Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Wil Myers

Dismal.  

That is my complete analysis of the three game sweep at the hands of the Pirates.

Currently, Wil Myers is hitting .341/.388/.714 through right at 100 AAA plate appearances.    He has been playing centerfield in Omaha, but I have yet to get any definitve review of how he has been playing centerfield.   Is he Jeff Francoeur with a touch more range?  David DeJesus minus the instincts?  Melky Cabrera only…well, Melky Cabrera?   Maybe Myers will fall in with the Moustakas syndrome.  You know, we all thought that Moustakas might be passable defensively at third, only to see him be a very good defensive third baseman (at least preliminarily).  Maybe Myers could be the same sort of deal in center.  Maybe.

For fun, I did exhaustively comprehensive research in the last four and one-half minutes, and pulled the leaders in wOBA from Fangraphs and reviewed how many AAA plate appearances each of them had before hitting the major leagues.   The results, as you might imagine from such a small sample size is quite varied:

  • Joey Votto – 580 AAA plate appearances
  • Josh Hamilton – 0
  • Paul Konerko – 868
  • Carlos Gonzalez – 237 (Cargo played half a season with Oakland, then got 223 more AAA PA’s after getting traded to Colorado the next year)
  • David Wright – 134 (only 272 more in AA – all in the same season)
  • Mark Trumbo – 595
  • Ryan Braun – 134 (only 257 in AA as well)
  • Josh Willingham – 279 (Josh was 26 when he made the majors and was still playing A ball at age 24)
  • Carlos Beltran – 0 (just 208 in AA as well)
  • Bryan LaHair – 2,709

LaHair and Willingham are fun cases in that we often just discount those types of players as ‘too old for their level’ and ‘AAAA’ types.  Most times they are, but it is wise to remember that sometimes they are not. 

For our purposes, however, Wright, Beltran and Braun are noteworthy.  Myers already has more AA at-bats than any of them and is closing in on the amount of time Braun and Wright spent in AAA.   Beltran, who skipped AAA entirely, got a cup of coffee at the end of 1998 and then won Rookie of the Year honors in 1999.   He did end up spending some time in AAA in 2000, but that situation might apply more to a discussion on Eric Hosmer than Wil Myers.

Certainly and without question, those three players are elite level talents and highly thought of prospects on their way up.   However, isn’t that what most think Wil Myers might be?  Now, you could deal Ryan Braun out of the equation given that he was a college player prior to being drafted, but both Beltran and Wright were not and both were in the majors before age 21.   The point is not to call up Wil Myers this very second, but only to show a very few examples of some really good prospects who spent very little time in getting to the majors.

Of course, the Royals are not a ‘Wil Myers’ away from contention.  Had they drafted Chris Sale instead of Christian Colon and Tim Lincecum instead of Luke Hochevar (or Clayton Kershaw or even Brandon Morrow), then maybe the Royals would be just one player away.   The question is, just how many players away are they?

Let’s remember that even great teams don’t have great players at every position.  They all have a Jeff Francoeur or a Jarrod Dyson or a Johnny Giavotella in their lineup and a Hochevar in the rotation.   Truthfully, it is a bit unfair to even lump Frenchy in with the others.   He is not a good major leaguer, but he is a legitimate major league player:  decent enough to play right and bat seventh on a contending team.

For better or worse, the Royals are set at six spots in the lineup:  Gordon, Moustakas, Escobar, Hosmer, Butler and Perez.  If that core group does not perform over the next two to three years, then this discussion is irrelevant and Dayton Moore will not longer by your general manager.   That group is, as a unit, is not getting it done right now, but let’s pretend (if nothing else) that they will start doing so soon. 

In addition to that core, the Royals have a very good and very deep bullpen and one and one-half starting pitchers.  Bruce Chen is not a number one on any team, but he can certainly be a number four starter on a contender.   Felipe Paulino is good, when he’s healthy.   There is a pitcher like this on a lot of teams.  Hell, Jonathan Sanchez was that guy for the Giants when they won the World Series.

So, where are we?   Right back to where we all thought the Royals were in March?  Two good starting pitchers away from being decent?  Pretty much.

Truthfully, one really good starter and two ‘better than what they have now’ starting pitchers away from being pretty solid.   Throw in Wil Myers and you are getting there.   If Wil Myers can really handle centerfield, then Kansas City moves to very good.   Big ‘if’, but an intriguing if and one that should be explored once the Royals are willing to roll the dice on the Super Two timing as it relates to Myers’ service time.

