1 2 Royals Authority - Long Live The Process

Royals Authority

Long Live The Process

You may have heard, we started a new site in conjunction with Baseball Prospectus this week – BP Kansas City. Just in case you haven’t wandered over that way, here are a few links from this week to give you a taste of the coverage we will be providing.

A fantasy baseball guide to the Royals

An early look at midseason trade candidates

Early season roster manipulation – Part 2

Kelvin Herrera’s electric slider

Merrifield could make more than a Whit of difference

Kansas City Baseball Vault Podcast – Over/Under Jamboree

Lineup Chatter: Who should hit second?

The Academy – Predicting the next breakout prospect

Early season roster manipulation – Part 1

Royals roster coming into focus

Dillon Gee and the quest for pitching depth

Sal Perez’s smart – but unsuccessful – adjustments


1 comment

As you probably have heard – either here on on Twitter – starting Monday this blog will no longer exist.

If you haven’t heard, we aren’t taking our Pop Tarts and riding off into the sunset. No, we can’t quit the internet. Instead, we are tackling a new challenge and moving to Baseball Prospectus and their newly created local site that will be dedicated to the Kansas City Royals. We are joining forces with the gang from Pine Tar Press and the podcasters from the KC Baseball Vault to give you what should be the premiere destination for independent Royals thought and analysis.

Look. We’ve already started Tweeting:

On Monday, if you visit this site, it will automatically redirect to the new location. It’s up and running right now, but since it’s kind of a blank slate at this point, I’ll hold off on giving you the url. Although if you use your internet sleuthing capabilities, it’s not difficult to figure out.

I wrote this when we made the initial announcement, but we are humbled that you continue to visit us to read about the Royals. We started blogging back when the Royals regularly lost 100-plus games. Now we’re blogging about World Champions. So worth it. A lot of you have been regulars since the beginning. Clark and I both started this just looking for an outlet to basically rant about this team. We rant less often these days, but are grateful to have an audience.

We’re also grateful for Rusty.

We’re looking forward to building that audience at Baseball Prospectus. As such, we’re not shifting focus or becoming lackeys for PECOTA. (Seriously. What was up with that?) You’ll be getting the same words there you would have read here. Our last move was met with a lot of trepidation, and in hindsight, that was completely understandable. This opportunity – being able to start a new Royals blog from the ground up with experienced writers – is a bit of a rush. And having the opportunity to work with Baseball Prospectus is something I don’t think any of us dreamed of when we started blogging. So we’re going someplace brand new with a new look and a variety of quality writers. On Monday, we hope you’ll add us as a new bookmark and from there we hope you return to visit daily to read about your Royals.

This is the next step for the blog. We’re excited. We hope you share our excitement.

See you down the road. Thank you.

Spring Training stats don’t mean much.  Well, they pretty much mean almost nothing:  maybe less than nothing.  But….

Thus far, the new three-headed monster at the back of the pen (Davis-Soria-Herrera) have one earned run in ten innings, while striking out nine and walking one.  Sure, Soria gave up a home run in his first outing that went as unearned, but we are in the afterglow of a Championship, so let’s just be happy.

Throw in the established ‘number four man’, Luke Hochevar and his three innings of scoreless work and add Dillon Gee – now appearing to be a lock for the roster – and his five innings and one run resume and the first five names in Royals’ 2016 bullpen have allowed two earned runs in 18 innings.

And if, like me, you think a 95 mph throwing Wang sounds like a peachy addition, one could reasonably offer that the first SIX relievers in the pen have been touched for just three earned runs in TWENTY-FOUR innings of work.  Good Lord that IS set of numbers that look good together.

But Spring Training numbers don’t mean a thing.  They really don’t.  Angel Berroa would be in the Hall of Fame if they did and Mike Montgomery would be the Royals’ Opening Day starter for the third consecutive year if March stats mattered.  Still, better to have good numbers than bad, right?

All of this is interesting in that IF the Royals’ pen is on par – both in depth and quality – with what it was last year….Well, that goes a ways towards assuaging fears about what Kansas City will get from its starting rotation. It also plays into just how Ned Yost and Dayton Moore construct their 25 man roster for an early season that has the Royals playing two games over the first five days and five off days total in the season’s first 26 days.

