Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Reports earlier this week out of the Instructional League indicated that Wil Myers is beginning to take some fly balls in possible preparation of a move to the outfield at some point next season.    That revelation rekindled some talk about moving another prized prospect to a corner outfield spot as well.

The thought of Eric Hosmer playing in either corner of the outfield has been around as long as he has been a member of the Royals’ organization.    Considering that the year Hosmer was drafted coincided with Kila Ka’aihue’s breakout minor league campaign and also with the emergence of a then twenty-two year old Billy Butler as an everyday major league player, it is not surprising that the idea of moving Hosmer to rightfield was floated.   That idea has lingered ever since – albeit moreso amongst fans than within the organization.

In some respects, the thought of moving Hosmer might even be gaining steam as we saw another first baseman/designated hitter type in Clint Robinson lead the Texas League in just about everything good.   Robinson, who carries a career .909 OPS, played one game in left field for Northwest Arkansas late in the season.   Just from an ‘eye test’ point of view, Robinson does not look like an outfielder, at least not as much as Hosmer might look like an outfielder.

All that said, I don’t think Eric Hosmer is going to be moving anywhere (other than up to AAA this spring) and here’s why:

  • Kila Ka’aihue hasn’t proven anything…yet.  In 206 plate appearances this season, Kila did hit eight home runs but otherwise posted a pretty unappealing line of .217/.307/.394/.702.      Those numbers are incredibly similar to those posted by Travis Hafner in his first two hundred plate appearances and better than those compiled by Paul Konerko, who stood at .217/.276/.332  through his first 247 major league plate appearances.  The point is that while Ka’aihue has a chance to be a Konerko/Hafner (or a close enough resemblance to be an effective major league hitter), he might also just be a guy who can’t consistently square up major league pitching, too.  After spending two seasons scared to death to find out if Kila can hit, the Royals at last are going to find out.   That’s a good thing and one that will hopefully pan out, but having crappy stats that compare to some guys who later became very good hitters is not enough reason to make Eric Hosmer change gloves.
  • Billy Butler is going to start costing real money.  Some people will howl and wonder how a first baseman with just 15 home runs who grounded into 32 double plays could be worth anything, but I see (and an arbitration judge might as well) see a 24 year old who hit .318/.388/.469 with 45 doubles, 15 home runs and almost as walks as strikeouts.    He did that on the heels of a 2009 season in which Billy hit 51 doubles and 21 home runs with a .301/.362/.492.    We will be reminded that Butler posted his 2010 numbers playing half the season with a bad hand and that, on by the way, he has missed a grand total of seven games the past two seasons.   I am not sure how we got to the point in baseball where fans believe a player is either a slugger or a singles hitter with nothing in between, but I am pretty sure arbitration is not in line with that school of thought.   Bottom line, Billy Butler is going to make real cash this off-season.  If he hits even seven more home runs next year and grounds into 23 double plays instead of 32, he will make even more next winter.    Now, after all that, I have to admit being a little hesitant to offer Butler a multi-year deal and buy out those arbitration years, plus one or two of free agency.    First off, Billy is not a good first baseman and he isn’t getting any faster.     While Butler has been durable thus far, you wonder about that body type being injury prone as he reaches his late twenties.   Listen, I really think a lot of Billy Butler, but IF Eric Hosmer is all we think he might be, doesn’t it make sense to get the same or better production from a younger, cheaper player than to pay Butler seven, eight even ten million per year as we move forward?
  • No one ever said Eric Hosmer CAN play the outfield.  I imagine Hosmer played some outfield at some point in high school, but by the time he was on the draft radar, Eric was firmly entrenched at first (despite possessing a very good arm).  I have read and heard reports that say Hosmer is always going to be a first baseman, but there have also been reports that he might possess the athleticism to move to the outfield.   Eric did steal 14 bases in 2010, which gives the Hosmer to outfield thought some hope.   That said, Hosmer possibly just months away from major league action, the time to move him may have passed.   However, if it is July 1, 2011 and Kila is hitting and Billy is hitting AND Hosmer is torching AAA, maybe the Royals try Eric in the outfield.   A more realistic scenario, however, may relate to the bullet point above and the Royals may make a trade to accommodate Hosmer at first base.
  • If you’re not sold on Ka’aihue, then you sure can’t be on Clint Robinson.   Robinson was one of my sleeper picks to watch way back in 2007, so I am delighted to have seen him hit and hit with power at all four levels he has played thus far.   However, nobody is moving anywhere to make room for a twenty-five year old former twenty-fifth round pick who has not played a game in AAA yet.

