Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Bubba Starling

A couple of notes to sate your Royals appetite before we return to wrap up our 40 man roster review:

– MLB.com released their list of the Top 100 Prospects. The Royals placed four in the top 100. Actually, that’s not technically correct… They placed four in the top 47.

17 – Bubba Starling
19 – Wil Myers
31 – Mike Montgomery
47 – Jake Odorizzi

I understand we all have a fascination of Top Prospect lists and whatnot, but I have a difficult time seeing Starling as the Royals top prospect. Especially if the system is as deep as we believe it to be. Starling may be a supreme talent, but the young man has yet to swing the bat professionally. I’m not down on him and I understand how the system works, but I’d like to see some professional success before we anoint him the best prospect in the system.

– Baseball America released their top 10 online last week. Here’s the top five:

Mike Montgomery
Bubba Starling
Wil Myers
Jake Odorizzi
Chelsor Cuthbert

BA also tabbed Myers as having the best strike zone discipline and the best prospect to hit for a high average while Starling is the best power prospect and is the best athlete in the system.

There was a lot of hyperbole last year about how the Royals had the best minor league system ever. After graduating no less than nine rookies last year, it’s impressive that there is still so much talent in the minors. They may not have the honor of being the “Best Ever” in 2012, but there’s a ton of depth.

– Speaking of the prospects, Mike Montgomery, Will Smith, Chris Dwyer, Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi were invited to major league spring training. Montgomery was in camp last spring and had a decent showing. I suppose he’ll get a long look, but ultimately I expect him to open the season at Triple-A where he’ll need to show improved control over the first couple months of the season before he gets any kind of promotion.

Also invited to the major league camp were pitchers Francisley Bueno, Tommy Hottovy and Zach Miner; catchers Cody Clark, Max Ramirez and Julio Rodriguez; infielders Tony Abreu, Irving Falu and Kevin Kouzmanoff, and outfielders Greg Golson and Paulo Orlando. Kouzmanoff probably has the best shot of this group at making the team. With Betancourt under contract ($2 million still boggles the mind) but with Chris Getz having an option, the battle for backup infielders could be the most compelling of the spring.

While reports have at least 60 players in camp already, pitchers and catchers won’t have their first official workout until February 20.

– The Royals with KCP&L installed an array of solar panels in the outfield experience that will provide part of the energy needed to power the stadium. Basically, it will bring enough power for refrigeration. I guess the more sun, the colder the drinks. No word if they will stop watering down the Bud Light. (Which is 98% water anyway, but I digress.)

– Latest report out of Surprise has our Clark Fosler hitting .400. He’s on Kevin Seitzer’s team, so we expect that average to only climb from here.

A few quick notes…

– The Royals made their first move of the off season this week when they claimed reliever Aaron Laffey off waivers from the New York Yankees and designated Jesse Chavez for assignment.

Hey, it’s a waiver claim. What did you expect? Dayton Moore can’t make a trade until after the last out of the World Series.

There are a few things wrong with Laffey. First, he doesn’t miss bats. According to FanGraphs, just over five percent of his strikes were on swings and misses, way below league average. Second, he lacks command. A 4.5 BB/9? Yuck. And third, he doesn’t get enough ground balls to offset his first two deficiencies.

Here’s what’s right with Laffey… He’s better than Jesse Chavez.

Laffey is surplus. A guy to add depth to the challenge of spring training. If he lasts on the 40-man roster that long. The most interesting thing about this signing is, he’s eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career. He’s not going to break the bank or anything, but still… It’s possible they will exchange numbers, but that doesn’t mean he has to make the team.

– It appears Dave Eiland interviewed for the vacant Royals pitching coach position. He was the Yankees pitching coach for three years from 2008 to 2010. Evaluating a pitching coach on past performance is difficult, but when it’s the Yankees and their bloated payroll, it’s even more impossible.

Eiland comes shrouded with a bit of mystery. He left the Yankees for a leave of absence due to personal reasons in June of his final season with the team. The leave was open-ended and lasted 25 days. No reason was given.