That, however, is a discussion for another day.  Another day over at BPKansas City, my friends.

Whit Merrifield’s name has gained some traction as the Royals search for clarity for their 25th man.

It’s an interesting name to consider, but unsurprising given his defensive versatility along with his speed. Speed will get you an extended look with the Royals. That’s been the case for 10 years. Versatility is something new to the roster calculus, but the Royals realize two things: One, the 25th man isn’t a super huge deal when the manager hardly ever uses his bench. And two, having a glove man who can play multiple positions allows the team to stock the bullpen at the expense of the bench. Who doesn’t love 13 man pitching staffs?

We’ve said it a thousand times, there just aren’t many interesting position battles on this team. And that’s a good thing, I suppose. Give the regulars time to get in the groove. So we’re basically down to fourth and fifth outfielder.

Merrifield is interesting in that he ate seven meals a day in preparation for spring training. Seven! I mean, that’s just absurd. Yet it sounds like he hasn’t sacrificed his speed for extra bulk. (Who doesn’t love the work the beats do at spring training?)

Meanwhile, I’m enameled with the “Who wants it less” competition at second base. You have Omar Infante, returning from injury, who has two hits in 11 at bats going head to head with Christian Colon, who is still looking for his first hit of the spring. The guy already has 19 at bats. Mercy. This is like watching the Indy 500 where drivers are required to race on four flat tires.

Thanks for reading today. We know the blog has been hit or miss lately, but we’re gearing up for our big launch of BP Kansas City. It’s coming a week from Monday. Exciting times.

It took the Royals almost a week to get their first win of the Cactus League, and now that’s out of the way, maybe we can focus on a few, more important things. Like the bullpen and the rotation.

Chris Young and Dillon Gee piggybacked on Sunday and reports on both were encouraging. Gee is less than 10 days away from having to be placed on the 40-man roster and impressed Ned Yost who said he threw the ball, “Exceptionally well.” Gee did nothing to derail his efforts to make the roster. I would assume a move is coming, as long as he holds steady in his next appearance. Meanwhile, Young was so efficient in his two innings of work, he had to head to the bullpen to complete his scheduled 35 pitches. All is well when you win.

Sunday also marked the debut spring appearance of Kelvin Herrera, the first of the big three relievers to get game action. These games tend to fall into a jumble of anonymous bullpen arms quickly, so it’s nice to see a familiar face. I haven’t seen reports on Joakim Soria or Wade Davis, but I’m assuming they will make an appearance in one of the games early this week. Bryan Flynn looked sharp in his second appearance and has to remain the early favorite to be one of the left-handed arms out of the bullpen.

I would never tell you to put any stock in spring training stats, but it is worth noting that Christian Colon is still looking for his first hit in nine at bats. It’s notable only because he is supposedly in a competition for the starting second base position with Omar Infante. Word is, Infante will DH in one of the Royals games today. This will be our first look at Infante this spring, so it will be interesting to see how well he’s recovered from the surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow last November.

Two games today, with Kyle Zimmer making his second start of the spring in a tilt against the A’s. Working behind Zimmer will be Jonathan Dziedzic, Alec Mills, Christian Binford and Sam Selman. Kris Medlen makes his Cactus League debut against the Cubs. Following Medlen will be Luke Hochevar, Peter Moylan, Scott Alexander and David Huff.

It’s time for a new chapter. I’m excited to announce we are closing down this site (again) and moving over to Baseball Prospectus.

Last season, BP launched a handful of local sites. They are dedicated team blogs (Cubs, Brewers, Red Sox, and Yankees) that fly under the Baseball Prospectus banner and have become first-rate destinations for fans of those teams. This year, they are expanding their local roster and asked us to head what will become the BP Kansas City site. Of course, the opportunity to work with one of the leading baseball websites is a fantastic opportunity. As they say on late night infomercials: “But wait! There’s more.” In addition to Clark and myself, we are joining forces with several writers Royals fans will be very familiar with, to form what should be a one-stop shop for Royals coverage: Recaps, analysis, minor league goodness, podcasts, and general baseball writing. Stay tuned for those announcements later in the day.

