Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Over the weekend we saw the Royals confirm what virtually everyone expected since the end of last season:  Tim Collins will open the season in the bullpen.   We also saw Rule fiver Robert Fish returned to the Angels ending a strange little ten day dance that caused no harm and forever made Robert Fish a known commodity here in the Royal Land of Blogs.  

The Opening Day roster was additionally formed by the expected but unpopular sending of Lorenzo Cain to Omaha, confirming that Melky Cabrera will be the club’s centerfielder.   Also in the ‘expected’ category, was the release of Pedro Feliz (or the exercising of the opt-out clause in his contract if you want to be absolutely correct):  don’t think anyone was too shocked or saddened by this.   His changes to make the roster were slim to begin with and diminished to zero when Wilson Betemit proved to healthy and Lance Zawadzki proved to be younger, more versatile and probably better (although he won’t be on the roster, either).

Truthfully, plus or minus a couple of relievers (the Aaron Crow rumor that he has made the Opening Day roster is intriguing), this is shaping up as basically the twenty-five men we pretty much expected.   Of course, that is not all that exciting a prospect given that the vast majority of this twenty-five – pretty much anyone outside of Joakim Soria and Billy Butler – is not slated to have much impact when the Royals plethora of prospects propel this organization back into relevancy.

What if, however, some of this current group does something unexpected?   Is it realistic to expect players off the current roster to make enough of an impact in 2011 to move the organization closer to contention than the current 2013-2014 timetable?   Let’s take a look at some possibly realistic, if somewhat optimistic, scenarios:

  • Alex Gordon – This is the obvious one.   I think it is likely that Gordon has a decent season – something on the order of a .350 on-base percentage and twenty home runs.   While I hate to jump to the ‘domination’ discussion, is it truly out of the realm of reality to think Gordon might slug thirty home runs and post an on-base percentage above .370?  Would a 4.0 WAR player in leftfield and the middle of the Royals’ order jumpstart The Process a bit?
  • Kila Ka’aihue – I could pretty much cut and paste Gordon’s paragraph and slide it in here.  With Eric Hosmer in the wings and Billy Butler pretty much established, Kila coming through is not as critical/helpful as it would be for Gordon to truly emerge.   Still, Ka’aihue taking a run at the club home run record would certainly help the team win a few more games in 2011.
  • Luke Hochevar – Asking for him to live up to his draft status is simply daydreaming, but hoping for Luke to stay healthy and emerge as a Gil Meche type pitcher (200 innings – 4.00 ERA) might not be.   Such a performance would give the Royals one (maybe two if Jeff Francis is healthy) capable starter to augment the young arms soon to emerge on the scene.
  • Alcides Escobar – Is he the player that was the number twelve prospect in baseball last spring or the player that posted a .614 OPS in his rookie season?   The Royals are expecting good defense and for Escobar to hold his own at the plate.   They are hoping for great defense and a hitter who can capably man one of the top two spots in the batting order.   Given the uncertainty surrounding Christian Colon’s ability to stick at shortstop, the organization really needs Escobar to nail down the shortstop position for the foreseeable future.   Should Alcides develop into an elite defender and capable hitter, it would go a very long ways towards this team sniffing contention.

We will spend a lot of this season talking about the many prospects in the Royals’ system and how they fit into The Process.   The above four players, however, could push that Process along by realizing some or a majority of their projected potential.  

How many of the above four would need to come through in a big way for the Royals to be at least fringe contenders in 2012?    My gut reaction is probably all of them, or at least three for sure.    Even that assumes that Kansas City’s bullpen will be a strength from the very beginning of 2011, so a lot of good things would have to happen for the Royals to jump ahead a year in The Process timeline.

Below is a video my brother took today when we were at Spring Training in Surprise of Eric Hosmer going yard with a mammoth blast.

Yesterday was a night game for the Minor Leaguers as they took on the Texas Rangers prospects. These games are fun, but can be difficult because there are four games going on simultaneously. I was trying to catch as many interesting prospects as I could, but I kept getting pulled to another field. Then I kept missing out on guys that I wanted to see.

Jonathan Keck (LHP) – He’s a tall lefty who was pretty impressive in the high A game. He was throwing his fastball 90-92 and touched 93. It had good movement and he also flashed a really good curveball. In another organization he might get a lot more love, particularly since he’s a lefty. In the Royals organization he’s one of the many talented lefties. Someone to keep an eye on in 2011.

