Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Recently, I’ve been reviewing the 2010 Royals offense position by position.  You can go back and read the individual position articles for catcher (including a series preview), first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field and designated hitter.  Each individual post looked at the players who played the position and how the entire unit hit compared to the rest of the American League.  It’s certainly instructive to see where the Royals rank within the entire league, but in reality they only have to compete with the teams in the American League Central in order to win a coveted spot in the playoffs. Below is a series of graphs and charts which will allow you to see more clearly how the Royals ranked compared to their peers and where exactly the offense needed the most help to compete within the division.

For this exercise, I’ll be using the statistic wOBA, which I gathered from Fangraphs.  You don’t really need to understand how the statistic is calculated, just know that a higher number represents better offense.

First, let’s look at a heat chart that shows every position in the American League Central and ranks them according to wOBA.  Red represents the best in that statistical category and green the worst, with the colors ranging in the middle.

As usual, middle infielders and catchers are towards the bottom and corner infielders and outfielders are towards the top.  What always surprises me when I do these exercises is how poor some teams utilize their designated hitter.  For a position that’s supposed to be nothing but offense, teams consistently have middle of the pack numbers at the position.  It seems kind of crazy, but I think that finding a better hitter at DH could really help some teams out.  For instance, the White Sox got more offensive production out of their shortstop and catcher than they did out of their DH, while the Tigers got more offense out of their second baseman.The Royals have a pretty standard looking distribution.  They got the worst production from catcher, shortstop and center field, while getting better production from first, third and designated hitter.

Now, I’ll separate it out position by position and provide where each team ranked in the American League at that position.  Again, these are sorted by wOBA.

The Royals were only last in the division at the position of catcher, probably one of the better spots to be last in, especially in a division with some good hitting catchers.  The tables are a nice reference, but I think putting them into a radar graph is really the best way to visualize the information.  In the graph below, each line represents a team in the AL Central, for example the blue line is the Royals.  Along the outside of the graph are each offensive position, for example catcher is at the top. Each of the different levels represents a rank in the American League in wOBA at that position, with the outside being 1st place and the inside being 14th place.  So staying with catcher you’ll see that the Twins had the 2nd best catcher by wOBA, then a few slots below is the White Sox, then the Indians, then the Tigers and finally the Royals.  It takes a minute to really let the information jump out at you, but if you just kind of relax your eyes it comes to you.

You can see that the Royals posted the best offensive numbers at third base in 2010, but they were a tad above average across the American League.  It’s also interesting to see where teams are stacked and where they need help.  Just think how bad things could have been for the Indians without Shin-Soo Choo playing right field.  The outfield was clearly a concern for the Royals last year, and it’s obvious why Dayton Moore decided he needed some help out there.  It can bring into focus why some other teams made offseason moves.  Whether the Tigers utilize Victor Martinez at catcher, designated hitter or both, he’ll be a mighty offensive upgrade.

The Royals still have a long way to go to become an offensive powerhouse in the American league, but 2010 was a mild improvement over 2009.  The offense is shaping up in 2011 to be an improvement on 2010 as well.  The pitching, well that’s another story.  I like taking stock in the offseason to see where the team and organization sit within the Division.  Things seem to be moving in the right direction, although at a seemingly snail-like pace.  Lots of new faces will be taking the field next season, including some highly touted Minor League talent.  I’m very interested in seeing how these charts look next offseason.

Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Royals podcasts and is proud to be a writer here at The Royals Authority.  You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on facebook.

Almost all of us expected this month’s twenty-five man roster to look a lot different than that posted at the beginning of last month and, as it turned out, we were right.     By now, the November and October predictions look simply outlandish.  

After the Greinke trade, we now have a pretty clear idea of what the Royals are going to look like going into the 2011 season and a high degree of likelihood that the roster won’t change a ton between now and Opening Day.    While I think there is a decent chance Robinson Tejeda still gets dealt and a very, very, very outside chance that Joakim Soria is moved, it would seem as though Dayton Moore is pretty close to finished with his off-season moves.  

