Tag Archive | "League Games"

Elliot Johnson Acquired By Royals

SURPRISE, AZ (February 12, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals today announced that infielder/outfielder Elliot Johnson was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays as the player to be named in the December 9, 2012 trade that also sent right-handed pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals.


Johnson, who will turn 29 on March 9, was placed on the Royals 40-man roster while right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino was placed on the 60-day Disabled List effective today as he continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery.  Paulino will be eligible for reinstatement on June 1.  Johnson is expected to join the Royals Spring Training camp in Surprise, Ariz., on Thursday, February 14.

The switch-hitter played in 123 games for the Rays in 2012, batting .242 with 10 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 33 RBI and 32 runs scored.  The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder also stole 18 bases in 24 attempts playing mostly at shortstop (68 starts), but also making starts at second base and third base and appearing in the outfield.  Johnson is a career .223 hitter in 200 Major League games, all for Tampa Bay.

Johnson, born and raised in Arizona, now resides in Durham, NC, with his wife, Nicole, and their son, Blake.

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Royals Spring is in full swing in Arizona

I have to admit it’s a little easier writing about a team that’s going to be playing real games soon. I can only break down lists of spring training non-roster invitees, players who might surprise fans in spring training and profiles of the Royals coaches for so long before I run out of ideas. So let’s bring on baseball and find out what the Kansas City Royals are up to in Surprise, AZ.

The obvious top story is that former Royals outfielder Aaron Guiel is back! Ok, this may have been the top story in 2002, but the Royals Prodigal Son returned from his period of playing in Japan and is back home. Before you think General Manager Dayton Moore went all Allard Baird on Royals fans, the 39 year-old Guiel signed a minor league contract and it appears he’s there to make the transition as a future coach.

Guiel was a role player for the Royals from 2002-2006, kind of like today’s Mitch Meier. Guiel played hard and was a likable fellow among Royals fans during his tenure. So welcome back, Aaron Guiel. And who knows, he might be a fifth outfielder since Paulo Orlando was injured. Well, maybe not.

The Royals signing catcher Salvador Perez to a five-year, $7 million contract with three option years was the big news of the week. If Royals pick up all of Perez’s options and he meets all his incentives, he will make $26.75 million over eight years.

It’s a good deal for Perez and the Royals. The 21 year-old Perez gets financial stability and the Royals lock up a potential star catcher during his prime years at a good price. Even if the Royals pick up all his options, Perez will be 29 when the contract ends and has the potential for a huge free agent payday if he becomes the star catcher the Royals think he will be. It also shows players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon that the Royals are willing to spend money to keep good players, which increases the chance they sign long-term extensions.

So far there’s only been two player injuries, Brazilian outfielder Paulo Orlando and catcher Manny Pina. Paulo Orlando was diagnosed with a sports hernia during physical exams and underwent surgery last week. He’ll be out four to six weeks and this takes him out of the running as a possible reserve outfielder. It has to be disappointing for the 26 year-old Orlando, who has yet to reach the Majors. After his recovery, it’s likely he’ll get into playing shape in Arizona during extended spring training and eventually report to AA Northwest Arkansas or AAA Omaha.

The injury bug also bit catcher Manny Pina, who tore the meniscus in his right knee. Pina had surgery last weekend and he will be out for a few weeks or more. This ends Pina’s chances to make the Royals Opening Day roster, likely giving the backup catcher job to Brayan Pena. After his recovery, Pina will probably report to Omaha.

For early spring training games, Manager Ned Yost is going with a six-man rotation. This gives the starting pitchers more time between starts to work on pitches or their mechanics by throwing a live session of batting practice against minor league hitters. Yost believes the non-competitive nature of live batting practice will improve the pitchers development. The Royals will go back to a five-man rotation midway though camp to condition the starters for the regular season.

While there’s plenty of competition for spots in the starting rotation and the bullpen, the field positions are pretty much set, barring injuries. The exception is second base, where Chris Getz, 28, and Johnny Giavotella, 24, will compete for the starting job. Going in, Giavotella has the slight edge. However, Getz arrived at camp stronger and in better shape than in previous years, hitting the ball with more power, according to Yost. Giavotella is coming off from off-season hip surgery, but is at full strength for spring training.

Getz has good fielding and base running skills, but still needs work with his bat. Giavotella is good with the bat, but still needs work with his defense. To that end, Getz is working on his hitting and Giavotella is taking extra fielding practice. Both players have options remaining, so there’s a possibility one of them starts the season in Omaha, if not on the bench. It all depends on who is the better player this spring.

