Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

How you vote on the Royals Pitcher of the Year reveals everything about how you value relievers (specifically closers) and starters.  If you believe a starting pitcher is inherently more valuable than a closer due to the superiority in number of innings pitched, I suppose you’ll go with Door Number 1.  On the other hand, if you view the closer as just as important as the starter and place all pitchers on equal footing so to speak, you are probably going to select Door Number 2.

Yes, it’s that straightforward.  In my mind, there were two pitchers on the Royals this year worthy of consideration for postseason accolades.  Two.

Here’s my ballot (and justification.)

1 -Zack Greinke

Well, the cat is out of the bag… You know where I stand on this whole “value” debate between a starter and a reliever.

Yeah, Greinke mentally checked out of some games and is struggling (along with the rest of us) to come to terms with The Process, but his team was really, really bad.

As usual, his team provided him with virtually no run support.  On average, the Royals scored 3.47 runs per start for Greinke.  Over the whole 162 game schedule, the Royals averaged 4.2 runs per game.  In 19 of his 33 starts, the Royals failed to score more than three runs.

Then there was the defense behind Greinke.  With Wilson Betemit and The Yunigma teaming up to see who could move the least amount of distance, a league leading 17 runners reached on an error against Greinke.  I noted before that errors aren’t the best way to measure defense, but still… That is an incredibly high number of free base runners.

2 – Joakim Soria

Soria was his usual nasty self, but I just have a difficult time throwing a ton of weight behind a closer for any kind of Pitcher of the Year award.  I can’t get past the reduced number of innings pitched for starters.  And I also can’t get past the fact a number of closers (Soria included this year) enter the game with no one on base.  Overall, Soria inherited nine base runners this year and allowed three of them to score.  I present this, not as an indictment of Soria… Rather it’s a critique on the modern closer.

Besides, I don’t really have the stomach to try to work up some alleged deficiencies in Soria’s game… Because I pretty much think he’s awesome.  Just when there’s an alternative in the starting rotation, I’ll usually lean to the alternative.

I know there are times we like to armchair quarterback the bullpen usage, but Soria’s 2.2 Leverage Index (a measure of the “pressure” a pitcher faced) was tops on the team.  Sure, there are times when it would make sense to bring the closer in a little earlier in the game, but for the most part, I can’t quibble with the ninth inning usage of your best reliever.

So you know how I feel about spots number one and two… The real question is who did enough to win your third place vote?   I’m going to need to turn to some advanced metrics for some help.

I understand there is a debate about WAR and which one to use… Do you prefer Fangraphs or Baseball Reference?  I know the difference in WAR for batters hinges on how each formula calculates defensive contributions.  For pitchers?  I’m not sure.

Here’s what I do know…  The top three Royals pitchers according to WAR from Fangraphs:

Zack Greinke – 5.2
Joakim Soria – 2.1
Kyle Davies – 2.0

WHAT?

I love and respect the work they do over at Fangraphs, but this is all kinds of jacked up.  Kyle Davies, the third best pitcher on the Royals?  And within a whisker of Soria for second?  Shenanigans!  Davies was barely better than Sean O’Sullivan.  And O’Sullivan was so horrible I remain unconvinced he should receive a look in spring training 2011 for a spot in next season’s rotation.

For fun and balance, here are the top three Royals pitchers according to Baseball Reference WAR:

Joakim Soria – 3.8
Zack Greinke – 2.4
Bruce Chen – 2.1

That’s a little better I suppose, but I have an extremely difficult time buying that Bruce Chen was almost as good as Greinke.  Greinke allowed far fewer base runners per inning and posted a superior strikeout rate.  While they posted identical ERAs of 4.17, Greinke owned a 3.76 xFIP, while Chen had a 5.01 xFIP.  Even non-tender candidate Brian Bannister had a lower xFIP at 4.86, yet people want to resign Chen.  Alright…

So my third place vote goes to…

3 – Kyle Farnsworth

That’s right, Kerosene Kyle.  He gets the nod for a couple of reasons.  One, he really did pitch exceptionally well for the Royals.  Of course, it helped his Leverage Index was 0.9, which ranked him 10th highest among Royal relievers.  We all know what happens when you bring The Farns into a pressure situation.  Yes, his strikeout numbers were down, but so were his walk and home run rates.  He kept runners off the bases and balls in the yard.  While the Royals bullpen was featuring the likes of Josh Rupe, John Parrish and Luis Mendoza, Farnsworth actually provided some… (gulp!) stability.

