Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview),  first base, second base, third base and shortstop.

Due to some forces out of my control, the stats I’ll be showing here to start things off have changed.  So I apologize for not keeping things identical for all of these posts.  Let’s take a look at the stats of the players who got the most time in left field.

I was never a fan of Scott Podsednik and I thought prior to the season that there was absolutely no way he would repeat the year he had in 2009.  On that front, I was wrong.  He posted numbers that actually surpassed his 2009 numbers in many categories.  I thought that signing him was foolish, but I was only using the information that I had available to me.  It’s quite possible that Podsednik changed is approach in 2009 and that change is what prompted his statistical increase.  If that’s so, kudos to the Royals front office for gathering that information and using it to their benefit.  If not, kudos again to the Royals for being exceedingly lucky.  Podsednik ended up being an average offensive left fielder and was eventually traded to the Dodgers for Elisaul Pimentel and Luke May.  Defensively, I thought that Podsednik was a disaster who seemed to make spectacular plays on occasion, but usually because he took a bad route to a ball and had to make up for it by diving.

Alex Gordon took over for Scott Podsednik after the trade and didn’t do a whole lot to repair his reputation.  He did hit for better power than Podsednik; he had more doubles and homeruns with the same number of triples in 200 fewer plate appearances.  However, he didn’t get on base nearly as often as Podsednik and that single handedly destroyed his offensive output.  Gordon took nearly as many walks as Podsednik did, but he didn’t hit nearly as many singles.

Let’s take a look at how the unit as a whole stacked up to the rest of the American League.

As a unit, the Royals left fielders ranked 9th in wOBA and 8th in OPS.  It’s interesting to see the unit’s numbers as a whole considering the very different approaches used by Gordon and Podsednik.  Being eighth or ninth in a category isn’t an offensive killer, but is pretty interesting to note that the teams which made the playoffs took four of the top five spots.  It could be a coincidence, or it could mean that having a strong offensive left fielder is a key to success.  I’d love to see someone do some research and see if there is a correlation with offensive output at any single position and success.  If you know of an article like that, point me to it.

In 2011, Alex Gordon is likely going to get a full season to prove that he can contribute at the Major League Level.  Personally I still believe he can turn it around.  He has shown very good strike zone judgment and decent power.  Two very difficult things to learn.  If he can strike out less and get on base more, he could be a valuable asset.  At this point, nobody is breathing down his neck since the Royals are thin in the outfield department.  I’d imagine that along with starting pitching, outfield is where Dayton Moore will spend money and resources this off-season.

Generally in the off-season, I eagerly devour any news or rumor related to the Royals.   A big part of not being very good for a number of years is the ever present hope of getting better.   The quickest way to get better is to make moves in the off-season.   Right now, however, I click on MLBTraderumors or other sites with one eye closed, ever fearful that the ‘Kevin Millwood signed by the Royals’ headline will appear.

It is not that I despise Kevin Millwood.  He has, in the past, been a pretty solid major league pitcher.   Signing him reminds me of the scene in ‘Major League’ when Jake Taylor shows up for spring training;

“Hey, that’s Jake Taylor.  I wish we had him two years ago.”

“We did.”

“Well, I wish we had him four years ago.”

Sure, the very real possibility exists that Sean O’Sullivan or Kyle Davies or Vin Mazzaro or even Luke Hochevar might post months worth of plus six earned run averages.   That is something that Millwood is unlikely to do.   At this point in his career, Kevin is probably a guy you can count on to gut out five innings or so with an ERA around five.   He is Odalis Perez or Scott Elarton or Mark Redman or whomever.

The point is, what’s the point?

When you factor in that a number of teams ‘have interest’ in Millwood, that likely means he is not one year bargain priced veteran to help the transition of the soon to be arriving youngsters to the majors.    Instead, a Millwood signing by the Royals would seem to fall into the ‘couple million dollars too many with an extra year for no reason’ category in which all too many of Dayton Moore’s free agent signees fall.

A saw a tweet or a comment somewhere along the lines that ‘only losing teams seem to have a need for an innings eater’ and I could not agree more.

