Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

As I get older, I learn to appreciate a few things that would have been unthinkable in my youth…

Add well pitched ballgames to the list.

That’s why I thought Tuesday night’s game was – for the first six innings – brutal.

Trevor Cahill in particular was just awful. He threw 96 pitches, but just 47 strikes. It was the worst pitching performance I’ve seen (non-Royal category) since any Daisuke Matsuzaka start over the last three seasons. And it wasn’t like Cahill was getting squeezed. He was all over the place… I mean, when he wasn’t throwing the ball 55 feet and bouncing it in the dirt, he was airmailing pitches to the backstop.

Cahill has struggled lately. He’s giving up home runs and walking batters like crazy. In his four starts prior to Tuesday, he had thrown 22 innings, allowed 14 walks, five home runs and 15 strikeouts. Opposing batters have been teeing off, hitting .337/.425/.551 against him during this stretch.

I wonder if the Royals knew about this. This is a question I’ll ask again and again, now that the team does all of their advanced scouting by video. What exactly are they watching on these videos? Because if they’re watching the TV broadcast feeds, they’re doing it wrong. I’m sure there are different camera feeds available, but how much of a pain is it to watch an entire game isolated on a starting pitcher to see how he’s standing on the mound, if he’s tipping his pitches, his delivery time to home, etc… And then have to switch to another feed to see how the infielders are positioned, or how the play is made in the outfield. I imagine, if you were doing a thorough scouting job, it would take you six hours to scout a single game by video.

I bring up this scouting issue again, because Royals hitters seemed to take the wrong approach from the beginning.

Take the first inning. Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Eric Hosmer saw a grand total of eight pitches. That’s not exactly working the count. Gordon offered at a tough pitch out of the zone, Melky swung at a ball (shocking) and Hosmer offered at a pitch down and away on an 1-0 count that he would have been better off taking.

Not a good start.

The second was, in some ways, worse. That’s because after he walked Jeff Francoeur (which should be a warning sign for anyone watching a ballgame that this particular pitcher doesn’t have it) Billy Butler had an outstanding plate appearance. This was one of the few times of the night Cahill was spotting his pitches. The first three were low and away… off the plate for balls. These were pitches thrown with good intent in that if Butler makes contact with those and puts them in play, he’s grounding into a double play. The Frenchman negates that possibility by stealing second on the third pitch of the Butler at bat. Then, Butler takes two called strikes on pitches low and away, but deemed in the zone by the home plate umpire, Bill Welke. (I’m not sold on the first pitch, but the second one was good.) He fouls one off and then takes ball four.

You now have two hitters who have walked to lead off an inning against a pitcher who has had command problems in the past. You have a young hitter coming up and the lower third of the batting order coming behind him.

You make the call…

If you’re Nervous Ned Yost, you bunt.

Huh?

Bunting in the second inning with your rookie stud, against a starting pitcher with command issues and with Matt Treanor and Chris Getz immediately following? That’s mismanagement of the highest order.

(At least I’m assuming he ordered the bunt. We don’t know because neither the KC Star story or the MLB.com story has this info. I Googled, but couldn’t come up with the answer if the bunt was called by Yost or Moustakas freelanced. The fact that neither game summary included the word “bunt” is slightly surprising, considering the Royals sacrificed three times Tuesday.)

Instead of setting up for a potential big inning, you’re playing for one run in the second inning… Frustrating. And guess what? It worked when Coach T grounded out and brought Francoeur home.

The Royals encountered a similar situation in the fourth. Runners on first and second and no outs, but with Chris Getz at the plate. In that situation, I have no problem with asking Getz to sacrifice – which he did. Because letting Getz hit is a little like asking the pitcher to swing the bat. With a 91 percent contact rate and a 51 percent ground ball rate, he would seem to be a double play candidate. (Although a quick check of the numbers shows this isn’t exactly the case. In 34 double play opportunities this year, Getz has grounded into just one double play. Although it helps he’s sacrificed an AL leading 10 times.)

Again, this sacrifice worked as Alcides Escobar put the ball in play and hit a weak chopper to third. Moose, running on contact, was able to score easily.

I fear this sort of stuff is putting the wrong ideas in Yost’s head.