So far, spring training is going well for the Royals. The return of a former Royal, the signing of a cornerstone in the Royals future to a long-term contract and nobody on the team suffering a season ending injury (at least for now) is good news. Yes, there’s still question marks about who will claim the final two spots in the starting rotation and injuries can happen to anyone at any time, wrecking the best of plans. But the Royals and their fans have reasons to be optimistic.

After a couple of intrasquad games, the Royals play their first Cactus League game this Sunday against the American League Champion Texas Rangers. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just a spring training game. But it signifies the return of baseball and the start of a journey that is the Royals 2012 baseball season. A season I’m looking forward to.

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Royals Ink Four Minor League Free Agents

KANSAS CITY, MO (December 13, 2011) — The Kansas City Royals announced today that the club has signed four players to minor league contracts for the 2012 season. Non-roster invites to Major League camp will be announced at a later date.

30-year-old left-handed pitcher Francisley Bueno was 7-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 15 starts last season for Monterrey in the Mexican Summer League. Born in La Habana, Cuba, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder is currently 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in 10 contests (six starts) for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League. Bueno has made one career appearance in the big leagues, allowing two runs in 2.1 innings for the Braves on August 13, 2008.

Right-handed pitcher Juan Gutierrez, 28, posted a 5.40 ERA with no record in 20 relief appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in September. The 6-foot-3, 261-pounder is 5-10 with a 4.79 ERA in 150 career Major League outings for the Astros (2007) and Diamondbacks (2009-11). The Barcelona, Venezuela, resident served as the Arizona closer for portions of 2009 and 2010, going 24-for-28 in save opportunities. Gutierrez will continue his rehab from surgery to begin 2012.

27-year-old catcher Max Ramirez spent the entire 2011 campaign at the Triple-A level with the Cubs, Astros and Giants organizations. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, batted a combined .278 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 48 RBI in 83 games. Ramirez is a career .217 (25-for-115) hitter in 45 Major League games for the Rangers (2008, 2010). He is currently batting .224 in 40 games for Bravos de Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Outfielder Greg Golson, 26, played a majority of last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees system, hitting .263 (101-for-384) with nine doubles, seven triples, eight home runs and 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts. The 6-foot, 190-pounder from Austin, Texas, has seen Major League time in each of the past four seasons with the Phillies (2008), Rangers (2009) and Yankees (2010-11), playing all three outfield spots.

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What Should The Cardinals Do With Craig?

At one point during the World Series, Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were discussing Allen Craig’s breakout performance in the postseason, and one of them said, “He’ll be starting somewhere next season.” I remember thinking at the time: “Really? Where?”

The Cardinals have $120 million invested in left fielder, Matt Holliday, who is under contract through 2016. So he’s not going anywhere. Lance Berkman was named the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year and St. Louis rewarded him with a 1-year, $12 million contract extension to play right field (note: Berkman could move to 1st base if Albert Pujols leaves, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume #5 re-signs with St. Louis). In center field, you have Jon Jay, who quietly led the team with appearances in 159 games this season, hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. He also has the best defensive range of all the outfielders on the team, so center field is out of the question for Craig as well. Craig’s natural position (at least the one he played through the Cardinals’ minor league system) is 3rd base, but that’s monopolized by a guy you may have heard of – World Series MVP, David Freese. Tony La Russa tried playing Craig at 2nd base about a half-dozen times last season, but was quick to take him out for a defensive replacement in the middle-to-late innings. That’s mostly based on Craig’s reputation he built up in the minors as a lousy fielder (it’s why he was moved from 3rd to the outfield to begin with) and though he’s only made 1 error in over 100 big league games, he likely won’t be considered as a legitimate starter at 2nd base.

In other words: there’s no room at the inn for the Cardinals’ hottest young bat. So that brings us back to the original statement that Craig would be starting “somewhere” next season. The Cardinals know he can be an everyday player in this league, and they know that likely within the next 12 months they’ll have an open spot to play him (either in 2012 if Pujols leaves, or 2013 when the Cardinals can let go of the aging Lance Berkman). No matter what scenario plays out, the Cardinals have a very valuable commodity in Craig and they also have a decision to make: Keep him as a long-term piece of the franchise’s future… or trade him and bolster and already potent championship team in hopes of repeating in 2012.

Why They Should Keep Him
Allen Craig has enormous potential. In 200 at-bats last season (roughly 1/3 of a full-season), the 27-year-old batted .315 with 11 HRs and 40 RBIs. That, in theory, could translate to 33 HRs and 120 RBIs over a full season… which would have made him 2nd best behind Albert Pujols in HRs on the Cardinals last season and the team leader in RBIs by a wide margin.

