Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

There is an excellent that this column will be out of date before Monday night.   Ned Yost hinted after today’s loss to the Rangers that roster moves might come as early as Monday as the Royals attempt to pare down the active roster from 40 to the Opening Day 25.

Sunday morning, Bob Dutton summed up the position battles quite well.  He throws a few extra names into the equation to account for the players still in camp, but the truth is there is very little going on that is new.

At catcher, it seems a virtual certainty that Jason Kendall will open the season on the disabled list.   An aging veteran, rushing back from major shoulder surgery and coming off a disappointing offensive season – it seems appropriate to give him an extra couple of weeks.   That also provides the Royals some time to further evaluate Brayan Pena and Lucas May or, at least, delay the decision.   Given that both are out of options, I cannot see any reason not to start Manny Pina in AAA.

As Dutton details, the infield situation really comes down to whether Kansas City wants to see Chris Getz try to hit on an everyday basis.  The options are Lance Zawadski or Pedro Feliz (yes, Irving Falu is in the mix, but he really isn’t) and it is hard to see a reason why to not give Getz one more shot if those are your options.   Truthfully, Getz will have somewhere from sixty to ninety days to give the Royals a reason not to play Mike Aviles at second when Mike Moustakas gets the call up.  Obviously, Billy Butler, Kila Ka’aihue, Alcides Escobar, Wilson Betemit and Aviles are locks. 

Even Dutton admits that the starting unit was ‘set in the off-season’ and that mentality held even after the Royals acquired Lorenzo Cain.  Correctly, the organization wants Cain to play every day:  he will start out the year doing so in Omaha.   My guess is a lot of you who read this site (and those of us who write it) probably would prefer otherwise, but it is what it is:  Melky Cabrera is your centerfielder.   With Gordon, who has had a great spring, and Franceour, who has not, flanking Melky, it has long been assumed that Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier (both out of options) would be the fourth and fifth outfielders.   Recently, there have been rumblings of something different.

Jarrod Dyson, who probaby had the centerfield job a Melky Cabrera and Lorenzo Cain ago, is back in the mix.   What Dyson brings is tremendous speed on the bases and in the field.  While the jury is well out on whether Dyson can hit at all in the majors, he is at least different from the very sameness of Maier of Blanco.

Would it be completely silly to carry a player who would be used solely for late inning defense and pinch running?    That Ned Yost has been giving Wilson Betemit time at first lately, specifically to ‘play first if Kila or Billy is pinch run for’, tell me that Yost is at least considering the idea.

The pitching staff is not a whole lot clearer than it was last Monday although it now seems certain that they will break camp with just four starters:  Hochever, Francis, Davies and Chen.   Come mid-April, they will need to pick either Sean O’Sullivan or Vin Mazzaro for the fifth starter and make another roster decision at that point.   There is an outside chance that Mike Montgomery gets the nod here, too, but as much as we and the Royals would love to see him in the big league rotation that is probably a move best saved for summertime.

The bullpen, as ludicrous as it sounds, is quite likely to head north with EIGHT pitchers.  The obvious are Joakim Soria, Robinson Tejeda and Jeremy Jeffress, but after that it gets pretty muddled.   Little lefty Tim Collins is a near lock, but a rough outing a few nights ago did not help his cause.   Ned Yost, the man who would prefer to have two lefties in the pen, sure as heck is not going to Kansas City with the only southpaw being Rule 5 Robert Fish, who he has seen throw two innings in his life.  So, make Collins a lock after all.

The inside track right now for two more spots would seem to be Kanekoe Texiera and Luis Mendoza.   This organization is a sucker for new deliveries, better arm angles and solid spring performances.  Hey, it worked for Bruce Chen last year, why not try it, again?

Mendoza and Texiera would seem to be in direct competition with Blake Wood (who seems to be headed to Omaha), Greg Holland, Louis Coleman and even Aaron Crow (although I think that is unlikely).   Could it be as simple as the fact that Texiera and Holland already have 40 man roster spots?  On a team that is frankly going to use 2011 as an extended spring training, that might be the deciding factor.

