A quick 2012 Royals synopsis
The Kansas City Star
So the Royals season is over, and finally, and now comes the part where both owner David Glass and general manager Dayton Moore face an absolutely critical offseason.
+ This is a disappointing season, no way around it, made even more disappointing by the amazing fact that this is the first time since 1996 the Royals have won 70 or more games two years in a row.
+ The Royals won one more game than a year ago, but if you look at run differential or what went into each season’s final record you start to see this team as five games or so worse than a year ago.
The Royals scored 54 fewer runs and gave up 16 more, and this is compared to a year when the bulk of the important players didn’t come up until halfway through. The injures shouldn’t be used as an excuse. This is Ned Yost’s “Phase Two,” and they should’ve won more games.
I had them for 78 wins before the season, and after the 12-game losing streak they played to almost exactly a 78-win pace but the Royals should be past the part where they lose for two straight weeks.
+ Eric Hosmer is the most troubling part of this season, both because he is such an enormous part of the Royals’ future and because his first full big league season was such a stunning dropoff from both his rookie year and his talent. Only eight others matched Hosmer’s 598 plate appearances with production poor enough for an OPS+ of 82 or lower.
He regressed in just about every possible way, save taking more walks. He struck out more, hit (slightly) fewer line drives, hit for less power, hit more groundouts, and according to FanGraphs was worse against every pitch they measure.
The whole thing is stumping scouts, who still see too much talent for it not to click, but it’s fair to say expectations are tempered. Most inside baseball still expect (at least) a good player, but there’s less certainty. The hope is that he just got off to a slow start and then got buried a bit, trying to hard, never able to get it going and that an offseason to clear his mind and reset his approach will do him (and the team) some good.
+ The bulk-rate purchase on Tommy John surgery was the second-most troubling part of this season, because a franchise already operating short on starting pitchers can’t have Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino (not to mention Joakim Soria) miss an entire year.
The Royals say they weren’t surprised by either Duffy or Paulino. Duffy had been pitching with a slight tear in his elbow, and Paulino came cheap in large part because of an extensive injury history.
But with both guys set to return in the middle of the summer, it does complicate how the organization approaches filling out the rotation.
+ Mike Moustakas is worth some minor concern. His final numbers — .242, .296 on-base, .412 slugging percentage with 20 homers and 73 RBIs — are underwhelming enough but he also appeared to wear down as the season went on.
He hit just .208/.264/.330 the last two months, for instance. He dealt with some injuries that likely affected him more than he let on — the guy absolutely has the mindset and attitude that you want every player to have — but as has been pointed out a few different places, including by Lee Judge, if you’re good you want to be playing for another month.
Moose has the type of swing and approach that will likely always produce streaks both good and bad, and I do believe he has the right personality to deal with both. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have concerns.
+ If they don’t end up using Wil Myers’ talent for a trade this offseason, the Royals have an interesting issue to deal with next year. Jeff Francoeur had a terrible 2012, and is owed $7.5 million next year. Myers was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, and like I’ve said a few times you should expect him to be called up a few weeks into 2013 after the service time deadline passes.
That means a high-profile decision for Ned Yost. If things continue like this year, it means sitting the high-priced veteran and playing the rookie. Francoeur won’t like it, but the Royals need to be putting their best team on the field every day.
+ The Royals were not without their positives this season. The bullpen held up pretty well (Greg Holland especially), Sal Perez created Fan Crushes all over the region, Alcides Escobar established himself as one of the league’s better shortstops, Billy Butler continued to hit like Billy Butler, Jeremy Guthrie (more on him in a minute) was a much-needed success story, and Alex Gordon had an under-the-radar terrific season that lived up to the big contract he signed during spring training.
These are all good building blocks, because with the exception of Guthrie these are all young players under long-term club control. Perez and Escobar are especially encouraging because they’re under the longest contracts and play the hardest positions to fill.
+ The offseason starts with Guthrie. Whatever the Royals do this winter, it depends on whether they can get him signed and for how much. Guthrie has said he likes it here, and would like to stay, and the Royals should be extremely motivated to get it done quickly.
He had a 3.16 ERA over 14 starts for the Royals, and even if nobody should expect that pace to keep up long-term his peripheral numbers and scouting reports are solid. Two years and $18 million seems reasonable, and if it’s done quickly allows Moore to shop for the 2013 Opening Day starter as well as possibly one more starter for depth.
This is the whole thing with the Royals this winter. Maybe they add a position player or two (centerfield and second base are the biggest question marks) but the whole thing depends on the rotation.
The Royals are much closer to competing than most people realize (in part because the AL Central champs won 88 games this year, six fewer than the next lowest division winner) but they don’t have a shot without a vast improvement of the rotation.
That means David Glass has to be willing to spend, and Dayton Moore has to spend it on the right guy(s).
We’ll be following closely, because this winter will determine whether the last six years have been building a foundation or wasting time.