Despite facing a very tough left-hander in Chris Sale, the Royals had Mike Moustakas batting cleanup today. Why? Because Ned Yost wants a set lineup. Pay no attention to those splits behind the curtain.
That set lineup:
LF Alex Gordon
SS Alcides Escobar
DH Billy Butler
C Salvador Perez
1B Eric Hosmer
CF Lorenzo Cain
RF Jeff Francoeur
2B Chris Getz
The problem here is that while it’s a fine lineup for Yost to use against righties, it makes zero sense to stick Moustakas in the cleanup spot against lefties. The 24-year-old is a career .233/.283/.349 hitter versus southpaws. Francoeur, for all of his faults, is a .289/.341/.479 hitter against lefties. Common sense would dictate that he and Perez, in either order, would be the Royals’ No. 4 and 5 hitters against lefties.
That’s not part of Yost’s strategy, though. In Monday’s opener, Escobar and Butler both reached safely twice apiece. Moustakas had six men on base over the course of his four at-bats and went hitless, striking out twice. Francoeur, on the other hand, singled twice out of the eighth spot. Unable to put their hits together, the Royals lost 1-0. For that, Yost deserves some of the blame.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.