That leaves two more spots in this eight man pen:  one permanent and one available only until April 16th when the team will need a fifth starter.   Given what he has done this spring (and yes I know it is just spring), Nathan Adcock would seem to have pitched himself onto this team.   As a Rule 5 guy he obviously have to stay on the 25 man roster all year, but he seems to have done enough to at least start down that road.

Speaking of an open spot and Rule 5, enter lefty Robert Fish.  This acquisition was extremely curious given that Kansas City already had one Rule 5 pitcher in camp and that it occurred relatively late into camp.   Fish throws hard and from the left side, which is a good way to get a shot.   It might be enough to keep Fish around through mid-April and decide if he is worth trying to work out a deal to keep him as I think it is unlikely Ned Yost wants to nurse two Rule 5 guys through an entire season.

The Royals could break camp with an extra infielder (Zawadzki would be the one given Feliz’s $800,000 deal should he stick with the big club), but I have a hunch they will introduce an extra reliever to the Opening Day crowd on March 31st.

The hits just keep coming… The latest a 15 hit attack against the Mariners on Thursday night.  The top of the order did the heavy lifting with Jarrod Dyson collecting three hits and Lorenzo Cain and Billy Butler picking up two each.  One of Butler’s hits was a solo home run off Felix Hernandez.

As much fun as it is to see Dyson and Cain experiencing spring success, in a way it’s bitter sweet because of The Promises. You know the two youngster will probably be doing their thing in Omaha to open the year.  Oh, well…

Speaking of young players, now that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have been reassigned to minor league camp, doesn’t that take some of the luster off these spring games?  I’ve written before about how once the initial excitement that baseball is back, these exhibition contests fall into a somewhat boring pattern.  Usually.  I didn’t feel that way this month and it was mainly because of the young players.  Too bad there isn’t more TV coverage because the MLB radio guy covering the Royals just couldn’t do them justice.  Twitter was more compelling.

I know a bunch of people (lucky people) who are going to Surprise in the next couple of weeks, and they plan to stick to the back fields to watch the minor leaguers.  That’s a capital idea, as they say.

Luis Mendoza didn’t hurt his chances with three innings of one hit ball. Included was four strikeouts.  He’s now thrown over 10 innings and allowed just two hits and two walks.  Both of those free passes coming on Thursday.  Not that I have confidence in him to repeat that performance once the calendar changes.  Still, as I said before, sometimes there is something so crazy about a particular spring stat that it makes you take notice.  Two hits (and no runs) in 10 innings is that kind of stat.  Couple that with a supposed change in his mechanics and you can understand how the Royals would give serious consideration to the guy who struck out just four batters per nine in Omaha last year en route to a 4.10 ERA.

He’s certainly in the bullpen mix from here on out.

And finally, have you made plans to join us at The Well next week?  Check the sidebar for details, but lets just say if you show up, you’ll be witness to history as rumor has it that Nick, Clark and myself have never been seen together in public. That’s because we never leave the house. Except for beer and baseball…

Jason Kendall is coming back, and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Actually, that a thirty-six year old, fifteen year veteran busts his rear end to get back from major shoulder surgery is admirable.  Jason Kendall will get paid $3,750,000 whether he is ready to play March 31st or August 31st.  That he is pushing himself this hard to return early is truly commendable.

Jason Kendall takes a lot of heat, much of it deserved, on this site and others, but the truth is that much of it is not his fault.   It’s not his fault Dayton Moore offered two years and six million dollars.   It is also not Kendall’s fault that Ned Yost and Trey Hillman insisted on batting him second even though he had not posted an even average OPS+ since 2004.   As major league managers, it is also their fault, not Kendall’s, that they played him every day.

Sure, Jason doesn’t have to be such a jerk on the days when he is not in the lineup and he can be a bit of a condescending assclown when it comes to dealing with the press and fans.   Still, we cannot fault a guy for wanting to play baseball and busting his ass to do so.

Playing baseball, however, is the key phrase in all the above and Jason Kendall is not what he used to be when it comes to that skill.   Last season, Jason hit a very skinny .256/.318/.297 for an OPS+ of just 71.   His traditional OPS of .615 was the worst mark among all catchers with more than 300 plate appearances, as was his slugging percentage.  