The switch won’t happen immediately. Things are still under construction at BP, but we should be ready to move into our new digs sometime in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, keep visiting here. There will be the usual content until we make the move. On the day of the switch, we will post the link to the new site at the top of the page. We should also note the articles that post on the local site will all be free.

Clark and I have been writing about the Royals for over 10 years. We have been part of several blog networks as Royals Authority and for a time hung our shingle over at Royals Review. We are humbled by those of you who have followed us through various iterations and platforms and are forever grateful to our readers. Thank you. We hope you share our excitement, change your bookmark, and follow us to the new address. It’s going to be great.

By the way, feel free to head over to BP today to read my contribution to their season preview series on the Royals. There’s some Royals Devil Magic involved.

Two innings into Spring Training, the Royals had a regular (or semi-regular anyway) player go down with what could be a fairly major injury.  Grounding out, Jarrod Dyson strained the dreaded oblique.

“At least a couple of weeks,” was the quote from Ned Yost.

“An average of 57 days,” tweeted Shaun Newkirk (@shauncore).

Two to eight weeks, depending on the grade of the strain, was the report from Will Carroll.

It ain’t good, boys and girls.  No two ways around it.

Of course, better it happens two innings into Spring Training than two innings into the regular season.  Under a best case scenario, Dyson misses a couple of weeks and still has a solid two weeks plus to get into form and garner some valuable time in right – assuming the plan was for him to actually play there.  Fun question: does this injury make it more likely that Dyson plays center and Cain right when they are in the lineup at the same time?

Worst case scenario finds the Royals turning the calendar to May and still no Dyson. An eight week injury, plus minor league rehab time adds up in a hurry. Sure, maybe that is still something around 30 or 35 games missed, but a game in April actually is just as important as a game in September.  The only real difference is the importance is just easier to see later in the year.  I would rather the Royals head into the regular season with all their options available.

A Cain-Gordon-Dyson outfield is better defensively than any other combination of three the Royals can put on the field.  For a team that preaches pitching (bullpen especially) and defense, one would much rather have at least the option to put your team’s best defense on the field from day one.

Now, the rosy view of this is that Dyson will be able to come back AND be ready by Opening Night (or very shortly thereafter).  With perhaps the exception of getting him comfortable in rightfield, the Royals pretty much know what they have in Jarrod Dyson. There have been instances over the past three seasons where Dyson has been an everyday player.  He is really not a mystery at this point.

Travis Snider, Jose Martinez, Brett Eibner, Rey Fuentes and, to a lesser extent, Paulo Orlando are all a bit of unknown quantities. For at least the next few weeks, each and everyone of them is going to get more time than Ned Yost had planned to give them less than eighteen hours ago.  While not ideal, that’s not all bad.

Old news by now, but the Royals and Salvador Perez tore up his old team-friendly deal and replaced it with something closer to fair market value.


Let’s quickly review the dollars remaining on the old deal. Perez is due to make $2 million this year. Remember, this would have been his second year of arbitration eligibility. This is where his contract really begins to skew in favor of the team. Had he not signed the extension, he would probably be earning somewhere between $6 and $8 million this year. Following the 2016 season, a series of club options were in place. He was set to make $3.825 million in 2017, $5.15 million in 2018 and $6.3 million in 2019.

With a $6 million signing bonus to be paid up front, Perez is taking a pay cut from the agreed upon club option for 2017. Instead, he will be making $3 million. From there though, the pay begins to adjust upward and is more in line with the market. Perez will bank $7.5 million in 2018, and $10 million in 2019. That’s a realization of $5.225 million just on salary alone over his old contract. Fold the $6 million he will collect for putting his name on the paper and the Royals are paying Perez $11.225 million more over the life of the old contract.

Then, the Royals tacked on a couple more years at $13 million each. That brings the total package to $52.5 million guaranteed.

