Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

With the 4th overall pick in the 2010 Draft the Royals select Christian Colon is a SS out of Cal State Fullerton.  He was the captain of Team USA and projects possibly as a 6 hitter.  He hit 16 homers in a park which saps home run power.  He walks as much as he strikes out and is a a good fielder.  He has a plus arm and a plus bat.  He is described as very close to major league ready.  To me this signifies that the Royals really believe in their guys in the high minors.  I would imagine they expect Colon to be the SS when Moustakas and Hosmer are in the big leagues.  If things go as planned, I would expect him at Kauffman stadium late 2013 or 2014.  However, that might be a tad aggressive. You can watch Colon play tonight (6/7) at 10pm Central on ESPNU in the College World Series.

Here is a scouting report from pnrscouting.com.

Greg Schaums thoughts from www.royalsprospects.com

For me, there isn’t any topic more frustrating to write about than the Draft.  I don’t get to watch enough amateur baseball to be able to write insightful information.  Even if I did watch lots of amateur baseball, I don’t have enough inside information from the Royals to figure out who they may be targeting and therefore the odds of getting to watch any future Royal is pure luck.  On top of that, I don’t feel like I have a particularly good scouting eye, so while I can try to project it comes off somewhere between picking a horse at the racetrack and accurately choosing heads or tails in a coin flip.  I am also a big stats guy, and it’s impossible to compare high school stats to juco stats to college stats so they don’t tell me much either.

So I, like most of you reading this rely on people who spend lots more time than it seems possible on following amateur baseball or people connected to the Royals who have some insight on who the Royals will be selecting with their draft pick.  So if you missed the weekend Royals draft news, because you actually went outside to enjoy the sunshine, then let me get you up to speed.

This weekend, word leaked out that the Royals had a prelimenary deal in place with University of Miami Catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Here are a few bullet points on him.

Then today Jim Callis of Baseball America says “not so fast”.  He claims the Royals are still going to take Florida Gulf Coast Left Handed Pitcher Chris Sale.

Some bullet points on Chris Sale

  • He throws out of a low 3/4 arm slot
  • He is very tall 6’7 by some accounts
  • He pitches for a small school, which means he pitches against small schools and so his stats are hard to gauge
  • He has a good sinking fastball
  • Other than his delivery, he reminds me of Hochevar

Of course, it is possible the Royals take neither of these two players and instead take someone else.  Either way, keep your inter-googles pointed to www.royalsauthority.com tonight as we have up to the second analysis of the Royals pick.

Epidsode #021 – Adam stops by after an extended hiatus.  They discuss the Tigers series, the upcoming Twins series, Yasmani Grandal, Kendal batting #2, Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and the Royals All-Star selection.  All that, plus Around the Minors and Heroes & Goats.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs021.mp3|titles=BBS

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As the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft is looming on the  horizon, the time has come for my fifth annual mock draft.  I usually take this about eight rounds deep, trying to blend what I think the Royals might do against what I would like them to do versus who might be available.  

As you can imagine, actually getting the players right is pretty difficult.   In 2006,  I actually did peg Luke Hochevar and Harold Mozingo (yes, Harold Mozingo), but have not truly nailed a pick since.   Even giving myself partial credit for Aaron Crow and Tim Melville (they both fell under the ‘they’ll pick them if they are available, but they won’t be’ category), that is still not a very good percentage.   

Given that, let me put in my usual disclaimer here about how this is more an example of the types of players available at each slot and not so much a this-is-who-the-Royals-will-take sort of draft.   Anyway, let’s get to it.

ROUND ONE – 4TH OVERALL PICK

There is something of a consensus that Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Jameson Taillon have separated themselves from the rest of this year’s draft crop, making the number four pick not all that alluring.    That said, the Royals will likely jump all over Manny Machado if he happens to slip to them.   The high school shortstop is just too much of a confluence of organizational need and best available talent to pass him up over having to pay over slot money to sign him.

I think the Pirates take Machado and the Orioles nab Taillon, leaving the Royals to choose from lefties Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale or catcher Yasmani Grandal.   There has also been some scuttlebutt of the club’s interest in Citadel righthander Asher Wojciechowski.  If Kansas City was looking to go the route of the 2009 Pirates and make a signability pick at number four and then use that money to pay over-slot money to later picks, then Wojciechowski is the route they will take.   While signability is a dirty word around Kansas City fans, this may not be a bad plan in this year’s draft.

That said, with Machado gone, I am going to go with the consensus here and say the Royals pick Chris Sale out of Florida Gulf Coast.   Throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot, Sale brings a lively fastball in the low 90’s with a plus changeup and a passable slider.   He has a funky delivery and certainly needs some clean-up on his mechanics, but then Tim Lincecum had funky mechanics, too.    While Sale’s upside is not Lincecum, he does have as much potential as any pitcher in the draft this side of Taillon.