In reality, the Royals have a very good, but not great, hitter in Billy Butler who has some obvious defensive weaknesses.   They have a minor league star who has yet to prove much of anything at the major league level in Kila Ka’aihue who will, by the way, turn 27 next March.      Behind those two, the Royals have one of the better hitting prospects in all of the minors, but Eric Hosmer really has had one very good season and a grand total of 211 plate appearances above A ball.     As mentioned just above, the organization also has Clint Robinson who will make his debut in AAA at age twenty-six.

Maybe that’s a logjam, maybe it’s not.   For now, Eric Hosmer is, and likely always will be, a first baseman.

Sometimes the bullets come on the weekends, sometimes they come on a Wednesday.  I’m unpredictable like that.  If you are like me, you scour the internet for hours on end looking for interesting articles and tidbits relating to the Kansas City Royals.  If you are unlike me and have a much better way to spend your free-time, then just let me do the work for you.  I’ve scoured the entire interbots for you to bring you these bullets and links.  Enjoy

  • I’ve heard entirely too much about how many double plays Billy Butler has grounded into.  The bottom line is that it really isn’t a big deal.  First, here is the list of players who hit into the most double plays in the MLB in 2010:
  1. Billy Butler
  2. Michael Cuddyer
  3. Pablo Sandoval
  4. Adrian Beltre
  5. Albert Pujols
  6. Derrick Lee
  7. Ty Wiggington
  8. Torii Hunter
  9. Derek Jeter

It’s pretty darn good company.  With runners on 1st and less than 1 out Billy Butler had a .950 OPS, Albert Pujols had a .901.  Butler is slow, puts the ball into play a lot and plays for a team with a bunch of singles hitters.  It’s a perfect recipe for hitting into a ton of double plays.  It’s really not a big deal.

  • Matt Eddy at Baseball America has all of the minor league transactions for the past week.  The Royals re-signed Luis Mendoza, Cody Clark and Jamie Romak.  Nothing really surprising there.  Romak had a fantastic Pan Am Qualifying tournament where he was named tournament MVP.  The Royals have had an odd fascination with Luis Mendoza since obtaining him from the Rangers, I’ve never got it.
  • I-70 Baseball has been doing an epic retrospective on the 1985 World Series in honor of the 25th anniversary.  I contributed an article on Dick Howser’s use rather non-use of Dan Quisenberry in Game 2.  There are a bunch of articles, check them out.
  • I’ve read some things mentioning that Zack Greinke’s no-trade clause includes most of the big market teams.  This is pretty standard and it doesn’t mean he can’t get traded there.  Players usually put the big-market teams on their no-trade list because those teams have money to spend and the player can use his clause to get leverage and force the team to pick up options he has in his contract.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win or that he is scared of big markets.
  • Rustin Dodd over at the Kansas City Star’s Ball Star blog tells the story of Ian Kinsler who played at Mizzou and now is playing in the World Series.
  • Jeff Zimmerman at Royals Review busts out his slide rule and charts to determine with what I’d call 100% accuracy the reason the Royals didn’t make the playoffs.  Just try and prove him wrong, I dare you.
  • If you want to follow just two teams during the offseason, I’d recommend the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League and the Senadores de San Juan of the Liga de Beisbol Professional de Puerto Rico.  Both have a bunch of high quality Royals prospects.  You could also just get my Royals Report email and let me send you (almost) daily updates on who is doing what.  Just email me at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.
  • David over at Royals Zone has a list of the top 10 Royals of all time.  I think it might surprise you, however I am in 100% agreement with his #2.  It’s the most underrated Royal in history and if I could get one jersey, it’d be his.  That’s a teaser, check out the site yourself.  But the players name rhymes with Shmamos Shmotis, no more hints.
  • The World Series begins today, you should check out the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers blogs from the Sweet Spot Network, they do excellent work.  Who are you rooting for?  I’m not rooting for a team, I’m rooting for a 7 game series.
  • Would it surprise you if this was the least active off-season in recent Royals history?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  I’m of the belief that it’s a good thing, but it’s weird considering this season was so terrible.
  • Question:  Why don’t the Yankees outspend everyone in the draft?  I really don’t know the answer to this.

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.

