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Is Anyone* On The Royals Worth Drafting? (Part II)

* Anyone not named Billy Butler and Joakim Soria, obviously.

Yesterday we looked at what remains of the Royals’ pitching staff to determine if any of those guys were worth a roster spot in a fantasy league, and today we’re going to move onto the position player crop. Fun starts after the jump…

Mike Aviles
Aviles followed up his breakout 2008 campaign (.325/.354/.480) by having Tommy John surgery in 2009. He returned in 2010 and gave Kansas City solid production for a middle infielder (.304/.335/.413). Aviles finished the season as the team’s everyday second baseman and that’s how he’s expected to start 2011, but he should have SS eligibility in most leagues. Given regular playing time, he should flirt with 20 steals (14 in 110 games last year) and double digit homers (eight), though the RBI and runs scored won’t be anything special. A player that can hit .300/~10 HR/~20 SB with eligibility at both middle infield spots is a valuable player, especially if you’re looking at him as a bench piece and not an everyday start. Verdict: Yes, in the later rounds.

Wilson Betemit
The former Brave, Dodger, Yankee, and White Sox had a monster second half for the Royals after being recalled in late-May, hitting .297/.387/.511 with 13 homers in 315 plate appearances. The performance was propped up by a career highs in fly ball rate (44.8%) and BABIP (.361), two stats that don’t usually jive. It’s also hard to ignore that the now-29-year-old Betemit has never performed at a level even remotely close to that, and that includes his full seasons in the minors. He’s a former top prospect (way back in the day), so the talent is there. Maybe he’s just a late bloomer. Betemit should have eligibility at a few infield positions in most leagues, but keep an eye on his performance. If he regresses to the .330-ish wOBA hitter he’s been for most of his career, he’s probably not worth a spot. Verdict: Yes, in the later rounds.

Gregor Blanco
Blanco’s value comes in the form of steals; he swiped 11 bags in just 85 games last year and stole 13 a few years ago with the Braves. The problem is that he doesn’t have an obvious spot in the outfield given Kansas City’s offseason moves. If he’s on the bench, he’s not worth having on your roster. Verdict: No.

Lorenzo Cain
Cain is one of those offseason moves that squeezes Blanco out of a job. He came over in the Zack Greinke trade and is expected to assume the everyday centerfield job. Dave Cameron determined that Cain is due for a pretty big step back in 2011, but he still has value because of steals. He stole seven bags in 43 games last year, 33 in 127 games if you count the minors, so expect 20+ in regular playing time. Whether or not he hits enough to stay in the lineup is another story. Verdict: No, but keep an eye on his early season performance.

Alcides Escobar
Escobar was the other key piece in the Greinke trade, and he’ll unquestionably step in as the everyday shortstop. In that same Cain article, Cameron said he expects Escobar to take a step forward next season, which is good news because he hit just .235/.288/.326 in his first full big league season in 2010. Aside from the bat, another problem is the lack of stolen bases. Escobar swiped 46 bases (major and minors) in 2009 and 34 in 2008, but slumped to just ten last summer. He stole just two bases in his final 62 games. For Escobar to have value, he has to be running wild on the bases, something I suspect he’ll do with a Royals team that stole the eighth most bases in the game last year (the Brewers were 21st). Verdict: Yes, but as a late round gamble for the bench only.

Jeff Francoeur
Ah yes, the match made in heaven. We all know what Frenchy is by now, and that’s a .250-ish hitter with enough pop to hit 15-20 homers in a season and maybe drive in 75 runs with enough playing time. He’ll even chip in five or so steals. You could do worse when it comes to the counting stats, but guys like this are plentiful. Verdict: Nah.

Alex Gordon
The former top prospect is back as an outfielder but still has 3B eligibility in most leagues. Gordon didn’t hit after coming back from the minors in late-July, just a .218/.311/.360 batting line with seven homers in 243 plate appearances. Hopefully the Royals just stick him in leftfield full-time next season and let him sink-or-swim, but I’m not going to roster him until he starts to deliver on some of that talent. Verdict: No, but keep an eye on his early season performance.

Kila Ka’aihue
The Kila Monster finally got some regular big league playing time in 2010, but he hit just .217/.307/.394 with eight homers in 206 plate appearances. The man has nothing left to prove at Triple-A (.285/.424/.521 in over 1,100 plate appearances), and it looks like he start next season just as he finished last one: splitting time at 1B and DH with Butler. Chalk up the poor performance to rookie jitters, Kila can hit. Verdict: Yes, in the later rounds.

Jason Kendall
Kendall finished the season in the disabled list after having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, and the eight-to-ten month recover time figures to keep him out for at least the start of 2011. Even if he was healthy, Kendall’s fantasy value is nil because he’s a .240 AVG guy with zero power. Even if he steals you a dozen bases like last year, there’s still little value here. Verdict: No.

Brayan Pena
Nicknamed “The Cuban Ichiro” for his ability to get the bat on the ball (just 6.6% swings and misses in his career), Pena stepped in as the everyday catcher following Kendall’s injury. A little BABIP luck could have his AVG in the .270’s, but otherwise it’ll come with limited power, steals, RBIs, the whole nine. Verdict: No.

* * *

Aviles is probably the safest bet of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean he’s a sure thing. Gordon and Cain have the potential to do some damage, but my advice is to be patient and let them show some of that talent first. Betemit, Escobar, and even Ka’aihue could prove useful in lesser roles. By no means is a great crop of fantasy position players. No, not at all.

We’ll wrap this whole thing up with a look at Kansas City’s dynamite farm system tomorrow.

If you want to submit fan projections for these guys, click here: Aviles, Betemit, Blanco, Cain, Escobar, Francoeur, Gordon, Ka’aihue, Kendall, and Pena.