So, here we go with this month’s version of the 2011 Opening Day roster.

  • CATCHER – Bryan Pena and Lucas May

I have been going back and forth on this position since the end of last season.   Knowing Dayton Moore, it was hard to believe he would not go sign a veteran guy to help out at this position.   More and more, however, I have come to believe that Moore is content to go with Pena and May until Jason Kendall returns sometime during 2011.   I don’t have a problem with that plan as long as Kendall does not come back for 2012 and Salavador Perez continues to progress.

  • FIRST BASE/DESIGNATED HITTER – Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue

Billy Butler is the best hitter on this team and Kila deserves a shot to prove he does or does not possess ‘slider bat speed’.   End of discussion.

  • SECOND BASE/THIRD BASE/UTILITY – Chris Getz, Mike Aviles, Wilson Betemit

In prior editions, I listed Getz at second and Aviles at third, based on a now long ago comment by Moore in that regard.   In truth, these three positions might well be something of a moving target until Mike Moustakas’ arrival sometime between the end of April and the end of June.   Getz will get a chance to prove he can or cannot hit for a couple of months and Aviles probably won’t play regularly early as the organization routinely forgets that all he does in hit.   I don’t expect to get too worked up about the situation as I am somewhat curious about Getz (somewhat, mind you) and Betemit earned some at-bats from his fine offensive performance last year.   By mid-season, we should be comfortably settled in with Moustakas at third and Aviles at second.

  • SHORTSTOP – Alcides Escobar

Man, it really felt good to not have to type ‘Yuniesky Betancourt’ there!

  • LEFT FIELD – Alex Gordon

I think he still gets a chance at everyday duty to start the year.

  • CENTER FIELD – Melky Cabrera

While I would go with Lorenzo Cain right out of the shoot, he might well start off in AAA (wherever he is, he must play everyday).   Others like Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier, but deep down we all know Melky has first dibs on this spot.

  • RIGHTFIELD – Jeff Francouer

Last month, I had this position as ‘somebody not here yet’.   Well, somebody is here and has been promised everday duty.

  • BENCH – Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco (plus Betemit as listed above)

There is not a utility infield candidate on the 40 man roster, so I think it’s likely that the Royals go with five outfielders with Cain in Omaha.

  • ROTATION – Luke Hochevar, Vin Mazzaro, Kyle Davies, Sean O’Sullivan and Zach Miner

The dollars being spent on marginal starting pitchers this off-season is borderline silly.  Hopefully silly enough for Dayton Moore to wash his hands of the entire idea.   While the organization has publicly stated that Everett Teaford, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow will ‘all get a good look this spring’, I think only Teaford has an actual shot at breaking camp with the big club.   I do expect to see all three in Kansas City in 2011, maybe all before the All-Star Break.  

  • BULLPEN – Joakim Soria, Gil Meche, Blake Wood, Dusty Hughes, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Nathan Adcock

I don’t know if Adcock has a real shot at sticking or not, but as a Rule 5 guy, he automatically gets a decent shot.   Frankly, when the options are Kanekoe Texeira and Jesse Chavez, what’s the harm in keeping him on the big league twenty-five to start the season?   Jeremy Jeffress and Greg Holland are also  in the mix as well and, as you can see from the above, I still think Robinson Tejeda is traded prior to the start of the season.

Should Tejeda still be around come March 31st, I think that puts Dusty Hughes on treacherous ground, which is not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination.   Rightly or wrongly, I put more stock in having guys who can get hitters out as opposed to what side of their bodies they throw from, so breaking camp with the rookie Collins as the team’s only lefty is not a dramatic concern to me.

Episode #039 – In this episode, Nick and Adam re-visit their preseason predictions from Spring Training,  and discuss how to spend the off-season.  We clearly need some real baseball to begin.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs039.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Adam on Twitter @kccommi

Music used in this podcast:

The Kinks – Village Green Preservation Society

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

Phish – Slave To The Traffic Light

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I’ve had this picture on my desktop for ages, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you as we celebrate the New Year.  Here’s to 2011… And beyond…

Anyone know the answer to the question posed on that cover?

