder Robinson Cano for not including Butler in the Home Run Derby, it showed fans still care for the Royals and they desperately want the team to win. Let’s hope the enthusiasm the fans had for Butler will carry over to the rest of the team. But the Royals have to play better baseball if they want to salvage the 2012 season.

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Turn the seat warmers on

Coming off of an opening weekend trip at an even .500, the Kansas City Royals have not played up to par in the first homestand of the year.  It seems that the two biggest parts of baseball, hitting and pitching, have not been able to be in sync at Kauffman Stadium.  When they have scored runs the pitchers have given up more, and when the pitchers have given the team a great chance to win the hitters have not produced enough runs.  A cliche in this day in age of sports is that when the team is winning it is the players and when they are losing everyone wants to blame the coach.  While this is a falacy in many cases it is started to look like it is ocming to fruition in Kansas City.  Yes, some of the players are to be blamed with the lack of production but even when the Royals seem to be in a game that they could win, a decision or two have been made that shape the rest of the game towards the negative side of the box score.

While I do believe Royals manager, Ned Yost, is great for a young team and is good at getting the team to like him, as he has been known as a players manager, he seems to have trouble with the in-game management that is needed to be successful in the Major Leagues. In the first six games at Kauffman Stadium he has made some decisions with both the bullpen and pinch hitting/running late in games that have seemed to turn the tide of the game in the visitors favor.

To start off the homestand Yost changed up the lineup a lot by taking Alex Gordon out of the leadoff spot, a position that led him to a career year last season, putting Jeff Franceour in the two hole, a position that was baffling to most fans and maybe even Franchy himself, and leading off Jarrod Dyson whom had just been called up from AAA Omaha after the Royals placed Lorenzo Cain on the 15-Day Disable List.  Now, lets disect this decision first. One why would you mess with a guy who has seemed to have success at the leadoff position while he has had that role.  Gordon did and has started the year off on a slow note but why mess with the guys head even more.  If he is having struggles with the bat why move him around to a position in the order that he is not familiar with nor has been in for over a year and a half.  After that, why would you have Franceour in the two hole.  The two spot in the lineup is supposed to be the guy who has some speed and can handle the bat well to move the leadoff hitter over.  Francouer has shown throughout his career that he is a free swinging righty who may not be able to place a hit to the opposite field to move runners over.  Now to move runners over they have to be on base and Jarrod Dyson is still yet to prove that he can hit at this level so neither him leading off, and not getting on, nor batting Franceour right behind him, to move someone over that is not there.  This little experiment did not pay off for Yost and the Royals as he came to his senses and re-ordered the lineup for Sunday’s ballgame against the Cleveland Indians. I believe that Yost is looking to far into the righty vs. righty an lefty vs. lefty matchups.  Some hitters may have more success at the plate while facing an arm opposite of their side of the plate but by the time guys get to the Majors they have faced their share of both left and right handed pitching and should be able to swing the bat against an array of pitching arms.

The next thing that Yost has seemed to have trouble with is managing his bullpen.  Now I do not know if this is Yost making all of the decisions or if pitching coach, Dave Eiland, is making the calls but the way that the bullpen, that was supposed to be the strenght of this ball club, has been run.  In last Saturday’s game against the Indians, the Royals found themselves in a seven run hole that they eventually dug their way out of tying the game on an eighth inning homerun by Yuniesky Betancourt.  But it is not the way that the Royals came back that is suspect it is the way the pitching was handled.  After Jonathan Sanchez threw his stellar two plus innings, Tim Collins came in and was allowed to give up four more runs.  Now if your starter gives up five runs and then you bring in a pitcher and you see him give up four runs where does the line end.  Collins should never have been allowed to stay in as long as he did.  But that is still not the issue I have with Saturday’s game.  Kevlin Herrera pitched a scoreless sixth inning while only throwing 11 pitches.  Then he gets pulled for Jose Mijares who yes pitched a scoreless inning as well but Herrera had great stuff but was pulled because the left handed match ups that Mijares would have in the seventh were more favored.  In both the eighth and ninth innings of the game, Aaron Crow and Jonathan Broxton pitched scoreless innings while only throwing ten pitches each.  My problem with the fact that three of the Royals hardest throwing arms were only allowed to throw ten pitches a piece is because in the post game press conference Yost said that he wanted to save the arms for tomorrow.  One, this team needs to worry about winning the game at hand and not about tomorrow’s game, and two, the only reliever from Saturday to pitch on Sunday was Jose Mijares.  Now, none of the three, Herrera, Crow, or Broxton, needed to be saved for Sunday obviously because they did not pitch on Sunday.  Yet, they had so many arms saved in the bullpen from Saturday’s game that they needed back up outfielder Mitch Maier to pitch on Sunday.  That is just not smart baseball and it is not owning up to things that have been said.

