Welcome to the All-Star Break, Royals fans, where we find Kansas City back home in the cellar of the American League Central and sporting the third worst record in baseball.  Seems all too familiar, doesn’t it?

Now, almost without question, the 2011 Kansas City Royals are a better, more hopeful group than in past years.   The rookie dominated bullpen is very good, the defense is light years ahead of past squads and the offense, while not great, is solid with a real possibility of becoming good.    There is hope…..just not this year.

To their credit, Dayton Moore and company have or are on their way to accomplishing some of the logicial steps that will/should/might lead this organization back to respectability.   They have:

  • Committed to young arms in the bullpen, giving Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow (Blake Wood and Everett Teaford, too) valuable experience so that they can be a formidable unit on a contending team.
  • Promoted both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, service time be damned, so that each will have 400 plate appearances under their belts when 2012 Opening Day rolls around.
  • Brought up Danny Duffy and are in the process (unless there is some sinister motive to not bring him back up after the break) of getting him 15 to 20 starts in 2011.

If you were willing to ignore the service issues and arbitration awards that might become a problem in the 2016-2018 range and focus on being a legitimate playoff contender from 2013 to 2015, then all of the above were exciting and correct moves to make.   Frankly, they were also the easy moves to make.   It gets hard from here on out for Dayton Moore.

If I were to tell you this was the 2012 lineup:

  • Gordon LF
  • Cain CF
  • Francouer or Cabrera RF
  • Moustakas 3B
  • Escobar SS
  • Giovatella 2B
  • Hosmer 1B
  • Salvador Perez C
  • Butler DH

A bench of:

  • Treanor
  • Dyson
  • Maier orLough
  • Aviles or a utility infielder yet unknown

And this was the starting rotation:

  • Duffy
  • Montgomery
  • Chen or Francis
  • Hochevar
  • Paulino

And this was the bullpen:

  • Soria
  • Crow
  • Collins
  • Holland
  • Coleman
  • Teaford
  • Wood

Would you disagree?   With a pitcher or player change here or there, and without getting bogged down in potential trade talk, my guess is this might be pretty close to what we will see on the field next spring. 

Look over the names on that roster, maybe not so much for who is on there, but more for those that are not.   Standing 11.5 games out of first with a record 17 games below .500, why should Kansas City be trotting out anyone that is not part of the plan for 2012?   Kyle Davies, I am looking at you.

The company line on Davies is that he has great stuff and they continue to hope he will ‘figure it out’.    Here’s a little nugget:  the Royals are pinning their hopes that, 756 innings into his career, Kyle Davies is about to turn into Chris Carpenter.  

By age 27, Carpenter had thrown 870 innings for Toronto and posted an earned run average of 4.83.   His per nine innings rates were:  10.2 hits, 3.4 walks and 6.3 strikeouts.    Davies currently has a career ERA of 5.64 and 9 inning rates of 10.3 hits, 4.3 walks and 6.3 strikeouts.   They are similar, but the ‘bad’ Carpenter was still better than Davies.

I bring Carpenter up because he is the only pitcher I could find (in admittedly quick research) that was even remotely similar to Davies to start his career, who then turned it around.   Some guys (Kyle Lohse comes to mind) have managed to flounder through a first 600 or 800 rugged innings to have one (ONE!) decent season in their late twenties or early thirties, but nothing consistent.   It just doesn’t happen very often and that the Royals are waiting for it to happen after this many innings is flawed logic.

For now, doesn’t it make sense to get Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy on a more logical five man rotation schedule?   Sure, Duffy has an innings issue on the horizon, but I don’t see much problem in shutting down Duffy in mid-August and handing his spot to recently resurgent Mike Montgomery to close out the year.

Want to trade one of the veterans?  If you can move Francis or Chen (I think you keep one for 2012), then slide an O’Sullivan or Mazarro into that spot.  I don’t think either one is going to ‘figure it out’ either, but there is not much difference between an O’Sullivan start and a Davies start…other than O’Sullivan is three years younger.

Get busy livin’ or get busy dying.

In the outfield, Lorenzo Cain may not be a superstar in the making, but he doesn’t seem to have anything left to prove in AAA, either.  Just a litte over a year younger than Melky Cabrera, it is time to find out whether Cain is the guy in centerfield for the next three years or so.

I would advocate keeping Melky around over Francouer if only because, in a weird way, I think Frenchy’s trade value is higher than that of Cabrera.   I also think, should Melky stay in shape and stay interested, that he might, just might, be able to sustain his current 2011 pace for another season.  Not to mention that the Royals control Cabrera this off-season should they so choose.

In the infield, Wilson Betemit and Chris Getz appear nowhere on my speculated 2012 roster.   The Royals PR machine is in full gear on hyping Getz (could they be trying to push up his trade value or do they just have to ‘Yuniesky’ someone each year?), while the world has forgotten that Betemit exists.   Neither returns much in the way of a trade, but you know Betemit is not coming back next season and Getz can only play one position and hence is not a utility candidate.   If they don’t fit in 2012, then why play them in the second half of 2011?

This column probably comes off this way, but it is not meant to bash some of the current roster:  most of whom are good guys who play hard.   The point is that these players don’t fit into the future (at least as I see it), even in stopgap roles.   What’s the point of not seeing if Johnny Giavotella can handle major league pitching and survive defensively or if Lorenzo Cain is the team’s centerfielder of the future?

It is certainly not life and death, but Shawshank Redemption is still a great movie.    Get busy livin’ or get busy dying, Dayton Moore.