Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

All-Star Break time… The artificial midpoint in the baseball season.  We’re fairly close, I guess – the Royals have played 88 games this season – just seven past the midpoint.  That means it’s time for my annual exercise where I grade the team.  Hitters today, pitchers and management on Friday.

We’ll travel around the horn…

Jason Kendall
.271/.333/.320
WAR: 0.8

Despite my persistent Kendall bashing, our backstop (is there anyone else on this team who catches?) has gone on a mini hot streak of late.  Since June 23, he’s raised his OBP 18 points and even had a game where he hit two doubles.  Two!  That’s help raise his slugging almost level with his on base percentage.

Look, we knew Kendall would get most of the reps behind the plate, but this is insane.  The old man has been behind the plate for 92% of all Royal defensive innings.  Poor Brayan Pena has to be wondering what he has to do to get some time… Steal Kendall’s cup?

I guess my problem isn’t with Kendall per se, but with an organization that seems to think he has some value.

Fun fact:  Since Ned Yost took over as manager, Kendall is 2-8 in stolen base attempts.  Hmmm… A 25% success rate is… Not good.

GRADE: D
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Billy Butler
.322/.389/.483
WAR: 2.8

Butler leads this team in OPS (.873), OPS+ (137)

The downside of Butler’s season is his continued insistence on hitting balls on the ground.  Over 46% of all of Butler’s batted balls have been grounders.  That wouldn’t be so bad, but the guy isn’t exactly a speed merchant. When he puts the ball on the ground, he’s batting just .219.  When he hits a fly ball, his average is .295.  On line drives?  Try .857.

We’ve said it time and again – for Butler to become the dominant hitter we think (and hope) he can become, he’s going to have to alter his approach and try to drive more balls in the air.  He’s obviously mastered the art of hitting the double, now he needs to turn a few of those doubles into home runs.  The scary thing is, he’s improved his contact rate from last season and has bumped it to above 90%.  He’s a hitting machine with room for improvement.  Excellent.

It’s going to only get more difficult for Butler.  The dude has zero protection in the Royals lineup.  He already has nine walks this month (one intentional) after walking just eight times all of June.  That’s what happens when you have a singles hitter batting fifth.

Defensively, it seems like he’s better.  His UZR is a fat, round 0.  That may not sound like much, but given his negative rates the last two seasons, I’ll take it.  According to the Fielding Bible’s Plus/Minus rating, Butler is a 0 here as well.  Again, improved on his negative numbers from the last two seasons.  The Fielding Bible data says he’s a +3 at ground balls to his right, which in the past has been one of the weaker links of his fielding.

GRADE: A-
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Mike Aviles
.305/.332/.386
WAR: 0.7

Aviles has done well in his return from Tommy John surgery.  The Royals were being cautious in sending him to Omaha early in the season, although many of us thought they were looking to bury him.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.  The Royals are a better offensive team with Aviles in the lineup.

One thing still missing – his power.  He hit 10 home runs and 27 doubles as a rookie in 441 plate appearances.  In 220 plate appearances this year (almost exactly half… Yay!) he’s down to just two home runs and nine doubles.  As you would expect, his ISO is roughly half his final total of 2008.  He currently has a .081 ISO compared to his .155 ISO in 2008.    As a result, his slugging percentage is a full 100 points lower from ’08.

Defensively, he’s shown some decent range at second and looks comfortable turning the double play from that side of the bag.  I look forward to the day he can shift back to shortstop, though… For obvious reasons.

GRADE: B-
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Yuniesky Betancourt
.258/.282/.391
WAR: 0.2

Don’t buy into the school of thought rolling around the Royals that Yuni “isn’t really that bad.”  Admit it.  You’ve probably said those exact words at least once this year.  That’s probably because Yuni has gotten a timely hit or two, something he absolutely never did last summer.  Then ask yourself this:  Why do you remember the timely Betancourt hits?  It’s because you have such low expectations, you expect him to fail and you’re surprised on those rare occasions where he manages to come through.

Stop it.  He still sucks.
Offensively, he’s fifth from the bottom in on base percentage and jsut outside the bottom ten in OPS+ (his OPS+ of 81 has him tied for 11th) The good news:  He’s no longer the worst everyday player in baseball.  In fact, he’s not even the worst everyday player on the Royals. (We’re mailing Jason Kendall his “prize.”)  Defensively, the guy is still a train wreck.  For every difficult ball he catches, he let’s three under his glove.

GRADE:  D-
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Alberto Callaspo
.274/.307/.418
WAR: 0.9

Callaspo is not having a good year.  In trying to figure out where it’s going wrong for him, I found three things:

1- He’s striking out more than he’s walking for the first time since arriving in Kansas City.  His SO/BB ratio from the previous two seasons was 0.92.  This year, he has a 1.6 SO/BB ratio.

2- Part of his on base struggles are poor luck.  He has a .276 BABIP, down from a .316 BABIP the previous two seasons.

That’s really about it.  He’s swinging the same number of times and making the same rate of contact.  He’s hitting slightly fewer line drives, but it’s not enough of a difference to explain his lower batting average or on base percentage.