The Royals signed Zach Miner to a minor league deal this morning, which is not a bad signing at all. It is also not an exciting deal by any stretch of the imagination.

The most interesting part of this signing is that Miner was part of a deadline deal between Atlanta and Detroit. On July 31, 2005, Miner along with ROMAN COLON was traded by Atlanta to the Tiger for KYLE FARNSWORTH.

Pretty clearly, the Royals have totally won that 2005 trade.

One of my first reactions to the Zack Greinke trade was that Lorenzo Cain would be, without question, the Opening Day centerfielder in 2011.   As time has past, it appears more and more likely that Melky Cabrera, for better or worse, will join Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur as the starting outfielder.   While such an alignment is not all that appealing and certainly not all that exciting, my disgust at the idea has faded.

Let me start by saying that I am a ‘Lorenzo Cain guy’.   I believe he might well be the future in centerfield, maybe not an All-Star, but certainly a David DeJesus level player who can be an above average defender in center.   Some skeptics will point to Cain’s unsustainable BABIP at all three levels he played at last season and think otherwise, however.    There is validity in the skepticism given that Cain’s BABIP last season were .402 at AA, .371 at AAA and .370 in 43 games in the majors.   Keep in mind what Cain’s BABIP have been in other seasons before you say his fine 2010 campaign was a mirage:

  • 2006 – .369 (A)
  • 2007 – .341 (Hi-A)
  • 2008 – .344 (Hi-A), .352 (AA)
  • 2009 – .252 (AA)

I left off time spent at levels that Cain collected less than 75 at-bats, by the way.    So, while Lorenzo Cain is not going to post a BABIP of .400, it appears that he is a player who might routinely post numbers that we would call ‘lucky’.   There are guys out there who simply have higher than average BABIPs year after year (see Aviles, Mike or DeJesus, David).

Luck or no luck, whether you believe in Lorenzo Cain or not, I am beginning to think that he will not only NOT be the Opening Day centerfielder, but also will not even be on the 25 man roster on March 31st.   While part of me hates that idea, part of me also can live with it as well.

To begin with, for better or worse, the Royals did sign Melky Cabrera.   While the amount they are spending on Melky is not enough for even the Royals to worry about, giving him a couple of months to further reinforce that he is what he is does no real harm to the future of this organization. 

With just 122 AAA plate appearances on his resume, Lorenzo Cain probably could use a little additional seasoning at that level.   At the minimum, sending Cain to Omaha for part of another season would give him some additional time to improve his routes to balls in center.   Truthfully, no one really cares (well, maybe Minda Haas does) if Cain takes a bad route in Sarpy County and turns what should have been a nice catch in the alley into a triple.   If it happens on March 31st in Kaufmann, however…..

Realistically, what are the odds that Gordon and Cabrera AND Francouer all hit in 2011?   I mean, when was the last time the Royals were that fortuneate.    By mid-June, at least one of those guys will likely have played poorly enough that no one will lose any sleep over taking them out of the everyday lineup in favor of Cain.   Heck, it is entirely possible that David Lough will be a welcome respite for another of the original three by then as well!

While I still hold out hope that Cain is the everyday centerfield from day one next season, I no longer have any angst over him starting the year in Omaha, either.   The only bad move the Royals can make with him would be to keep him in the majors and not play Lorenzo everyday.  

Since we are talking about the Kansas City Royals here, choosing the one bad option out of three is always a possibility.     In this case, I have hope that the organization will, in fact, choose wisely.    They have promised Francouer an everyday gig and, probably intimated as much to Melky Cabrera.   While the organizational frustration level is sky high with Alex Gordon, they have to give him another half season at least, don’t they?   With Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier already in hand, go ahead and give Cain a couple of months in AAA.   The decision of whom to replace will be much clearer on June 1st than April 1st anyway.