Then, at the end of the season, the Yankees announced he wouldn’t return. Of course, thoughts turned to his mid-season leave and whether it impacted the end of his run with the team. The Yankees and Brian Cashman insisted it had nothing to do with performance. This led former sportswriter, now blogger, Murray Chass to unearth this nugget:

The dismissal, as it turns out, stemmed from the 25-day leave of absence Eiland was granted in June. Neither the coach nor the Yankees said why Eiland took the leave other than to say it was to take care of a personal matter.

The matter was serious enough that the Yankees told him he could return to his job as long as he didn’t resume any of the activities that led to his leave of absence. He didn’t adhere to the agreement and was fired. No one has spelled out those activities, and I will refrain from speculating.

Nice! I’ll speculate. I think he had a habit… Of chewing all the free gum in the clubhouse. Or something. Really, I think Chass used to be respected. Now, he’s just a hit and run artist who doesn’t give a crap.

Any of the activities? Plural? Indicating Eiland had more than one issue. And then insinuating that he basically relapsed. If Chass is so connected he can get this info, why can’t he get the rest? Stay classy, Maury!

The one thing I’m surprised about this development is that Eiland himself confirmed to the St. Petersburg Times that he interviewed for the position. Given that the Royals control leaks like the Soviet Kremlin, it probably can’t help Eiland’s chances if he’s confirming he talked with the team.

Eiland worked his way up the Yankee minor league system and the thought at the time was, he won the job because of his relationship with the young pitchers that were coming through the system. Something like that probably works in his favor. However, the leave of absence – if it truly was for something that can cause you to relapse – and the fact he’s confirmed his interview, make him an unlikely fit for this team.

– I’m a little late mentioning this, but Aaron at I70 Baseball had an outstanding recap of the 2011 Royals. Well worth your time.

Bubba Starling is close to returning to Instructional League action after straining his quad.

– Dutton reports Wil Myers is rediscovering his mojo in the Instructional League. Myers will probably open the season repeating Double-A, but could get a mid-season move up the ladder.

Myers had one of those Alex Gordon type of seasons where he had a freak injury, struggled a bit and lost confidence. Fortunately for him, it happened in Northwest Arkansas. Repeating that level can only help. Besides, with Jeff Francoeur under contract for two years, the Royals are going to take their time with Myers.

– Really lookin’ forward to the weekend, you guys.

The second day of the draft is in the books and the numbers break down as such:

- 13 High School players
- 17 College players

By position:
- 17 Pitchers
- 12 Right-handers
- 5 Left-handers
- 5 Outfielders
- 5 Infielders
- 3 Catchers

The Royals sprinted out of the gate taking high school players with their first five picks. It’s an interesting gambit and one that suggests Dayton Moore is confident enough with both The Process and his status as the general manager to essentially restock the lowest levels of the minor league pool.

These high schoolers, Bubba Starling included, are all the rawest of prospects. There aren’t any hidden gems in this group like Wil Myers. This was a draft that will represent the restocking of the second wave of The Process.

I feel this also tells us that Dayton Moore is extremely comfortable in his position and is under no pressure from ownership. There is no Eric Hosmer in this group – no player who is two or three years from making his debut. These are all players who will fall into the organization as role players. Some will develop, many won’t. But we won’t see the fruits of this draft for several years. If Moore was under any kind of pressure, he would have pushed for college players in the early rounds. Guys that would be closer to the major and could slot into this team with the first wave of The Process. Of course, that was the stated plan as far as we thought we knew, the Royals were targeting a college pitcher. That plan was foiled when Seattle went off the plan and passed on Rendon to take Hultzen.

No, this was a draft to restock the lower levels of the minors. It’s too bad in a deep draft such as this, the Royals didn’t have the Tampa Bay luxury of multiple picks in the first, second and third rounds. Jealousy on my part. But given the way the Royals have been able to draft in the last several seasons, you have to think about what could have been if they had been able to score just one or two more picks in the early rounds.

A couple of other draft notes:

– Jerrell Allen, selected in the eleventh round, after a run on pitching by the Royals. He’s a – stop me if you’ve heard this before – a speedy outfielder.

– Fifth round pick Patrick Leonard played for Craig Biggio at St. Thomas High School in Texas. He’s a shortstop – stop me if you’ve heard this before – but he will have to switch positions.