The big supposed upside to a signing of Millwood or a Millwood-type is the veteran leadership quality.    Over here on the statistical side of baseball, that is a quality often mocked or discounted, but it is a very real part of successful baseball teams.   That said, I am reminded of Terry Pendleton back in his brief days with the Royals saying ‘it’s hard to be a leader when you are hitting .213.’

In the leadership category, don’t the Royals already have one in Gil Meche?   Sure, he is not a starter anymore, but he is still pitching.   Gil, in fact, is pitching out of the bullpen when he could be sitting on a beach somewhere earning $12 million while he waited for his shoulder to heal.

It seems like a lot of my columns of late lead back to The Process and this one turns out to be no different.   Do you trust it or not?   If you do, then you soldier on in 2011 and patiently wait for the great infusion of young talent to appear next summer and certainly the year after that.    If you don’t, then you sign Kevin Millwood and Jeff Francouer in a misguided hope that you can go 72-90 instead of 68-94.

Kevin Millwood, I’m sure, is a heckuva guy and solid professional, but let me put in my vote for ‘no thanks.’

Yeah, it’s kind of cliche, but it’s not such a bad idea to take stock from time to time and give a little bit of thanks.  Despite the continuing struggles with the Royals and despite the fact that the 2011 season is shaping up to be kind of brutal at the major league level,  if you look close enough you can still find a few positives.

So with Thanksgiving just past, here’s what I’m thankful for as a Royals fan.

I’m thankful for…

– Billy Butler’s line drive ability and his proclivity for doubles.  Doubles… Not double plays.

– Joakim Soria’s amazing curve ball.  Described in these parts as “baseball porn.”

– Zack Greinke’s slider.  Even though he got a swing and a miss on it only 18.6% of the time last summer.  Compared to 2009’s swing and a miss rate of 23.4%.

– The Royals minor league system that suddenly is a source of optimism.

– This being the last season where I have to put up with watching Yuniesky Betancourt.  Unless GMDM does something colossally insane, like picking up his $6 million club option for 2012.

– Redundant waiver claims (Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadzki anyone?) because it gives me something to write about in November.

– Alex Gordon’s smooth transition to left and the fact there’s still a glimmer (however faint) that he can possibly put together a solid offensive season.

– Clint Robinson’s Texas League Triple Crown.  Sure it was Double-A, but a Triple Crown is a Triple Crown.  Cool that he earned a spot on the 40-man roster and a likely spot in Omaha with an eye on Kansas City next summer.

– Eric Hosmer’s swing being compared to Will Clark’s swing.

– Kila Ka’iahue.

– That someone will probably overpay Bruce Chen this winter, giving him at least a two year contract.

– The fact it won’t be with the Royals.

– Trey Hillman finding employment with the Dodgers.  Is there any way to set up an alert to let me know when Don Mattingly gets ejected from games?  I really want to watch Hillman manage a team I don’t care about, so I can gawk like a car crash.

– My colleagues and readers of Royals Authority.  This may sound cheesy, but it’s incredibly fun to be a part of the internet community that make up the fans of this team.

Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.  I hope you had an outstanding holiday.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have an opinion on the new name of the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate.   My only real opinion is that I don’t like teams changing names, be it good or bad, and as such the new Omaha Stormchasers is nothing that gets me excited.

What does get me excited, however, is the Omaha team’s possible lineup next April.   Perhaps as much as anything else, it will represent just how much potential progress the Royals’ organization has made under Dayton Moore.

After years of being the depository of has-beens, almosts and never-weres, the Omaha Royals/Stormchasers are going to offer a somewhat breathtaking array of talent when they take the field next April.   Gone are the days of Brian Buchanan, Gookie Dawkins, Seth Etherton and Brandon Duckworth (all fine humans, I’m sure, but not exactly the solution to any major league problem that might arise during a season).   Instead, the Stormchasers might well roll out this lineup when they open up in their new stadium next spring:

Derrick Robinson, CF

Johnny Giavotella, 2B

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Eric Hosmer, 1B

Clint Robinson, DH

David Lough, RF

Paulo Orlando, LF

Jeff Bianchi, SS

Manny Pina, C

It may be a stretch to have Bianchi at shortstop that early, but he should figure into the mix at some point.   It is also possible that David Lough could well open 2011 in Kansas City, but for now we will start him off in Omaha.

