Sunday, May 2, 2010

Infield Woes: Deck Chairs Something Something Titanic

So, the Royals have a bit of an infield problem. While they may have pretty much other position set in stone (except catcher, but that's a discussion for later), the center and left of the infield has a bit of a logjam. They have 5 players who are all varying degrees of mediocre-to-decent, and only 3 spots to put them in. While I might not know what the best decision is, it's already been handled poorly.

Alberto Callaspo is by far the most promising hitter of the bunch, and you can't take him out of the lineup, period. He hit .300/.356/.457 last year and is having a similar year in 2010, hitting .301/.347/.505 so far. However, placing him somewhere is a bit tricky. He's an absolute butcher at 2B (career -3.9 UZR/150) but he's shown that he can play a decent 3B where his range is less of a liability.

Playing him at 3rd, however, would displace Alex Gordon. Gordon was injured and missed most of 2009, but he was fairly good in his first year in MLB, 2008, where he hit .260/.351/.432, albeit with poor defense. Gordon is also one of the organization's supposed up-and-coming superstars, and benching him would be akin to giving up.

Chris Getz would in all likelihood be playing 2nd if Callaspo is playing 3rd. Acquired over the offseason, he is at least a neutral defender at 2nd, although his bat is not promising (.261/.324/.347 last year).

Yuniesky Betancourt is, as things stand, the current shortstop. He was acquired in a midseason trade last year, having a reputation as a poor hitter with a plus glove at shortstop. However, he is a career very poor defensive shortstop, -8 UZR/150 including a -20.7! last year, and his bat isn't enough to carry that, hitting .245/.274/.351

Mike Aviles is the other option at shortstop. He played very well in 2008, his rookie year, hitting .325/.340/.480 while playing very plus defense. However, he was quite honestly a disaster last year, hitting only .183/.208/.250 before being benched for Betancourt.

Here's what the Royals have been doing so far. To start the season, Gordon was out with a broken thumb, so they trotted out an infield of Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo. When Gordon came back, Getz went on the 15-day DL and Callaspo slid over to second, playing Callaspo/Betancourt/Gordon. Now all infield members are healthy for the first time this year, and the setup had been Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo, with Gordon on the bench. However, today, Aviles has been called up from AAA (a good thing) while Gordon has been bafflingly sent down to Omaha. This leads me to believe that the Royals plan to line up an infield of Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo while using Aviles as an infield super-sub. So let's break that down and a few alternatives.

Plan A: Getz/Betancourt/Callaspo (what they're doing)
I honestly don't understand this setup. Given that the organization views Betancourt and Getz as defensive commodities, they probably view this as a "defensive focused" infield. However, Betancourt is clearly a defensive liability, regardless of Dayton Moore's position. This is probably the weakest-hitting option they could send out, and the bats aren't going to be enough to overcome that.

Plan B: Getz/Aviles/Callaspo
This is a true defensive setup, lining up the commodities known to be the best defenders at each position. If they are really so determined to have Getz starting, this would be the best way to go about it. I would rather see Gordon starting, but as long as he remains in AAA this is probably the best lineup to use.

Plan C: Callaspo/Aviles/Gordon
Probably the best infield to send out. Sure, there are some defensive letdowns at second and third, but Aviles is a great plus shortstop and will probably make Callaspo and Gordon look a little better without Betancourt next to them. This also works the three best bats back into the lineup as is, and they have much higher upsides than anyone else. This won't happen because the organization is DETERMINED to use Yuni at short and apparently they hate Gordon now.

Some other short things:
Zack Greinke is the unluckiest man alive. A 2.27 ERA, but an average of 2 2/3 runs scored in each of his starts makes for a very blah 0-3 start in his first 7 games.

Kila Ka'aihue is absolutely mashing down in AAA (.307/.447/.640), and now that Jose Guillen is cooling off it might be time to call him up.

Kyle Farnsworth is the best reliever not named Soria. No, really.

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