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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Stevenson: If Royals' bats can come around...

  • If designated hitter Billy Butler and first baseman Eric Hosmer start hitting consistently and Moustakas gets it going, the Royals will become the surprise team in the American League.
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  • After last night’s 9-8 win over Tampa Bay, the Kansas City Royals are in first place with a 15-10 record in the American League Central. KC’s pitching and defense has been exceptional.
    Hitting has been the Royals’ biggest problem so far and that can be partly blamed on all the frigid weather they’ve encountered. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur and third baseman Mike Moustakas are off to disappointing starts; however, the guess here is that Moustakas will come around soon.
    Francoeur, on the other hand, just isn’t getting it done. He takes pitches down the middle and swings at balls way out of the strike zone.
    Kansas City has Jarrod Dyson waiting for his chance to play regularly in the outfield; why manager Ned Yost won’t give him a chance is hard to explain.
    Dyson has blazing speed and he has potential as a hitter. Yost could either move Lorenzo Cain to right field or have Dyson play there; either move would be a major improvement.
    If designated hitter Billy Butler and first baseman Eric Hosmer start hitting consistently and Moustakas gets it going, the Royals will become the surprise team in the American League. Of course injuries play a vital role during the long season and so far KC has been fortunate in that regard.
    It will be fun to watch the KC fans’ enthusiasm grow if the Royals’ run continues. It’s been a long time since they’ve had anything to cheer about.
    While the Royals roll on, the KC Chiefs’ football team is also making a number of positive moves that will make them competitive this fall. That would put KC’s sports fans in a state of euphoria.
    *****
    Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is a master at planning for the future. Last week, Self signed Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson, who won’t be eligible until the 2014-15 season.
    Mickelson will have two years of eligibility at KU. This sets up Kansas for the next few seasons at the center position. Incoming freshman Joel Embiid (7-0, 220) and redshirt freshman Landen Lucas (6-10, 245) will share minutes at center next season.
    Embiid has sprinters’ speed when he turns it on; he’s regarded as the sleeper of this fall’s national recruiting class.
    Embiid will probably leave for the NBA after two seasons, but at that time Lucas and Mickelson will be mature and experienced and ready to handle the center position.
    Coach Self said of Mickelson, “He fits how we play. He’s long, very interchangeable, and will be able to step away from the basket and stretch it. Defensively, he is a presence because he’s a shot-blocker.
    Page 2 of 2 - “He has to get his confidence back, because he was a very, very, very good player out of high school, and when you go to a school...it’s happened to players at our place and it’s happened to players every place. Maybe he lost a little confidence because he didn’t play as much or whatever the reason may be.”
    In today’s college basketball, it’s a necessity to blend better-than-average players with the one-and-done superstars like Ben McLemore. Self is a master at this and that’s why Kansas is consistently among the top teams in the nation.
    Kansas State’s basketball program received a bruising body blow when point guard Angel Rodriguez announced he is going to transfer. Rodriguez has become a highly-effective point guard and he’ll be sorely missed.
    Point guard is the most important position on college basketball teams and Rodriguez’s departure leaves coach Bruce Weber with a void at this vital slot. Speculation has senior Will Spradling taking over, but he’s ill-equipped physically for the point guard position.
    If Weber decides to go with one of his incoming freshmen, he could be in trouble. That’s like asking a freshman to play quarterback on a major college football team. It usually doesn’t work.
    Adrian Diaz is also transferring and with the departure of seniors Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez, and Martavious Irving, K-State is going to have some big holes to fill.
    Kansas State is no different from most of the prominent teams across the nation; the early departures due to transfers or early entry to the NBA have become common and most coaches lack talented seniors.
    The Wildcats’ 2013-14 team looked promising until Rodriguez decided to move; now problems loom on the horizon.
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