The second reason I would vote him third was for the simple fact he pitched well enough to net the Royals a bona fide prospect in left-handed reliever Tim Collins.  Collins posted a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 IP in Omaha while striking out 20 batters and walking eight.  He pitched seven innings in the qualifiers for the Pan Am games, limiting hitters to a .208 batting average against while allowing five hits and two runs.  He has the chance to be an impact reliever for the next six years for the Royals.

If Tim Smith is Farnsworth’s legacy in Kansas City, I can give him a third place vote.

Comparing players is an inexact science and can all too easily lead one down the wrong path.   Both Rany and myself, among others (and I was before Rany, but who’s keeping track?) have circulated the similarities in both age and performance between Kila Ka’aihue and Travis Hafner.   

Frankly, if you want to prove a player might be good in the future, a few minutes on Baseball Reference will get you a comparable early history that will allow you to make a case that your prospect is on his way to the Hall of Fame.   Of course, the same few minutes will allow someone else to find an equally applicable comparable that will make the case that your highly regarded prospect is on his way to playing in the Can-Am League.

Last spring, I offered the Chris Getz-Brian Roberts comparison as their minor league numbers, ages and early major league careers were eerily similar.   Maybe that will still work out, but that analysis remains a damning indictment of my admittedly biased research.

Undaunted, however, I continue down the same path this morning. 

Probably no position in the Royals’ organization is as desperate for a prospect to come through than shortstop.   Ignoring the Yuni is good-Yuni is awful argument that frankly has just worn me out, the truth is that Betancourt’s track record should not be giving anyone reason to consider him being the Royals’ shortstop past next season.

With Mike Aviles apparently destined to play second or third and Jeff Bianchi beginning his comeback from arm surgery, which would seem to indicate at least a temporary move to second for part of 2011, the Royals’ future at shortstop rests squarely on the shoulders of last summer’s first round pick Christian Colon.

And that brings us back (at last) to our title.  

The similarities between Colon and Troy Tulowitzki:

  • They both played shortstop at highly regarded college programs in California.
  • They were both drafted in high in the first round (Colon 4th & Tulo 7th).
  • At the time, both were considered the ‘most major league ready’ of their draft class.
  • Both started their professional careers in High A ball.

At age 20 back in 2005, Tulowitzki played in 22 games for the Rockies’ affiliate in Modesto.   He hit .266/.343/.457/.800 with 6 doubles and 4 home runs in 105 plate appearances.    Troy struck out 18 times, walked nine and committed 5 errors.

By contrast, at age 21, Colon hit .278/.326/.380/.708 in 60 games for Wilmington last season.   He hit 12 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs.   Christian struck out 33 times, walked 13 and committed 17 errors.

While the strikeouts, walks and error rates are really pretty similar between the two, Tulowitzki posted better all around offensive numbers than Colon in their first professional seasons.   At least when you look at the raw numbers.

That 2005 Modesto team hit .281/.355/.445/.800 as a team and the California League as a whole hit .286/.357/.452/.809 that season.   Basically, Tulowitzki posted offensive numbers right in line with what his team and the league did.

The 2010 Wilmington team hit .262/.319/.387/.707 and the Carolina League as a whole hit .260/.330/.388/.718 last season.   Basically, Colon posted offensive numbers right in line with what his team and the league did.

Following his rookie campaign, Tulowitzki moved up to AA Tulsa and hit .291/.370/.473/.843 in 104 games, slugging 34 doubles and 13 home runs.   It is also noteworthy that Troy committed TWENTY-FIVE errors that year.   

Tulowitzki also got into 25 games in the majors that season, not really showing much at the plate.   Still, he opened 2007 as the Rockies’ starting shortstop and played in 155 games.   He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .291/.359/.479/.838 line.    Tulowitzki suffered through an injury plagued 2008, but has been basically great in the two years since.

Can we expect Christian Colon to have a similar career path?   That’s asking a lot and, as I started column with, my guess is many of you can find a player with Colon’s first year stats that was never heard from again.  

Still, while a lot of us viewed Colon’s rookie season as something of a disappointment, it was really no worse – relative to his league – than that of Tulowitzki.     Like Troy, Christian will move to the Texas League for his second pro season and maybe, just maybe, he too will blossom offensively.

