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2010 Kansas City Royals: We've Got Billy Butler! 2009 Spring Preview
by Asher B. Chancey,
April 2, 2010

We here at probably put ourselves into our written work more than we should. Nevertheless, I am going to frame this year's Kansas City Royals Spring Preview with the following caveat:
Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Rick Ankiel CF
Josh Fields 3B
Scott Podsednik OF
Jason Kendall C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Chris Getz 2B
Wilson Betemit 3B
Departed Pos.
Miguel Olivo C
Coco Crisp OF
John Buck C
Mike Jacobs 1B
Mark Teahen 3B
It is always difficult to write the Kansas City Royals Spring Preview. There are only so many ways you can cover the worst franchise in Major League Baseball.

There are six points you're going to make every year: 1) Major League Baseball is an unequal system that allows the Yankees to always be good and the Royals to always be bad, and it is a crime against nature that no one has a problem with that; 2) that said, the Royals have certainly not done themselves any favors, as they have been a very poorly run team for quite some time; 3) it really is a tragedy for young (fill in the name of budding superstar; in 2010, it's Zack Greinke ) to have to be surrounded with such a poor supporting cast; 4) (fill in the name of overpriced past-his-prime veteran; in 2010, it's Jason Kendall) joins the Royals this year, hoping to provide veteran leadership to a young club; 5) could this finally be the year that (fill in the name of overhyped former prospect; in 2010, it's Alex Gordon) finally breaks out?; 6) if things come together perfectly for the Royals this year, they might climb out of the cellar in the AL Central.

2009 Standings - AL Central
Central W L PCT GB Home Road RS RA Exp W% RHP LHP
Minnesota Twins 87 76 .534 0 49-33 38-43 817 765 .530 59-44 28-32
Detroit Tigers 86 77 .528 1 51-30 35-47 743 745 .499 57-57 29-20
Chicago White Sox 79 83 .488 8 43-38 36-45 724 732 .495 54-59 25-24
Cleveland Indians 65 97 .401 22 35-46 30-51 773 865 .449 48-74 17-23
Kansas City Royals 65 97 .401 22 33-48 32-49 686 842 .407 45-61 20-36

After those six points, it is just two pages of manufactured analysis. Consider the following gems from previous Kansas City Royals Spring Previews:

From 2009: "The good news for the Royals is that Mike Aviles, whom the Royals selected in the seventh round of the 2003 draft (the same round in which the Mets drafted current Royals pitcher Brian Bannister), looked like a great hitter last year, and probably has the shortstop position nailed down."

From 2008: "Grudzielanek enters the season in the final year of a two-year contract. He'll turn 38 in June and had knee surgery twice last year. Still, Grudz hit .302 last season, the fifth straight in which he's batted .294 or better, and he remains one of the top defensive keystone sackers in baseball. He'll start again in '08, but he'll also be counted on to groom his eventual replacement, Alberto Callaspo, who'll turn 25 in April."

From 2007: "No matter what anyone tells you, the biggest factor for the Royals in 2007 is David DeJesus. DeJesus's on-base percentage was consistently over .400 in the minor leagues from 2002 to 2004, but it has hovered around .360 in the majors. If DeJesus can play 150 games in centerfield and put up an on-base percentage of .380 or higher, the Royals will not be able to avoid scoring runs, and their pitchers will have more consistent support in the outfield than they did a year ago."

From 2006: "The Royals like what they get from Buck as a defensive catcher. Though still a young 25, he seems destined to develop a Matheny-type reputation as he gets older. His OPS was pushing .700 last year. If it can crawl above that mark, the Royals should be in good shape. Paul Bako provides an adequate veteran replacement when Buck needs to rest."

Are you still there? Needless to say, this is some boring, not to mention, inconsequential stuff. Unfortunately, that is what the Royals have been for the last couple of years/decades: boring and inconsequential.

