There was a time, not very long ago, where we believed these two guys might well be long-term fixtures in the middle of the Royals’ batting order.  

There is an excellent chance that by the spring of 2012, Alex Gordon – like Mark Teahen before him – will be just another name from Royals’ teams long gone.   Take a good look at that picture and try to remember your feelings back in July of 2007 and keep that in mind as we embark on a little lineup evolution into the future.  In other words, take it for what it’s worth – NOT MUCH!

That said, my column yesterday about the supposed/potential logjam at first base and designated hitter got me to thinking about future lineups as a whole.   Every once in a while it is kind of fun to piece together rosters for next year, the year after, etc.    For one thing, it points out areas of weakness and strengths within the organization and for another, it is just kind of fun.

In creating these lineups, I am going to stick mainly with players already a part of the organization.  At times, I will add a free agent signing if I really think that is the direction the Royals will head (i.e. 2011 starting catcher) and while I probably will reference a trade here and there, I really will not plug any possible players that might come in return for said trade into our future lineups.   Two reasons here:  first, I don’t want to be Allard Baird and end up with Mark Teahen instead of Robinson Cano because I ‘just had to have a third baseman.’    Second, making up a slew of trades pretty much defeats the purpose of the exercise.

So, without further explanation, here is one pass at the Opening Day lineups for the next five years:

  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
C Free Agent Jason Kendall* Salvador Perez Salvador Perez Salvador Perez
1B Kila Ka’aihue Kila Ka’aihue Eric Hosmer Eric Hosmer Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler Billy Butler Kila Ka’aihue Mike Moustakas Mike Moustakas
2B Chris Getz Mike Aviles Johnny Giavotella Johnny Giavotella Christian Colon
SS Yuniesky Betancourt Yunieskey Betancourt* Christian Colon Christian Colon Michael Antonio
3B Mike Aviles Mike Moustakas Mike Moustakas Cheslor Cuthbert Cheslor Cuthbert
LF Alex Gordon Alex Gordon Paulo Orlando Whit Merrifield Whit Merrifield
CF Jarrod Dyson David Lough Bret Eibner Bret Eibner Bret Eibner
RF David DeJesus Wil Myers Wil Myers Wil Myers Wil Myers
BCH1 Lucas May Manny Pina Manny Pina Kevin David Kevin David
BCH2 Wilson Betemit Jeff Bianchi Mike Aviles Free Agent Yowill Espinal
BCH3 Gregor Blanco Gregor Blanco David Lough Lane Adams Lane Adams
           
SP1 Zack Greinke Mike Montgomery Mike Montgomery Mike Montgomery Mike Montgomery
SP2 Luke Hochevar Luke Hochevar John Lamb John Lamb John Lamb
SP3 Bruce Chen Everett Teaford Danny Duffy Danny Duffy Danny Duffy
SP4 Kyle Davies John Lamb Luke Hochevar Aaron Crow Aaron Crow
SP5 Sean O’Sullivan Will Smith Aaron Crow Will Smith Jason Adam
           
CL Joakim Soria Joakim Soria Joakim Soria Joakim Soria Joakim Soria*
RL1 Blake Wood Robinson Tejeda Tim Collins Tim Collins Tim Collins
RL2 Robinson Tejeda Tim Collins Henry Barrera Louis Coleman Patrick Keating
RL3 Gil Meche Henry Barrera Louis Coleman Patrick Keating Tyler Sample
RL4 Dusty Hughes Louis Coleman Blaine Hardy Elisau Pimental Yordano Ventura
RL5 Kanekoa Texeira Blaine Hardy Patrick Keating Tyler Sample Robinson Yambati
RL6 Tim Collins Greg Holland Brandon Sisk Yordano Ventura Kevin Chapman

With regard to 2011, I feel almost certain that Dayton Moore will go out and get a veteran free agent type to work behind the plate – probably at the expense of Brayan Pena’s roster spot.  I am not saying I agree with the approach, simply that it is likely to happen.