My preference would be to pick Yasmani Grandal (bonus demands be damned) with the idea of moving Wil Myers to a corner outfield spot and have both of them reach the majors by 2013.  In the alternative, if the Royals were going to try to save some coin for later rounds, opt for outfielder Michael Choice.   All that said, the pick is….

Not so fast my friends!  I wrote the above on Friday night and as I approach publication this weekend, we were greated by the news that the Royals may have a pre-draft agreement in place with Yasmani Grandal.   A switch-hitting catcher with power and one that is among the national leaders in walks, he should be poised to hit the ground running and make quick work of the minors like former ACC products Matt Wieters and Buster Posey.   A good not great defender, Yasmani works hard and plays withenergy.  I like this pick, especially with the contract apparently already agreed upon, so instead of Chris Sale, the pick is….

Yasmani Grandal, C

ROUND TWO – 54TH OVERALL

It is a long wait, both in picks and time, for the Royals second round pick and most of the names that get all the hype will be gone by the time number 54 rolls around.

There is some thought that the Royals are eyeing Minnesota catcher Mike Kvasnicka, a switch-hitter who spent the bulk of his first two years with the Gophers as a right fielder.   He sports power, plate discipline and a good arm, but is inexperienced as a catcher.   The question here is, after drafting Wil Myers as a catcher without much catching experience last year, would the Royals draft another ‘catcher who hasn’t caught much’ again this year?   For that matter, at least one mock draft has Kvasnicka being gone by this pick, which might not be all that bad anyway.

Again, the above paragraph has become outdated with the news about Grandal.   I really did have the Royals taking Kvasnicka here, but am much happier with Grandal in Round One and someone else at this spot.

There is a chance, however small, that right handed slugging outfielder Bryce Brentz might slip this far based upon something of an injury plagued season.  Two years ago, he led Division I with 28 home runs and slugging in excess of .900.  This season, a supposed off year, Bryce still slugged over .700, so it would be quite a bonus if he fell to the Royals at number 54.  Again, I don’t think he will be there, but watch for this name around the mid-twenties to make sure.

Another potential ‘slipper’ would be another right-handed outfield bat in Clemson’s Kyle Parker.   The starting quarterback on the football team, there are both signability concerns and, somewhat surprisingly, athleticism concerns around Parker.   Again, it would be an upset for Parker to fall this far, but he would be worth of consideration should he do so.

The drafting of Grandal in round one, however, makes me think the Royals will go pitching at this slot.   At one point earlier this spring, I thought James Paxton might be intriguing here.   He pitched for Kentucky two years ago, was drafted by Toronto and then did not sign.   The NCAA got involved and Paxton and Kentucky parted ways, leaving James to pitch in Indy Ball this season.   That right there, is why I don’t think this is an option any longer, given the struggles of Aaron Crow after a similar career path (and Luke Hochevar for that matter).  

I wonder about two talented high school pitchers with signability issues:  Zach Lee, who is a quarterback recruit to LSU (where he will also be allowed to play baseball) and Tyrell Jenkins, who is a quarterback recruit to Baylor.   Jenkins is an athletic 6’4″ 180 pound righthander who can toss his fastball well into the mid-90s and couples that with a curve, slider and change.   He’s raw, but big on potential.    

Also a right-hander, Lee may not drop this far even given his signabilityissues, but he brings more polish than Jenkins witha low-90s fastball, slider and change.   His delivery is clean and he has already filled out a touch more than Jenkins with an extra 15 pounds on his 6’4″ frame. 

All things being equal, I would love the Royals to go get one of the college power hitters mentioned above, but I believe they will go for one of the pitchers.   I will even offer up draft eligible Ball State product Perci Gardner as a possibility, but I think the pick is…….

Tyrell Jenkins, RHP

ROUND THREE – 86TH OVERALL

The Royals have offered up that pitching, catching, shortstop and right handed power, mostly at the college level, are their focus for this year’s draft.   That seperates them from two, maybe three, teams in baseball, but having picked a pitcher and a catcher it at least helps this writer focus on certain players for the club’s third round pick.

Shortstops who are likely to be available in the third round AND likely to stick at shortstop as pros are probably not worth a pick this high, unless Western Oklahoma State JC product Andrelton Simmons is still around.   A native of Curacao, Simmons is rated by Baseball America as the best defensive shortstop in the draft.   He sports a great arm that has some teams looking at him as a pitcher.

If not Simmons, the Royals might look to outfielder Gauntlett Eldemire out of the University of Ohio.   Very athletic, Eldemire put up good numbers this season (.391, 15 HR), but is still considered raw for a college player.  Your classic, toolsy outfielder here, folks.

