No, this article isn’t about Jeff Francoeur looking to rebound from his subpar 2012. And no, it isn’t about Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas or Ervin Santana. But there is a lot of bounce back potential on this team. This is about players who are currently getting time in the spring who actually are fighting for a big league job on Opening Day. I talked a couple weeks ago about player who are trying to make an impact in the eyes of the front office to be considered for jobs later in the year, but this is about those players who are fighting for a job at the big league level and what they have to do to make the team.
Before I get into those players, there are a few guys who I didn’t mention in that previous article, but I just don’t see any way they make the team. A guy like Nate Adcock promises to see big league time due to injuries and the occasional tired reliever, but he has very little chance to open the year in the big leagues. The same is true on the pitching staff for Noel Arguelles, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb, Justin Marks and Guillermo Moscoso. Of guys on the 40 man roster, I know Whit Merrifield has no shot at the big league roster, but add in Irving Falu and David Lough as position players who would likely have to root for an injury if they want a shot to go to Chicago with the big club. Now let’s get to the guys fighting.
Let’s start with guys who are not yet on the 40 man roster and talk aboutÂ Miguel Tejada. I put him on this list somewhat ceremoniously because I think he’d have to lose his hold on a job as a backup for the Royals in 2013. Still, though, he’s not on a strong enough ground to be able to just “work on things” throughout the spring. He needs to produce in order for the Royals to feel comfortable carrying him on the roster. For him to lose the job to someone like, say, Irving Falu, I think he’d have to be pretty bad coupled with Falu having a great spring.
Onto the 40 man,Â Francisley BuenoÂ is one of many pitchers vying for what is likely the final spot in the bullpen. The bullpen as currently constructed will likely house Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza as long men (don’t get me started on that again), Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland. They’ll likely carry seven relievers, which leaves the one spot. Bueno is classified as a potential LOOGY (left-handed one out guy, i.e. he’s the guy you’d get annoyed with Tony LaRussa for using and then making ANOTHER pitching change), but he was actually better against righties in both the majors and the minors last year and that’s not the first season that’s happened for him. He’s pretty good against lefties, though, so it works. He doesn’t really strike batters out but he also limits walks decently. For a guy who might get 50 appearances and something like 38.2 innings, that should be fine.
The guy he’s battling for that LOOGY job is probablyÂ Donnie Joseph who the Royals acquired as part of the Jonathan Broxton trade. When the Royals acquired Joseph last July, I thought he might be able to make it up to the big club last season, but he struggled upon reaching Omaha with control problems Â he hadn’t really experienced as a pro. He’s never had pinpoint command, but he walked 6.8 per nine innings after coming to the Royals, which left a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of the front office. I think he’s got potential to be more than a LOOGY, but I’d say he’s a real long shot to make the club on Opening Day.
From the right side, there are probably two guys really fighting for a that seventh spot in the bullpen and the first isÂ Louis ColemanÂ who has seen success at the big league level in each of the last two seasons. Coleman gets a ton of strikeouts, walks a few batters and doesn’t give up many hits. So where’s bad? Well he’s not exactly tough on lefties due to his sidearm delivery. They see the ball so well, and so far in his big league career, Coleman has allowed a line of .246/.337/.479. The average against is pretty solid, but he gives up some big power numbers, which can be really bad late in the games (you’re welcome for the duh moment of this article). If used correctly, Coleman could be an outstanding piece of the bullpen.
He’ll likely be battlingÂ Juan Gutierrez (maybe J.C. Gutierrez, I see him listed as both), a former closer (for awhile) with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He suffered some injury issues, but has flashed some nice strikeout numbers at the big league level. He’s never been especially great, but reports on him from the winter leagues are excellent, so the Royals feel like they may have a big find. Earlier in the off-season, I thought he was likely to make the big club, but now I think he’s probably on the outside looking in.
As for position players, the two big battles are second base and backup catcher, so let’s start withÂ George Kottaras, the player the Royals claimed on waivers from the Athletics. The points in favor of Kottaras are that he can take a walk, he bats left-handed and he has some power. The big point against him is that he just doesn’t play much defense. I’ve gone over Kottaras before, so I’m not going to waste too much time here, but I think Kottaras is the favorite right now overÂ Brett Hayes who the Royals picked up from the Marlins earlier in the off-season. Hayes is known as a great catch and throw guy (yeah, they described Quintero that way, too) with a bit of a weaker stick. He’s sort of the inverse of Kottaras, so this will be an interesting battle that we hope doesn’t make much of an impact on the 2013 season.
The last battle is one that I really don’t want to get into much because I’ve talked about it ad nauseum, but it’s between Chris Getz andÂ Johnny Giavotella. The player I became a huge fan of in Giavotella has yet to appear in the big leagues. His at bats look different and he just hasn’t produced anything. He hasn’t had many chances and you could easily argue that he’s been jerked around too much, but he ultimately just needs to produce. Chris Getz is the “safe” choice between the two because you know he’s going to give you a bat that’s pretty below average but mostly professional plate appearances. With Giavotella you’d be making the upside play. He just needs to force the Royals into that decision.
The only other player who I guess could conceivably be fighting for a job is Will Smith, but he’s facing an uphill battle for that fifth starter job. The key players in the fifth starter battles are, of course, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza, but the Royals do have high hopes for Will Smith. He showed serious flashes in his time in the big leagues last season, so a great spring coupled with an injury and/or a trade could put him firmly in position to open as the fifth starter. More likely, though, he’s ticketed for Omaha as the first starter called up due to injuries or ineffectiveness.
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