All fans have heard over the course of Spring Training and the early part of the season is how this team is going to take it one game at a time and try to win every ball game, but when you have decisions like the examples being mentions made winning will become scarce for the 2012 Kansas City Royals.  Right now it seems to not being their time but it may be “Our Time” to start looking for a new skipper on the top step of the first base dugout.

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2012 Key Player: Le quartier français

A cannon of an arm from right field, electric power from the right side of the plate, and a veteran leader in the clubhouse, Kansas City Royals right fielder, Jeff Franceour, is without a doubt a huge component for the Royals in 2012.  Coming off of a couple of less than average years, the Royals took a chance on Franceour last season.  A chance that seemed to pay off for both him and his ball club.  Not only did the Royals get a sound outfielder but also a consistent bat that has the ability to get hot and drive in a lot of runs in a short period of time. Franceour also showed the Royals enough for them to sign him to a contract extension to become the present and future part of a very strong outfield.

Over his career Franceour has shown that he has all of the tools to be a very good hitter.  Though his statistics throughout his career have been up and down he is one of those players that will not get cheated on pitches.  He swings for interstate 70 and shows pitchers that he is not afraid to take a good rip at a pitch that they are just willing to put in the zone.  On the other hand, this kind of mentality has hurt hi, at the plate because of his over 100 strikeouts per season on average throughout his career.  So, at the plate with Franceour what you see is what you get.  A lot of pop at times and a lot of misses at times.  But it is the times that he does connect that he needs to bring up to be a key player for the Royals offensively this season.

Not much has to be said about how he plays out in right field.  he is as solid as they come when it comes to being able to get to balls, reading the plays and knowing where to throw the ball, and then throwing that ball on a line to whomever the receiver is.  In his seven seasons in Major League baseball Franceour has averages just under 14 outfield assists per season.  This is a stat that throughout his career may be his most consistent stat.  The guy just has a knack for cutting down runners on the bases. He did flash a little bit with the leather last season but it was his arm that had and has everyone excited for future years for him in Kansas City.

The biggest part that Francouer will play for the Royals in both 2012 and future years is his experience.  Though he is still considered young by many accounts he has been through it all.  He was a highly sought after draft pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2002, where he and Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager, first began their relationship. Then he became one of the top prospects in the game along with then Royals third basemen Alex Gordon. Both of whom have gone through the struggles of being a young and upcoming ballplayer but seem to be turning it around just in time for a big push the Royals seem to be making.  After Atlanta, he signed the huge deal with the New York Mets and fell of the face of the Earth a little bit.  His most important experience, which will be essential to the Royals success now and in the future, is when he was traded to the Texas Ranger and was able to get experience in not only postseason play but also in the World Series.  These experiences all add up to being the clubhouse leader for this ball club.  He will be able to help with the highly touted prospects in the Royals system of which he used to be.  And also when the Royals are able to take that next step into October and November he will be able to calm guys down and show them how to be a a postseason player.

So all this being said, at the plate he may not be the best guy at his position but his consistency is key for both him and the Royals this season.  He needs to continue with his hose of an arm out in right field which he has not lacked his entire career.  But he needs to be the guy in the clubhouse.  He needs to be the guy to step up when the team in hot and also when they are losing.  He has solidified right field at Kauffman Stadium as “The French Quarter” but what else will he conquer as the Royals make their run towards championship seasons in the future.

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Line ‘Em Up

With Spring Training looming in the curtains, the stage of the 2012 season is soon going to be a reality. The Kansas City Royals, although some being young and still inexperienced, have solidified a pretty easy realization of who will be playing on the field this coming summer.

Having a few newer faces in the dugout to choose from manager Ned Yost will have a bevy of options for a line-up on opening day. With veterans like, left-fielder Alex Gordon, right-fielder Jeff Franceour, and designated hitter Billy Butler, Yost will have players to build a full Major League line-up around.

A projected line-up for opening day may go as follows:

1. Alex Gordon -Left Field
While having a career year last season, Gordon stamped his name into the leadoff hitter for Royals of present and hopefully, with a long-term contract, teams of the future. His switch to left field and leadoff hitter took the pressure off and the nerves went away.

