So we went over the position starters yesterday and now I will go over the rotation as it stands right now. As we all know the rotation was/is going to be the biggest hole on the roster. If there was one group that will be the downfall of this team it is the rotation. There will be 3 or 4 wild cards on this team, that if they make the 25 man roster out of ST, or get called up early enough and perform, they could make this team a contender for the AL Central.
I wanted to add that defensively this should be the best Royals team since the late ’70s and early ’80s without a doubt. They are solid at every position as well as the bench. This wasn’t the case to begin last season. The pitching staff will benefit greatly from the range, sure hands and strong arms of all the position players. Defensively, this is the best team in the AL Central and one of the top 5 in the entire AL.
I also wanted to post the lineup as Ned Yost laid it out yesterday:
LF – Gordon
2B – Giavotella
1B – Hosmer
DH – Butler
3B – Moustakas
RF – Francoeur
C – Perez
CF – Cain
SS – Escobar
Luke Hochevar will almost certainly be the opening day starter as well as be looked upon to anchor the rotation. That alone should tell you how much Dayton Moore and the Royals need to do to make the rotation playoff worthy. Let’s displace with all the talk that Hoch may have “found” it in the 87 innings he pitched after the All Star break. Even if a 3.53 ERA in the new offense deprived MLB for those 87 innings meant that he did “find” something, he would still be at best a decent #2. But I will take 480 or so innings with over a 5 ERA that tells me his is what he is, a #4 pitcher with a #3 ceiling that he could reach the next few years. He’s 28 and will be entering his 5th full season. I do see Luke improving on his 2011 season but only marginally. Look for something around a 4.10 ERA with 135K’s in 195 IP. Like I said, a decent #3.
Jonathan Sanchez is wild card #1, not only for this rotation but for this team. The offense will be there, the defense will be there, the pen should be solid but again, the rotation could be a sinkhole. Sanchez could provide a spark to this rotation that would solidify it. He certainly has the ability to miss bats, 9.4 K’s per 9 which ranks near the top of current starters in MLB. It’s his 4.8 BB per 9 that wipes that big ole smile right off your face. There is also the fact he’s coming off an elbow injury that could hamper his production. It’s been debated whether or not Sanchez get’s K’s because of his “stuff” or because of his lack of command. I would like to think it’s the way he throws the ball. A lot of two seamers, which is cause for his high walk rate as well. If Dave Eiland can get Sanchez to command not only the fastball but the off speed stuff as well, the Royals will have found a GIANT piece to their playoff puzzle. If not, they will continue to look up at the Tigers. If Sanchez stays healthy I think Sanchez falls somewhere in between great and awful- 4.45 ERA 175 K’s 85 BB’s 185 IP.
Dayton Moore felt it was necessary to bring back Bruce Chen. Ok, it’s easy to look at his tidy little 3.77 ERA, which he posted a year after putting up a 4.17 ERA in 2010, and think that he has figured it out. And maybe he has but the problem is I don’t think it will produce a lot of wins for the Royals. Chen has spent time on the DL the last two years while throwing 140 and 155 IP the last two seasons. Chen’s 6.8 K’s per 9 means he will have limit hits and walks greatly to be effective. It will help having a solid defense behind him but I’m not sure it will help enough. I see Chen regressing somewhat this season due to his inability to get K’s and his BABIP coming back to the mean. Hey, if Chen is your #5, or even your #4 you probably have a solid rotation but when he is coming in as your number #3 with Hochevar and Sanchez being the arms in front of him, well it’s not a good situation to be in. Chen in 2012 – 4.20 ERA 95 K’s 150 IP.
Felipe Paulino is wild card #2. He is the one pitcher in this rotation that has true top of the rotation stuff. Problem is until his 124.2 IP last year for the Royals he really hadn’t shown what level of pitcher he could be. Of course he really hadn’t had much opportunity either. He had 187 IP over 2 seasons in Houston at age 25-26 with a mid 5 ERA. He pitched 14 innings getting hit around in Colorado before they released him and the Royals picked him up. He then proceeded to throw 124.2 innings with a 4.11 ERA. His 8.6 K’s per 9 and 3.5 BB’s per 9 are certainly numbers that if repeated, would make Paulino a difference maker. Someone who could make the Royals 3-4 wins better and stabilize the whole rotation. If he’s great, the Royals have a legitimate shot at the AL Central, if not, well we can all groan about Dayton not getting that top of the rotation starter. Honestly though I don’t think anyone has a good idea of what Paulino will give the Royals. Gun to my head I say his ERA is around what it was last year, but he could certainly post a season like – 3.50 175 K’s 190 IP and I could also see 5.15 125 140.
Danny Duffy will be the favorite to win the #5 spot entering ST. Some people are split on Duffy remaining in the rotation and starting in Omaha. I will say I think the idea that more time in the minors is COMPLETELY over stated. I want Duffy to be in the rotation to start the season. One reason is I believe that he is the one true top of the rotation starter that has a legit shot at the rotation. I believe Duffy is a true #2 talent. I also think we will see improvement from him this season across the board. If it’s enough improvement, this could be a fun summer. Of course the “Phil Humber” disease has stricken Dayton Moore and he is so afraid of losing Luis Mendoza (yes he of the 7.36 lifetime ERA) due to the fact he is out of options, that Duffy may have to start in Omaha just to let Mendoza throw his 87mph fastball against real ML hitters. Hopefully fate is not so cruel as to let Mendoza sabotage this season from the beginning. Duffy in 2012 – 3.90 155 175IP
Mike Montgomery is wild card #3. He will be the only pitcher in all of ML camp with true #1 ability. In fact I think he’s really the only guy in the entire organization with #1 stuff. I don’t think Montgomery has much of a chance to make the team out of ST but I would not be surprised to see him up in late May or early June. It could be sooner if an injury is coupled with sever under performance. Bruce Chen or Jonathan Sanchez getting hurt and Felipe Paulino under performing, or any combination of the three would probably get Montgomery a quicker call up if he is in fact performing in Omaha himself. If he rebounds from a poor year in AAA and starts to fulfill his promise at the ML level, the Royals dire need for a top of the rotation starter will get a whole lot less.
Luis Mendoza, Sean O’Sullivan, Vin Mazzaro, Chris Dwyer etc. Unless Mendoza has a great ST making Moore and Yost’s decision more difficult I can’t see any pitcher not named above throwing many innings at the ML level. Dwyer will probably start in Omaha to gauge how he fits in future plans. Same with Will Smith. They are both young and have a shot at rounding out a rotation, cheaply I might add.
I think for this Royals team experience the level of success that they and all of us envision will require Dayton Moore and David/Dan Glass to spend some money on the rotation. They could even trade a couple of top prospects and throw in a top reliever to get a top quality starter in return. On so many levels it would be important that the Royals are in contention at the trade deadline. Not only could they possibly acquire a top starter for the remainder of this season but they may get one that would be here for 2-3 more season. If it works out right, DM can trade for a starter at the deadline, hopefully propelling the Royals to a strong finish and sign another one in the off season. Unfortunately I think that’s what it will take to make this rotation good enough for multiple playoff appearances. With this lineup anything less will be more than disappointing.