Anyway, Cahill’s struggles are issues for Oakland bloggers to address, but it seems we have our own problems with Danny Duffy. Everyone will make a fuss over his first major league win, but that glosses over the fact that he really labored in the fourth and fifth innings. In his first 39 pitches (innings one through three) he tossed 26 strikes. He wasn’t helped by his defense in the second when Moose made an error at third, but then was bailed out by The Frenchman and his cannon of an arm in right.

(I tweak the Royals for ditching their advance scouting department, but I wonder if other teams have done the same… Uhhhh, you don’t run on the outfield arms. Unless you want to be thrown out. Does anybody playing baseball ever watch baseball?)

Then in the fourth, after the Hideki Matusi home run, it all went to hell for Duffy. Over his final three innings, he needed 65 pitches and threw only 37 strikes. Not to mention, his velocity really dipped as the game progressed.

Was that the effect of adrenaline? His family and girlfriend made the trip from nearby Lompoc, his hometown. Who knows.

Still, it was a good night for the Royals at the plate. The Shortstop Jesus can suddenly hit and picked up three while driving in two runs. He looks like a different hitter at the plate. Hosmer broke an 0-fer with a pair of hits. And Moose got the first two-hit game of his career. The bullpen was solid as well. Greg Holland had a lock-down seventh, but wobbled in the eighth with a couple of bad breaks before Aaron Crow picked him up. Then Soria finished with a challenging, yet successful performance.

What we do know is that Duffy, despite getting that first win, has a ton of work to do. Same for the manager.

Alex Gordon is having a renaissance, right? He’s finally come into his own and is realizing his potential. So, what’s different this year? What indicators might lead to an improved Gordon and is it sustainable?

First let’s start with the result stats to be sure that there really is an improvement on the field.

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG
2007 23 151 600 543 60 134 36 4 15 41 137 .247 .314 .411
2008 24 134 571 493 72 128 35 1 16 66 120 .260 .351 .432
2009 25 49 189 164 28 38 6 0 6 21 43 .232 .324 .378
2010 26 74 281 242 34 52 10 0 8 34 62 .215 .315 .355
2011 27 64 294 263 38 75 20 3 7 27 61 .285 .354 .464
5 Seasons 472 1935 1705 232 427 107 8 52 189 423 .250 .332 .414
162 Game Avg. 162 664 585 80 147 37 3 18 65 145 .250 .332 .414

There’s clearly some improvement so far in 2011. Gordon is sitting on career highs in batting average, 0n-base percentage and slugging percentage. We’ve been told numerous times that Kevin Seitzer has him working on a new swing, but what in the numbers sticks out as an area of improvement?

Year HR% SO% BB% XBH% X/H% SO/BB GB/FB IP% LD%
2007 2.5% 22.8% 6.8% 9.2% 41% 3.34 0.58 66% 21%
2008 2.8% 21.0% 11.6% 9.1% 41% 1.82 0.46 63% 20%
2009 3.2% 22.8% 11.1% 6.4% 32% 2.05 0.78 61% 13%
2010 2.9% 22.1% 12.1% 6.4% 35% 1.82 0.59 62% 22%
2011 2.4% 20.8% 9.2% 10.2% 40% 2.26 0.66 67% 18%
5 Seasons 2.7% 21.9% 9.8% 8.6% 39% 2.24 0.57 64% 20%
MLB Averages 2.6% 17.8% 8.6% 7.8% 33% 2.06 0.79 69% 19%

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2011.

It seems as if Gordon is hitting about the same number of home runs and striking out a bit less. Neither of those numbers show much variation. However, he has shockingly been walking less but hitting a few more extra-base hits. If you compare this year to his best season of 2008, then there isn’t a whole lot different going on — he’s a few ticks higher in a couple areas, a few ticks lower in others. It seems that according to these numbers, he’s pretty much the same player he’s always been other than he’s putting more balls into play.

So, what about those balls in play? His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this season is .345. His career average including 2011 is .302. The point to measuring BABIP is that it can give you an idea of how lucky a player has been. Once a ball has been put into play, the player has very little control over what happens. Better players tend to have higher BABIP, but an abnormally high one can be an indicator of luck.  A player could be finding some gaps or having more bloop hits fall in. On the flip side, it’s possible that Alex Gordon has been extremely unlucky in his career.

