Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Joaquin Arias

Yeah, it’s kind of cliche, but it’s not such a bad idea to take stock from time to time and give a little bit of thanks.  Despite the continuing struggles with the Royals and despite the fact that the 2011 season is shaping up to be kind of brutal at the major league level,  if you look close enough you can still find a few positives.

So with Thanksgiving just past, here’s what I’m thankful for as a Royals fan.

I’m thankful for…

- Billy Butler’s line drive ability and his proclivity for doubles.  Doubles… Not double plays.

- Joakim Soria’s amazing curve ball.  Described in these parts as “baseball porn.”

- Zack Greinke’s slider.  Even though he got a swing and a miss on it only 18.6% of the time last summer.  Compared to 2009’s swing and a miss rate of 23.4%.

- The Royals minor league system that suddenly is a source of optimism.

- This being the last season where I have to put up with watching Yuniesky Betancourt.  Unless GMDM does something colossally insane, like picking up his $6 million club option for 2012.

- Redundant waiver claims (Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadzki anyone?) because it gives me something to write about in November.

- Alex Gordon’s smooth transition to left and the fact there’s still a glimmer (however faint) that he can possibly put together a solid offensive season.

- Clint Robinson’s Texas League Triple Crown.  Sure it was Double-A, but a Triple Crown is a Triple Crown.  Cool that he earned a spot on the 40-man roster and a likely spot in Omaha with an eye on Kansas City next summer.

- Eric Hosmer’s swing being compared to Will Clark’s swing.

- Kila Ka’iahue.

- That someone will probably overpay Bruce Chen this winter, giving him at least a two year contract.

- The fact it won’t be with the Royals.

- Trey Hillman finding employment with the Dodgers.  Is there any way to set up an alert to let me know when Don Mattingly gets ejected from games?  I really want to watch Hillman manage a team I don’t care about, so I can gawk like a car crash.

- My colleagues and readers of Royals Authority.  This may sound cheesy, but it’s incredibly fun to be a part of the internet community that make up the fans of this team.

Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.  I hope you had an outstanding holiday.

Today is zero hour for the Royals to set their 40-man roster ahead of the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

The rules for the Rule 5 draft are fairly straight forward and simple.  Players eligible for the Rule 5 draft include those who were signed at age 19 and older and have been with a team for four years, and those who were signed at 18 or younger and have been with their team for five years.

Complicating matters for the Royals leading up to the deadline is the fact they are a young organization.  Players eligible for the draft are college players selected in Dayton Moore’s first draft. (For clarification, I’m calling 2007 as GMDM’s first draft.)  When you have a team as stacked in the minors as the Royals are it creates quite the conundrum.

Further complicating matters is the fact the Royals still have… let’s be nice and say they have issues when it comes to acquiring players to fill out their roster.   Case in point:  this month they claimed Joaquin Arias off waivers from the New York Mets.  Not a great claim, but the Royals felt they needed a backup in the middle infield.  Fine.  Except then they claimed Lance Zawadzki from the San Diego Padres.  Basically, the same player – a utility middle infielder who isn’t good enough to hold down a regular role on a half-decent team.

So now, through the magic of two waiver claims, the Royals have filled two spots on their 40-man roster with what we will call surplus.  They don’t really need either one of these guys and they certainly don’t need both.

Then there’s the fact the Royals are mindful of the future.  In other words, we all expect Mike Moustakas to make his debut at some point in the 2011 season.  Because he’s not eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there’s no reason to put him on the 40-man roster at this point.  Still, if the Royals do bring him to Kansas City at some point next summer, they will need to clear a spot for him on the 40-man.

The Royals won’t want to place a player on the 40-man roster now and then have to remove him during the season.  There’s a much better chance for a player to be claimed off waivers than to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

It’s a complicated process.  Dayton Moore has said he will protect three to five players.  Here’s who I think the Royals protect.

Everett Teaford – Since teams have to keep players selected in the Rule 5 on their 25-man roster during the season, these drafts feature a run on pitching.  It’s basically easier to bury a pitcher at the back end of a bullpen, that to keep a bat on what has typically become a very thin bench.  Of all the Royals pitchers eligible for the draft, Teaford is the best of the bunch.  He threw 99 innings last summer for Northwest Arkansas and posted a 3.36 ERA and featured a strikeout rate of 10.3 SO/9.  His control was exceptional as well, with a walk rate of 2.9 BB/9.

He’s an automatic add to the 40-man roster.

Clint Robinson – This one is questionable.  He turns 26 in February and has yet to progress past Double-A.  Except this summer in Northwest Arkansas all the guy did was hit .335/.410/.625 while winning the Texas League triple crown.  As a first baseman, he’s sandwiched between Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihuie in the majors and Eric Hosmer in the minors.

Still, his monster year in AA was too good to ignore.

