Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

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This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catchers (including a series preview),  first basemen and second basemen.

First, let’s take a look at some of the players who played third base and how they hit while they played the position.

Click to Enlarge

I’m a little shocked that only three players played every single inning at third base in 2010. Update: Mike Aviles, Willie Bloomquist and Alex Gordon all got limited time at third base in 2010.  Thanks to the commenters for pointing this out.  I knew it seemed odd. Alberto Callaspo got the bulk of the early season duties, while Wilson Betemit was the primary third baseman  later in the season.  Josh Fields got some late season work after coming back from an injury and Minor League rehab assignments.    Alberto Callaspo was traded near the deadline, and he’s likely going to fade into my memory as one of those “remember that one guy who was an ok hitter, but not great….oh, whats his name?”  Betemit had an absolute breakout year in 2010 at the age of 28, which is when these things can usually happen.  However, his defense was absolutely horrendous.  Every time the ball was hit in his direction, I held my breath and then usually cursed at the television.

It’s interesting to see the difference in approach between Betemit and Callaspo.  Betemit clearly sees a lot of pitches, he walks at a high rate and also strikes out at a very high rate.  Callaspo is trying to put the ball in play and find a hole, and thus he has an extremely low walk rate and a very low strikeout rate.  Both approaches can be successful, there’s lots of ways to skin that cat.

Let’s take a look at a heat chart of the offensive numbers for each team in the American League at third base.  Red represents the best in the category while green represents the worst.

Red = highest in category, Green = lowest

Alberto Callaspo was an OK  hitter for second base, but at third he wasn’t going to cut it offensively.  His 76 sOPS+ would be the third worst mark in the American League at third base.  While Betemit’s glove won’t really play at third, his bat certainly will.  His sOPS+ of 132 at the position is the sole reason that the Royals third base unit was above average offensively.  In fact, only two teams got a better on-base percentage from their third basemen than the Royals and those teams were anchored by Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria.

The Royals third basemen were pretty good overall across a variety of categories.  A lot of that is due to the averaging of the two strengths and weaknesses of Betemit and Callaspo.  However, this is one of those times where it’s very interesting to see how the players do as a combined unit.  At least for 2010, the third base position was a strength offensively and was a solid contributor.  Defensively, now that is a whole other ball of wax.  It didn’t take a seasoned scout to come to the conclusion that neither player was a top notch defender at third base.

Third base will be one of the more interesting positions to watch in 2011.  I have little doubt that Mike Moustakas will make his Major League debut after spending a couple of months at the AAA level.  Until then, the Royals will likely choose from Wilson Betemit, Mike Aviles and Josh Fields to play the position.  They clearly have too many players for too few positions.  Something is going to have to give.  If I were a betting man, I’d put money on Mike Aviles as the starter on opening day with Wilson Betemit at DH or on the bench and Josh Fields on another team or in the Minors.  However, that will just be a fill-in role.  2011 will mark the debut of Mike Moustakas and hopefully a long-term answer at third for the Royals.

Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

We’re about at the midway point of the post season, so it’s probably as good a time as any to rehash Dayton Moore’s year.  The goal of this exercise is to examine all of his “key” moves and deliver a simple verdict – either a win or a loss.  (“Key” being a subjective term.  I’m using it to apply to any move that shaped the 25-man roster.) Obviously, some of these verdicts can change.  (Like, Chris Getz could become an All-Star.  No, I don’t believe that.)  Keep in mind the judgement is how the deal should currently be viewed.

Since the GM makes a ton of moves throughout the year, we’ll break this into a few different parts.  Part one today covers November and December of 2009.  We know GMDM likes to dash right out of the gate, so keep his November moves in mind as the World Series winds down in a couple of weeks.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the first off season deal for the third consecutive year.

November
Traded cash and 3B Mark Teahen to Chicago White Sox for 2B Chris Getz and 3B Josh Fields.

The Royals needed to shave some cash from the payroll and found a candidate in Teahen, who was eligible for his third year of salary arbitration after earning $3.5 million in 2009.  Getz started 59 games at second for the Royals, but his season was bookended by injury.  He missed time in April with a strained oblique and then finished the year on the sidelines after suffering a concussion.  In between it seemed like both Trey Hillman and Ned Yost didn’t exactly trust Getz to produce.  I can’t really say that I blame them.  He finally got an extended look in August, but hit just .217/.280/.246.

Fields seemed to be the odd man in this deal, as at the time, it didn’t seem like the Royals had a spot for him.  In the end, it didn’t really matter as he lost most of his season as he recovered from hip surgery.  With Betemit and Aviles at third and Gordon and DeJesus manning the corners, he still doesn’t seem to have a place on the active roster.

The White Sox compounded their problems by extending Teahen for an additional two years beyond 2010, bringing his total contract to three years, $14 million.

