Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Mitch Maier

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.

By the time you are reading this, the first workout of the pitchers and catchers could be underway. Awesome.

Time for the first edition of spring notes.

Let s start with a little old news. Hopefully, it s a semi-fresh take. Anyway, here s Trey Hillman s top choice for a lineup as reported by the Star s Bob Dutton:

Podsednik – LF
Getz – 2B
DeJesus – RF
Butler – 1B
Ankiel – CF
Guillen – DH
Gordon – 3B
Betancourt – SS
Kendall – C

A few random, knee-jerk thoughts:

– Any lineup that fails to feature Alberto Callaspo who was the team’s second best hitter last summer is a bad lineup. There can be no debate about this.

– The outfield alignment is screwed up, but we knew this was going to happen.

– Podsednik won’t get on base enough to justify a high position in the lineup. In writing about him for the Royals Authority Annual (on sale soon!) it was obvious he s entirely dependent on a high batting average on balls in play to elevate his OBP. He walks in less than 8% of his plate appearances.

– If you re going with Getz in the lineup, I suppose he s fine at second. He makes plenty of contact and won t kill a rally with a double play. Last year in 76 double play opportunities (when he was at bat with a runner on first and less than two outs), Getz hit into only four double plays. Nifty.

– There are three guys who are made for the number nine spot in that lineup and there really isn’t a number four hitter in the bunch.

– I don’t get why SABR Trey is looking to slide Butler down to the cleanup spot. He seems perfect for the number three.

Here’s my ideal lineup:

DeJesus – CF
Getz – 2B
Butler – 1B
Ankiel – RF
Callaspo – DH
Gordon – 3B
Kendall – C
Betancourt – SS
Podsednik – LF

The best hitters on the team occupy the number 1, 3 and 5 spots in the order which gives the Royals the best chance at a big inning – Something that s going to be rare with this offense. Ankiel is probably the best long ball threat at this point, so he gets the cleanup spot by default, although if Gordon shows some thunder, I wouldn t have an issue with flip flopping them in the order. I also wouldn’t be adverse to a Gordon/Josh Fields platoon at third.

I’m not happy with putting Kendall and Betancourt back to back in the lineup, but what else can you do? Cross your fingers and hope they make the final outs of the inning (which will happen over 70% of the time) and then Podsednik can be a de facto second leadoff hitter.

– Player Inventory is the catch phrase of the spring. Holy crap, I wish I were making this up.

This new buzzword comes to us thanks to the previous season when the Royals lost Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon, Gil Meche, Coco Crisp, Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies for extended periods due to injury. Look, the Royals weren’t contenders last year, no matter what. Take the starting left side of the infield, the starting center fielder and three-fifths of the starting rotation of any team in the league and they aren’t going to have the depth necessary to cover all the loses. No way.

It s a nice idea, but if a similar scenario happens this year, the Royals would again lack the proper depth to replace all those parts. The Royals always seem to be trying to close the barn door after all the animals have escaped.

– I prefer to play what I call roster math. As Dutton points out, there are several players on the 40-man roster who have options remaining that may ultimately come into play when it comes closer to Opening Day.

For example, there s the heated battle for the backup spot in the Royals outfield. Mitch Maier doesn’t have any options left while Brian Anderson does. Of course, Anderson has a major league contract that will pay him $700k while Maier will make only around $420k. It would have been great if someone noticed this early in the off season.

Chris Getz also has an option left, which could come into the equation if he struggles badly this spring. Although it would be an epic upset if he didn’t break camp with the team.

– One related roster math note that received considerable attention was this take on Betancourt:

Something to remember: Betancourt has options remaining. While he has sufficient service time to refuse the assignment and become a free agent, he would void whatever remained of his $9 million contract through 2012 by doing so.

If Betancourt struggles, and Aviles returns to form, the Royals won t hesitate to make a switch. That won t likely happen by opening day, but the way each plays this spring bears watching.

I really wonder about this. We re talking about the same organization that gave Tony Pena, Jr every opportunity to prove his worthlessness before they finally gave up. Do we really think they would be quick to option Betancourt, a player who costs much more money and who cost them a prospect in the trade that brought him to KC? Besides, there s a ton of evidence that GMDM coveted Betancourt for years. Years. No, I don t think he s going to cut the cord on Betancourt so quickly.

Although it would be great if Betancourt was optioned and he declined and voided his contract. Unfortunately, stuff like that doesn’t happen to the Royals.

– The Royals slogan for 2010 is It All Happens Here. What, exactly is it? Bad fundamentals? Buck nights? Zack Greinke shutouts? Drunken nights on the party porch? The possibilities are endless. I suppose that’s the idea.
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There’s a TV commercial that goes along with this slogan and can be viewed here. When you watch it, it’s apparent that they’re de-empahsizing baseball and instead trying to sell all the other periphery that goes on at the stadium. By my count, there were roughly 35 cuts in the commercial – three of which featured actual baseball being played by actual Royals. The same number of cuts that featured food.

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.