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Browsing Posts tagged Jake Odorizzi

On Thursday, with the Royals off, those of us with Metro Sports in Kansas City were fortunate to get a viewing of the Omaha Storm Chasers. It was a Triple-A marquee matchup as Jake Odorizzi squared off against Roy Oswalt.

Plenty of subplots, too… Sal Perez joined the team for his first rehab start as a designated hitter. And Chris Getz. (Yeah, I know.) Then there was the continuing saga of the Wil Myers Electric Power Show.

It was an opportunity for Kansas City based Royals fans to get a glimpse of the future. And it looks promising. Still.

So, when will the Royals call up Myers and Odorizzi? I know, I know… We’ve all been pondering that very question.

Let’s address Myers first.

Adding a grand slam to his prodigious power totals he now has 39 extra base hits (16 doubles, 2 triples and 21 home runs) in 212 at bats. Roughly an extra base hit every five at bats. Which could work out to roughly one a game. Awesome.

(Please… Don’t be extra impressed that the kid hit his slam off Oswalt. He’s not even close to being in “game” shape. Just be impressed that he hit another bomb. Good enough.)

In 35 games in Double-A, Myers hit .343/.414/.731. In his first 20 games since moving to Triple-A, he’s posted a line of .324/.375/.703. He hasn’t missed a beat in making the climb up the organizational ladder.

I think the “Super Two” status is a non-starter. It has been an issue because the new collective bargaining agreement expands the pool of super two eligibles from 17 percent to 22 percent. That pushes the date later in the season. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the cutoff for super two status in 2012 is going to be 134 days. Last year, it was 146 days. By my calculations, today is the 64th day of the 2012 season. A full season generally lasts 183 days. That means if a player makes his debut on Friday and stays in the majors the rest of the season, he will accrue 119 days of service time. (As a measuring stick, the Braves Tommy Hanson made his debut on June 7, 2009 and accrued 120 days of service time.) It looks like we’re past the cutoff. Although that cutoff wouldn’t apply to players called up this season. For a new callup, it comes into play in two and a half year’s time.

The Super Two date changes from season to season. Is two weeks a big enough pad? Who knows. I do know that waiting another couple of weeks to be safely past the cutoff would be smart business.

(I’m not fully at ease with the latest collective bargaining agreement. It’s important, though. If I got the previous graphs wrong, let me know in the comments and I’ll correct.)

I got into a discussion about this with David Lesky of Pine Tar Press and Michael Engel of Kings of Kauffman last night on Twitter. They both think the cut off for Super Two is early to mid July. If that’s the case, it’s nuts to call up Myers within a month of the cutoff date. I’ve never been about gaming a player’s service time, but for a small market team close to the deadline, it’s about fiscal prudence. You need to save money where you can. If that means a prospect is called up a month later, so be it.

Again, this whole Super Two thing in the new CBA is very confusing.

If Myers were to be called up, the Royals would have to place him on the 40-man roster. It’s currently full, so the Royals would have to designate someone for assignment to remove him from the roster.

Some interesting trivia… With Clint Robinson activated for Friday’s game, the Royals have had 38 players on their major league roster this year. (Ryan Verdugo didn’t make an appearance before getting farmed out.) That’s astounding. The only players on the 40-man roster who haven’t been in KC this year are Noel Arguelles, David Lough and Derrick Robinson.

Fortunately (or probably not) the Royals could make a move with Danny Duffy. He’s on the 15 day DL, so they could slide him to the 60 day DL and remove him from the 40-man roster. But then you face a roster issue when Sal Perez is ready to be activated as he’s currently on the 60 day DL. That problem is solved by sending Humberto Quintero back to Houston as his own PTBNL. Or just cutting him.

Myers has been playing center, so that solves an outfield puzzle. Sort of. Really, he projects more as a corner man. We know Alex Gordon isn’t going anywhere, so that leaves Jeff Francoeur. I suppose he could slide to center – his audition is this weekend – but really… You don’t move a below average right fielder to center. That’s defensive malpractice. Reports are Myers is passable in center. Not a butcher, but he’s not going to cover a bunch of ground. Passable. The Royals did play Melky Cabrera out there last summer. Myers can’t be much worse. He can stay there for a couple of seasons until Francoeur is inevitably named player-manager for the 2014 season.

Myers looks to be ready. This season has been easy for him. Almost too easy. I’d bet the blog that the Royals are waiting to see if he hits any kind of a slump. Just to see how he will handle it. Because when he gets to the majors, it’s not going to be this simple.