I don’t want to downplay his new swing, or a change in approach. He does seem to have better at-bats and he seems more willing to foul a pitch off that was probably a ball but could be close enough to be called for a strike. It’s still too early to claim that Gordon has turned his entire career around. He got off to a very hot start, which has lingering effects on the fans and commentariat. If his BABIP slides back towards normalcy, we could see a return of the less-productive Alex Gordon.


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.

I have been on vacation since June 3rd: out of the country kind of  vacation and hence quite removed from the Royals.   While managing to check the box scores late at night and marginally keep up with roster moves, it was all pretty superficial stuff.   The night before leaving and a full week before Mike Moustakas got the call, I wrote this, so my internet persona remained somewhat topical.

While Craig and Nick carried the load of the MLB Draft, Moustakas and a four game sweep at home to the Twins, I reemerge to a reality where the Kansas City Royals are only six and one-half games out of first place.   What would you have said back in March if told that the Royals would be in that position in the middle of June?   Due to how this situation has transpired, most of us have passed through the euphoria of contending and back into the status quo of wait until next year.

Think about it this way:  since calling up Eric Hosmer, the Royals have gone 12-23 yet lost only two games in the standings.   Those two games, however, have certainly turned the tide (probably correctly) from ‘hey, we can win this!’ to ‘let’s not worry about wins and losses and get set to be somebody next year’.   Listen, I don’t have any idea where this team is going this year, but I am certain that the call-up of Moustakas signals Dayton Moore’s intention to at least be in and stay in the conversation, not in 2013, but instead in 2012.

To Close Or Not to Close

In the span of ten days, Joakim Soria surrendered the closer role, got and back and then notched two saves (one pretty, one not).   In between, Soria pitched five perfect innings, albeit with just one strikeout, but perfect nonetheless.

Alas, Aaron Crow’s career as a Royals’ closer came and went without an opportunity, which was probably good considering he has allowed three runs and four walks in his last five plus innings.    Probably just a little case of rookieitis, but Crow could be possible use a couple of low leverage stints to right the ship.

Right now, is the best pitcher in the Royals’ bullpen Greg Holland?

Rotation, rotation, rotation

What happens this year, next year and the year after that really pretty much comes down to the starting rotation, doesn’t it?

I thought Craig had a very interesting piece on Danny Duffy last week and one has to wonder if maybe a sub-par outing on Tuesday versus a bad Oakland lineup might signal the southpaw’s return to Omaha for a little more work.   I don’t have a big problem with Duffy continuing to grind here in the majors, but could certainly see the logic in return him to AAA as well.    Doing so would also ‘game’ Duffy’s service time as well, but Dayton Moore does not seem to be running the organization with that as a primary concern this year.

The interesting pick-up in the rotation is Felipe Paulino, who was not particularly good over the weekend, but has been quite solid thus far.   In the past, Paulino has had stretches of starts like this, so any expectations for him going forward need to be tempered, but he certainly has done enough to warrant staying in the rotation when Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies return.

With Chen and Davies beginning their rehab assignments, what does this rotation look like in a couple of weeks?   Chen obviously gets back in, probably at the expense of Vin Mazzaro.   Despite seven shutout innings yesterday, Mazzaro’s zero strikeouts versus five walks and a hit batter probably will spell another trip up I-29 (assuming it’s not flooded).

How about Davies?   Does he get back in the rotation and, if so, at who’s expense?

Fun With OBP

We’ll finish up with some ‘did you know?’ on-base information (and yes, I realize most of you actually DO know):

  • Second best OBP of a regular on the Royals?   Matt Treanor’s .361, trailing only Billy Butler.
  • Chris Getz has a better OBP than Jeff Francouer and trails that of Melky Cabrera by one point.
  • In his first three games Mike Moustakas,  not know for taking a walk, has three of them.
  • Not really an OBP factoid, but Eric Hosmer has grounded into just one less double play than Billy Butler.

Tell the truth, how excited are you to have Moustakas and Hosmer at the corners for the remainder of 2011?

Thursday’s game wasn’t on TV, but listening to the radio and following on Twitter, one thing was obvious: Mike Aviles is lost. Poor plate appearances, bad base running, questionable defense… Aviles has it all.