Craig would also provide big insurance for the Cardinals should Pujols, Holliday, or Berkman go down with an injury. Those three impact players missed a combined 70 games due to injury last season, so obviously having a player like Craig ready to fill in for injured players while being one of the most dangerous pinch-hitters in the game would be a huge plus for the Red Birds.

Why They Should Trade Him
There’s really only a couple of reasons the Cardinals would consider trading him. Thanks to his clutch postseason performance and his potential we just talked about, his value is through the roof. If the Cardinals keep Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright returns to form, the team will once again be World Series contenders. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have some holes to fill. Since the outfield is pretty much in place without Craig, the team could trade him to bolster some weak spots like the middle infield or the bullpen. It’s not that the Cardinals “need” another lights-out starting pitcher with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia lined up, but it never hurts to have another great arm on the team. So that would be one reason to trade him: trade a strength to create improve a weakness.

The other reason the Cardinals might consider a trade is if they’re afraid Craig won’t pan out and be the type of hitter many think he can be. Living in Springfield, Missouri over the past 5 years has given me a chance to see the Cardinals’ AA team in person. I probably saw Allen Craig play 15-20 times over the 2 seasons he played in Springfield and I honestly never envisioned him being an impact player in the big leagues. Obviously, he’s already proven me wrong… even if he retires right now. But let’s say he doesn’t pan out. If he is a one hit wonder so to speak, his value will never be greater than it is right now. Cardinals fans might remember a pitcher by the name of Kent Bottenfield. In 1999, the journeyman pitcher had a breakout season, going 18-7 with an ERA of 3.97. Heading into the spring of 2000, the Cardinals’ starting rotation was viewed as a strong point, so the team traded Bottenfield when his value was highest and landed center fielder Jim Edmonds in a trade with the Angels. Edmonds went on to win numerous Gold Gloves with St. Louis, leading the team to 5 playoff appearances, 2 NL Pennants, and a World Series championship in 2006. Kent Bottenfield won a total of ten games the rest of his career.

As things stand right not, it appears to be in the Cardinals’ best interest to keep Allen Craig. Whether Pujols leaves or not, Craig could have a big impact once again for the Cardinals in 2012. He could platoon with Berkman, fill-in for injured players, try to learn how to play 2nd base, or just be the deadliest weapon coming off the bench in all of baseball until he finds a starting role in 2013. He’s currently the lowest paid player on the roster at $414,000… and with a pay raise still a couple years away, that makes his bat that much more valuable to the Cardinals moving forward (especially if they give Pujols a payroll-shattering deal). All things considered, it appears to Craig’s jersey would make a nice stocking-stuffer for the Cardinals fan in your life… though I’m sure Cardinals’ General Manager John Mozeliak knows that Craig’s status as perhaps the most sought after outfielder in the game is too compelling to completely ignore. It should be a very interesting offseason.

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Royals Name Dave Eiland Pitching Coach

Royals Name Dave Eiland Pitching Coach

KANSAS CITY, MO (October 25, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals today announced that the club has named Dave Eiland as the Major League Pitching Coach.

“We are delighted to have Dave join our coaching staff,” Royals General Manager Dayton Moore said. “He is an extremely talented pitching coach and a proven winner who has the ability to relate to the young pitchers who are transitioning to the Majors. He has also shown effectiveness in working with established pitchers. Ned and our entire baseball operations staff have strong convictions about Dave’s ability to make a positive difference with our pitching staff.”

Eiland (pronounced: “Island”), 45, served the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 as a special assistant to Andrew Friedman after working from 2008-2010 as the New York Yankees pitching coach, including helping the Yankees to 103 wins and a World Series title in 2009. New York pitchers combined to strike out 1,260 batters in 2009; the franchise’s second-highest total in history. Prior to his time as the Major League pitching coach, Eiland spent five seasons as the pitching coach in the Yankees minor league system as three separate levels. As a player, he appeared in 92 career Major League games, including 70 starts, over 10 seasons with the Yankees (1988-91, 1995), San Diego Padres (1992-93) and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998-2000) and compiled a 12-27 career record with a 5.74 ERA.

Eiland and his wife, Sandra, have two daughters, Nicole and Natalie, and reside in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

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Former Natural Hosmer Called Up To KC

Eric Hosmer has received the call to come to the big leagues. The following is the press release from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Former Natural Hosmer Called Up To KC
Top prospect’s big-league debut imminent

SPRINGDALE, AR – The Kansas City Royals have selected the contract of first baseman Eric Hosmer from Triple-A Omaha, meaning that the former Natural and highly-rated prospect could make his Major League debut as early as Friday.