Like Mike Moustakas, there really is not a particularly compelling reason to rush Lorenzo Cain in 2011.   Come June 15th or so, however, if the Royals’ big league lineup does not include Moustakas at third, Cain in center and Mike Montgomgery and Danny Duffy in the rotation, a column like this will not be quite so ‘organizationally positive’.

There have been plenty of articles written about the Zack Greinke trade.  There were plenty of great opinions both positive and negative.  Personally, I like the trade quite a bit, but that’s not what today’s post is about.  Anyone who watched the Royals for the past four years knows how great Zack Greinke was.  He was an interesting character and a fascinating pitcher.  He seemed like he could do anything he wanted on the mound.  Opposing batters never seemed to know what was going to happen next, and I’m not sure Zack did either.  I will certainly miss that little twinge of excitement when I looked at the pitching matchup and Greinke was on the slate.  Not only did the Royals have a good chance of winning, but there was a pretty good chance that I was going to see something spectacular.

The bottom line is that Greinke was one of the best pitchers to ever put on a Royals uniform.  At his peak, he might have been the best, but he won’t have the longevity to be a part of the Royals Hall of Fame.  To honor Greinke and what he did in Royal blue, I thought I’d take a look at where he will end up ranked (barring a return) amongst the Royals Greats in some statistical categories.

I used the Baseball-Reference method of 500 IP or 50 decisions to be on the rate stat leader board.  Stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com

Innings Pitched


Player IP
1. Paul Splittorff 2554.7
2. Mark Gubicza 2218.7
3. Dennis Leonard 2187.0
4. Kevin Appier 1843.7
5. Larry Gura 1701.3
6. Bret Saberhagen 1660.3
7. Charlie Leibrandt 1257.0
8. Tom Gordon 1149.7
9. Dick Drago 1134.0
10. Zack Greinke 1108.0

I was certainly a little surprised to find that Grienke was 10th in innings pitched as a Kansas City Royal, and if he’d pitched another year he’d have likely made it to 7th.

ERA


Player ERA IP
1. Dan Quisenberry 2.55 920.3
2. Steve Farr 3.05 511.0
3. Jeff Montgomery 3.20 849.3
4. Bret Saberhagen 3.21 1660.3
5. Al Fitzmorris 3.46 1098.0
6. Marty Pattin 3.48 825.7
7. Kevin Appier 3.49 1843.7
8. Dick Drago 3.52 1134.0
9. Doug Bird 3.56 714.7
10. Charlie Leibrandt 3.60 1257.0
11. Danny Jackson 3.69 712.7
12. Dennis Leonard 3.70 2187.0
13. Steve Busby 3.72 1060.7
14. Larry Gura 3.72 1701.3
15. Buddy Black 3.73 977.7
16. Bruce Dal Canton 3.76 555.0
17. Paul Splittorff 3.81 2554.7
18. Zack Greinke 3.82 1108.0

This stat is sort of misleading considering Greinke played in an era where there were a lot more runs scored on average, but it is a testament to a franchise that has had some pretty good pitchers in it’s history.

Strikeouts


Player SO IP
1. Kevin Appier 1458 1843.7
2. Mark Gubicza 1366 2218.7
3. Dennis Leonard 1323 2187.0
4. Bret Saberhagen 1093 1660.3
5. Paul Splittorff 1057 2554.7
6. Tom Gordon 999 1149.7
7. Zack Greinke 931 1108.0
8. Jeff Montgomery 720 849.3
9. Steve Busby 659 1060.7
10. Larry Gura 633 1701.3

Zack could always strike guys out and it was awesome to watch.  I hoped he’d join the 1,000 strikeout club and possibly be the first member of the 2,000 club, but we don’t always get what we hope for.

Wins

Rank Player Wins IP
1. Paul Splittorff 166 2554.7
2. Dennis Leonard 144 2187.0
3. Mark Gubicza 132 2218.7
4. Kevin Appier 115 1843.7
5. Larry Gura 111 1701.3
6. Bret Saberhagen 110 1660.3
7. Tom Gordon 79 1149.7
8. Charlie Leibrandt 76 1257.0
9. Steve Busby 70 1060.7
Al Fitzmorris 70 1098.0
11. Dick Drago 61 1134.0
12. Zack Greinke 60 1108.0

We all know that the win statistic is the most over-rated one in existence and it doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the pitcher.  However, it’s pretty amazing that Zack compiled the 12th most wins in team history while playing for some of the worst teams to wear the KC on their hats.