The Royals will never admit it, but deep down they drafted Christian Colon with the idea he would be the club’s 2012 shortstop.   Can he make it in the majors?   Can he make to the majors that quickly?  Can he stick at shortstop? 

All relevant questions that the Royals may need to have answered ‘yes’ more than any other set of questions within the organization.

I had this great idea where I would do a report card for the whole season.  Kind of like I’ve done in the past for the team during the All-Star Break.  This was a fine idea except:

1. No one really wants to review the sucktastic 2010 season.

And 2. Only two Royal hitters had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and only two pitchers had enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.  That’s it.

Basically, when anyone tries to tell you that the Yunigma was a decent player in 2010 – because he tied for the team lead in home runs and RBI! – just point out that quantity does not equal quality.

The other Royal to qualify for the batting title would be Billy Butler.

So instead of a complete rehash of 2010, I’ll do a minor look back and present to you my hypothetical ballot for the Royals Player of the Year.  This is an actual award, voted on by the Kansas City chapter of the BBWAA and has been bestowed upon the Royals top player since 1971.  George Brett is obviously the most honored Royal, winning the award eight times.  Amos Otis and Mike Sweeney are the second most decorated, both winning the award three times. For awhile, I harbored an illusion that someday the Royals would open the voting to us basement dweller types, but when I learned that the voting is controlled by the writers covering the team, that pipe dream circled the drain.

Here’s my top three for Royals position player of the year.  I’ll hold onto my ballot for the pitchers for Friday.  Hey, it’s the off season… I have to pace myself.

1 – Billy Butler

Really, this is an absolute no-brainer to me.  As mentioned before, he was only one of two Royals who accumulated over 500 plate appearances.  And while the Yunigma gave us quantity and not quality, Butler provided both.  He led the team in OBP and WAR and was second in slugging and OPS+.  His defense improved enough that he’s no longer viewed as a liability with the glove.

2 – David DeJesus

He was having the finest season of his career before he destroyed his thumb attempting to make a catch against the wall in Yankee Stadium prematurely ended his season.  From May 11 to June 28, he hit .384 with a .449 OBP.  DeJesus’ defense didn’t suffer too much in the move across to right field.  He was solid, if unspectacular with the glove.

3 – Wilson Betemit

He could have jumped ahead of DeJesus, but he was absolutely abysmal with the glove.  His 141 OPS+ and .511 slugging percentage were tops on the team and his 2.7 offensive WAR was second only to Butler.  He basically played half a season.  It would have been fun if we could have seen him for the full slate of games.  Of course, I probably would have broken a TV or two watching him ole´ ground balls hit to his left.

If Butler actually wins, he would be the first Royal to win back to back since Brett in ’79 and ’80.  Although the evil, stat-driven blogger inside of me is rooting for The Yunigma… Just because it would make the electorate look silly.

Anyway, now it’s your turn.  Cast your votes and explanations in the comments.

With the football season in full swing and the baseball playoffs being Royals-free for the 25th consecutive season, it can be easy to stop paying attention to things involving the team.  However, there is still baseball being played by players in the Royals Minor League system.  There are at least 9 players I know of playing for various teams in the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, including 6 for Team USA and tonight is the season opening games in the Arizona Fall League.  With the AFL opening I thought I’d discuss each of the prospects the Royals have sent.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Arizona Fall League here is a primer.  The AFL consists of 6 teams with 30 players on their rosters.  Each MLB team sends 6 players to an individual team, and can send along so called “taxi-squad” members who only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The league is mostly for advanced and high-quality prospects to work on their skills against other high quality prospects.  A team can send up to two players from below Double-A ball.  The games are usually sparsely attended, but those in attendance are primarily scouts and executives who get a chance to see a bunch of top prospects at one time.  The games are played at various stadiums used for Spring Training, including the Royals spring home in Surprise.  The Royals will all be playing for the Surprise Rafters.

Royals Playing In The Arizona Fall League

Danny Duffy (LHP)

Just before the beginning of this season, Danny Duffy told the Royals he was leaving baseball.   The Royals were understanding of his situation, let him take his leave and told him he had a place if he decided to come back.  Luckily for the organization he did come come back and put up some eye-popping numbers.

