The K Zone

Andy McCullough blogs about the Royals and baseball

Royals Q&A: A week to go and still in postseason hunt, what comes next?

09/23/2013 3:38 PM

09/23/2013 4:00 PM

A late start Monday here in the Pacific Northwest is just too long to wait without some Royals’ talk, especially considering the emotional high created by Justin Maxwell’s walk-off grand slam in Sunday’s victory.

So we solicited questions early Monday afternoon on twitter to tide you over in the interim before Mariners right-hander Brandon Maurer delivers the first pitch at 9:10 p.m. Central time at Safeco Field.

The Royals are 82-73 as they enter the final week of the regular season, which consists of three games here in Seattle before opening a four-game series Thursday against the White Sox in Chicago.

The postseason remains a mathematical possibility, although the Royals entered the week trailing Cleveland by 3 1/2 games and Tampa Bay by four games in the battle for the American League’s two wild-card spots.

The folks at Baseball Prospectus, who are forever running simulations on such things, say the Royals’ chances of reaching postseason, prior to Monday’s games, were 1.5 percent.

Even so, things happen.

What were the chances of Maxwell hitting a grand slam Sunday afternoon against former Royals closer Joakim Soria on a full-count pitch with two outs in the 10th inning of a scoreless game against Texas at Kauffman Stadium?

On to the questions:

@occotten: Why has Yost refused to play Maxwell? Much better hitter than uppercut Cain.

Two points. Lorenzo Cain is a far better defensive outfielder. The advanced defensive metrics suggest Cain might be the best defensive outfielder in the majors.

Also, the implied assumption here is that Justin Maxwell would produce as the same high level if he played regularly. That might be the case, but it’s far from a certainty — particularly if you look at his career numbers.

So isn’t it possible that Yost is putting Maxwell in situations where Maxwell is best equipped to perform?

@Cole_Goodman: hypothetically: If one is in their 7th year of juco are they “ahead of schedule”? Asking for a friend.

Guess that would depend. Was your friend functioning at, say, a second-grade level when he entered junior college?


@SpfldCynic: How gutsy was Dayton Moore’s choice to keep the team together to make this run possible?

I don’t know how much of a choice he had. The Royals are pretty heavily tied to this current core group.

Where I think Moore and his staff deserve more credit than they’re receiving is for making a couple of seemingly minor pick-ups in Justin Maxwell and Emilio Bonifacio that have paid off big.

@OldSoulTCas23: speculation aside, who do royals view as a better fit for next season and beyond Granderson or Beltran?

Not sure what you mean by speculation aside, but I’d see Curtis Granderson as the better fit but Carlos Beltran as the more-likely fit.

And by more likely, I mean just that: Not likely. Just more likely than Granderson. I believe Beltran would be open to returning to the Royals at market price. I don’t know what that market price would be at this point.

The Royals, I think, would like to shift Lorenzo Cain to right field on a steady basis. That means they need a regular center fielder, and Beltran’s defensive skills have declined.

Granderson would be a better fit in center, but you put Beltran in right and leave Cain in center, and the Royals are a better club — certainly one with more offensive punch — than what they are now.

@HuskerInsanity: How soon do you think the Royals are deciding whether or not to give Yost a contract extension? Couple days after season?

I’ve gotten no indication of a timetable, not even a whiff, but I don’t see how that issue can linger for long. That nothing has happened yet suggests, to me anyway, that it’s not a slam dunk that Ned Yost returns.

If the Royals do go looking for a replacement, there should be no shortage of interest. This would be a nice situation for any manager to walk into.

@MattNuge: do two more strong starts from Ventura guarantee him a rotation spot next year?

Guarantee? No. But it’s hard to see how Yordano Ventura doesn’t come to camp next February, regardless of what happens this week, as a legitimate candidate for the rotation.

I also think Kyle Zimmer will get a camp invite and a long look. I’ve had some folks in the organization tell me that he flashed legit front-of-the-rotation stuff over the closing weeks.

@KCstreck87: what does our outfield tentatively look like next year? Any thoughts on who is odd man or men out?

That’s hard to say at this point, and here’s why: The Royals need more pop from their lineup, and the most likely place to get that is by adding an outfielder.

Whether they actually add that outfielder is another matter, which might come down to money — and not just the money they’d need to spend on an outfielder, but also the money required for other areas.

Remember, two of the club’s five starting pitchers — Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen — are pending free agents. The money required to retain them, or find replacements, could affect that search for an outfielder.

If nothing happens, I see Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain as certainties to return in 2014. As for the other three Jarrod Dyson, Justin Maxwell and David Lough each offer something, but there might not be room for all three.

@JonSaddler24: Does Bonifacio really need to be replaced at 2nd base? And what are the chances we see Beltran in Royal Blue next year?

Emilio Bonifacio’s play since arriving from Toronto lessens the urgency the Royals will show this offseason in examining available second basemen.

It’s still possible they get someone new, but they no longer have to get someone. If they do get someone, Bonifacio could easily shift back into the utility role the Royals envisioned when they acquired him.

Either way, Bonifacio’s play makes it hard to see where Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella fit going forward. Neither Getz nor Gio is a viable utility option, and neither seems likely to be the regular second baseman.

Club officials believe Pedro Ciriaco is well-equipped to serve as the roster’s utility infielder if Bonifacio is the second baseman.

Ciriaco is a legitimate backup shortstop in addition to being able to play second and third. He also has sufficient speed to serve as a pinch-runner, which is now one of Getz’s primary duties.

@PGlenn316: When does Duffy come off DL and is he expected to start again if Royals still alive?

Danny Duffy was eligible to return Sunday from the disabled list, but I think it’s unlikely he pitches again this season. His forearm soreness isn’t believed to be serious, but the Royals are being extra cautious.

Really, there’s no reason for Duffy to pitch again. He has already done enough in his recovery from Tommy John surgery for club officials (and Duffy himself) to believe he can be a reliable rotation piece in 2014.

The Royals didn’t say this, but the only explanation I see for putting Duffy on the disabled list in September — there’s no tactical roster advantage in doing so — was to prevent him from pushing too hard to return.

@pfunk270: shin soo choo a possibility or look like royals are sticking with in house and wait for boni jr.

Is Choo a possibility? Sure. He would definitely fill a need, and he’s the sort of skilled defensive outfielder who would be a great fit.

Signing him is also likely to be immensely expensive because he would bring those qualities to any club. I’d expect the Royals to take a look but back away as the price climbs.

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