Also in consideration at this spot would have to be switch-hitting outfielder Todd Cunnigham, the Cape Cod League batting champ.   The good thing here is that he kind of strikes you as a David DeJesus type:  capable of playing centerfield, hitting for average and 10-15 home runs.   The bad thing is that he strikes you as a David DeJesus type:  maybe not enough range for center and not enough pop for a corner spot.

My pick in the third round….

Andrelton Simmons, SS

ROUND FOUR – 119TH OVERALL

It is not out of the realm of possibilites that Eldemire and or Cunningham will still be available at this point and I would firmly advocate taking either one.

That said, the Royals might well go pitching here if none of the right-handed power hitters slips this far and that guy might well by Wichita State pitcher Jordan Cooper.    A right-handed strike-thrower with a repeatable delivery, Cooper is no thrower – he can really pitch.   His stuff will not blow you away, but throws a sinking fastball backed by a good slider and good changeup.  

There are a lot of college arms right in this area that bring a bushel of potential, but Cooper’s polish may be too tough for the Royals to ignore.  The pick is….

Jordan Cooper, RHP

 

ROUND FIVE – 149TH OVERALL

 A name that might be worth monitoring here is high-school outfielder Brian Ragira who is, you guessed, a powerful right-handed bat.   Ragira is raw, advised by Boras and committed to Stanford.    Translation:  bring the checkbook if you are calling this name.   My guess is that the Royals might have used their ‘over-slot’ money already by now and move on to someone else.

That someone might be Mark Canha, who played first base for California this season.   He brings power to all fields, hits for average and is an athletic 6’2″ 205 pounds.   Canha has a good arm and better than average speed and most expect he can handle either corner outfield spot.    Baseball America calls Canha one of the safest picks in the draft.   That’s good enough for me….

Mark Canha, 1b/OF

ROUND SIX – 179TH OVERALL

If we were not guessing before, we sure as heck are now.   Some players likely to be around and of about this value at this point might be Daniel Burawa, who works out of the St.John’s pen as a draft eligible sophmore.   With less than 30 innings of Division I work to eyeball, scouts like what they see but are hesitant to truly believe.   Burawabrings the heat routinely at 95 mph with a high 70’s breaking pitch for a change of pace.

Boston College’s Pat Dean has dealt with elbow inflammation this spring, but has still shown excellent command and good effectiveness.   Dean does not have ‘blow you away’ stuff, nor does he offer the classic ‘projectable frame’, but he is another polished pitcher that might fit in as a nice complement with the ‘high upside’ arms in the system already.

The pick is….

Daniel Burawa, RHP

 ROUND SEVEN – 209TH OVERALL

 Florida centerfielder Matt den Dekker might be a fit here.  A very good defender who did not sign last year after going in the 16th round, Dekker showed decent power and average this season as a senior.   If he’s available here, Dekker would make sense as a nice combination of talent and signability:  freeing up some money to go after a player who might have dropped due to signability issues later.

Pacific outfielder Nick Longmire has the tools packed into his 6’2″ 210 pound frame that you would like to see.   An up and down career at Pacific might make him available here as another power bat to put into the system.

Jimmy Reyes is a left-hander out of Elon witha 187 to 37 strikeout to walk ratio the last two years.   He pretty much is what he is, a low 90’s thrower with a good slider and not much more projection left in his frame.   Still, Reyes is a strike throwerwith polish.  I’m assuming the Royals like those qualities, I know I do.   The pick is….

Jimmy Reyes, LHP

ROUND EIGHT – 239TH OVERALL

 I am going to take a stab out of nowhere here and look at Mike Giovenco, a Division III right-hander who stands 6’6″ and goes 235 pounds.   Giovencohas touched 95 mph withhis fastball, but needs work on refining and concealing his curve.   However, if you are drafting a pitcher who needs some refinement, the big guy with the big fastball is a good place to start.   The pick….

Mike Giovenco, RHP

Alright, let the fun begin!

It was something like 15 games into the season and the Royals were atop the American League in batting average.  As great as that was, it was a small sample size.  Give it a couple of months, I figured… Things would soon return to their natural order.

Here we are two months into the season.  And let’s check the leaderboard in the American League for team batting average:

Yankees – .286
Royals – .277
Rangers -.272
Twins – .272
Red Sox – .269

Wow.

The Royals have been in the top half of the AL in team batting average a couple of times the last 10 years.  They finished sixth in 2008 and fourth in 2003.

That’s pretty cool that the team is still hanging tough and ranking second.  Fans are singing the praises of hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.

That would be great, but I can’t get that excited by team batting average.

Despite the Royals lofty team batting average, they still can’t score runs.  As a team, they’re averaging 4.31 runs per game.  That ranks ninth in the league and is 0.2 below the league average of 4.51 runs per game.

Why aren’t they scoring more runs if they can string together some base hits?  Got me.

