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Kansas City Royals: The Best 25

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This season, more than ever, it is important for the Kansas City Royals to have their best 25 players in uniform at the major league level. Their early start notwithstanding, everyone must understand that each major league baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint. Teams must play well in April to have a chance to be relevant in September but it is also true that if they do play well in April, it doesn’t mean that team will be playing for a playoff spot either.

April 20, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Louis Coleman (31) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium. Toronto won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals certainly have a team that could challenge for a playoff spot late in the season. The revamped starting rotation has been as good early as any Royals rotation in a very long time. The bullpen looks to be a strong as last season, and the offense has the potential to put up runs at any time. This is an exciting ball club with the best overall talent as any team seen in Kansas City in over 20 years. It is important to to have the best players available at all times on the roster and play (and manage) to win each and every game.

There are really only two players on the present Kansas City roster who I do not believe are part of the best 25. One has been around a while and the other is a newcomer to the Royals. The Royals have better roster options than Luke Hochevar and Miguel Tejada.

Hochevar has been a starter for the Royals for several years but has consistently underperformed his skill set, mainly because he can’t pitch with runners in scoring position (.315 career Batting Average Against with runners in scoring position and .389 with runners on 2nd and 3rd).  The Royals solution has been to pitch him in relief. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Last Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays was a perfect example. Manager Ned Yost brought Hochevar into the game with runners on second and third and 2 outs. Hochevar promptly gave a single, allowing both runners to score, walked the next batter, then looked like a superstar the next to innings when it didn’t matter. This is who he is! His line was beautiful – 2.1 innings, no runs, 1 hit, 1 walk – but he failed in his job to strand those runners. He should never be brought into a game if the outcome is still in doubt. A team with playoff hopes should not be carrying a relief pitcher in their pen who can not be counted on to pitch out of tight spots. It comes with the job. Luke Hochevar cannot be counted on.

Who should take his place on the roster? In my opinion, it is Louis Coleman, who hasn’t allowed a run yet in nearly 8  innings of work in AAA Omaha this season. Coleman has 110 innings over the past two years with the Royals. He sports a decent, not great, ERA of 3.25 and a 1.238 WHIP. He has struck out 129. His Batting Average Against with runners in scoring position in .147, a massive improvement to Hochevar’s dismal numbers. Coleman’s BAA with runners on 2nd and 3rd is .000. He has never in allowed a hit in that situation. In fact, Coleman has never allowed a hit with runners on 2nd and 3rd, or with the bases loaded, in 16 chances. Now who would you rather bring into the game in a pressure situation? The choice is crystal clear.

The second roster spot that needs to be improved is Miguel Tejada’s spot. I have no issue with Tejada as a person or his attitude. He seems like a great clubhouse guy. Let him coach. Add him to the major league coaching staff or let him coach in the minors. Either way, he is 38 years old and didn’t even play last season. Just what do the Royals think he is going to contribute to a playoff team? If he is on the roster, Ned Yost is going to want to do stupid stuff like start him at first base, like he did Friday, even though Tejada had never played before in his previous 2,121 major league games. His bat is not potent enough to displace either Eric Hosmer or Billy Butler at first or designated hitter. Elliot Johnson can offer everything Tejada can as a utility player and is a decade younger.

I would replace Tejada with outfielder David Lough and platoon him in right with Jeff Francoeur. I know Lough is only hitting .233 in AAA right now in 11 games but Francouer is only hitting .238. More importantly, Lough has batted .296 with a .342 OBP in his minor league career against right hand pitchers (Francoeur – .258 and .302). On the other hand, Frenchy hits .282 with a .325 against lefties (Lough minor league numbers against lefties – .245/.293). These two players platooning could offer more positive offense than Francoeur does playing every day. Platooning Lough and Francouer would make the Royals a better offensive team.

Kansas City is very close to having their best 25 players on their major league roster. That 25 could grow even stronger if Danny Duffy and/or Felipe Paulino can return in July or August and be effective down the stretch. For once, the Royals actually have the pitching depth to survive if one or both of these pitchers don’t return on time or they can’t perform at the necessary level. Replacing Hochevar and Tejada with Louis Coleman makes the Royals a better, more well rounded team. If the Royals are serious about contending for a playoff berth, at the very least, and I think they are, they should do everything possible to make the team better, including having the best 25 players available on the major league roster.