Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do's and Don'ts for Royals Contention in 2010

DO give Kila Ka'aihue a shot. He's better than any other option at DH, besides Billy Butler, in the system. I'm guessing that Jose Guillen will find his way to the DL either during Spring Training or sometime shortly thereafter. Josh Fields should be used as a back up 3B/1B/OF. This team is desperate for walks and KK's great OBP would be a welcome sight at Kauffman Stadium. Not to mention he may bring some potentially fearsome pop to the 6 or 7 spot in the lineup.

DON'T have a good April. Have a decent April. We saw it last year and the year before and in 2003, it's not how you start, but rather sustaining success and winning at the right times. The pressure to win is always surrounding a team, but being "right there" in July and August could possibly propel this team to contention status in the weak AL Central. Stay within 5-7 games of the division leader, hover above .500 through July and you are a couple of solid winning streaks away from the playoffs.

DON'T think that you can piggy back Billy Butler, Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria to .500. If this team has any shot, it won't be because these three continue success, it will be due to Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar and the bullpen putting it together this year. Any team with a handful of good players can always raise a little hell.

DO score runs when Zack Greinke pitches. Easy.

DON'T be tempted to use Kyle Farnsworth in game threatening situations.

DON'T bat Scott Podsednik or Jason Kendall in the top of the order. This is an awful idea that Trey seems to be toying with. Pods has decent numbers in the leadoff spot, but nowhere near what David DeJesus seems to offer. Podsednik is best suited for the 8th or 9th spot in the order. Kendall does not provide the OBP he used to and should no way warrant a spot in the 2-hole.

DON'T let Brayan Pena languish on the bench. He has shed quite a few pounds in the offseason and added some muscle to his frame. He may turn into an Alberto Castillo type, but maybe he turns into a Yadier Molina type as well. Give him a shot.

DO attempt to educate the front office on the broad idea of sabermetrics and advanced statistics. One of our best pitchers swears by them. Maybe Banny should have a little sit down with Dayton and Co. and explain in 4th grader terms why Yuniesky Betancourt is actually a worse option than Tony Pena Jr.

DON'T listen to Dave Owen.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Ankiel

Dayton Moore raised some eyebrows this week by saying that "there is no question that Rick Ankiel should continue to improve". Pretty bold statement considering that Ankiel is going to be 30 this season, an age at which most players can only find their best seasons in the rearview mirror. But Ankiel has impressed the most out of all the Royals players in camp so far, hitting two homers in the intrasquad game. Kevin Seitzer said that there are three players that make a sound off their bat that sounds different from others. Those three players: Bo Jackson, Billy Butler and Rick Ankiel.

But not so fast my friends, Lets not forget that while he may be 30 and his skills could be declining, he is still a player that has only been batting at a major league level (an above average level at that) for 2+ seasons. That being said, treat Ankiel like a 24 year old. He is still learning. He is the most athletic player on the roster and I highly doubt that we see him regress much over this season.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Royals 2010 Wild Cards- No. 4 Mike Aviles

Shortstop is a position that this team has struggled to fill in the last decade. There was one shining beacon of hope in 2008 when Mike Aviles finally got called up to the big leagues. We all know his story. A Baird era draftee, signed out of college in the 789,105th round. Given a bus ticket and a thousand bucks as a signing bonus and 7 years later, he was a few dozen at bats away from finishing in the top 5 in the AL batting title race while playing top notch defense at short. Last year was a disappointment for Mike. He was injured, some say mistreated by Royals' trainers and beaten up from the World Baseball Disast...I mean Classic. Some people thought that Aviles career not only as a Royal, but as a major leaguer, was over. After a Tommy John surgery and lengthy DL stint, Aviles is finally back in Royal Blue.

Still a month or two from being 100%, Aviles has impressed so far in early camp, causing some club officials to say that he is the most defensively sound infielder the Royals have on their roster. A pleasant report for a fanbase and organization that is reeling from one of the worst defensive seasons in club history. There are whispers that Yuniesky Betancourt is still playing his role of a symbiotic Terrell Owens/Tony Pena Jr.

The point is that Aviles can not get healthy quick enough. Trey Hillman has sung Aviles praises in camp and has hinted that he will most likely overtake Yuni's spot once he returns to active duty, barring a miraculous first half from Betancourt.

The hope is that Mike can return to his 2008 form. An offense that is lacking serious pop in the bottom of the order could use an injection like Aviles to boost Royals bats to mediocre status. Even if he doesn't return to form, he has proven that he can hit at the big league level and be an adequate defensive part of this team. Obviously, he probably won't reach his .325 mark, but some say he could be a consistent .300 performer and put up similar numbers to Alberto Callaspo if given regular playing time.

If he can repeat even 80% of what he did in 2008, it will help this team in more ways than one. It will take at bats away from Yuniesky Betancourt and relegate Willie Bloomquist to what he does best, utility status. It will add depth to the team and the AAA level. Once Mike returns to the 25 man roster, either Chris Getz or Betancourt will be optioned to Omaha. Getz has options remaining, but if Betancourt is the one who goes, he can decline the option, forfeit the remainder of his contract and become a free agent, where no one will offer him a big league contract, or he can accept the assignment and get his big league paycheck while trying to fix one of his alleged 5 tools. Essentially, Mike Aviles coming back, no matter how you slice it, makes this team better. Of course, there are no guarantees.

The offense needs a serious injection of power. The defense needs a steady leg in the infield to stand on. The team needs another year like 2008 from Aviles to have any shot at contention. Mike is that kind of player that every team needs, the proverbial "energy guy". I'm not saying he'll be Brooks Robinson at the plate or Buddy Biancalana in the field. But he should be better than the turd pile we ran out there during 2009. You want someone to believe in besides Zack Greinke or Billy Butler in 2010? Look no further than Mike Aviles.