So this year, I am going to spare you the usual routine. Instead, I am going to provide you with the following:

25 Thoughts Regarding the 2010 Kansas City Royals

Scott Podsednik
25. The Royals roster lists both Scott Podsednik and Brian Anderson, two former White Sox outfielders. Podsednik is past his prime, and Anderson was a prospect who never developed. This is how the Royals get outfielders?

24. With Alex Gordon out until May with a broken whatever, the Royals will turn to former White Sox third baseman Josh Fields. So, no longer content with their own draft busts at third base, the Royals are not acquiring other teams' draft busts at third base.

24a. Right here and now, I am going to coin what will heretofore be known as the Josh Fields Principle: if a minor league prospect has more strikeouts than games played in four or more minor league seasons without also averaging at least one homerun every five games, he is not going to be a major league star. Find me a player that proves me wrong.

23. Kansas City has become the new home of Yuniesky Betancourt, who may just be the worst player in the history of Major League Baseball (minimum: 600 games played). During his time in Seattle, Betancourt was routinely one of the worst defensive shortstops in the league and one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. And you thought Kansas City couldn't top Angel Berroa.

Royals Team Capsule

The Greinke-Olivo Saga Continues - When a pitcher has a bad outing, you shrug it off. Get lit up by the Colorado Rockies, and you definitely let it go. Even for a Cy Young Award winner, a bad outing is part of the game.

But when a dominant pitcher gets tagged for eight runs in less than four innings against the team his old catcher plays for, you know whatís going on.

Updating a story we've been following all year, Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo had the day off on Sunday as the Rockies faced the Kansas City Royals, his old team, and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. But Olivo probably didnít sit this game out; Olivo almost certainly played the role of "special assistant to the Manager" for this one, sitting right next to Rockies manager Jim Tracy and giving him everything he knows about his former teammate.

22. The Royals are attempting to convert Kyle Farnsworth into a starting pitcher. This is simply fascinating, because I always think of relief pitchers as pitchers who don't have enough pitches to be effective starters, and I've always thought of Farnsworth as a pitcher who didn't have enough pitches to be an effective reliever.

Kile Ka'aihue
21. In 2008, at the age of 24, Kila Ka'aihue hit 37 homeruns with 91 runs and 100 RBI while putting up a monstrous 104/67 K:BB ratio at Double-A and Triple-A combined. Did the Royals promote him to the majors the following year? Nah; why would a team for whom Mark Teahen (.715 OPS) played 149 games in 2008 need a guy like Ka'aihue?

21a. I have been under the impression that Kila's twin brother plays in the Braves minor league system. Kila's brother Kala does play in the system, but they aren't twins. Why did I think they were twins? Because they were born exactly a year apart - March 29th, 1984 and 1985, respectively.

20. If Billy Butler were a Yankee or a Phillie, we'd be cautiously optimistic about his 51 doubles, 21 homeruns, 93 RBI, and .301 average last season, especially what with his 58 walks and 103 strikeouts. In Kansas City, they're comparing him to George Brett.

19. The Royals' 2009 starting rotation was composed of three former first round picks (Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Gil Meche) a former fourth and a former seventh. Only Greinke had an ERA under 4.73.

18. Luke Hochevar is the baseball equivalent of the kid who can't read but keeps getting passed to the next grade by inattentive teachers. Hochevar has never demonstrated a mastery of any level of baseball for a period of longer than 48.0 innings, and yet the Royals have bounced him all over the minors and called him up haphazardly. The next time someone tells you that the Royals draft well but their prospects just don't turn out, don't buy it - this franchise screws players up.

Miguel Olivo
17. This is the type of thing I'd like to be on record as having said: In 2009, Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award and led the AL in ERA with Miguel Olivo as his catcher. You would think retaining Miguel Olivo would have been a priority, but the Royals declined his option and made him a free agent. Bang up job, KC.