David Lough – Lough has been compared to David DeJesus and with DeJesus gone, now is Lough’s chance to show us how accurate those comparisons are.  A little speed, modest power and the ability to make contact does make him sound like DeJesus version 2.0.  Last year he hit .280/.346/.437 for Omaha, so he’s basically ready to make the move for to the majors.  You don’t leave players this close to the majors unprotected.  Someone will take him.  Plus, with the current roster thin on outfielders, there’s a chance he will open the season as a starter.

Another automatic choice.

That’s it.  Those are my three.  That means three must go.  I leave players like Derrick Robinson and Paulo Orlando exposed.  Those guys won’t be drafted as they’re marginal major league players at this point in their careers.  Same for pitchers Eduardo Paulino and Mario Santiago.  Their skill sets won’t translate well to the majors at this point in their respective careers.

Fortunately, even though the Royals needlessly added a pair of utility infielders, there’s still plenty of fat to trim off this roster.

I think Gaby Hernandez is gone for sure.  Once upon a time he dominated in the lower minors, but as he progressed he started catching too much of the plate and became incredibly hittable.  He’s one the wrong side of the fringe.

Victor Marte has done well in Triple-A, but has been absolutely battered in a pair of turns in the majors.  The guy just doesn’t miss enough bats and doesn’t have the stuff to survive in the major leagues.

Then there’s a coin flip between Bryan Bullington and Phillip Humber.  I think one of these guys will go.  The one who remains will get a shot at the back end of the Royals rotation.  Or perhaps in the bullpen as a swingman.

Those are my choices.  Get in early and leave yours in the comments.

Z Before A

3 comments

Another day, another waiver claim by Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals.

Another day, another utility infielder added to the 40-man roster.

This time, the acquisition is in the form of Lance Zawadzki, a 25 year old shortstop in the San Diego Padre organization.  He made his major league debut last summer and appeared in just 20 games.

A year ago at this time, Zawadzki held some promise.  He bashed 15 home runs in 2009, which helped propel him onto more than a few Padre prospect lists.  At Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein ranked him as San Diego’s sixth best minor leaguer, and said in a perfect world, Zawadzki would be a solid, if unspectacular middle infielder.

Zawadzski brings a lot of offensive skills to the table for a middle infielder, as he has a good approach, plus bat speed, and surprising power for the position, projecting to hit 12-16 home runs annually in the big leagues. He’ll never win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he’s solid enough, and his arm is well above average.

Baseball America noted Zawadzski’s ability to throw across the diamond, as he was touted as having the Padres best infield arm.  He fell just outside of the top ten (15), but earned consideration.

He’s not an overly physical player, but he has two outstanding tools — three if you want to count flexibility — that will get him big league looks. Zawadzki has impressive pop from both sides of the plate and an absolute cannon of an arm. The power will play up the middle and the arm keeps him alive on the left side of the infield… He could offer significant value to the Padres by filling in at third, second and short, settling at one position occasionally to fill in for injured players.

In their 2006 draft wrap, Baseball America noted Zawadzki’s arm graded at a 70 on the 20-80 scale and there was some talk of actually moving him behind the plate.

John Sickels rated him as the 11th best prospect in the Padres system and graded him as a C+:

At worst he could be a very good utility guy, but there’s some chance he could develop into a decent regular.

This all sounds just fine.  It looks like we’re discussing a solid, if unspectacular middle infielder.  A little power and a cannon for an arm.  Not too bad, all things considered.

Then, 2010 happened.

After a 2009 season where he hit a combined .285/.369/.456 between High-A and Double-A, Zawadzki’s progress stalled in a big way in 2010.  He opened the season in Triple-A, earned himself a brief call to the majors (despite hitting .162/.240/.176 in 75 plate appearances) and then finished the season in Double-A.  Overall, he hit a discouraging .225/.291/.316 in a combined 409 plate appearances.

Zawadzki appears to have decent plate discipline, walking in 10% of his minor league plate appearances.  That’s not great, but on the Royals having a double digit walk rate is cause for celebration.  However, that number dropped to 8% last year as he split time between Double and Triple A.

Then, there was his precipitous drop in power.  Extra base hits represented a full 33% of his hit total in 2009.  Last year, that dropped to 26%.  And that meant he lost a whopping 140 points off his slugging percentage.

With Minor League Splits down, it’s difficult to find a statistical cause behind this drop in production.  Was he overmatched by Triple-A pitching?  Did he get off to a slow start and continue to press?  Did he hit a bunch of line drives right at fielders?

Still, the Padres gave up on him, which is saying something as San Diego isn’t necessarily flush with middle infielders.

(Quick aside: Zawadzki hit a home run against Aaron Crow in Crow’s professional debut last year in the AFL.)