The 21-year-old Hosmer was rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Royals’ system and the No. 8 overall prospect entering the 2011 season. Hosmer clearly accelerated his timetable by hitting .439 with a .525 on-base percentage, five doubles and three home runs in 28 games with the Storm Chasers, walking (16) as often than he struck out (16).

Drafted 3rd overall by the Royals in the June 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Hosmer joined the Naturals in July, 2010 after beginning the season with Advanced Class-A Wilmington. In 50 regular-season Texas League games, Hosmer hit .313 with 13 home runs and 35 runs batted in. Hosmer then led the Naturals with six home runs during the team’s postseason championship run.

The Royals also announced that to make room on their 25-man roster for Hosmer, former Natural Kila Ka’aihue has been optioned to Omaha. Ka’aihue has been with the Royals all season and batted .195 with two homers and six RBI’s in 23 games.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Press Release – North West Arkansas Naturals In The Community

The following is a press release concerning the Kansas City Royals Double-A affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Naturals’ players to visit Miracle League
Players to make Saturday appearance in Springdale

SPRINGDALE, AR – This Saturday players from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals will spend time with children playing baseball at the Miracle League Field in Springdale. Naturals’ players will appear and serve as “buddies” for the children from 9 AM until 11 AM for two Miracle League games.

The Miracle League Baseball program is a specially designed program for children with disabilities which allows children four years of age and up to play America’s most beloved pastime. The field includes special features such as a synthetic turf to prevent injuries, wheelchairs-accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate barriers to walkers, wheelchair bound and/or visually impaired players. Any child with a diagnosis may play, and the mission of the Miracle League is to include every child in games no matter his or her special needs.

Special rules include that every player bats once an inning, all base runners are safe. Every child scores a run before the inning is over (last one up gets a home run), youth and adult volunteers serve as “buddies” to assist the players, and each team and each player wins every game.

The Miracle League of Arkansas has been active in the Natural state for several years with events in both Central Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas. Several Major Leaguers with Arkansas ties have supported their events, including Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Cliff Lee, San Diego Padres’ pitcher Dustin Moseley, New York Yankees’ pitcher A.J. Burnett, and others.

Find out more about the Miracle League and what you can do to help by visiting www.MiracleLeagueAr.com.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Royals Can Find Inspiration in ’69 Opener

You won’t recognize many of the names in the opening day lineup of this team destined for the cellar. But opening day is always glorious, and every team begins the season tied for first. No reason the upstart Royals couldn’t shock the world.

I’m not talking about this opening day, mind you. I’m talking about THE opening day. The first game ever played by the Kansas City Royals, back on April 8, 1969.

Other debuts that year perhaps got more attention – The Brady Bunch and Sesame Street made their TV debut, Nixon debuted in the White House, and humans made their debut on the moon.

Jimi Hendrix would cap off the summer of love at Woodstock, but the Royals got it started at Memorial Stadium. I can’t quite remember it – my mom was only about two months pregnant with me at the time – but 17,688 were there to witness a victory in the first game the team ever played.

I’ve always heard that the Royals were a “model expansion team.” I don’t know what that means, but they spent the first 11 days of their existence in first place. They tumbled during the dog days of summer, but on June 1 they found themselves just four games below .500. Had any of our teams done that well in the past six or seven years, we’d have been ecstatic.

Manager Joe Gordon’s Royals took the field for the first time against the Minnesota Twins, who were no slouch. They won the AL West that year with 97 wins. Their lineup included Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew.

But April 8, 1969 belonged to the boys in blue.

Lou Piniella had played in 10 major league games prior to that day, but had never recorded a hit. But he sparked the team in its inaugural game by going 4-5 with a walk. He doubled in the team’s first ever at-bat and was driven home with a single by the next batter, Jerry Adair.

After setting the Twins down in order in the first, Royals starter Wally Bunker surrendered the teams first run on a homer by Graig Nettles.

Bunker locked horns with Twins starter Tom Hall, holding each team scoreless for the next several innings. The Twins finally broke through with two runs in the sixth. Tom Burgmeier had to come on to relieve Bunker.

The young Royals responded. They rallied for four hits and capitalized on an error. Jim Campanis and Piniella each singled in runs to chase Hall and tie the score at 3-3 after six innings.

Twins reliever Ron Perranoski and Royals reliever Dave Wickersham put out the fire. Finally in the twelfth frame, the Royals brought in Moe Drabowski, who worked a 1-2-3 inning.

The Twins sent Joe Grzenda to the mound for the twelfth, and the pitching that had been so solid finally unraveled. Joy Foy notched a one-out single. That was followed by a passed ball, an intentional walk, a wild pitch, and yet another intentional walk.