Myers would make the Royals better and certainly more interesting, but the truth is it doesn’t matter when Vin Mazzaro and Luis Mendoza are your number three and four starters.   IF Paulino could get and stay healthy and IF Jake Odorizzi continues to appear to be and eventually becomes the ‘real deal’, then you could line up Odorizzi, Paulino and Chen in the rotation for the second half with the hope that Danny Duffy could be back by the middle of 2013 to be your number five starter.   That group has some hope.

Of course, that leaves a big blank spot at the top of the rotation.   Your move, Mr. Moore.

xxx

 

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

 

The Royals have done their part to stay in the news on the true opening day of the NCAA Tournament (Michigan State, by the way, ended up winning my bracket – because I know that was what you all were waiting for).   Let’s just round up some of the goings on.

SALVADOR PEREZ

Yesterday I said not to panic and even today, we probably should not.  A torn meniscus is the cause for knee surgery for the Royals’ catcher of the present and future.   We have heard no firm timetable, but the absolute best case is four weeks and the worst case seems to be somewhere along the lines of eight weeks.  Add at least a week of rehab appearances, maybe two if Perez ends up taking closer to eight to get healthy and Kansas City is realistically looking at an early May return for Salvador.

Assuming my made up logic is anywhere close, I don’t think the Royals need to jump through any hoops to find a catcher to handle the bulk of the playing time.  Brayan Pena is sub-par behind the plate and Max Ramirez is something worse than that, but both have played in the majors and both can hit a little.   I would advocate laboring through the 23 games in April with those two as the catching tandem and hope Perez returns when the Yankees and Red Sox come to Kansas City in early May.

Now, if a veteran dropped in the Royals’ lap and was willing to play everyday for a month or so and then sit the bench the better part of the year for a million bucks (yeah, that’s right, Ivan Rodriguez is exactly who I am talking about) that would be great.  I think it is unlikely and certainly do not believe Dayton Moore should be trying to trade for such a player, but it does not hurt to keep an ear to the ground.

On a long-term note, this is not a bad knee injury and while anything regarding ‘knees’ and ‘catchers’ gets one nervous, Salvador has youth on his side.  Until something begins to tell us otherwise, I think the Royals can assume Perez will come back ready to assume the heavy workload they had planned for him when he signed the contract extension this spring.

SPEAKING OF CONTRACT EXTENSIONS

By now you have  all heard that shortstop Alcides Escobar has inked a four year contract extension that will pay him a cool million in 2012 and then three million per year each of the next three seasons.   The Royals also hold team options for 2016 ($5.25 million) and 2017 ($6.5 million) with a $500,000 buyout.

Now, if Escobar never hits, but continues to be an elite fielder, this guaranteed four years of this deal probably average out at about market rate.   However, if the shortstop Jesus does hit some or, let’s dream a little, hits decently, then this is a great deal for the Royals.   The downside is that Escobar’s bat gets even worse and his defense goes with it (see Berroa, Angel), but Kansas City has to take some leaps of faith and fix some costs for the future, while also hopefully securing talent with that fixed cost.

That is what the Escobar, Perez and to some extent Billy Butler’s extension of last year does.  Nothing about any of those deals is roster wrecking if they don’t pan out and maybe, in some small part, the combination of these helps grease the wheels of future, more important and more expensive, contracts.

ONE DOWN

One possible, albeit longshot contender for the starting rotation was sent to minor league camp yesterday:  Mike Montgomery.   After his struggles at AAA last year, the demotion of the Royals’ number one pitching prospect was no big surprise and certainly a very rational move.   The lefty pitches in Kansas City this year, it is just a question of when.   I put the over/under at July 5th.

Also going down was Wil Myers, Nathan Adcock and Ryan Verdugo.  I bring up the latter two only because they had very, very, very outside shots at making the bullpen.  Adcock will almost surely start in Omaha, by the way, and might be number one in line to get a call-up if an injury occurs early in the season.   For Myers the only question this spring was where he goes, Omaha or NW Arkansas?   Consensus seems to be the south, but I kind of have a hunch that maybe Omaha might be his destination, especially if Jarrod Dyson makes the big league roster.