Hit By Pitch

Rank Player Hit By Pitch IP
1. Mark Gubicza 58 2218.7
2. Dennis Leonard 52 2187.0
3. Larry Gura 40 1701.3
4. Kevin Appier 39 1843.7
Zack Greinke 39 1108.0
6. Paul Splittorff 34 2554.7
7. Dick Drago 31 1134.0
8. Buddy Black 29 977.7
Jeff Suppan 29 864.7
10. Hipolito Pichardo 27 669.7
Bret Saberhagen 27 1660.3

Zack could certainly be wild at times, and he wasn’t afraid of anyone.  His arsenal of pitches, velocity and command combined with just that rough edge where you weren’t sure whether he was throwing at you on purpose or on accident was always fun to watch.

Strikeouts per 9 IP

Player K/9 IP
1. Tom Gordon 7.821 1149.7
2. Jeff Montgomery 7.630 849.3
3. Zack Greinke 7.562 1108.0
4. Steve Farr 7.556 511.0
5. Kevin Appier 7.117 1843.7
6. Gil Meche 6.929 617.0
7. Jose Rosado 6.047 720.3
8. Bret Saberhagen 5.925 1660.3
9. Doug Bird 5.843 714.7
10. Darrell May 5.632 527.3

We already discussed strikeouts, but this list was too interesting to ignore.  Greinke ranks highest amongst starters in Royals history in strikeouts per nine innings.  Who would have guessed that Gil Meche would be higher than Saberhagen on this list?  Ah, Jose Rosado, I’ll always remember what could have been.

Just a sampling of some of the Royals all-time pitching leaders.  Zack wasn’t the best to wear the uniform, but his 2009 season was probably the best single season pitching performance.  His contributions to the team won’t be replicated in the near future, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been traded.

I don’t really like how his exit from the team has gone so far.  There has been some mud slinging and some media and former teammates have taken some pot shots at Greinke.  The kid is gone from the team, that can’t be changed now.  As fans, we watched him grow and mature.  We told fans of other teams how great he was, and we celebrated his Cy Young as if it partly belonged to us.  His stats with the Royals will always be there, and we’ll always have 2009.

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

First, let’s take a look at how the players who manned the DH position hit when they were in the lineup as a DH.

Click to Enlarge

Jose Guillen got the bulk of the duty at DH, which frankly is where he should have been for the last two years because of lingering leg injuries.  In the 84 games which Guillen hit in the DH slot, he was pretty average.  It’s not what one would hope for $12 million a season,  however he wasn’t exactly the glaring hole some assumed he was.

The only other players who had more than nominal DH duty were Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue, the two players who will most likely get the vast majority of the starts at the position in 2011.  It shouldn’t shock anyone at this point that Billy Butler can hit the ball, and 2010 was no exception.  Kila’s line is instructive. He was pretty close to an average DH offensively, but he does in in an unorthodox manner.  His OBP would have been 6th in the chart below and his slugging percentage would be 8th, however his batting average would have been thirteenth.

As a unit, the Royals designated hitters ranked 7th in the American League.  Once again the Royals find themselves pretty close to the middle offensively.  Doing this exercise opened my eyes to the fact that the offense was not that bad in 2010.  Jose Guillen is the biggest influence on those numbers, and it’s clear by the low walk rate, high strikeout rate and decent slugging.

2011 will be completely different with Jose Guillen gone and Butler and Ka’aihue likely to take the at bats.  2011 will be in many ways a make-or-break year for Kila.  The Royals are beginning to graduate some of their impact corner bats like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and even Clint Robinson.  Kila is likely to get all of 2011 to showcase his talents to the Royals and the rest of the MLB.  If he can repeat his minor league performance, the Royals will have a very difficult decision to make in regards to their future at first base and designated hitter.

