Friday, September 16, 2011

Focus in KC has shifted from Royals, but Royals focus on 2012 has not

Remember when the Chiefs lost to the Bills, 41-7? Yeah that sucked the life out of pretty much any and all football buzz around the sprawling metro KC area. I'll admit, I was in a sour mood from my football teams' performances in the last week. Pretty much ruined my entire Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But then something turned it all around...I watched a Royals game.

This is going to be an extremely positive post. Quite a departure for me, I know. Usually in September I'm calling for Dayton Moore to resign, swearing off the Royals forever and only paying attention to NHL hockey or the Chiefs. But I've found myself unable to detach myself from this team and its young and exciting core.

The names we see run out there every night aren't the Jai Millers and Lucas Mays of Septembers past. These are legitimate big leaguers in the making. Mike Moustakas is finally finding his power stroke. Eric Hosmer continues perhaps the best overall rookie season in club history. Johnny Giavotella showing that at times he can be perfectly adequate. But there is one rookie who stands alone as the most impressive stallion in the Royals stable of young, sexy talent.

Salvador Perez.

It's not everyday that you see a 21-year-old catcher come up and play as impressively as Perez has in his first month with the Royals. Catcher is easily the most difficult position to play on the baseball diamond and Perez has come up and done nothing but play defense at a level expected from a perennial gold glover behind the plate. But the defense is something we have heard about ever since Perez was signed out of Venezuela by the Royals five years ago. The way he has handled the bat makes his first 29 games even more promising.

In 117 plate appearances (in my mind, this is not exactly a small sample size), Perez is hitting .318/.350/.455/.805. And those numbers are coming from hits to all fields. He's showing an incredible knack to hit the ball to all fields with incredible power. I'm one of those guys who values both scouting and stats, but not in the way that Kieth Law claims he does.

Perez is going to be something special, that's for sure. I don't know if we can even call this "development". It's more akin to "immediate adjustment" than development. I don't think there is a better catcher in the big leagues at the current moment than Salvadore Perez and I'm being 100% serious.

Perez is just the tip of the iceberg concerning reasons to be encouraged by what the Royals are doing in September right now. The team is loose and refuses to go through the motions as do most teams that are 22 games under .500 at this point of the season. The Royals are currently riding their longest winning streak in two years and have outscored their opponents 24-8 in those contests.

Not to go unmentioned is the scrapwork starting rotation that has really come together in the last month of the season. Luke Hochevar has been pretty damn good since the All Star Break. (I encourage everyone to go read this piece on Royals Authority). Felipe Paulino has faltered down the stretch, but I still expect him to be a contributor to the rotation next season. And finally, Bruce Chen just absolutely refuses to turn into a pumpkin. Also, a fond farewell to our neighbor from the north, Jeff Francis, who turned in a pretty respectable season and protected us from the likes of Sean O'Sullivan and Vin Mazarro for most of the season.

But as the sun sets on 2011, the promise of 2012 is on the horizon for your Kansas City Royals. An offense that has the potential to score 800+ runs and a rotation that could possibly hold the fort well enough for the Royals to take a shot at the division crown in the ever-declining AL Central may just be enough to return Kansas City to one of the best baseball cities in these United States.

Let's just hope winter doesn't last too long.