Tyler Graham (RHP) – Taken in the 22nd round of last year’s draft, Graham pitched in Idaho Falls last season. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He’s a “max effort” pitcher. When he throws the ball it looks like he’s trying to choke the life out of it—it’s a violent delivery. With that kind of delivery, he’s not going to be moved out of the bullpen and he might have some injury issues. It also hurts his ability to throw a secondary pitch, because getting a feel for it and also hiding it from the hitters can be difficult.

Shin Jin-Ho ( C) – He’s been kind of a mystery man since he was signed in 2009 as a 17 year old from South Korea. Behind the plate, he looked comfortable. He’s a “flat-footed” catcher, meaning when he crouches his heels are on the ground. It’s a technique that much better scouts than myself say they prefer. He seemed to pick balls out of the dirt pretty well, but I never saw him catch with runners on so it’s difficult to see how he would do when he has to block the ball.

At the plate, he seemed a little over-matched in the Low A game as he got blown away with a high fastball. It was only one plate appearance, so I wouldn’t take much away from it. He’s still very young and very raw. He might never be worth what the Royals paid for him, but he bears watching. He spent all of last year in the Arizona League (Rookie) and might graduate to Burlington (Rookie) this year.

Johnny Giavotella (2B) – Giavotella is an interesting prospect.  Pretty much everyone who gets a chance to watch him likes what they see, but there is plenty of debate on what his ceiling is. Some say average Major Leaguer, some say below average some say possibly above average. What makes him difficult to guage is that he does lots of things well and no one-thing great. He’s kind of like David Dejesus in that way. I’ve gotten to see him as much as any prospect in the system and I’m a believer in his ability. There are some questions about his defense and whether it’s Major League or not.

Scouting position players can be difficult without watching them every single day. What I see and continue to see in Spring Training this year is a player who can and will get a shot to be a Major League player.  He has a decent bat with some occasional power and he has a decent glove that he works hard on.

Wil Myers (OF) – Myers continued to impress, but by not swinging the bat. I watched him walk three times in a Minor League Spring Training game. His pitch recognition and plate discipline are that good. It’s disappointing not to see him swing the bat when he can do it so well, but a guy who has the ability to take walks like that in that kind of game is advanced.

Brett Eibner (OF) – One of the guys I was really anxious to see, but kept missing when I went to his field. People that did get to see him said he looked really good and put some charge into the balls he got a hold of.

Christian Colon (SS) – His bat will play in the Major Leagues, questions linger over his glove and ability to stick at shortstop. I haven’t had a chance to see him field much so I can’t comment,  but I do like his bat. I think he has a really good season this year.

I spent yesterday in Royals Minor League camp and here are my notes:

Jason Adam – As I reached the field, Jason Adam was pitching against some of his fellow Royals teammates. The scouts were all clustered up and keeping a close eye on him. His name has been circulating amongst the scout circle, so there were plenty who wanted to get a firsthand look. I’m no scout, but what I saw was very impressive. He was fastball was in the 94-96 mph range and he was locating his curve ball for strikes.  He seemed to be using the curve as an out pitch and it was working. It had nice break, but he was leaving it up in the zone. Had he been facing a higher level of competition it probably would have been crushed. He’s only 19, so it’s not a concern at all. He seems very advanced for his age and should rocket up Royals prospect lists this year.

Sal Perez – I’ve heard good things about Sal, but I’ve never seen him in person. He’s bigger than I expected. He’s not only tall, but has thick legs. He isn’t fast in the first place, so if he gets much bigger he could really lose speed and possibly mobility. He’s only 20, so it’s highly likely that he will get bigger which is a concern.

At the plate, he was crushing the ball. He hit an absolute no-doubter to left on a Kevin Pucetas hanging curve and later he crushed a line drive opposite field that hit about a foot below the top of the fence. His power seems absolutely legit and I expect him to mash at AA Northwest Arkansas this year. If his defense is as good as some say, he is a good bet to be a good to possibly great Major League catcher. The building hype seems to be legit for the young catcher.