I don’t see the Jarrod Dyson experiment working, but imagine the Royals will (and might as well) give it a whirl.    I would also expect the bullpen to morph from Hughes and Texeira into Holland-Coleman-Hardy at some point during the season.

Speaking of mid-season 2011, as I expect trades of both Zack Greinke and David DeJesus, along with the mid-season promotion of Mike Moustakas coupled with a late season promotion of Mike Montgomery and Everett Teaford.

Onto 2012….  You will see that I have both Jason Kendall and Yuniesky Betancourt in the Opening Day lineup.  I apologize in advance for this, but can really see it happening.   Behind the plate, I don’t believe that Lucas May or Manny Pina are true everyday catchers and Salvador Perez won’t be ready, plus you know our GM’s affinity for grit.   As for Betancourt, it will cost $2 million to buy him out and $6 million to keep him.   I don’t believe Christian Colon will be ready for the majors, Jeff Bianchi will be impressive enough to warrant the Opening Day job and the world as we know it would apparently end if Mike Aviles got to  play there.  Hence: Betancourt.

As you will also note, I am going to believe/pretend that Kila Ka’aihue hits enough to stay in the majors.    Making that assumption, I predict a mid-season trade of Billy Butler to open up room for Eric Hosmer.

Now, if The Process is really working, 2013 is the year.   I think Johnny Giavotella will get a look in the middle of 2012, so he won’t be a true rookie come April 2013.    I also am proposing that the club will have tired of Alex Gordon once and for all (and I say that with a great deal of remorse) at some point in 2012 as well.  I have inserted Paulo Orlando in that spot (again not as a true rookie due to a mid-2012 callup), but it could be any number of okay, but not great prospects.   You will also note the debuts of Bret Eibner in center, Christian Colon at short and Salvador Perez behind the plate.

Can Colon stick at shortstop?   Most people outside the organization say ‘no’.   I don’t disagree with them, but that is the only name to put in there in 2013 other than leaving it blank.   Looking for a type of player to get back in a Greinke/DeJesus/Butler trade?   Maybe a shortstop wouldn’t hurt…and a centerfielder.

When it comes to the rotation, you are probably wondering where in the heck Chris Dwyer is.   Just by the nature of baseball, you just know that not all four talented lefties currently high on the prospect lists are going to make it.   Frankly, that I have Montgomery, Lamb and Duffy all in the rotation is too much to realistically hope for.   I just picked Dwyer not to make it because somebody won’t.   

The interesting debut in my fantasy 2014, is that of Cheslor Cuthbert at third, which pushes Moustakas to designated hitter.   In my mind, Whit Merrifield is the new ‘Hilton Richardson’ (i.e. the sleeper who turns into a regular).  Of course, in my mind, Hilton Richardson was the new ‘Alex Llanos’.   So, take that for what it is worth.

The rotation bids farewell to Luke Hochevar at this point as well.   My guess is Luke will be a decent mid-rotation guy – better than Jeff Suppan, but not by all that much – and hence always a disappointment to us Royals’ fans.   

You can see that I am starting to have some fun with the bottom of the bullpen as we get this far out:  pulling some rookie level guys with all of 60 professional innings under their belts.  Hey, it could happen.

By 2015, the Royals BETTER be a team that needs a great closer and so I believe they will resign Joakim Soria.   By then, we might also see the debut of 2010 draft pick Jason Adam.

My guess is that Christian Colon, if he hasn’t moved there three years earlier, will be shifted over to second base to make way for Michael Antonio or Orlando Caxite or someone acquired via trade or a player the Royals draft in 2012……Well, 2015 is a long ways a way.

In the end, this is a very unscientific exercise:  particularly given that we have the Royals trading three very good players during this process and making no allowance for any of the players they will receive in return.   This would be a good place to insert your ‘how is that different from any other time in Royals’ history’ quip.

Bottom line, something kind of fun to chew on as we wait for the World Series to end.