This is the second post in a series of articles looking at the 2010 Kansas City Royals position by position.  In the first post, on catchers, I had an introduction which you can read here.

Below is the list of guys who had more than 20 plate appearances for the Royals while playing first base. Willie Bloomquist, Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier combined for 7 plate appearances.  I left them off this chart, but their numbers are included in the combined position table below.

Click to Enlarge

Not a gigantic surprise here.  Billy Butler got the bulk of the duties with Kila Ka’aihue coming in second.  I really liked how much time they gave Kila at first base after his call up.  I think that we already know what Butler has defensively, and it gives him the opportunity to spend some time learning the role of designated hitter.  For Kila, it was a chance to see what he could do as an every day player in the Big Leagues.  I don’t believe that 34 games is enough of a sample size to really tell what he can do and I expect him to be a regular in 2011. I heard some worries about whether or not Ned Yost would stick with Kila even if he struggled, but those questions were answered.  I think his willingness to understand sample size and to give guys an extended look are some of the best attributes of the Royals Manager.

As for Billy Butler, well I think he might be one of the most underrated players in the American League.  More than that I believe he is the most underrated player amongst Royals fans.  Usually a guy will get respect locally but not as much run nationally as he should (see Shin Soo-Choo), however Butler gets a lot of grief from the local fan base.  I don’t know exactly what to ascribe that to.  Maybe it’s that he plays at best average defense, or that he hasn’t hit for as much power as some people had projected, he certainly got a lot of heat for hitting into a ton of double plays.  But what he does well, he does extremely well.  Which brings me to the heat chart.

Red = highest in category, Green = lowest

As a group the Royals first basemen were 5th best in the American League offensively.  A couple of things jump out at me from this chart.  First, the AL Central has some really good first basemen.  Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau and Paul Konerko are certainly no slouches.  Maybe that is why Butler gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment, his peers in the division are world-class.  Using the heat chart, the strikeout rate for Royals first basemen really jumps out.  It’s the lowest in the American League.  Royals first basemen struck out 90 times all season, the next team on the list, the Detroit Tigers struck out 112, or 24% more often.

Billy Butler is just getting to arbitration and Kila Ka’aihue should get another long look at first base next year.  With the results put up in 2010, there doesn’t seem to be any need to improve the position offensively.  Eric Hosmer and Clint Robinson are the guys knocking on the door from the minors, but I’d figure the earliest either make it to Kansas City barring injury is September 2011.  The production at first could drop in 2011 if Butler gets more time at designated hitter and Kila plays more at first.  It’s my preferred setup because Kila is the more polished defender.

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.

I know some of you out there get tired of columns focused on the future.  Lord knows, I have written my share, but there’s good stuff from Bob Dutton at the Kansas City Star on the goings on in the Instructional League this fall.

Among many hopeful and notable tidbits, the most noteworthy was word that Wil Myers has started taking some fly balls in the outfield as ‘possible preparation of a future move to that position’.   A lot of us have been speculating on this pretty much since Myers was signed as his bat may simply be too good to wait for his defense to develop behind the plate.

While I have not personally seen Wil catch, some others in the blogosphere have and there is a pretty much universal opinion that Myers has a LONG way to go to even be an average defensive catcher.    When you think about the future of this organization and all the young pitching that is coming up, it does not make a lot of sense to have promising young pitchers paired with a defensively challenged young catcher who is up just because he can really, really, really hit.

Of course, the above probably makes more sense than two different managers being afraid to tell Jason Kendall he has to sit out day games after night games, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Earlier this season, I advocated moving Myers to the outfield with the basic premise of do you want his bat in rightfield in 2012 or behind the plate in 2014?   With speculation coming out of the organization that Myers’ bat might be major league ready within one year, it appears the Royals may have come over to the 2012 side of the argument.   

Going outside the Royals’ universe for a moment, a Rangers-Giants World Series probably is not exactly what Fox and MLB had in mind, but I find it intriguing.   This match-up should also remind long suffering Royals’ fans that your organization does not have to be perfect to eventually get it right.

Take the Giants for example.    They made one of the worst trades in history when they shipped Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser to the Twins for one ineffective year of A.J. Pierzynski and bungled one of the biggest free agent signings as well by inking Barry Zito to seven year and $126 million.  Yet, here they are, in the World Series and doing so with two-thirds of their outfield made up of guys who were mid and late season cast-offs from other teams.