Yes, we look at the standings and see the Royals six or seven games out. But be realistic… This team isn’t contending this year. Calling up Myers isn’t going to help the Royals sneak into a pennant race. Unless he can pitch two or three times a week.

Myers needs to be up, but the Royals have the luxury of waiting. Today, there’s no need to force the issue. But as long as he doesn’t go in the tank, he should be up by the All-Star Break. For The Process to roll along, I think a key component is to bring the rookies up in mid season (like they did with Hosmer and Moose) let them get a feel for the league, and then turn them loose for a full season the next year. Of course, it doesn’t always work. Hosmer has struggled. Moose has raked. That’s baseball. But I’d sure feel better about 2013 if Myers had 250 plate appearances this summer.

Now on to Odorizzi…

He made his fifth appearance in Triple-A on Thursday, striking out 10 and walking 1 in 6.2 innings. In 27 innings for Omaha, he’s struck out 27 and walked 9. A 3:1 SO:BB ratio and a 9.0 SO/9? I like.

But Odorizzi has been in Triple-A for less than a month. Yes, he pitched great for Northwest Arkansas with a 3.32 ERA and a 11.1 SO/9 and 2.4 BB/9, but he struggled in his first turn through the Texas League in 2011. In 12 starts last year, he finished with a 4.72 ERA, a 7.1 SO/9 and 2.9 BB/9. It’s great that he made adjustments, and yes, he’s pitching really well in the PCL, but the majors are a different animal.

The control is something to get excited about. In his start on Thursday, I saw an explosive fastball that had late movement. To me, it looked like he was locating extremely well. That will play in the bigs.

I’m excited about Odorizzi as a future Royal, but I think he needs more seasoning in Triple-A. Like Myers, lets see him struggle and make the necessary adjustments. But like Myers, we need to see him in Kansas City sometime in August so he can get a taste of the bigs.

There’s also the roster crunch in play here. Who do you remove from the 40-man? Lough? Derrick Robinson? Since the Royals have used every pitcher on their 40-man not named Arguelles, I doubt they’d remove an arm. I just don’t think the Royals have the roster flexibility to bring up Odorizzi. Sure they can cut The Yunigma or ship Getz to Omaha, but let’s be realistic… That’s not going to happen. It will probably take a trade to free up a roster spot. And that will likely happen at the end of July.

What would you do if you decide both are ready? You’d have to promote Odorizzi, right? We’re desperate for starting pitching, so he’d fit the bill. I suppose it’s possible he arrives in KC ahead of Myers.

Either way, I expect both to make their debuts this season. Yet I’m content to be patient. For now. But I expect some movement in about a month. Keep the revolving door of youth moving along. And maybe next year will be Our Time.

Nate Adcock had a hell of a start last night, making just one mistake in five innings of work.   Unfortunately, Adcock’s ‘start’ began in the 11th inning and his one mistake, a rotund slider to Adam Jones, ended up costing the Royals the game.   While Adcock gets the loss, it is hard to put much blame on him.   The Royals had this game thanks to seven shutout innings from Felipe Paulino (18.2 innings over 3 starts now, with just 5 runs allowed) and two timely hits only to see Jonathan Broxton blow the save by giving up two runs in the ninth.

Having entered the game with a 14-0 record when leading after 8 innings, so the odds were that something bad was due to happen.    What the team does in the aftermath will determine if Wednesday night’s loss was ‘just baseball’ or a punch in the gut that sends this team into a funk.

Back to Adcock, however.   Despite or actually, because of his excellent five innings of work last night, Nate may well find himself heading back up I-29 to Omaha this afternoon.   A roster move is likely and Adcock’s the guy that is out of commission for at least the next three days.  He can wave at Everett Teaford as they pass…probably not the last time that is going to happen this year.

When it comes to roster moves, however, that one is not the eye catcher.   Before yesterday’s game, the Royals announced that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi had both been promoted from Northwest Arkansas to Omaha.   Those moves, very simply, mean that both could make their major league debuts by the All-Star Break and almost certainly puts them in position (with good performances, of course) to break camp with the big club for Opening Day 2013.