– The Royals stayed local in the 12th round, selecting Adam Schemenauer from Park Hill South High School.

– I didn’t do a deep search, but after Starling, the Royals didn’t grab any other top 100 talent in the draft according to Baseball America. Keith Law at ESPN has their third rounder – Bryan Brickhouse – rated as the 84th best talent.

Last night’s game went pretty much according to plan. Vin Mazarro coughed up six runs on five hits. The defensive lapse in the first inning recreated the circus atmosphere of year’s past. Eric Hosmer picked up a couple of hits. Off-plan, somehow Alcides Escobar picked up a pair of hits. But he airmailed another throw to first. (Oops… That was the day before. Sometimes, all these Royals games seem to run together.)

Really, what that game boiled down to was which starting pitcher would create the biggest implosion… Mazarro and his general ineffectiveness. Or Kyle Drabek and his inability to locate. That’s the kind of starting pitching matchup which causes me to look for other things to do for the first five innings… Guys like Mazarro and Drabek drive me insane. The Royals did OK against Drabek. He threw 99 pitches in just over five innings and only 56 strikes. He also uncorked four wild pitches. Too bad Mazarro was worse. By the time the starters had exited, it was a 6-5 game in favor of the Jays. The Royals couldn’t break through against the Jays pen and that’s the ballgame in a nutshell.

With the fifth overall selection in the 2011 June Amateur Draft, the Kansas City Royals select: Bubba Starling. And with those words, a legend was born. Stories of the Gardner, KS native will be told in Royals circles for decades. The direction and nature of those stories at this point are unknown. This is what makes the baseball draft — hell, any draft really — so interesting. It’s the unknowns in sports that make things so much more interesting.

Bill James was on a recent episode of Joe Posnanski’s* podcast and said that without some inherent randomness, sports aren’t very interesting. The draft represents some of the most wild randomness available, and Starling is the epitome of that.  He’s a toolsy, athletic high school senior who plays baseball in the midwest. It’s the perfect combination of factors that make for an unpredictable draft pick. The added bonus of being from a local school is what puts this draft pick into “legendary” status. If Starling is a great player, then it’s obvious that he’ll be the legendary hero. If he never makes it to the Big Leagues, he’s a legendary bust. If he becomes a decent but not great player like Alex Gordon, he’s a legendary “what could’ve been”.

*Yesterday was Posnanski’s last day as a Kansas City resident and now that he and Jason Whitlock have departed, the sports writing landscape in Kansas City seems so barren. That’s not a knock on the guys plying their trade now, but rather how important they were to our local sports scene. When I was granted my credential to Royals games, one of the first things that jumped in my mind was a chance to meet Joe Posnanski. Unfortunately, we never crossed paths. I wish him luck and I’m excited to see who can try and fill those two pair of very different but very large pair of shoes.

The first impediment to having the Bubba Starling legend lie on the positive side of the ledger is his commitment to the University of Nebraska to play football. In his brief press-conference yesterday, he mentioned that possibility a number of times. High school kids with scholarship offers have the most negotiating power, because as any successful negotiator will tell you, options are leverage. Bubba Starling doesn’t have to sign with the Royals, he could just go play football if he so desires. The more real that threat looms, the higher the price tag goes.

Given Starling’s options of:

A: Millions of dollars to play baseball

B: Dorm food, lodging and mandatory classes to play football

Which, combined with the fact that the Royals used their only pick in the first 65 to select him is enough evidence that  he is likely to sign. It’s more likely that Starling doesn’t sign and re-enters the draft in 2012. His agent is Scott Boras, who won’t make a dime if Starling plays football, and if there’s anything I know about Boras, it’s that he likes making lots of dimes. So, while the football card will be played loud and often, it’s not much of a possibility.

With options and negotiating leverage, comes money. It seems logical that Starling’s bonus will be close to, if not the highest paid by the Royals in franchise history. Deals like that aren’t easy to come by, so it’s quite certainly going to take right up until the deadline to sign the contract. If that does happen, Starling won’t make his professional debut until 2012, which is unfortunate. He’s such a raw player that he could use as much seasoning as possible. Spending time in a short-season league in 2011 will speed along his development.