When you couple this lineup with what is likely to be a bullpen stocked with near major league ready homegrown talent (Louis Coleman, Blaine Hardy, et.al.) and a starting rotation which at some point will include Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer (maybe even Aaron Crow), it will be hard to resist making a trek or two to Omaha in 2011.

While the organizational pitching depth is near legendary status at this point, the real positive about the Omaha roster next season is the position players who are not on it.

Just a rung below, we are likely to see Wil Myers (be it at catcher or in the outfield), middle infielder of the near future Christian Colon and catching prospect Salvador Perez.   When is the last time you could look at the AA and AAA batting orders and say with some degree of confidence that there were five or six future major league regulars playing?

2011 might well be a tough year to be a Kansas City Royals’ fan, but if you can tolerate the new name, it will be a fun year to be a fan of the Stormchasers.

This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position.  You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview),  first base, second base and third base.

First, let’s take a look at some of the players who played shortstop and how they hit while they played the position.

Willie Bloomquist got one game at short and Mike Aviles got thirteen, but the real story of the position is Yuniesky Betancourt.  Betancourt played the position day after day and he was never put in any other spot.  The numbers that we’ll see below come almost exclusively from Yuniesky, so he’s the one guys stats above.  The case of Betancourt is extremely interesting.  His existence on the team is representative of so many different things depending on who you ask.  Some people will tell you that he represents the absolute failure of Dayton Moore at the Major League level.  Others believe he is representative of the absolute trainwreck that the shortstop position has been for the Royals.  Still others will tell you he’s one of the best players on the team and and they’ll be countered with arguments that are nearly the polar opposite.  Those discussions will rage on as long as he’s on the team, and they’ve been analyzed at this site as well.  So, let’s just try and look at the numbers without the bias of our feelings towards the Yunigma.

One thing you can say is that Betancourt was durable.  He played 151 games at a position which gets a lot of work during a season.  Sometimes I forget about the durability issue with players, and I think that as a whole we underrate it.  The ability to stay healthy, whether it’s luck, conditioning or some combination could be in my mind the 6th tool for a baseball player.  Beyond durability, Yuniesky showed decent homerun totals for a shortstop by mashing 16 bombs.  He still doesn’t get on base at a rate which is respectable, and the combination of a burst of power and his lack of getting on base translated into an average offensive shortstop.    Lets see how the Royals shorstops compared to the rest of the league.

Clearly, with 151 of 162 games Yuniesky’s numbers mirror those of the entire Royals shortstop corps.  The numbers rank right about in the middle, not spectacular but not terrible.    What’s odd are that the very stark differences in the Royals numbers with those surrounding them.  Yuniesky is an extreme hitter, which makes the extreme as well.    The Royals shortstops had the lowest strikeout rate in the AL (shocked me), and the second lowest walk rate (didn’t shock me).  That clearly translated into a low OBP (11th) and an ok batting average (8th), but the one skill which propelled the Royals to the middle of the pack was the SLG (4th).

I’d imagine even the most die-hard Yuni supporter will admit that the power he showed in 2010 was likely an aberration, and therefore unsustainable.  The Royals are on the hook for $1.62m to Yuniesky in 2011, so it’s an almost certainty that barring injury he gets nearly the same number of games in 2011 that he got in 2010.  Mike Aviles’ arm has likely fully healed from his Tommy John surgery and could pick up some more time at SS as the Royals attempt to work out the third base and second base situations.  Christian Colon was drafted in the first round in 2010 and had a solid debut in his first professional season.  He’s unlikely to be ready to play in 2011, but he could be in the mix for 2012.

I admit, there is something nice about a regular contributor at shortstop who can hit for some power and who can play every day.  I don’t believe that Yuniesky is anything more than a stop-gap and what happens in the post-Yunigma era will be a very important decision for Dayton Moore.

Today is zero hour for the Royals to set their 40-man roster ahead of the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

The rules for the Rule 5 draft are fairly straight forward and simple.  Players eligible for the Rule 5 draft include those who were signed at age 19 and older and have been with a team for four years, and those who were signed at 18 or younger and have been with their team for five years.