Still, the news was surprising. After the game, the Royals sent Aviles to Omaha and called up Mike Moustakas.

Viva Le Process!

After a slow start, Moustakas is on the rise for the Storm Chasers. Overall, he’s hitting .287/.347/.498 in 250 plate appearances. Like Eric Hosmer prior, Moose has earned his call to The Show.

Several thoughts immediately spring to mind.

— First, by optioning Aviles, the Royals have destroyed the trade value of Wilson Betemit. Seriously, where does he play? You don’t call up one of the top prospects in the game to platoon or to play a few times a week. I know the Royals are trying to sell Betemit as Alcides Escobar’s backup at short, but I’m not buying. Betemit has played 407 innings of shortstop in his career, but hasn’t appeared there in a game since he played 57 innings for the Yankees in 2008. He’s played even less at second, which is now the sole territory of Chris Getz.

Betemit is a good hitter… One of the best on this team. Currently at .290/.350/.409 he certainly would have drawn interest at the trade deadline. Honestly, he probably would have been difficult to move for value given that everyone in the baseball universe knew he was blocking Moustakas and the Royals would be desperate to make a deal. Moving him to the bench scotches that value completely.

— Second, we will never, ever see a pinch hitter for the Shortstop Jesus, Alcides Escobar. As I said, I don’t buy the “Betemit at shortstop” meme the Royals are trotting out. We know Yost places a premium on Escobar’s glove – although he completely oversells the defensive contribution of Escobar to justify his bat. He wouldn’t play Aviles there and that was his best defensive position. You think he’s going to remove Escobar from the game in the late innings and have to replace his glove with Betemit’s? No way that happens. No. Way.

It all comes down again to roster math. Which Dayton Moore fails on a regular basis. As Moustakas warmed up for the Storm Chasers, I thought GMDM would need to move Betemit before he could bring up the prospect. There wasn’t a rush… It’s not like the Royals are contenders, so I figured Betemit would be a goner sometime around the All-Star Game with Moose up after the break. Of course, that makes too much sense.

Aviles can play three infield positions… None of them well. But he’s competent enough to sub from time to time. Now that flexibility has vanished. And the Royals are going to seriously try to win games with a double play tandem of Escobar and Getz playing the full nine innings.

— Third, I question the timing. Why now? I wonder if it’s because the Royals are heading to Anaheim, just down the road from Chatsworth, where Moustakas grew up. Would they call-up a prospect just to give him an opportunity to make his debut in his hometown? Seems kind of… strange. As I said, there’s really no hurry to bring him up right now. Moose has certainly earned the call, but there’s no harm at all in keeping him on the farm until the roster situation gets settled.

Super-two status isn’t an issue here. We’re well past the cutoff date.

— Fourth, the Royals will have to make a move on the 40-man roster to make room for Moustakas. Who gets the chop? Kevin Pucetas has struggled in Omaha, but I wonder if the Royals will expose a starting pitcher. Manny Pina has struggled to hit in Omaha and doesn’t figure in the future anyway. Jesse Chavez kind of stinks. Any one of those guys is expendable and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them removed.

— Finally, what are expectations for Moustakas? He is a slow starter when he moves levels, which isn’t unheard of. I’m thinking he plays the rest of the season at a level in the neighborhood of .270/.325/.450.

Keep this in mind, the third base position in the AL is horrible from an offensive standpoint this year. The average AL third baseman is hitting .234/.305/.369. Their .674 OPS is the second worst when ranked by position, ahead of only left fielders. That’s right, AL third basemen are offensively worse than both catchers and shortstops this year. If (and when) Moustakas struggles, we’ll need to maintain a healthy dose of perspective.

Overall, I’m pleased Moustakas is up and The Process continues to roll. It’s the little things that have me worried. And they will continue to have me worried about the future of this franchise.

Calling up a hot prospect is easy. Managing a roster is difficult.

Another start, another rough night for Danny Duffy.