Team Level ERA GS IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
Idaho Falls Rookie 1.50 2 6 4 0 6 6 0 9
Burlington Rookie 3.38 2 2.2 2 1 4 6.8 3.4 13.5 4
Wilmington A+ 2.57 3 14 8 7 18 5.1 4.5 11.6 2.57
NW Ark AA 2.95 7 39.2 38 9 41 8.6 2 9.3 4.56
Total 2.74 14 62.1 52 17 69 7.5 2.5 10 4.06

He didn’t take very long to become re-accustomed to pitching.  He moved quickly through levels and ended up at Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he was a key member of the Texas League Champions.  He currently is part of Team USA playing in the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament where he started one game, went five innings, gave up four hits, struck out one and allowed one earned run.

Patrick Keating (RHP)

Keating was taken in the 20th round of the 2009 draft.  He has been a reliever for the two seasons he has been with the Royals and has 24 saves over those seasons.  He was an under the radar signing, but was a highly though of High School prospect before having a slightly disappointing college career. I’ll be interested to see if Keating can continue is phenomenal strikeout rate against the AFL competition.

Team Level ERA GF IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
Wilmington A+ 1.19 6 30.1 18 10 41 5.3 3 12.2 4.1
NW Ark AA 3.10 20 40.2 33 19 60 7.3 4.2 13.3 3.16
Total 2.28 26 71 51 29 101 6.5 3.7 12.8 3.48

Mike Montgomery (LHP)

Montgomery had some injury issues which limited his games to only 20 this season, however that didn’t stop Baseball America from ranking him as the #3 prospect in the Texas League, below only Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.  One of the nice things about the AFL is it allows pitchers who didn’t get enough work during the regular season, whether due to signing late or injury, a chance to get some work in.

Team Level ERA GS IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
AZ Royals Rookie 1.04 3 8.2 6 1 7 0 1 7.3 7
Wilmington A+ 1.09 4 24.2 14 4 33 0 1.5 12 8.25
NW Ark AA 3.47 13 59.2 56 26 48 0.6 3.9 7.2 1.85
Total 2.61 20 93 76 31 88 0.4 3 8.5 2.84

Brandon Sisk (LHP)

I got to see Brandon Sisk pitch for Northwest Arkansas this season.  I was extremely impressed.  He was throwing mid 90’s with low 80’s off-speed stuff.  He seems to go on a run of dominating hitters, then gives up a few runs.  The Royals seem to have been drafting and developing bullpen arms more than they have in the past and Sisk is one of those guys.  I’ll be looking for consistency during the AFL season out of Sisk.

Team Level ERA GF IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
NW Ark AA 4.46 25 68.2 73 28 63 9.6 3.7 8.3 2.25

Salvador Perez (C)

If you listened to my podcast with Greg Schaum, he predicted Salvador Perez to be a breakout player in 2011.  He is a young catcher with a lot of promise.  How he plays in the AFL will be one of the things I’ll be watching very closely.  He is still quite young, and has a lot of time to develop into a top prospect for the organization.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
Wilmington A+ 99 396 106 21 1 7 1 .290 .322 .411

Johnny Giavotella (2B)

Giavotella intrigues me more than any other player in the system. I think he will absolutely get a shot in the Big Leagues at some point, but will he be a cup of coffee guy, a steady backup, an everyday player or something better?  Opinions vary on his true ceiling, but everyone gives him high marks on his makeup.  He hit pretty well this season, but I hear his defense still needs work.  The fact he is on the AFL roster, gives some indication that the Royals think pretty highly of him.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
NW Ark AA 134 597 168 35 5 9 13 .322 .395 .460

Eric Hosmer (1B)

This is probably a name you’ve heard of before.  He’s one of the top prospects in the Royals system, is a part of Team USA, was in the futures game and is my personal top position prospect.  He had a breakout year and will be taking his talents to Surprise to help bring the Rafters a championship.  I am still a little shocked he isn’t able to play a corner outfield spot, so I’ll be watching his defense at first base pretty close.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
Wilmington A+ 87 375 115 29 6 7 11 .354 .429 .545
NW Ark AA 50 211 61 14 3 13 3 .313 .365 .615
Totals 137 586 176 43 9 20 14 .338 .406 .571

Derrick Robinson (CF)

Speed, speed and more speed.  That’s the report on Derrick Robinson, however after a change in his stance, his bat has become a much better tool than in the past.  He hit a respectable .286 in the Texas League against quality pitching.  His high OBP of .345 shows his patience, and 50 stolen bases shows his speed.  I’ll be watching to see if he can continue to progress as a hitter in the AFL.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
NW Ark AA 127 570 146 26 8 2 50 .286 .345 .380

If you would like to get an email most days with the boxscores for the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, the Arizona Fall League and the entire Royals Organization in the 2011 season, just drop me an email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.  I’m also attempting to make a trip to the AFL to see some of these prospects in person, if you’ve been, I’d love to hear your tips and recommendations.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook.