John Lamb – Lamb was throwing his fastball 88-91 mph with a really nice 68-72 mph curve and a 77-78 mph changeup. His fastball velocity wasn’t as high as it’s been in the past, but I heard he might have a muscle strain that had him going a little easy, it’s not a concern though. His control, which is his hallmark was on display. He was extremely efficient and wasted very few pitches. His fastball had really good movement. He could run it in on the hands of a right handed batter, and it seemed that he could also run it in the other direction when he wanted

Wil Myers – Myers was rotating through all three outfield positions. I would imagine it’s so he can get a good look at reading balls from all three fields. Though he’s certainly going to be a corner outfielder, balls in general are easiest to read from CF because there is usually a lot less bend in them. So it’s a good place for him to work on his defensive instincts, and does need work in that area.  He’s still clearly trying to get the hang of the position after shifting from catcher this off-season. He’s pretty athletic, but not athletic enough to make up for poor reads in the outfield.

His defense though, isn’t what he’s known for, that would be his bat which was on display. Watching him next to other minor leaguers you c an see what makes him different. His wrist strength is phenomenal and that’s a skill that nearly every Major League hitter has. He can put his bat on the ball and react at the last possible moment and still hit the ball hard. And hit the ball hard is exactly what he did when I saw him. He smashed three balls right up the middle, including one that hit pitcher Kevin Pucetas in the leg and had all on-lookers saying “oouuuch”. Myers though, didn’t react. He was running full tilt to first base throughout. It’s not a knock on him, in fact it’s to his credit. His mindset was to go all out down the baseline regardless of what was happening on the field. I was impressed. He also took a walk on around six pitches which in these Minor League intra-squad games are very rare, I think it’s a credit to his plate discipline.

Kevin Pucetas – He was acquired in the trade with the Giants for Jose Guillen, so really he doesn’t have to be good at all to make that trade a win for the Royals. Fortunately, he is a decent pitcher. He didn’t have that special stuff that other pitchers have, but his stuff did seem to be able to play in the Majors right now. He could be a contributor to the Royals bullpen today and might get a look at some point in the season. He’s not Lamb or Duffy, but few are.

I’m going to see the Royals again today so look for more notes tomorrow. If there’s anyone you’d like me to try and get a look at post it in the comments. I’ll also be tweeting things as they happen tonight at about 8:30 Central time. You can follow at http://www.twitter.com/brokenbatsingle

Jason Adam – As I reached the field, Jason Adam was pitching against some of his fellow Royals teammates. The scouts were all clustered up and keeping a close eye on him. His name has been circulating amongst the scout circle, so there were plenty who wanted to get a firsthand look. I’m no scout, but what I saw was very impressive. He was fastball was in the 94-96 mph range and he was locating his curve ball for strikes. He seemed to be using the curve as an out pitch and it was working. It had nice break, but he was leaving it up in the zone. Had he been facing a higher level of competition it probably would have been crushed. He’s only 19, so it’s not a concern at all. He seems very advanced for his age and should rocket up Royals prospect lists this year.

Sal Perez – I’ve heard good things about Sal, but I’ve never seen him in person. He’s bigger than I expected. He’s not only tall, but has thick legs. He isn’t fast in the first place, so if he gets much bigger he could really lose speed and possibly mobility. He’s only 20, so it’s highly likely that he will get bigger which is a concern.

At the plate, he was crushing the ball. He hit an absolute no-doubter to left on a Kevin Pucetas hanging curve and later he crushed a line drive opposite field that hit about a foot below the top of the fence. His power seems absolutely legit and I expect him to mash at AA Northwest Arkansas this year. If his defense is as good as some say, he is a good bet to be a good to possibly great Major League catcher. The building hype seems to be legit for the young catcher.

John Lamb – Lamb was throwing his fastball 88-91 mph with a really nice 68-72 mph curve and a 77-78 mph changeup. His fastball velocity wasn’t as high as it’s been in the past, but I heard he might have a muscle strain that had him going a little easy, it’s not a concern though. His control, which is his hallmark was on display. He was extremely efficient and wasted very few pitches. His fastball had really good movement. He could run it in on the hands of a right handed batter, and it seemed that he could also run it in the other direction when he wanted

Wil Myers – Myers was rotating through all three outfield positions. I would imagine it’s so he can get a good look at reading balls from all three fields. Though he’s certainly going to be a corner outfielder, balls in general are easiest to read from CF because there is usually a lot less bend in them. So it’s a good place for him to work on his defensive instincts, and does need work in that area. He’s still clearly trying to get the hang of the position after shifting from catcher this off-season. He’s pretty athletic, but not athletic enough to make up for poor reads in the outfield.

