Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

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.

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

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

Here’s my ballot (and justification.)

1 -Zack Greinke

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

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

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

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

2 – Joakim Soria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT?

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

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

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

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

So my third place vote goes to…

3 – Kyle Farnsworth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The similarities between Colon and Troy Tulowitzki:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Billy Butler

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

2 – David DeJesus

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

3 – Wilson Betemit

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

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

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

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

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

Royals Playing In The Arizona Fall League

Danny Duffy (LHP)

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

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

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

Patrick Keating (RHP)

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

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

Mike Montgomery (LHP)

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

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

Brandon Sisk (LHP)

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

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

Salvador Perez (C)

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

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

Johnny Giavotella (2B)

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

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

Eric Hosmer (1B)

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

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

Derrick Robinson (CF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History being made, the celebration ensues.

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

Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

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