This was basically a deal where the Royals shed one below average bat and glove in exchange for two below average bats, one below average glove, and one average glove – although Getz is definitely a better defender than Teahen, he didn’t do anything this year to make me think he’s anything special.  And even though the Royals bundled $1.5 million of their own into this deal, they still saved money.

With Fields eligible for arbitration starting this winter and Getz becoming eligible following 2011, and since Teahen is locked into the South Side, we will definitely revisit this deal a few more times.

Verdict: Neither win or loss.

Declined option on Miguel Olivo.

This needed to happen.  Olivo was a horrible fit on this team and Exhibit A that Dayton Moore doesn’t really believe OBP is important.  Fans were ticked when Olivo got off to a hot start in Colorado, but his .193/.225/.313 line post All-Star break was all the proof needed the Royals made the correct decision.  Plus, his extreme home and road splits (.318/.349/.556 at home vs. .211/.276/.322 on the road) provide proof the Coors Effect still lingers.

Verdict: Win

Minor league free agent signings:  Wilson Betemit, Brad Thompson, Bryan Bullington, Josh Rupe

Bullington’s amazing start against the Yankees on August 15 aside, this group of pitchers had as much success as you would expect random, bottom of the barrel, free agent pitchers… Not much.  Thompson lived around the plate and was extremely hittable.  He was gone by June.  Rupe had a promising debut raising a false level of confidence and was out by mid-May.

Of course, the real prize in the November free agent feeding frenzy was Betemit.  His glove was awful, but his bat was something else.  We can only imagine how many runs the Royals lost offensively from keeping him in the minors for so long.  We can only imagine how many runs the Royals saved defensively from keeping him in the minors for so long.  To be fair, no one predicted anything remotely close to this kind of offensive season for Betemit.  And there really was no room for him on the big league roster.  He finally got his chance because the Royals decided to ship Alberto Callaspo to the Angels.

Verdict:  This represents a 25% success rate, so since your basically talking about minor league free agents, this grades out as a win.

December
Released Mike Jacobs

Along with the Olivo release, this needed to happen.  With Billy Butler adequate with the glove at first and exceptional with the bat, Jacobs served zero purpose on this team because he would have been a horrible choice for DH.  And since he was eligible for arbitration, the Royals saved some cash by severing ties in December.

Verdict: Win.

Signed Jason Kendall to a two year, $6 million deal.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Exacerbated by the fact the Royals gave him well over 90% of the innings behind the plate.

The Royals are fond of pointing out in situations like this (and like with the Betancourt deal from the previous season) they don’t have a ton of options.  They declined the option on Olivo and they didn’t offer a contract to John Buck, so they needed a catcher.  Hey, I’m sympathetic to this…  It’s the second year that just turns my stomach.  Why basically acquire a stopgap and then tie your hands for the next two seasons.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

Verdict:  Loss

Signed minor league free agents Bruce Chen and Philip Humber.

Chen finished with the exact same ERA as our beloved Greinke.  I don’t know why I bring this up, except to point out his FIP was nearly two runs higher.  Ultimately, Chen was a serviceable, back of the rotation starter.  That he was the second best starter on the Royals, tells you all you need to know about the wretched condition of our rotation in 2010.

Still, like the previous month’s free agent signings, this was a 50% success rate for GMDM.

Verdict: Win

Royals non-tendered John Buck

This was the best stop-gap solution to the Royals catching conundrum.  Yes, he would have cost more money in 2010 than Jason Kendall, but he wouldn’t have cost that extra year.  And for the money, he would have provided much more offensive production.

Verdict: Loss

Royals signed Brian Anderson

We knew the Royals were looking for outfield help and this seemed like a relatively inexpensive option.  Then the Royals threw much more cash at Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel.  Then Anderson became a pitcher.  An off season in the life of a Royals fan.

He threw 17 innings in the minors, allowed 10 hits and five walks while striking out 17.  Overall, his minor league ERA was 2.08.  Intriguing start to his “new” career.  He will be a free agent, so I’m interested to see if he feels any gratitude toward an organization who handed him $700,000 for a handful of minor league innings.

Verdict: Loss

Summing up, the Betemit and Chen signings were positives, while the Olivo move was correct, the rest of the catching situation was a fiasco.  The Royals burned too much cash for a outfielder who became a pitcher and they resisted the temptation to cling to Jacobs.  And made a deal that had minimal impact on the big league roster.  Overall, a fairly pedestrian start to the 2010 season.

Next, we’ll look at the moves through spring training.

After yesterday’s 12 inning win, I know of at least one loyal commenter to this site who is delighted and one big league manager who is smirking at everyone right now.   Not to mention at least one writer on this site who is delighted with Kila Ka’aihue’s home run, double and two walk game yesterday.