It is not that the Royals had a ton of options to amp up the offense from behind the plate, however.   While almost all of us think Brayan Pena brings more offense to the position, his 2010 line of .253/.306/.335 (OPS+ of 76) was decidedly Kendall-esque.   Lucas May, in admittedly small sample size of just 39 at-bats, was an anemic .189/.205/.216.

Defensively, we all know that judging catchers is tremendously difficult..  You don’t really need to be a ‘baseball man’ to watch a shortstop play and see if he is a great defender or a poor one.   Discerning a great catcher is much harder, however.   How many times have you given a catcher credit for a pitcher’s good outing?   How do you tell if he even deserves the credit?   We don’t see how many hours a catcher spends studying opposing batters or if he manages to translate those hours of study into an effective game plan.

What we are left with is an inexact science of stolen base percentages, passed balls, wild pitches and the almost absurd ‘catcher’s earned run average.’   As inaccurate as those are, here’s a quick look at the three Royals’ catchers last year:

  • Passed Balls per 9 innings:   Kendall (.053), Pena (.027), May (.444)
  • Wild Pitches per 9 innings:  Kendall (.309), Pena (.401), May (.556)
  • Stolen Bases per 9 innings:  Kendall (.89), Pena (.77), May (.78)

Pena actually was tagged for a passed ball half as often as Kendall (and no, I did not forget a zero in front of May’s number), but I am not sure 337 innings of work on Pena’s part is enough to make much a case.  

Although wild pitches are technically the fault of the pitcher, I do put some stock in the fact that a good defensive catcher does have some role in his hurlers getting tagged with wild pitches.   Using that logic, Kendall was better than Pena who was better than May.

While Pena and Kendall both threw out 29% of potential base stealers, runners took liberty with Kendall more than they did with Pena.   Again, I am not sure this, like any of the above really tells us who is the better defensive catcher.    Frankly, the best defender in the organization is probably Manny Pina, who NO ONE will ever bat second.

The funny thing about this whole situation is that it is very possible that none of these three is a legitimate everyday catcher and yet, the Royals might well break camp with all three of them on the twenty-five man roster.   Here is something even funnier:  I might actually advocate doing so.

Now, as Craig mentioned yesterday, there is really no use for a third catcher, particularly in the American League.  A third catcher who cannot hit and field who plays behind two guys who can’t either is bordering on the insane.    Even more insane is that I think it is unlikely that either Bryan Pena or Lucas May, both out of options, make it through waivers if the Royals try to send them down to the minors.   Baseball is funny that way.

   With no need for a fifth starting pitcher until April 16th and carrying an eighth reliever being even more ridiculous than a third catcher, it opens up a temporary twenty-five man roster spot.    With essentially a free spot to burn, we are faced with these undeniable truths:

  • If healthy, Jason Kendall will play most days.   We can rail against it all we want, but you know it and I know it.
  • We don’t know if Jason Kendall is healthy.
  • Manny Pina has played 17 games above AA ball.
  • The Royals’ catcher of the future, Salvador Perez, has played no games above A ball.
  • Brayan Pena and Lucas May are out of options.

While the possibility remains that Jason Kendall opens the season on the disabled list, my guess is he won’t.   Assuming that Kendall is active, the Royals will be faced with the gnawing uncertainty that he may or may not be truly healthy and, given the pace at which he returned, could be susceptible to re-injury.

As Nick suggested on the most recent podcast, it might make the most sense to go with the veteran Kendall backed by the defensive minded Pina, IF Kendall is healthy.   (Again, by ‘most sense’, keep in mind that we are operating in reality here – the one where you know that Jason Kendall will play virtually everyday.)  Not knowing if Kendall is healthy and will stay healthy dictates that someone with major league experience join him on the roster.   

Enter Brayan Pena, who has hit one year and not hit the next and is, by most accounts, becoming a tolerable catcher.   He is a likable guy, good clubhouse guy considering he almost never gets to play and almost certainly will break camp with the team for the simple reason that he is better than Lucas May and more experienced than Manny Pina.

What about Lucas May then?    He came to the Royals along with pitcher Elisaul Pimentel in exchange for Scott Podsednik.    May did not show a lot in a brief stint with Kansas City last season, but is still a work in progress.   There is some sentiment that he might have some offensive upside…..for a catcher.     Having been in the organization for less than a year, one would think the Royals might like to take a longer look at him.