Myers was hitting .343/.414/.731 in 152 plate appearances this year in AA, after struggling through a .254/.353/.393 2011 campaign at the same level (416 plate appearances).     By comparison, Eric Hosmer had a career total of just 211 AA plate appearances, where he hit .313/.365/.615.  The other big bat in the organization, Mike Moustakas, spent 259 plate appearances in AA (absolutely destroying that league).   If you want to erase the better part of Myers’ 2011 season, writing most of  it off to nagging injuries, you could make the leap that Wil has spent about as much healthy time in AA as both Hosmer and Moustakas did.

Hosmer was promoted to Omaha over the off-season and enjoyed just 118 plate appearances there at the beginning of last season (.439/.525/.582) before heading to Kansas City.   Moustakas, on the other hand, was promoted in the middle of 2010 and hit .293/.315/.564 over 236 plate appearances to finish out that year.  He returned to the Storm Chasers to start 2011, hit .287/.347/.498 and was promoted to KC after another 250 plate appearances.

Now, both Hosmer and Moustakas played positions for which the Royals had openings at the big league level.  Wilson Betemit was playing third in Kansas City and Kila Ka’aihue was playing first.  Neither was hitting very well and neither was one of the organization’s darlings.   Both were easy moves to make.

Myers, on the other hand, would be pushing out an outfielder.   They just signed Alex Gordon to a long term deal, Jeff Francoeur has a two year deal that makes him hard to trade (and he’s FRENCHY for gods-sake!) and the team has Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain in center.   Not to mention, that I don’t know that Myers could really handle center on an everyday basis in the majors.

Bottom line, I don’t know where Myers fits in this lineup without a drastic move or a big leap of faith (i.e. playing him in center).  Despite that, the Royals did not promote him just for fun.  Myers will likely amass 250 AAA plate appearances by the end of July, twice as many as Hosmer had and as many as Moose had in 2011.   If he stays in Omaha all year, he will come pretty close to getting as many PA’s as Moustakas did in total.

Where he fits, I don’t know, but if Myers hits AAA pitching, we may well find out before the kids head back to school.

The obvious comp for Odorizzi is Danny Duffy.    Danny threw 40 innings at AA in 2010, 42 in Omaha to start 2011 and was in Kansas City.  By contrast Odorizzi threw 69 uneven innings in AA last year and then fired out 38 more this year at the same level.  Jake struck out 47 batters in those 38 innings, walked just 10 and allowed only 27 hits.   He was certainly ready to move up.

The Royals, of course, were more than ready for him to move up as well.   With Danny Duffy down with Tommy John surgery and Mike Montgomery still struggling to find consistency, finding room for Odorizzi is not the problem.   You can certainly make the case that Duffy might have been rushed, but Odorizzi (assuming he is effective) will have as many AAA innings as Duffy had by early July and should have 10 or 11 AAA starts under his belt by the end of that month.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jake Odorizzi, if effective in Omaha (and that is not an ‘if’ to be ignored), will be in Kansas City no later than August.   There is no reason for him not to be.

From a service time perspective, when either Myers or Odorizzi comes up this year will have no effect on when they become eligible for arbitration or free agency.  The only gaming of service time that the Royals would consider would be to keep them both in the minors until late May of next year.   That is not something to be discounted, but also something that does not need to be decided right now, either.

If the team is hanging around in July, both of these guys might be the added boost to make the second half of 2012 really exciting.  If the Royals have sunk into the ‘we might NOT lose 90 this year’ range, then maybe you keep them down and not start their clock until sometime in early 2013.   Certainly, Jeff Francoeur will be more tradable in 2013 than he is right now due to his contract.

Those are all considerations, but Dayton Moore really did not move prospects last year with those sorts of timing issues in mind (rightly or wrongly).  When the big names were ready, no matter how little time they had at AAA, Moore brought them up.  I think the odds are very good that both Myers and Odorizzi are in Kansas City before September of this year.

xxx

 

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.

 

  • Bubba Starling signed last night for $7.5m. It’s  ridiculous that the Commissioners office won’t let over-slot deals through until the last moment. As one of my friends put it “That’s a lot of cheddar for an 18 year old.”  Yep. I hope he’s worth it. At first, I wasn’t completely thrilled with the pick, but as I learned more I’m fully supportive of it. I like the high-risk, high-reward thought process. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Johnny Giavotella has four extra-base hits in 44 plate appearances, Chris Getz had 8 in 396. Why wasn’t this move made sooner?
  • Jim Thome hit his 600th home-run last night. While it seems like he’s hit about 550 of them against the Royals, the actual numbers surprised me. Here are the teams Thome has hit the most home runs against.