SPEAKING OF THE ROTATION

Neither Aaron Crow or Felipe Paulino did a whole lot to help themselves last night, so the door is open today for Danny Duffy – dominant his first time out – to stake a deeper claim on the two open rotation positions.  I am and have been a ‘Duffy guy’ since he started out striking out just about everyone in Low A ball, so count me squarely in his camp when it comes to this battle.

If the Royals are hell bent on not losing Luis Mendoza (remember, he is out of options) than I really believe the proper move is Duffy and Paulino in the rotation, Mendoza and Crow in the bullpen.   Paulino has a nightmarish performance record as a reliever, so I don’t see the point of putting him back in that role.  If he continues to flounder through spring training and carries that into three or four April starts, then you pull Paulino out of the rotation and go to Mendoza, but I don’t think you make that move any sooner than that.

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.

Rumors, news and notes from the Winter Meetings in Dallas…

– Ned Yost says the Royals will, “Play much better than .500.

And I’d like to be an astronaut.

What Yost just said is, he thinks the Royals are going to be contenders. Because “much better than .500” in the Central, means you’re in the hunt. As much as I like the idea of Project 2012, I think the smart money is on using this year (again) as a developmental year and targeting 2013. I’d be more optimistic if the starting rotation wasn’t so unsettled.

Yes, I think the 2012 team is going to be better than the 2011 version, but 10 games better? I don’t think so. Not yet anyway. I’m good with Hochevar and Chen is fine. I’m not a fan of Sanchez and I’m a little surprised at the talk that Paulino has to “earn” his spot. Right now I see three middle of the road starters, a back of the rotation guy in Sanchez and a wild card for the last spot.

Besides, it’s a little early to be placing markers on win totals. Talk to me in March when there is some clarity to the pitching situation. Right now, I’d peg the 2012 Royals at 76-80 wins.

– Jayson Stark says the Royals are listening on Joakim Soria, but want a young, controllable, front line starter.

Given how the market for closers has unfolded, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. It would be better if Soria hadn’t struggled with his mechanics (according to Yost) for a good part of the season. Teams will use that to try to drive down the Royals asking price, but the Royals are so infatuated with their closer (and his team-friendly contract, that is about to become a little less friendly) that they will hold on.

I’ll bet that Soria opens the year with the Royals.

– Within the same Tweet, Stark said the Royals were balking at the idea of moving Wil Myers.

Good.

If you trade Myers now, you would be selling at near his low value as a prospect. His performance in the Arizona Fall League helps a little, but like with Soria, his last season was a disappointment. Yes, a number of factors worked against him, but the numbers are what teams will point to when trying to drive down the price.

– Billy Beane reportedly shot down the Gio Gonzalez to Royals rumors.

Good. Earlier in the day we saw the A’s were asking for either Myers, Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer. Uh… What? Sorry, but I see Gonzalez as overrated. The walk rate is too high, and he trends to the fly ball. He’s benefitted from playing in a home park where foul territory is so expansive, it comes with mile markers. I just don’t see more than a number three starter.

Yeah, I know there’s upside. He’s 26 and has 89 career starts under his belt. He’s also gained velocity each season he’s appeared in the big leagues. There’s a lot to like, but that’s why he’s overvalued, in my opinion. He’s shown no indication he can tame the control issues and that’s going to hold him back. Too many base runners, plus a HR/FB rate that will regress to the mean… That doesn’t hold my interest.

I’m more interested in his teammate, who was mentioned in rumors, Trevor Cahill. Huge ground ball rate and he can throw in the strike zone. Plus, he’s signed for four years with two club options. If the options are picked up, the deal totals around $55 million. And at the end of the contract, he’ll be 30.

Now does that warrant a “top” prospect. Given the contract, yes it does. I’d try like hell to avoid trading Myers, but this one is tempting.

If we’ve learned anything from all this there are two things teams overvalue: Prospects and pitching. That makes a deal awfully difficult.

– The Royals were linked to Carlos Guillen.

Once upon a time, I was a huge Guillen fan. Each year from 2000 to 2006 he improved his batting average. I thought that was kind of cool. (Kind of big if you’re playing fantasy baseball.) Reportedly, five teams are in the hunt and view him as a utility-type of player. He will come on the cheap because his performance has been declining since 2006 and because he hasn’t played in more than 81 games at any point over the last three seasons. But he is a switch hitter who has played all the infield positions at some point in his career. Those pesky injuries though have really cut down on his range.

