What a year! As hard as it is to fall justshort of making the playoffs, it’s encouraging to know the core of this group will be back next year, better than ever. With a piece added here and there, we’ll have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 1985. So how did our boys do this year? Let’s check out the report card.
C Salvador Perez A-
Perez is proving to be one of the best catchers in the game. He is a defensive force behind the plate and had the second-best throw out percentage for all American League catchers behind Matt Wieters. He hit for average and had some clutch hits late in the season, keeping the Royals playoff hopes alive. He became an All Star for the first time ever – and not the last. The only reason I gave him a minus is because he missed several games due to a concussion and the death of his grandmother. Not his fault, but if he’d been in the line-up for all the games he missed, we might be looking at a nice playoff run right now.
1B Eric Hosmer A
You might not remember, but Hosmer really struggled at the plate the first two months of the year. He didn’t feel comfortable at the plate and didn’t really have a strategy besides see ball, hit ball. In came George Brett as hitting coach, and after filling Hosmer’s mind with knowledge and confidence, he began to rake. And rake. And rake. He ended the season with the highest batting average on the team and continued to prove his worth at first base. He has a great glove and his defense was solid – if not sometimes spectacular.
2B Emilio Bonifacio B
Chris Getz C
Miguel Tejada B+
It would be nice for the Royals to pick up a power-hitting second baseman in the offseason, but if they stick with Bonifacio, they should be okay. Bonifacio showed his worth with his speed, seemingly stealing every time he got on base. His defense was pretty good too, though he had a couple unforced errors that put the Royals in tough spots. I liked Getz’s defense at second base but his offense, or lack of it, ended up hurting the team. If only Tejada hadn’t used a banned substance. He was quite the spark plug after the All Star break before his injury and suspension.
SS Alcides Escobar B-
It’s tough to grade Escobar because his range at shortstop allowed him to make some pretty spectacular plays this season. It’s fun watching him dive and whip a throw across his body to get the guy out at first. Unfortunately, Escobar refuses to be patient at the plate, He hardly ever walks. He’s a hacker who ended up being an easy out more times than not. You’d think with his experience, he’d be a more disciplined hitter. If he doesn’t start working the count better next year, he will hurt this team more than help it.
3B Mike Moustakas D
Moustakas ended up being the biggest disappointment of the season. The guy couldn’t hit anything the first half of the year and with his batting average well below .200, manager Ned Yost kept putting him in the line-up day in and day out, hoping he’d bust out of his slump. I can’t tell you how many times he came to the plate, runner on third, two outs…pop up. Easy out. He should’ve been sent to Omaha for a spell, eaten some humble pie, gotten back to the basics, and then been promoted once he proved he could adjust his swing. Add the fact he admitted he never watches video to fix his problems, leaning on the “feel” method of getting better, I see a guy who just doesn’t want to put in the effort to get to the next level. You need to lead by example, and Moustakas comes across as a powerful locker room leader. I hope he matures in the offseason and comes back leaner and eager to get better, willing to do whatever it takes to hit for average and help this team win.
LF Alex Gordon B-
No one in baseball hit better the first month of the season than Gordon. He was straight up awesome. But then he slumped. And he couldn’t get over his slump. He hit well below his ability the rest of the year, and a lot of that stems from Yost’s decision to keep playing him every.single.day even when it was obvious he wasn’t swinging the bat well. Gordon’s defense is amazing, but I hope he can hit more consistently next year and boost that average back up to over .300.
CF Lorenzo Cain B-
Jarrod Dyson B-
Cain was a great defender who started the season as clutch but struggled at the plate the rest of the season. His hamstring injury also set him back a bit. No one plays center field with more confidence and bravura, but Cain needs to boost that batting average next year and be more consistent. Dyson is a solid back up, and his speed was a great weapon on the base paths. He was a solid backup and should be back next year.
LF David Lough A-
Justin Maxwell B+
I nearly gave Maxwell an A just for his dramatic grand slam against Texas in the tenth inning of the Royals last home game of the season just to keep the Royals playoff hopes alive. Maxwell has the potential to be the right fielder of the future since he can hit for power. If he stays healthy and starts raking it next spring, he will take that spot away from Lough. I REALLY like Lough, the undersized guy who no one thinks will play well but comes in and makes plays and helps the team win. He was one of our best hitters in the clutch. I think platooning him with Maxwell and Dyson hurt his offensive rhythm, which led to a lower average in the later months. If he can accept his role as a pinch-hitter, playing every fourth day, he can be a very valuable weapon for the Royals next year.
DH Billy Butler C+
Billy was not his usual dominant self this year. I have no idea why he struggled so mightily at the plate. The reason he’s on this team is because he can hit. But he didn’t. Not much, anyways. And his effort running out ground balls – GEEZ! You’d think a guy who sits on the bench and gets up to bat once every three innings would at least run hard to first base on a routine ground ball, but no. Growing up a huge fan of George Brett, who always ran hard to first, it’s frustrating to see Billy jog down the baseline. That’s one reason he led the American League in hitting into double plays. Unless Billy starts showing more effort and gets his groove back, he could end up being trade bait. We’ll see.
James Shields A
Ervin Santana A-
Jeremy Gutherie B
Wade Davis C-
Bruce Chen B+
When you lead the league in ERA, you know you’re doing something right. Our starters and bullpen kept us in every game this year, a huge difference from years past. When Dayton Moore traded away stud of the future Wil Myers to Tampa Bay last winter, many fans freaked out. How could you? A potential All Star for two pitchers and a utility guy? But James Shields has been the difference. He came in with confidence and a work ethic that rubbed off on everyone else. Even though Shields struggled at times, he still ended the season with a sub-3.20 ERA. Everyone else, save for Davis, pitched really well throughout the season with just an occasional blip on the radar. I figure we’ll lose Santana and maybe Chen in the offseason, but with Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura ready to play full time in the big leagues, our pitching should be just as solid as last year – as long as everyone stays healthy. And bullpen wise, if Kelvin Herrera can shrug off his struggles, and Tim Collins and Aaron Crow can find their form, and if Greg Holland stays dominant, it’s going to be tough for teams to beat us when we take a lead into the 7th inning.
Manager Ned Yost B
There’s a big movement to get Ned fired and bring in someone else to drive the bus next year. There’s no doubt Ned made some questionable choices during the season. Playing Moustakas and Gordon day after day while they slumped was one of them. Sticking with Tim Collins in crucial situations as Collins continually gave up runs that cost us games was another one. Most recently: pinch hitting with Carlos Pena with the game on the line and keeping Gutherie on the mound in the eighth inning of a tie game when he had already thrown 110 pitches. But…Ned has helped this team gel and led them to their first winning season since 2003. The team seems to like him and play hard for him. Yes, they need to fix their hitting. Yes, Ned needs to make some better decisions in clutch situations. But he sticks with his players through thick and thin and has earned their loyalty. I believe the Royals should stick with Ned next year and only replace him IF they struggle to get to the playoffs.
I believe next year is THE year. The year the Royals turn it around. The year the Royals make it to the playoffs. And once we’re there, who knows. A break here or there and the Royals could be lifting up their second World Championship.
You can reach Matt Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.