On the greatest asset of the most promising Royals season since ... well, since a long time
The Kansas City Star
CHICAGO – You don’t need to twist your mind to come up with reasons to be optimistic about the Royals season^ that begins in the chilly air here this afternoon. This is a season with more hope than any since at least 2004, and if we’re thinking clearly, probably at least a decade before.
^ If you haven’t entered the Totally Official 2013 DKTM Royals Over-Under Challenge, well, what are you waiting for? Picks need to be in by 3 pm, and you could win food. FOOD!
Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are bankable commodities by now, or as bankable as baseball commodities can be. Alcides Escobar will play Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, and if he hits a bit, gravy. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are at the age when you’d expect them to play into their considerable talent. Lorenzo Cain can be one of the game’s better center fielders if he stays healthy. Jeff Francoeur is 29 years old and only a year removed from 71 extra-base hits. The starting rotation is talented and proven and deep, and the bullpen might be the team’s greatest strength.
But I want to take a minute to reflect on what is probably the Royals’ greatest asset: Salvador Perez.
Baseball can be a game of hyperbole, but even by those standards the things you hear grown, level-minded folks say will take you back. Before he played a big league game a scout called him Johnny Bench. When he signed an eight-year contract^, part of the justification was that, worst-case scenario, they had Yadier Molina^^. During spring training, one scout matter-of-factly said Perez will one day be in the Hall of Fame.
*^ The Royals didn’t like that I called it so club-friendly they should smoke a cigarette, but it’s true.
^^ Just to be clear on this: the comparison was the early-career Yadier Molina, before he started mashing. The Royals saw an exceptional catch-and-throw guy, a calming presence behind the plate for the pitching staff, a hard worker, very bright guy, conscientious teammate – a million great things even if he never became a great hitter.*
Perez has only played 115 big league games, so we are still dealing with a small sample size, but he’s a .311 hitter so far with power (24 doubles and 14 homers).
Most of the scouting judgments I heard on Perez before he came up were that he would hit just enough to not be a liability, with enough power to be occasionally dangerous. What we’ve seen so far is something entirely better.
Put it this way: IF Perez plays a full season with the offensive production he’s shown so far, and IF the Royals are contending into September, you’re probably going to hear his name in MVP discussions.
Those are two big ifs, of course, but here’s a definite: there are more reasons to pay attention to this Royals team than any since this year’s graduating high school seniors have been alive.
Happy Opening Day.