It is coming down to decision time for the Kansas City Royals concerning the final make up for the Opening Day roster. Specifically, the Royals need to decide who will make the club as bench players and what exactly is to be done in right field – Jeff Francoeur, or David Lough, or both?
It would be surprising if Elliot Johnson didn’t make the team as the utility infielder. He can play second, third, short, and outfield in a pinch. Either Brett Hayes or George Kottaras will serve as Salvador Perez‘s back-up even though neither have particularly distinguished themselves this spring. Neither has been awful, either. Second base needs to be decided as well. Johnny Giavotella has hit pretty well but it should be worrisome that Gio hasn’t walked in 44 spring at bats. Getz will never set the world on fire but has been just a little bit better than Giavotella this spring and will provide a better glove. Giavotella needed a to distance himself from Getz by his performances to win the job and he just hasn’t quite done it.
That leaves the outfield in general, and right field specifically. It has been generally assumed that Jeff Francoeur would be the right fielder and Jarrod Dyson would make the team as the 4th outfielder, with either Miguel Tejada or Irving Falu as the 25th guy and the last reserve. It isn’t as crystal clear anymore. Tejada and Falu have received very limited at bats this spring with the Royals due to their WBC commitments. Dyson has done just about what has been expected of him this spring, providing speed and defense. Jeff Francoeur, not surprising to most of us, has done very little this spring to impress anyone. Too much stock should never be put into spring stats but Francoeur has shown no life at the plate at all. The Royals have to be looking for some indication that he won’t be a total void in their line-up. They haven’t been satisfied as of yet. There are rumors the Royals are shopping for a left handed platoon for Frenchy in right but are not having much luck. That leaves us with David Lough.
David Lough, 27, has been nothing more than organizational depth for the Royals since they drafted him in the 11th round of the 2007 draft from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. His minor league slash line is not flashy – .294/.346/..458/.804. It is only slightly lower in 3 seasons at AAA – .291/.343/.446/.788. Most of the difference between his AAA numbers and his career minor league stats is a relatively down year in 2012 in Omaha. Lough is not, and never will be, a star prospect or player. Yet, one can’t help but wonder if David Lough wouldn’t be a better option against right handed pitchers than Jeff Francoeur and Jarrod Dyson. If the choice is to watch Frenchy flail at everything every day for the next six months, or giving David Lough a chance to prove himself at the major league level, I would rather see what Lough can do. It is highly doubtful Lough will be any worse platooning against righties than Francoeur would be playing every day.
As we have pointed out over and over all spring, the Cactus League stats are all but meaningless, but some of those at bats do come against major league pitchers. Lough is hitting .500 in 38 spring at bats, with 6 doubles and 1 triple. He has only walked once, and that is a red flag, but overall, his numbers are so much better than Francoeur’s or Dyson’s. Lough will never hit many home runs, maybe 10-12 at the most, but he makes very good contact, and could steal 15-20 bases with regular opportunities. He may be a better offensive player right now than Jeff Francoeur. He could hardly be worse.
If the Royals don’t have any luck finding the outfielder they desire, David Lough has earned the right to be given an opportunity with the major league ball club. Jeff Francoeur has done nothing to make anyone think he can be anything more than what he has been over his career – a replacement level player at best,and a drain on team production at worst. The Royals should seriously consider carrying 5 outfielders and only one utility infielder for now and platoon Lough and Francoeur in right field. This would allow the Royals to have a pinch hitter available and a pinch runner extraordinaire in Dyson. If the Royals can’t find a left hand hitting outfielder, the owe it to the team to give Lough a chance.