Defensively, he’s doing fine at third.  Callaspo has converted 88% of all fielded balls into at least one out as a third baseman.  League average is 87%.  I can live with that – especially if he can get his bat going.

I think Callaspo will have a much better second half.

GRADE: C
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Scott Podsednik
.301/.347/.369
WAR: 1.2

I wrote a piece at Baseball Prospectus last week, where Pods was mentioned as a fantasy asset.  I know.  It sounds just as weird to write that as it is to say it.

Still, the guy is hitting for a fine average, getting on base and stealing bases almost like it’s the mid-1980’s all over again.  Color me shocked that he’s coming extremely close to duplicating his 2009 season where he finished at .304/.353/.412 with 30 steals.  Hell, he’s just five steals away from last year’s total, so you know he’s going to fly right by that.

Having sung his praises, there are still a few issues.  Namely his base running.  While he’s  stolen 25 bases, he’s been caught a league high 11 times.  That’s a 69% success rate, which means in the big picture, his running is hurting the team.  He’s been picked off three times and made a couple of other outs on the bases.

His .341 BABIP is extremely high, so don’t be thinking he’s going to finish the season above .300.  This means his OBP will drop as well, especially because he still won’t take a walk.

This grade may seem low, but I just can’t overlook the number of outs he gives away on the bases.

GRADE: C
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Mitch Maier
.251/.328/.367
WAR: 0.8

To those media types who call David DeJesus a fourth outfielder… This is your fourth outfielder.

I’m glad Maier is getting another chance.  He doesn’t do anything really well, but he doesn’t seem to hurt the team, either.  He’s shown improvement from last year, but it’s not a huge – or even really noticeable – improvement.

He leads the team with a 10% walk rate, so that gets a thumbs up from me.

GRADE: C+
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David DeJesus
.326/.395/.460
WAR: 3.1

He should have been the Royals All-Star.  And that he wasn’t on that “Fan Choice” ballot of trickery would be an outrage if I could only muster the requisite emotion to care.

Hands down, the MVP of this team in 2010.

GRADE: A
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Jose Guillen
.279/.340/.467
WAR: 1.5

Since June 1, Guillen has a grand total of seven extra base hits and eight walks.  That may be the craziest stat I’ll find all season.

Even with the power outage, Guillen is the third best hitter on the team this year.

GRADE: B-
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On to the bench, in order of number of plate appearances:

Chris Getz
.232/.301/.268
WAR: -0.2

I know some have hopes for Getz to turn into a serviceable bat to go along with a decent glove, but I just don’t see it.  He makes enough contact, but he’s just not good enough to make solid contact.

GRADE: D
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Willie Bloomquist
.229/.270/.361
WAR: 0.1

My least favorite moment of 2010 was probably when I learned Bloomquist was DHing against the White Sox last weekend.  The justification (Wee Willie was 13-33 against starter Mark Buehrle in his career) was borderline insane.  Although it is just like the Royals to determine their lineup against a sample size so minute to call it “small” would be overstating it.

To be fair, Bloomquist’s .239 BABIP suggests he’s been the victim of some really bad luck.  And I’m extremely pleased one year after giving Wee Willie 468 plate appearances the Royals seem to figured out how to use him.  He’s on pace for around 175 plate appearances this year.  Much better.

GRADE: D
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Rick Ankiel
.210/.275/.419
WAR: -0.1

So Guillen had blood clots, almost died, and the Royals decided they needed to sign Ankiel.  Ugh.

You know all the Lebron bashing happening right now… How Jordan would never have joined another team and played second fiddle to another established star… How Lebron will never be an alpha dog because he made this decision?  That’s kind of how I feel about Ankiel turning down an opportunity to play for the Yankees when the Royals promised him center field. It told me everything I needed to know about Ankiel.

Yeah, I’m still sore about that.

Ankiel is another dud in the Royals attempts to sign a veteran with the intent of dealing him at the trade deadline.  Not to wish continued injury on someone, but I don’t think he needs to come back.  The Royals are a better team with him not in the lineup.

GRADE: D-
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Wilson Betemit
.389/.441/.722
WAR: 0.9

Those are some impressive numbers, but he’s done that in what is basically two and a half weeks of regular work.

The hope is the Royals realize Betemit can handle the DH duties and finally jettison Guillen.  (Yes, I know Guillen has no value, but I’m just ready for his time in KC to end.  Sometimes, it’s just better to move on… Quickly.)

Still, it’s nice to see the Braves pipeline actually you know… work.  Even for a little bit.

Grade: A-

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Alex Gordon
.194/.342/.323
WAR: -0.3

2009 was supposed to be the key year.  Then it was 2010.

Now it’s 2011.

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it’s for another team.

Although I will hold out hope the Royals can trade Podsednik and make room for Gordon on the roster before August.  I’d like to see at least two months of Gordon everyday.  Please.

GRADE: I
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Brayan Pena
.172/.286/.207
WAR: -0.2

Who?  This grade is more a reflection of Hillman and Yost.

GRADE: D

As always, thanks for reading all the way through.  Now it’s your turn to weigh in on the comments.  Too harsh? Not harsh enough?  Or just right?   Fire away…

It’s the All-Star break, so forgive me if I take a moment to do an article on something a little bit more general. Besides, I’d kind of like to wipe the taste of that White Sox series out of my mouth for a moment. There is plenty of time remaining in the season to talk more Royals.