Let’s start with the positive… Duffy is doing an exceptional job of changing speeds. On Wednesday, his four-seam fastball was averaging about 94 mph, his change was about 82 mph and his curve was clocked at 78 mph. From Brooks Baseball, here’s his velocity chart for the entire four innings he was in the game:

Unfortunately, from that chart, we can easily pick out a negative. While Duffy is able to keep his fastball in the mid 90s range, one thing he hasn’t been able to do is pace himself so he can maintain the velocity throughout his start. The dip in fastball speed becomes noticeable about 20 pitches into the game. Or in this case, at the end of the first inning. The big dip coincides with the start of the fourth inning. Basically, Duffy was gassed after three innings, which was just 58 pitches. And we know how the fourth inning unfolded… Single, four pitch walk and home run.

The Blue Jays are a good offensive team. They have two things that match-up well against all Royals pitchers: patience and power. One thing that jumps out about last night is that of the 96 pitches Duffy threw, only three times was he able to get a swing and a miss. That’s way, way too low for someone like Duffy, who is supposed to be a strikeout pitcher.

Of course, this leads into his struggle with command. Seriously, it’s not supposed to be this way. Through his first five starts, Duffy has a 1.06 SO/BB ratio. He’s struck out 18 batters and walked 17 (including four last night) in just 24 innings. That works out to a 6.7 SO/9 and a 6.3 BB/9. I don’t think anyone expected this. It’s truly disturbing. In Triple-A this year prior to his recall, Duffy had a 2.5 BB/9 and 10.8 SO/9. Obviously, you would expect those numbers to change just a bit as you progress and land in the majors, but the Duffy that has been struggling with command at the major league level has never… never had this kind of problem.

The question is, why? Why is he suddenly struggling with his command? Or nibbling as he puts it. Is he intimidated by big league hitters? Or has Bob McClure done something with his mechanics that has led him to lose his location? Somebody needs to figure this out.

Another issue with Duffy has been his delivery from the stretch. And since he’s walking a ton of hitters, he’s pitching from the stretch quite often. It started in his debut against the Rangers when he allowed 10 batters to reach first and four of them stole second. Including Mike Napoli. Overall, nine batters have attempted to steal against Duffy and eight of them have been successful. That’s not good. However, to Duffy’s credit, he’s improved his managing the running game. Sort of. Last night, he able to pick off two base runners and he also picked off a runner in his previous start. While those may be positives, runners are still taking advantage of his super slow delivery to home out of the stretch. Last night while I was watching the game, I found myself wondering why the Royals didn’t work with Duffy on a slide step in the low minors… You know, when there was time for him to get comfortable with it before he started facing major league batters.

Add it all together with the poor command and the trouble holding runners on base and it’s not difficult to understand why Duffy has been so underwhelming in his five starts.

We discussed the super-two possibilities when he was recalled and how easy it would be for the Royals to send him back to the minors if he struggled. With his numbers and performance, it would be easy for them to ship Duffy to Omaha for a couple of starts, which would then essentially buy the Royals an extra year of cost control. As simple as that sounds, we have to remember Vin Mazarro and Sean O’Sullivan are getting starts. So is Felipe Paulino and Nate Adcock. This is a paper thin pitching rotation.

Duffy will have to stick around a little bit longer. Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies both made rehab starts last night for Northwest Arkansas, so they are a week or so from rejoining the team. The right move when they are ready to be activated would be to replace Duffy. Yes, I’m advocating putting Davies in the rotation ahead of Duffy. That’s simply because one pitcher represents the future while the other represents… A void. The Royals need to make sure Duffy finds his command and finds his confidence. I’m not giving up on Duffy… Not in the least. But the best place for him to work on his issues is Omaha. And with the potential super-two issue, moving him to the farm is a win-win situation.

The second day of the draft is in the books and the numbers break down as such:

– 13 High School players
– 17 College players

By position:
– 17 Pitchers
– 12 Right-handers
– 5 Left-handers
– 5 Outfielders
– 5 Infielders
– 3 Catchers

The Royals sprinted out of the gate taking high school players with their first five picks. It’s an interesting gambit and one that suggests Dayton Moore is confident enough with both The Process and his status as the general manager to essentially restock the lowest levels of the minor league pool.

These high schoolers, Bubba Starling included, are all the rawest of prospects. There aren’t any hidden gems in this group like Wil Myers. This was a draft that will represent the restocking of the second wave of The Process.