With the bases loaded and Foy just 90 feet away from victory, the Twins brought in pitcher Dick Woodson. The Royals countered by sending up pinch hitter Joe Keough.

Keough would play four partial seasons for the Royals, primarily in the outfield or at first base. But in 1969 he would hit just .187 with seven RBIs. In that clutch moment on April 8, 1969, however, he worked a single to right field to score Foy with the winning run.

Amazingly, the Royals would win again the next day by the same 4-3 score, this time going 17 innings. The hero was again Piniella, who singled in the wining run. Gordon’s team kept up their winning ways, staying above .500 until April 28.

There have been many more glorious days since, and the names of Bunker, Foy, Drabowski, and Keough have been forgotten in favor of Brett, White, Leonard, Splittorff, Saberhagen, and so many others.

But on March 31, 2011, no one will be expecting much from the Royals. The experts are already calling for another 100-loss season. Perhaps these Royals can reach back into their history and find inspiration. It’s time to write a new chapter in the team’s history, and to begin paving the way for greatness like the “model expansion team” that ruled the 1970s and 1980s.

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Royals Schedule Outlook: June

The biggest story of June could be decisions facing the club regarding whether or not to call up any of their top prospects. Rookies called up in June or after do not qualify for “super two” status, thus delaying arbitration eligibility down the line. It will be an exciting month if one or more of the heralded prospects make their debut.

Besides that, the second half of the month will be entirely inter-league with series against the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Padres.

June Breakdown:

Total Games: 27

Home: 15

Road: 12

Vs teams with winning records in 2010: 14

Vs teams with losing records in 2010: 10

Vs teams in the AL Central: 4

Inter-league games: 12

Key Series:

June 2-5 vs. Minnesota – This is the only series against an AL Central opponent all month, but it will only be a key series if the Royals have a surprising start and are having dreams of contention.

June 17-19 @ St. Louis – After hosting the Cards in May, the Royals head across the state for the second part of the 2011 I-70 series.

Key To a Hot Start:

The first nine games of the month are home games, so the Royals will have to take full advantage of home cooking.

At the end of June:

If the Royals are above .500… The Royals will have beaten up on the National League, something that is not entirely out of the question.

If the Royals are .500… They will have significantly over-achieved.

If the Royals are below .500… No one will be surprised.

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2011 Key Player: Alcides Escobar

Let’s lay off Alcides Escobar, okay people?

The 24-year-old Venezuelan-born shortstop was the key piece in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee, and within hours after the trade, Royals fans were complaining about being ripped off.

Doubtless, Alcides had a rough year in 2011. He batted only .235 over the course of 145 games, and his on-base percentage was well below .300. In 552 plate appearances, he walked only 36 times while striking out 70. He did manage to steal 10 bases.

But the expectations for this young man were so much higher. In Milwaukee, Escobar was believed to be the Second Coming of Derek Jeter. He was the prospect upon which all future hopes were pinned.

After one horrendous year, those hopes were thrown out the window, and Escobar was shipped out of town along with a few prospects to land Greinke and to rebuild what is now a fully loaded Brewers squad.

Fans have been awfully quick to write off Escobar because of his 2010 performance. But let’s be realistic: this young man has played in a grand total of 192 Major League games. One hundred ninety-two. That’s barely over a full season. He’s still extremely young, and he hasn’t yet reached his peak age, the “sweet spot” so to speak, when a ballplayer reaches his full maturity level (usually between 26 and 30).

Let’s give Escobar the benefit of the doubt.

Escobar is a lock to win the starting shortstop job in Kansas City. And that’s a good thing: defensively, Escobar is a huge upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt, who also left town in the Greinke trade (good luck with Yuni, Brewers fans!). Alcides will get a long-term chance to prove himself.

That being said… nobody in this year’s Royals lineup can assume guaranteed job security – not even Billy Butler, who is without question the best hitter on the team (and one of the most underrated hitters in the league) and the club’s first baseman, and who should feel the glut of slugging first base prospects nipping at his heels.

The shortstop position is no different, especially with 2010 first-round draft pick Christian Colon looking like a natural fit for that spot in the future.

But Alcides has a little wiggle room. Even if he repeats a lousy 2010 performance, he may have competition in Spring Training 2012, but I’m certain he’d still be the front-runner for a starting position.

At his very best, Alcides Escobar has the potential to be Jeter-like. At worst, he’s a light-hitting glove wizard. Those guys may be a dime a dozen in the world of baseball (see: Getz, Chris), but every team has at least one roaming the middle infield and anchoring the back of the lineup. Somewhere in the middle is a great fielder and an above-average hitter who can use his speed to generate runs.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

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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