Basically only Royals fans really expected the Royals to have a great season. But based on last year when the team seemed on the verge of breakout, Royals GM Dayton Moore made some offseason moves designed to give the team at least the chance to play for a Wild Card. They brought in an ace pitcher and bolstered the starting pitching based on the fact they thought everything was falling into place.
They were wrong. Despite their best efforts the young talent this team is so laden with has failed to take the expected step forward. That doesn’t mean they won’t do so -- young talent isn’t exactly predictable -- but 2013 so far has been a flop for the team.
The biggest culprits haven’t been the imported pitchers. James Shields, though sporting a 2-6 record, has eight quality starts in 10 tries, yielding two runs or less in five of them but getting so little support that in only one of those games has he earned a win. He has a 2.83 ERA. Ervin Santana has had six quality starts and has a 3.33 ERA but still has just three wins on the season.
The Royals issue has been hitting. And it’s been youngsters Mike Moustakas (.187) and Eric Hosmer (.262, one home run) who have been the real culprits. Those were the key players the Royals needed to move forward and turn them into contenders. It hasn’t happened and the only AL teams the Royals have outscored are the Mariners and White Sox.
That’s led to the recent ouster of hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David, who weren’t fired, but were demoted to the teams minor leagues. George Brett was asked to take over as the team’s hitting coach along with Pedro Grifol.
It’s a step short of firing manager Ned Yost, who certainly is next on the chopping block if the Royals don’t manage to turn the corner and fast. Now that they’ve hired Brett, Yost would have to be the one to go. Even Dayton Moore knows that he can’t fire Brett. In KC you’d be better off firing Santa Claus. The team isn’t amazingly far out of contention, but at 22-29 they are last in the AL Central and have the second to worst record in the league.
Some would call this a failure of the Royals' rebuilding or even a failure of the farm system, but it's premature to call anything a failure. Anyone who has ever played fantasy ball realizes that the path of youth is rarely predictable. There aren’t many Mike Trouts in baseball. Most players have ups and downs and right now the two youngsters are definitely on a down.
There is plenty of time left -- roughly 110 game for the Royals to get it right. Hosmer can regain his power stroke, and Moustakas can start hitting both for average and power. Even if they don’t take a step forward, just a step back to last season when Hosmer hit .232 with 15 home runs and Moustakas hit .242 with 20 home runs would make a huge difference.
Obviously the Royals hope for more. They’ll need more if they intend to get back into the Wild Card chase and quite frankly there isn’t a huge boost coming from the minors anytime soon (although prospect Christian Colon might be available to contribute somewhat before the year is out).
If all goes according to plan Moore will look like a genius. If not and the Royals fail to finish this year improved over last year, Moore might be the one looking for new work -- especially if Wil Myers, Jake Ordozzi and Mike Montgomery, all traded to to the Rays for James Shields, turn out to useful big league players while the Royals continue to wallow in limbo.