Last night was the Home Run Derby and David Ortiz won. Some of you watched and some of you didn’t (Craig said he wasn’t going to watch, but I still don’t believe him). The derby is something that gets a lot of criticism, and honestly most of it is deserved. But like almost everything other than the speed of light, it’s relative.

Let me step back for a moment. The All Star game and all of the related activities such as the Home Run Derby and the Futures Game are played at Angels Stadium this year, so there has been lots of looking back at the last game played there in 1989. That game was memorable for Royals fans because Bo Jackson hit a towering shot in the first at bat for the American League and was named MVP. In 1989 I was 10 years old, so I was basically in my prime for baseball worship and that was one of the highlights of my entire Royals fandom. Honestly, it still is. Yeah, I was at the 1985 World Series, but I didn’t really get what was going on, heck I barely remember it. The Royals have never been in a playoff game since then, so highlights (as you all know) have been hard to come by. Last night Bo threw out the first pitch and I thought to myself “Wow, how cool would it have been if they had the Home Run Derby when Bo was playing?” Think about that, it would have been spectacular particularly to any young Royals fan.

Back to the relative nature of the Home Run Derby. If you are like me, you read all kinds of baseball articles and blog posts. I read articles from Padres beat writers, Rockies bloggers, Tigers fans, prospect watchers, satirists, historians, stat gurus, geniuses, writers I loathe, writers I respect and every other angle that one can possibly fathom. I always felt that I had an amazing cross section of baseball opinions represented, until last night. With all of the unique voices writing about the game today, nobody captures that of the 10 year old fan. And THAT is who the Home Run Derby is for.

I remember as a young kid watching re-runs of that old home run derby show from the 50’s on ESPN and l loved it. I remember wishing that I could see the great power hitters of that day like Will Clark, Andre Dawson and Bo Jackson do the same thing. Going back and watching that old show now just doesn’t seem that great. Like the current home run derby, it’s kind of boring with little nuance, strategy or the million other things that make a real baseball game great. But most 10 year olds don’t really appreciate nuance and strategy and the subtleties of the game the way someone can with a couple of decades more experience. That’s why we don’t let them drink, drive or get married.

Just imagine what a blog post from a 10 year old fan regarding the Home Run Derby would be like: (I wish I knew a 10 year old, I would have absolutely let him/her write this part):

OH MAN! Did you see the Home Run Derby last night?!? Big Papi hit a ton of home runs and they went far. That was so awesome. Hanley Ramirez, that guy from the Marlins smashed huge home runs off of the rocks and stuff out in center field. It was soo cool. Oh, and did you see that one ball hit the camera guys and those kids falling all over the place trying to catch the balls? I totally could have caught those balls. Oh yeah, and that guy with the beard, that was sweet.*

*I apologize if I am not giving enough credit to the writing abilities of a 10 year old. It’s been awhile since I have been one and don’t exactly recall my writing skills at that point.

Just imagine how great you would have thought it was at that age. And quite frankly, in the eyes of Major League Baseball, aren’t they the most important fans? Not just in a Saturday Evening Post, aww-shucks-do-it-for-the-kids kind of way, but because they are future customers. Hooking a 10 year old on baseball is as lucrative as it gets. They are the fans who will have a lasting memory of this Home Run Derby, or tonights All Star game. I think sometimes we get too caught up in what would make an event most pleasurable for us, without thinking of the thousands and thousands of younger fans.

So while the complaints regarding the Home Run Derby are all valid, it’s because we are looking at it through the lens of adulthood and comparing it to the actual game of baseball, which is foolish. If the Home Run Derby were as good as or better than an actual game of baseball wouldn’t we just play that instead?  Sometimes it is easier than others, but especially with regards to the All Star Game festivities, we could probably all just harken back a little bit to when we were 10 year old fans.  I think we might have a new appreciation for some of this stuff.

The Royals did not have an enjoyable weekend in Chicago and probably tempered some of the talk of contention that was swirling about the club for much of the week.   That was to be expected given that Kansas City has not one, but three teams in front of them to begin with, and a fair amount of history working against them as well.  

Simply put, the list of teams who approached the All-Star Break with records like the Royals and who were as far back as this team was and then actually did end up playing in the post-season is very, very short.   Without doing any research whatsoever, I am pretty confident the few teams that did manage the feat did not have to accomplish the act without their numbers one, two and three starting pitchers.

That said, had the Royals swept Chicago this weekend instead of being obliterated, I would have still written this column. 

You see, I can make a case for nottrading every player on this team, save one.   It is easy to make a case to keep David DeJesus.   It is plausible to make an argument to stick with Scott Podsednik and, if one tries hard enough, you can even come up with reasons to hang onto Kyle Farnsworth.      The one player for whom I cannot generate an argument to keep is Jose Guillen.

In Guillen, the Royals have a 34 year old with a history of injuries and tempestuous behavior who will be a free agent at season’s end.   While Jose is hitting a solid .279/.340/.467, which is actually a cut above his career line of .272/.323/.442.    You could make a case that a team desperate for power should hang onto the one guy on the team on pace to hit almost thirty home runs, this year.    Despite the home runs, however, Guillen’s slugging percentage is just .007 higher than that of David DeJesus, a player widely condemned for ‘not having any pop’, and is sixteen points behind Billy Butler.

