GLENDALE AZ - FEBRUARY 25: Jonathan Broxton #51 of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses for a photo on photo day at Camelback Ranch on February 25 2011 in Glendale Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Newcomers Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares look to put their stamps on the Kansas City Royals bullpen in 2012.
As we draw closer to the new season with each passing day, there are different angles of which you can attempt to dissect the Kansas City Royals roster for 2012. Though we don't know exactly what parts will make up the roster this season, we can certainly speculate. As fans that is our right.
Looking at who is on the 40-man roster (which generally means most likely have the opportunity to make the team), let's first take a look at the pitchers. In the rotation, one guy we know will be there, is Jonathan Sanchez,. Sanchez, previously of the San Francisco Giants, is a 29 year-old left hander who posted a 4-7 record in 19 starts last year. He had a 4.26 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and opponents batted just .215 against him. With the move to the American League, Sanchez will certainly face more potent batters throughout the lineup. However, as we know Kansas City is one of the harder ballparks to hit in, in the American League.
Sporting a career 38-46 record, I believe Sanchez will likely get about 30 starts and probably finish with a 10-10 record or so. He will have the advantage that many batters are not experienced in facing him, along with the larger dimensions of Kauffman Stadium.
The biggest thing I am hoping for is Sanchez to eat up innings, pitching roughly 175 or so. His career high was 193.1 in 2010, and the next best was 163.1, the year before. The Royals need someone like Luke Hochevar, who you can trust to go out there every fifth day and pitch at least six innings. Though Hochevar finished last year with a 4.68 ERA, he did toss 198 innings and showed glimpses he is capable of taking the next step in 2012.
Looking at another guy we can assume will make the roster is reliever Jonathan Broxton, previously of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Broxton, a big 6'4" 300 lb righty, will likely be the set-up man in the bullpen for Joakim Soria. Broxton comes to Kansas City to attempt to kick-start his career after missing all but 12.2 innings in 2011 with an injury.
2009 was Broxton's best season thus far when he saved 36 games with the Dodgers, finishing with a 7-2 mark and 2.61 ERA. His FIP was even better than that, at 1.97. If Broxton is indeed rebounded from the injury, look for him to appear in nearly 50 games this season. If he can keep the ERA under 3.50, I will call it a victory. Even that may actually be small expectations, as his career ERA is 3.19 in Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium actually plays a lot like The K as well.
Another bullpen name to watch is Jose Mijares. Mijares likely makes the 25-man squad because he is another left-handed bullpen guy to offset the Royals extensive use of Tim Collins last season. Though they are both left-handed, Mijares is built considerably different than Collins. Standing 6'0" and pushing nearly 250 lbs, Mijares was used in 176 games over the past three seasons by the Minnesota Twins.
He was rather effective in 2009, gathering 27 holds, while putting up a 2.34 ERA. Over the past two seasons he regressed as he started to incorporate his slider a lot more, while relying less on his fastball. Velocity has also fallen two miles-per-hour the past two years as well. Let's hope he can get into shape during the spring and provide the Royals with another left-hander out of the bullpen.
And then there was Yuni. The Royals welcomed back Yuniesky Betancourt after a one-year stay with the Milwaukee Brewers. Many fans are frustrated with him return, but at least this time he is looked at as a back-up, with Alcides Escobar manning shortstop. Coincidentally the pair were part of a trade for each other.
We know what Betancourt did in his year and a half with Kansas City prior, so we will look at what he did with Milwaukee. Unfourtaunly his numbers were down, and his walk rate was actually the worst of his major league career thus far (He played roughly four full seasons with the Seattle Mariners before coming to Kansas City).
Offensively his numbers were rather identical to his 2010 season, however they were just slightly lower across the board. He hit three fewer home runs, and drove in 10 less runs. Part of that could be that he faced a lot more curveballs in the National League.
Since Betancourt really has never been a back-up at the major league level, it's hard to predict what he will do in 2012...but at least we go into the season knowing he is just a back-up.