1. Detroit Tigers (65)

2. Minnesota Twins (57)

3. Kansas City Roayls (48)

4. Chicago White Sox (43)

5. Boston Red Sox (35)

  • You know what’s really frustrating? The fact that the Royals have scored more runs per game and given up fewer runs per game than the Minnesota Twins, yet they are still below them in the standings.  I can’t believe for one second that the Twins are better than the Royals. This is a mirage at the moment, and I think the Royals have a great shot at surpassing them before the end of the season.
  • One problem is that the Royals lead the American League in walks allowed. They’ve given up 432 walks this season. Compare that to league leader Cleveland who has given up only 309. I wouldn’t make a one-to-one relation on walks allowed to wins, but there certainly is some relation. You can’t give out free passes, it’s the worst thing you can do as a pitching staff.
  • Now that a good portion of the future is occupying spots on the Major League roster, guys in the Minors have been kind of over-looked. Wil Myers is likely the top position player in the Royals system, so how’s he doing?  His current slash line is .251/.350/.368. It’s nothing to go crazy over, but it’s good to see him have a high on-base percentage. Myers has an advanced approach and he has no problems taking a walk. I saw him walk at least four times in back-fields spring training games. He’s continuing to do that at AA, however I’d like to see a higher slugging percentage. If he’s laying off pitches until he gets a good one, I’d like to see him drive it out of the park.  Either way, I’m not concerned. The kid is still very young and very good.
  • The top pitching prospect in the minors is Jake Odorizzi, who has made 8 starts at AA after being promoted. He’s had an up-and-down go of it for the Naturals, but he’s still showing flashes of talent. The jump to AA is the second hardest in the game next to the jump to the Majors. It’s not unusual for a guy to have some struggles as he learns to pitch to a much higher level of competition. In his 8 starts, he has posted a 4.57 ERA while striking out 32 and walking 17.
  • Felipe Paulina pitched his worst game as a Royal last night against the New York Yankes, but he still holds a 3.76 ERA in blue. I hear lots of chatter about the Royals not trying to get starting pitching, yet they made one of the best starting pitcher acquisitions in baseball this season.
  • I wanted to mention the podcast hiatus I’ve been on recently. Basically, my life has been super-duper crazy lately and I just flat haven’t had time to do one. It pains me to not do them, but with all of my other responsibilities, it’s taken a back-seat. I’d like to find a way to do them more often, but for now it’s not feasible. They’re will be more, I promise.

 


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.

The Royals possess the worst record in the American League, but they at least seem better than some of Kansas City teams of the near past.   This group fields better, runs better and pretty much hits better than probably any Royals’ team of the past eight or ten years.   Despite being dinged for two losses over the weekend and a less than perfect Joakim Soria, the team’s bullpen is viewed as a strength right now and likely to become even better.   Alas, as we all are well aware, there exists a big, gaping, borderline hideous void on this team called the starting rotation. 

Nine different pitchers have started games for the Royals and they have combined for an American League worst 5.13 ERA, more than a half run worse than the next worst starting rotation (Toronto, by the way).   They have struck out just 214 batters, 52 less than the next lowest total compiled by Baltimore and opposing hitters have hit .290 against KC starters, 14 points higher than against any other team.

As bad as the rotation has been, Royals’ fans have been able to comfort themselves with the thought that help was on its way.  After all, Kansas City began the season in possession of baseball’s best farm system:  an analysis whose foundation was largely based on the talent and number of good, young arms in the system.

Nearing the halfway point of the season, things have not exactly gone as planned when it comes to many of the young starters and left many of us wondering if help is truly on the way.  

Here to Help Now – Danny Duffy

There is an ever growing possibility that Duffy might be sent back to Omaha to make room for the apparently inevitable return of Kyle Davies to his birthright:  a spot in the Royals’ rotation.   While more Davies is hardly a good thing, sending Duffy back to AAA is not the end of the world, either.

Having thrown just 62 regular season innings in 2010, Duffy is likely to run into a major inning’s crunch as the season progresses.   Between Omaha and KC thus far he has already thrown 70 innings and one would think the Royals really cannot feel comfortable pushing the 22 year lefty much beyond 120 innings total in 2011.