Complicating matters for the Royals leading up to the deadline is the fact they are a young organization.  Players eligible for the draft are college players selected in Dayton Moore’s first draft. (For clarification, I’m calling 2007 as GMDM’s first draft.)  When you have a team as stacked in the minors as the Royals are it creates quite the conundrum.

Further complicating matters is the fact the Royals still have… let’s be nice and say they have issues when it comes to acquiring players to fill out their roster.   Case in point:  this month they claimed Joaquin Arias off waivers from the New York Mets.  Not a great claim, but the Royals felt they needed a backup in the middle infield.  Fine.  Except then they claimed Lance Zawadzki from the San Diego Padres.  Basically, the same player – a utility middle infielder who isn’t good enough to hold down a regular role on a half-decent team.

So now, through the magic of two waiver claims, the Royals have filled two spots on their 40-man roster with what we will call surplus.  They don’t really need either one of these guys and they certainly don’t need both.

Then there’s the fact the Royals are mindful of the future.  In other words, we all expect Mike Moustakas to make his debut at some point in the 2011 season.  Because he’s not eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there’s no reason to put him on the 40-man roster at this point.  Still, if the Royals do bring him to Kansas City at some point next summer, they will need to clear a spot for him on the 40-man.

The Royals won’t want to place a player on the 40-man roster now and then have to remove him during the season.  There’s a much better chance for a player to be claimed off waivers than to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

It’s a complicated process.  Dayton Moore has said he will protect three to five players.  Here’s who I think the Royals protect.

Everett Teaford – Since teams have to keep players selected in the Rule 5 on their 25-man roster during the season, these drafts feature a run on pitching.  It’s basically easier to bury a pitcher at the back end of a bullpen, that to keep a bat on what has typically become a very thin bench.  Of all the Royals pitchers eligible for the draft, Teaford is the best of the bunch.  He threw 99 innings last summer for Northwest Arkansas and posted a 3.36 ERA and featured a strikeout rate of 10.3 SO/9.  His control was exceptional as well, with a walk rate of 2.9 BB/9.

He’s an automatic add to the 40-man roster.

Clint Robinson – This one is questionable.  He turns 26 in February and has yet to progress past Double-A.  Except this summer in Northwest Arkansas all the guy did was hit .335/.410/.625 while winning the Texas League triple crown.  As a first baseman, he’s sandwiched between Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihuie in the majors and Eric Hosmer in the minors.

Still, his monster year in AA was too good to ignore.

David Lough – Lough has been compared to David DeJesus and with DeJesus gone, now is Lough’s chance to show us how accurate those comparisons are.  A little speed, modest power and the ability to make contact does make him sound like DeJesus version 2.0.  Last year he hit .280/.346/.437 for Omaha, so he’s basically ready to make the move for to the majors.  You don’t leave players this close to the majors unprotected.  Someone will take him.  Plus, with the current roster thin on outfielders, there’s a chance he will open the season as a starter.

Another automatic choice.

That’s it.  Those are my three.  That means three must go.  I leave players like Derrick Robinson and Paulo Orlando exposed.  Those guys won’t be drafted as they’re marginal major league players at this point in their careers.  Same for pitchers Eduardo Paulino and Mario Santiago.  Their skill sets won’t translate well to the majors at this point in their respective careers.

Fortunately, even though the Royals needlessly added a pair of utility infielders, there’s still plenty of fat to trim off this roster.

I think Gaby Hernandez is gone for sure.  Once upon a time he dominated in the lower minors, but as he progressed he started catching too much of the plate and became incredibly hittable.  He’s one the wrong side of the fringe.

Victor Marte has done well in Triple-A, but has been absolutely battered in a pair of turns in the majors.  The guy just doesn’t miss enough bats and doesn’t have the stuff to survive in the major leagues.

Then there’s a coin flip between Bryan Bullington and Phillip Humber.  I think one of these guys will go.  The one who remains will get a shot at the back end of the Royals rotation.  Or perhaps in the bullpen as a swingman.

Those are my choices.  Get in early and leave yours in the comments.