Take the situation of a runner on third with less than two outs.  Remember how poorly Mike Jacobs (and I believe to a lesser extent Miguel Olivo) did last year in that situation?  Those guys were brutal and it was part of what I would point to when talking about the fundamentals the 2009 team lacked.

Apparently, that’s not an issue anymore as the Royals score that runner from third with less than two outs a full 54% of the time.  That leads the league!  This has somehow escaped my attention, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with this development.  Seriously, this is a good thing.

Going forward, the Royals own a .335 OBP, which is slightly above league average.  Again, this is good news… I never would have expected this group to be better than average in this department.  However, they are second from the bottom in walks, so that OBP is built mostly on base hits.  We know this is a team full of singles hitters, so the overwhelming majority of all base runners start on first.  (They’re also triples hitters.  The Royals are first in the league with 14 three baggers.)

Let’s call them average when it comes to reaching base.  Unfortunately, they’re doing an above average job of hitting into double plays.

The Royals are tied for second in having the highest rate of hitting into a double play.  In double play opportunities, the Royals are going down two for one 15% of the time.  The 58 times they’ve grounded into double plays is the second most in the league, behind only the Twins.

Let’s look at the Twins for a moment.  Yes, they lead the league in double play rate, but they’re getting on base at a .350 clip, which is the second best rate in the league.  So despite losing too many runners on the bases, they are scoring 4.7 runs per game.  That’s almost a half run difference better than the Royals.

Statistically, in many categories it’s almost a dead heat between the two teams.  The Royals own the higher team batting average, but the Twins have hit three more home runs and 13 more doubles, so they have the edge in slugging percentage.  The big difference between the teams is in the base on balls department.  The Twins lead the league with 227 free passes.  That’s 68 more walks than the Royals.  A huge difference.

Last year, the Royals walked in 7.5% of all plate appearances.  That was the second lowest rate in the AL.  This year, the Royals are walking in 7.6% of all plate appearances.  Again, the second lowest rate in the AL.

So the fact the team is hitting .277 is nice.  There have definitely been some positive offensive strides this year. But I’ll really be happy once these guys start showing a little more patience.

Episode #020 – Nick reviews the Angels series and previews the Tigers series.  He also discusses the umpiring fiasco from Thursdays game, the possible ascension of the franchise and the return of Danny Duffy.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs020.mp3|titles=BBS

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A week ago today, I wrote a column speculation on how many players the Royals would need to add right now to become a contender.   The number I came up with was eight.   Some commenters suggested nine (the ninth being a catcher) was the more reasonable number and that may well be true.

Be it eight players or nine players, I summarized that column by pointing out that it is possible that maybe all but one of those positions could be filled by the ever improving farm system.   There are two big problems with that sentence however:

  1. Not all prospects reach their potential.
  2. While prospects develop the major league roster changes.   You might fill one spot, only to have another open up due to contract issues, age, etc.   Basically, it is all fine and good that Mike Montgomery might well be an ace-type pitcher in 2013, but that won’t make the Royals any better if Zack Greinke left via free agency after the 2012 season.

In my mind, Greinke is the crux of the issue.   Unlike Carlos Beltran or Johnny Damon, it is not a lock that Zack will leave the Royals once his current contract expires.   If Kansas City is beginning to look like a winning organization during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and IF management is judicious in allocating salary, the possibility of resigning Greinke is relatively high in my opinion.      

Should the Royals still be floundering along at 70-92 and Greinke is still getting less run support than a college softball pitcher, what would be his incentive to stay?   Sure, he may not want to pitch in New York, but they score lots of runs in Anaheim, Texas, Tampa and Chicago.     

If you want to keep Greinke, then The Process has to be showing real signs of coming to fruition no later than the start of the 2012 season.   In fact, the Royals probably need to be at least looking like contender if not actually contending next season.   

The message:  don’t abandon The Process, but let’s get focused and hurry up.

Now, back to last week’s column.   The eight players that I thought the Royals needed were:

  1. Number two starting pitcher
  2. Number three/four starting pitcher
  3. Middle reliever
  4. A second middle reliever
  5. Impact, corner infield bat
  6. Good defensive middle infielder with an average-plus bat
  7. Good defensive centerfielder with an average-plus bat (or better)
  8. Impact, corner outfield bat

Where can the Royals afford to build from within and where do they need to be aggressive and go find someone to fill those spots from outside the organization?

If the Royals were a better offensive team and Gil Meche was healthy, they probably have a good enough starting five as it is.  That said, better than ‘good enough’ is preferable.  With the return of Danny Duffy (even if 2010 is pretty much a lost year), you have to like the idea of having him, Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow all within hailing distance of the majors.   I am content to wait for one of those three to emerge as that number two starter by the end of 2011.