No matter where Duffy gets his work, he has gotten a taste of major league action.   While you might wonder if, given what we have seen out of Danny thus far, actually qualifies as ‘help’, you might be interested to see what a few other pitchers did in their first seven major league starts:

  IP HITS RUNS BB SO ERA
DUFFY 34 39 19 22 29 5.03
SABATHIA 37.1 34 16 15 21 3.86
LATOS 37.1 34 20 16 29 4.82
HAMELS 37.2 37 23 20 35 5.50
HAREN 38 42 17 13 27 4.03
KERSHAW 33 33 16 22 29 4.36

At minimum, Duffy has gotten 34 innings closer to hopefully translating his minor league numbers into major league success.   The stuff is undeniable – it seems like Duffy gets two strikes on virtually everyone (one in five hitters have fallen behind him 0-2) – but has yet to translate that into consistent success.  

I think he will, probably sooner rather than later, and will likely take a spot firmly in the middle of the starting rotation, maybe even as a number two starter, for good to start the 2012 season.   Given the experience gained already and surely to be gained in some measure with additional major league starts this year (be it now or August), Duffy should be ready to pitch contending baseball.

With a Little Hope in Late 2011 – Mike Montgomery

Prior to the start of this season, the debate was not whether Mike Montgomery was going to make it, but whether he would be an ace or the team’s number two starter behind John Lamb.   Fast forward a few months and Lamb is having Tommy John surgery while Montgomery has allowed 51 runs in 78 innings, uncorked 10 wild pitches, hit 4 batters and walked 46 more.   In his last 51 innings, Mike has been tagged for 43 runs and 8 homers.

Certainly those numbers are discouraging, particularly since they seem to be getting worse not better.   However, after being completely lit on fire two nights ago, Greg Schaum tweeted that Montgomery was ‘working on some things’ and would be back to form in a couple of starts.   That is not an exact quote as I’m simply too lazy to scroll back and look, but it captures the essence of Schaum’s tweet and I have no reason to doubt that it has a factual foundation.   Truth is, I am going to put a  lot of stock in Schaum’s 140 characters simply because I don’t want to think about a 2012 rotation that doesn’t include Montgomery very early on.

Not lost in the Montgomery equation is the fact that the new ballpark in Omaha would seem to be shaping up as a hitter’s park and the league itself is a hitter’s league.   Time will tell when it comes to Werner Park, but simply by where it sits (I live 50 miles from Omaha) any Nebraskan will tell you the ball is going to jump out of there most nights of the summer.

All that said, even if Montgomery rights the ship, he will also run into an innings crunch having pitched just 93 frames in 2010.   Already at 78.2 for this season, one would logically assume that Mike probably does not have much more than another 70 or 80 innings left before it becomes less than prudent to have him log any more time on the mound.    That is just enough time to get things going in AAA and get Montgomery’s own seven or eight ‘first’ major league starts out of the way and make him a member of the 2012 rotation from day one.

Not shown on the Duffy chart above are guys like Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke who all hit the major leagues and were effective and often dominant from start number one.   The Royals could use something like that out of Mike Montgomery.   Frankly, the Royals have endured enough bad karma to have exactly that happen.

The Void That Is 2012

Okay, we have been optimistic with Duffy and Montgomery by projecting both to be legitimate major league starters by the end of 2011; here comes a dose of pessimism.

2012 was supposed to be the year that John Lamb would burst on the scene and challenge to be the ace of the Royals’ rotation.   Down with Tommy John surgery, that will not happen next year and likely we won’t be looking for Lamb until sometime in 2013.    He may still become the ace of the staff, it just won’t be next year or the year after that.

With Lamb down, the Northwest Arkansas rotation is led by Chris Dwyer (5.76 ERA), Will Smith (4.71 ERA, 94 hits in 71 innings) and Edgar Osuna (6.88 ERA).  Welcome to the world of pitching prospects, where a Top 100 prospect like Dwyer puts up Kyle Daveish numbers.

The upside on Dwyer is that he still is allowing less than one hit per inning and is still striking out close to a batter per frame as well.   His walk rate is up, like seemingly every other prospect in the organization, and Chris has buried 9 wild pitches in 66 innings of work.    Over his last two starts (11.1 innings), Dwyer has struck out 12 and allowed just one run.

Will Smith’s strikeout rate has dropped as he moves to higher levels in the minors while his hit rate has increased.   That doesn’t bode well for anyone.  Osuna, last year’s Rule 5 pick, had a nice 2010 campaign in AA and an atrocious time in AAA.   This year, Edgar has recreated his dismal AAA performance, only at the AA level.