Episode #036 – Royals Authority writer Craig Brown joins Nick in this episode of the podcast.  They talk about Dejesus, Upton, Greinke, the Storm Chasers, Sporting KC and how Clark is totally blowing it if he doesn’t see baseball in Puerto Rico.  All that plus some other random musings on the Royals and baseball.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs036.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Craig on Twitter @royalsauthority

Music used in this podcast:

The Replacements – I Will Dare

Sir Richard Bishop – Zurvan

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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 you probably know, I’m a John Buck fan.  By “fan,” I mean I really would have liked for the Royals to keep him over Miguel Olivo last winter and avoided signing Jason Kendall.  Buck is an adequate backstop with power.  There’s some value in that.  Yesterday, we learned exactly how much value as he signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Florida Marlins.

Come again?

Just when you think you have baseball economics figured out, someone comes along and just blasts the conventional wisdom right out of the water.  As much as I like Buck, I always thought him to play out the rest of his career as kind of a journeyman… A series of single year deals that would pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 or $3 million per.  But a multi-year commitment that will net him $6 million a year?  Wow.

And now we can say we knew him when.  Unfortunately, he’s now in South Florida.  Baseball’s Siberia.

The Buck news (and subsequent insane Dan Uggla deal) pushed the potential big rumor of the day to the back pages of the internet. (I know… mixed metaphor alert.)  Allegedly, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a bit of buyers remorse on Justin Upton and are listening to offers for their outfielder.  Upton hit .273/.356/.422 in 571 plate appearances – numbers down from his stellar 2009 campaign where he hit .300/.366/.532 in roughly the same number of plate appearances.

Whomever deals for Upton (assuming the Diamondbacks are serious and actually pull the trigger) will be getting a 23 year old outfielder who is signed through 2015 and is owed roughly $49 million.  And is likely a bargain.

This presents an interesting question if you’re Royals general manager Dayton Moore.  Upton is an A List talent locked in to what should be a very favorable contract, so as such, he will demand an A List return.  The Royals have the players at their disposal to make the deal.  We know how their minor league system is stocked to the gills with young, promising talent.

So the question is, do the Royals partially disassemble their minor league system by dealing a couple of their top prospects in exchange for a young outfielder who has proven he can hit in the major leagues?  Do you ship potential in exchange for a player who has proven he can perform at the major league level?

What would it take?  Two top ten prospects?  An arm and a bat? If that’s the case, I think I pull the trigger.    Sure the trade could backfire for a number of reasons (injury by Upton, both prospects become All-Stars, etc.) but in the cases where you can deal potential for proven ability – especially when the player with proven ability is only 23 – you kind of have to do it.

However, if Dayton Moore doesn’t want to ship off a pair of his prized prospects, there’s an alternative…

How about shipping Zack Greinke to Arizona along with another mid-level prospect in exchange for Upton?

Think about that one for a moment… (Although I can hear the chorus of “Hell, yeahs!” all the way from my mom’s basement.)

Greinke has publicly called into question his desire to remain in Kansas City for another youth movement.  He has a limited no-trade clause that we know blocks deals to large market teams, presumably because he doesn’t want to pitch under the microscope that comes with playing for a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies.  The Royals are in a payroll conscious frame of mind and swapping a $12 million salary for the $11 million Upton is due over the next two seasons seems like something that would appeal to the Royal bean counters.

Of course, I haven’t touched on the big reason to make the trade… Upton could become the best power hitting corner outfielder for the Royals since… Danny Tartabull?  Wow.

For Arizona this deal makes some sense as well.  Everyone needs starting pitching, but the Diamondbacks have more than a few openings.  Greinke is signed for the next two years and in the topsy-turvy NL West, all it takes is some stability to be in the race.  Greinke wouldn’t automatically make them a contender, but he would certainly move them closer.  Besides, think about him taking a few turns in San Francisco and San Diego a couple of times a year.  (Even at home… Those are traditionally a pair of weak-hitting teams.)  Greinke could move to Arizona and pull a Lincecum and win back to back Cy Young awards.

If I’m Dayton Moore, I’m kicking the tires on Upton and thinking of sending Greinke on his way to the desert.  If Arizona is amenable, I’d make this trade in a heartbeat.