The key to making that happen, however, is getting Gil Meche healthy and here’s why.   Meche has zero trade value right now.   The Royals would be wise to take months making sure Gil is really at full strength before running him out to the mound.     There would be nothing wrong with a healthy Gil Meche being your number two starter for the first three months of 2011.    When healthy and right, as he was in 2007 and 2008, Meche truly is a number two starter.   He would buy time for Montgomery and company.   Can he get healthy and right?  Hard to say, but you might as well keep Meche around to find out as opposed to dumping him for little or no value this year.   So, the plan for the number two starter is keep Gil Meche, while you wait for Montogmery, Duffy or Crow to take his spot.   Keep in mind, if this scenario plays out, Meche will have real allure as a trade chip next July.

As for the number four type starter, I again am content to wait for the three guys above to come to the majors.   Behind them comes the John Lamb, Chris Dwyer, Tim Melville, Kelvin Herrera, etc. group of arms, who will also come into consideration as Hochevar, Bannister and Davies begin to become contract issues (or get worse, instead of better).

Truthfully, I like the Royals rotation of the future.   A 2011 crew of Greinke, Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Montgomery/Davies would morph into a 2012 rotation of Greinke, Montgomery, Hochevar, Crow/Duffy, Bannister/Davies and frankly, if you resign Greinke, get better from there.   That statement allows for one of the Crow-Duffy-Montgomery trio to wash out and really counts on just one of the next group of young arms to truly develop into a major league starter.

Anyway, when it comes to the two starting pitchers the Royals need, I will ‘Trust The Process’ and do so without any hint of sarcasm.

When it comes to the two bullpen arms I believe this team needs, Robinson Tejeda might have already filled one of those spots, but let’s be greedy and add two more arms anyway.   Again, I like what the system has to offer in Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Blaine Hardy among others.   Heck, considering I am talking about your fourth and fifth best bullpen arms, I might be willing to see if Dusty Hughes can continue to develop.  

Although Dayton Moore has done a lot the last two years to test my faith that ‘you can always find a competent middle reliever’, I am still going to stick with the organization to fill these roles or a low-cost veteran arm when the time comes.

Whether it is in July or October, the Royals are going to lose Jose Guillen and gain $12 million dollars.   When they do, someone should pin Dayton Moore down and tattoo ‘Kila Kaaihue is my designated hitter for 2011′ on his hand.   It is very possible that Kila might be only a modest (if that) improvement over Guillen, but Kansas City has to finally find out.    Spending time and money to fill this spot is simply a waste, given that one of your number one picks (Eric Hosmer)will be playing first base in AA come 2011.    While Kila is not really fill one of ‘the eight’, he fills a spot so that the organization can actually focus on ‘the eight’.

Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, IS one of ‘the eight’.   Is there anyone out there that is not hoping for a mid-season promotion to AAA, followed by an early season call-up to be the everyday third baseman sometime in 2011?   In the interim, Alberto Callaspo still hits and seems to annoy me a lot less in the field at third than he did at second.   The Royals can take their time with Moustakas, but they don’t have to be deliberate about it either.  I am content to rely on Moustakas to be my impact, corner infielder.

Since we are talking about impact bats, let’s move to the outfield corner.   Do we believe in Alex Gordon here or not?  Do we have a choice?   At some point this year, the Royals will bring Gordon up to play either right or left field.   When they do so, they had better be ready to give him 2011, too.     Kansas City pretty much has to give Alex one more chance to become that impact bat because there is no other outfielder anywhere close in the system that can fill this role.  

The downside to this year and one half commitment is pretty limited in my opinion.   Not only does Guillen salary come off the books this year, Meche’s will be gone after 2011.   Sure, other players (Greinke notably) will be getting paid more, but the Royals could still have some serious spare change in the cushions to go get an established free agent outfield bat after the 2011 season if Gordon washes out.

Okay, so now I am running the risk of being a Dayton Moore apologist, as I have filled six of my eight spots with homegrown talent.   I have done so, however, without counting on every pitcher to develop or speculating on a dramatic rise through the system by Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers.   I may be optimistic, but not euphoric…I don’t think, anyway.

Let’s stay in the outfield for a moment.   As I write this, it becomes clear to me that the Royals should keep David DeJesus and pick up his option for 2011.   We know what we will get from DeJesus and it is, frankly, pretty good baseball.   Having him around in 2011 gives Mitch Maier, David Lough and Jordan Parraz a little extra time to become, well, the next David DeJesus.   Hey, there is nothing wrong with one DeJesus in an outfield – two, however, is one too many.  That takes us to player number seven in our ascension to contention, who happens to be a centerfielder.

I am intriuged by Derrick Robinson, who spent four seasons proving to us that he could not hit, only to revert to his high school batting stance and suddenly pop the ball to the tune of .302/.394/.390 so far this year in AA.  Robinson brings tremendous speed and defense to the table, but two months in a hitters’ league does not a surefire prospect make.

