August 24, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) turns a double play during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
We are about 3 weeks into Kansas City Royals Spring Training games now. So of course, I want to start evaluating players and see what kind of numbers they are putting up. Other than the starting middle infielders, who refuse to be healthy, things are looking pretty good but let’s look at how the other infielders are doing.
Let’s start with Billy Butler. He’s currently hitting .326/.383/.442. Nothing special about what he’s done. It is a little disconcerting that he hasn’t hit a home run yet, and if it were anyone else I would be quite distressed about his 13 strike outs.
The good news is that he’s face the toughest pitching according to Baseball-Reference Opponent Quality with a 9.1. On the plus side he’s only hit into 2 double plays.
Eric Hosmer seems to have picked up right where he left off at the end of the year. He’s hitting .310/.341/.548 with 2 home runs and 4 doubles. There’s nothing superb and nothing bad to point out. He’s just going out there and doing his job so far.
I’m not posting numbers for either of them because even in a post citing small sample size numbers from meaningless games it would be too much. Besides, unless they’re hurt, Infante and Escobar are the starters. The backup spot has been much more interesting this Spring.
There are 4 players contending for this backup spot Pedro Ciriaco, Jason Donald, Christian Colon, and Johnny Giavotella. Unfortunately, even though he has hit well this spring, Giavotella has options left and can’t play shortstop. I don’t see any way that he breaks camp on the 25 man roster.
Christian Colon has hit .296/.367/.370 with 2 doubles. Of the 3 guys that could backup at shortstop he has been the worst hitter. He’s also the youngest by 3 years and has options left. He may ultimately be the best of the 3, it’s just not his time yet.
Jason Donald has hit .313/.389/.438 with 1 home run and 1 double. For his career he has hit .257/.309/.369 for an OPS+ of 89 in 603 plate appearances. He’s played shortstop, second base, and third base at the MLB level. He looks to be a perfect backup middle infielder. He’s also a non-roster invitee so there’s no disadvantage to cutting him.
Pedro Ciriaco is the final man in contention for the job. He is hitting .303/.294/.485 with 1 home run and 3 doubles.. It’s 34 plate appearances so I’m not going to freak out about him having a lower OBP than Avg, but it is funny to look at.
For his career he has hit .277/.307/.385 for an OPS+ 89 in 449 plate appearances. He’s played shortstop, second base, and third base at the MLB level. He is out of options so if he doesn’t make the 25 man roster, he will need to clear waivers.
There is virtually no difference between Ciriaco and Donald that I can see. Maybe that’s why the Royals are claiming that they aren’t going to have a backup. They don’t want to have to decide between these two.
Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
The revelation this spring has been Mike Moustakas as he’s hit .486/.588/.943 with 4 homers and 4 doubles in just 43 plate appearances. Because it’s spring training, I’m not going to break the numbers down any further.
By all accounts, Moose is now doing the one thing he’s had a problem with in the past, hitting lefties. He is the best player in all of baseball so far this spring.
On the flip side of that, the Royals worst spring training performance goes to Danny Valencia hitting .194/.306/.290. His only position is third base, despite what the Royals are trying to do with him at second.
His only purpose is to platoon with Moose. If Moose is hitting, and Valencia is not, then there’s just no point to having the latter on the roster.
I know these are meaningless games but the Royals are in the unique (to them) position of having more quality players than roster spots. They need to make the right decision out of camp or they risk losing 2 players instead of 1 due to so many guys being out of options.