2. Johnny Giavotella -Second Base
Having started his rookie season off slow, Giavotella gradually became a better hitter although his defense still needs to be improved. With his swing he can become someone who hits, with some power, but more importantly a hitter whom can move people into scoring positions for the heavier bats in the line-up.

3. Eric Hosmer -First Base
Not much needs to be said about Hosmer. He going to hit, he is going to hit with power and he is going to play acceptional first base for the Royals. Fans have not yet seen what this man can accomplish but in years to come the ceiling is through the roof and into the clouds.

4. Billy Butler -Designated Hitter
Butler has proven to fans across Kansas City that he can hit for average and has double power. This season may be a little different with Butler though, while foreseeable future has him cutting his average down but hitting with more power. Also, batting behind Hosmer allows him to still hit the doubles in the gaps and drive in people with more speed unlike batting him in front of Hosmer and only getting to third base on a double.

5. Jeff Francoeur -Right Field
Franceour is going to give you his all everyday. As long as he keeps the average around .270 with average power he will stick around in this position in the line-up. With his defensive abilities having him out of the line-up is just not an option for long stints of time.

6. Mike Moustakas -Third Base
Having to fill the George Brett shoes will still be on the mind of this young Royal but with the displays that he has shown at every level, fans should expect nothing more than for him to continue hitting the way he did at the end of the 2011 season. If he does continue this his spot in the line-up will be beneficial for the amount of wins this team earns in 2012.

7. Salvador Perez -Catcher
Arguably one of the best defensive catchers in the Major Leagues, Perez will be given some slack of his bat which by all accounts will not live up to the accomplishments of last season. But if they do, everyone better watch out because this young player may be getting national recognition soon.

8. Alcides Escobar -Shortstop
What you see is what you get. Outstanding defense and a below average bat. If he continues to focus on hitting the ball to the opposite field then he will be able to become an average hitter. What Escobar lacks with the bat, he makes up for tenfold with his glove.

9. Lorenzo Cain-Center Field
Not many have seen or even know what Cain is about. From the Brewers to the Royals was a quick transition of which he hit for power, stole bases and ran down just about every ball in the outfield. Hitters will have to just thread the needle to get it passed this speedy center fielder.

The Royals need two things in their line-up. They need the continued effort of verteran hitters and they need the young guns to step up and get runs on the board. If this happens then the success of the Royals sits on the hands of this pitching staff. Which we all know is as up in the air as a Boeing 747.

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Lost In Right Field

The sun has finally set on the Chiefs horrendous up and down season. The countdown to the Major League Baseball season can finally begin. Well at least for those of us in Kansas City. Now let’s turn our focus to the Royals. This week baseball fans saw reports from Buster Olney ranking the ten best of everything. Our Kansas City Royas came in number 9 in his outfield rankings. This gave me the idea to compare American League Central teams position by position for the next 10 weeks until Spring Training is upon us. Obviously, if something important happens with the Royals organization, I will be sure to address it. This week, I thought I would begin by examining the right fielders. The following statistics will give us a view of each player’s 2011 season.

Team Player Avg. OBP SLG OPS H 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Chi Dayan Viciedo .255 .327 .314 .641 26 3 0 1 6 1
Cle Shin-Soo Choo .259 .344 .390 .733 81 11 3 8 36 12
Det Brennan Boesch .283 .341 .458 .799 121 25 1 16 54 5
KC Jeff Francoeur .285 .329 .476 .805 171 47 4 20 87 22
Min Josh Willingham .246 .332 .477 .810 120 26 0 29 98 4

The Chicago White Sox have been extremely active this week, including trading perennial All Star right fielder Carlos Quentin. This leaves a relative unknown in right field for the White Sox Dayan Viciedo. Throughout the minor leagues Dayan has been a consistent offensive player. In 3 minor league seasons Dayan hit for an average .284 with 52 total Home Runs and 203 RBI’s. With Viciedo, the Tigers can only wait and see what type of player he will be in the major leagues. It was a big gamble to trade Carlos Quentin, but it could be an advantage for the other AL Central teams.

The Cleveland Indians have been relatively quiet all off season. The Indians have arguably the best and most consistent right fielder in the division. Shin-Soo Choo. 2011 was a down season for Choo. He battled injuries the entire season. If Choo can return to form of the previous 3 seasons where he hit over .300 and averaged 18 HR’s and 80 RBI’s he will be a force to reckon with.