I am going to be lazy today, mainly because my Monday morning mind cannot articulate a more detailed column.  

  • With the Twins losing again in the first round of the playoffs, would you as a Royals’ fan want to be like them and always be in contention for the post-season but never really have much of a chance to advance?   Or, would you go the Marlins’ way and build to truly compete with the big boys once every seven or eight years, knowing that in between you will be pretty awful?
  • While Kansas City will not be in the running for either player, if you could spend unlimited money on just one free agent, who would it be:  Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford?
  • Recently, we heard that the Royals might consider a bargain priced right hand hitting corner outfield type this off-season.   While I hated giving up on Matt Diaz so long ago, is it worth the effort to add him to the roster (or someone like him)?
  • Dyson, Blanco, Maier or punt?
  • This question is somewhat related to the first.   If the Royals can accelerate the timetable to be in contention by giving up a year of control over Moustakas, Hosmer and others, should they do so?   Basically, the question is does being ‘in contention’ in 2012 outweigh being a ‘contender’ in 2018?

Just some random questions to get the week started.   For those of you who rightfully hate short, question orientated columns:  I’ll do better on Thursday.

Excuse my foray into non-Royals writing.  I was inspired by the game last night and I wrote this.  There wasn’t a post really scheduled for today, so I figured I’d just go ahead and post it here.  Also Bill Baer who runs Crashburn Alley, the Sweet Spot Network blog for the Philadelphia Phillies has republished this at his site.  Please check out the great job he does covering the Phillies.

There are thousands of plays in a baseball season. They are not all created equal. For example, on September 25th, the Kansas City Royals played a game in Cleveland against the Indians. In the top of the 7th inning, Mike Aviles grounded out to the shortstop for the 2nd out of the inning. The Royals were down seven runs to one, and both teams had long been out of the post season picture. A few die-hard fans of each team cared, but the individual play had little to no significance in the grand scheme of baseball. Plays like that are a part of baseball, they are needed to move the season to its conclusion. However, it’s not those plays that create history, primarily because they are so abundant and so ordinary.

Last night, fans around baseball were treated to a historic moment. Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter in a playoff game, only the second time it’s ever happened. An individual game of baseball in many ways mirrors the season and even the entire history of the sport. A game is not complete until every out has been made, just like a season isn’t complete until every game is played. Many outs are merely mundane, simple groundouts to short, there seemingly to move the game a step closer to the end. Some outs, just like some games take on a much greater importance. Outs like the one to end a no-hitter take on supreme importance, and playoff games likewise. The convergence of an important out and an important game, elevate the moment to one of historic proportions.

I’d like to focus on the final out of last nights game moment by moment. An out that took roughly 10 seconds from pitch until completion, but one that encapsulates the drama of baseball.

It’s the top of the 9th inning, two outs and an 0-2 count on Cincinnati Red Brandon Phillips. Roy Halladay had surrendered only a single walk in this opening game of the National League Division Series. He’d thrown a first pitch fastball for a strike at 93 mph and followed it up with a 91 mph cut fastball outside which Phillips swung at and missed. Catcher Carlos Ruiz called for a curveball off-the plate, knowing that Phillips was likely going to swing at nearly anything to stay alive, and hoping the change in speed would have him swinging in front of the pitch. Halladay obliged with a 79mph curve, right were Ruiz wanted it.

Brandon Phillips, likely willing to do anything to stay alive and with that previous cut fastball still in his head, stretches out his arms and begins a very awkward swing at the curveball. The guy in the crowd wearing the white coat seems to be leaning in an attempt to will the ball past the batter.

Phillips gets stretched out just enough to get the very end of the bat on the ball. However the sink on the curve drops the ball to where it will hit on the lower half of the bat. The guy sitting down in the second row is holding a radar gun. He’s obviously some kind of scout. He’s not there as a fan, he’s there for his job and isn’t even going to soak in the last pitch of a no-hitter in a playoff game.