Either way, 2011 will be interesting to watch because they will have a young legitimate hitter at both first and DH.  If they can anchor the middle of the lineup, it’s possible the Royals could improve offensively.  Clearly, they’ll need to to overcome the recent loss of Zack Greinke from the pitching rotation.

Although Dayton Moore has not come out and outright said that Mike Moustakas will start 2011 in the minors, he has all but said it.   There are a lot of good reasons for this plan:

  1. Moustakas has just a half season of AAA experience under his belt (and just one half season of AA experience for that matter) and a little more time in Omaha might be in order.  
  2. The 2011 Royals are going to be borderline awful, if not completely GOD awful.   Remember when Scott Elarton was the Opening Day starter?   That rotation is probably better than what the Royals are going to have in April of next year.   Having Moustakas in the majors in April is not going to keep the Royals from being irrelevant by July.
  3. If Mike Moustakas is all we hope he is, then he is also going to become very valuable (i.e. very expensive) by the time his free agent clock becomes a concern.   Given that noted big market lover Scott Boras is Mike’s agent….well, you do the math.

So, the widely expected 2011 Moustakas plan is to keep him in the minors for a long enough period of time so as to give the Royals at least a partial extra season of control.  

Unlike salary arbitration, options and Rule 5 eligibility, major league free agency is really pretty simple.   After six full years of major league service (either on the 25 man roster or the major league disabled list) a player is a free agent.   A ‘full year’ of service time is considered to be 172 days even though the full major league schedule spans 182 days.

Dayton Moore made a reference in an interview earlier this month as to there being a difference between bringing up a player who is already on the 40 man roster as opposed to bringing a guy up and putting him on the 40 man for the first time and what it means to his service clock.    My usual quick and crappy research was unable to turn up what this difference is, but given that Moustakas is not on the 40 man roster it is certainly a plus with regard to service clock issues.

In the end, the idea that the Royals have to wait for June 1 to buy an extra year before free agency is not correct.  In fact, Kansas City could conceivably call on Moustakas pretty much anytime after April 10th and enjoy his services, not for six years, but for almost a full seven.

Of course, such a blatant use of the service clock rules is not a particularly good way to foster good will between a player his organization and his agent.   I’m not sure if you noticed, but Scott Boras remembers stuff like that.    Given the state of the Royals in 2011, there is not much harm in letting Moustakas get 150 or so at-bats in AAA before making the call and at least try to avoid the look of service clock manipulator.

Now, all of the above ignores the other monetary issue:  salary arbitration.   Here, it gets pretty dicey as to when you call up Mike.   Obviously, three full years and a player is eligible for arbitration, but we also are all familiar with the ‘Super Two’ factor.   Those in the top 17% of players with two plus years experience also become eligible for arbitration.   Which means the Royals, if they are hell bent on saving money, will have to gamble on when they can call up Moustakas and not risk ‘buying’ an extra year of salary arbitration.   Again, if Mike is all we think he might be, arbitration can get really expensive really fast.

This writer’s opinion is that the Royals should be cognizant of the free agency clock with regard to Moustakas.   As stated above, there is no real reason to not hold Mike in AAA for enough days so that he is not eligible for free agency until after 2017 instead of 2016.   That said, keeping him in AAA (assuming he does not struggle in Omaha to start the year) long enough to avoid Mike becoming a super two does not make as much sense to me.

Getting Moustakas acclimated to the majors in advance of the likes of Eric Hosmer and Mike Montgomery and well in advance of Wil Myers and John Lamb might have benefits that exceed the cost savings of avoiding an extra year of salary arbitration.  

By most accounts, Mike is a leader.   It’s worth reading Greg Schaum’s interview with Eric Hosmer and what Moustakas did as far as helping Hosmer acclimate to professional ball and imagine him doing something similar at the major league level.   Having Moustakas get even three months of major league experience in before the next wave of prospects come to Kansas City might be of great worth to the organization in the long run.

