As you would expect with the core Royals offense returning for an encore, there won’t be wholesale changes to the batting order.
Ned Yost has been making the media rounds of late (deer hunting season must be over in Georgia) and is discussing his optimal lineup. Of course his optimal lineup may differ from the optimal lineup of common sense. But, hey! World Series Champs! Here is how Jeffrey Flanagan sees the lineup at the dot com.
Yost deployed 83 different lineups last season, by far the fewest in baseball. This is a manager who needs his roles and set positions. There’s not a lot of fooling around here. Just the facts with this lineup.
On the surface, this gives Yost the left/right rotation he craves. Only Perez and Infante at the bottom of the lineup go same side. Flanagan gives Christian Colon as an option at the eighth spot along with Infante. As much as I’d like to buy into some sort of second base competition, I’m not there yet. If Infante hasn’t lost the job after two dismal seasons at the plate, and with his hefty contract, I don’t see how he’s relegated to the bench.
But hey, let’s jump back to the top, because this is sure to rankle a feather or two: There is no way Escobar should continue to lead off. No way. Among 13 Royals who tallied more than 100 plate appearances in 2015, Escobar was the 12th best hitter, ahead of only Infante. His .297 on base percentage was ninth on the team, ahead of Alex Rios at .287. Do you see where I’m going with this? Escobar is keeping company with two very unpopular Royal hitters. This is who he is: A career .262/.298/.344 hitter with a 74 wRC+. Yet I will accept his offensive output because his glove is super-valuable. However, I don’t want to watch him hit at the top of the order for an entire summer.
You are welcome to disagree with the above opinion. ALCS MVP and all that. *Cough* Small sample size. *Cough*
Despite my kvetching about Escobar at leadoff, I’m fine with him if hacking at the first pitch and establishing Peak Escobar means the Royals voodoo is working and they will win the game. Whatever it takes, man. I’m not a total moron.
The final say belongs to the skipper:
“Hey, it just works for us. It’s proven now. We just respond with him up there.”
We could say the same thing about Yost. Keep on, keeping on.
According to Flanagan, the second spot is up for grabs between Moustakas and Gordon. Obviously, I was horrified when Yost placed Moustakas so high in the order to open the season, but you have to admit it was an inspired bit of thinking. Moustakas was unshackled from the run production expectations and was much more relaxed at the plate, as we all saw with his aggressiveness on going to the opposite field. Moustakas faded a bit midway through the season. He had a dreadful July and once Ben Zobrist joined the club, the Royals third baseman slid down to sixth in the order. Personally, I’d like to see Gordon hit second because he’s probably going to get on base more than any other Royal. Hell, he should hit leadoff, but that’s just not going to happen. Still, you have to consider Moustakas’ dome and all that. He was so much better hitting second last year, that I would be open to trying it again.
Just for fun, here are Moustakas’ career splits for each spot of the lineup:
Fun stuff. He’s best at the second and sixth spots. Makes you wonder if the Royals have his Baseball Reference page bookmarked or something.
There wasn’t a mention of the proposed Dyson/Paulo Orlando platoon, but Yost was on the radio in KC this week still selling that idea. Sans obtaining a corner outfielder, this remains the Royals best option. Yet there’s something that makes me wonder if there will be a true platoon, which goes against the managerial gumption of Yost. Besides, that would give the Royals four right-handed batters in a row against a left-handed starter. That’s the kind of stuff that will keep Yost up at night. Still, Dyson is bad enough against left-handed pitching (career .211/.288/.249) that a platoon pretty much has to happen.
At least we’ve moved from discussing free agent signings to talking about the lineup. Spring is around the corner.