Given that Ned Yost did the unthinkable by batting Willie Bloomquist third (even national guys were chiming in on Twitter with sarcastic comments), then guaranteed that Willie would get two hits and THEN actually saw the guy do it, including the game winning homer, who am I to criticize?   Frankly, I don’t even know what to say.

Instead, let’s take a quick look at what the expanded roster in September might include.   Who, if anyone, will get a call-up and of those, who will actually get a real look?  

We’ll start with the easy ones:  veteran players who have been on the disabled list:

  • Gil Meche – all signs point to Gil getting a look out of the bullpen next month.  The Royals will be careful with him at this point, so we won’t see him even every other day, but I imagine six or seven appearances at least.  The snag here is that Gil is on the 60 day disabled list (which does not take a 40 man roster spot) and a spot would have to be made on the 40 man roster to accommodate his activation.
  • Luke Hochevar – if you can believe the organization, Hochevar will make a rehab start or two shortly, which would put him on pace for a couple of September starts.  Part of me says that is a good idea, the other part of me says that Hochevar should just shut down and come back 100% next spring.
  • Brian Bannister – probably could be pitching right now if the Royals really wanted him to.   Made a two inning appearance in Omaha earlier this week and will be back up in September.   Brian’s September starts – he might well step into a regular rotation spot for the month – will likely determine if he has a future with the Royals.
  • Robinston Tejeda – supposedly will be ready in early September.   If he is, Tejeda will step back into the late inning setup role that currently makes him the third most stable member of the entire staff.
  • Josh Fields – remember him?  He has been on a rehab assignment in Northwest Arkansas after spending the season the 60 day disabled list.     Like Meche, someone has to go if Fields comes off the 60 day DL.
  • David DeJesus – there was talk of getting him back in the final couple weeks of the season, but I have not heard much about that as of late.  You kind of wonder why the rush given that DeJesus is clearly the best outfielder in the organization and not exactly a mystery as to what he will give you when healthy in 2011.

I am pretty sure the organization wants to see what Meche looks like coming out of the bullpen, so he will be activated from the 60 day DL.   They could make space on the roster for him by shifting DeJesus to the 60 day list or Hochevar if they decide to shut him down until next spring.   If the Royals also want to bring Fields up, then they will need another spot cleared.    They could make room by putting Jeff Bianchi on the 60 day list, as he has not played yet this year or Noel Arguelles, who is apparently not going to pitch this season, either.

Now, what about other guys that might get a look in September?   We will start with players who are on the 40 man roster now and would not require any correponding roster move to come up to the majors:

  • Victor Marte – I put him here only because he is on the 40 man roster and the organization still seems to have some attraction to him.   Now, given that with the above veteran activations, the Royals’ staff could already be at 15 pitchers, they might just call it good.   I have no burning desire to see Marte again and would, in fact, advocate his removal from the 40 man in favor of calling up someone else.
  • Brian Anderson – if you look at the Royals website, Anderson is listed under outfielders, but he has transitioned quickly into a relief pitcher.   Playing at three levels this year, after a lengthy instructional stint in Arizona, Anderson has thrown 13.1 innings, struck out 14 and allowed just six hits.  In three innings thus far in AAA,  Brian has been perfect.   That the Royals already have him pitching in AAA tells me they don’t want to waste any time with Anderson.  I think he comes up and gets a handful of September appearances once Omaha’s season is over.  The O-Royals, by the way, are in the hunt for a playoff berth, so they could conceivably be playing into the teens of September.  I don’t imagine anyone on that roster gets the call until that is wrapped up.
  • Amongst position players, the other guys already on the roster that might get consideration are catcher Lucas May and outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Jordan Parraz.   I could see May getting a call ‘just to get a feel for the majors’, but if he does he will not play much.   If Trey Hillman was still manager, Dyson would probably be up now, but he is hitting just .257 in Omaha and the organization would be better served by getting a true look at Gregor Blanco this September.   As for Parraz, his season was probably not enough to warrant a spot on the dugout bench.