I feel this also tells us that Dayton Moore is extremely comfortable in his position and is under no pressure from ownership. There is no Eric Hosmer in this group – no player who is two or three years from making his debut. These are all players who will fall into the organization as role players. Some will develop, many won’t. But we won’t see the fruits of this draft for several years. If Moore was under any kind of pressure, he would have pushed for college players in the early rounds. Guys that would be closer to the major and could slot into this team with the first wave of The Process. Of course, that was the stated plan as far as we thought we knew, the Royals were targeting a college pitcher. That plan was foiled when Seattle went off the plan and passed on Rendon to take Hultzen.

No, this was a draft to restock the lower levels of the minors. It’s too bad in a deep draft such as this, the Royals didn’t have the Tampa Bay luxury of multiple picks in the first, second and third rounds. Jealousy on my part. But given the way the Royals have been able to draft in the last several seasons, you have to think about what could have been if they had been able to score just one or two more picks in the early rounds.

A couple of other draft notes:

— Jerrell Allen, selected in the eleventh round, after a run on pitching by the Royals. He’s a – stop me if you’ve heard this before – a speedy outfielder.

— Fifth round pick Patrick Leonard played for Craig Biggio at St. Thomas High School in Texas. He’s a shortstop – stop me if you’ve heard this before – but he will have to switch positions.

— The Royals stayed local in the 12th round, selecting Adam Schemenauer from Park Hill South High School.

— I didn’t do a deep search, but after Starling, the Royals didn’t grab any other top 100 talent in the draft according to Baseball America. Keith Law at ESPN has their third rounder – Bryan Brickhouse – rated as the 84th best talent.

Last night’s game went pretty much according to plan. Vin Mazarro coughed up six runs on five hits. The defensive lapse in the first inning recreated the circus atmosphere of year’s past. Eric Hosmer picked up a couple of hits. Off-plan, somehow Alcides Escobar picked up a pair of hits. But he airmailed another throw to first. (Oops… That was the day before. Sometimes, all these Royals games seem to run together.)

Really, what that game boiled down to was which starting pitcher would create the biggest implosion… Mazarro and his general ineffectiveness. Or Kyle Drabek and his inability to locate. That’s the kind of starting pitching matchup which causes me to look for other things to do for the first five innings… Guys like Mazarro and Drabek drive me insane. The Royals did OK against Drabek. He threw 99 pitches in just over five innings and only 56 strikes. He also uncorked four wild pitches. Too bad Mazarro was worse. By the time the starters had exited, it was a 6-5 game in favor of the Jays. The Royals couldn’t break through against the Jays pen and that’s the ballgame in a nutshell.

With the fifth overall selection in the 2011 June Amateur Draft, the Kansas City Royals select: Bubba Starling. And with those words, a legend was born. Stories of the Gardner, KS native will be told in Royals circles for decades. The direction and nature of those stories at this point are unknown. This is what makes the baseball draft — hell, any draft really — so interesting. It’s the unknowns in sports that make things so much more interesting.

Bill James was on a recent episode of Joe Posnanski’s* podcast and said that without some inherent randomness, sports aren’t very interesting. The draft represents some of the most wild randomness available, and Starling is the epitome of that.  He’s a toolsy, athletic high school senior who plays baseball in the midwest. It’s the perfect combination of factors that make for an unpredictable draft pick. The added bonus of being from a local school is what puts this draft pick into “legendary” status. If Starling is a great player, then it’s obvious that he’ll be the legendary hero. If he never makes it to the Big Leagues, he’s a legendary bust. If he becomes a decent but not great player like Alex Gordon, he’s a legendary “what could’ve been”.

*Yesterday was Posnanski’s last day as a Kansas City resident and now that he and Jason Whitlock have departed, the sports writing landscape in Kansas City seems so barren. That’s not a knock on the guys plying their trade now, but rather how important they were to our local sports scene. When I was granted my credential to Royals games, one of the first things that jumped in my mind was a chance to meet Joe Posnanski. Unfortunately, we never crossed paths. I wish him luck and I’m excited to see who can try and fill those two pair of very different but very large pair of shoes.

The first impediment to having the Bubba Starling legend lie on the positive side of the ledger is his commitment to the University of Nebraska to play football. In his brief press-conference yesterday, he mentioned that possibility a number of times. High school kids with scholarship offers have the most negotiating power, because as any successful negotiator will tell you, options are leverage. Bubba Starling doesn’t have to sign with the Royals, he could just go play football if he so desires. The more real that threat looms, the higher the price tag goes.