Once he signs and becomes officially a part of the Royals organization, what kind of player will the Royals have? What will Starling become? These are questions that nobody has the answer to. We go back to the randomness aspect of this whole situation. Bubba Starling will be Bubba Starling, and that’s all we know. The Royals feel like he was the best player available to them when it was their turn to draft, and they’ve done a very good job of identifying high school talent.

The real story here is that the Royals didn’t seem to draft for need or for immediate help. Maybe that was just the luck of the draw, but it does seem as if Dayton Moore is sticking to his Process. A process, which it seems isn’t about producing “waves” of talent. Waves of talent is a theory of hoping to win followed by expecting to lose. It’s a failed process. One that the Royals can’t afford to subscribe to. What they have shown with the selection of Starling is that they are going to load the system with talent and continue to pile it on. Dayton Moore isn’t trying to build a team, he’s trying to build a franchise.  It’s the more difficult, but ultimately more successful endeavor.

It will take at least five years to know if selecting Bubba Starling was the right move yesterday. He may just be the local super-star that the Royals and their fans are pining for. But if the franchise continues to go about their process in this manner, it won’t matter because while a single bad draft pick can drown a team, it’s not enough to ruin a franchise.


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Episode #055 – In which I discuss the newly drafted Bubba Starling and what that draft pick means. I also talk about some recent news, the struggling Royals and potential changes to the MLB Draft.

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Foster The People – Helena Beat

Baths – Aminals

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Does the draft come at the right time, or what? After getting swept by the Twins and their Double-A caliber lineup, it was a bucket of cold water thrown in the face… The future is still pretty grim. Especially with our starting pitching.

With the focus still on the future (for another season at least) the good news is the Royals hold the fifth overall pick in what is shaping up to be a very deep draft. And speaking of pitching, word on the street is the Royals are seeking a college arm. That makes sense, given that the Royals kick started The Process this year. The pitching rotation remains Kate Moss thin, so GMDM and the scouting department have been charged with finding a little starting pitching meat. That comes from a college arm, which will be on an accelerated path to the majors.

In this draft, there are at least three premium college arms: Gerrit Cole from UCLA, his teammate Trevor Bauer and Virginia’s Danny Hultzen.

For fun, here are how three mock drafts from national prospect watchers have the first five picks:

There are a couple of things to note from these mocks… Pittsburgh will go for a pitcher at number one. It’s a guess between Cole and Hultzen. Rendon to Seattle at number two is a definite. Arizona is big on Hultzen at three, but if the Pirates grab him at number one, the whole draft goes haywire. And as you can see, there’s no consensus for who goes fourth and fifth.

Of the scenarios above, I’d bet the Royals would be delighted with the one presented by Baseball America. If Cole is there at number five, he’s going to be wearing Royal blue. The Baseball Prospectus mock is the one I’d bet on if the Pirates grab Cole with the top choice.

One name that hasn’t found it’s way into the top five is local product Bubba Starling. The question is, if the top three college arms are off the board at number five, will the Royals go local and draft Starling? The local angle in the draft is always heavily overplayed. Sure, armchair GMs blast the Royals for missing on Albert Pujols, but it’s not like he was nabbed immediately after the Royals passed. Pujols lasted until the 13th round. Plenty of teams missed – multiple times. Just because he was in the Royals backyard, wouldn’t necessarily give the team an advantage. The top guys are known by all the teams and they’re all scouted and most of them are cross-checked. There aren’t many mysteries in the early half of the draft.

That doesn’t mean the Royals aren’t feeling pressure when it comes to Starling. And since it appears Starling will be on the board when the Royals pick number five, that will present an extremely interesting situation. Do the Royals bow to pressure of media and fans to choose Starling, or will they stay the course and address their need for pitching? Can you imagine the uproar if the Royals pass on Starling and he goes on to become a superstar? Especially if their pick in this draft is a whiff. That’s pretty much a worst case scenario. Because this is the Royals we’re talking about, I feel obligated to bring this up.

Myself, I think they’ll stick with pitching. They want someone they can place on the fast track and contribute soon as The Process starts rolling. However, if the three college guys are off the board, I think they decide they can’t pass on Starling.

We’ll find out this afternoon.