That said, the free agent market the next two years is not exactly ripe with possibilities.   Next year, in fact, is pretty much without any real solution.   After the 2011 season, how do you feel about a 35 year old Carlos Beltran?   What about Nate McLouth or Grady Sizemore, assuming their options don’t get picked up?  I don’t know, man, I just don’t know.

This is a position that I think you go out and try to trade for a prospect or younger player that is, basically, a better prospect than Derrick Robinson.   That takes us back to getting Gil Meche healthy and a viable tradeable commodity at the deadline in 2011.   Perhaps you could package a Brian Bannister and Alberto Callaspo to fill this spot or do you same them for….

….player number eight:  the middle infielder.  

Again, I don’t see a ready solution in the system.  Somewhere between Mike Aviles, Chris Getz (yes, I said CHRIS GETZ), Jeff Bianchi and Johnny Giavotella, you have one solid middle infielder, but I’m not sure you want to base your playoff run on having two of them up the middle.   Maybe, but maybe not.

Truthfully, there is enough potential there that the Royals don’t have to panic (you know, go out and trade for Yuniesky Betancourt or something), but they ought to be looking around.   A guy like Yunel Escobar comes to mind, although his current mental state is pushing him closer to a Betancourt-type player than a real solution-type player.

In a stream of consciousness type of writing style, I find myself wondering what type of young player a team could net if the trade package was Meche (healthy and effective, mind you), Bannister AND Callaspo?   If the Royals made that trade in mid-2011 and the return was a potential star player in centerfield then maybe they can contend with a middle infield of Aviles and Bianchi in 2012.   Or, in the alternative, maybe they could live with Robinson or Lough in center if they had a star shortstop in the making.

Is it possible the Royals are six internal players, one star acquisition and a year and one-half away from contending for a period of years?   If so, is a healthy Gil Meche the single most critical piece of the entire puzzle?  

Honestly, all six of the prospects I am counting on to fill these positions won’t come through.  I think five is more likely, which puts this team one big, good trade and one rather expensive free agent away and all that without dealing with the catching situtation.   That said, I can actually see the future and, rose colored glasses or not, it looks promising. 

I am interested to hear what some of you think about the above scenario or feel free to propose one of your own.   Also, check back for the Royals Authority Annual Mock Draft coming this weekend.

That was a tidy ballgame.  You don’t often see 6-3 games clock in under 2:15 like Tuesday’s.  I hate to go all Denny Mathews on you, but I do enjoy the quick ballgame.  Credit to both starters who kept the game moving at a great pace.

Whenever I watch Brian Bannister pitch, I’m looking for groundballs.  Last night, he got a ton.  Eleven of his 16 outs came via the ground ball.

The runs he gave up in the second were soft.  I mean, they came on batted balls that weren’t struck especially hard.  Soft or not, they were line drives and those tend to fall for hits.  What was really frustrating about that inning was it came immediately after the Royals jumped ahead.  Is it just me, or does it seem like Bannister gives back his runs almost immediately?  I don’t have any numbers or stats to back this up, but it sure feels like everytime I watch him pitch and his bats give him a lead, Bannister immediately goes out and coughs it up.

He tried to give it back in the sixth inning (immediately after the Royals scored four runs in the fifth) when Macier Izturis led off with a home run.  Seriously?  Then Torii Hunter laced a single to right and Hideki Matsui launched a bomb that just missed tying the game by inches.

Time for the Good Tejeda-Wood-Soria Triumverate to bare it’s fangs once again.  This time, they retired 11 in a row.

Good Robinson Tejeda was simply electric.  When he uncorked his first pitch that was about helmet high, I worried that he wouldn’t be on his game.  Ha.  Once he got rolling, the Angels were helpless.  He couldn’t get his slider over for a strike and the Angel hitters weren’t biting, so he just brought the gas.  Hey, whatever works.

Brought in with runners on second and third and one out, to get out of that fix without allowing a run… That’s a save in my book.  A shallow fly and a strikeout got the job done.

Then Blake Wood… He threw his first nine pitches for strikes and only tosses his first ball after he jumed ahead of Torii Hunter 0-2 with two outs.  He’s still pitching to contact I suppose – his strikeout of Hunter was only his second this year and he’s faced 35 batters – but he’s jumping ahead.  He’s thrown a first pitch strike in over 70% of all plate appearances.  Major league average is 58%.  Nice.  If you’re going to let hitters get the bat on the ball, you may as well tilt the battle to your advantage as much as possible.

Finally Joakim Soria.  The 68 mph curveball he broke off to punchout Juan Rivera following a pair of 93 mph cutters was pure poetry.  I don’t think I’ve seen that pitch from him this year.  Then poor Mike Napoli couldn’t even get the bat off his shoulders, looking at five pitches and striking out to end the game.