If one is realistically looking for minor league help in 2012, your best bet is Dwyer, but more likely later in the season than early on.    Even that, that is taking an incredibly optimistic and likely unrealistic approach that three of the Royals’ top four pitching prospects actually come through

 

Projecting the Unprojectable

The Wilmington rotation has some exciting names, led by Jake Odorizzi and followed by Noel Arguelles, Tim Melville, Tyler Sample, Elisaul Pimentel, Justin Marks and Michael Mariot.   That said, when was the last time that Wilmington didn’t have a good rotation (remember Rowdy Hardy, Dan Cortes, Julio Pimental and Blake Johnson?) and how often have we seen great High-A seasons fade against poor AA and AAA careers?   As said by many before, counting on prospects is a gamble:  counting on pitching prospects is heartbreaking.

Odorizzi, part of the Greinke haul, is the guy who could jump to Northwest Arkansas this summer and get himself into a mid-2012 major league conversation.   He has struck on 93 batter ins 65 innings this year, after fanning 135 in 120 innings the year before.   Despite a BABIP against of a .363, Odorizzi has held opponets to an overall .233 batting average on his way to a 2.17 ERA and 1.161 WHIP.   This is the guy who looks and feels like the next big thing.

Of course, we said that about Lamb and Montgomery and Duffy and others.    So, take those seven pitchers I named at the top of this section and, realistically, project one to be good and another to be serviceable.    Maybe that’s more pessimistic than realistic, I’m not sure, but it seems to me that the Royals would consider themselves blessed to have Montgomery, Duffy and Odorizzi occupying three of the top four spots in their rotation by early 2013.

If Melville, who many in the organization believe is close to ‘putting it all together’ after a season and one-half of less than resplendent outcomes, does just that and is poised to join the party at some point in 2013 (or Arguelles, who we still don’t know much about or Jason Adam, currently in Kane County, or Yordano Ventura or Yambati or someone else – you get the point here), then Kansas Citians should be ecstatic.

Of Course, THAT’S 2013 and Beyond

Given that most young pitchers have a period of adjustments and struggles at the beginning of their major league careers, what the above tells us is that a homegrown rotation can a ‘contending rotation’ no sooner than early 2013 and more likely late 2013.   Do you wait that long?

Even the most optimistic and aggressive projections for Duffy and Montgomery probably does not have them being true numbers one or two type starters in 2012.    Sure, there are worse things than a rotation of Hochevar, Francis or Chen, Duffy, Montgomery and someone else (Mazarro, O’Sullivan..don’t you dare say Kyle Davies!) next April, but it certainly would not be a strength of the team at that point.

Should Dayton Moore make a big move between now and next season to get an established arm into his rotation?   Do the Royals package prospects to acquire a legitimate number two or three starter who they think could become a number one?   Or do you wait, endure an up and down 2012, and hope that by 2013 the top of the rotation is Montgomery, Duffy and Odorizzi with John Lamb soon to come back and Jason Adam or Tim Melville in the wings?

That is a tough decision and a gamble no matter which way Dayton Moore decides to go.   Of all the decisions Dayton Moore has made and will make, this one will likely define his tenure as Royals GM.

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This is a post I’ve been hanging onto for a day that now will never come. I was originally going to post it on the day that Jordan Parraz made his Major League debut with the Royals, but since he was recently picked up on waivers by the Red Sox it’s not likely to happen.

I’m getting ahead of myself. This story begins on December 7th, 1992. It’s not quite a day that will live in infamy, rather it’s the day the Royals drafted pitcher Billy Brewer from the Montreal Expos in the Rule 5 draft. Brewer was a left-handed relief pitcher who had put together three very good seasons in low A to high A baseball. He had pitched in 23.1 unspectacular innings in 1992 at the AA level, but the Royals drafted him anyway and placed him on the roster.

Brewer pitched well in the bullpen for the Royals in 1993 and 1994, putting up a 3.01 ERA in 77.2 innings pitched. However, in 1995 he struggled. He posted a 5.56 ERA and that off-season he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jose Offerman. Brewer never actually ended up pitching for the Dodgers. For the rest of his career he pitched 55.2 innings for the Yankees, A’s and Phillies and his ERA was 6.63.

In Jose Offerman, the Royals got a 27 year old shortstop coming off of a career year. In 1995 he hit .303/.389/.375.  He didn’t hit for a whole lot of power, but played an up-the-middle defensive position and got on base at a very high rate. Offerman was a very productive player for the Royals from 1996-1998. He hit .306/.385/.419 and led the league in triples with 13 in 1998.

