Kansas City Royals Spring Training Stock Watch: Who Is Rising and Who Is Falling
The excitement is deserved. The team is playing well, players they are depending on are producing and they seem to have the right pieces in most every spot you look. The Royals are on the verge of discovering the success that has eluded them for more than 20 years.
Along the way, the players on the field tend to see their stock rise and fall. Quality production, staying healthy and consistent work will lead to a rise in stock. Failing to stay healthy and on the field, not being a veteran leader or finding yourself suddenly in minor league camp can bring that stock down.
The Royals have their fair share of news this spring. A quick look around can show the varying stock of six players.
Statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Eric Hosmer's Stock Continues to Rise
A lot of praise was rained down on Eric Hosmer for finding his stroke during the 2013 season. One of the top stories this spring seems to be surrounding whether or not he can continue that success.
Hosmer has not disappointed.
His production has not been the best on the team, but it has been consistent. Most importantly, he is hitting the ball to all fields with power. He seems poised and ready to start the season. Hosmer shared some thoughts on the spring with Joey Nowak of MLB.com:
It's just getting better every day, making adjustments. We're putting in the work. Guys are working hard, and it's coming down to the crunch time now -- a couple weeks left. Just got to come in, be consistent with the work and just stay at it.
The Royals will be happy if Hosmer continues to produce throughout the 2014 season. The fact that he has maintained a solid approach this spring has his stock on the rise.
Minor Injuries Are Keeping Alcides Escobar's Stock on the Decline
Alcides Escobar is important to the Royals' success this year. The team needs his defense, veteran leadership and a bounce-back offensive year to help them move forward.
To do any of those things, the Royals will need Escobar on the field.
The young shortstop has been battling a sore shoulder to the point that he received a cortisone shot, according to Dick Kaegel of MLB.com. While there is only minor concern over his well-being, it has hurt his stock a bit.
Escobar has been one of the more consistent players to take the field for the Royals over the last few seasons, having played in at least 155 games in each of the last three seasons. The Royals have a lack of depth in the middle infield this season. With that, the team needs Escobar on the field.
There may not be a lot of concern about his health now, but that will not last much longer.
Mike Moustakas Keeps His Stock Rising with Solid Production
Mike Moustakas may be one of the hottest hitters in Arizona this spring. After an offseason of work that included a trip to Venezuela to work on his swing, Moustakas seems to be playing like the prospect many thought he would be.
Moustakas has taken a different approach to hitting and it has shown with a .500 average, four home runs and 13 runs batted in through Wednesday's games. Manager Ned Yost shared some thoughts with Kaegel of MLB.com on the work Moustakas and the rest of the team have been doing:
His primary focus has been with two strikes. In the cage, in the drills they do all the time, it's on a two-strike approach. That's been a big topic for Pedro [Grifol, hitting coach] and the hitters this year because 55 percent of the time, you're going to be in two-strike situations anyway. So it's an area going into the spring that we really wanted to concentrate on, focus on and try to get better at -- even though we struck out less than any team in the American League last year.
A shorter swing, a tighter approach and a flash of power have Moustakas' stock on the rise in the spring. Many are hoping he can sustain his level of play when he reaches the regular season.
Chris Dwyer Finds His Stock Falling Due to Minor League Assignment
The easiest way to hurt your stock in spring training, especially when you are a young prospect looking to climb the ladder, is to receive word you have been reassigned to minor league camp.
There are more than a few guys in the Royals' camp who can lay claim to this happening recently. Many people predicted Chris Dwyer to be a guy who would break camp with Kansas City. As it turns out, 2014 was not the season for that to happen.
Kaegel reported the roster moves earlier this week that included Dwyer and top prospect Kyle Zimmer. Yost suggested the move was made to ensure Dwyer continued to receive enough innings to prepare for the season:
Dwyer looked great; he was a tough one, but we run out of innings this time of year, when starters start to get lengthened out. We didn't want him sitting here pitching one inning over the next seven or eight days, when he could be down getting himself lengthened out. Because he's going to be a viable candidate, if something happens, to come up and step into the rotation.
Dwyer was competing for a spot in the Royals' bullpen but it seems the team has plans for him at the start of a game. The focus point now turns to how he responds and how well he pitches to try and earn his way back to the big leagues.
Yordano Ventura's Consistency and Fastball Raise His Stock
There may not be a player on the Royals' roster who has his stock rising faster than Yordano Ventura. The young hurler, who is battling for a spot in the rotation this season, was the talk of the camp this week.
A three-digit fastball and a lot of strikeouts will do that for you.
As Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star pointed out, Ventura registered six strikeouts without walking a batter and registered 102 miles per hour on the radar gun at one point. The young right-hander has looked impressive this spring and does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
If he can continue to pitch the way he did this week, the sky is the limit for the young man's stock.
Brad Penny's Temper Earns Release, Lowers Stock
The Royals took a chance this spring on veteran pitcher Brad Penny as he attempted to make a comeback. That chance did not last long.
While there are conflicting reports as to what exactly led to the decision, Penny was released from his contract this week. His production was unimpressive. Some theories say his attitude was not helpful either.
As was pointed out by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com via Twitter, rumors circulated that Penny hurt himself after his last outing:
Brad Penny hurt his left hand punching a wall after outing with #royals Thursday source says.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) March 7, 2014
Penny himself denied the report on Twitter later that day:
Whether it was his temper or his lack of production, it is hard to argue your stock drops pretty quickly when you are no longer on a roster of any kind.
The Positives Outweigh the Negatives for the Royals
Ultimately, when you compare the ups and downs of the various players in the Royals' camp this spring, one thing is clear: It seems to be a positive season for the Royals.
Minor, nagging injuries to Escobar, the demotion of prospect Dwyer and the release of veteran Penny are negatives, but they are not impossible to overcome. Meanwhile, increased production from Hosmer and Moustakas along with the dominance of young hurler Ventura have the immediate future looking pretty good.
The positives certainly outweigh the negatives for this team.
That's a statement that is new to a lot of Royals fans.
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