Now, I know, the above paragraph dances along the much maligned (rightly so) organizational drivel about grit, clubhouse presence and veteran leadership and all the crap that was dished out over the past five years to justify lesser or older players taking time from guys who needed a look.   That said, there is also validity to needing leaders and good clubhouse guys and such.   Moustakas could be one of those guys and getting him started in front of some of the other prospects is key to him taking on such a role.

Of course, if Mike hits .195 with one home run for Omaha this April, we can just wad up the above column and trash can it.   As the new optimistic me frolics through the off-season, I will go ahead and predict a Moustakas major league debut on April 26th as the Royals take on the Indians in Cleveland.

Love it or hate it, the Greinke trade seems to have generated one common feeling throughout the land of Royals’ blogs:   this, at last, really is The Process.  

For better or worse, after somehow getting older at the major league level over the past few years and getting worse at the same time, the trade of Zack Greinke really, really feels like the beginning.   I should clarify in that The Process has been underway for some time and that is evidenced by the glowing reviews of what is generally perceived as the best farm system in baseball.   However, The Process has not been in evidence at the major league level in any truly perceptible permutations until last week.

While there are learned Royals’ fans who, for very logical reason, are skeptical of the return on the Greinke move, but they are also intrigued to see what happens the next couple of years.   The Process is either working or leading all of us down another dark hallway, but it is now, truly underway.   That’s got to be worth something.

If The Process is in full effect at all levels now, it certainly is an inexpensive little mechanism.   The Royals are likely to have a payroll south of $50 million and be pretty awful.   In 2012, however, they are still likely to have a payroll under or around $50 million and be considerably better.   In theory that means that come 2013 when you might be looking at signing some of the young players to long term deals and maybe add an actual impact veteran free agent (‘actual’ being something different than any free agent signee of the Moore era not named Meche) they should have a stash of cash with which to do so.

However, I have some vague recollection of either David Glass or Dayton Moore mentioning something along the lines that the Royals look at payroll/budget issues on a ‘year to year basis’.   I was unable to find that actual quote, but it is a shame if my memory is right on this topic.  

You cannot have ‘a process’ without a budgetary plan that spans four or five years instead of just one.   It is foolhardy, in fact.   Hopefully, David Glass (who by the way is not an idiot when it comes to money) has told Dayton Moore that he has $400 million to spend on payroll over the next six years or something along those lines.   I just picked those numbers out of the air, but what should be the timeframe and the total dollars amount?

Anyway, the point of all this is that the Royals are going to make some money this year and probably a good deal of money in 2012 and even 2013 if this all works out.   A young roster is a cheap roster and if your young players are as good as we all think/hope/pray they are, then the revenues will be up in the coming years.   If Dayton Moore has ‘The Process’, than Mr. Glass better have ‘A Plan’ when it comes to banking some profit to have some ammunition when it comes time to go the table with Scott Boras.

Okay, now a little fun (or agony for those of you who hate lineup projections).   How will the Royals’ lineup mutate through 2011?

If Opening Day brings us this:

Pena C, Ka’iahue DH, Butler 1B, Getz 2B, Escobar SS, Aviles 3B, Gordon LF, Cabrera CF, Francoeur RF; with a rotation of Hochevar, Mazzaro, Davies, O’Sullivan and somebody.     Then how many of those fourteen guys will be in the everyday lineup on June 1st?  August 1st? September 15th?

Well, you know Jason Kendall will be back at catcher and pretty much can count on Mike Moustakas at third base come June and Lorenzo Cain in the outfield no later than August, so there’s three.   By mid-September is it conceivable that as many as six position players will be different and three starting pitchers?   Is it likely that of those NINE changes, at least eight will be dramatic upgrades?  

2011 might suck record wise.  In fact, it WILL suck record wise, but I think it will be the most interesting season since maybe as far back as 2003.   I know, I know:  it’s just another year of ‘wait until next year’, but it feels different.   Let’s hope it actually turns out to really be different.

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