This year has been hard on all of us. Hopes were high going in to Spring Training and then we follow it up with a pretty decent April. It all went to hell after that, but there have been some glimmers of hope in an otherwise dissappointing year. Here are some of them, in no particular order.
- Joakim Soria is at 38 saves at this moment and should reach 40 by the end of the year, something that has only been done 3 other times in Royals history. (Quisenberry '83, '84; Montgomery '93)
- Jose Guillen has hit 20 HR this season. That hasn't happened since 2005 (Mike Sweeney-21). He also has 93 RBI, so a 100 RBI season isn't out of the question. That hasn't happend since 2003 (Carlos Beltran-100). Those aren't great numbers, but when your offense is as bad as ours was this year, it's a decent accomplishment.
- We found out that Billy Butler actually does have a glove and he even knows how to use it. He has played first base this year better than anyone could have expected. In my opinion, he should have received way more starts at that position than he did.
- Kila Ka'aihue might actually be the power corner infielder we have longed for since Sweeney was in his hay-day. Time will tell, but given a shot he could man first base for years to come. You can't argue with 37 HR between AA and AAA.
- Zach Grienke has made a very good transition back into the rotation. At the beginning of the season, there were alot of questions about how he would handle only pitching every 5th day. He's handled it wonderfully and between him and Gil Meche we have a great 1-2 tandem at the front of the rotation. Both innings eaters with great command, lively fastball and nasty breaking stuff.
- Our bullpen has performed well this year after being a big question mark going into the season. Ron Mahay was one of the best lefty relievers in the game until his injury. Ramon Ramirez (Ram Ram) has shown that he can pitch in late-inning situations and he wasn't even on our roster until late in Spring Training (aquired from Rockies in trade). Leo Nunez started off hot until his injury derailed his season. He should be another good bullpen arm next season.
- Mike Aviles tore it up in Spring Training and hasn't stopped yet. After a few weeks in the minors and a move to shortstop from 2B and 3B, he has performed very well with the bat and has even surprised people with his defensive skills. Whether he is playing short, second or third, he should be a big part of Royals teams for years to come.
- Joey Gathright has finally learned how to steal a base. Under the guidance of first base coach Rusty Kuntz, he's stolen 21 of 25 attempts this year. That is way up from his 9 of 17 from last year. If he can get on base consistently, he is a huge distraction to the opposing pitcher.
The pitching in our farm system is comparible to any other club. We don't have anyone who can make an impact right away, but several years from now we should start seeing these guys in the bigs. "Pitching is the currency of baseball" according to Dayton Moore. If that is the case, we are sitting on a pile of money and it's time to spend some of it to aquire something we fancy.
There have been a number of things to forget this season. Tony Pena Jr's struggles, Jose Guillen's tantrums, some questionable calls in terms of pitching usage by our manager, taking a walk about as often as Matthew McConaughey is seen with his shirt on. We all knew that when Dayton Moore got here, it was going to be several years before we started competing. Well, I don't know about you, but I haven't seen as many butt-whoopings this year as I have in the past few years, have you?