Certainly, the value of the home run goes beyond just pure slugging percentage and without a doubt, Guillen currently is the player on the roster most likely to hit one.     It is noteworthy, however, that seven of Jose’s homers came in the month of April.   That is a big month and Guillen is known to have big months now and then.    More precisely, he has one big month per year.

In June of 2008, Guillen also hit seven home runs.   He never topped four dingers in any other month that season.   During the 2007 season, Jose hit six homers in May, but no more than four any other month.   In 2006, like his injury plagued 2009 campaign, Guillen did not have the ‘big’ month.    Back in 2005, however, Guillen did hit six home runs in April and five more in both June and August, while in 2004 he hit six or more homers in a month three times.

Unless you are willing to believe that Guillen has reverted to the form he exhibited when he was 28 years old, then the odds are against Jose hitting more than four home runs in any of the remaining months of this season.   One other home run tidbit:  Guillen has not hit more than three home runs in September since 2003.

No matter what you think of Jose Guillen and what he brings to the Kansas City Royals, I have one simple question.    If Omaha was the AAA affiliate of some other organization and that organization offered you Kila Kaa’ihue for Jose Guillen, would you make that deal?

If you cannot get past the Royals’ front office constant harping on Kaa’ihue’s supposed ‘slider bat speed’ comments, then would you trade Jose Guillen for a guy who:

  • Owns a .278/.421/.510 line in 239 AAA games (with 46 home runs)
  • Despite a dismal first six seasons in the minors, still owns a career .390 on-base percentage
  • Posted batting lines of .314/.456/.628 in 2008, .252/.392/.433 in 2009 and .306/.463/.584 thus far in 2010?

Of course, no team is going to offer one of the better hitters in AAA baseball (even if he is twenty-six years old) for a three month rental of Jose Guillen.    They won’t do it even if the Royals pay most, if not all of Guillen’s remaining salary.   The thing is, they don’t have to offer such a player for the trade to make sense for Kansas City.

One way or another, the money due Guillen is out the door and whether the Royals are paying him to play in KC or somewhere else is pretty irrelevant.   What is relevant is how Kila Kaa’ihue figures into the club’s future.

The Royals are not going to contend with Jose Guillen or Kila Kaa’ihue at designated hitter in 2010, but they might (with some breaks) contend with Kaa’ihue in the lineup in 2011…..maybe.    Right now, none of us, not Dayton Moore, not Ned Yost, not me, not my kids and not even Kila Kaa’ihue know if he can be a big league hitter.

Should the Royals be so desperate to win 76 games instead of 72 that they stick with Jose Guillen in August and September?  Or should they get Kaa’ihue 250 to 300 at-bats from here on out to discover if he can be an on-base machine with decent power in the majors?  (I envision a Nick Johns0n type minus the constant injuries, by the way).

Best case scenario is that Kila hits in the majors as he has the last three years in the minors.   Worst case, he falls flat and the Royals have the entire off-season to find someone to man the designated hitter position in 2011.     Better to have Kila hit .185/.250/.310 in August and September of 2010 for a club that might threaten to reach 80 wins than to have him do it in April and May of 2011 for a team that has a shot at contending for the A.L. Central.

Given Guillen’s recent ‘minor’ injury, whatever market there was for him has faded considerably and almost certainly has taken most National League clubs out of the picture.   That said, the Royals don’t have to trade Jose Guillen for a good AAA hitter, they just have to trade him.     What they get in return is really just a bonus to getting Kila Kaa’ihue on the big league roster and in the everyday lineup.

So again I ask the question:  would you trade Jose Guillen for Kila Kaa’ihue?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the Ned Yost Honeymoon was officially over.

At that point, the Royals dropped five games in a row to NL East competition.  Of course, since then they’ve gone 10-3.  10-3!

That’s a nice little run, but it’s far too reminiscent of their 18-11 run to start the season last year.  All teams – even bad ones – have the ability to string together a week or even a month of good games.

Does this run happen with Trey Hillman in charge?

That’s kind of a meaningless question.  Hillman is on a ranch in Texas or something like that.  He’s yesterday’s news.

The relevant question is: How much of this has to do with new management?  Are the Royals playing above .500 because of Yost?

I’m not completely sold.

They’re winning because David DeJesus is hitting .380/.439/.473 over his last 47 games.

They’re winning because Billy Butler has found his doubles stroke – he’s hit 17 – and is slugging .522.

They’re winning because they recalled Wilson Betemit, who is playing like his hair is on fire and is hitting .375/.434/.729.  Was that a Yost call to bring Betemit from Omaha?  Betemit replaced Bryan Bullington, so he replaced the 13th man in (an unnecessary) 13 man bullpen the Royals used early in the year.

They’re winning because Bruce Chen is changing his arm slot and keeping hitters off balance.  He has a 3.66 ERA in seven starts since replacing Gil Meche in the rotation.  He’s limiting hitters to a .203 average.  If Hillman wrecked Meche (which I believe to be true, with an assist to Meche) Yost has only benefitted from his replacement.

