So, you’re the Royals, longtime laughing stock of the AL. Your 2011 season starts with some definite promise, but a losing streak inevitably follows. Everyone in baseball knows you’re not going anywhere anyway. The goal for this season all along should have been to figure out what pieces were worth keeping around as baseball’s best collection of prospects starts to bust through in 2012.
One of those pieces is named Alex Gordon. The second overall pick in the 2005 draft, he’s been a pretty massive bust, particularly during injury-filled seasons in 2009 and 2010. Yet his 2011 starts in extremely encouraging fashion. Thanks to last year’s position switch, he’s no longer looking like a liability with the glove. A hot spring got him moved up in the order, and he’s kept it going in the regular season, hitting .351/.402/.521 with 15 RBI and 19 runs scored in 22 games.
So, what do you do? Leave well enough alone, of course. Gordon is 27. This is his last chance in Kansas City; if he fails again, he certainly won’t be around in 2012. He seems to have settled in very nicely in left field. In fact, with five assists in 22 games, he was making a real difference with his glove.
Ned Yost, though, has different ideas. With the Royals having lost seven of nine, he’s benched Kila Ka’aihue and shifted Gordon to first base tonight. It’s not necessarily a long-time move, but if the idea was to sit Ka’aihue for just a day, then there’d certainly be no point in moving Gordon in from the outfield.
Nope, it looks like Gordon could log some serious time at first base over the next few weeks. And that’s just crazy, since the Royals have maybe the game’s best first base prospect, Eric Hosmer, battering down the door. Hosmer is hitting .380/.458/.479 in 19 games for Triple-A Omaha. If not for the super-two arbitration rules, the Royals may well have called him up tonight and said goodbye to Ka’aihue. For financial reasons, though, it makes a lot of sense to leave Hosmer in the minors until June 1, and that’s what the Royals are likely to do.
And that’s why this is flat-out stupid. If the Royals were going to switch Gordon permanently to first base, that’d be understandable. But to have him alternate between two positions is foolish. And it’s not like Hosmer is their only alternative to Ka’aihue. They can put Billy Butler back at first base whenever they like, they can try Wilson Betemit there or they can call up another minor leaguer, Clint Robinson, who has even better numbers than Hosmer but is four years older and has no real concerns about arbitration/free agency eligibility.
Instead, they’ve chosen to jerk Gordon around, as they’ve done so many times before. Maybe no other organization would have turned him into a superstar, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would have contributed more had he been drafted by another team six years ago.