Now, it gets interesting, as the players we are going discuss might well deserve a look, but would require making a 40 man roster move to get them to the majors:

  • Mike Moustakas – .273/.294/.453 in AAA probably cooled any front office ideas of giving Mike a look this year, but he has improved over time at this level (including an .856 OPS the last 10 games).  That said, with the Royals wanting to see what they have in Wilson Betemit and likely to take a look at Josh Fields, I imagine Moustakas’ major league career will start sometime next summer instead of this fall.
  • David Lough – A slow start this year has kept Lough’s numbers in Omaha to a modest .279/.343/.440, but he has exploded in August with a 1.006 OPS.   This is a guy who could truly factor into the Royals’ future, especially if 2011 turns out to be DeJesus’ last year with the club.   Who would you rather see, Lough or Victor Marte?   There’s your roster move if you want a look at Lough.
  • Louis Coleman – It’s always nice when a plan works and the Royals’ plan for Coleman after drafting him in 2009 was to ‘fast track’  him as a reliever.   Just over one year later, Coleman is in AAA with 39 strikeouts in 33 innings and opponents batting just .214 against him.   If Lough in place of Marte, why not Coleman?   If the future of the bullpen is Coleman and Greg Holland (who has struggled thus far in the majors, but has a habit of doing so the first couple weeks at a new level before become pretty decent) are the future of the pen in front of Tejeda and Soria, the Royals would be wise to make that move this September.
  • Blaine Hardy – He was dominant as a reliever, I mean flat-out dominant, at four levels including AAA before the Royals moved him into a starting role.    Blaine has been just okay as a starter (7 starts) but probably is not ready for major league action in that role.  I would expect some fall/winter work with an eye towards him getting a shot at the number five starter role next spring. 
  • Ed Lucas – He has played pretty much every position and hit .304/.394/.500 this year in Omaha, but I don’t know what the Royals do with him in the majors this September.   They want to get a good look at Getz, will not impinge on the Yunigma’s playing time and already have Aviles and yesterday’s hero Bloomquist.   It would be nice to reward Lucas for a good season with a major league salary for part of the month, but the Royals probably don’t want to mess with the 40 man roster just to be nice.

So, in the end, the September roster likely will swell quite a bit, but not with any player all that exciting.   Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Tejeda and Fields are almost certainties.   With a pretty good chance that May and Anderson get a call, if not much of a look, once Omaha’s season wraps up.    After that, the club could get imaginative and bring up Coleman or Lough, or stay the course and look to Victor Marte once more for no other reason than he has been in the majors this year and has a 40 man roster spot.

Truthfully, the players the Royals really need to get a feel for are already up and playing in Kansas City.   That is progress right there over previous years under this regime.

Another series, another salvage of the final game.     Just a note for those that admire the grittiness of the Royals for hanging in:  teams that continually salvage the final game of a series end up with a 54-108 record.   Anyway, a lot did happen this weekend as the Royals dropped two of three to the Twins, so let’s get right to it.

The End of the Luis Mendoza Era

Okay, maybe not.   Mendoza, who was designated for assignment, will likely clear waivers, pitch in Omaha and likely end up back in Kansas City in the seemingly never ending cycle of never giving up on pitchers who have never shown any reason to warrant such consideration.

At any rate, Craig covered the designation of Mendoza and the release of Juan Cruz expertly was it happened last Friday, so I won’t waste a lot of time with it here other than to say that the release of Cruz was unexpected.    Outside of Joakim Soria, one can make a pretty good case for the release of everyone else in the bullpen, but Cruz did have a better track record (at least prior to coming to KC) than the others and was/is getting paid over three million this year.

That said, Trey Hillman had pretty much viewed Cruz as the pitcher of last resort most of the year and Juan had done little to change that mindset.  Perhaps this move was a ‘statement’ to the fans by Dayton Moore or a ‘wake-up call’ to the other members of the staff of maybe, simply, Hillman and Moore were tired of watching Cruz allow inherited runners to score.    I cannot say that releasing Cruz was a bad move, just a surprising one.

As far as the recall of Brad Thompson and Bruce Chen, it seems to point that the club wants veteran guys that it believes will throw strikes.   I assumed we would see Thompson at some point this year and he’s worth a look, but Bruce Chen?  Again? 

Gil Meche and the Mystery of Control

We have seen Gil have a three start stretch where he really struggles, but nothing like the first three starts of 2010.   Currently, Meche is averaging a walk per inning and sporting a robust 11.37 earned run average (most of it deserved).  You can analyze all the peripherals inside and out, but the simple fact is that Gil currently cannot consistently throw strikes.

Trey Hillman ‘does not see any mechanical or physical issue’ and my untrained eye sees Gil throwing hard with good movement (maybe he’s falling off to the first base side a bit?), so you have to pretty much just pray that Meche is still rounding into form from a sluggish and sporadic spring.  

One ray of hope is that Meche was pretty awful in April of 2008 (7.22 ERA, 15 walks in 34 innings) and was the ‘Meche of old’ the rest of that season.    Of course, he could simply be ruined, too.

An Ugly Saturday

Sure, it was an exciting 12 inning 9-7 loss for the Royals in the mist and rain, but this was not a pretty game.   Kansas City was tagged with three errors (one on a blown pop-up and another that cost them a double play).   The Royals also missed another pop-up and blew another double play that were not called errors.    Glad we focused on defense in the off-season.

