Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lineup Against The Wall: The Non-Sleeper Kansas City Royals

I had an assignment to get all these lineup analyses cranked out by the start of the season. Obviously, I'm hopelessly behind. But then lo and behold, just when I needed it, the Royals-White Sox game done got rained out yesterday. THERE IS A GOD. Either that, or Crash Davis left the sprinklers on all night just to bust a slump.

So today we discuss a topic near and dear to all our hearts, the potential offensive production of the Kansas City Royals. I would ask these gentlemen to line up against a wall, but I'd be afraid they'd take the opportunity to pose for some gay soft-core calendar porn. So we'll just let them take BP while we go in the other room.

Here's your projected lineup:

1. CF Coco Crisp (S)
2. SS Mike Aviles (R)
3. LF David DeJesus (L)
4. RF Jose Guillen (R)
5. 1B Mike Jacobs (L)
6. DH Billy Butler (R)
7. 3B Alex Gordon (L)
8. C Miguel Olivo (R)
9. 2B Alberto Callaspo (S)

Much like the Reds, this is pretty straightforward, predictable, classic lineup. Coco Crisp, like Wily Tavares in Cincinnati, was acquired to lead off and play center. Unlike Tavares, though, Coco is an accomplished batsman and gives you what you want from this spot in the order: a decent chance of getting on base and a methodical approach toward his at-bats. If your leadoff man takes a few pitches and works the count, he allows his teammates to get a sense of the pitcher's velocity and arsenal, in addition to tiring the bastard out a bit.

As a Red Sox fan, i can't tell you how impressed I was with the way Coco handled last year. Brought in to nail down center after the defection of Johnny Damon, Coco was essentially fired during the '07 drive to the World Series by Jacoby Ellsbury's lights-out fall. Ellsbury was named the Opening Day starter in '08 and Coco became the fourth outfielder. But a combination of factors--Ellsbury's youthful slumps, J.D. Drew's constant vagina injuries, Manny Ramirez's advanced senility--gave Coco 361 ABs, and he handled them all with quiet professionalism. Enjoy him, Kansas City, he's a pro.

Mike Aviles mans the two-hole following a breakout campaign. I'm not the biggest Aviles guy out there, simply because there's no way he replicates hitting .325. Even if he does, the guy never takes a walk--his OBP was only 29 points higher than his average last year. That's not a characteristic you want to see at this spot in the batting order.

David DeJesus moves from leadoff down to third, an assignment that makes sense until Alex Gordon gets his shit together. DeJesus hit well over .400 with runners in scoring position last year and should see more RBI opportunities here. He never really ran or scored much at leadoff anyway.

Jose Guillen, all 195 pounds of batshit nutcase, cleans up. He'll give you 30 and 100 unless he gets hurt or murders his manager.

Mike Jacobs was imported from Miami to serve as the latest heir to Mike Sweeney's first base throne. Also, because this team can't hit a home run to save its life and Jacobs is a big old gorilla. He strikes out a lot, this kid, but he'll put quite a few in the fountains. If you're a connoisseur of picturesque left-handed swings, as I am, you'll dig this guy's stroke. He'd look good on a beefcake calendar shoot making out with Zach Greinke.

Our slightly-fallen prospect portion of the lineup starts now, with Billy Butler and Alex Gordon bridging the gap. Both these dudes came up from Omaha with a lot of promise, and while neither has necessarily disappointed, well, they need to produce. Like right away. As Banky pointed out to me last week, this team did win 75 games last year. Their pitching has improved by leaps and bounds, Joakim Soria is easily one of the game's scariest closers, and Trey Hillman feels like a competent skip. It is go time in Kansas City.

Everyone that whines about the Royals' supposed small-market status holding them back, but this team is now solidly middle-of-the-pack in terms of MLB payrolls. KC actually bids for and acquires real big-league players like Coco, Guillen, Gil Meche, Ron Mahay, Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth. Okay, maybe not Farnsworth. There's quite a bit of gloss on refurbished Kauffman Stadium. And numerous pundits in the baseball world have forecast big improvement in Kansas City.

In fact, you can't even say that the Royals are a sleeper team anymore. If everyone says you're a sleeper, if everyone says you're underrated, then you must produce to avoid becoming a bust, becoming overrated. Which brings me back to Butler and Gordon. This is no longer 2006 or 2007, when everyone expected the Royals to finish dead last and the kids could scuffle out of the limelight. Now is the time for these bats to awaken. Alex Gordon is one of the brightest prospects in the entire game, and Billy Butler put up minor-league stats from a video game. They need to start squaring up on baseballs, producing runs and wins, and demanding spots higher in the order for a real MLB offense. The kid gloves are off.

Miguel Olivo shares the catching duties with John Buck and provides a bit more polish in the batter's box. Alberto Callaspo obviously takes his dating cues from Larry Johnson and hits girls harder than he hits fastballs.

On days when Callaspo's wrists are sore from domestic abuse, Mark Teahen can fill in at second. he can also spell Gordon at third, DeJesus in left and Guillen in right. That's right, Mark Teahen, big-time third baseman traded for Carlos Beltran has become Mark Teahen, supersub! he's actually had a colossal spring training, clubbing seven homers and not completely butchering his defensive assignments. Teahen and new acquisition Willie Bloomquist add a ton of depth and versatility to Hillman's potential strategy, while Tony Pena Jr. adds the occasional baseballboner to Banky's pants.

So there you have it, Kansas City fans. Your team might, just might, be able to hit this year. Feel free to enjoy it, no one will begrudge you that.