They’re winning because Robinson Tejeda, Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth and Kanekoa Texeira all have an ERA under 2 coming out of the bullpen for Yost.

They’re winning despite Jason Kendall hitting second in the lineup.

As bad as Kendall has been, Alberto Callaspo and Yuniesky Betancourt have been worse.  Both have sub .300 on base percentages under Yost.  Although those guys can get an occasional extra base hit.

This is the perfect time to mention that Wednesday night was the ultimate Yost moment.   The Royals are trailing in the eighth by one and the Mariners Brandon League can’t find the strikezone and had walked the first two batters.  Naturally, this situation screams for a bunt.  (Not really… Why give a struggling pitcher a lifeline of an out?)  Fortunately, Callaspo can’t get a bunt down and instead blast a three-run home run.  The Royals got the win on the back of that home run (and a couple of others.)  They won despite the manager trying to give it away.

They’re winning despite Blake Wood and his straight fastball and his pitch to contact method.  Still, I feel Yost is walking a tightrope every time he brings Wood into the game in the eighth with the Royals trying to get the game to Soria in the ninth.

It’s simplistic, but in this case the good outweighs the bad.  Lately – like the last 15 years – it’s been the other way around.

Yost has made some good decisions and he’s made some bad ones.  And it’s pretty clear he’s an upgrade over Hillman.  Maybe I was a tad premature in declaring the honeymoon over.  And as far as the Royals playing .500 ball for an extended stretch, it appears he arrived at just the right time.

Nothing wrong with that.  I hope it continues.

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The next question everyone seems to be asking is, “Can the Royals contend?”  My answer would be to calm down.  But damn, isn’t this town hungry for a winner?

I realize, like Yost says, we’re a week away from first place.  Whatever.  That’s all well and good, but it’s going to be a struggle to get back to .500.  Right now, the Royals Pythag record is 39-46 – which is exactly where they stand for real.  And there are three teams ahead of us who are playing really good baseball.

I still think the Royals finish in fourth.  It’s possible they could steal third away from the White Sox who always seem to be an Ozzie Guillen moment away from destruction.

I’d be happy with improved fundamentals.

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Brian Moynahan at Bus League Baseball interviewed Mike Moustakas about making adjustments after his disastrous 2009, going home to Southern California for the Futures Game and Bull Durham.  It’s a good interview and worth the time to read.
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So did you see that interview in ESPN’s Magazine where the unnamed MLB player takes a shot at Kansas City hosting the 2012 All-Star Game?  The money quote:

I also know for a fact that guys around the majors are not psyched about the prospect of spending All-Star week in Kansas City in 2012.  The park isn’t great, and there’s just not much going on in that town.

Cry me a freaking river.   Yeah, this isn’t New York or Boston, but the game has been played in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati and survived.  There’s plenty to do in this city and I have full confidence that the forces will come together and provide one hell of a party.

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The one fear – and it’s a very real one given their recent hot streak – is the Royals won’t make the moves necessary at the upcoming trade deadline to pave the road for the future.  We all remember how Allard Baird went for it in 2004 – and set the franchise back in the process.

However, this is a different era and a different regime.  If there’s one thing Dayton Moore has preached from the beginning is building through the minors.  As long as he doesn’t overvalue his trade chips, I don’t think this little hot stretch alters The Process.  That’s a good thing.

Episode #024 – Nick talks All Star Game, trades, the Royals playing well, Callaspo stepping up and does a series review and preview.  All of that, plus he answers emails and discusses his love of Bruce Chenner.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs024.mp3|titles=BBS

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I am sure that those of you who frequent this site are well aware that I love to play general manager.   As such, every July I like to delve into the fantasy, install myself as GM and ‘make something happen’ prior to the trade deadline.  My plan was for that little exercise to take place today, but the injury (however minor) to Jose Guillen and the fact that this Royals’ team is playing well (and enjoying some good karma along the way) has thrown enough questions into the equation to delay that column.

Instead, today we will do a quick and dirty summary of the minor league depth chart.   This has become topical since the early week pronouncement by Kevin Goldstein of ESPN that the Royals currently sport the best minor league system in baseball.    Of course, a lot of that sentiment is based upon the young pitching the Royals have on the farm, but some is also attributable to the position players as well.

While the skeptic in me wonders if the organization really has the best talent top to bottom in the minors, I do believe the talent level and depth is quite good.   Given that most of us already know and have heard quite a lot about pitching, let’s take a look at the other spots on the diamond, position by position, level by level.   I am not going to spend much, if any, time on journeymen fillers (sorry, Scott Thorman) or on players that I do not think have much chance of making the majors (sorry, Kurt Mertins).   