Now, of course, the Giants also did a lot of things right.   Namely they drafted Tim Lincecum after he fell to them in 2006 and Buster Posey when he fell to them in 2007.   Every once in a while, I lament the 2006 draft, but I distinctly remember the talk that Lincecum’s funky delivery and heavy college usage was a prescription for injury trouble.   Plus, there was a lot of talk that he would also profile out as a reliever and not a starter in the majors.  

Drafting is so much easier when you do it after the fact.   You should see the Cleveland Browns team I constructed by simply redrafting the first six years of their existence on a very long plane flight a few years back!

The point of the above is simply that the Giants, who have more money than the Royals but are not considered ‘big market-big money’, really screwed up multiple times and still managed to make the Series.     Of course, you need some luck as well:  like getting stuck with Cody Ross who turned into the NLCS MVP.

The Royals have a ton of hope in the system.   Now, a little luck would be nice.

Time to return to the report card for General Manager Dayton Moore regarding this just completed season.  In part one, we looked at the transactions from November and December of 2009.  In part two, we cover January through opening of 2010.

January
Signed John Parrish to a minor league deal.

Does Sluggerrr know how lucky he is that Parrish didn’t bean him in the nine innings he pitched here for the Royals?  He is the original Nuke LaLoosh, but probably without the fungus on his shower shoes.

Verdict: Loss.  But really, who cares?

Signed Scott Podsednik for one year, $1.65 million.

This was really a match made in Dayton Moore Heaven.  Scotty Pods… fast, base stealer, plus defender, a leadoff man, scrappy, etc.  Except he’s not really that fast, he runs the bases with his head jammed somewhere unspeakable, took questionable routes to flyballs in left, and so on…

However, I have to admit I was caught completely by surprise at his .353 on base percentage with the Royals.  That was his exact mark he posted with the White Sox last summer and was tied for the second best in his career.  And like 2009, his success was fueled by a lofty .347 batting average on balls in play.  With his speed, he owns a better than average BABIP (.322 career) and this was the second season in a row where he beat his career average.  Sometimes lightening does strike twice.

Anyway, good on GMDM for flipping him to the Dodgers for Lucas May and Elisaul Pimentel. Neither player showed much of anything after arriving – May hit .275/.362/.516 in 105 plate appearances in Omaha, but failed to impress in a September call-up.  He will likely get a look in Surprise to make the team as a backup.  Pimental had a 5.76 ERA and walked almost six batters per nine for Class-A Burlington.

Bottom line, Podsednik performed for the Royals and brought them two players – one of which may provide major league cover next year.

Verdict: Win

Signed Rick Ankiel for one year, $2.75 million.

This was the free agent signing of the month that didn’t make a ton of sense.  They had already signed Pods and Brian Anderson.  They also had Mitch Maier and David DeJesus.  So it really didn’t figure how all these pieces were going to fit.  Although it was clear the Royals envisioned an outfield of Pods, Ankiel and DeJesus going from left to right.  Still, that’s just throwing money out the window of your Cadillac while you’re doing 70 mph on the interstate.

At the time, I ripped Ankiel because he turned down a similar offer from the Yankees because he wanted to go somewhere he could play everyday.  That still boggles my mind.  Especially now we know Ankiel wanted to be just about anywhere else on the planet than Kansas City.  Really.  The guy absolutely did not want to be here.

Not that he was here anyway.  Injuries and an extended minor league rehab limited him to 101 plate appearances.  I need at least 500 plate appearances before I list someone on my Least Favorite Royal of All Time list.  Let’s just say I would have had to move Kevin McReynolds down to number two if Ankiel had accumulated enough PAs to qualify.

I know GMDM was able to get some players in return.  That lessens the pain of having to watch those 101 plate appearances.  Still…  I couldn’t even bring myself to root for the guy.  That never happens.

Verdict: Loss.

February
Nothing of note happened in February.  Really.

March
Again, not much happened… Just kind of organizational maneuvering.  Danny Duffy retired.  But that wasn’t a GMDM move.  Thankfully, he returned.

April
Royals trade for Luis Mendoza

There wasn’t a single person remotely familiar with baseball who understood why the Royals acquired Mendoza and then placed him on the 25 man roster.  Just mind boggling.  The final carnage:

4 IP, 10 H, 10 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO, 4 HR

Of course, it doesn’t help when you have someone as confused as SABR Trey running the show.  Why he brought Mendoza into that game against the Tigers with the Royals nursing a 2-1 lead with a runner on to face Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera only Hillman knows.