Now, the world will not end if the Royals try to pass May through waivers and get him a minor league assignment.   Heck, I just spent the better part of this column telling you that none of the Royals’ catchers are very good.    Still, they really don’t know what they have in May and almost certainly would prefer to have Manny Pina catch everyday in Omaha and Salvador Perez do the same everyday in Northwest Arkansas this year.

Keeping May in some fashion protects younger more viable catchers in the system from being rushed to the majors to be a backup should an injury strike down Kendall or Pena.     If the Royals had a roster squeeze, this would not be worth the effort, but they don’t.

The decision to play Lorenzo Cain in Omaha has apparently been made:  an unfortunate side effect of promising Melky Cabrera playing time this winter.   With that the five outfielders are set and the Royals can maintain their hold on the out of options Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier. 

The infield is down to a) is Wilson Betemit healthy and b) can Chris Getz hit?   Lance Zawadzki and Pedro Feliz await those answers and probably, if the Royals really wanted to, one of them could stake claim to this temporary spot in place of the third catcher.   Keep in mind, however, keeping Feliz comes with an $800,000 price tag and the caveat that we will actually have to watch him hit.

In my mind, it will probably be easier to sneak an out of options player through waivers in mid-April than right before breaking camp.   By then, organizations will have their minor league rosters set and be a little less likely to jump on a marginal player from somewhere else.  

So, three catchers?  Really?   It doesn’t make any long term sense at all, but for a brief couple of weeks this spring, it might be the prudent thing to do.

Episode #045 – In this episode, I discuss the Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer getting cut from the Major League team, Alex Gordon Dominating and the Spring Training battles. Clark Fosler joins me to discuss the bullpen and I preview the 2011 Cleveland Indians.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs045.mp3|titles=BBS

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Follow Clark on Twitter @cfosroyalsauth

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New Order – Ceremony

Tom Waits – Heartattack And Vine

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Getting past the off day means we’re all downhill from here as we approach the start of the regular season. (YES!!!)  As Dutton outlined, this is where the competition for spots really begins to gather steam.  Any stats you saw in the early part of the spring, you can safely discard.  While you can probably discard the spring stats that will unfold the rest of the month, from now on those numbers will play a role in setting the 25 man roster the Royals take north for the opener on March 31.

While the Royals maintain there’s still some competition, I maintain most of the roster has been set since camp opened a month ago.  Excepting the bullpen.

The one monkey wrench in all of this could be the recovery of Jason Kendall.  This doesn’t surprise me as much as disappoint me, but he is ahead of schedule.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he opened with the team… Even if he had something like 10 spring training at bats.  That’s just something the Royals always seem to do where they stumble over themselves to give a veteran some sort of role on the team.  Remember “It wouldn’t be fair to Dougie?” I suggest we all get mentally prepared, because Kendall will be with the team sooner rather than later.  Honestly, I was holding out hope that it would be July at the earliest, but this dude is some sort of cyborg or something.  At his age, recovery should take time.  Lots and lots of time.

Rewind yourself, indeed.

Clark speculated the other day that if Kendall is on the roster, the Royals would keep three catchers as both Brayan Pena and Lucas May are out of options.  I suppose that’s possible, and we all know how tone deaf Dayton Moore is when it comes to assembling the 25-man roster.  Still, a three man catching monster is as useless as a 13 man bullpen.  But it doesn’t prevent teams like the Royals from doing something like this.

Otherwise, the position players appear to be set.  The upset of the camp would be if Lance Zawadzki pushes Chris Getz to the sideline.  The Z Man has been productive and Getz has been…Getz.  I still think Getz has the inside track… How crazy would it be if stolen bases were the deciding factor.  We all know how the Royals want to run this year.  Getz has four spring steals while Zawadzki has none.

Of course, the Royals could go with both if they decide Wilson Betemit isn’t ready for regular duty.

— As for the outfield, that’s set.  Nothing has changed there.

— Same for the rotation as it’s down to Vin Mazarro and Sean O’Sullivan as for who can suck less.  I’m really not invested in this battle, especially since the Royals won’t need a fifth starter until mid April.

That quirk of the schedule could permit the Royals to carry three catchers and five outfielders.  Crazy.