Catchers

  • AAA – Manny Pina:   Just got the call up to Omaha earlier this week after posting a .250/.326/.411 line in AA.   Those numbers are pretty much what Manny is as a hitter and has been at virtually every level.     He carries the reputation of a good defender and has thrown out 55% of potential base stealers thus far in 2010.     Pina projects as a serviceable major league catcher, probably more of a semi-regular/back-up type as opposed to an everyday starter.
  • AA – Jeff Howell and Benjamin Theriot:  Howell is 27, Theriot has no power.   With the guys coming up behind them in the system, there is not much more that needs to be said.
  • High A – Wil Myers:  Myers was drafted as a catcher, but really had not caught all that much and his defensive performance this year has reflected as much.   His bat, however, more than made up for that as Wil posted a .289/.408/.500 line in Burlington that earned him a promotion to Wilmington (where he is 9 for his first 23).   The question is whether he sticks behind the plate or the Royals move him to a corner outfield position to get his bat to the majors sooner.   Whether Myers fits behind the plate is up for debate, but there seems little doubt that he is the real deal AT the plate.
  • High A – Salvador Perez:   Just 20 years old, Perez hit extremely well in rookie ball in both 2008 and 2009, but his numbers have dropped considerably this season.   That said, Perez is holding his own at this level, posting a .256/.291/.372 line, while throwing out over forty percent of potential base stealers.   He has upside, but is likely to find himself at this level again in 2011.
  • Low A – Jose Bonilla:  After posting a 1.030 OPS in the Arizona Rookie League in 2008, there was a school of thought that Bonilla could be a bonafide major league regular someday.   After posting a .591 OPS last season in Burlington and a .617 mark thus far his second time around the Midwest League, the bloom is pretty much off this rose.   That said, Bonilla is walking more and striking out less, so there might still be hope.
  • Rookie – Travis Jones:  His biggest claim to fame remains beating Eric Hosmer in a home run derby in high school and he is now sharing time at Idaho Falls with 2010 draftees Dale Cornstubble and Kevin David.
  • Rookie – Jin-Ho Shin:  Signed last year out of South Korea, Shin is 10 for 34 with a home run and six walks in Arizona thus far.  It is all projection at this point, but given the amount the Royals spent to sign Shin, he is definitely worth watching.

In a perfect world, Myers suddenly masters the tools of ignorance and is a major league ready catcher by 2013.   I think a more likely scenario might be that Myers is a major league ready corner outfielder by 2012, which means the Royals might be looking at a Manny Pina/Salavador Perez tandem right around then.   Not sure that tandem is good enough.   Myer’s bat makes this position strong at the moment and there is intriguing upside in Shin, Bonilla and Perez.

First Base

  • AAA – Kila Kaaihue: It took Kila basically six seasons to figure this game out, but he has posted on-base percentages of .456, .392 and .469 the last three years.  Oh, and he has hit 70 home runs over that time as well.  Jeffrey Flanagan wondered the other day ‘what would the Royals’ lineup look like without Jose Guillen in it?’   My answer:  pretty freaking good if Kila takes his place.
  • AA – Clint Robinson: The Royals draft Robinson in the 25th round out of Troy back in 2007.  He proceeded to hit 15 home runs at Idaho Falls that summer, 17 more in Burlington (A ball) in 2008, 13 in Wilmington (with 31 doubles) in 2009 and 15 more this year in Northwest Arkansas.   His career minor league line stands at .300/.362/.516.   For whatever reason, Robinson has been a guy I have watched since he was drafted and as such, I may be a little higher on him than others.   If Kaaihue does pan out in the majors, then Robinson is a guy I could see the Royals trading for something of value (kind of a ‘reverse-Shealy’).
  • High A – Eric Hosmer:  It’s tough to hit when you can’t see and your hand hurts, that’s what Hosmer learned last season.  This year, healthy and with sight, Hosmer has re-elevated himself into one of the better prospects in baseball with a .356/.431/.551 line in Wilmington.   He has 26 doubles, 6 triples and now is up to 7 home runs after a very slow start in the dinger department.    Eric has also added eleven steals and has at least some of us thinking that a move to right field might be in order.   No doubt the organization will wait to see if Kila Kaaihue has slider bat speed or not and if Clint Robinson hits .173 in Omaha next year before contemplating a Hosmer move to the outfield, but I imagine we will see Eric’s bat in AA yet this season with an eye toward a major league debut in some form or fashion by 2012.
  • Low A – Joey Lewis:  A big guy who is finding the Midwest League not all that friendly to power hitters (6 home runs in 73 games).   Tough to see him making much headway in the organization, considering the talent at this position.
  • Rookie – Jake Keubler and Geoff Baldwin:  Both of these guys were bought out of scholarships to Nebraska and neither has hit a ton since then.   They are both young, however, and have time on their side.

When your organization can go Butler-Kaaihue-Robinson-Hosmer, that’s pretty impressive, in my opinion.   Billy has pretty much established himself as a middle of the order major league bat, so the Royals really need just one of the next three to come through over the next couple of years to form a rather fearsome 1b/DH combo with Butler.   Anytime you are looking to get just one of three prospects to emerge, you are in good shape organizationally.