Given Starling’s options of:

A: Millions of dollars to play baseball

B: Dorm food, lodging and mandatory classes to play football

Which, combined with the fact that the Royals used their only pick in the first 65 to select him is enough evidence that  he is likely to sign. It’s more likely that Starling doesn’t sign and re-enters the draft in 2012. His agent is Scott Boras, who won’t make a dime if Starling plays football, and if there’s anything I know about Boras, it’s that he likes making lots of dimes. So, while the football card will be played loud and often, it’s not much of a possibility.

With options and negotiating leverage, comes money. It seems logical that Starling’s bonus will be close to, if not the highest paid by the Royals in franchise history. Deals like that aren’t easy to come by, so it’s quite certainly going to take right up until the deadline to sign the contract. If that does happen, Starling won’t make his professional debut until 2012, which is unfortunate. He’s such a raw player that he could use as much seasoning as possible. Spending time in a short-season league in 2011 will speed along his development.

Once he signs and becomes officially a part of the Royals organization, what kind of player will the Royals have? What will Starling become? These are questions that nobody has the answer to. We go back to the randomness aspect of this whole situation. Bubba Starling will be Bubba Starling, and that’s all we know. The Royals feel like he was the best player available to them when it was their turn to draft, and they’ve done a very good job of identifying high school talent.

The real story here is that the Royals didn’t seem to draft for need or for immediate help. Maybe that was just the luck of the draw, but it does seem as if Dayton Moore is sticking to his Process. A process, which it seems isn’t about producing “waves” of talent. Waves of talent is a theory of hoping to win followed by expecting to lose. It’s a failed process. One that the Royals can’t afford to subscribe to. What they have shown with the selection of Starling is that they are going to load the system with talent and continue to pile it on. Dayton Moore isn’t trying to build a team, he’s trying to build a franchise.  It’s the more difficult, but ultimately more successful endeavor.

It will take at least five years to know if selecting Bubba Starling was the right move yesterday. He may just be the local super-star that the Royals and their fans are pining for. But if the franchise continues to go about their process in this manner, it won’t matter because while a single bad draft pick can drown a team, it’s not enough to ruin a franchise.


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.

Episode #055 – In which I discuss the newly drafted Bubba Starling and what that draft pick means. I also talk about some recent news, the struggling Royals and potential changes to the MLB Draft.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs055.mp3|titles=BBS

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Music used in this podcast:

Foster The People – Helena Beat

Baths – Aminals

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Does the draft come at the right time, or what? After getting swept by the Twins and their Double-A caliber lineup, it was a bucket of cold water thrown in the face… The future is still pretty grim. Especially with our starting pitching.

With the focus still on the future (for another season at least) the good news is the Royals hold the fifth overall pick in what is shaping up to be a very deep draft. And speaking of pitching, word on the street is the Royals are seeking a college arm. That makes sense, given that the Royals kick started The Process this year. The pitching rotation remains Kate Moss thin, so GMDM and the scouting department have been charged with finding a little starting pitching meat. That comes from a college arm, which will be on an accelerated path to the majors.

In this draft, there are at least three premium college arms: Gerrit Cole from UCLA, his teammate Trevor Bauer and Virginia’s Danny Hultzen.

For fun, here are how three mock drafts from national prospect watchers have the first five picks:

There are a couple of things to note from these mocks… Pittsburgh will go for a pitcher at number one. It’s a guess between Cole and Hultzen. Rendon to Seattle at number two is a definite. Arizona is big on Hultzen at three, but if the Pirates grab him at number one, the whole draft goes haywire. And as you can see, there’s no consensus for who goes fourth and fifth.

Of the scenarios above, I’d bet the Royals would be delighted with the one presented by Baseball America. If Cole is there at number five, he’s going to be wearing Royal blue. The Baseball Prospectus mock is the one I’d bet on if the Pirates grab Cole with the top choice.