His defense though, isn’t what he’s known for, that would be his bat which was on display. Watching him next to other minor leaguers you c an see what makes him different. His wrist strength is phenomenal and that’s a skill that nearly every Major League hitter has. He can put his bat on the ball and react at the last possible moment and still hit the ball hard. And hit the ball hard is exactly what he did when I saw him. He smashed three balls right up the middle, including one that hit pitcher Kevin Pucetas in the leg and had all on-lookers saying “oouuuch”. Myers though, didn’t react. He was running full tilt to first base throughout. It’s not a knock on him, in fact it’s to his credit. His mindset was to go all out down the baseline regardless of what was happening on the field. I was impressed. He also took a walk on around six pitches which in these Minor League intra-squad games are very rare, I think it’s a credit to his plate discipline.

Kevin Pucetas – He was acquired in the trade with the Giants for Jose Guillen, so really he doesn’t have to be good at all to make that trade a win for the Royals. Fortunately, he is a decent pitcher. He didn’t have that special stuff that other pitchers have, but his stuff did seem to be able to play in the Majors right now. He could be a contributor to the Royals bullpen today and might get a look at some point in the season. He’s not Lamb or Duffy, but few are.

In an annual tradition that excites me almost as having pitchers and catchers report, Forbes released their valuations and rankings of the teams of major league baseball.

Your Kansas City Royals rank 25th.

Money (pun intended) quote:

Early last season the Royals became the first MLB team to lose 600 games since the start of the 2004 season. The team averaged 97 losses a year from 2004 through 2010. Even though the Royals averaged just 20,191 fans (53% of capacity) per game at Kauffman Stadium in 2010 the team was profitable because it is among the biggest recipients of welfare from the league’s richer teams and fielded a modest player payroll ($72 million).

Let me bottom line this for you:  The Royals are bad.  They’ve been bad for a long time.  Nobody goes to the games.  And David Glass and his brood are still flush with cash.  There.

None of this should surprise you.  We’re fans.  We know the team has been awful and we know that attendance is sparse – with the exception of dollar hot dog night and Cardinal games.

We’ve all suspected that Glass is making serious coin.  Obviously, that’s something that doesn’t show up in the papers (like the standings) or it’s not something you can actually witness (like poor attendance.)  Long time readers know, I’m all about the market and capitalism and people making as much money as they possibly can.

David Glass purchased the team for $96 million in 2000.  Forbes currently values the team at a whopping $351 million.  We should all be so lucky to have a 265% return on investment.

Here’s the Royals payroll from the last five seasons, compared with operating income from those years:

Now we begin to understand.  While we’ve applauded Glass for green lighting payroll increases, he’s obviously doing so with the understanding that income remains consistent from year to year.  The Royals have posted an operating income between $8 and $10 million each of the last five years.

Obviously, the Royals player expenses will shrink dramatically in 2011.  After about $90 million in expenses (including bonuses and benefits) team payroll will open at roughly $35 million.  Given that the Opening Day payroll last year was $70 million, that means around $20 million went to additional expenditures.  Since the Royals don’t figure to be sending money in trades (since they don’t have any bad contracts – except for Kendall, naturally) and the potential bonuses are few and moderate, let’s just estimate an additional $10 million in expenditures.  That would bump the Royals to a total of $45 million – or roughly half of their 2010 total.

That would put them in the neighborhood of the San Diego Padres – baseball’s most profitable team in 2010, with an operating income of $37 million.  Of course, the Padres are in a larger market, but the similarities between the teams are notable.  After maxing out at $90 million in player expenses for the 2006 season, San Diego held steady a couple of years before really slashing in 2009.  Last year, their player expenses were at $51 million and revenues were at $159 million.  Those numbers are extremely close to what the Royals will post in 2011.

According to Forbes, last season the Padres were gifted more than $30 million… And Moorad and Moores pocketed $37 million last year.  It’s not difficult to understand why revenue sharing is so controversial. (Yes, I brought it up. No, I don’t want to get into that debate here and now.) Reduce that number just a bit because of market size, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Glass family is set to realize a profit of nearly $35 million this year.

There are a couple of reasons to own a professional sports team.  One is ego.  Chicks like a guy who owns the team.  Not surprisingly, Glass seems devoid of ego.  Another reason is money.  Clearly, you make some cash in this line of work.  As I said before, I don’t begrudge the man his profit.  But when you make too much money and your product isn’t very good, things can get kind of dicey.

Glass is a walking PR disaster, but someone should convince him to explain what he’s doing with the windfall he will realize this year.  Spending more on the draft? Perfect.  Expanding scouting operations in Latin America? Excellent.  A simple promise to add payroll as The Process begins to show significant strides?  Yes, please.

