Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Ah! It's almost here! The echoes of "This Week in Baseball"'s classic theme grow louder and louder in my mind as Opening Day nears (though, to be honest, the theme they played at the end of the show when they showcased baseball's brightest rounding the bases in slow-mo, culminating in Pete Rose diving head-first into third base was...well...well, let's just say I had alot of long-lasting reminders of the crappy, rock-laden, local fields etched into my chest and stomach from emulating ol' "Charlie Hustle". Yeah, the music moved me. On a side note, I bet I'm still emulating Mr. Rose as I already have my NCAA Tourney bracket ready to go!)
Hmm...ok, I think I got a little sidetracked there.
Basically, baseball season is starting and once again, like year after year...after year after year...my hope is springing eternal for my hometown Kansas City Royals. This is the second straight year I've put my thoughts down onto digital paper as to what I think is in store for "my team". Last year, I put those thoughts down in early February already, as there really weren't a whole lot of unknowns going into the season. This year, things are a little different.
Like last year, the Royals landed a big free agent signing in the offseason. Like last year, there are quite a few key positions that are already filled. But, unlike last year, there are so many little unknowns that have yet to be resolved at this stage in Spring Training, that the Opening Day, 25-man, roster is anybody's guess. However, all of those "little unknowns" will all work out in the end because - we have a new manager by the name of Trey Hillman...and he will lead us to the promised land! How do I know that? Dude is rockin' a mullet. 'Nuff said.
1. David DeJesus - CF: Great sparkplug to the lineup. Pretty much, my thoughts are the same as what I wrote last year.
2. Mark Grudzielanek - 2B: The wily, old veteran is still plugging away. Great to have him on the team again, but I would be surprised if he plays more than 100 games this year. Look for Alberto Callaspo to log in quite a bit of time at this position and this spot in the lineup.
3. Mark Teahen - LF: Man, I'm starting to have my doubts about Teahen in the number 3 spot. I think Alex Gordon could soon be making this spot in the lineup his home. Although, I still remember watching Teahen hit during the second-half of the 2006 season and thinking to myself, "damn, this kid reminds me of George Brett at the plate"! If he regains that form, the 3-spot is his, and the Royals will be creating some sparks come September.
4. Jose Guillen - RF: Our big free agent signing, brought in to add some muscle to the lineup and drive in runs, to the tune of $12 million a year. Yeah, you better produce, Jose. Oh, and a word of advice, KC fans don't take kindly to cry-baby's and/or prima-donna's - so save the drama fo' yo mama! Of course, if you hit .350, and mash 50 HR's with 150 RBI's, we'll probably cut you some slack.
5. Billy Butler - DH/1B: I had been anxiously awaiting this kid's arrival to the big leagues since the moment we drafted him. I was pleasantly surprised to see him called up last year already, and he hasn't disappointed. Memo to Dayton Moore: Lock this kid up on a long-term contract now - dude can mash!
6. Ross Gload - 1B/DH: Well, I don't have anything against Ross Gload...he'll probably get the nod at 1B. I think he would be a serviceable, everyday 1B, but he's not the guy I want to see playing everyday at this position. Last year, Ryan Shealy was our 1B, but injuries quickly ended his season. Though I still think he could be a great 1B (he's had a very fine Spring), he should spend some time in AAA this year. No, the guy who I would really like to see at 1B full-time is: Justin Huber. This guy is a hitting machine! He doesn't have the added pop in his bat like Billy Butler, but I think he could seriously challenge for a batting title if given a full season. So, c'mon Royals, give the Aussie a chance!
7. Alex Gordon - 3B: I had Alex pegged for the 7th slot last year in my predictions as well (again, you can read last year's post for my reasons). Manager, Buddy Bell, had different ideas though, hitting him 5th most of the year. Alex is not a number 5 guy...he's just...not. He and Teahen could easily swap spots in the lineup - 3 or 7...3 or 7. I was pretty excited to hear that new manager, Trey Hillman, had the same idea to hit Alex 7th...I was probably the only guy in KC to agree with him. He'll probably bat 5th...geez. That aside, Alex is another guy I'd like to see get tied up with a long contract - dude may not have won Rookie of the Year like so many thought he might, but he will be a star!
8. John Buck - C: I'm fine with either Buck or Miguel Olivo getting the majority of starts. Neither one excites me. I think it could be argued that the guy behind both of them, Matt Tupman, has had the more impressive Spring.
9. Tony Pena Jr. - SS: I like this guy. He's a real gamer. Is he the best shortstop out there fielding and/or hitting-wise? Meh, no - but he'll give 100% every inning of every game!
Joey Gathright - OF: I hope he gets alot of playing time. Incredible speed; if he can make consistent contact and get on base - we've got a great weapon!
Miguel Olivo - C: Will probably be John Buck's backup, but will still see plenty of playing time.
Alberto Callaspo - IF: I like this guy; he's hitting as advertised. I was surprised when we traded one of our young pitchers for him, but hey, kudos to Dayton Moore.
Esteban German - IF/OF: German is not a bad player, but I would rather see this last spot go to Huber. German may get it though due to his versatility and proven OBP (a stat that Trey Hillman holds in high regard). Though, to be honest, I would even pick our 2007 Minor League Player of the Year, Mike Aviles, over German.
1. Gil Meche: Proved everybody wrong by earning every cent of his $11 million a year contract last year. I just wish he would have had more offensive support to up his win total. Our first bona-fide ace since Kevin Appier.
2. Zack Grienke: I think he's actually penciled in to be the number 3 guy, but I think his stuff warrants the number 2 spot. I can relate quite a bit with the way this kid is, well, minus the awesome baseball talent (I made an All-Star team in Little League though!), so I want to see him succeed. He has Cy Young Award-talent, it's just a matter of putting it all together over the course of a season.
3. Brian Bannister: Again, read my thoughts from last year as they are the same this year. Brian is Mr. Steady Eddie, and thus, should be the number 3 guy.
4. Brett Tomko: Well, I think it was pretty much pre-ordained that Tomko would get the number 4 spot no matter how he performed in Spring Training. I'm not sold on him, but what the hey, I guess. I'd rather see Luke Hochevar in the 4 spot, but he'll probably start in the pen, and it's just a matter of time before he is in the rotation.
5. John Bale: The one lefty in the rotation has truly earned his spot by having a great Spring. He could surprise some folks.
Luke Hochevar: Will probably be the long man, should make the rotation soon.
Hideo Nomo: Here's a shocker! He's had a very fine Spring though. Give him a shot, I say.
Jimmy Gobble: A lefty, he has turned into a solid reliever.
Joel Peralta: Veteran reliever, he's had a less than stellar Spring, but hopefully he's saving it up for the regular season.
Ron Mahay: Situational lefty, he's a proven veteran. I hope he proves it with us.
Yasuhiko Yabuto: Signed out of Japan as the replacement for setup man David Riske, I'm hoping he'll deliver like Riske did.
Joakim Soria: Proved himself as a Closer last year, he's the Closer again. Another young arm who could be Mariano Rivera good...get him signed to a long-term contract!
Kyle Davies, Jorge DeLaRosa, Leo Nunez, and Neil Musser could take one of these spots too. It's a long season, so they'll be pitching for us at some point.
OK, as for our Win/Loss record...I'm not picking one like I did last year. I'm dreaming big this year - PLAYOFFS! Division Champ or Wild Card, I don't care. PLAYOFFS, baby! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find an old ratty baseball field and practice my head-first slides.
Yeah, on second thought, I think I'll have me a glass of grape juice and call it a night. Need those anti-oxidants, ya know.