Verdict: Disaster

Royals release Juan Cruz

Cruz had no command (not that he ever did, but he was bad even by his standards in ’10) and when he was around the strike zone, was extremely hittable.  It didn’t help his cause that he allowed all six runners he inherited in his five outings to score.  Turns out he had a bad shoulder and subsequently underwent surgery.  He’s out until at least the middle of next year.

The Royals decided to eat his $3.25 million contract.

Verdict: Loss

Royals claim Jai Miller off waivers from the A’s

Miller, a former fourth round draft pick of the Marlins, can get on base and has a little pop in his bat.  In 313 games in Triple-A in his career, he owns a line of .269/.345/.489 with 53 home runs and 31 steals.  The promise he possesses is minimal, though, as he doesn’t make enough contact to be a consistently good performer in the big leagues.

Still, he doesn’t cost much.  And you can always use a fourth outfielder.

Verdict: Win. Kind of.

Episode #034 – Sam Mellinger from the Kansas City Star stops by and discusses Jose Guillen’s tigers and $12,000 floor mats, honesty with baseball players, trading Zack Greinke and how exactly to grade Dayton Moore.  Nick also touches on baseball ratings and the 2010 catching corps.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs034.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Sam on Twitter @mellinger, check out his work at the Kansas City Star or read his blog.

Music used in this podcast:

Ray Charles – Never Ending Song Of Love

Stephen Malkmus – The Hook

Sun Ra – Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict: Neither win or loss.

Declined option on Miguel Olivo.

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

Verdict: Win

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

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

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

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

December
Released Mike Jacobs

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

Verdict: Win.

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

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

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

Verdict:  Loss

Signed minor league free agents Bruce Chen and Philip Humber.

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

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

Verdict: Win

Royals non-tendered John Buck

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

Verdict: Loss

Royals signed Brian Anderson

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

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

Verdict: Loss

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

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

Introduction

The 2010 Kansas City Royals season was one that we would all likely want to forget.  It was another in a long string of losing seasons and there were pretty much no young prospects to see at the Major League Level.  Still, I think that it’s instructive to look back at the season and see exactly what worked and what didn’t.  I did this same exercise last off-season and I learned a lot during the process.  So here is quick primer on how I do this and what the statistics mean.  Each week, I’ll post an article looking at a single position almost exclusively through the offensive lens.  Quantifying defense is still pretty difficult, and even though there are great strides being made, how exactly to weight that compared to the offensive side of the ball is even more difficult.  So with that, I’ll almost completely ignore the defensive contributions at each position, so it’d be more accurate to say that the analysis more a position-by-position offensive breakdown.

When I look at each position, I’ll do it individually and then combine the players into a single unit.  So primarily I’ll be looking at the offensive output of the Royals at a position.  The point is to see what spots on the field the Royals need to improve offense and where they can stand pat.  I would think that Dayton Moore is doing something similar and then comparing this information to the available free agents and the in house prospects.  It’s useful to look at it position by position because obviously the offensive output of a first basemen is different and not comparable to that of a shortstop.

I will be using some so-called “advanced statistics”, however in reality they are pretty simple so if you aren’t well versed or even very interested in advanced statistics, don’t let them scare you off.  Most of the numbers should be recognizable by any baseball fan, batting average, on-base percentage, hits, home runs etc.  However there will be two stats that I’ll lean on heavily that might be new to you. If you want an explanation of the stats, then keep reading but if not, all you need to really know is that I’ll be using wOBA and sOPS+ and the higher the number, the better the hitter is.

Stats Introduction (feel free to skip this part)

Quite simply, wOBA is an attempt to tell you how often a player gets on base and how far he got himself around those bases.  Many of you are probably familiar with OPS, well wOBA is like OPS but better.  If you are interested in a more detailed explanation, you can find one here or here.  The other statistic I’ll be using is sOPS+.    I know, it just looks confusing, but again it’s pretty simple.  In the most simple terms, sOPS+ just takes  OPS (on-base plus slugging) and then compares it to the rest of the OPS in the league and then normalizes them.  Yeah, I guess that wasn’t so simple, but the bottom line is that an OPS+ of 100 is essentially league average and every digit above or below is roughly a percent better or worse.  So a 120 ops+ is roughly 20% better than league average and 80% is roughly 20% worse.  The little s on the front means that instead of comparing it to the league, we’re comparing it to the split, in this case the positional split.  So in the first article, I’ll talk about the catchers and I’ll give their sOPS+.  That ONLY compares numbers when players were catching.  So a 100 would be a league average batter when he is catching.  I really thought I could make this simple, I guess I probably failed.  In the end, you don’t really need to understand the stats to get the gist of the articles, if you pick up one thing, its that the higher an sOPS+ or wOBA the better the hitter is.