Luke Hochevar pitched well early, but gradually (with some defensive ‘help’) let the Twins grind their way back into the game, but left with a two run lead with two outs in the seventh.   John Parrish came on to walk two hitters and surrender a Justin Morneau (he’s pretty good, by the way) home run.   After a great start, Parrish is suddenly looking like…well, a Royals reliever.

Kudos to Trey Hillman, by the way, for going to Soria at home in a tie game and letting him pitch two innings.   In doing so, he gave the Royals a two inning window to score a run while the one reliever the team can count on was shutting down the opponent.   The Royals, of course, did not score, but still it was worth a shot.

By the time umpire Greg Gibson had decided he was too wet and cold to be bothered to do his job correctly, the Royals had collected 18 hits and 5 walks, which was not enough to keep pace with the Twins.    An unearned run off Bruce Chen in the 11th was answered, but two more courtesy of an ineffective Robinson Tejeda in the 12th was too much.

As bad as Gibson’s call was – it may have been the worst I have ever seen – how many of you really thought the Royals were coming back in this one? 

Getz and the Roster

Chris Getz is about to begin a rehab stint in Omaha with all indications being that the Royals will activate him as early as Friday.   After watching Alberto Callaspo play second base, can you blame them?

The discussion in the Kansas City Star was that the Getz activation might signal an Alex Gordon demotion to the minors.  Like me, Dayton Moore may have grown weary of watching Gordon pull outside pitches on the ground to the second baseman, so the move actually might make sense.

With Jose Guillen hitting and Alberto Callaspo doing the same (although both have played similar defense – Jose has just played his without actually taking the field), there is no regular spot in the lineup for Alex.   As much as Kansas City needs another bench player, you probably do not want Gordon playing two times per week. 

All things being equal, I would advocate activating Getz, sending Gordon to Omaha (unless he goes 8 for 16 this week), paring the bullpen down to seven pitchers (I don’t care who goes, I really don’t) and putting Wilson Betemit on the bench.   Betemit is a veteran guy, can play everywhere and has a little pop.  It makes more sense to have Betemit playing sporadically than to have Gordon cooling his heels on the bench.

The Salvage

Brian Bannister had a nice outing, the bullpen was shaky but just good enough and Jose Guillen went yard again as the Royals came away with the win on Sunday.    Kansas City committed two more errors, but did just enough to overcome those on Sunday.

We also learned that Josh Fields is out for the year with hip surgery.   It was hard to see where Fields fit on this roster so missing 2010 is probably good for everyone involved.  

Ever Onward

The Seattle Mariners come to town for three games starting tonight.    Felix Hernandez versus Kyle Davies:  who could ask for a better matchup?

With yesterday’s off day it feels like we’re at the midway point of the Spring Training schedule. I have no idea if this is factually correct, but I don’t really want to spend the time counting exhibition games.

Anyway, now seems as good a time as any to see where some of the guys are as far as their performance. I don’t place any value in spring performances… small sample sizes and pitchers and hitters working on their approach and all that. Still, there have been some interesting developments this spring.

Let’s recap:

Stock Up: Alberto Callaspo

I’ve said it all along, any Royals lineup that doesn’t include Callaspo is a bad lineup. The Alex Gordon injury has simplified SABR Trey’s job in a manner of speaking in that it opened a position for Callaspo. A slash line of .448/.469/.586 in 29 at bats is sparkling – even if it is spring training.

Stock Way Down: Kyle Davies

There’s not a ton of competition for the back end of the rotation, but Davies is doing his level best to pitch himself out of a job. He can’t get anyone out – in his last appearance ten of the 18 batters he faced reach. That was seven hits (including four doubles) and three walks. This has become a dysfunctional relationship where It’s best that both parties go their separate ways before someone has to call the cops. Let him abuse another fan base.

Stock Up: Mitch Maier

He’s just reminding Dayton Moore that he’s younger and less expensive than the free agent retreads the Royals signed this winter. Like the Gordon injury opening the door for regular Callaspo time, the Rick Ankiel injury has presented Maier with an opportunity he wasn’t otherwise likely to have this spring. He’s responded by hitting .455/.478/.818 in 22 at bats.

I figured with the off season outfield shopping spree, Maier would be the odd man out. Now, I’m thinking Ankiel is a new version of Jose Guillen (i.e. On the downward side of a career where the injuries are going to pile up.) and will miss plenty of time this year, giving Maier some at bats.

I’m glad, because I root for Maier.

Stock Down: Josh Fields

I had hope that he could recapture his power stroke from a couple years ago, but now I’m not so sure. When you’re swinging a slow bat in spring training, that’s just not a good sign. Plus, he’s just leaving a ton of runners on base. A ton. And striking out. And not hitting for the power he was supposed to possess. He has potential to be Mike Jacobs, Version 2.0. That’s not a compliment.