Although after not exactly bashing the Joaquin Arias claim (but being less than thrilled) I’m good with the claim of Zawadzki.  Unlike Arias he has some power and has a plus arm.  Also, Zawadzki walks almost twice as much.  I know the Royals are extremely hung up on getting a replacement for the dearly departed Wee Willie Bloomquist, and acquiring these utility infielders isn’t much fun for us fans.  However, I have to imagine if you were looking at the 40 man roster and assembling a depth chart, you would place Zawadzki ahead of Arias.  Poor Arias… Just one day in the organization and he’s already in a free fall.  Welcome to the Royals.  Hell, I’d probably take Zawadzki ahead of Chris Getz.

Again, at this point in the off season, there’s really no harm in picking up cheap talent in the hope you find a little bit of upside.  Zawadzki did something in 2009 to land on those prospect lists.  For it to completely disappear in 2010 is just more than a little baffling.  So it’s worth a flier to see which season was the real Zawadzki.  (He experienced a similar drop in production between his sophomore and junior seasons at San Diego State.  Lack of consistency at the plate seems to be a continuing theme.) If he can’t hit and the prospect hounds were wrong, he either gets released or spends his summer in Omaha.  But if he does have a bit of a power stroke and a rocket for an arm, he could be a useful part of the Royals 25 man roster.

Again, it don’t cost nuthin’.

The Royals made their opening salvo this off season by acquiring infielder Joaquin Arias off waivers from the New York Mets.

Is this man running the Royals?

I’ll give you a moment to collect yourselves.

Meanwhile, the plucking of Arias off the waiver wire reminded me of one of my all time favorite quotes…

“Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”
Judge Smails to Danny Noonan, Caddyshack.

Let’s amend the classic Judge Smails quote…

“Well, the Royals need worthless middle infielders, too.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…  Arias has speed to burn.  He has stolen 138 bases in his minor league career.  Of course, he’s been caught 51 times – a 73% success rate.  He also is a contact hitter with zero pop.  Arias owns a career .376 slugging percentage in the minors.  And he doesn’t take a walk.  In 3,383 plate appearances covering all levels in the minors, Arias has drawn a grand total of 147 walks.  That works out to a 4.3% walk rate.  Abysmal for someone with his skill set.

Here we go again…

Somehow Dayton Moore figures out a way to acquire the exact same player almost every time he hits the waiver wire.  It’s quite stunning.

What exactly will Joaquin Arias bring to this team?  Other than no power, no ability to get on base and speed?

(Seriously, why is the Royals brain trust so taken with speed?  If you can’t get on base, speed isn’t exactly helpful.  And once you’re on base, if you’re a bad baserunner, again speed isn’t doing too much – except to occasionally bail you out of mistakes.  Still, just once I would like GMDM to find a guy who knows how to get on base.  Once.  Please.)

Defensively, the consensus seems Arias has problems moving to his right.  He’s probably in the middle of the pack with the glove, but his numbers (limited as they are) indicate he’s not that great at the pivot in turning the double play as a second baseman.  It could be a different matter at short, but he’s played there so little at the major league level, I don’t have any data to base any kind of conclusion. Of course, he’s blocked by the Yunigma. I feel sick to my stomach…

Of course, describing this move as boneheaded is relative.  If Arias is cut in a roster purge when the Royals need to make decisions on the upcoming Rule 5 draft, or if he spends his summer in Omaha, then no harm, no foul.  But if this becomes the Bloomquist Situation – then we have a colossal problem.

Perhaps you will recall, at the time of the Bloomquist free agent signing, I expressed similar reservations… If the Royals used him properly, then it was simply a bad signing.  “Properly” meant exposing him to under 200 plate appearances.  Of course, he notched a career high 468 plate appearances in 2009.  Thus, the “Bloomquist Situation.”  Where a manager simply can’t help himself but play a gritty utility man as much as humanly possible.  A bad signing became a major screw-up.

And I can’t help but see a bit of Bloomquist in Arias.  Arias is a shortstop by trade, but has spent most of his time in the majors at second base.  He’s played a bit of third base and (heaven forbid) the Rangers even played him at first base this season.  It’s not a stretch given the track record of the Royals to see Arias filling in in the outfield at some point, should he make the team. Managers like Trey Hillman are suckers for players with versatility with the glove.  Ned Yost seemed less so enthralled, so there’s a bit of hope.  Still, it’s in my nature as a Royals fan to fear the worst.

Arias is a better pickup than Bloomquist because he’s less expensive.  How’s that for digging through a pile of crap and finding a positive?  So this could be a meh waiver claim if Arias hacks his way to 150 outs.   If he gets any more than 200 plate appearances, then we’ve got some problems.

Right now, I’m not all that bothered by the Arias pick up.  A waiver claim on a player without enough service time to be eligible for arbitration… It don’t cost nuthin’.

However, I will reserve my right to change my opinion from “nonplussed” to “outrage.”

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