Sunday, May 07, 2006

The End of the Allard Era: Hitting Talent

As the new General Manager, you look at Buddy Bell's lineups and ask yourself why you accepted this job in the first place. The Royals have scored 3 runs or less in 18 of their first 28 games (64%). As you look through the big league roster, there isn't much hope for young hitting talent. David DeJesus and Shane Costa offer some hope for the offense, but both have been injured. DeJesus has established himself as the team's leadoff hitter, but he must stay healthy. The first core of younger players: Buck, Teahen, and Berroa are struggling. There's a few serviceable veterans like Reggie Sanders, Mark Grudzielanek, and Mike Sweeney (when healthy). But, they probably won't be on the team after 2007.

While the big league club offers little hope for improving the offense, the Royals have an impressive duo of bats at AA who should be the focus of the offense after 2007. Alex Gordon and 20-year-old Billy Butler figure to be the organization's No. 3 and 4 hitters of the future. Gordon has had no problem adjusting to professional pitching, producing a .903 OPS so far at AA. Gordon appears to be major-league ready right now and will continue to mash in the minors until he's called up. Butler has demolished every level of the minors he's been through so far, and AA is no exception. The sky is the limit for Butler offensively. There is a consensus among scouts that these are two of the best bats in the minors.

If Butler and Gordon live up to expectations, the Royals should have a strong middle of the lineup. If one should fail to live up to expectations, the most likely replacement would be Justin Huber, who is mostly likely the No. 5 hitter of the future. Huber hit 23 HRs between AA and AAA last year and possesses very good plate discipline. The main question is whether or not he'll hit enough to be a first basemen. However, if his minor league stats are any indication, that shouldn't be an issue.

Two other good bats nearing the majors are Chris Lubanski and Mitch Maier. Lubanski had a huge year at High Desert last season, hitting 38 doubles, 28 homeruns and driving in 116 runs. His High Desert performance was questioned because of the hitter-friendly nature of the league. However, he's answered those questions at AA by posting a higher OPS than Billy Butler. Depending on how well Butler, Gordon, and Huber develop, Lubanski probably could be a No. 2, 5, or 6 hitter. Mitch Maier is also nearing the majors and is one of the most well-rounded outfielders in the organization. Maier would probably profile as a No. 2 or 6 hitter with gap power and speed. Maier is one of the few Royal outfielders with enough arm strength and speed to play RF, so he may be the only candidate to take Sanders' spot in 2008.

After looking through the top two levels of the minors, the new GM would feel a lot better. The Royals appear to have enough talent to fill out the 1 through 6 spots in the lineup with good, young talent. Depending on the progress of Buck, Berroa, and middle infield prospects (Murphy, Gotay, Sanchez, etc.), the Royals may need to find outside help to fill out the bottom of the order.


At 3:08 PM, Blogger COroyal said...

If we can fill out the top 6 spots in the order, the rest will work itself out fine. After all, seems that's all we do now - find people to fill out the bottom of the order (and proceed to hit them cleanup).

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Butler and Gordon were drafted by the Royals. As such, they are cursed and surely doomed to a career-ending injury in due time. Get ready for five more years of that feared slugger Emil Brown.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Certainly if the lineup develops like projected, filling out the bottom of the order shouldn't be a problem. After all, Buck and Berroa figure to be here for a while. Hopefully Butler, Gordon and Huber develop into top hitters so we can actually get excited about the middle of the order.


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