Last Monday, we took a look at an ‘everything works out scenario’ regarding the future of the Kansas City Royals’ outfield. Our look into the future was not a fantastical journey in that we attempted to be realistic (if not rather optimistic) in what a player’s potential might be.
What we ended up with was an outfield that was pretty marginal in 2010, decent in 2011 and good, but lacking in star quality, in 2012. Today, we look at the infield.
Unlike the outfield, this group has two different futures or maybe, concurrent futures is more precise. The Royals can look at their projected 2010 infield and, rightly or wrongly, say their infield of the future is already in place. In our ‘everything goes right’ world, the Royals, for once, are right.
Whether it is first base or designated hitter, Billy Butler emerged in 2009 as a real impact bat: posting an OPS of .853 and an OPS+ of 124. His second half line of .314/.385/.540 might well be an indication of the kind of numbers Butler will put up for the better part of this new decade. Of all the ‘everything goes right’ scenarios we will play out in this series, Butler’s may be the most likely to come true.
The other corner is, of course, occupied by Alex Gordon. To date, Gordon has shown flashes of potential, but had his supposed ‘breakout season’ derailed by injury in 2009 (not to mention curious handling by the organization). The Royals have been waiting for everything to go right with Gordon since drafting him in 2005. It is still not out of the question for Gordon to ‘get it’ in 2010 and surge towards that .300/.400/.500 line everyone projected years ago.
Truthfully, the real plan of both Allard Baird and Dayton Moore has centered around Billy Butler and Alex Gordon both becoming feared bats in the middle of the Kansas City order. Should Gordon at last emerge, Kansas City will have their number three and four hitters for the next four years if not longer.
That brings up an interesting problem for the organization as their two best hitting prospects happen to also play first and third base. In our sunshine and roses scenario, Mike Moustakas becomes a big time power hitting prospect. To date, Moustakas has played a pretty bad defensive third base, so it will be interesting to see if he can stick at that position. Additionally, his body type is looking less and less like one that could make a move to a corner outfield spot.
Still, if Mike slugs 30 home runs in AA in 2010 and another 30 in AAA in 2011 (along with an on-base percentage somewhere north of .375) is it the worst thing in the world to bring him up to DH? In our everything goes right world, I see Moustakas being a Jim Thome type hitter (and probably a Jim Thome type fielder as well!) from 2012 through 2017. If we really are being optimistic, Moustakas becomes a competent third baseman and gives the Royals flexibility when free agency looms for Butler, Greinke and Gordon.
The heir apparent at the other corner is Eric Hosmer. His future is still all projection and no actual success (even Moustakas had a very nice year in 2008 to give us hope). The flip-side, of course, is that Hosmer has not played enough to truly discredit those projections, either. Given this column’s angle, we sure as heck are not going to do anything to change that.
There is a school of thought that Hosmer could play an corner outfield spot. Ideally, Hosmer becomes a power hitting on-base machine while exhibiting enough athleticism to slide into right field for the start of the 2013 season (if not sooner). What if Butler, Gordon, Moustakas AND Hosmer all reached the lofty potential that is or has been projected for them?
At best, the Royals would generate enough revenue to line those four up in the middle of their batting order and simply overwhelm other teams. Even if the revenue is not there, Kansas City would be in the enviable position of having four big time bats to play two or maybe three positions: allowing them to ship a rapidly more expensive Butler and/or Gordon off for multiple high level prospects while barely skipping a beat when it came to their own offensive firepower.
If the above is not enough, we have not even discussed the possibility of Kila Ka’aihue getting an actual chance at some point in 2010 and parlaying that into a .390 on-base percentage with some power. If not Kila, then maybe Clint Robinson, who has slugged 45 home runs in three minor league seasons, will emerge over the next season and one-half to push for playing time in the majors. Perhaps we might witness the organization’s highest profile Latin American signee, Cheslor Cuthbert, emerge at third base sooner rather than later, to enter the mix.
If ‘everything went right’, the Royals would be flush with hitters at the corners. While Kansas City has made a habit of collecting ‘bodies’ that play first, third and DH, they have not been overly successful in collecting bonafide hitters. Maybe, just maybe, the organization’s luck is about to change.
This post was originally going to encompass the middle infielders, too, but it has run on a little long today. Later this week, we will examine Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt and the rest of the potential middle infielders.