The Royals, who years ago drafted college seniors so they could pay them a $5,000 signing bonus, just ripped up the most team friendly contract in franchise history so they could give a player more money. As in $37.225 million more. These are not your older brother’s Royals.

From Dayton Moore: “We went into Salvy’s previous deal with expectations that obviously he was going to be a terrific player. We’ve always believed in him. As a talent, as a person, as a teammate. And he’s out-performed that contract. He’s an underpaid player in the game.”

A general manager of a major league baseball team just referred to one of his players as “underpaid.” Let’s all take a moment.



I mean, come on. This isn’t supposed to happen. Sal’s agent is supposed to call the Royals, ask to renegotiate his deal, and the Royals will either delay or outright refuse. Why should they redo a contract? A deal is a deal, right? Players don’t give back money when they underperform their contract. Except the Royals kind of know someone who did.

We found the Meche money!

“I reflect back to Gil Meche and what Gil Meche did and in the spirit that he felt it was important to retire and forgo the last year of his contract when he couldn’t perform as a starting pitcher,” Moore said.

It’s interesting that Moore should reference Meche in the Perez press conference. Meche, at one point, represented optimism for the Royals and Moore. He was the first big free agent signed by Moore, and he pitched well for the first couple seasons of his five year contract. Then, he was horribly abused by manager Trey Hillman, and in a low point in franchise history, had his career ruined.

Tuesday’s press conference felt very much like a World Series victory lap. Sure there’s been parades and talk shows and the adoration that comes with winning the championship, but this felt different. It was the Royals celebrating another one of their key players by doing what they thought was the right thing. Absolutely, it’s crazy the Royals decided to throw so much money at a player who may not even be a catcher three years into this contract. But they saw it as the right thing to do.

Moore, Ned Yost and even Perez spoke about respect, love, and family. Integrity and leadership. There is a genuine feeling about these comments. This isn’t some laundry list of platitudes. It’s real. The Royals saw an important player who was underpaid and they set to correcting that. How far have we come from the days where players like Johnny Damon couldn’t wait to get out of the city? Simply amazing.

My initial reaction is they went a little too far in their correction. I’ve been on the record saying they could pick up his remaining options and sweeten the deal with a little bonus money upfront while tacking on a couple more options at the end. I guess what feels troublesome about the contract is, family or not, the Royals are on the hook for $26 million for Perez’s age 30 and 31 seasons. Team options would have given the Royals some measure of protection it feels like they’re sorely going to regret not having. You’re looking a player with four consecutive years of declining offensive production, who plays an extraordinarily demanding position, who has already had a knee surgery and has suffered several concussions. The risk the Royals assumed when they awarded Perez an extension after he had played in only 60 big league games is nothing compared to the risk they are holding on the back end of this contract now.

Here is Perez’s workload from 2013 to 2015 compared to other regular catchers:

Perez Workload

That doesn’t include the 143 innings he caught in the 2014 postseason or the 146 innings from the Royals run to the title in 2015. That’s a grand total of 3,845 innings over the last three years. Perez is practically lapping the field. In this day and age, that’s an insane amount of time behind the plate.

Maybe you could forgive the workload if Perez had been able to keep up his offensive production. Yet, that hasn’t been the case.

2011 21 KCR 39 158 148 20 49 8 2 3 21 7 20 .331 .361 .473 .834 128
2012 22 KCR 76 305 289 38 87 16 0 11 39 12 27 .301 .328 .471 .798 115
2013 ★ 23 KCR 138 526 496 48 145 25 3 13 79 21 63 .292 .323 .433 .757 105
2014 ★ 24 KCR 150 606 578 57 150 28 2 17 70 22 85 .260 .289 .403 .692 91
2015 ★ 25 KCR 142 553 531 52 138 25 0 21 70 13 82 .260 .280 .426 .706 89
5 Yrs 545 2148 2042 215 569 102 7 65 279 75 277 .279 .306 .431 .737 100
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2016.

His wRC+ has declined in each season since he made his debut.

