Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Royals are Very Average

In the NBA, teams have shown that a lot of times the best way to get better is to first bottom out.  We are seeing this happen with many teams now because of a strong 2014 draft and free agent class.  A classic case of a team who can’t be bad enough to rebuild or good enough to win is the Milwaukee Bucks.  I have joked at them for a long time as basically building a team that will go .500 and either just miss the playoffs and have a low lottery pick or just make the playoffs but lose early.  Since the year I was born (1987) I have seen one division championship and over the last five years they have been 12th, 6th, 9th, 9th, 8th in the Eastern Conference.  They have been middling and frustrating for Bucks fans, they don’t have a big enough market to attract any stars and haven’t had a rebuilding mentality to be able to get premier talent from the draft. 

The Royals seem to be on their way to become the Bucks of Major League Baseball (Milwaukee's MLB team may be the NL version).  The push for contention this offseason was well documented, as the Royals made a sacrifice for the future to add James Shields at the expense of losing Wil Myers while making a trade for Ervin Santana that essentially resulted in a 1yr/13mil contract.  Despite these power moves they have a below-ish average payroll of just over 80 million dollars, good for 22nd in the majors.  PETOCA and preseason projections from both had the Royals going 80-82. 

Fast forward to July 20th, and the Royals currently sit at 44-49.  They have a Pythagorean record of          46-47.  They have a run differential of -7 for the season thus far.  They have experienced mostly luck in the injury department, and have folks like Danny Duffy and (maybe) Felipe Paulino preparing to join the big league club in the second half.  For the most park things are not changing for the Royals unless the front office decides to sell, which seems unlikely.  If they decide they are ‘buyers’, there is not much out there that would boost a .500 to the playoffs. 

When looking at WAR on Fangraphs it shows you that position by position this is where the Royals Rank:  

POS            MLB rank by WAR
ALL Off.

For the season no Royals player has been particularly elite while no position has been worst in the league bad.  Right field was a known issue coming into the year and Mike Moustakas’ struggles have hurt their ranking at third base.  Chris Getz/ Johnny Giavotella/ Miguel Tejeda have combined for a less than desirable second base.  Those three positions have been cancelled out by legitimately good seasons from Sal Perez, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon.  Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and and Alcides Escobar have provided middle of the pack production by position this season.   With the starting pitching, Shields and Santana have been a nice top of rotation duo, Jeremy Guthrie has been decent sort of and Luis Mendoza and Wade Davis have been more or less bad.  In the pen, Greg Holland has been very good while Kelvin Herrera has struggled, but overall the bullpen, which was seen as a strength coming into the year, has been decent providing the 10th highest WAR amongst MLB teams. 

In terms of prospects, Baseball Prospectus writer Jason Parks put the Royals system as 7th best in baseball while the Baseball America Rankings put them 18th prior to the season.  Players like Yordano Ventura and Raul Adalberto Mondosi have a rising stock while a top prospect like Bubba Starling is still showing growing pains this year in A-ball.  I would argue that most of the team’s top talent is still a few years away in the lower minors. 

The Royals have cost controlled talent for the next few years but unless management decides to break the bank this offseason or sell some of their more expensive assets I see the Royals 2014 team looking similar to the 2013 variety.  Without the development of many of their players it appears that the Royals are going to be pulling a Milwaukee Bucks-like middle of the road finish in the AL Central for a while.  

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