The Royals rolled their record to 5-2 on Tuesday, holding firm against the Astros in a 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park. The victory included another impressive escape from Wade Davis and solid debut from starter Kris Medlen, who shook off some rust in the first inning. The four-game series continues Wednesday night, with Yordano Ventura making his second start of the season.
Before we get to baseball, the podcast recommendation this week is director Richard Linklater talking baseball with Maron; the random Tuesday album recommendation is “Painted Shut” by Hop Along. Let’s go.
Two interesting questions. For now, Ned Yost is not commenting on the matter, at least not in any meaningful way. But here is what we know: During spring training, Yost spoke as if Gore’s time on the 25-man roster would be temporary. With Dyson (and his speed) on the disabled list, and an early schedule filled with off days, the Royals could afford to carry a 25th man who can only offer value as a pinch-runner.
It seems unlikely the Royals would carry a pinch-runner for the long term. Such a move would be essentially unprecedented in this era. But there is a somewhat logical argument for more Gore — at least for a little while.
Yost rarely, if ever, pinch-hits. He rides his regulars, and as I noted Monday in this story, the Royals’ roster is constructed to the point that the 25th man rarely plays anyway. When Dyson returns, he could also see semi-regular playing time. When he is in the starting lineup, that means he is not on the bench to offer speed in the late innings. Gore’s presence would still be valuable.
And if there was an injury to an outfielder, the club could dip back into the minors, summon the extra outfielder, and have somebody ready to go the next day. In other words, if any team could carry a pinch-runner, it’s the Royals. The gambit may rarely pay off (it did last week) but it would be a somewhat progressive strategy.
This doesn’t mean anything, of course. The Royals have shown an inclination to carry five outfielders, and Reymond Fuentes and Paulo Orlando also offer speed. Just not Gore speed.
There are other variables to consider: Fuentes, like Dyson, bats left-handed. Orlando hits from the right side. And even if the Royals elect to carry Dyson, Fuentes and Orlando, playing time will be scarce. It’s likely the Royals would prefer the player not playing much to get some at-bats in the minors to stay sharp. In other words: The final bench spot will likely remain fluid, even after Dyson returns.
The short answer: No. They can’t keep him forever. But they can for a while.
The rules on options can be convoluted and a little confusing. But here is the simple explainer: Once a player is on the 40-man roster, a team has three “options” on a player, meaning the number of times they can send him freely to the minor leagues. Only one option is used per season, no matter how many times a player moves back and forth from the minors to the big leagues.
The Royals used their first option on Gore last season. They did not use one on him in 2014, because he was called up to the big-league club late in the season and not sent to the minors again until the next year. In short, the Royals have two more options on Gore. There are other factors that can come into play, including injuries, that can preserve an option for a certain year. But the Royals likely can utilize Gore as a part-time player in this manner for the next two seasons. After that, he would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors.
After Tuesday’s victory, Davis said he was fighting a mechanical issue while recording his third save. In technical terms, Davis said he wasn’t getting “out front” and his body was “running away from his arm.” The issue limited some life from his fastball, Davis said. He also said it was not unusual for this time of the year.
“It’s something I usually go through early in the year,” he said. “It usually takes about a week to get through that dead arm phase. Hopefully in a week, it’ll be a lot better.”
According to FanGraphs, Davis’ fastball velocity has been down a tick this season. He averaged 95.8 mph in 2015 and 95.6 in 2014. In four games, his fastball has averaged 94.5 mph. It’s also April, and Davis said some of that drop was due to mechanical stuff.
If this is Davis struggling, it’s worth noting he has allowed one hit in four innings (he has walked four) and recorded three saves while not giving up a run.
The official statement from the Royals: He remains in extended spring training and is day to day while battling through some shoulder issues. He will likely head to a minor-league affiliate when he feels comfortable. As of Wednesday, it’s still unknown when that might be.
I suppose it’s baked beans. The ones at Jack Stack, specifically. But I’m kind of meh on barbecue sides. As a wise person once said, the meat is the show. Gotta save room for that.
Probably Zack Greinke, because, selfishly, I would like to talk to him about this current group of Royals. Zack is many things, but one of them is a sort of baseball savant. He always has really interesting thoughts about the game. Also on the short list: Willie Bloomquist, Brayan Peña and Wilson Betemit.
Brandon Belt, the Giants’ first baseman, agreed to a six-year, $79 million extension that bought out his final two arbitration years. Like Hosmer, Belt was slated to become a free agent after the 2017 season. Like Hosmer, he is a solid defensive first baseman whose counting stats don’t tell the whole offensive picture.
From a statistical standpoint, they are decent analogs for each other:
Career slash line: .272/.348/.446 in 2,077 career plate appearances.
2013 WAR: 4.2
2014 WAR: 0.9
2015 WAR: 3.9
Career slash line: .280/.336/.427 in 3,084 career plate appearances.
2013 WAR: 3.5
2014 WAR: 0.8
2015 WAR: 3.6
Here is where the comparison starts to fail a little bit. For one, Hosmer has been much more durable than Belt, who has battled concussion issues. Belt will turn 28 next week and would have entered free-agency just a few months shy of his 30th birthday. If Hosmer reaches free-agency after the 2017 season, he will only be 28. That would make Hosmer considerably more valuable in free-agency. He also has the next two seasons to burnish his offensive credentials with strong seasons. To this point, Hosmer and Belt have resembled each other as players. That doesn’t mean their free-agent markets would.
The Royals could field a decent pickup squad, especially if you can pick from the entire 40-man roster. Chris Young was a Division I center who probably could have played a season or two (or maybe more) in the NBA. Left-handed reliever Brian Flynn looks like a prototypical mid-major power forward. I’m not sure if Paulo Orlando has ever touched a basketball, but I bet he could create havoc on the defensive end. Kyle Zimmer and Brett Eibner look like they could probably play a little bit. Here’s my starting five:
Point guard: Jarrod Dyson
Shooting guard: Alex Gordon
Small forward: Bubba Starling
Power forward: Brian Flynn
Center: Chris Young
Off the top of my head, the honorable mentions would be something like: Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas,” Outkast’s “B.O.B,” The Decemberists’ “Don’t Carry it All,” Bloc Party’s “Banquet” and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s “Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth.”
But at the moment, I think my walk-up song would be Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #2 (Laika). And my bullpen entrance song would probably come from the same album. But I’d go with “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”.