I’m not against this signing (for only a year and for minimal salary) but I’d rather the Royals stay in house (i.e. cheap) on this. The infield is set and hopefully the only reason you’d need a utility guy is to have the bat off the bench and to give the infield guys an occasional day off.

I definitely wouldn’t get pulled into a bidding war for Guillen.

It was a pick that lacked imagination, but Bruce Chen was named as the Royals Pitcher of the Year on Thursday.

I say that because there’s always two options among the writers when voting: Starters and closers. That’s usually the way it should be in these things. (Although, if you know me, you know I think the closer has to be pretty damn exceptional to get votes.) So that’s the problem with the Royals this year. The rotation was extremely limited: Hochevar had a solid second half and Paulino showed flashes, but that was pretty much it. And we know about the closer.

Make room in the trophy case. (Minda Haas/Flickr)

So the writers chose the guy who missed part of the year with injury, but was fairly steady when he took the ball.

 

You won’t get an argument from me that Chen was the Royals best starter for the entire 2011 season, but was he the Royals best pitcher? I say no. That would have been Greg Holland.

Holland had the second best walk rate in the bullpen at 2.9 BB/9 and his strikeout rate of 11.1 SO/9 was by far the best. He was the only pitcher who allowed less than a baserunner per inning (0.93 WHIP) and he did throw 60.1 innings, which was just one-third of an inning less than Soria.

And Holland did most of this work under some pressure. According to Baseball Reference, he entered the game in 25 high leverage situations. That ranked him 31st among all AL pitchers, which meant he mostly trailed only closers when it came to pitching under pressure situations. Holland ranked third on the Royals, behind only Soria and Aaron Crow.

Working against Holland, was the fact he pitched in the seventh and eighth innings. While that was good enough to get Crow an All-Star nod, it wasn’t enough to get Holland end of the season hardware.

End rant.

Back to Chen… Even though he was coming off a strong 2010 campaign, last winter Chen was something of an unproven commodity. Simply, he had been either out of the majors or basically terrible in each of the previous five years, that there wasn’t a team willing to commit multiple years to Will Ferrell’s favorite pitcher. Understandable. Nobody wants to give a long contract to a player who found something for a season and then could flame out (again) just as quickly.

Now, things have seemingly changed. In the last two seasons, Chen has posted a 3.96 ERA with a 1.8 SO/BB ratio and a 105 ERA+. Those aren’t the numbers of an ace, but they are the numbers of a solid, middle of the rotation contributor. It’s entirely likely some team will see his performance and give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s made the transition to crafty, veteran left-hander.

According to Dutton, that’s already happening. He sent out a Tweet shortly after Chen was announced as the Royals top pitcher:

LHP Bruce Chen says he’s already been contacted by two other clubs expressing serious interest.

Well, then…

Two things can be inferred by this. One, teams are truly starting to look at Chen as a guy who can fill out their rotation. Or two, Chen is posturing. I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m not sure it matters. It takes at least a month for the free agent market to evolve and nothing happens (generally) until the winter meetings. There may be teams with “serious interest,” but it’s highly unlikely anything happens until the guys ahead of Chen in the pecking order go off the board.

(And can we please stop referring to Chen as the Royals ace? He’s not. The Royals don’t have one. That’s why we’re going to spend the next four months discussing the starting rotation. If they had an ace, we wouldn’t be obsessing over pitching.)

Let’s try a little exercise: If you are a major league GM and are interested in signing Chen, what do you offer? Myself, I think it will take two years at a total of $8 million to get his signature. I’m sold that he’s going to find someone who will offer him more than one year. If you have a guess, leave it in the comments. We can revisit when he actually signs.

– The hot stove finally fired up as the Royals found themselves in the middle of their first trade rumor of the winter. According to a report on MLB.com, the Braves called the Royals and discussed the possibility of unloading Jair Jurrjens. Speculation has the Braves interested in Wil Myers or Lorenzo Cain.

Jurrjens is a risk. Plain and simple. The guy has made 43 starts over the last two seasons and although his ERA looks shiny at 2.96, his strikeout numbers were down. Plus, according to PitchF/X, his average fastball lost two mph from the year before. In his best two seasons, he’s outperformed his xFIP by more than a run each time, suggesting those strong seasons are the exception, not the norm. He’s a medium risk, medium reward kind of guy. And that’s the upside.