Phillips drives the ball down to the ground weakly and it takes a half-hearted bounce. Catcher Ruiz looks to be a little stunned that the ball is not in his glove and his body seems to be in a bad position to field the ball if it doesn’t get to the pitcher. The guy standing next to the leaning white-coat guy seems convinced that the no-hitter has already happened. He’s about four seconds from being right, but a lot still has to happen.

Phillips knows he barely hit the ball and his only shot at breaking up the no-hitter is to beat a throw from the catcher. Ruiz begins to realize he is in a bad position, but is moving in the direction of the ball and begins to remove his mask.

Halladay finally begins to move towards the ball, probably realizing that Ruiz has a very tough play to make with Phillips running across his face and more importantly, the bat being dropped directly in the path of the ball. The umpire, John Hirschbeck shifts his weight, driving off of his left foot in an attempt to get in the best position to see the play unfold. Meanwhile the scout speaks into a headset, probably telling his assistant the speed of the pitch so it can be recorded.

Halladay realizes that the play is not his, he’s got no shot at it and can only get in the way. Phillips hits the grass in a full sprint, and the ball hits the ground right in front of the still rolling bat. Meanwhile, second basemen Chase Utley starts moving towards first to back-up a potential errant throw.

Brandon Phillips takes the inside path towards first base, knowing that he is right in the path of the throw from Ruiz to first baseman Ryan Howard. Ruiz stoops to pick up the ball, which is now rolling to the bat and about to bounce back towards the pitcher.

Ruiz runs just past the ball because the way it hits the bat it gets directed in an odd direction. Brandon Phillips is about halfway to first and Ruiz has yet to pick up the ball. At this point, the entire play hinges on Ruiz being able to cleanly pick up the ball with his bare hand. Rain earlier in the day likely clung to the grass, making the play that much more difficult.

Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck signals that the ball is fair, while Ruiz’s momentum carries him to his knees. Brandon Phillips has moved a few steps closer to first, Utley continues to his backup position, first base umpire Bruce Dreckman gets into what he feels is the best position to see the play and Ryan Howard gets prepared to take a throw to the inside of the base, a throw which Phillips is still expertly blocking. Roy Halladay is watching it all unfold in front of him and if I had to guess, isn’t convinced he’s got a no-hitter.

Ruiz fires the ball to the inside of Brandon Phillips, the throw taking nearly all of his upper body strength, since he cannot rely on his legs for power. The ball quickly makes up ground on Phillips, but the play is still clearly in doubt. Fans in Philly are probably not breathing.

Chase Utley, sensing a bad throw moves quicker into position, while umpire Dreckman is firmly in position ready to make the call. The ball and Phillips are in a dead heat, the only question now is whether Ryan Howard can catch it.

Ryan Howard stretches to catch the high throw, utilizing every bit of his 6’4” frame.

History being made, the celebration ensues.

These small intricacies are typical of any baseball game, from a meaningless late September matchup between two basement-dwellers to postseason no-hitters. Its the competition inherent in the sport and the uniqueness of baseball which allow these rather typical series of moments take on the utmost significance.

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.

As we move into the off-season, I thought we might as well get started on the projected opening day roster for 2011.   This is an exercise that I will do every month or so in the off-season as new information comes to light.

Keep in mind, this is not my idea of the roster, but what I think the roster will actually be based upon what we know for a fact (Yuniesky Betancourt for example) or what we think is a reasonable likelihood.   We are also going to keep the speculation to a minimum (i.e. I will save the Greinke or DeJesus trade theories for another column).   As such, let’s take a look at where the Royals seem to be headed with respect to next spring.

POSITION PLAYERS

Catcher – Brayan Pena, Lucas May

First Base/Designated Hitter – Billy Buter, Kila Ka’aihue

Second Base – Chris Getz

Shortstop – Yuniesky Betancourt

Third Base – Mike Aviles

Left Field – Alex Gordon

Center Field – Jarrod Dyson

Right Field – David DeJesus

Bench – Wilson Betemit, Gregor Blanco, Mitch Maier

The Kansas City Star’s article earlier this week pointed to Aviles at third if Getz can lock down the everyday second base job with Betemit in a utility role, which surprised me some, but I don’t hate the logic, either.    

