The fans, players, and front office all are starting to feel the same. We cannot keep building for the future forever. That means that the young, talented prospects who have the bright future that will lead the Kansas City Royals for the first time since 1985 back to the playoffs will be asked to do it sooner rather than later. Sports Illustrated may have been a bit premature on predicting the impending Royals dynasty. However, is it still that far-fetched? Why can’t it just be delayed a little? The talent is still there and the first wave now has some experience under its belt. This season may not prove everything but 2013 will be an indication if Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez will be the future for the Kansas City Royals.
With both Hosmer and Moustakas over 900 at bats in the MLB and Sal Perez just short of 500 at bats, the experience at this level is starting to get there. Other teams’ pitchers have adjusted to them and these young hitters will need to start adjusting themselves. “Moose” is the oldest of the three at just 24 but the performance of this core group could be what keeps the Royals in the playoff chase throughout the year. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are established and we know what the team has there. Now, it is the time the lineup adds depth.
Let’s start with looking at Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was suppose to be a guy who consistently wins a batting title and competes for some MVP’s while capturing Gold Gloves at first base. A lot of that is in doubt after last season. Hosmer struggled mightily to even bat .200 the first half of the year. Some good performances in meaningless games at the end of the year allowed him to finish with a .232 average and just a .304 on-base percentage. Hosmer had more plate appearances in 2012 but five less home runs. Worst of all, there was a clear way to beat him at the plate. Hosmer has a bad habit of chasing breaking balls away out of the zone and cannot seem to catch up to inside fast balls. At 23, the future is still bright for Hosmer and his .385 spring batting average is a good sign. However, Hosmer has to produce and show some power if he is going to hit in the 3-hole in front of Butler every again. An above average glove at first base will only go so far for a team that has too many “if’s” in the lineup.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas was a pleasant surprise for the first three months of 2012. Moustakas showed great power in the early months and was a popular option to get All-Star consideration. Even better was the defense played by Moose. Moustakas was 3rd in the AL in errors by a third baseman and led the league in putouts, assists, and double plays turned. Injury issues that weren’t fully revealed greatly affected his second half of the season. Moose struggled throughout August and September to drop his average to .242 on the year and his home runs completely tapered off to finish with only 20. The healthy 3rd baseman hit .394 this spring with five homers. If the Royals get the same guy they had for the first three months last year then that position will be a strength for the team in 2013.
Salvador Perez may end up being the best of all the young position players the Royals have. Coming through the farm system, Perez was considered a defensive specialist. That prediction has not waned as Sal has already become one of the top catchers in the majors at picking off base runners. Perez led the AL in runners caught stealing in 2012 at a 41.9% clip. The pleasant surprise that the 22 year old brought was his bat. At 6’3″ and 245 pounds, Perez is a daunting figure at the plate. His free swinging bat could become a concern but right now Perez may be the best contact hitter on the team. His low walk ratio is minimized by his potential power and his lifetime .311 batting average. I would not be shocked that in three years Salvador Perez will be considered the best active catcher in all of baseball.
The future is still bright for all three of these young hitters for the Royals. However, the three will be asked to be a major part of the 2013 success of this team. Rightfully so, the offense will go as these three hitters go. If all three perform to just average expectations, the Royals will boast a lineup that has five hitters in the top six who could all be the best at their position. In addition to offensive firepower, Moose, Hosmer and Perez could be the cornerstones to the best defensive infield in the American League. Add the instant highlight reel of Alcides Escobar and teams are going to lose many hits to the talents of the Royals young defenders. It is time to win in Kansas City, and the future of the organization will be asked to lead that endeavor.