Yost’s bullpen plan has mostly been letter perfect.  If Hillman had been so insightful (or fortunate) he’d probably still be employed.

Scott Podsednik hit leadoff for the 20th time last night.  Entering the game, he was hitting .286/.349/.351 at the top of the order, which isn’t horrible, but his sOPS+ of 89 indicates his performance there is below average.  You probably already knew that.

Last night he saw a grand total of seven pitches in his four plate appearances.  Seven pitches!  I really wish the Royals had someone else who could bat at the top of the order.

I suppose I’d prefer DeJesus at the top of the order, but Yost seems to have hit on something by dropping him to the third spot where he’s caught fire and hit .361/.451/.443 in the 16 games since he’s made the move.  Obviously, you’d like more power out of your number three, but I’m not going to be so picky.

In his short tenure, Yost has largely been golden.

I joked on Twitter before the game that the order that featured Betancourt, Getz, Podsednik and Kendall hitting eight through second could be called the Gauntlet Of Suck.  Ha.  All four hitters came through big… Kendall hit a double in the first that was probably the hardest ball he struck all year and scored the game’s first run.  Then Betancourt opened the fifth with a triple to left, scored on a Getz single and Podsednik kept the rally rolling as the Royals broke the game open with a four spot.

So maybe Gauntlet Of Suck was a bit harsh.  I dunno.  If you stack those four in a lineup 10 times, they’ll have a game like this maybe once.  Like I said… Golden Yost.

Last week Clark wrote a great article about how many players the Royals are from contention.  I agreed with everything he wrote, and it made me a little more hopeful about the short-term and long-term future of the team.  It does finally seem like the Royals are on an upward tajectory.  I believe this team is better than the team from last year.  I do honestly feel that the worst is behind us, even though the present can be pretty rough at times.

Throughout this seeming eternity of bad baseball we’ve had to endure, it seems like it is always getting worse.  However, if this team is truly ascending then the absolute nadir is at some point in the past.  So I decided I would try and find that low point.

The easy way to pinpoint rock bottom is to simply find the year with the worst record and call it good.  For a baseball team it’s more complicated than that.  The low point certainly can coincide with the worst record, but I don’t think that is all there is to it.  A particularly bad season could be the result of some bad luck or some poorly timed injuries to key players.  If the team still has great young players on the roster and in the minor leagues then it could be just a minor set back or it could be a penultimate step.

So how do we determine the bottom?  Clearly the team has to be bad.  While it may not be the worst performing team, there is no way for say, 2003 when the Royals had a winning record to be the low point.  So, while this may be painful let’s look at the winning percentage for the Royals since 1985 (which is obviously the last apex).  The following is a graph of the Royals winning percentage from 1986-2010:

Clearly there is a negative trend from 1986 through about 2005, and what might be the beginning of a positive trend from 2006-2010.   The worst team in terms of winning % is clearly the 2005 team.  They only won 56 games that season.  So if we assume the team is currently ascending then the bottom had to be somewhere around 2004-2006 range.

One other factor is potential future talent.  If a team struggles on the field, but is loaded with young talent ready to break through or there is a plethora of highly touted minor leaguers then it is hard to say it is at the bottom.  I’ve narrowed the time frame down to 2004-2006, so how did the minor leagues look during that time?  Here is how Baseball America ranked the organization during that time period:

2004 – 19

2005 – 28

2006 – 23

Ouch.  Again, it looks like 2005 was potentially the bottom of the barrel.  Alex Gordon was drafted in the 2005 and is the main reason the Royals went from 28 to 23 in overall rankings.  Billy Butler was the best prospect in the system in 2005.

So all signs point to the low point being sometime in 2005, however I don’t know that is the case.  While the 2005 team performed woefully, there were some potential bright spots on that team.  Sweeney hit .300 in 122 games with 21 homers . Dejesus was on both the 2005 and 2006 teams so he doesn’t matter here.  Angel Berroa was having an ok year hitting .270 with 11 homers.  Greinke was having a rough season but he was actually on the team and struck out 114.  J.P. Howell was a young rookie with potential.  The bullpen had a good Macdougal, a good Burgos, a good Sisco and Jeremy Affeldt.  The team didn’t win very many games but relatively speaking there were reasons for hope.

The next year, however was a completely different story.  In 2006, the Royals had Butler and Gordon in the minors which was something everyone could be excited about. However, the major league team was a complete disaster. Here is the most likely used lineup in 2006:

  1. Dejesus – CF
  2. Grudzielanek – 2B
  3. Sweeney – DH
  4. Sanders – RF
  5. Mientkiewicz – 1B
  6. Brown – LF
  7. Teahen – 3B
  8. Berroa – SS
  9. Buck – C

Sweeney played in only 60 games and wasn’t very good, this truly was the beginning of the end for him.  Grudzielanek was good, but clearly not in the future plans.  Berroa hit .234 and it was the beginning of the end for him as well.  Mientkiewicz was the 5th hitter.  The best hitter by far in 2006 was Mark Teahen with a .290/.357/.517 line.  The odd thing about this lineup is that they somehow scored the 8th most runs in team history.  I have no idea how.

