When I came to you last week, I was in Phoenix and talking about the game I had seen the day before, which was the Royals first loss of the spring. Somehow it’s warmer today in Kansas City than it was last Friday in Phoenix. The Royals have moved to 15-2 on the spring and are slowly gaining believers among the national media in spite of the irrelevance in spring training. But that kind of makes sense because it’s not so much that the Royals are winning, but the manner in which they are doing it. They have a run differential of +54 through 18 games (don’t forget the one tie). That means in the average game this spring that they are three runs better than their opponents. I do think it’s pretty amazing that I saw 35% of the runs allowed by the team this spring in just 17% of the games. I also saw 26% of the runs scored, so at least I have that going for me.
- I probably should write a whole article about this, but I’m shocked about the Royals decision to move Luke Hochevar to the bullpen. It’s probably not the exact right move because I personally don’t think Hochevar is worth a roster spot at all, but it’s a step in the right direction and, I think, signals a very clear shift in some of the thinking of the organization. They have been so hesitant to walk away from players that even a small move like shifting Hochevar to the bullpen is a very good sign for us as fans. My pipe dream here is that some team has told the Royals they like Hochevar as a reliever, but wanted to see it before they were willing to give up a player for him. A guy can dream, right?
- Hochevar’s demotion to the bullpen means the fifth starter job is now between Luis Mendoza and Bruce Chen. The Royals are saying Will Smith is involved in the battle, and I think his chances are far better than they were originally, but he’s still quite the long shot. The longest of long shots is ¬†Yordano Ventura who I saw last week and looked fantastic. Still, he hasn’t even thrown 30 innings in AA and there are clearly issues he needs to work on before he can become an impact starter, which I think he’ll be. I’m all for letting him stay in big league camp and getting him work with the Major League squad, but he needs to be in the minors for at least 10-12 starts in 2013 before the Royals bring him up. And the only way I’d even bring him up that quickly is if he’s absolutely dominating and his change-up has made it to at least average on a consistent basis.
- I’m not the only one in this boat, but I’m worried about Eric Hosmer. Clint and I talked about it on the podcast, and the way he’s looked in the WBC is eerily reminiscent of what we saw through most of the 2012 season. At this point, the numbers don’t mean anything to me, but he continues to struggle with the inside pitch, which is usually a money pitch for a left-handed batter. I watched pitchers pound him inside one game in particular, and he just couldn’t hit it. I might be overreacting from a few games, but after seeing the same thing for the majority of the second half last year, it just looked all too familiar. For the first time, I worry that Hosmer isn’t going to reach his immense potential. I still am optimistic about him, but there’s doubt in my head.
- One thing I’ve noticed about the second base battle is that every time Johnny Giavotella does something well, Chris Getz comes back and matches him. And every time Chris Getz does something well, Johnny Giavotella matches him. Gio has five more runs batted in than Getz and Getz has five more runs scored than Gio. Getz has the one home run while Gio does not have a homer yet, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen again, though Getz did look pretty good in the limited at bats I saw of his. For the Royals, it comes down to the fact that they prefer Getz to Giavotella for the defense, and Gio has to outhit Getz significantly for the Royals to award him the job. Unless Giavotella really steps up in the last couple weeks of spring, I think he’s going to be back at Omaha and will tear up the Pacific Coast League again.
- One guy who I didn’t really talk much about on my trip was Alex Gordon, and that’s partially because he didn’t play one of the three games I saw, but what I did see looked fantastic. He’s always in the best shape of his life, but this year he just seems to be hitting the ball even harder. I mentioned a few weeks back about how a friend mentioned he thinks this could be Gordon’s best year, and I agreed with that. Now I really, really agree and I think we could see a monster year from Gordon. It’ll cause a lot of arguments about where he should hit in the lineup, but I’d love to have that talk because he’s hitting so well and not because the Royals don’t have a number three hitter.
- One thing to keep in mind as spring training begins to wind down is that it’s a Dayton Moore staple to make a move toward the end of spring. In the past, the roster hadn’t been quite so set, so that may change, but it’s just something to keep an eye out for here in about two weeks. I think it’s safe to say Humberto Quintero won’t be on the acquisition list, so we can rest easy about that.
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