The Detroit Tigers currently list Brennan Boesch as their starting right fielder on their official depth chart. Boesch has played consistently over the past two years. Boesch is still a relatively unkown player. He has produced roughly the same power numbers during his two major league seasons. In 2010 he hit 26 doubles and 14 HR’s with 67 RBI’s in 133 games. You can see above his 2011 numbers have shown growth in OBP and Slg. If Boesch continues to grow as a hitter and improve his batting average the Detroit offense will only be that much better than they already are.

The Kansas City Royals will start Jeff Franceour in right field. After signing Jeff to a 2 year extension during last season, Royals fans can only hope Jeff’s production remains close to what he produced last season. Last season’s production was well beyond expectations in my opinion. Jeff is still a free swinger and does not take a walk as you can see from his OBP. This is a stat that really scares me. If Jeff’s BABIP decreases he could experience a significant decrease in average and OBP.

That brings us to the Minnesota Twins. The Twins acquired Josh Willingham this offseason. Josh will provide the Twins with a significant power bat in the middle of the order. Josh has consistently been a 20+ home run hitter. He will provide protection to Mauer and Morneau. As with a lot of power hitters though, Josh has a tendency to strike out. Josh will not hit for a high average, but will provide that worry to opposing pitchers that he could strike with the long ball.

Now that all right fielders have briefly been discussed, I will rank them from 1 to 5 in my point of view as to how their overall production for the 2012 season will stack up.

  1. Shin-Soo Choo
  2. Jeff Franceour
  3. Brennan Boesch
  4. Josh Willingham
  5. Dayan Viciedo

In my opinion, Shin-Soo Choo will regain his form previous seasons and be a big contributor to the Cleveland offense. I believe Jeff Franceour will take a step backwards, but will still provide the Royals a solid bat in the middle of their lineup. Boesch could have a breakout season and prove me wrong for putting him third. Willingham will provide power but will not consistently hit for average so he ranks fourth. Vicideo, really is an unkown and we will have to see what he can do.

For the Royals sake, lets root for Frenchy to continue to produce close to the level he did last season and provide veteran leadership in the middle of a young lineup.

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2011 Royals’ Awards

Another year is in the books for the Kansas City Royals.

They had ups and downs, highs and lows, and many, many growing pains.

2011 was judged a success from many within the organization, and more outside of the organization. Having a record of 71-91 isn’t normally looked at as a good thing. However, the progress made by the young players on this squad is more than anyone could have hoped for at the beginning of the year.

With that being said, it’s time to hand out some awards:

Best Player
The award for Best Player isn’t an easy one to give out for the 2011 Royals. Several players had stellar seasons, especially the top 5 hitters in the Royals lineup (Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and Jeff Franceour). Each of those players had at least 18 Homeruns, 78 RBI’s, a .285 average, and a .799 On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS). With the exception of Hosmer, who was called up a month into the season, they all had at least 44 doubles.

At the end of the day, I have to give the award to Alex Gordon. He said he was going to “dominate” after the 2010 season, and he did not disappoint.

Gordon put up career highs in HR’s (23), Doubles (45), RBI’s (87), Runs Scored (101), and Batting Average (.303). He did all of this from the leadoff position for most of the year, which was a brand new spot for him in the batting order.

Not only did Gordon have a career year with his bat, he also got it done with his glove. This was the first full season of playing Left Field for Gordon in his career, but you would have never known with how smoothly he did it.

He recorded an MLB-best 20 outfield assists, which also set the Royals’ franchise record. He only committed 3 errors all season and his .991 fielding percentage was tops for American League Left Fielders.

Overall, Gordon’s numbers on both offense and defense were too much to ignore when selecting the Royals’ Best Player. He should also be considered for a Gold Glove this year and perhaps the A.L. Comeback Player of the year.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Hosmer 3)Butler 4)Cabrera 5)Francoeur

Best Pitcher
A lot of people will surely disagree with my choice for the Best Pitcher on the 2011 Royals: Luke Hochevar.

Of course, Bruce Chen was the fan favorite and had the Royals’ best win total (12) and ERA (3.77) among starting pitchers. He also battled injuries early in the season. Joakim Soria had a decent year notching 28 but he also had 7 blown saves. Aaron Crow was the Royals’ representative at the All-Star Game, but faded after the break. Greg Holland turned out to be the best bullpen arm and was the guy who the Royals used as their “fireman” throughout the season. However, I had to go with Hochevar for a couple different reasons.

Hochevar’s numbers weren’t anything special, but his Post-All Star Break numbers showed that he finally figured something out. He improved greatly throughout the season and gave Royals fans a look at a good Number 3 (maybe a Number 2) starter in the rotation.