What really makes the 2006 team so terrible was the pitching.  This was the year, you might remember where Greinke was taking time off and most were worried we would never see him in uniform again.  So the Royals trotted out this starting rotation, in order of most starts:

  1. Mark Redman – 5.71 ERA
  2. Scott Elarton – 5.34
  3. Runelvys Hernandez – 6.48
  4. Luke Hudson – 5.12
  5. Odalis Perez – 5.64

Jeremy Affeldt and Jorge De La Rosa got a handful of starts but neither fared particularly well either.  This very well might be one of the worst if not THE worst rotation in the history of modern baseball.  Not only was it bad, but only Perez and Hernandez were under the age of 29.  None of these guys had future potential and none of them were very good at the time.  Todd Wellemeyer was by FAR the best performing pitcher on the team in 2006 and he had a K/BB ratio of 1:1.

So 2005 had the worst record and the worst farm system.  2006 had the disappearance of Zack Greinke, and a veteran laden team with the worst pitching staff of all time.  Dayton Moore was hired in 2006, Tony Pena left in 2005.  Somewhere between the beginning of 2005 and the end of 2006 lies the absolute lowest point (I hope).  So let me try and pinpoint the exact day that I think it was:

May 25th, 2006

The Royals had lost 12 straight games entering the day of May 25th.  They had a 1:10 start at home against the Tigers.  The Royals sent Denny Bautista to the mound.  He shut down the Tigers in the first inning and the Royals scored 6 runs in the bottom of the first.  The 11,488 announced fans in attendance had to be feeling that the losing streak was over.  The Royals had an 8-5 lead going into the top of the 8th when Keppel and Burgos allowed the Tigers to tie the game with 3 runs.  The Tigers tacked on another 5 runs in the top of the 9th and won the game 13-8.  It was the Royals 13th straight loss.  The Royals did win the next day and Allard Baird was fired 6 days later.  The Royals were 25 games below .500 at the time and 22 games out of first place and it was only May!

On May 25th, 2006 in the top of the 9th inning Craig Monroe hit a go-ahead homerun off of Elmer Dessens.  At the exact moment that ball cleared the fence, it was the lowest moment in Royals history.  Since that moment things have started to get better.  The farm system has improved, the drafts have improved and the major league team has improved even if it is only slightly.  While the ascension hasn’t been as swift as I have liked, it does seem like it is happening.  So when you get bummed out about a bad stretch of games this season, just think back to that Craig Monroe homer and say to yourself “The worst is behind us”.

 In early May of 2006, the Kansas City Royals sent a struggling Mark Teahen (.195/.241/.351) down to Omaha.   Teahen’s rough start to 2006 came on the heels of a rookie season that saw him hit just .246/.309/.376.   He responded to the demotion by blasting AAA pitching to the tune of  .380/.500/.658 over 24 games.   Mark returned to the majors and was easily the second best offensive third baseman in the American League that summer (after Alex Rodriguez), hitting .313/.384/.557 before being shut down for shoulder surgery on September 5th.

We all know that Mark Teahen was unable to sustain the production of that glorious summer of 2006.   He changed positions three times in three years and generally never recaptured the power that he once displayed.   That said, Teahen did post a respectable cumulative line of .270/.330/.407 from 2007 through 2009.   

If you throw out the 2006 offensive explosing, Teahen was a well below average player in 2005 and early 2006 and at least average from 2007 to 2009.   The difference in his OPS between those two time periods is nearly sixty points.  

Fast forward to early May 2010.   The Royals send a struggling Alex Gordon (.194/.342/323) to AAA Omaha.     Gordon’s poor start came on the heels of an injury plaqued 2009 season that saw him hit just .232/.324/.378.     In his first eighteen games in AAA, Alex is blasting minor league pitching to the tune of .378/.513/700. 

 Now, of course, there are some critical differences in these story lines.   Gordon had two full seasons in the majors prior to 2009:  hitting  .247/.314/.411 in his rookie season and posting an overall line of  .250/.331/.415 from that season through the end of 2009.   He even had suffered the indignity of a demotion already, having been sent to Omaha in a ‘get healthy – slow down your arbitration clock’ move in August of last year.

Still, the two players were without question struggling mightily when the club sent them to Omaha in those two Mays and both annihilated AAA pitching like few have during their time there.   Will this demotion (and position change) ignite a ‘Teahen 2006′ type offensive eruption for Gordon when he returns to Kansas City?    If so, will Alex be able to sustain his beyond one brief summer?

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