The Kansas City Royals have been headed for brighter days for awhile now, but the question is how long will the journey take? The Royals Major League roster is currently the youngest in the league by an average of more than two years. It has been a long wait just to reach this level of what has become known as "The Process."
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are names that fans in Kansas City have been waiting to see at Kauffman Stadium since they were drafted in the first round in back-to-back years, 2007 and 2008.
The 2011 season has so far given the Royals a decent sample of what is to come for the future. The infield appears to be set for a few years to come. Hosmer has been great defensively in his rookie season at first-base, especially with holding on to wild throws to first base and picking the ball out of the dirt. He has a picture perfect swing with the bat, but has still gone into a couple of slumps that have lowered his average below .270.
Mike Moustakas has been the lone low point of the current youth movement in the big leagues. "Mouse" as he is know in KC, has surprised some people with his defensive abilities. The glove of Eric Hosmer has helped Moustakas avoid some throwing errors though. Yet, it is the major league pitching that has baffled the rookie third baseman. While he put together a three hit game against the Yankees on Wednesday, he is still below a .200 average. It would be a great sign for the Royals future if they could just see his bat come to life for a couple weeks in September to get him over the .200 mark.
The great fielding of Alcides Escobar has been a bright spot all season long. The rookie 2nd baseman, Johnny Giavotella, has shown no fear in his first weeks in the majors. He looks like he could hit for average and power. There is no question that Giavotella's fielding could use some improvement, but in my opinion he has not looked as bad as what people were saying about him in the minor leagues. He has actually made some pretty nice plays for the Royals at 2nd. Rookie Catcher, Salvadore Perez looks GOOD behind the plate. Just like Eric Hosmer, Perez looks like he is a major league veteran at his position while still in his early 20's.
In the Royals batting lineup there have been no real surprises from the rookies. Everybody knew Hosmer was the most major league ready hitter of the bunch. We all knew that one of the young guys like Moustakas would struggle. Giavotella has been tearing up pitching at every level so it's not surprising that he's still hitting well here. The defense of Salvadore Perez has been talked about since he was signed at 16. The true surprise in the order this season was not one of the rookies, it was Alex Gordon.
Gordon has hit a career high 37 doubles and 16 home runs this season. The only reason there is even an argument of Gordon not being the Royals most productive hitter is because Melky Cabrera is also having a shocking comeback season in Kansas City. Both of them will return to the Royals outfield next season. Now it is also official that they will be joined by right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who signed a $13.5 million contract for two years yesterday.
We now know that this lineup that we see on a regular basis for the Royals will be intact next season.
It is just as obvious that the starting pitching rotation will be much different. The contract of Bruce Chen will be up this offseason. The same goes for Jeff Francis. Luke Hochevar and Danny Duffy are the only two pitchers that we can be sure we will see next season. The Royals do have some extra money right now. Though the free agent pitching market will be thin, they could still sign a guy like Edwin Jackson. If not, they will make some trades.
One thing for certain is that the Royals will be going after starting pitching next season. If they make quality acquisitions, then it's not crazy to think they could compete in the AL Central as early as next season. Today the Royals are just trying to get better. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Johnny Giavotella, and Salvadore Perez, are learning with every at bat.
Suddenly Kansas City, the place where 100+ loss seasons have become the usual, is home to an exciting young baseball team. Sure, they are still in last place but they will at least be a team for the rest of baseball to keep an eye on.
Next July as all of baseball gets to know beautiful Kauffman Stadium for the 83rd All Star Game, maybe they will be getting to know a couple more Royals players than usual.