Before the break, Hochevar went 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA. After the break, he was 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA. His numbers in all aspects were much better after the break and he rarely had the “big inning” that fans were accustomed to seeing at the beginning of the year. Also, he lasted 6 innings or more 11 times in his 12 starts post-break.

When Ned Yost gave Hochevar the ball for Opening Day, he showed a ton of confidence in the 27-(now 28)-year-old. He wanted Hoch to be the leader of the rotation and, in my mind, he was for the entire year. If you wanted somebody to give you the absolute best chance to win, with the best “stuff,” it had to be Hochevar.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Chen 3)Holland 4)Felipe Paulino 5)Soria

Rookie of the Year
I’m going to go ahead and rename this one as “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.” Obviously, Hosmer wins this award for the Royals. Hands-down. No vote needed. He is one of the top candidates to win A.L. Rookie of the year, and should in the minds of every Royals fan out there.

Hosmer’s final numbers look like this: 19 HR’s, 27 Doubles, 78 RBI’s, 66 Runs Scored, 11 Stolen Bases, .293 Batting Average, and .799 (OPS).

Stud. Absolute stud. Everybody knows about him and how good he his, so let’s get to the “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.”

For this award, I have to go with Greg Holland.

There were a lot of good choices for this award just like all the others. Mike Moustakas’ last couple months were what fans were ready to see when he was called up in early June. His power finally came around in the last month of the season, but it wasn’t quite enough to give him this award.

Aaron Crow’s ridiculous start to the season was overshadowed by his struggles after the All-Star break. Tim Collins and Louis Coleman were good, but inconsistent throughout the season. Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez made an instant impact when they were called up, but they didn’t play enough to solidify themselves as candidates for this award. (Although Perez’s offense and defense were much better than expected).

In the end, it had to be Greg Holland. If there was one pitcher you had to pick to get one out this year, it would have to be Holland. When any other young bullpen arm would come into the game, most fans had to be at least a little nervous that run might be given up. Not with Holland. I felt more comfortable every time he was on the mound than any other reliever.

He finished with a 1.80 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. If he can keep this up next year, he could become an even more important of the pitching staff.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Moustakas 3)Crow 4)Perez 5)Giavotella

Play of the Year

Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur. Right?

When you think of the Royals’ top plays this year, you think of Francoeur. His cannon of an arm was second to none in the Majors this year.

However, with all of Frenchy’s awesome defensive plays, Alcides Escobar has been greatly overshadowed. Maybe it’s because we were spoiled all year by Escobar’s unreal defensive prowess. Maybe it’s because of Frenchy’s constant smile that makes him look like a 10-year-old playing in Little League.

Those two guys would be the main attraction in the Royals Top 10 plays of the year.

For the best of the best, I have to give this award to FrencHy Gunning down Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers at 3rd base on August 7th. On this play,l Francoeur had to run to his left, field a base hit, square up his body towards 3rd and make the throw. He did all of those things and the throw was on a line right to Mike Moustakas’ glove. The Royals were up 4 to 3 and instead of having runners at 1st and 3rd with one out, the Tigers then had a runner at 1st with two outs. Unreal.

Honorable Mentions:

2)Alcides Escobar’s diving stop and throw on former Royal Alberto Callaspo on June 1st. Escobar robbed Callaspo with a dive deep in the hole between 3rd and short. He got up, made the throw, and Hosmer made an incredible scoop on a double hop. The score was 0-0 in the top of the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded.

3)Francoeur makes the rare 9-3 putout against the A’s on September 7th.

4)Francoeur robs Dustin Ackley of a homerun on September 9th. Frenchy climbed the wall, and made the catch with his back towards homeplate.

5)Giavotella to Escobar to Hosmer for the double play against the A’s on September 5th. Gio dove to his left, caught the ball on one hop, threw it to Escobar who caught it bare handed, and made the throw to hosmer for the 4-6-3 double play.

Game of the Year
Again, there are a ton of choices for this award. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like the Royals’ first 20 wins came on walk-offs. During the middle of the year, the team was struggling but still fighting back to win games. At the end of the year, the Royals had their 2012 lineup in full effect and showed flashes of greatness.

My Game of the Year Award goes to Royals vs. Rays on July 23rd 2011.

The Royals fought back from a 2-0 and 4-2 deficit to win the game 5-4 in 10 innings.