Now, let’s talk cost. If the Braves want Cain, fine. He’s yours. The Royals are set with their outfield, making Cain surplus. I’d prefer they keep him around, just in case the Melk-Man spends his winter in the buffet line, but if they can swing him for a starting pitcher, do it. Even one with an injury history and a true mediocre track record. That price seems about right.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t trade Myers for Jurrjens. No way. That doesn’t even require any kind of thought. Insanity. Keep in mind that the Arizona Fall League is a hitter’s wonderland, but he’s hitting .338/.471/.632 with 11 extra base hits in 68 at bats and looks to be back on track after struggling through his first season of Double-A. I’m not saying that Myers is an untouchable. It’s just that if you’re going to deal a prospect of his caliber, the return has to be better than Jurrjens.

It’s just another reminder of the sad state of the rotation when we can look at Jurrjens as a potential upgrade for the back half.

My trips to Surprise for Spring Training are one of the highlights of my baseball season. The Surprise baseball complex is fantastic and seeing young talented Minor Leaguers playing in such an intimate and casual atmosphere is amazing. The Arizona Fall League would be a great way to bookend the season, however I haven’t been able to make that trip, yet. So instead, let’s take the trip together via the magic of the intertrons and see what’s going on with the Royals prospects out west.

Nate Adcock – Pitcher

This is familiar face. The Rule V pickup spend the entire season at the Major League level with the Royals and was a pretty solid contributor considering his experience. He has started one game where he pitched 3 innings and struck out 7. He was named pitcher of the week last week as well. Not too shabby.

Jeremy Jeffress – Pitcher

Jeffress was a bit of a disappointment last season. He arrived in the Zack Greinke trade and could light up the radar gun, but couldn’t find the strike zone. He was eventually sent back to the Minors and couldn’t really make it back because of the depth the Royals had in relief. Sending him to Arizona says that the Royals still believe in him and that they think he needs to work on a few things. So far he’s pitched in 3 games and has allowed 10 hits and 3 walks in 3.2 innings while striking out only 2. It might be getting to the point where it will be best to let him just take a breather and come back fresh in 2012.

Brendan Lafferty – Pitcher

Lafferty was taken in the 18th round of the 2009 draft out of UCLA. He hit a speed bump this year in Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas as his ERA jumped from the low 3′s to the mid 4′s. He breezed through his first two games in Surprise, but in the last two he’s given up 5 runs in 4 innings.

Bryan Paukovits – Pitcher

Paukovits had been a starter from the time he was drafted in 2006 until he moved to the bullpen this season. The move dropped his ERA a full point and his ground ball rate increased markedly. He has 3 innings under his belt in Surprise and has struck out 3, walked 2 and given up 6 hits. Things don’t seem to be going well for Royals relievers in the AFL.

Christian Colon – Shortstop

In his second pro season Christian Colon kept his OBP at a respectable but notthing-to-write-home-about .325 while dropping his batting average from .278 to .257 and his SLG from .380 to .342. That’s the wrong direction when he moved into the more hitter-friendly park in Northwest Arkansas. He still seems like a player who will have a role in the Majors, but unless he can improve his bat he won’t be much  more than a Willie Bloomquist type guy. In the AFL he’s 4-for-24 at the moment with a double. Not quite what the Royals were hoping for, but it’s still early.

Anthony Serratelli – SS

Serratelli is one of those guys that you really root for to get a shot at the Majors, if even for a moment. He went to Seton Hall, then to the Independent leagues then to the Royals where he has slowly climbed the ladder to Double-A last season. He out-hit Christian Colon with a .282/.392/.398 line, but since he’s older and not a 1st round draft pick, he will always be put behind Colon. It’s not fair, but that’s just the way it goes in baseball. He has to prove himself over and over to get a shot. The fact that he’s in the AFL is a good sign that he just may get that shot at some point.  So far he’s making the most of his opportunity by going 7 for 22 with a home run and a double in Surprise.

Wil Myers – OF

The big-time prospect had a bit of a let-down season as he struggled with injuries, a new position and a step up to Double-A. He still kept his patience as he posted a .353 OBP, but that’s a far cry from the .429 he posted in 2010. He’s still young so there’s nothing at all to worry about, which is one of the messages I’m sure the Royals are trying to send by putting him on the roster. So far, he seems to have gotten the message loud and clear as he’s 9-for-28 so far with 2 home runs. 2 triples and a double. He’s also the same Wil Myers as he’s walked 10 times to 7 strikeouts.

 

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.

A few quick notes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • 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.