One name that hasn’t found it’s way into the top five is local product Bubba Starling. The question is, if the top three college arms are off the board at number five, will the Royals go local and draft Starling? The local angle in the draft is always heavily overplayed. Sure, armchair GMs blast the Royals for missing on Albert Pujols, but it’s not like he was nabbed immediately after the Royals passed. Pujols lasted until the 13th round. Plenty of teams missed – multiple times. Just because he was in the Royals backyard, wouldn’t necessarily give the team an advantage. The top guys are known by all the teams and they’re all scouted and most of them are cross-checked. There aren’t many mysteries in the early half of the draft.

That doesn’t mean the Royals aren’t feeling pressure when it comes to Starling. And since it appears Starling will be on the board when the Royals pick number five, that will present an extremely interesting situation. Do the Royals bow to pressure of media and fans to choose Starling, or will they stay the course and address their need for pitching? Can you imagine the uproar if the Royals pass on Starling and he goes on to become a superstar? Especially if their pick in this draft is a whiff. That’s pretty much a worst case scenario. Because this is the Royals we’re talking about, I feel obligated to bring this up.

Myself, I think they’ll stick with pitching. They want someone they can place on the fast track and contribute soon as The Process starts rolling. However, if the three college guys are off the board, I think they decide they can’t pass on Starling.

We’ll find out this afternoon.

Sean O’Sullivan remains Exhibit A as to why The Process cannot be fully trusted. How can you believe in an organization that sees the value in a pitcher of his caliber? Enough value that they traded one of their everyday players for him last year?

This is a question that has to be asked: What was Dayton Moore thinking when he decided he would like to add O’Sullivan to his team?

Remember, the Royals unloaded Alberto Callaspo to acquire O’Sullivan. The thinking at the time was someone needed to be moved because Mike Moustakas was tearing up the minors. To the Royals, Callaspo was the obvious candidate because he would be in line for a first year arbitration deal of $2.5 million (he signed for $2 million). The company line was, the more expensive the contract, the more difficult it would be to make a trade.

Here’s what GMDM had to say about O’Sullivan:

“We got a young pitcher we think can be part of our future.”

As my blogger brethren know from attending a couple of those behind the scenes events, GMDM specializes in speaking, yet saying nothing. That quote is quintessential Moore.

Callaspo had no future on this team. Solid hitter who made contact, but his defense was a serious liability. And the Royals figured with the young bats developing, they could jettison an older one who was below average with the glove. Can’t find fault with that. Besides, everyone in the universe knew the Royals number one priority as last year wound down was to get stronger up the middle defensively. Can’t fault the idea.

We can fault the execution. The fact is, by being “proactive” and unloading Callaspo before he became eligible for arbitration the Royals sold low and came away with a lemon of a pitcher.

On Thursday, O’Sullivan blamed his poor performance on introducing a change in his delivery where he shortened his stride. Apparently, he’s only tried this in one bullpen session. Wow. That’s a great idea… Change your delivery and try to get major league hitters, not to mention little leaguers like the Minnesota Twins, out. That’s probably not a way to be successful. And when you are “talent challenged” to start… It’s just not going to end well. If this was truly the case, I can’t believe that Bob McClure or Ned Yost didn’t notice and put a stop to it. If you want to work on mechanics during a game, there’s a place in Arizona in March…

I can’t speak to his change in mechanics, but the one thing I noticed from his outing was O’Sullivan was really missing his spots. Coach Treanor would set up inside, and he’d deliver several inches outside. Coach Treanor would call for a low pitch and it would be at the letters. And so on, and so on. Also, it just seemed that none of O’Sullivan’s called balls were close to the zone. Brooks Baseball confirms he was locating his pitches like a drunken blind man throwing darts.

Looks like he was getting squeezed a bit on the low strike, but he compensated for that by elevating several pitches. Not a good night.

We’re still going to get the postmortem that the Royals didn’t have anyone else to turn to for their rotation. Yes, we are aware the starting pitching is thin. Yes, we know injuries have played a factor. No, we don’t want to endure another O’Sullivan start.

— Good to see Joakim Soria enter in mop-up duty and pitch two effective innings. He needed just 19 pitches to get six outs and threw 15 strikes. One thing to note: He didn’t get a single batter to swing and miss at a pitch. Of his 15 strikes, six were called, three were fouled off and six were put in play for outs.

For those interested, he threw three curves. And he only threw those when he was ahead in the count. Two were put in play and one was fouled off. It was a good outing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still work to be done.

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