If they do make a deal like this, it would seem to accelerate the timetable, wouldn’t it?  Even though Upton would be here until 2015, the Royals would need to move their prospects along to where a majority of them would have to make their debuts in 2012.  (Regardless, this is likely to happen – I’m thinking an Upton deal would really push their hand.)  You figure the young nucleus of hitters and especially the pitchers will need a couple years of major league seasoning before the Royals can seriously consider themselves contenders.  That means a playoff push could happen in 2014, which means we would have two years of in-his-prime Upton to complement the young, developing, championship players.

You will hear no argument from me.

I am going to take a break from my normal routine here and pause the positional season in review posts I’ve been putting up.  To be honest, the main reason is because I’ve been very sick and my brain is only at about a quarter capacity.  Instead for my regular Tuesday installment, I am going to just do some bullets and notes from around the Royals and baseball.  When you’re sick, it’s always best to let other people do most of the heavy lifting.  So let’s just get right into it.

  • First, let’s start with some tone setting music, John Zorn’s Electric Masada – Kairaim Part 1 and Part 2.
  • It’s not Royals related, but in a way it’s Kansas City related.  John Klima at Baseball Beginnings writes The Last .400 Hitter, about Artie Wilson who hit .402 in the Negro American League.  Also, if you are not, you should consider becoming a member of the Negro League Museum.
  • The Royals named Lonnie Goldberg the new Director of Scouting.  The title of the article was “Goldberg named new KC director of scouting” and I’m not gonna lie, I was like “wow, Joel Goldberg is getting out of the TV game?”  Lonnie Goldberg has been with the Royals since 2007 and was the director of baseball operations.
  • I found this to be hilarious.  I know that the likely audience of people who would enjoy pitch f/x comedy is small, but I am in that small group.
  • Jeff Zimmerman at Royals Review asks David Glass to vote for Marvin Miller for the Hall of Fame.  I agree 100%.
  • The Omaha Royals have been re-named the Omaha Storm Chasers.  Yes, seriously.  I expected to read Minda Haas ripping it apart, but she’s not.  I’ll defer to her on this and accept it.
  • Todd Gold of Perfect Game has a scouting report from the AFL Rising Stars game at Royals Prospects.  I came away from the game thinking that Mike Montgomery had electric stuff, but needed to be more consistent.  However it was only two innings.
    .
  • Phil Wood of MASN writes “I was told by someone privy to the situation that there indeed have been preliminary discussions between the Nationals and the Royals regarding righthander Zack Greinke.” He goes on to say “As the story goes, K.C. GM Dayton Moore…believes that any Nationals’ package would have to begin with either pitcher Jordan Zimmerman or shortstop Ian Desmond.” To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about either of these guys.  What do you think?
    .
  • Baseball America has posted their Top 10 Royals prospects.  They agree with me and have Eric Hosmer at the top.  Brett Eibner the 2010 draft pick out of the University of Arkansas is number 10, he’ll be someone to keep an eye on in 2011 along with Salvador Perez.
  • Clark and I discussed the David Dejesus trade in detail on the podcast last week, but I never got to write down my thoughts.  The questions come down to these:

1. Is this good return for Dejesus? It’s hard to tell, and we won’t know until time has passed. But the Royals are giving up only one season of a corner outfielder without power who is coming off of a season ending hand injury. The needed return for that isn’t extremely high.
2. Why did it happen so early? I figure Dayton Moore has been trying to deal Dejesus for a year now and has a pretty good idea of what his value on the market is. While it’s early in the off-season, its not early in the Dejesus talks.

  • Former Royal Ed Kirkpatrick died on Monday. He was 66.  He was a member of the original 1969 Royals and was on the team until he was traded in 1973 with Winston Cole and Kurt Bevacqua to the Pirates for Nelson Briles and Fernando Gonzalez.

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.

Player development is anything but an exact science.   Individual players, just like individuals in general, all have subtle and not so subtle differences in their histories and personalities that effect what and how they go through life.