Meanwhile, Alex Gordon is on a tear and through 30 spring at bats is hitting .367/.558/.733 with three home runs, including a bomb he launched on Tuesday. Of course, he was hitless or something in his first 10 at bats of the spring. (I don’t recall, and it’s not necessary to look it up.) The point is, he was ice cold for the first week or so and he’s poured it on ever since.  And ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  What Alex Gordon does in Arizona shouldn’t impact your opinion of him in the least.

— Nate Adcock looked strong in three innings of work, but color me skeptical when discussing a Rule 5 pick who has never pitched above high A ball and strikes out just 6.6 batters per nine while walking 3.8.  Sure, it helps his cause that he has yet to allow a run in eight innings of spring work, but I’m going to place a wager that his first eight innings of the regular season won’t go as smoothly.

He will remain in the mix for the bullpen since the Royals have to keep him on the 25 man roster or offer him back to Pittsburgh.  Meanwhile, they acquired another Rule 5 guy in Robert Fish.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before… He’s a lefty power arm who has trouble with command. In other words, he’ll always have teams knocking on his door.  It’s difficult to imagine a scenario, even in KC, where a team keeps two Rule 5 guys in the bullpen.  Still, this is GMDM and the Royals… Anything is possible when it comes to constructing a roster.

The Royals recently released their promotions schedule, and it should come as no surprise that it’s completely filled–71 of the 81 home games feature some kind of promotion. The Royals have made a habit of having to lure fans to the park with free tchotchkes, discounted tickets, cheap food and other various promotions. Clearly they haven’t been bringing in fans with good baseball, so they have to resort to something.

Honestly, the promotions don’t bother me much. At worst, there is a line at the gate while people wait for their free item. I’m fine with keeping the promotions schedule, it’s the in-game “entertainment” and other distractions which I’d prefer to see thrown overboard. I’m still not convinced there is a single person on the planet who goes to the Royals game because they have mini-golf or a between-innings game show.

As I perused the lengthy promotions schedule, there was one thing that stuck out at me.

“INK Local Music Showcase: Catch a free concert on us. Every Wednesday Student Night will feature live local music prior to the game in the Outfield Experience. And you can satisfy your appetite with a $7 hot dog and beverage special at the Crown Classic concession stand in the Outfield Experience. For details, visit www.royals.com/studentnight.”

I really like this idea. The Royals are an institution in this city, even when they’re not good they are important to the identity we all share. It’s a gathering place for people on summer nights, be they young, old or families. I really like the idea of the Royals helping to showcase what makes Kansas City great. Whether it’s with local restaurants in the concourse, spotlighting great Kansas Citians through the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat and now by showcasing local bands prior to a game. I’m even impressed by some of the bands, the ones that I know are really good. Oh, did I mention you can also get a beer and a hot dog for $7 that night? Win-win.

Going to a baseball game should give people an idea of what that city is all about. For many people, their only taste of Kansas City will be a weekend baseball series. I think it is important that their experience be a Kansas City one, not a corporatized one that attempts to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In some ways this is even more important at Kauffman Stadium since the complex is not near the urban center. It’s very possible that someone can come to see some ball games and never come close to some of the great institutions this city has. So we have to take it to them.

Having local bands, rather than washed up national acts perform at the games is a great step in that direction. I think it’s an inspired idea and there should be more like it.  How about bringing some works from the Kemper Musem of Modern Art out and displaying them in the Hall of Fame or one of the suites for people to peruse? Or better yet, showcase some local artists in conjunction with First Friday. I’d like to hear some of your ideas on what we could do tie in our city with the promotions in the comments.

Here is a schedule of the INK Student Nights and the bands that will be playing.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

Saturday night, Bob Dutton provided us with some tremendous insight into the Royals’ bullpen competition.  What makes Dutton solid, in my opinion, is his ability to dance along the company line while also providing true glimpses of what the organization is actually thinking.  In this case, for those of us love the art of roster construction, this article gives us a number of interesting observations.

First off, for those of you out there that agonize over having a lefty or two, you will be delighted to once more hear confirmation that Ned Yost prefers to have two lefthanders in his bullpen.   I have always opted for a good righthander over an average lefthander (although a great lefty is always preferable), but in this case the Royals appear to have the luxury of at least one southpaw who is also likely to be an effective member of the pen:  Tim Collins.