This game was Mike Moustakas’ breakout game as he went 2-3 with a double and 3 of the Royals’ 5 RBI’s.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, the Royals were facing Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth pitched for the Royals the previous two years and was not loved by fans, to say the least. Down to their last out, the Royals had Alex Gordon coming up to the plate with Alcides Escobar on 1st. Gordon doubled to deep right center to score Escobar and hand Farnsworth his 4th blown save. It was really nice for fans to watch Farnsworth melt down like he did so many times for the Royals.

Then came the top of the 10th. Aaron Crow came in, walked two batters, and was pulled from the game. Soria came in and gave up a single to load the bases. With no outs, everyone in Kauffman Stadium was nervous about what would happen next.

Soria, who was shaky all season, got a comebacker and two strikeouts to get out of the jam. The score was still 4-4 going into the bottom of the 10th.

With Mike Aviles on first base, Eric Hosmer smacked a double to deep left center. Aviles got on his horse and scored all the way from first.

This game was the game of the year because of:

A)Rallying back from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits

B)Alex Gordon with the game-tying double with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against Kyle Farnsworth

C)Soria getting out of a no-out bases-loaded jam

D)Hosmer with the walk-off double in extras

Honorable Mentions:

2) Royals 2, Angels 0 June 1st

Butler with a walk-off HR, Escobar saves the game with his glove in the 8th

3) Royals 7, White Sox 6 September 16th

Bullpen blows 3-run lead, Hosmer walk-off double

4) Royals 2, Twins 1 July 15th

Hosmer game-winning 2-run HR in the top of the 9th

5) Royals 3, Red Sox 1 (F/14) July 25th

Great pitching all night from 6 Royals pitchers, Mike Aviles with the botched squeeze bunt over Adrian Gonzalez’s head to score Hosmer in the 14th

That does it for this year’s awards. Each one of these was difficult to pick and an argument can be made for each pick.

The best thing about these awards is that there were so many great players, plays, and games this year. In past years, awards would be much easier to hand out because of the lack of talent and passion that has plagued the Royals before.

2011 was the start to a new era in Royals baseball. The entire organization has taken a step forward so look forward to next year’s awards being even tougher to pick.

Please share your thoughts and let us know who your awards would go to.

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What If?

Something’s been bothering me about these 2011 Kansas City Royals.

Yes, everyone knows the organization has quite possibly the best farm system in the history of baseball. And everyone knows in two or three years that should translate to a fine big-league team.

Everyone also knows that by all indications, the Royals are gonna suck in 2011.

Even I have espoused this view, and I’ve even gone so far as to say that I’d be disappointed if the Royals lost fewer than 100 games.

But here’s the thing – in the pit of my stomach, I have a strange feeling that the 2011 Kansas City Royals are going to be good.

And I’m not talking about compared-to-the-last-five-seasons good. I’m talking about competing-for-the-AL-Central-title good.

Keep in mind, I didn’t say I have a good feeling about it.

Not to play a game of what-if, but…

What if Billy Butler competes for a batting title this season?

What if Kila Ka’aihue, Jeff Franceour and Alex Gordon hit 25 home runs apiece and provide the middle-of-the-order threat the Royals have been lacking since… well, since the beginning of the team’s existence?

What if Alcides Escobar and Melky Cabrera reach their long-lost potential and solidify the front of the lineup, while shoring up the defense up the middle?

What if Jeff Francis wins 18 games, Bruce Chen wins 15 and Kyle Davies wins 12?

What if Luke Hochevar becomes an ace?

What if Mike Aviles truly breaks out this year, stays healthy and owns the leadoff spot?

And what if Mike Moustakas comes up at mid-season and plays like a rookie-of-the-year candidate?

All of these things could happen. Some of them probably will happen. If more than half of them do, there’s no reason the Royals can’t compete THIS SEASON.

Honestly, the Royals probably will live up to the hype this season and finish at or near the bottom of the AL Central. But I’ll be rooting for them to win every single game.

Of course, competing this season could be a bad thing. Let’s say by mid-season the Royals are hovering in second place, four games behind the Twins. The Nationals dangle a trade out there – “We’ll give you Jayson Werth! All you have to give up is Eric Hosmer, Mike Montgomery and Christian Colon.” That might help us win now. Might. And the Royals have a deep enough farm system to justify some moves down the road.

But selling out a bright future for a slim chance to win now would be disastrous to the long-term growth of this organization. Just look at what the Braves gave up in 2010 for Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth and a chance to win a division title. They lost in the playoffs, and their farm system is substantially weaker for it.

Even if the Royals are competitive this season, Dayton Moore must be careful to keep the farm system intact.

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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