Royals' report card — lots of high marks

By Steve Sell
November 04, 2015

The final exam, as we all know, was aced by the Kansas City Royals.

It would be easy to give all the Royals an “A” as their final grade. But as their professor, I have to include the entire body of work and can’t play favorites.

The Royals won the World Championship because of a lot of great individual seasons. But they also had to overcome some subpar years.

For those who think the Royals will bring their team back virtually intact, think again. Nearly half the team was turned over for 2015, even though it had lost in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

As much as the Royals preach family and how close they are, there are going to be very few, if any, hometown discounts. The Royals have some hard decisions to make and some of them likely won’t be popular. It’s just the way the game works.

As much fun as this was, it’s still a business for owner David Glass, who is now a hero after being cast for so many years as a shadowy villain as he never seemed to be around. This would be easy if he had Los Angeles Dodgers’ or New York Yankees’-type money, but he doesn’t (well, maybe he does since he’s the former CEO of Wal-Mart, but doesn’t burn through it like the big-market teams).

Maybe Glass can use this report card to make his decisions.

• STARTERS •

1B — Eric Hosmer — Hosmer is one of those players that for everything he does well, he seems to leave you wanting for more. I still think he’s a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy, but doesn’t get a lot of lift on the ball and swings at a lot of bad pitches. Very flashy at first base, saves a lot of runs.

• Grade — B+

2B — Ben Zobrist — I think the Royals clinched the title the day they acquired Zobrist, who is a free agent. A pro’s pro who does everything well. I really hope the two sides can come to terms.

Grade (with the Royals only) — A-

SS — Alcides Escobar — He may not draw walks and swings at the first pitch every time, but his value as a leadoff hitter was never more evident than in September when he moved down in the order and the team went into its only tailspin, so he was reinserted into the top spot. Peerless with the glove.

• Grade — B+

3B — Mike Moustakas – I was one of those who was calling for his ouster over the winter because I didn’t think he could ever make it. He responded with his best year ever. I still think he overachieved, but give him credit for woking hard to make himself a better player.

• Grade — B+

C — Salvador Perez — The MVP of the World Series and a true ironman. If he ever learns the strike zone as a hitter, he’s a future Hall of Famer. You can’t grade him just by his production and he has all the intangibles a championship team needs.

• Grade — A-

LF — Alex Gordon – He’s the outfield version of Zobrist, a true professional. Great defensive player, streaky hitter. Still rolls over the ball too much and goes through prolonged droughts, but it’s hard to imagine the Royals letting him walk as he’s a free agent this winter. They could overpay as they’ll have a little extra cash on hand.

• Grade — B

CF — Lorenzo Cain – In my opinion, the Royals’ MVP. He had a breakout year and how he can’t be up for a Gold Glove is a travesty. He’s the one guy I want to see how he can back it up as this may have been as a good as it’s going to get.

• Grade — A

RF — Alex Rios – Rios was heading for a “D” before coming alive in September and had some key knocks in the playoffs. He was a one-year experiment who will enjoy showing his new employer his championship ring next year unless he retires.

• Grade — C-

DH — Kendrys Morales — He only played basically two games in the World Series, but he already had done his heavy lifting. The steal of the offseason, Morales had Royals fans saying “Billy Who?”

• Grade — A

• BENCH •

2B — Omar Infante — As sadistic as this sounds, his injury made Ned Yost’s job much easier given Ned’s loyalty to his players even when they’re going bad. He gave the Royals a steady glove, but was almost an automatic out this season, by far his worst. He still has two years to go on an expensive deal that vastly overpays him.

• Grade — C-

U — Christian Colon — His World Series-winning hit should vault him to “A” status alone. At some point, though, the Royals have to decide what to do with him. He’s always ready when called on, but who knows what he can do long term. May just be a utility lifer.

• Grade — B

OF – Jarrod Dyson — “Speed Do” is a court jester, a guy who keeps the team loose. He’s been a fourth outfielder for a long time and nobody really beats down the door to trade for him. As long as he has wheels, he’s good to have around.

• Grade — B-

OF — Paulo Orlando – Developed into an important player who came out of nowhere. I’m not sure if he could handle starting if he takes Rios’ place or if Gordon leaves, he would probably platoon with Dyson. Also has great speed, just needs to make more contact.

• Grade — B -

C — Drew Butera — Picked up after the season started, a good receiver but not much of a hitter. But when you have Salvy, you don’t need much of a backup. I value a backup catcher on what a team’s record is when he starts. I don’t have the exact stat, but I’d guess it was under 500.

• Grade — C

U — Johnny Gomes — He really didn’t do anything in his one month, but was the hit of the championship parade on Tuesday. A good guy in the clubhouse, but really didn’t affect the team one way or another in his short rental time.

• Grade — I

• PITCHERS •

Edinson Volquez – He gave the Royals what they wanted, an innings-eating professional who never missed a turn. His walks were a little high at times, but a true warrior.

• Grade — A-

Yordano Venura — He turned a potential disaster of a season into a positive. Was the team’s best starter the last two months. Still so much potential to fulfill. Just needs to mature a little more and cut back on trying to be so macho.

• Grade  — B

Johnny Cueto — He won two huge games in the postseason, but other than that his brief time with the Royals was a disappointment. He might have hurt his value with his performance in Kansas City, but he’s still way too expensive to bring back.

• Grade (with the Royals only) — C

Chris Young — Maybe the unsung pitcher on the staff. Also one of the best pickups of the offseason. Did everything that was asked and more.

• Grade — A-

Danny Duffy — Easily the most frustrating player on the team. I always wonder what’s going on in his head. May have found his niche in the bullpen where he can just air it out. Just too inconsistent to count on as a starter.

• Grade — C

Kris Medlen — He was worth the wait although he didn’t pitch until July. Assuming Cueto doesn’t take a pay cut to stay with the Royals, I really believe he can be the team’s No. 3 starter next year. If he can come close to the form he had with Atlanta, this was a steal.

• Grade — B

Franklin Morales — A valuable lefty, but didn't have many high-leverage situations late in the year. Ate up some innings.

• Grade — B

Jeremy Guthrie — He wasn’t on the postseason roster and won’t be back next year. But he was a great clubhouse presence and gave the Royals some good years by chewing up innings even though at times he was getting battered.

• Grade — C

Jason Vargas – Tommy John surgery ended his season early and he probably won’t be back next year until June. 

• Grade — I

Luke Hochevar — Shaky for part of the season, but much better toward the end. One of the guys you really had to be happy for because he’s been through the bad times both with the team and individually as he failed miserably as a starter (and former overall No. 1 draft pick) before being reborn as a reliever. He’ll probably have to take a pay cut to stay.

• Grade — B-

Ryan Madson – He was prone to the home-run ball in the playoffs, but his regular season was a revelation. Probably a one-hit wonder considering his age, but a vital cog. I wouldn’t be surprised if he retired on top.

• Grade — B

Kelvin Herrera — I was surprised he was an All-Star, but was a workhorse and nobody will ever forget his three scoreless innings in Game 5 of the Series. His fastball seemed to straighten out and he had trouble at times allowing inherited runners to score. Still, he’d be a closer for most teams.

• Grade — B

Wade Davis — Is any explanation really needed if you watched the Royals this season? Waiter, check please.

• Grade — A++

Greg Holland — So sad to see his season end when he blew out his elbow, but it allowed Davis to blossom as the closer for this year and next since Tommy John surgery will keep him out. He’s been a plus for this organization for a long time and while he wasn’t as good as previous years, he was still pretty darn good.

• Grade — B

• Note — There were a few other spare parts during the season, but they didn’t take the test.

Manager — Ned Yost — I never thought I would say this, but the Royals probably wouldn’t have won it all if not for his even-keel approach and allowing his players to just go out and play the game. This should get everyone off his back, including me.

• Grade — A+

General Manager — Dayton Moore — Every move he made — well, almost every move — was pure gold. So many of them were under the radar and while the Cueto trade didn’t work out as well as he wanted, it was still a bold move and a signal to his team they were all-in for this season. He should be Executive of the Year and it shouldn’t even be close.

• Grade — A

Royals Fans – Remember all those years when the usual, listless 13,000 turned out every night in August and September to watch their favorite team slog through losing season after losing season? All you had to do is watch Tuesday’s parade to see how far they have come.

• Grade — A++


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