Monday, February 23, 2009

Please tell me DeJesus won't be batting third

Allow me to address, in my own opinion, the saga surrounding the Royals and the three spot in the batting order. Right now, buzz around the Royals camp seems to be focused on who is going to hit third, presumably in front of Jose Guillen, in '09.
Undoubtedly, some of you will disagree with me on this one, but it just scares me that the swirling word is David Jesus will be the guy. Hear me out on this one. I'm not going to throw a bunch of stats in your face that half of the baseball world doesn't even understand. Rather, I'm just going to talk baseball sense here.
As much as I respect DD, in no way is he made to be a three-hole hitter.
For a guy who is coming off a year in which he reached a career plateau with 12 dingers, I can put together a pretty good case here. Some of you are going to throw out guys like Joe Mauer (who hit third in the lineup with 13 homers while the Twins went to the playoffs) at me and try to compare DeJesus to him, but it isn't going to convince me.
I have heard the Mauer comparison already. Heck, a buddy of mine just tried using that excuse on me this morning after reading the national papers, and our conversation quickly turned into a pretty fun debate.
My response was: "How many titles have the Twins won with Mauer batting third?" Frankly, I don't give two craps about winning the division or all of that other garbage. Yes, you want to be a team that makes it to the playoffs, but it doesn't mean jack when you get tossed out in the first round each time you get there.
DeJesus needs to be in the two spot in this lineup - right behind Crisp leading off. The reason I say this is that DeJesus is a gap-to-gap shooter that can spray the ball all over the field. Is he going to suddenly hit more homers batting third in the lineup? The answer is no. In fact, at that position in the order you begin to see more and more breaking balls and the likelihood that DeJesus hits 12 home runs again is very unlikely. He's just not a power guy. Never will be. That's fine when you hit .300, but not for a guy at No. 3 in your order.
Yes, you want a consistent bat at the three spot. Royals new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said as much on Monday. Over the course of his career Jose Guillen has been pretty consistent with the bat. He's your No. 3.
Getting back to my point about DeJesus at No. 2, let me use an example of what it could do for a lineup. Even though he is a great hitter, it has long been obvious that DD is NOT a leadoff hitter. Dayton Moore also believed this and that's why he went out and got Crisp. The thing is his speed. Leadoff guys get hits, draw walks and steal bases. Crisp will fill the void on the basepaths that has been lacking for years at the top of this lineup.
A coach of mine once told me to do what he called "going to the movies" before every pitch. The theory was that if you see it happen in your head then you will be prepared to make the play when it happens in real time.
Let's "go to the movies" together, shall we?
Imagine Zack Greinke has pitched a really good game (seven innings, two runs, five hits, eight K's) but the team is trailing 2-1 in the top of the 8th with the leadoff spot coming up in the order, and Greinke is on the hook for the loss. Kyle Farnsworth is warming in the pen, so Zack won't be coming out for the bottom of the inning. The Royals need a rally.
Crisp steps to the plate and homers to tie it. No, no, NO. Hang on, that screws everything up. I was trying to make a point. Let's see.
OK, so let's say that instead of a homer Crisp gets drilled in the leg by a pitch and takes first. Let me tell you, he got drilled so friggin' hard in the calf that there is no way he's running (even if John Buck is the one trying to throw him out). Oh, SNAP!
Anyways, DeJesus is at the dish now and flips a liner into left center that allows Crisp to shake it off and take third easily. Jose Guillen does his famous "homer-in-a-silo" routine and allows Crisp to tag up and score from third. Mike Jacobs grounds into a double-play and pretty soon the inning is over, tied 2-2.
In the bottom of the inning Farnsworth tackles the entire opposing team after drilling their leadoff guy in retaliation for Crisp getting hit. Suddenly, he's ejected and Joakim Soria has to come in and clean things up - Mexecution style. Somehow the Royals win in this mess.
Holy crap, my imagination runs wild. I'm sure someone is gonna want to call me out on this one. I'm being unprofessional. Better straighten up my act here. There's no need to stress and flip out on me here; I'm fully aware that there are a countless amount of combinations (good or bad) that can come from DeJesus hitting at No. 2 or No. 3. I know I am being ridiculous, and am sure somewhere in this column that I'll be accused of being too "fantasy" on someone.
The point is, DeJesus sitting behind Crisp gives this team many more opportunities to score runs. Yeah, if Mike Aviles is in the two spot and DeJesus is hitting third then that could just add to the fun. But what if Aviles doesn't return to the caliber of play that had him in Rookie of the Year discussions all over baseball last season?
The guy looks the part of being the surest of sure things, but we just have no way of knowing how he will respond in his sophomore season. Major league pitchers adjust to young guys. Ever heard the term "sophomore slump"? There's a reason it gets tossed around the neck of every second year player who had any sort of success in his inaugural year.
I expect Aviles to be really good again this season, but there's just no way to be sure. Yeah, he could have a good spring. I still think it would be a wise decision to hit him behind Guillen, Jacobs, Gordon and Butler. Down in the order he sees more fastballs which will help ease his transition into year two. The last thing this team needs to do is kill his confidence and the hot streak. If he steps in and hits then you can move him into the two spot. Just keep DeJesus out of the three-hole. Hit him down in the order.
Billy Butler and Alex Gordon need to put on big boy pants and prove themselves to be the middle-of-the-order guys they were projected to be. Hit one of them at No. 3 if you want to and make him prove himself. Just don't try and imitate a team that is ready to win by putting a guy with a career high of 12 homers in the middle of your lineup. Pitchers thrive off of confidence that they can handle opposing hitters. No pitching staff is going to take you seriously with David DeJesus batting third.

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