Right now, Glass is set to take a beating from the East Coast media and plenty of folks from Kansas City (I’m thinking talk radio bloviators) for slicing the payroll.  I’m on record as supporting what Dayton Moore is doing, and as I said earlier, I’m all for someone making a profit.  However, a baseball team and it’s fans have an emotional relationship – not a business one.  The Royals need to get out in front of this and explain that despite what should be huge profits, Glass and Moore continue to position this team for the future.  It’s a tough sell given the history of this team and regime.  Still, they at least have to try.  Stuff this crap about competing this year… Nobody with half a brain buys that.  Continue to talk about the future.  And tell us where the money will be spent.

Otherwise, it’s going to get rough.

Still, it’s a good time to be the owner of the Royals.  A very good time.

The lesson from all of this?  If you had $100 million rattling around your pocket in 2000 and didn’t try to buy the Royals (or just about any other similarly valued baseball team) you are a sucker.

Like seemingly everyone on the Royals this year, Luke Hochevar is entering his age twenty-seven season.   There is a bit of mysticism surrounding that age in some baseball circles.   At age twenty-seven lights are supposed to come on, career years are to be had, peaks (or more hopefully new plateaus) are supposedly reached.

The Royals could certainly use a breakout season from their Opening Day starter.   Even if Luke Hochevar simply becomes a solid major league starter as opposed to an ace, it would still go a long way towards making the 2011 Royals a little more respectable than what we fear they might actually be.

The question, quite obviously, is can Luke Hochevar become something other than the guy who has compiled a 5.59 earned run average over his first 378 major league innings? 

While it is not an exact science, Baseball Reference offers us comparable pitchers at the same age and it takes something a strong stomach to read the list when it comes to Hochevar’s age twenty-six comparables:

  • Dan Wright
  • Don Schulze
  • Ryan Rupe
  • John Thomson
  • Doug Waechter
  • Jose Acevedo
  • Johnny Babich
  • Mac Suzuki
  • Joaquin Benoit
  • Ryan Bowen

In case you were not sure just how disappointing that list is, only John Thomson managed to have any sort of real career as a starter.  He started 146 games, threw 880 innings and posted an ERA of 4.42 after turning twenty-seven and actually had one very good year (age 30) in the middle of that.   Benoit reinvented himself as a solid reliever and is still pitching, but the rest of that group pretty much spent their age twenty-seven and twenty-eight seasons playing themselves out of major league baseball.

However, if you squint just right and wake up in just the right mood, you can find some other pitchers who might give us some hope:  Gil Meche and Chris Carpenter.

Admittedly it is a bit of stretch, but entering their age twenty-seven seasons, both Meche and Carpenter carried (to then) career numbers that included an average of 6 strikeouts per nine innings and over 3 walks per nine – same as Luke.   In fact, Meche was walking four batters per nine innings.

Now, Meche by this age had tossed 628 innings and Carpenter has hurled almost 800.   Both had career ERA’s a shade below five.   Obviously, they were more experienced than Hochevar and, while neither had yet become the pitcher that would make them a lot of money, Meche and Carpenter had been more successful than Luke.  

Carpenter had a miserable age twenty-seven season (5.28 ERA) that included a stint in the minors and ended in injury.  He pitched in six minor league games in 2003 and then exploded as one of the premier pitchers in the National League in 2004.   Meche, on the other hand, had a decent age twenty-seven season (4.48 ERA in 180+ innings) and parlayed that into his five year deal with the Royals.   He proceeded to be a legitimate number two type pitcher for the next two and one-half years. 

Let’s take liberty with age for a minute and add Wandy Rodriguez to the mix.  In his first three seasons (ages twenty-five through twenty-seven), Rodriguez threw 440 innings with an ERA of 5.17, 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.6 walks.   While older, Rodriguez was roughly at the same point in his career innings wise as Hochevar currently is.   In the three seasons since, Rodriguez had compiled a 3.36 ERA, struck out over 8 batters per 9 innings and walked less than three.

Can Luke Hochevar emerge as another Meche or even Wandy Rodriguez?   Will he sink into his dismal list of comparables and be lucky to have a John Thomson like career?   Or will he simply continue on as Luke Hochevar, the guy who tantalizes us with strings of quality starts followed by a few poor runs?   For that matter, can he even stay healthy for an entire season?  Especially one spent at the front end of a major league rotation.

