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Next six weeks a test for KC management

6/11/2010

OK, so a couple of days ago I was pretty rough on Royals management. Essentially, I've accused them, many times over the years, of being both gutless and witless. Fair? I don't know. The historical record would seem to be on my side, though.

Case in point ...

The Royals don't have any young prospects in Triple-A. None. No hitters. No fielders. No starting pitchers. No relief pitchers.

They do, on the other hand, have two legitimate major leaguers on the roster, right now: 26-year-olds Alex Gordon and Kila Ka'aihue. Among the Pacific Coast League players with at least 100 plate appearances, Gordon ranks first in OPS and Ka'aihue third. Neither player should be considered a fluke. Granted, it's early in the season and maybe they're not this good. But Gordon was the second pick in the 2005 draft and has an impeccable track record in the minors, while Ka'aihue was brilliant in the minors in 2008 and decent last year.

Most organizations -- not all, but most -- would be trying to figure out ways to get Gordon and Ka'aihue back to the majors and into the lineup. At 26, they're essentially in their primes right now (as Pacific Coast League pitchers are learning, most nights).

And the Royals have buried them. Gordon was sent to Omaha after a slow start and assigned a new position (left field). Ka'aihue was summoned to the majors, left to rot on the bench for a couple of weeks, and returned to Omaha. Which was supposed to help him or the team how, exactly?

Apparently, Alex Gordon is now a left fielder, or a first baseman, or a DH. Kila Ka'aihue is a first baseman or a designated hitter.

Billy Butler's got one of those spots locked up. Another's held by Jose Guillen who, with a $12 million salary this season, is untradeable. And left field's manned by Scott Podsednik, who the organization really seems to like.

So what should the Royals do? Podsednik's played decently this season. At third base (Gordon's old position), Alberto Callaspo has played decently. In right field, David DeJesus has played better than decently. Here's the thing, though: If the Royals are somehow competitive in 2012, none of those guys will be significant contributors; their value will probably never be higher than it is today (or in a few weeks, when contending teams are a little more eager to make deals).

Watch the Royals.

I don't mean you should watch their games, which are usually dreadful affairs. Watch what they do over the next six weeks. If, at the end of July, they're still playing Podsednik in left field and Callaspo at third base and Jose Guillen anywhere, then you'll know that I'm right about management. If, on the other hand, they've made some bold and smart decisions, and found a way to get Gordon and Ka'aihue into the lineup while also adding a couple of prospects to the organization, well, then you'll know that I was wrong. And that I've never been so happy about it.