Even though the Kansas City Royals were 19-17 through Wednesday, problems are noticeable on the ballclub.
Two glaring weaknesses manifest in analyzing the everyday lineup: Right fielder Jeff Francoeur is playing like he did in 2012; his fielding is mediocre at best and his hitting has been woeful.
And second basemen Chris Getz and Elliot Johnson, who Manager Ned Yost has been playing musical chairs with, have been barely average on defense and weak at the plate.
Francoeur was hitting .226 through May 11, Getz .205, and Johnson .270 in just 17 games.
Johnny Giavotella is at Omaha and he was hitting .281 and outfielder David Lough is going great at .338. For some reason Yost won’t give Giavotella a good look at second and it’s costing the Royals.
He can hit and his fielding has improved.
With Lorenzo Cain moved to right field, Jarrod Dyson has played well in center when given a chance, but Yost won’t let him play often enough to find his groove. He goes right back to the ineffective Francoeur.
Either Dyson or Lough should be playing regularly in the outfield.
As for pitching, KC needs another reliable starter. Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza are not getting it done. The Royals have Will Smith and Chris Dwyer pitching well at Omaha; before long, one or both should be given a chance in the starting rotation.
It would be interesting indeed to know whether or not general manager Dayton Moore takes an active part in deciding who is on the active roster. If Yost is totally in charge of making the decisions on who plays and who doesn’t, that is the biggest weakness on the team.
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Kansas State and Kansas have completed their spring football practices and the focus of the players has turned to summer workouts and the coaches are planning strategy for this fall.
Kansas is going to have their best team since the 2007 Orange Bowl club. How formidable KU will be depends, like almost all college teams, on a number of unknown factors. Coach Charlie Weis is going to have so many new players that it will be like starting from scratch.
KU’s coaching staff is counting on quarterback Jake Heaps living up to his hype and staying healthy. Kansas will have some new players on the offensive line, but Weis feels confident that the Jayhawks are on the way.
The three non-conference games for KU are South Dakota on Sept. 7, at Rice on Sept. 14, and Louisiana Tech on Sept. 21. KU’s game at Rice is the most challenging on the non-conference slate; it will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. and be televised by CBS Sports.
The Jayhawks need to win these three if they’re going to take a big step forward.
Page 2 of 2 - After KU’s bye week, conference play starts at home on Oct. 5 with Texas Tech. Kansas will have a chance in that one, but the Jayhawks travel to Fort Worth to play TCU on Oct. 12 and that’s a likely loser.
TCU has almost everyone back from a good ballclub. If KU can win four of their first five, they will have a good chance for a bowl game.
Kansas State’s iconic coach, Bill Snyder, has the Wildcats poised for another outstanding season. The media will probably pick K-State fifth or lower in the conference and the defending co-champions will finish much higher.
K-State’s coach was almost excited after the spring game:
“There are some little things to work on, but by and large they did not play poorly. They didn’t disappoint me.”
That’s both uncharacteristic and high praise from Coach Snyder.
Snyder’s offense will be more effective that last year’s exceptional team; the only potential problem is the defense, with just three starters returning. But Snyder has K-State’s program back on solid ground and the Wildcats will be a handful for all comers this fall.
Kansas State opens at home against North Dakota State on Aug. 31. Their second game is with Louisiana Lafayette on Sept. 7, and the Wildcats finish their non-conference slate against Massachusetts on Sept. 14.
K-State’s first two conference games are about as tough as it gets. They play at Texas on Sept. 21 and then journey to Stillwater, after a bye week, to play Oklahoma State on Oct. 5.
Snyder has the number of Texas coach Mack Brown, but Texas in Austin is always a tough assignment. And O-State on the road is a daunting challenge.
Kansas State will win their three non- conference games and, even if they lose to Texas and O-State, could still have a stellar season. If, however, the Cats start with five wins, they will once again be in the hunt for high national honors.
Mac Stevenson is a longtime columnist on area professional and collegiate athletics.