There is no science in any of the above.   Some of you might come up with better or, depending on how you look at it, worse examples of pitchers at similar points in their careers who went in both directions.   What will happen to Hochevar in 2011 remains to be seen.

Truth is, Hochevar could fall flat on his face and not really have an effect on what Dayton Moore is trying to build for 2013 and beyond.   Of course, should Luke take a step forward into even ‘Meche territory’, it could help accelerate The Process and make even contending in 2012 at least a possibility.

Episode #46 – The first ever Royals Authority live event captured in all it’s audio glory. Craig, Clark and Nick discuss the upcoming season, the rotation, Herb Washington and more.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs046.mp3|titles=BBS

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Thanks to everyone who came to the event at the Well last night. Excellent way to prep for the upcoming season and always good to talk Royals with a bunch of passionate fans.

Late night means late post… But no shortage of info to digest this morning.  From Dutton, it appears the Royals are inching closer to a set lineup that looks something like this:

3B Mike Aviles
SS Alcides Escobar/2B Chris Getz
1B/DH Billy Butler
DH/1B Kila Ka’aihue
CF Melky Cabrera
RF Jeff Francoeur
LF Alex Gordon
C Brayan Pena/Lucas May
2B Chris Getz/SS Alcides Escobar

This strikes me kind of like the rotation… It is what it is.  This team lacks a true leadoff hitter (at least one that has been promised playing time… Ahem…) and it also appears to lack a true number two.  Of course, we all remember The Jason Kendall Experience batting second from last season.

According to Dutton, the Getz/Escobar middle infield combo will share number two duties depending on the handedness of the starting pitcher.  Frankly, neither one excites me hitting high in the order.  Still, difficult to be outraged over something that Ned Yost really can’t help.  I mean, he could start Lance Zawadzki instead of Getz, but that’s essentially swapping a number nine hitter for a number nine hitter.  Offensively, it feels like a bit of a push.

Here’s what Yost had to say about Aviles hitting at the top of the order:

“I like Aviles at the top,” Yost said. “He’s a guy who has a chance to hit .300. He’s a guy who can steal bases. He’s a guy who will give you a decent at-bat, and he finds a way to get on.

“He’s a free-swinger type but, more than anybody else in our lineup, he’s got the magic wand. His hits find holes. In the leadoff spot, you’re looking for a guy who can get on base any way that he can and start the merry-go-round.”

Of course, Yost mentions OBP fourth in a list of qualities that make Aviles his “ideal” leadoff man.  Sigh. It’s that free swinger rap that caught my attention.  Last season, he swung at 50.8% of all pitches, well above the major league average of 45.6%.  It should also be noted that over his career, he’s seen an average of 3.51 pitches per plate appearance.  Major league average over those three years is 3.82.  Nope, Aviles may own a “magic wand” but he’s not the type of hitter you want at the top of the order.  Still… I don’t know who else there is given the chosen (or promised) starting nine.

The rest of the order is fine by me.  Although Cabrera seems an odd choice to hit fifth, but as mentioned, there are already four guys in the lineup who should hit eighth or ninth… There’s still too much mediocrity and not enough spots at the bottom of the order. They’ll flip Gordon and Francoeur depending on handedness of the pitcher and who’s hotter at the moment. (Stop laughing.)  Overall, this lineup features four right handed hitters, three leftys and a pair of switch hitters.  That’s a decent balance and will give Yost license to tinker around the heart of the order.

As a final reminder, the Royals Authority live event is tonight. Come by The Well at 7421 Broadway in Waldo if you’d like to talk baseball with Clark, Craig and myself. I’ll be setting things up around 6:00 p.m. and we’ll do some introductions aat 6:30.  At 7:00 we’ll begin recording the Broken Bat Single podcast and  have some audience participation. After the podcast, we’ll just hang around and talk baseball. I had hoped that the Royals would be broadcasting the Spring Training game tonight but alas, all great plans of mice and men….

We’ve reserved the V.I.P. room so that the rest of the bar won’t be forced to listen to our baseball-nerd ramblings. It’s on the main floor in the back, just ask any bartender where it is or look for the group of people that look like they  live in their mothers’ basement…thats us.

There are still some spots available if you’d like to come, you can RSVP in the comments below. There is no cost to attend and there isn’t any basketball on, so you have no excuse to stay home. So come on out, talk some baseball and enjoy some good beers and hopefully some intelligent baseball discussion at The Well. If you don’t come, we’ll make Clark write 20 love poems to Jason Kendall and nobody wants that.

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.

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