Monday, February 7, 2011

Royals Wild Cards for 2011: #5 Wilson Betemit

This is something I did last year in the weeks leading up to Spring Training. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them. Enjoy.

Wilson Betemit burst on to the 25-man roster late last May and hit the ground running. Betemit finished the season hitting just below .300 while getting on-base at a .378 clip. Not too shabby for a guy who came to the Royals' 2010 Spring Training on a minor league deal. Betemit slugged an outstanding .511 and finished the year with a 141 OPS+.

Of course, this was only in 315 plate attempts, but that's more than a small sample size. Over 600 PAs (roughly a full season of work at the plate), Betemit would have finished with 26 HR, 86 RBIs and 66 XBH if he stayed on his pace. Fangraphs had Betemit at 1.3 WAR for 2010. That's pretty good for a half-season's work. Betemit's 74:36 K:BB ratio also shows that his numbers in 2010 weren't necessarily a fluke.

Looking ahead to 2011, it could be likely that Betemit could continue his success in Royal Blue. Betemit was the top ranked prospect in the Atlanta Braves' system (go figure) in 2001 and 2002. This is a move by Dayton Moore that has gone overlooked in my mind. Betemit has never been a full-time player in his career, but he certainly thrived when he was given the chance to play every day in 2010.

The reason Betemit is a wild card is due to the fact that he apparently has no position on this team. He filled in well as a third baseman last year, but it is obvious that the Royals are focusing on defense this year (see signing of Feliz, Pedro). Not a good thing for Betemit, who posted a rough .929 fielding percentage and a -10.4 UZR last year at the hot corner.

The Royals seem to be leaning in favor of Mike Aviles at third. It is unfortunate, as Billy Butler and Kila Ka'aihue seem to be the everyday 1B/DH combo, leaving Betemit without a position on the field.

The outfield isn't an option for Betemit either, as the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield will likely be occupied by a combination of Jeff Francouer, Melky Cabrera, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Gregor Blanco and/or Mitch Maier, who are all superior defenders than Betemit.

The problem for Betemit is not only in his defense, but also a soon-to-be crowded 25-man roster. Mike Moustakas is breathing dragon breath down Aviles and Betemit's necks at third base, and could very well kick either player to the bench come April, May or June.

The defined role for Betemit will be a player who comes off the bench in the late innings, to spell the paper thin bats of starters Chris Getz, Lucas May/Brayan Pena and Alcides Escobar. He will definitely be valuable if Butler, Aviles or Ka'aihue hit the DL early in the season. If Betemit continues to hit off the bench the way he did in 2010, then the Royals will definitely have one of the better bench power bats in the AL Central. But if Betemit wins a starting job in Surprise, then we will definitely get to see whether or not his 2010 punch will carry into 2011 and beyond.


  1. Wilson is the kind of guy you want to succeed - but I'd like him to do well enough so we can at least flip him for a decent prospect.

  2. Yes. I think Betemit will be traded before the season is over. He would be extremely valuable to an NL team.

  3. It's too bad that one of the best power bats off the bench in the Central is really one of the only strong points they've got going for them this season. I know it's all about the long-term vision, but these first few months are going to be brutal.

  4. Think of it like going on a series of horrendous dates before meeting your wife.

  5. Betemit is the perfect 13th man...for an NL team. You couldn't ask for a better pinch hitter profile: veteran, switch-hitter, power to go deep late in a game and the patience to take a walk and start a rally. Can also play all 4 infield positions, and theoretically corner outfield.
    But AL managers don't pinch hit much anymore, it seems.