Second Base

  • AAA – Chris Getz:  Yes, I know Getz is in the majors, but he should be here playing everyday instead of riding the pine in Kansas City.  I used to view Marc Maddox as a prospect, but no longer do and I already made my thoughts on Kurt Mertins known.
  • AA – Johnny Giavotella:  His power has declined with each level, but his on-base ability has not and his defense has improved in 2010.   This is not an All-Star waiting to happen, but Giavotella could be a solid player in the majors.   The organization has not played Johnny anywhere but second base, so he will likely have to make it as a regular or not at all.
  • High A – Fernando Garcia: Posted a .392 on-base percentage last year in Burlington but is below the Mendoza line this year.  He’s sharing time with Juan Rivera (also below Mendoza) and Indy league refugee Adam Frost.
  • Low A – Deivy Batista: Has played all over the infield in four seasons in the organization.   He posted a .382 OBP in Arizona two years ago and slugged 13 home runs in Idaho Falls last year.   That said, Deivy’s offensive numbers are dropping with each level of progression.   His versatily will buy Batista some time in the organization to prove he can be of value as  a utility man.
  • Rookie – Yowill Espinal:  Still just 19 years old, Espinal was predominately a shortstop until this year.   He is hitting .327/.375/.346 in Idaho Falls thus far, after a stroking seven home runs for rookie Burlington last year.   Espinal was a pretty high profile signee as a sixteen year old and is still a decent bet to emerge as a legitimate prospect in the middle of the infield.
  • Rookie – Luis Piterson:  After a strong .311/.361/.367 performance in Arizona last summer, the 19 year old Piterson is off to a 20-49 start in rookie Burlington with four home runs.   That’s enough to get him on my depth chart.

Given that the Royals seem to have no intention of moving Mike Aviles back to shortstop, they are in no real rush at second base.   They can hope Getz improves by watching in the majors and take their time with Giavotella.   Should Jeff Bianchi return from injury in 2011, he might well come into play at this position, too.

Shortstop

  • AAA – Irving Falu:  Having spent 8 seasons in the organization, Falu is dangerously close to ‘journeyman’ status, but his ability to play virtually everywhere on the diamond has him in line to be at least a stop-gap utility player in the majors.   His career line of .273/.341/.345 with more walks than strikeouts pretty much defines the type of player he is.  
  • Injured – Jeff Bianchi: After an injury plagued first four season, Bianchi broke out in 2009 with a cumulative line of .308/.358/.405 between High A and AA.   He appeared all set to open up as the regular shortstop for Omaha this spring before having his entire year wiped out with shoulder surgery.  Given the Royals’ anxiety over Mike Aviles’ post-surgery shoulder actually flying off, we might well see Bianchi playing more second than short next year.
  • AA – Chris McConnell:  Somebody has to play here until Christian Colon moves up.
  • High A – Christian Colon:  ‘The Process’ looks so much better if Colon can a) hit, b) stick at short, c) be a leader and d)  move quickly through the system.  He is just 4-28 to start off his pro career, but it is a big leap from college ball (however major) to High A and now has the flu (courtesy Greg Schaum…for the info, not the illness).
  • High A – Rey Navarro:  He is playing a lot of second right now in deference to Colon’s presence, but will move back to shortstop when the position opens up.     Navarro, who was acquired for Carlos Rosa, has never really hit at any level and will have to make his mark as a defensive shortstop…or maybe as the next Lenn Sakata.
  • Low A & Rookie:  I have to be honest with you, the best shortstop prospect at these levels in the system is Yowill Espinal, who we just talked about in the second base section.   2010 draftee, Alex McClure is a name worth watching and this year’s 3rd round pick, Michael Antonio, will probably make his debut sooner rather than later in Arizona.

Christian Colon is the future here until he proves otherwise.   Still just twenty years old, Navarro could emerge, although I’m skeptical.   I will be curious to see if Espinal stays at second or if Bianchi stays at shorstop next year, but I still pencil both in as major leaguers at some point in the future.  I am in an optimistic mood these days and will stay on the ‘Colon at short in late 2011′ bandwagon until proven otherwise. 

Third Base

  • AAA – Ed Lucas:  Primarily a third baseman, Lucas has played just about everywhere in his seven organizational seasons.   Along the way, Ed has posted a career line of .286/.358/.396 and is currently in the midst of his best season (.328/.399/.573).   Injury prone and 28 years old, Lucas is probably on the outside looking in as far as ever getting a shot.
  • AA – Mike Moustakas:  I’m betting if I waited a week to do this column, Moustakas would be in the AAA bullet point (sorry, Ed).   As it stands, Moustakas is destroying the Texas League with a .355/.417/.705 line.   His slugging percentage is 100 points better than second place in that league and I have a hard imagining the logic that would keep Mike in AA much longer.   Is there anyone out there that is against Moustakas spending July and August in Omaha and September in Kansas City?
  • High A – Jamie Romak: This spot was originally held by former second round pick Jason Taylor until he finally wore the patience of the organization thin.  Romak is enjoying his finest minor league season (.304/.388/.458) as a 24 year old in the Carolina League and has played all four corner positions.   I am not sure he is a prospect, but he will get a third crack at AA next season just to fine out once and for all.
  • Low A – Fernando Cruz: Being a sixth round pick in 2007 is pretty much Cruz’s career high point.  The Royals tried him some at catcher, but he has spent most of 2010 at the hot corner.  To date, he has not gotten on base, nor has he hit for power.
  • Rookie – Malcom Culver:  Big time athlete who the Royals seem to have decided is a third baseman.    Culver is extremely raw and his hitting numbers reflect as much, but there is ton of projection here as far as a power/speed combination guy.
  • Rookie – Cheslor Cuthbert: Easily the biggest Latin American  signing by the Royals prior to Noel Arguelles, the 17 year old Cuthbert is off to a .308/.372/.513 start in Arizona.   Here is some perspective for you – this kid will be 21 years old for the duration of the 2013 season.   Heck, Cuthbert could spend a full season at each and every minor league affiliate in the system and still just be 23 when he makes his major league debut (about the time Billy Butler is a grizzled veteran and Moustakas is an All-Star).