After Joakim Soria and Robinson Tejeda (both locks according to The Star’s article, by the way), Collins was the next name on most everyone’s bullpen projections over the winter.   Nothing has happened this spring to change any of that and, despite not currently in ownership of a 40 man roster spot, Tim Collins is now closest thing to a lock in this competition.

Although some commenters here have speculated at various times that Danny Duffy or Blaine Hardy might make the team out of spring training, I have always thought the field was too contested and both too inexperienced to actually get a spot.   That, however, was before the zest for a second lefthander became so prevalent. 

If Dutton’s comments are true insights into the soul of the Royals’ organization then this tidbit is rather telling: “The other lefty spot, assuming there is one, shapes up as a battle between Danny Duffy and Blaine Hardy unless the Royals choose to push one of their highly regarding starting prospects into the mix. 

Given that I always counted Duffy as one of those ‘highly regarding starting prospects’, I found that statement rather interesting.   Is that a sign that the Royals view Duffy as less of a prospect than Montgomery, Lamb and Dwyer?   Did his sabbatical from baseball last spring change the team’s perspective of him?   Or, is it truly just a way to get Duffy on a different experience level from the other three?

That last question is what Dutton suggests and is also something I have been advocating since last fall (and it wasn’t exactly rocket science then!).    While the modern philosophy of baseball has moved away from having young starters begin their major league careers as relievers, it seems a good way to get Duffy experience ahead of some of the other prospects and also not expose him to a ton of innings.   Remember, Duffy only saw action in 62 regular season innings last year:   having him get 80 or 90 big league innings in 2011 might be preferable to 140 in the minors.

In the end, it is not cut and dried that the Royals will actually break camp with two lefty relievers and it is very possible that Blaine Hardy will be the second as opposed to Duffy.   If we go with Yost for now, however, then that leaves room for three righthanders behind Soria and Tejeda.   By all accounts, Jeremy Jeffress has a solid hold on the first of those spots, which is fine by most anyone who cares about the final few spots in the bullpen of a team that will not contend in 2011.

Right now, the top three contenders for the final two spots are apparently Greg Holland, Kanekoa Texiera and Louis Coleman.   The interesting thing about that list is who is not on it:  Blake Wood.   

After appearing in 51 games for Kansas City last season and finishing strong (18 strikeouts in his last 18 innings), I figured Wood to be a lock to open 2011 in the big league pen.    As it turns out, Wood’s inability to control the running game is so poor that it could actually keep him off the big league roster.   After some major rework at the big league level last year, Wood allowed just three steals in four attempts in August and September – down from six in seven attempts in the month of July.     If you put stock in the organization’s opinion, that improvement may well have been statistical only.   This is one we will definitely have to defer to the ‘baseball men’.   I think we will see a lot of Wood in 2011, but probably not in April.

The idea that both Holland and Coleman might break camp with the Royals delights me.   Both were college draftees picked with the idea that both would be relievers and both would move quickly through the system.   There is nothing better than when a plan, or a process, works out.  

Holland didn’t really impress anyone in a brief trial late last season, but he has a history of initial struggles at each level followed by a long stretch of effectiveness.    The guy has 243 strikeouts in 229 minor league innings and could be a valuable middle to late inning reliever if he can harness his control.   If anything, it appears Holland might have been throwing ‘too hard’ last year and has been much more accurate this spring.

Coleman has simply gotten people out at every level in his quite brief professional career and has continued to do so this spring.   Getting back to my ‘spread the experience out’ theory, I am all for breaking camp with a handful of rookies in the pen so that when the young starters begin to surface they have a quasi-veteran pen behind them.

The Royals like Texiera more than anyone else in baseball.   To be fair, Kanekoa pitched a fair part of last season hurt, but as a minor league nerd and a Process believer the likes of him, Jesse Chavez and Luis Mendoza getting mentioned as possible relievers seems a little too much like buying retread tires.   Given that both Texiera and Mendoza have been very good this spring, they might well make the team.   Perhaps, as Ned Yost observed, Mendoza will be this year’s ‘Chen’, but I will be surprised to see either make it through June.