Stock Up: Mike Aviles

He hasn’t seen a lot of action, but he does have seven hits in his 14 at bats. Encouraging progress for someone who wasn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day. The Royals could still keep him in extended spring training to open the year, but he’s close. That’s good news because we’re going to be calling for him by mid-April after watching a couple weeks of Betancourt.

Stock Up: Aaron Crow

It’s official: I’m excited to see this kid in Kansas City.

That said, I hope the Royals do the prudent thing and keep him in the minors all year. No need to rush him, and after setting out all of last year, he needs to get some low pressure innings on his arm. Double-A is absolutely the best place for him to open the year. If he tears it up in the first half, promote him to Omaha. If he tears it up in the second half, give him a courtesy call in September.

Let’s focus on him for 2011. It will be worth the wait.

Stock Down: Rick Ankiel

I know we have a new training staff, but didn’t you have a little deja vu when he was pulled from a game on Friday, said he felt better on Saturday and was shut down for a week on Sunday? Speaking of which…

Today’s Hillmanism is on Ankiel:

He just needs to have some consistency offensively. Occasionally, you’re going to see him swing out of the zone. Hopefully, he gets his discipline tamed a little bit before we get into the season.

This gets nominated for understatement of the spring. Last year, Ankiel offered at pitches out of the strike zone over 34% of the time. Of the 252 players who accumulated over 350 plate appearances, he had the 17th worst discipline. For his career, he’s swung at 33% of all pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet against Ankiel discovering the magic of discipline.

With the Royals’ position players officially reporting today, the excitement of spring training games looming on the horizon is starting to build. (I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically, by the way)

I don’t intend to rain on that parade and let me preface this very short column by saying I like Chris Getz and really hope he becomes a fixture at second base for the Royals, but how easily could the names that are due to report today be different? And, if so, might the Royals be better if they were?

Of course, I am not talking ‘contender’ better, but certainly ‘intriguingly’ better. There are players out there right now, without jobs or who recently just got them, that one could realistically see fitting into the Royals lineup this year. It is a nasty game of hindsight as no one could really predict how the free agent market would go this year, but we’ll play it anyway.

What if Dayton Moore had not traded Mark Teahen for Chris Getz and Josh Fields? Or signed Scott Podsednik and/or Rick Ankiel?

Instead, what if the Royals had signed Felipe Lopez in their thirst to not have to watch Alberto Callaspo attempt to field ground balls? What if they had signed Russell Branyan and Johnny Gomes?

Currently, Gomes has yet to come to terms with the Reds. No one seems to want Lopez and Branyan just finally found employment last week.

Sure, Gomes is a butcher in right field, although certainly no worse than Jose Guillen. Would an outfield of Teahen-DeJesus-Gomes and an infield of Gordon-Betancourt-Lopez-Butler, with Branyan as your DH be more or less likely to win than what is probably going to take the field in April?

Yesterday, Clark posted his over/under scenarios for the regular season. Today, I present some questions I have as camp gets set to open. We ll find out some answers almost immediately and others will take a bit longer to sort out.

Hey, the good news is, baseball is in the air. About damn time. On with the questions.

Are Gil Meche and Brian Bannister healthy and ready to make 32 starts for the Royals?

Although both pitchers were felled by Trey Hillman’s Starting Pitcher Chainsaw Massacre, Meche’s troubles began in his first spring training start last year when he reported a stiff back following a one inning outing. If both are healthy and Meche returns to the form he flashed in his first two seasons with the Royals and Bannister can continue to refine his cutter he developed last year, this team has the foundation of a quality starting rotation. As many have pointed out, the CHONE projections have the Royals rotation ranked as the 6th best in baseball.

Take those projections with a grain of salt. Zack Greinke has the highest projected WAR among all pitchers and CHONE is making the assumption that both Meche and Bannister are healthy and at the top of their game. Certainly, the potential is there, but let s not get carried away just yet.

Where will Alberto Callaspo play?

Did you see the Star’s rundown of the 40 man roster on Sunday. Nothing huge, just little capsules on each player along with a one-liner about how they fit on the team. For Chris Getz, the line read, Second base is his job to lose.

Really?

I know Callaspo leaves a lot to be desired with his glove, but this is a team in desperate need for offense, which is something Callaspo provides. If Getz is the starting second baseman, will the Royals slide Callaspo over to DH? I’d be fine with that, but then what happens with Jose Guillen? Honestly, I could care less about what happens with Guillen, but do we really want to hear the inevitable stories about how he’s pissed off? Oh well, this is his last season here, so he may as well go out with some fireworks.

Speaking of Guillen, is there any chance the Royals will get some production out of him in 2010?