The Catchers

To begin, let’s take a look at the players who caught this year for the Royals and how they hit when they were catching.

Click to Enlarge

Jason Kendal obviously got the lion’s share of innings at catcher, but his season-ending injury close near the end of the year gave Brayan Pena and Lucas May a chance to get some work in.  Jason Kendall actually got on-base at a clip higher than that of Pena, but Pena’s value really comes from his extra-base hits.  He had 10 doubles and 1 homerun compared to 18 doubles for Kendall in 330 more plate appearances.  Pena had an average wOBA and was pretty much a league average catcher at the plate in the games he played in.

How did the unit perform as a group compared to the rest of the AL?

Red = Highest in the category, Green = Lowest. Click to Enlarge

The Royals catchers as an offensive group were pretty poor in 2010.  They weren’t the worst in the American League, and in fact weren’t the worst in the AL Central.  The one thing that really held them back was their inability to hit for any power, only the Mariners had a worse slugging catching group.  The significant amount of playing time given to Jason Kendall drug down the offense, however the contributions from Brayan Pena single-handedly lifted the Royals catchers above the Tigers.

Last year, the Royals catching core of John Buck and Miguel Olivo was the second-best hitting group in the American League behind the Twins and Joe Mauer.  In fact, they hit eight more home runs than the Twins did from the position.  That’s was why it was baffling, from an offensive perspective that the Royals acquired Jason Kendall rather than keeping one or both of their catchers from 2009.  Predictably, the offense from the position suffered, and I’d find it pretty hard to believe that whatever defensive or clubhouse benefit Jason Kendall brought to the team, it was enough to overcome a fall of nine spots on the above chart.

The Royals need to be at least close to average at each position and then well-above average at a few positions in order to score enough runs to be a contending team.  They seem reluctant to believe that Brayan Pena can be the answer at catcher, but unless there is a major off-season move, he will get a shot to convince the Royals otherwise.  Based on his career numbers, I’d imagine that Pena could move the Royals catching unit up into the middle of the pack offensively, but his suspect defense may be his eventual downfall.  If I were the General Manager, I’d probably stand pat with Pena and May, hoping that one of them steps up to become a solid everyday catcher.

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.

There are always rumors swirling in baseball.    They are entertaining, intriguing, thought-provoking and, usually, unfounded.   The weekend tidbit that the Royals were ‘willing to listen’ on Zack Greinke via Buster Olney seems a little different.

This nugget has the feel of something actually coming out of the Royals’ organization.   A sort of heads up that Kansas City has moved from ‘we will have to have our socks blown off by an offer’ mode to ‘we are willing to actually discuss reasonable trade offers’ mode.

As some commenters over Royals Review accurately pointed out, the strategy is to let the dust settle from what should be a spirited courting of Cliff Lee and then start talking to the losers of those negotiations.   When second choice on the free agent market this year is Jorge de la Rosa, the appeal of Zack Greinke will be great.

Last May, I (and I was hardly the first) brought up the idea of trading Greinke in this post.   We looked at the Roy Halladay trade and the two recent trades of Cliff Lee – prior to the third trade to the Rangers this past July.

That discussion associated with that column ended up being more on the actual players being acquired and whether they were the number four or number six prospect, which was not really the point.   Taking the names out of the equation, both Lee and Halladay returned basically three top ten prospects.  

Both those pitchers are older than Zack, both were in less team friendly contracts than Zack and both were, frankly, better than Zack.   That is to not devalue Greinke at all, just to make the point that all factors considered, it would seem that Greinke, Lee and Halladay would all have similar trade values.

We will add two more names to the mix:  Erik Bedard and Johan Santana.   The Orioles traded Bedard in February of 2008 to Seattle and received five players in return. 

Adam Jones was the big name of the five and while his talent is undeniable, he has put up a line of .274/.324/.434 in the three seasons since the trade.  Jones turned twenty-five in August, so he is just entering his prime.  