2011 – 126 wRC+
2012 – 114 wRC+
2013 – 106 wRC+
2014 – 92 wRC+
2015 – 87 wRC+

In order for the Royals to get value from this reworked contract Perez has to say behind the plate for the entirety of the deal. And in order for him to say behind the plate, the Royals must learn to give him regular days of rest.

The prism of production makes this look like a risky deal for the Royals. Yet there will be fallout of a more positive kind. For starters, players take notice. They knew Perez sacrificed a lot of earning power with his first deal. They will see how the Royals “did the right thing” to bring him closer to market value. Will that translate to free agent signings? Who knows. But the Royals are building on their newfound reputation as a destination. Players already want to play here. Something like this can’t hurt. There’s also some goodwill on the part of the fans, too. Nearly everyone knew about Perez’s contract and felt he was underpaid. This is well received by many corners of the fanbase. And we can probably throw the final mound of dirt on the old “Royals are cheap” mantra. Ten years ago, something like this never happens. Moore and the Glass family have completely turned this franchise around, on and off the field.

Still, the Royals just exchanged a contract that carried minimal risk for one that has a great deal of it, especially in 2020 and 2021. With all contracts, time will ultimately render the verdict, but for the moment, this feels like the Royals gave away too much. The price of family and sentimentality runs high.

Well, most important when it comes to the world of the Kansas City Royals as it pertains to the 2016 season.

Of course, who is the most important player when it comes to 2016 success is an intricate question. One can go a number of different directions and not be wrong and, let’s face it, no ONE player is going to cripple the Royals, nor will just one player ensure success.  However, I thought I would try this exercise just for fun and because it’s the first Tuesday in March and because it is the last day until pretty much October when we won’t have a game of some sort to discuss.

You could go in a lot of different directions here.  Yordano Ventura came to mind instantly for me.  If he could emerge as a true top of the rotation guy that quite obviously give the Royals something they do not have and really did not have all of last year.  That said, they won 95 games and a World Series with pretty much the same rotation they are rolling out this year. If Ventura is a 175 inning guy with an ERA and FIP around four, does that spell doom?

Going from someone emerging to someone going down, the case could be made that a Wade Davis injury (knock wood) or implosion (although cyborgs typically have a long shelf life) would be jarring to the team.  Still, with Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria (what the heck, throw in Hochevar and maybe even Danny Duffy) still in the pen, it would seem the Royals could overcome something happening to the their closer.

How about Salvador Perez?  My guess is if you pinned Dayton Moore or Ned Yost down and made them answer you, they would say an injury to Perez would be the most devastating blow the team could conceivably deal with.  For that matter, how much better would the Royals’ lineup be if Perez could reverse the offensive decline we have seen over the past few seasons?  Certainly he is the most important man this year, right?

Or is it Omar Infante?  Or Jarrod Dyson?

In the case of Infante, one would hope that the organizational tolerance level for an aging second baseman who hits .220 is something less than six weeks before they hand the job to Christian Colon.  With Dyson, can your most important player be a guy who no one expects to play every day?  Jarrod posting good numbers against every right-hander the Royals face would be huge, but no matter what the term ‘soft platoon’ means, Dyson is not going to see much action against lefties.

No, in my mind, the most important Royal this year is Alcides Escobar.

The Royals believe – and listen, who’s to doubt right now? – in the voodoo magic that is Escobar batting leadoff.  Even the non-stat inclined Yost admits it doesn’t seem like a good idea to bat a guy with .298 career on-base percentage lead-off.   Yet the Royals win with Esky batting first.  You don’t have to tell me that those wins probably having very little to do with where the Royals’ shortstop is written in the lineup, but the Royals believe.   They tried to disbelieve in the middle of last season, lost some games and went back to the voodoo.  I shudder to think how bad Escobar would have to hit and for how long before Yost will move him out of lead-off this year.

Since becoming a Royal, this is the on-base percentages Alcides has supplied his team: .290, .331, .259, .317 and .293.  Those are not good numbers, folks.  Along with those, without question, Escobar has played tremendous defense.  He is probably the best overall baserunner on the team, bunts well (if that’s your thing) and he pretty much plays every single day.  Escobar does not have to be a very good hitter to be an asset to his team.

