Since the schedule has given the White Sox permission to stop playing the Indians for now, U.S. Cellular Field will play host to a 3 game set with the Royals. I had occasion to speak to Michael Engel of the Kings of Kauffman website and Royals Report Podcast.
Matt: There has been a lot of waiting for Royals fans and coming into the season it seemed like this could be a year that the youngsters would put together a team that might compete but the team got off to a pretty dismal start. With the talent level that’s on the field now, how thin is the patience level overall to see some W’s? Are you still trusting Dayton Moore’s process?
Engel: It’s definitely been a disappointing season so far. The Royals looked fine on a 3-3 road trip to open up, but lost 10 in a row to open up the home schedule. The talent is there, but it’s young, inexperienced talent. The Royals have also spent most of the year without key players who they’d expected to supplement Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas. Johnny Giavotella was supposed to be the opening day second baseman but was optioned to Omaha. Salvador Perez is the catcher of the future, but is out until July while recovering from meniscus surgery. Joakim Soria tore his UCL and is done after Tommy John surgery, and then Lorenzo Cain tore a hip flexor in the fifth game of the year.
Expectations were also a lot higher after seeing strong play last summer, so the 12 game losing streak in the middle of the first month of the year really unearthed a lot of groaning. It’s been rough.
Overall though, I still like how Dayton Moore has built up a pool of talent. There are questions about his ability to build a big league roster, though. It’s been a weird year.
Matt: I imagine one of the most refreshing things to see in recent years was Alex Gordon finally getting on track. Do you expect him to finish 2012 with similar numbers to last season? Beyond this year?
Engel: Going into this year, I felt like Gordon could meet or exceed his power and RBI numbers from last year, but his BABIP was very high. Part of that is a willing approach to go the other way with pitches rather than trying to pull them and more line drives fell in for hits. Still, it isn’t something that looked sustainable. I figured on .270 with 25 homers and 90 RBI. As long as he stays healthy I think that’s a good target any year going forward.
Matt: Even with the slow start, the AL Central is pretty wide open to any team willing to go on a serious win streak or two. Do the Royals have it in them to make a run at it, even with the lack of pitching?
Engel: That’s the thing, it’s going to depend on the pitching. If Bruce Chen can be solid, if Danny Duffy can turn the light on, if Mike Montgomery comes up and starts strong (whenever he happens to debut) and if Luke Hochevar and Jonathan Sanchez can do anything resembling average starting pitching, there might be a chance. Felipe Paulino may end up being the top starter all year. It’s slim, but there’s a chance.
The defense is much improved over previous years. The bullpen is a strength and with the hitting is probably going to be there any night of the week. They’ll have to have a few streaks and a meltdown by Justin Verlander may be the necessary key.
Matt: Not so much a game question, but I was a fan of Frank White in the booth. What are your feelings about the way both parties behaved in the separation, and is listening to Rex Hudler every day as bad as I imagine it is?
Engel: That whole situation is a mess. Frank White is a legend in Kansas City. The Royals have retired two players’ numbers in their history and White is one of them. He literally helped build Kauffman Stadium in the early 70s, lived in Kansas City and was the most accomplished graduate of the Royals Baseball Academy.
He wasn’t the best broadcaster ever, but he wasn’t the worst. He was passable and fit the pace of Kansas City fans. There were a lot of building tensions between he and the club and when they found some kind of excuse to keep him off the broadcast, they took it. Neither side looked good in the spat and it’s going to take a few years to mend the relationship.
But yeah…Hudler is pretty tough to listen to. He discusses things like none of us have ever watched baseball before. Kansas City, with Denny Mathews, Ryan Lefebvre, the late Paul Splittorff and White as current and previous broadcasters have always been tempered, a bit wry and under control. Hudler is about as far from that measured approach as you can get. It makes me glad for a volume control.
Topics: Alex Gordon, Brent Morel, Bruce Chen, Danny Duffy, Dayton Moore, Felipe Paulino, Frank White, Joakim Soria, Jonathon Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Lorenzo Cain, Luke Hochevar, Mike Montgomery, Rex Hudler, Royals, Salvador Perez, White Sox