As one who has published a monthly update on the projected 25 man roster since last November, Dutton’s article scrambled my thoughts on the bullpen considerably.   As an unabashed, borderline over the edge Royals’ follower, the idea of breaking camp with a bullpen that includes Collins, Duffy, Holland, Jeffress and Coleman is actually quite exciting.   It will be interesting to see if the Royals are as excited about that idea as I am.

There are no words… Take it away, Kaegel:

The Royals are unveiling a new weapon in Spring Training: Billy Butler, base-stealer.

Yost wants to upgrade the Royals’ baserunning this year, taking an extra base on hits and getting more steals — even from an unlikely source like Butler.

Yost figures that Butler could get up to 10 steals a season by picking his spots.

As a long suffering Royals fan, I’ve seen a lot of crazy. The idea of giving Billy Butler a green light running the bases ranks among the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.  Picking his spots?  If the pitcher accidentally chucked the ball to the left field foul pole… That would be a good spot.  Or if the catcher blacked out.  That’s another one.  How about if the entire defense took a bathroom break? Yeah, that too… Although it would be close.

I know this is spring, and there are all sorts of crazy stories that come out of camps, but still… This is the early leader on the insanity scale.

What would we say if Ned Yost talked about how Chris Getz could hit 10 home runs if he swung more on 3-0 counts? Yeah, we’d think he was Trey Hillman Crazy.

I’m still undecided on Yost as a manager.  He seems to be a solid no-nonsense type of guy in the Buddy Bell mold. I’m fine with that, but then he goes and says some really crazy stuff.

In his career Butler has had 830 stolen base opportunities. (An opportunity defined as being on base with the base ahead open.) He’s run exactly twice. Caught once, successful once.  His stolen base came in a game against the Indians in September of 2009. He was on first with two outs after singling in a run and another runner was on third.  Mike Jacobs was up with a 2-2 count and Butler took off.  The count and situation make me wonder if Butler lost track of the count and thought it was full, so he ran. Odds are strong that catcher Chris Gimenez was surprised.

While this isn’t a huge story (yet) the response from the Royals is completely incorrect.  The right thing to say would have been something like, “Billy can run all he wants while we’re in Arizona. Once the season starts, he better not try anything like that.” Yost’s response seriously confuses me.  It’s totally something out of the SABR Trey playbook (make the other teams think that Butler will run!) that it’s just completely bizarre that this would even surface. I thought the days of Hillman Crazy were long gone.  Maybe not.

Plus, we all know that while Butler’s base running IQ has improved, he still has a ways to go.  I don’t think I would trust him to properly “pick his spots.”

Basically this serves as a reminder that while the minors are flush with talent, there are still some questionable philosophies at the big league level.

This Tweet from Buster Olney popped up this morning:

By the way:Other teams have asked Royals about Alex Gordon, and the asking price is high: prime-prospect return. KC still invested in him.

I can certainly see where some teams would be interested in kicking the tires.  We’ve discussed this at length, but it’s that old change of scenery argument.  And since Gordon made what appeared to be a seamless transition to left field last summer, why shouldn’t some team inquire.  Then add to the mix the Royals apparent roster problem where they promised playing time to two-thirds of their outfield before trading their ace, and it would seem that Gordon could be available.

OK, so that first part makes sense…

The second part about the Royals asking for a prime prospect… Huh?

How does one failed prospect equal one prime prospect?  Sure, power to GMDM if he can actually get this, and you always want to begin any negotiation by setting the bar high, but this seems delusional to me.

(I love that this Gordon info comes on the heels of this Heyman Tweet:

For greinke #royals asked #rangers for pitchers hunter, holland and kirkman, grt kid ss profar, cf beltre. Smart to say no

Holy cow, that would have been a haul. And then some. Again, it’s the Royals prerogative to ask for an amazing amount. If the Rangers want to deal, they can counter. Maybe they decided the opening salvo was too insane and didn’t come back with another offer. Or maybe they did and lowballed.  Who knows.

Still, from what we’ve learned this winter it’s that GMDM asks for incredible returns. That’s not bad.)

I’ve heard the argument that the Royals would be selling low on Gordon and I’m not so certain on that… His value was highest before he ever played a major league game and has been sliding ever since.  It’s definitely possible he could slide even lower.