The fly in the ointment very simply is that should the Royals bat him first all season long, Escobar might come to the plate 700 times and quite likely will not walk 30 of those times.  Even a little regression (and let’s not kid ourselves, opposing pitchers are going through Escobar some really nasty out of the zone crap early in the count this season) and you could have your lead-off hitter accounting for 550 outs this season.   And have him doing so, coming the plate (after the first inning, obviously) after Salvador Perez, Omar Infante and the rightfielder have batted.

A lot/most teams get a little skinny down at the bottom of the order, but a flailing (.260 OBP kind of flail) lead-off hitter would routinely have a four batter void in their lineup.  You better hope that Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are battling for the league MVP if that is the case or the 2016 season could be all kinds of 3-1 losses.

The most important man in the world?  I think it is Alcides Escobar, if only because he is going to be right in your face, batting first….every single day.

The surest sign games are close to getting underway in Arizona and Florida: The Royals announced their starting spring rotation for the first week of games.

With pitching the currency of baseball, the Royals have a plethora of starting pitching (as well as relief arms) in camp. The overall quality of those options remains to be seen, but there figures to be a battle for the first five starters to crack the rotation. At least in the first couple weeks of the season. There figures to be plenty of movement throughout the next six months.

It may have been a bit of a surprise to learn Ned Yost tapped Kyle Zimmer to open Cactus League play on Wednesday. Upon reflection, this is the kind of move with foresight that makes total sense. The Royals are champing at the bit to get Zimmer some major league service time. We all know the injuries and setbacks the right-hander has experienced since being their first round draft selection in 2012. Strictly because of those pesky injuries, Zimmer has thrown only 207 professional innings since signing with the Royals. The Royals want their major league staff to have ample opportunity to view Zimmer up close to see what they have. It’s not about evaluating him to break camp with the team. It’s about the future. Does he have the stuff to compete if a big league call-up happened for him later in the season? By having Zimmer first, should the Royals decide to keep him in the big league camp for most of the summer, he will be more of a known commodity should that call to the majors eventually come. This is about developing a comfort level with Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland.

This is a positive development. The Royals wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think Zimmer could compete in Kansas City at some point this summer.

Before we move along, let’s revisit Baseball Prospectus’ evaluation of the 24 year old as part of their Top 11 Royals prospects. Zimmer checked in at number two:

When healthy, Zimmer will show as complete an arsenal as any prospect in the game, led by a four-seam fastball that will sit 92-95 mph with movement and touch higher. His bread and butter is a hammer curveball that he can locate for strikes, take out of the zone to generate swings-and-misses, or use to coax ground balls. Those two pitches alone would make him a quality prospect, but he also features an above-average slider that flashes plus with hard tilt, along with a solid-average change for good measure. He repeats his delivery, and he throws all four pitches for strikes to all parts of the plate.

That’s one helluva scouting report.

The next three arms in the rotation has a very regular season vibe. Edinson Volquez (who doesn’t want the Opening Day start) will pitch Thursday. He will be followed by Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy on Friday and Saturday respectively. Danny Duffy will get a turn in the Saturday game against the White Sox behind Kennedy.

As mentioned above Volquez is resisting getting the ball Opening Day. Ventura was the starter last year, but the Royals are obviously worried about how he handles being The Man. Do they think Ventura has learned lessons from over the last year and can take the ball and the number one starter responsibility? If they do, he’s your Sunday night starter against the Mets. If they don’t, there’s really no other option besides Volquez. So the Royals Cactus League rotation has a very regular season feel.

After your first three starters, things get a little muddled. Just a little. Chris Young gets the ball on Sunday and when the rotation turns over Kris Medlen will throw in a split-squad game on Monday against the Cubs, with Zimmer taking his turn for his second start on the same day against the A’s.

Speaking of the currency of baseball, if you’re interested in the minor league contract exchange rate, you’re in luck on Wednesday. David Huff, Peter Moylan, Brian Duensing, John Lannan, Ross Ohlendorf, and Chien-Ming Wang are all scheduled to get some work behind Zimmer.

Who’s ready to play ball?

%d bloggers like this: