Restoring the rosters: No. 29 – Kansas City

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This is part of a series articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
As I’m starting out writing these articles, I still don’t have a set order for how I’m going to rank most of the teams. However, three rosters really stood out from the pack with only a casual view. One of those rosters will take the top spot in the rankings. The other two belonged to Kansas City and Cincinnati.
Zack Greinke
Luke Hochevar
Chad Durbin
Kyle Snyder
Glendon Rusch
J.P. Howell
Jeremy Affeldt
Kiko Calero
Mike MacDougal
Brian Sanches
Brian Bass
Tim Byrdak
Well, the Royals have an ace. And the bullpen looks pretty solid with Howell, Affeldt and Calero. Unfortunately, there’s just no rotation after Greinke and Hochevar, and Hochevar has a 5.40 ERA despite showing signs of improvement this year.
Durbin, Snyder and Rusch all had ERAs right around 6.00 in their Royals career, combining to go 25-56. Still, they might at least be able to eat some innings. One could argue for putting Howell or Affeldt in the rotation, but both had plenty of time to succeed as starters and never did. They’re almost certainly more valuable protecting leads, not that they’d have much chance of that on this squad.
If you think Tom Gordon might have something left, you can squeeze him in over Bass or the third lefty, Byrdak. There isn’t much else to choose from.
LF Johnny Damon
CF Carlos Beltran
RF David DeJesus
DH Billy Butler
3B Alex Gordon
2B Mark Ellis
1B Kila Ka’aihue
SS Mike Aviles
C Matt Treanor
INF Joe Dillon
C Sal Fasano
OF Mitch Maier
INF Andres Blanco
Kansas City’s lineup outshines its pitching staff, thanks largely to a pair of outfielders who have long since moved on. DeJesus will have to play out of position in right, but that’s still a strong outfield. The rest of the group is less impressive. Butler and Gordon still have some work to do to prove they’re going to be above average regulars. Ellis is solid, but prone to injury and there isn’t much behind him. I’m going with Ka’aihue at first, with Dillon as his platoonmate against lefties. Aviles gets the nod at short, since the only alternative is Blanco. Treanor and Fasano comprise the catching duo, leaving Paul Phillips out of the mix.
Mike Sweeney didn’t make the cut. Dillon is probably the better hitter right now, and he offers some versatility.
GM Dayton Moore doesn’t deserve much of the blame for this mess, even if it does look like the Royals are 0-for-3 in hiring GMs since John Schuerholz left in 1990. Herk Robinson brought in Beltran and Damon, but that’s still not much of a haul for a 10-year reign, and Allard Baird’s run was brutal. If it seems that the Royals have had a lot of bad luck when it comes to prospects, they’ve brought much of it on themselves. They overworked their young pitchers, and they encouraged their young hitters to be overly aggressive at the plate. Those practices seem to have stopped, and the team’s drafts have gotten considerably better under Moore. Still, it’s going to be a long time before the turnaround is complete.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.