Mailbag: Should Soria try starting?

Mailbag: Should Soria try starting?

Is there any chance that Joakim Soria goes to the rotation next year and Ramon Ramirez or Leo Nunez takes over as the closer?
-- Ryan, Ottawa, Kan.

That's often suggested by fans and it's been discussed in the past by club officials. But not much has been said about that lately, a very good thing in my opinion. Until Soria came along, the closer's job had not been firmly filled since the days of Jeff Montgomery. And Monty retired in the last century (1999).

Look at it this way. This year when Soria came into the ninth inning with a lead, the prevailing feeling in the press box, in the dugout and in the stands was this: OK, this game is over. Put one in the win column for the Royals. That's a huge plus for any team and something that had been sorely lacking in Kansas City.

Soria's 42 saves in 45 chances, 1.60 ERA and .169 opponents' average are figures that tell his story. That's a save in more than half of the Royals' 75 victories. That's real comfort in the late innings. That's reason enough to keep him in the bullpen. You know the saying: If ain't broke ...

It was great to see the Royals put together a decent winning streak. Do you think their end-of-season success will impact the offseason plans at all?
-- Harry P., Nessa, Okla.

Not much. The Royals still want a power hitter, a starting pitcher and a middle infielder -- shortstop or second baseman -- who could be paired with rookie sensation Mike Aviles. The hot September did spotlight good performances in particular by starting pitcher Kyle Davies, first baseman Ryan Shealy and second baseman Alberto Callaspo. Davies went 4-1 as a starter, Shealy showed power with seven homers and 20 RBIs and Callaspo was steady at bat and in the field. So those showings could have some influence on offseason moves, but the 18-8 September is tempered by what happened from April through August. Look for a busy offseason.

Isn't Aaron Crow in a similar situation as Luke Hochevar was, and would the Royals consider selecting him in next year's First-Year Player Draft?
-- Todd F., Omaha, Neb.

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Crow, a star at the University of Missouri, was the first-round Draft choice (ninth overall) of the Washington Nationals this year but declined to sign by the Aug. 15 deadline, spurning a $3.5 million offer. He subsequently signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats and pitched in three games with three scoreless innings. Crow is eligible for the Draft again in 2009.

Hochevar was drafted 40th overall in 2005 by the Los Angeles Dodgers but did not sign. In 2006, he pitched for the Fort Worth Cats before being made the No. 1 overall Draft choice by the Royals. He signed two months later.

The Royals had interest in Crow. "He's certainly a guy we scouted and talked a lot about," said J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager who heads the scouting department. The Royals, after three years of drafting in the top three, improved in the standings and are in line to draft 12th next year. It's possible that Crow could be gone by then.

What is the criterion for getting on the MLB leaderboards? Did Mike Aviles not have enough at-bats for batting average?
-- Mark B., Raytown, Mo.

Aviles finished with a .325 average, which would have put him just behind American League champion Joe Mauer (.328) and runner-up Dustin Pedroia (.326). However, to be listed among the leaders, a batter must have 3.1 plate appearances per team game or, in a 162-game schedule, 502 plate appearances. Aviles wasn't called up until late May and had just 441 plate appearances, so he didn't make the cut. The same rule holds true for the slugging percentage or on-base percentage leaders. If you're interested in the details, see Rule 10.22 in the Official Baseball Rules.

Are the Royals planning FanFest again this year? If so, when and where?
-- Michelle F., Fremont, Neb.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 18. Royals FanFest will be at the same location, the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center, as last year. The first event drew such crowds that the FanFest area is being significantly expanded. An awards dinner is also being added to the weekend, on Friday, Jan. 16. Details on the dinner and the FanFest will be released throughout the offseason on royals.com.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.