I’ve heard various reports about his health and fitness this winter. It’s ranged from good to bad to horrible, so how he’s doing health-wise is anyone s guess.

My hope is, he reports to camp fat and hurt and the Royals decide to immediately end the Guillen era and give him his unconditional release. Hey, we’re out $12 million for 2010 anyway.

Has anyone heard if the Royals found someone to play the part of Sluggerrrr? Maybe the Royals can get their money s worth by having Guillen don the costume. That would be great, but can you imagine the liability when he s performing at a birthday party, drops a handful of f-bombs and then tears his groin while shooting hot dogs?

Is Billy Butler still motivated?

The knock on Butler prior to last season was he lacked a certain amount of maturity that would push him to realize his potential. All he did to dispel that notion was to work all winter on his defense and report to camp in excellent shape.

My question then, did he do something similar this off season? Sometimes, success creates a comfort level and some athletes aren’t able (or willing) to push themselves to maintain that success.

I m not saying Butler is a candidate for regression. There s no evidence he decided to take the winter off and rest on his laurels. I m just saying I hope he’s still working just as hard as he worked last year. I just get the feeling he could have a monster year if he put in the proper work this winter.

Who will set-up Soria?

The Dayton Moore era has been marked with bullpen uncertainty almost since day one. Sometimes, it all works out like it did in 2008. Other times not so much, like last year. Juan Cruz will be looking to bounce back but with Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda auditioning for a starting role, there aren t many known commodities currently residing in the back of the bullpen.

(Hopefully the Royals understand Farnsworth isn’t an option to be a set-up man. I fear when it becomes apparent he can t start, the Royals will undoubtedly try him in this role once again.)

Will Alex Gordon be ready for the season?

Last year was supposed to be his breakout year, but now like his free agency, it s been delayed a season.

With newly acquired third baseman Josh Fields in the fold, is it possible the Royals picked him up to apply some pressure to Gordon? The parallels between the two are interesting in that both were highly touted prospects coming out of college and have yet to come close to that potential in the majors. Fields represents a true alternative should Gordon once again falter (through injury or poor performance.) That s something the Royals have never really had at third. Certainly, Teahen could have been that but during his last three years with the team, his services were needed at other positions. This year, Fields doesn’t really fit anywhere on this team.

I think it would be super cool if they threw the third base job wide open. Fields versus Gordon, may the best man win. It’s not like your going to piss Gordon off more than you already have. Besides, competition is healthy. That alone would make spring training infinitely more interesting.

There you go. A few questions for you to ponder as the equipment trucks and players roll into Surprise to get ready for the season.

Okay, let’s get the ‘Scott Podsednik’s wife in a bikini at every game’ out of the way right now.

There is a very high level of the ‘winter doldrums’ descending on the Royals’ blogsosphere as we wait for spring training to begin. Part of that is it is simply that time of year and part is that the Royals made a number of moves this off-season, almost none of which were of the exciting variety.

Last week, we took a quick look at my perception of the 25 man roster that is likely to break camp at the end of March. Last Friday, the official Royals site had comments from Trey Hillman that included, but were not limited to:

  • Getz will be a second baseman first, then shortstop.
  • Callaspo will be at second, then short
  • Fields will be a third baseman and some left field and we might throw him over to right, too.

In the discussion of trying Getz at shortstop (a position Chris claims to have played a lot ‘pretty decently’ in the minors), Hillman also talked about waiting for Mike Aviles to get healthy, but never once mentioned Yuniesky Betancourt.

While all that is moderately intriguing and certainly gives us indication that we might see the same lineup two days in a row, maybe three times all next year, it probably does not make many of you any more excited about 2010 then my discussion of the 25 man roster did last Monday.

So, today, what would make you excited? Let me focus that a little more: what ONE move could be made by the Royals that would get you excited about 2010? This move could be an acquisition, a signing, maybe even just a position change or promotion of a minor leaguer. Is there one?

While no one move is going to vault this team into contention, I think it might be possible to at least raise hopes that we have something to look forward to in 2010 besides Zack Greinke every fifth day and hoping to avoid 100 losses. Maybe there is no one move that will generate interest beyond the usual anticipation of a new season, but throw some out there because I want to be interested.

This morning, I am going to run through a quick exercise in constructing the Royals’ twenty-five man roster for the coming season. My guess is that almost everyone who reads any Royals’ blog has already done this in one form or another, but I have serious doubts that the Royals’ front office has.

Okay, sure, we know that is total sarcasm, but seriously I think the Royals have a firm idea on the 40 man roster, but only a vague ‘things will work themselves out’ idea as to the 25 they will break camp with. You can make an argument that this is the perfect way to go into spring training and I would generally agree, but I do wonder if a ‘small budget’ club like the Royals can assemble and pay for 30+ guys to compete for their 25 spots?