The Royals got an absolute steal in the Brewer trade and Offerman’s success made him a Type A free agent in the off-season following the 1998 season. The Boston Red Sox ended up signing him and due to the the rules of free agency, they forfeited their 25th overall draft selection to the Royals. Offerman had three more seasons of production that were roughly the same as what he put up as a Royal, but after that his numbers plummeted.

In the 1999 draft, the Royals selected pitcher Mike MacDougal out of Wake Forrest with the Red Sox 25th pick. He spent a few years in the minors and made his debut as a starter in 2001. Not one month later, he was struck in the head by a bat that flew out of the hands of Carlos Beltran and fractured his skull. The lingering effect from that incident was a loss of sensation in his fingers. He eventually learned to pitch with it and came back to the Majors as a relief pitcher. He saved 27 games as the Royals’ closer in 2003, lost that job to Jeremy Affeldt in 2004 and regained it in 2005. In July of 2006 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. In four years with the White Sox, MacdDougal posted a 4.77 ERA in 88.2 innings pitched.

In return for MacDougal, the Royals received Minor League pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Dan Cortes. Neither of them reached the Majors with the Royals and were dealt in separate deals. Cortes was traded with Derrick Saito to the Seattle Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt, who was then packaged with Zack Greinke to obtain Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. Lumsden was traded to the Astros for outfield prospect Jordan Parraz who was released this off-season by the Royals.

So we’ve come full circle and back to Jordan Parraz. It’s a long, strange tale of baseball moves, however there seems to be a very interesting point in all of that. If you’ll notice, the moves which are fully realized and the players have all gone on to either finish or nearly finish their careers are ones which the Royals did very well. Below is a chart which shows the series of moves.

Every move that a team makes can have lasting ramifications, either positive or negative. Drafting and then trading Billy Brewer was a shrewd move by General Manager Herk Robinson. The Royals clearly maximized the value of Brewer. The team also cleverly didn’t sign Jose Offerman as a free agent, which gave them one of the three first round picks they’d have in the 1999 draft. That pick yielded prospects in a trade, and those prospects yeilded more prospects and Yuniesky Betancourt, natch.

The point remains that those smart moves by the 1992-1995 Royals front office continue to yield net value to the team in 2011. One good move can help a team for decades, one bad one can do the opposite. This is illustrative of why there is so much importance placed on the small things that the Royals need to do.

It’s not necessarily doing the “little things” on the field that matters as much as doing the “little things” in player acquisition. From gettting talented Rule 5 players, to recognizing when someone has over-achieved or reached their peak. Now that the Royals have built up an incredible farm system, it’s these types of moves which will define Dayton Moore and lead to a renewal of success or continued failure.

Episode #040 – I discuss being selected for the Royals Digital Digest and covering the FanFest next weekend.  I also discuss the age of the upcoming roster and the starting rotation.  Adam Foster of Project Prospect talks Royals prospects with me including Tim Mehlville, Wil Myers, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi and Johnny Giavotella.

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Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Adam on Twitter @adamwfoster and check out Project Prospect

Music used in this podcast:

Steddy P. – Honesty

Steddy P. – Rap Lessons

Ween – A Tear for Eddie

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Episode #038 – What else are we going to discuss?  Of course we discuss the Zack Greinke trade in detail.  I have Larry Granillo of Wezen-Ball on to discuss the Brewers perspective.  In this star-studded, two-guest podcast, I also have Craig Brown my co-writer at Royals Authority on to break down the trade in detail and how it impacts the team now and into the future.  Nowhere else do you get 2 hours of almost uninterrupted discussion on the Royals and Greinke, so check out this episode of the podcast.

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Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Larry on Twitter @wezen_ball and check out his blog: Wezen-Ball, and listen to his podcast.

Follow Craig on Twitter @royalsauthority

Music used in this podcast:

The Staple Singers – Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas

Pearl Jam – Unemployable

Captain Beefheart – Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles

Jimmy Smith – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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Zack Greinke is no longer a Royal.  It’s painful to say, and I’m sad to see my favorite player in a long time move on.  You likely already are aware that he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for  Alcides Escobar (SS), Lorenzo Cain (CF), Jeremy Jeffress (RHP) and Jake Odorizzi (RHP).  I know that everyone really likes to read people’s opinions on which team “won” and which team “lost” any given trade and there’s plenty of that all over the internet and Twitter.  If you must know my feelings, I like the trade.  The Royals had to trade Greinke at some point and they got multiple quality players in return.  At the very least, I don’t think many people could in good faith suggest that this trade is a total bomb.  So instead of trying to sell you on why I like the trade or why you should like the trade, let’s talk about what just got a whole heck of a lot more interesting: the 2011 season.

