Let’s take a look at who will be manning the expanses in Kaufmann Stadium this year, once again using the official 40-man roster as our guide, which can be found here.
Note: All posts will follow this general format:
Player Name (linking to the player page on Baseball-Reference.com)
2013 “Slash” line (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Average)
2013 OPS+ or ERA+ and career OPS+ or ERA+ (A full explanation of these stats can be found here and here.)
General gibberish from yours truly about what I find to be interesting about a guy and what might be expected from the player in 2014.
103 / 110
After struggling to live up to the expectations of his stellar college and minor league career, Gordon finally broke through in 2011, hitting 303/376/502 for the season and winning his first gold glove.
Gordon has added two more pieces of hardware from Rawlings to his shelf in the years since, but his offensive output has seen a steady decline back to league average for most stats. One issue that looks like it may have interrupted a bounce-back season in 2013 was a concussion that Gordon suffered in July. David Lesky at Pine Tar Press wrote in more detail about it, but a look at the daily charts from Fangraphs backs up the hypothesis by showing a clear dip in productivity in the middle of the season.
Gordon seemed to finally shake the cobwebs and finished strong last year. If he can stay healthy in his age 30 season, reasonable people should expect his offense to bump up a tick and his defense to remain near the top of the league.
If nothing else, he can already claim to have a better career than the Alex Gordon who muddled through the Baltimore farm system in the early aughts, never slugging over XXX and getting one last shot as a pitcher for 10 games in 2004 before disappearing from the stat books all together.
I bet that guy wishes he could have a Gordo Nation t-shirt with his likeness on it.
80 / 90
Whether you’re going by the eye-test or the advanced stats, both agree that Lorenzo Cain can play himself some defense. As a center fielder, he was 6th among all players with at least 200 innings in UZR/150, just behind another Royals outfield we’ll be discussing below.
Extrapolated out to a full season, Cain played saved 29 runs over the average center fielder in 2013, which seems pedestrian when compared to the 48.9 runs he projected to save in right field. Of course, small sample sizes will give you crazy numbers like this, but the fact remains, when he was in the outfield last year, Cain was a beast.
At the plate, he was a little less scary. Jeff Zimmerman goes into more detail here, but simply put, when Lorenzo Cain hits the ball in the air, there may as well be three Lorenzo Cains in the outfield waiting to catch it.
When he’s hitting grounders, Cain’s speed becomes an asset and his BABIP goes up. This can be seen by looking at these daily charts from Fangraphs.
If Ned Yost doesn’t give Cain the Willy Mays Hayes treatment in spring training this year, we may be in for a long summer.
99 / 103
Aoki has been an average to slightly-above-average player since he came over from Japan befor the 2012 season. He was the lead-off hitter in 85% of the games he played for Milwaukee last year, so that decision was an easy one for Ned Yost.
It’s interesting, though, that when looking at the Zips Projections for the Royals in 2014, and running it through the Lineup Analysis tool over at Baseball Musings, it shows that the most potent lineup has Aoki in the ninth spot, rather than leading off. The lineup tool also suggests Billy Butler lead off, so it might be drunk, but from a pure numbers point of view, it does stand to reason that a guy who hits for so little power probably shouldn’t get more at bats than anybody else on the team.
The real problem isn’t with Aoki leading off, it’s with Omar Infante being handed the second spot in the order. We’ll get to that in the infielder posts.
109 / 101
If Justin Maxwell subs in for about 200 at bats and gives us ten of these, it will be a good year.
90 / 81
There was a moment in time last year when Dyson actually had the highest slugging average on the team, thanks to two home runs, five doubles and a couple of triples. Mr. Zoombiya shouldn’t be your top power threat and while he didn’t hit any more long balls after June, he did keep his OBP over league average in the second half of the year.
Dyson also provides a lot of value with his legs, leading the team in stolen bases, despite only playing in 87 games.