KC Royals Spring Training Report: Full Update of Surprises, Busts and Injuries
The Kansas City Royals have had an eventful spring. For the first time in recent memory, the team is feeling the stress of a team that is expected to win.
Winning brings its share of scrutiny, and The Royals have certainly found themselves in the spotlight. Some players have excelled and been a pleasant surprise for the team. Some have fizzled under the pressure and face uncertain futures. Others have found themselves injured, either seriously or mildly, and have many questioning the team's depth.
Some teams simply hope for a quiet spring to prepare for the long season. If that was the goal for the Royals, it may be a difficult road ahead.
All statistics are from MLB.com and current through March 19.
Mike Moustakas Leads a Group of Positive Surprises
The surprises of the spring start with the production of a young man that the team desperately needs to perform well this season. Mike Moustakas, a player that the team has been anticipating to be a big part of the offense for multiple years, has seemingly arrived with the chip on his shoulder that the team wants him to have.
Moustakas leads, or is tied for the lead, with all regulars this spring in hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and batting average. He is slugging an amazing .921 and is second on the team with six walks. His offensive performance this spring has the team very hopeful that he can be a breakout star in the regular season.
Moustakas is not the only surprise this spring, however. On the mound, Yordano Ventura came in to camp ready to compete for the final spot in the starting rotation. The electricity that flowed through this young man when he took the mound this spring was something very few people could have predicted.
Ventura proceeded to pitch just over 15 innings to date, striking out 15 hitters while only walking one. He has held opposing batters to a .185 batting average, and he has posted a 0.72 WHIP. Ventura, according to Barry Bloom of MLB.com among others, has been named to the team's starting rotation after his dominance in spring training.
Danny Duffy Has Been a Bust in Camp
There have been far more surprises than busts this spring. The biggest bust of the preseason has been the lack of competition that Ventura faced from one-time ace Danny Duffy.
The return of Duffy has been a major story through the end of 2013 and into the early part of the 2014 campaign. Duffy and Ventura entered the spring poised to jump into a competition for a spot in the starting rotation. Some thought that Duffy could hold off the youngster and take back the spot he relinquished when he was injured in 2012.
The problem surfaced when Duffy took the mound. In just nine innings thus far, he has allowed 15 hits, 11 earned runs and five home runs. Opponents are hitting .366 against him, and he is allowing more than two baserunners per inning.
All of this has resulted in Ventura being named to the rotation. In addition, while many assumed that meant that Duffy would be sent to the minor leagues to continue rebuilding his strength as a starter, that decision has yet to be made. Manager Ned Yost shared his thoughts on the subject with Dick Kaegel of MLB.com:
If you're going to have success, you're going to have to do it up here. So if he's not a starter and there's a spot open and he wins that spot, then we can ease him into situations like we did (Luke Hochevar) to where, hopefully, he can continue to grow, continue to progress at the Major League level.
You expect more from a player who is competing for a starting spot on the team. Duffy has been the biggest bust of the preseason to this point.
Luke Hochevar's Injury Is the Worst as Nagging Injuries Threaten the Team
The Royals received one of the biggest blows this spring when Luke Hochevar, who they were hoping could assume a spot in the rotation this season, went down injured. He has since undergone Tommy John surgery, per Dick Kaegel of MLB.com, costing him the entirety of the 2014 season.
Hochevar's injury might be the biggest blow, but nagging injuries are threatening the stability of the team as Opening Day draws closer. Alcides Escobar has taken a cortisone shot recently to relieve pain in his right shoulder. Free-agent acquisition Omar Infante has failed to take the field regularly so far this spring, taking a cortisone shot of his own in his right elbow. The Royals' middle infield situation is very thin without either starter.
The Royals will need to remain healthy if they want their record to continue to be healthy as well.
The Royals Have Had Ups and Downs Already This Year
Calm would not be the word to describe this spring for the Royals. As they fight injuries and continue to follow the ups and downs of various players, the season is quickly approaching.
The team will continue to hope that there are far more stories about Moustakas and his remarkable production than there are about Duffy and his continued struggles. General manager Dayton Moore may need to work quickly to see if there are options on the trade market to shore up a light backup infield situation.
The Royals have a chance to be successful this year, but it will take far more surprises than busts or injuries to get there.