There was/has been/will be considerable talk of acquiring a veteran catcher to fill the gap before Jason Kendall returns, but I have to wonder if that really makes any sense at all for the Royals.    They don’t plan on contending in 2011, have Kendall coming back at some point and two catchers who are both out of options as it is.  

The odd man out in the above equation is Josh Fields, who might have to rely on Jarrod Dyson getting the bat knocked out of his hands in spring training to open up a spot for him.   At least that is how it stands right now, anyway.

STARTING ROTATION

Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan

To quote The Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was.”   It certainly feels like Brian Bannister is going to be non-tendered and Kyle Davies brought back.    Given that the payroll is reportedly shrinking this year, it is tough to see a free agent acquisition to bolster this group.   Of course, if Bruce Chen can repeat his 2010 performance, Luke Hochevar continues to improve and Sean O’Sullivan develops…..oh, nevermind.

BULLPEN

Joakim Soria, Gil Meche, Blake Wood, Robinson Tejeda and Dusty Hughes all seem to be locks.   The first four are certain unless the club really goes cheap and non-tenders Tejeda, which would not make much sense at all.    Hughes, being left-handed and experienced, would also seem to have a spot – at least for the first couple of months.

I will delve into a little speculation for the final two bullpen openings and project that Tim Collins will make the team out of spring training.   With 329 strikeouts in 223 innings and an outstanding debut in AAA last year (20 IP, 21K, 9 H), it doesn’t seem like there is any reason not to get his career underway.

The final spot, right now, would seem to be a battle between Kanekoa Texeira (who the organization likes) and Greg Holland.      While Holland had some dismal outings in the majors, he has always been a guy who takes a few weeks to get his feet on the ground at a new level.  He finished the year by striking out six of the last eight batters he faced.

ESTIMATED TIMES OF ARRIVAL

These are the names you care about and my educated guess as to when we will see them.   I am only looking at prospects that I think will debut in 2011.

Louis Coleman – May

Mike Moustakas – June

Blaine Hardy – June

Everett Teaford – July

David Lough – August

Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Brandon Sisk – September

With respect to Montgomery and Duffy, the Royals are going to face a real innings crunch with those two.   Even with post-season action, those two will have compiled no more than 100 innings a piece in 2010.   Given that, it would be tough (and probably not prudent) for the Royals to slot them into the rotation in mid-season.   The organization has also seemed to shy away from putting starting pitching prospects into the major league bullpen as way of easing them into the bigs, so that led me to project September arrivals.

A name you are likely looking for is John Lamb, but he will be just twenty next year and having vaulted through three levels in 2010, the Royals might be content to wait until spring of 2012 to give him a look.

Another name is Jeff Bianchi, but given what we saw out of Mike Aviles as he rushed back into action from Tommy John surgery, I am speculating that it might take most of 2011 for Bianchi to round back into form.  

Well, that is pass number one at this exercise.    There is a pretty good chance that come next month, this might look considerably different.   Whether change is good or bad remains to be seen.

On the field, the 2010  season wasn’t something to be thankful for.  It was long, it was arduous and there was very little to cheer for.  However, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Clark and Craig for inviting me to write for Royals Authority this season.  I’ve been a fan of the site for nearly as long as it has existed.  Just like some of you, I read it every single day with my morning coffee and it was something I looked forward to.  Now, I’ve been on the other side and it was simply fantastic.  Trying to find something interesting every single week  for a last place baseball team is in some ways harder and in other ways easier than I had imagined.  I had anticipated writing much more statistically focused articles, but there were fewer angles of that nature that really jumped out at me.  It was something I was disappointed with, but I thought it was important to write things that really got me interested because I figured it was something that would interest you as a reader.

I also want to thank every reader of the blog and every listener of the podcast.  Knowing that there are people out there who  look forward to a new post at Royals Authority really provides the inspiration to try and put the extra effort into writing the best article I can.  Your emails and your comments are something I thoroughly enjoy, and that absolutely includes the angry and negative comments.  This team can really anger people, trust me, it’s angered me in the past.  This should be a place to vent your frustrations with the team and with me as a writer.  I do really enjoy all sides of the commentariat.  One of the great things about writing online is the ability to connect with the readership through email, comments and twitter.

It’s extremely invigorating to know that there is an audience for what we do here at Royals Authority.  The media landscape is changing at an extremely rapid pace, and there are people who don’t believe that quality, thoughtful content has an audience.  I know first hand that such an audience exists, you prove it every single day.  Now if only I could just write something thoughtful with quality to meet your standards, we’d really have something.