The catching position is pretty simple: Jason Kendall starts, Brayan Pena watches. The hope is that Kendall is an upgrade defensively and in handling the pitchers, while not just destroying you at the plate. If he can get on base at even a .340 clip, throw runners out and get along with Greinke and Meche, he might be tolerable. In Pena, the Royals have a switch-hitter who might log some time at DH. I wish the team had given Pena two months of everyday duty last year to find out if he really is THAT bad behind the plate, but that ship has sailed. Manny Pina, acquired from Texas last year, is the next in line, but his bat is not ready for the bigs (and may never be). He is, should everything go to hell, probably the best defensive catcher in the organization. At any rate, it’s Kendall and Pean: that’s two.

The corner infield positions are pretty clear: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. What happens after that is a mystery. The Royals acquired Josh Fields as part of the Mark Teahen trade, making rumblings about Fields playing a corner outfield spot, but that has gone by the wayside with the signings of Podsednik and Ankiel. Out of options, Fields will be on the 25 man roster come April, likely as the backup third baseman and part-time designated hitter. That’s three more guys, for a total of five.

We will jump out to the outfield at this point. I shudder to think how the team is going to actually arrange David DeJesus, Rick Ankeil and Scott Podsednik defensively, but we all know that those will be the three outfielders and that they will play everyday. The signing of Ankiel brought out the semi-public announcement that Jose Guillen would be the club’s primary designated hitter – something Jose probably has not yet heard and won’t like when he does. While the ‘just cut him’ plan of action is certainly appealing and maybe even logical, it is hard to see the Royals doing so. There’s four players, four veterans mind you, that will be on the team in April, bringing us to a total of nine on our roster.

Okay, middle infield will be…deep breathe…Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and somebody else. Of course, the Teahen trade also brought Chris Getz over and the expectation is that he will be an upgrade defensively at second over Alberto Callaspo. However, with Guillen moving to DH (not to mention Fields), playing Getz at second leaves few places for Callaspo to play. As much as I hate watching Alberto field, I do love watching him hit. The other glaring problem is that keeping Betancourt, Getz and Callaspo leaves no room for Willie Bloomquist. We all know that’s not going to happen (besides, Willie is the only one who can play short). The wild card in this equation is Mike Aviles. My guess is that Aviles will not be ready at the start of the season and will open the year on the disabled list.

We will assume that the Royals will open the year with a 12 man pitching staff or move to that sooner rather than later. Although he has options left, it is hard for me to believe Dayton Moore traded Mark Teahen for a bench player and a guy who is going to play in Omaha. That leaves Getz on the roster, with Callaspo and Bloomquist who, for all his faults, can fill the role of both fourth outfielder and utility infielder. With Betancourt, that makes four for a total of thirteen.

That means Brian Anderson, all $700,000 of him, is in AAA and Mitch Maier, out of options, might be somewhere else come April. The schedule might allow the team to open with eleven pitchers, so it could be Mitch and the organization a couple of weeks to sort out what to do, but by the end of April, barring a trade or simply cutting bait with Guillen, Mitch will be off the Royals’ big league roster.

Now, onto the pitching staff. The starting rotation right now will be Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Hochevar and either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda. There are rumblings about the Royals fishing for a veteran, which would likely be the end of Davies and push Tejeda back to the pen. Right now, though, my money is on Tejeda as the number five starter. At any rate, that’s five guys, so we are up to eighteen total, now.

The bullpen will have Joakim Soria and Juan Cruz at the backend, with Kyle Farnsworth available for blow-out work (what a fine use of funds, by the way). Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna is all but guaranteed a spot, which fills four of the seven spots.

I would be pretty amazed if veteran journeyman Matt Herges does not get a spot. Just a hunch, but I think he will trade it that number 77 for a real baseball number by April. I am also hoping beyond all hope that the Royals give and Carlos Rosa earns a spot in the bullpen this year. Rosa, performing as I hope he might, is the guy who makes what Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth do irrelevant.

That leaves one final spot (assuming Tejeda is the fifth starter) up for grabs between Ramon Colon, Victor Marte, Dusty Hughes and all the non-roster invitees. Throw Herges into this mix if you want and say this group is fighting for two roster spots. It doesn’t much matter how it ends up, but that’s seven relievers, twelve pitchers and a 25 man roster.

Now, in reading all this, how likely do you think it is that all of Chris Getz, Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo break camp with the Royals? You could throw David DeJesus into that mix as well as he is likely the most tradable of all the Royals’ position players. Barring trades or another free agent signing, I would put pretty good money on the 25 players outlined above.

Part of me is pretty certain Dayton Moore has two more moves on his agenda that will make the real 25 man roster different from the above. All of me is hoping that is the case.

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