Like anyone else who roots for the Royals, I want to see more wins on the field, and frankly I don’t care how they accomplish it.  Barring a bunch of extra wins, I’d like to at least watch a team that interests me.  Honestly, the last couple of years have been some of the least interesting and hard to root for Royals teams that I can remember.  They were filled with boring players who had no future with the Royals organization.  It was like watching a bunch of hired guns who couldn’t really shoot all that well.  Going out to see Zack Greinke pitch, Joakim Soria close or Billy Butler hit were the lone reasons to get excited.  The Royals did lose one of those marquee names today, but the team just became much more interesting.

For the past year and a half (it seems so much longer) we’ve been watching Yuniesky Betancourt play sub par defense and hit with a woeful bat.  He’s been a daily reminder of the fact that the Royals gave up Minor League talent in order to get, at best a replacement level shortstop.  For many of us, he was the embodiment of a front office who can’t really identify quality Major League talent and over-values certain aspects of player evaluation.  Now that Betancourt is heading to Milwaukee and the Royals got Alcides Escobar in return, the position just became interesting.  Escobar is known as a very good defender who has the ability to be elite.  He has struggled throughout his career with the bat, but did show some signs of putting it together in the upper Minors.  He’ll never likely hit for any power, but he only needs to be near average offensively for a SS and he becomes very exciting.  Either way, he just turned twenty four and likely represents the Royals shortstop for the next five years.  This season we will get a chance to see him every single day, hopefully making spectacular plays and also developing as a Major League hitter.  I knew what we had in Yuniesky Betancourt, I’m not sure what we have yet in Escobar, but I’m pretty interested in finding out.

The Royals farm system is light on outfield prospects, and very few are close to Major League ready.  So, we’ve gotten used to Dayton Moore acquiring some free agents on one year “show me” contracts who at best can be flipped for prospects at the trade deadline.  These are mercenaries of the highest degree, and usually pretty low-rent mercenaries at that.  There isn’t anything particularly exciting about going to see Scott Podsednik Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur for one season in a Royals uniform.  We can still dream on Alex Gordon some, but he is running out of future projection.  Prior to this move, the most exciting part of the outfield was hoping that speedster Jarrod Dyson would get some playing time and suddenly become a completely different hitter.  Once again, after the trade things have been shaken up.  Lorenzo Cain is thrust into the mix, and he’s a 24 year old speedster who has a good glove but also a track record of being able to hit the ball.  In his first Major League season he hit .306/.348/.415.  Not bad for someone who plays a premium defensive position and can swipe some bases.  He’s young, fast and could take a really positive step developmentally in 2011.  When was the last time we could say that about a Royal center fielder?

The bullpen is always a mish-mash of new and old guys, and in general is only exciting when you don’t want it to be exciting.  Watching Joakim Soria come in and close games is one of the true joys of being a Royals fan, so there always that.  However, there is a good chance that newly acquired pitcher Jeremy Jeffress will be a part of that bullpen in 2011 as well.  He can hit 100 m.p.h. on the radar gun and is compared to Joel Zumaya.  I don’t think that he’s a guy I’d want to rely on to close games just yet, but to have him available in the 7th or 8th inning is pretty cool if you ask me.

Last, but not least, the Royals also got starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.  While he is almost certainly not going to make the Major League team any more interesting, there’s a chance he’s the best part of this whole trade.  He’s a right handed starter who potentially has four “plus” pitches and would have been the top prospect in the Brewers farm system.  How he pitches this year, and how he progresses through the system, along with guys like Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Aaron Crow and Mike Montgomery will be worth watching.  This farm system just went from being a once in a decade type of system to a once in a generation one.

I know that people will still want to debate whether or not this was good enough return for the 2009 Cy Young winning pitcher.  Honestly, I’ll still do it myself.  However, the deal is done and we have to live with it.  I think it’s time to stop using the franchises past errors and bad luck to judge how things are going to go in the future.  The state of the world as it stands today is that the Royals have more talent than any other franchise in baseball, an owner who has been much more open to spending money, and no real financial obligations in the near future.  In other words, they have talent, financial flexibility and money to spend.  When was the last time they had even one of those?  It really is a wonderful time to be a Royals fan, and 2011 is the start.