There will be more content coming from Clark, Craig and myself throughout the off-season, so don’t stray too far away during the dark times of the off-season.  Most media outlets begin to completely ignore the Royals this time of year and so I think  it’s  more important to keep providing content.  Keep telling us what you want to hear and pointing out our spelling and grammatical mistakes, I keep trying to get Clark to fire Skittles the editing monkey, but he just won’t do it.

Sincerely, thank you.

Nick Scott

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook.  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.  He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.

Episode #033 – It’s the final game of the season for the Royals, but it isn’t the final podcast.  Nick quickly recaps the season and brings in special guest Greg Schaum to talk about the Royals farm system.  Nick and Greg discuss which of Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas they’d rather have, who is a potential 2011 breakout candidate, the future of Clint Robinson and Aaron Crow, a bunch of other prospects and Nick tries to sell Greg on the knuckleball academy.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs033.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Greg Schaum on Twitter @greg_schaum and visit his site at http://www.royalsprospects.com

Music used in this podcast:

Curtis Mayfield – Beutiful Brother of Mine

Arcade Fire – Ready To Start

John Zorn – Mow Mow

How to Get the Podcast:

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I listened to the Royals’ final game of the season on the radio yesterday and sensed just a tinge of sadness in Denny and Ryan’s voices as they signed off.   Despite a year that was an absolute grind, it is still something of an empty feeling to know that there is no game tonight or the next day.  

Someday, October will mean something to us Royals’ fans, but 2010 ended up being another year when the vast majority of us turned our attention to football…in August.     I will keep an eye on the playoffs as I like the Rays, mainly because I think Joe Maddon is kind of cool, and will have to witness the bizarre spectre of Jose Guillen playing the outfield for a playoff team, but for the most part, the 2010 season is over.

In some respects, the Royals got an early start on 2011 by exercising David DeJesus’ option for 2011.   That was pretty much a no-brainer, in my opinion, as $6 million for a player with an OPS+ over 100 in five of the last six seasons is a better deal than likely will be available on the open market this off-season.   Plus, the Royals have one proven above average major league outfielder in their organization right now and his name is DeJesus.

Beyond David, you have Alex Gordon (84 OPS+ in 281 plate appearances) and a trio of Gregor Blanco, Mitch Maier and Jarrod Dyson who will all struggle to anything more than one win above replacement level.   The high minors really offer David Lough and Jordan Parraz, neither of whom offer upside any better than DeJesus (if that).  They are followed by Derrick Robinson and Paulo Orlando, who still have much to prove and are at least one year away.

So, yes, bringing DeJesus back is one of the easiest decisions Dayton Moore will make this off-season and it still leaves him a slew of options with regard to the 30 year old outfielder:

  • Moore can shop DeJesus this winter, although I would suspect David’s value is hurt by speculation over how well he has recovered from the thumb injury that curtailed his 2010 season.  Anything that has to do with a hitter’s hands always gives rise to concern.
  • Moore can shop DeJesus at the trade deadline in 2011.   That is likely the current plan of action as it allows David time to prove he is healthy and the Royals time to see what they have in Lough, et.al.   You hate to go through another round of veteran for prospects trades, but it may make the most sense for the organization come next July.
  • The Royals could also move towards offering DeJesus an extension at some point during next season.   While David is a good player, he is not the caliber of talent that is going to get $15 million per year in free agency.   He strikes me as a guy who might have some loyalty to Kansas City.    Given the lack of better alternatives in the minors (short a move of Hosmer or Myers to the outfield), three years for $21 or $24 million might be doable and advisable.

Not lost in the above, is the Zack Greinke factor.   If the Royals decide that they want to keep Zack past 2012 the are going to have to sell him on the fact that this organization is going to be a winner.   Resigning DeJesus, one of the guys who Greinke surely views as established and productive, might help.

An additional factor in possibly getting a new deal done with DeJesus might well be what happens in left and center field next season.   If the Royals wake up on June 30th with Alex Gordon hitting .221, Gregor Blanco muddling along with a .690 OPS and Jarrod Dyson back in the minors after going 6 for 70 next season, they will certainly be thinking that they need DeJesus in 2012 and beyond just to have someone out there who can hit!

Anyway, so long 2010, we probably will not miss you that much.

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