So, no news last week. Not surprising as baseball players and general managers also are real people with families and grandparents, too. Basically, baseball did not get any more work done last week than you did.
As such and amid some public outcry about projections for 2016, the Royals continue to have no defined answer in leftfield. We talked ever so briefly about Jose Martinez last week as a possibility. We know and love Paulo Orlando and by love, I mean we like him as a person and for some of his rather dramatic plays last year while ignoring his .269 on-base percentage and 53 strikeouts versus 5 walks. We have some faith in Jarrod Dyson versus right-handed pitchers. All of that combined still leaves the Royals with at least one big hole in the lineup and the outfield.
Let’s talk (once more, ever so briefly) about another in-house option for the outfield: Brett Eibner.
I was three paragraphs into the first draft of this article when I stumbled across John Sickels’ late summer piece on the 26 – soon to be 27 year old outfielder. Click on that link and you get the Eibner story from a guy with far more knowledge of prospects, used to be prospects and organizational filler than I.
Bottom line, Eibner had his first truly good minor league season in 2015 (i.e. one is which you did not have to use this phrase ‘the numbers don’t look great but..’) when he posted a .303/.364/.514 line in 100+ AAA games. He exhibited better pitch recognition, cut his immense strikeout rate to tolerable levels and then did all the other toolsy things he always had: hit with power, run, field and throw.
Now, as Sickels rightly points out, the PCL has spawned dozens (hundreds?) of good to great offensive seasons that never turned the player having them into a major league regular. He also accurately points out that Eibner is likely to see the average and the OBP take a real hit in the majors and characterizes Eibner as a Paulo Orlando type player with more power and less speed. I agree completely.
Brett exhibited very little in the way of a platoon split last year, hitting for more power against lefties, but generally posting similar average and on-base skills against either hand pitcher. In 2014, however, Eibner had a huge reverse split, but then in 2013 had a huge ‘normal’ platoon split. Hell, I don’t know and you don’t either.
Those projections that got many in an uproar last week? Hey folks, they are based in part on Paulo Orlando AND Jarrod Dyson getting 500 at-bats each. That is a crude assessment to be sure, but your 2016 Royals outfield is Lorenzo Cain in center, Dyson against right-handers at one corner and a whole bunch of ‘I hopes’ and ‘maybes’. Oh and those projections also factor in Omar Infante at second. As Craig tweeted, somewhat sarcastically, ‘What if the projections are right?!’
Sure, trot out the old line that the Royals had the best record in baseball with Infante playing every day at second and a combination of Alex Rios, Dyson and Orlando in right. Tell me again how the Royals won all those games while Alex Gordon was hurt and how the team would have made the playoffs without Ben Zobrist. All of that is true, but here is something else that is true.
The Kansas City Royals might have made the playoffs, but they would not have become World Series champs without Zobrist and Gordon and, quite frankly, Johnny Cueto on the roster. I don’t know about you, but I very much enjoyed winning the World Series or, going back one season, just getting to the World Series. I would like to do that again while this team still has a realistic chance (i.e. before Hosmer, Davis and company depart) and I think a good starting point might be to NOT rely on Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez and Paulo Orlando, or even to hope that Dyson can hold his own against lefties.
Alex Gordon? Again, for the hundredth time, yes please. If it is not Gordon and the reason for not getting him better not be that the best the Royals could do was 4 years and $64 million, then it needs to be someone. And that someone was not named in the paragraph immediately preceding this one.