Also acquired was reliever George Sherill, who gave the Orioles a season and one-half of quality closing before they traded him to the Dodgers for third base prospect Josh Bell.   Although unspectacular in his limited duty in 2010, Bell is still highly thought of – at least by Baltimore.

Three other pitchers were part of the Bedard deal.   Chris Tillman was player number three in the deal and has started 23 games over the past two seasons and compiled a 5.61 earned run average.   He won’t turn twenty-three until next April.    Tony Butler was just twenty when acquired, but has yet to make it out of A ball.   Kameron Kraig Mickolio has tossed 25 relief innings over the past three seasons for Baltimore with mixed results.

Johan Santana was traded to the Mets for four players:  Deolis Garcia, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.   The Twins put up with Gomez for a year than flipped him for shortstop J.J. Hardy and this past summer traded Kevin Mulvey for reliever Jon Rauch.   Garcia is still just twenty-one and reached AAA last year, but has not posted an ERA below 4.69 since 2006, while Humber is, well, a Royal now.

In a roundabout way, the Twins traded the best pitcher in baseball (at the time) for an a decent major league shortstop, a very good back of the bullpen reliever and a young pitcher with a ton of upside.   

Meanwhile the Orioles traded ‘their Greinke’ (although Zack is almost certainly better than Bedard ever was) for a major league average outfielder with potential, a third base prospect, a young starting pitcher with upside and a couple more arms that haven’t shown much.

As I write this, it dawns on me that I ignored the Indians trade of C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers.   The Indians netted Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and Michael Brantley out of that deal.    It is hard to judge how Cleveland fared, but they did get eight players for Lee and Sabathia, most of whom will be on their major league roster next year.

Now, all the above does is give you an idea of what other number one pitchers have returned in trade value and also point out just how unsure a proposition is that includes mostly prospects.   Trading Greinke makes sense given his lack of focus pitching for a non-contending team and comments regarding his skepticism (however well founded they are ) in the process. 

Basically, if the Royals do not beleive they can resign Zack after 2012 and do not believe they will contend until 2013, then trading Greinke is the smart thing to do.   Simple math tells you that trading him now, with two full years remaining on his contract, will return more value than trading him with one and one-half years remaining or less.

There is no need to panic.   The Royals do not HAVE to trade Greinke right now, but it may will turn out that they will trade him prior to next season.   It all makes sense, as long as you don’t end up with handful of Tony Butlers and Philip Humbers.

Baseball is a year-round activity.  Throughout the fall and winter, there are the winter leagues, the winter meetings, trades, free agent acquisitions and the Fan Fest.  I know that for many of you, baseball isn’t something that occupies your thoughts over the winter, so I’m going to try and put together some quick n0tes and links concerning the Royals, baseball and even some things unrelated to baseball.  This way you can keep checking in over here and keep up to date with anything you’ve missed and to get that quick much-needed baseball fix.

  • In his latest blog post (ESPN Insider required), Buster Olney says that the Royals “intend to listen to any and all offers” for Zack Greinke.  This really isn’t anything new.  I’d imagine any general manager in baseball would listen to any offer for any player, it’s what a GM does.  What may be different is the fact that this information probably came from high up in the Royals organization, to get the word out to other general managers around baseball.  Until Greinke is either re-signed or traded, this kind of talk will just keep bubbling up.
  • Speaking of the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, here is a great article about Ned Yost heading down to check out the young Royals prospects in Puerto Rico.  I really liked this gesture by the Royals manager.  I’ve always maintained that at least 60% of a managers job is off the field.  Earning the respect of your players before they even come to the Majors seems like a really good idea to me.
  • The Royals announced that they acquired pitcher Kevin Pucetas from the San Francisco Gians to complete the Jose Guillen trade.  Here is an article with some quotes from Pucetas on the trade.  Pucetas is a 25 year old right-handed pitcher with a 3.73 ERA in 120 Minor League innings.
  • Conor Glassey at Baseball America has a scouting report on 5th round pick Jason Adam from Blue Valley.  The velocity on his fastball (91-94 touching 97) is something to be very excited about.  He still needs work on his off-speed stuff, but so do most 18 year olds.
  • Billy Butler got a new agent, and is now with Greg Genske Legacy Sports.  It’s a pretty big name in the business, and Butler will be going through arbitration for the first time this winter.
  • The guys over at I-70 Baseball are going to be taking a look back at the 1985 World Series in honor of the anniversary.  I’m pretty excited to check it out.
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