16. Scott Thorman is 28 years old, hit 20 homeruns with an .830 OPS in 108 Triple-A games last season, and is ripping up spring training. Thorman was just demoted to Triple-A so that the Royals could make room for Podsednik, Jason Kendall, and Jose Guillen.

15. Not only have the Royals allowed Olivo to leave, but they have also acquired the only former mega pitching-prospect that is a bigger head-case than Zack Greinke in Rick Ankiel. Let's make sure that Ankiel has a chance to tell Greinke every detail of what it was like when he started having trouble finding the catchers mitt.

14. If Joakim Soria is still a Royal after the trading deadline has come and gone this season, the Royals aren't even trying to get better.

13. Brian Bannister needs to get traded to St. Louis quick. He is only twenty-nine this year, so maybe in another couple of years, but he needs the attention of Dave Duncan and Yadier Molina.

12. If Guillen finishes the season with Kansas City, this will be the first time in his 14-season, nine-team career that he has played three full seasons with the same team.

Wilson Betemit
11. Wilson Betemit was a big name prospect who never really put up any minor league numbers worth getting excited about, and by now most teams have realized he will never be as big of a deal as people once thought he would be. Once a former prospect has reached that point in his career, there is really only one major league option left. Welcome to Kansas City.

10. David DeJesus is the least fun or interesting best player on his own team in all of baseball..

9. Do you want to know why the Royals were terrible in 2009? Because they scored the second fewest runs in the AL, and they gave up the third most runs in the AL. In order to succeed in baseball, you have to be at least reasonably good in at least one of those categories.

8. The Royals are engaging in a game of Bizarro Infield: Alberto Callaspo, who last year went .300/.356/.457, is currently behind two Chicago White Sox burn-outs in Josh Fields and Chris Getz on the depth chart at third base and second base, and Mike Aviles, who two years ago was awesome before missing most of last year, is listed behind Betancourt, the afore-mentioned worst player in baseball.

Billy Butler
7. Last year, Miguel Olivo and Billy Butler became the first Royals to hit 20 or more homeruns since 2005, when Mike Sweeney hit 21. The last Royal to hit 25 homeruns was Carlos Beltran, with 26 in 2003. The last Royal to hit 30 homeruns was Jermaine Dye, with 33 in 2000. The last Royal with 35 homeruns was Gary Gaetti in 1995, with exactly 35. The only Royal ever to hit more than 35 was Steve Balboni, with 36 in 1985! Doesn't that make Miguel Olivo's season of the best in Royals' history? Glad he's gone.

6. 40-year old Matt Herges joins this ninth team in 12 seasons.

5. DeJesus needs 19 doubles to move into eighth place on the Royals' career list with 183.

4. As recently as 1976 to 1985, the Royals finished in first place in the AL West six times in 10 years, and even won a World Series.

3. Coming to Kansas City has been a disaster for Juan Cruz. In 2005, Cruz pitched 29 games for the Oakland A's and ended the season 0-3 with a 7.44 ERA. With Arizona the next three years, he improved each season, watching his ERA fall to 4.18, 3.10, and then 2.61, while his won-loss record went from 5-6 to 6-1 and finally to 4-0. He came crashing back down to earth with the Royals last season: 3-4, 5.72 ERA.

2. How do you build a bad offense? Between designated hitter and the three outfield spots, the Royals had five regulars in 2009 - DeJesus, Guillen, Mitch Maier, Mike Jacobs, and Willie Bloomquist. DeJesus had a .781 OPS and not one of the other four guys got his OPS over .700.

1. There is no obvious answer to the Kansas City Royals decade of incompetence. But one things is obvious - this is not going to be a good team in 2010. If the bullpen is rock solid, someone from the rotation other than Greinke decides to show up and pitch well, and Billy Butler continues to develop as a player, the fact remains that this teams' lineup has almost no talent whatsoever. Who knows - maybe Josh Fields and Rick Ankiel will finally give the Royals some bashers. That is really the best that can be said for this team that seems destined to once again finish in the bottom of the division.

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