Jeff Francoeur reacts after being tagged out at the plate by Kurt Suzuki #8 of the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
That's Jeff Francoeur. Everybody loves him. And he's the only thing standing between the Royals' top prospect and the major leagues.
The Kansas City Royals have a problem.
It's not a big problem. But it's a problem.
They have a hitter with 21 home runs.
The Royals don't have Josh Hamilton, and aren't likely to have him anytime soon. The Royals do have Wil Myers, who opened his season with 13 homers in 35 games with Class AA Northwest Arkansas, and has hit eight more since joining the triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. No. 21 was particularly memorable, a grand slam off Roy Oswalt:
After an injury-plagued 2011, Myers is hitting 335/398/726 this season. Considering that he was considered an excellent hitting prospect before 2011, there are good reasons to believe that Myers really is one of the best hitting prospects in the minors. Especially considering he doesn't turn 22 until next winter.
There are a lot of teams in the majors that could use a guy like Wil Myers in their lineup right now. Most teams, probably.
Oddly, the Royals don't seem to be one of them. Myers used to be a catcher, but he's not a catcher any more. He does have a good arm but lacks real range in the outfield, which leaves four possibilities: left field, right field, first base, designated hitter.
Billy Butler's become a fan favorite, and probably isn't going anywhere.
Eric Hosmer's regarded as the franchise's First Baseman of the Future, and is under club control through 2017.
Just before Opening Day, Alex Gordon signed a new $37.5-million contract that runs through 2015.
Jeff Francoeur is in the first year of a two-year, $13.5-million deal.
The Royals aren't going anywhere this season, and in the abstract there's not anything terribly wrong with leaving Myers in the minors until September. If he hits 40 home runs down there, so be it.
But baseball teams don't operate in the abstract. Wil Myers has 21 home runs this season. Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur, both of them playing nearly every game, have combined for nine home runs. If this state of affairs continues -- if Myers continues to out-homer the Royals' corner outfielders -- at some point the front office simply loses so much credibility that something must be done.
The obvious move, of course, is either trading Francoeur or demoting him to a reserve role. As I wrote last August when Frenchy got his new contract, his 2011 numbers were probably a temporary mirage; indeed, this season he's doing essentially what he did from 2008 through 2010: not much.
But there is the little matter of $13.5 million, and the other little matter of Frenchy being Frenchy: Everybody just loves the guy! And of course he's got a long-standing relationship with Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
Which makes me wonder if Dayton Moore, very occasionally and just for a few seconds, wishes to himself that Wil Myers would stop hitting so many g-d home runs.