In baseball, it begins with simply how much you played the game as an amateur, at what level and against what sort of competition.   By the very quirks of a given region, a good right handed hitter coming out of high school might be able to count the number of left handed pitchers they had faced on one hand.    A college junior might have moved seamlessly from rec league to club league to high school to college and never hit less than .350 in his life, only to step in against some seventeen year old punk in the Low A ball that throws harder than anyone he has ever faced.

As a general manager, you likely have an idea as to when your high draft picks might make the majors, but one can never be sure when what seems like a realistic timeline gets blown to bits by a never before encountered one for forty streak that suddenly makes an ultra-confident young player feel very fallible.

In a roundabout way, that brings us to the Royals’ Mike Moustakas.   Greg Holland was the first Dayton Moore draftee to make the big leagues, but Moustakas is the first name prospect that is going to get there.   The question is simply, when?

Given that player development is inexact in nature, I did some pretty inexact research into this area.   Very simply, I reviewed the player development history of the majority of the 2010 third basemen.    Those that were college draftees like Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria were sorted out, as were players who were shortstops coming up (A-Rod, Jhonny Peralta, etc.) and guys that were simply kind of oddities (I’m looking at you Jose Bautista).   That left us with a group of either high school draftees or Latin American free agents signed as teenagers.

Let’s take a look at that list and the time they spent in the minors:

  • Adrian Beltre.   My feeble recollection is that Beltre might have been signed at the age of fifteen, but his American professional career began at age seventeen.   Beltre played 154 games in A ball over two seasons before moving to AA to start 1998.  He appeared in 64 games at that level before debuting with the Dodgers in June and has been a major leaguer ever since.
  • Scott Rolen.   Yes, long ago, Scott Rolen was young.   He appeared in 25 rookie league games after signing out of high school, 204 at A ball and 81 more at AA.   After 45 games in AA, Rolen got the call and, like Beltre, has been in the majors since that time.
  • David Wright.   The Mets had an interesting plan with Wright.   They started slow with David, giving him 36 rookie league games and 168 more in A ball.   In 2004, however, Wright began the season in AA (60 games), played 30 more in AAA and was in the majors by July.   That would be a very close developmental equivalent to Mike Moustakas having made his major league debut last summer.
  • Pablo Sandoval.   The Round Mound of Pound (c’mon, deep down you all like to say that, don’t you?), played 46 rookie league games and then 287 in A ball.  Sandoval then moved to AA for 44 games and then to the majors in August of 2008.
  • Aramis Ramirez.   He went straight to A ball, where Aramis stayed for 204 games.   Skipping AA entirely, Ramirez then played 222 games in AAA before sticking the majors for good.
  • Chipper Jones.   Ah, this is the name you were wondering about wasn’t it?   Jones say action in 44 rookie league games, 136 A ball contests and 67 more in AA.   He got a cup of major league coffee in September of 1993, but played in 139 AAA games the following year before becoming a fixture in the Atlanta lineup.

Now, compare those game totals to that of Mike Moustakas.    After 11 rookie league games late in 2007, Mike played in 255 A ball games over the next two season.  Last year, he dominated AA for 66 games and then moved onto AAA Omaha for 52 more contests.   That is a total of 384 minor league games, two less than Chipper Jones played in.

Of the six players reviewed above, Adrian Beltre was the quickest to the majors (218 games), while Aramis Ramirez took the longest (426 games).   Ramirez and Chipper Jones were the only two to spend more than a couple of months in AAA.   All these players, like Moustakas, spent close to two seasons in A ball and from there, with the exception of Ramirez, vaulted pretty quickly into the majors.

As I indicated above, six players does not a thorough study make, but it does show a bit of a precedent in that six different organizations at different points in time decided that somewhere this side of 400 games was enough seasoning for a highly thought of third base prospect.

With Moustakas, of course, the Royals have some contractual time lines to consider as well.   Delaying his major league debut until June would like save them a year of arbitration with Moustakas and buy another season before Mike would be eligible for free agency.   That kind of talk is annoying to be sure, but a valid consideration for a team that is not going anywhere in 2011.

All the above considered, it might well be that the overriding consideration with Moustakas might well be at what point the Royals believe they can bring him up and not have Mike become a ‘Super-Two’ with regard to salary arbitration after the 2013 season.

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