Frankly, I’m tired wondering if Alex Gordon will ever “get it.” I remember writing in the Royals Authority Annual prior to the 2009 season that his “breakout” second half of 2008 of .277/.392/.496 was the product of smoke and mirrors.  I’m not surprised it didn’t take.  The injuries, expectations and the attitude have conspired against him. If he rebounds in value, I really don’t think it’s going to bounce much higher.

I have to think the only way another team would spring for Gordon would be for a single grade B prospect or a pair of C’s.

And finally, the third part about the Royals still being invested… Sure they are.  If only because they’re scared to death that he will go somewhere else and “dominate.” Could you imagine the grief GMDM and the Royals brain trust would take if Gordon somehow appeared in an All-Star game or was a solid contributor on a contending team? I think the Royals are pleased with how well he applied himself to his new position. That gives them a little hope he’s maturing, I suppose.  It’s almost as if he gained a fresh start when he returned to KC as a left fielder.  That’s probably why the Royals aren’t anxious to move him.  We’re only a couple of months into Gordon 2.0.

Even though the Royals foolishly promised playing time, Gordon still has a spot in the outfield – for now.  I expect Lorenzo Cain to open the year in Omaha.  I don’t see the Royals trading Gordon unless they seriously lower their expectations.

Good to see Billy Butler flash a little spring power.  And Kyle Davies is still putting runners on the bases like a madman.  He’s more than ready for the regular season…

And I’m ready to.  This is the time of the spring where I fall into a little exhibition game fatigue.  OK… I was pumped for the games, but the fact I can’t see them (more on that in a future post perhaps) and the fact they carry little weight mean I begin to lose interest about this time.  Sure, I still check the box scores, but I’m ready for the real thing damnit.

I contend most of the 25 man roster is set.  Clark has been watching it evolve since the end of the 2010 season and I feel he’s spot-on in his recent assessment.  For me, the most interesting (yet useless) competition is for the fifth starter spot.  There are six pitchers gunning for the rotation with Luke Hochevar the favorite to lead a staff that includes Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen, Sean O’Sullivan, Vin Mazarro and Davies.  I know Nick thinks Chen is out of the rotation by July.  Perhaps, but we do agree he will be in the mix at the start of the season.  Hochevar seems a lock, as does Francis.  I’ll include Davies here, too.  So that puts the competition down to O’Sullivan and Mazarro.

I said that was the most interesting battle in camp?  Sigh.

March 31 can’t get here fast enough.

A couple of spring notes of interest…

— I certainly fall into the camp that (most) spring stats are meaningless, but Everett Teaford had better get his act together.  Yeah, it’s just two appearances, but getting hammered for 11 hits and 10 runs isn’t going to get you anywhere… Even in March.  He will get a shot at spring redemption on Wednesday afternoon.

— We finally have a Wilson Betemit sighting as the third baseman started and when 0-4 with two strikeouts in Tuesday’s game.  He’s dealing with a hyper extended elbow from winter ball.  I think the injury, combined with Mike Aviles’ hot bat and improved glove, have Aviles positioned to be the Royals opening day starter at the hot corner.  Unless Chris Getz continues to underwhelm.  Which isn’t much of a reach.

— Getz is 1-14 this spring while Pedro Feliz is 1-13.  As I mentioned with Teaford, I’m not going to put a lot of stock in spring numbers – even when they validate my opinion of certain players.  (And in this case they certainly do.)  However, there’s something to be said about being part of the crowd.  In other words, you are allowed to struggle, but you don’t want to be so putrid that you stand out among your teammates.  That’s what a 1-14 will do… Get you noticed… In the wrong way.

— That fan that got pegged in the eye by an errant hot dog toss courtesy of Sluggerrr was in court on Tuesday.  John Coomer was allegedly struck in the eye by the Yuni-like frankfurter throw and suffered a detached retina and has undergone three surgeries.  When will these teams learn?  If I remember correctly, a vegetarian was clobbered with a hot dog (sans bun apparently) at a Blue Jay game several years ago.  As you can imagine, this caused extreme emotional distress.  (Although how it was worse than watching the Blue Jays, I couldn’t tell you.)  Anyway, the parties seem destined to see this through to the end, with the trial expecting to last to Thursday.

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