The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
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Up next: third baseman Danny Valencia.
The Royals acquired Valencia from the Baltimore Orioles this off season for David Lough for one reason – insurance for Mike Moustakas. If the Royals’ young third baseman can’t deliver, Kansas City will have a veteran who should be able to step in. KC Kingdom’s own Brent Guglielmino has a great breakdown on Moustakas.
Valencia is a 4-year veteran who has already kicked around the American League some. He began his career with the Twins in 2010, where he finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting. He played briefly in Boston, and played 52 games last year for the Orioles.
He hasn’t stuck with any one team yet because he can’t hit right-handed pitchers. It is very difficult to be an every day player in the major leagues if you can’t at least be average against righties. Valencia’s career slash against right-handers, in 833 plate appearances is .229/.269/.360/.629.
Against southpaws, Valencia is above average for his career. His slash against lefties in 428 plate appearances is .329/.369/.513/.879, more than a 100 percentage point improvement in On Base Percentage.
Now, let’s take a look at Moustakas’ handed slashes; he struggles mightily against lefties – in 395 plate appearance his slash is .222/.275/.332/.606. Against righties, he is much better in 1,098 plate appearances – .252/.304/.404/.707. While these numbers are not what they need to be, they at least indicate that not all is lost.
It would not be surprising in the least if the Royals go with a platoon situation at third. The splits for these two hitters overwhelmingly support such a decision. The Royals being the Royals, though, they will probably give Moustakas every opportunity to fail right off the bat. He should at least sit against the tough left-handers like Chris Sale for the White Sox.
Valencia has also hit well in Kauffman Stadium, with a career slash of .295/.358/.426/.784 in 67 plate appearances, with 1 home run and 5 doubles.
Look, Valencia is what he is, an extreme platoon hitter. if Moustakas can’t learn to hit lefties, there is no reason Moustakas and Valencia shouldn’t be in a platoon situation. The Royals have to give Moustakas a chance to prove he can hit left-handers a little bit; they have too much invested in him. The leash must be short in this area though.
Valencia can mash lefties, so there is no reason not to use him if Moustakas doesn’t show drastic improvement quickly. If Valencia can play a little second, even just a tiny bit, he can relieve Omar Infante, but who knows if that is even a possibility. Hunter Samuels of Kings of Kauffman addresses the pitfalls if not having a utility infielder on the roster a couple of days ago.
Having Valencia on the roster due to Moustakas’ failings at the plate is not an ideal situation, but the Royals have little choice. In a perfect world, Moustakas will iron out his issues against lefties, at least enough to get by, and Valencia will be traded or designated for assignment by the end of April. Nothing against the guy, but the Royals will be better if they don’t need him on the roster.