There is not a whole lot in the organization at this position between Moustakas and Cuthbert, but there probably doesn’t need to be.  

Outfield

  • AAA – Alex Gordon:  He has cooled off considerably as of late, but still sports a AAA line of .316/.440/.564, while playing most left, but some right field.   The organization remains unconvinced and I personally am not in a great rush to get Alex back in the bigs as long as he gets back there sometime late this year or by next spring.   Worst case, Gordon ends up hitting along the lines of say…Jose Guillen, at about a tenth the cost.
  • AAA – David Lough:  Jumped into legit prospect territory last season, only to get off to a slow start this year and fight some minor injuries as well.    Lately, David has gotten it going again and currently stands at .273/.322/.433 with 9 home runs.  Capable of playing all three outfield spots, Lough’s upside might be Mitch Maier or maybe even as much as David DeJesus (albeit with less on-base ability, but a little more power).   He might well get a shot as early as next year to at least be the club’s fourth outfielder.
  • AAA – Jordan Parraz: Proof that virtually anyone (Tyler Lumsden) can be traded for something, Parraz is not having the year he did last season (.973 OPS), but still has a decent .269/.364/.423 line.   Last year, I thought Jordan was knocking on the major league door, this year not so much.  Still, he will stick around in AAA for another year and might get a look as an injury fill-in.   He is kind of the new Shane Costa – every organization needs a couple of those hanging around (and no, that was not sarcasm).
  • AA – Paulo Orlando:   I was once accused of having a perverse interest in Orlando, but now my enthusiasm over him does not seem quite so irrational.    An outstanding raw talent who displayed range in the outfield, some pop and a lot of speed, but no real baseball acumen, Orlando has suddenly ‘gotten it’ in AA.   Currently hitting .320/.382/.491 while playing all three outfield spots, Paulo has stepped into the ‘prospect conversation’.   Can he sustain this newfound performance level this year and then next year in Omaha?  
  • AA – Derrick Robinson:   Got off to a great start, cooled some, but still is hitting .300/.368/.388 with 36 steals.   The Royals have a ton of fast guys in the minors and Robinson may be the fastest.    2010 has represented a huge jump in performance for Robinson, so the organization will likely make him prove it all year in AA and also most of next year in AAA.   Like Orlando, he has gone from a guy who it was virtually impossible to see making the majors to one you can start envisioning there with some degree of realism.
  • AA – Nick Van Stratten and Tim Smith:   Both of these guys are in the shadows of the names above, but neither should be completely forgotten, either.   Van Stratten is hitting .300/.375/.400 and has hit everywhere he has been allowed to play.   Smith, acquired with Pina in the Dan Guiterrez dumping, is hitting .296/.393/.432.   Not too long ago, these guys would have been hyped prospects in the system, today they are almost an after thought.   That represents real progress.
  • High A – Adrian Ortiz:   Another fast guy who has been bouncing between the two A-ball clubs for three seasons.  He has been a .300 hitter for three of his four professional seasons, but adds virtually no power and doesn’t walk much.   Hard to see him as more than a taller Joey Gathright or, gulp, a poor man’s Tom Goodwin.
  • High A – Patrick Norris:   Another fast guy who has yet to hit, but seems to be a better base stealer than Ortiz.   Probably does not deserve a bullet point, but then I have not been enamored with Nick Francis (even before his 50 game suspension) and I felt obligated to offer up at least two names for High-A that had managed to not get suspended.
  • High A – Jarrod Dyson:  Speaking of suspensions.   Dyson is back, and playing at Wilmington.  His speed caught Trey Hillman’s attention this spring, but then Trey’s not here anymore.   Again, here is a guy that would be getting a bunch of organizational attention two years ago, but now is looking up at six or seven guys better than him.
  • Low A – Hilton Richardson:  Lots of tools here, with an intriguing potential to steal and hit for power that has not translated yet in Burlington (.200/.262/.316).   The kind of player who might ‘get it’ all of sudden or disappear in a couple of years.   I am kind of betting on the former, in which case Hilton could jump a bunch of the names in currently in front of him.
  • Rookie – Alex Llanos:  Now in his third year of rookie ball, but still just 19 years old, the 6th round pick of the 2008 draft is off to a .316/.381/.439 start in rookie Burlington.  I want him to be Carlos Beltran someday, but that may be rampant stereotyping on my part.   Again, we are low in the minors so there is a lot of ‘toolsy’ and ‘projection’ talk here, but Llanos remains a guy to watch and still has plenty of time.
  • Rookie – Lane Adams: Could have played Division I basketball, but signed with the Royals instead and is off to a .316/.350/.439 start at Idaho Falls in his second professional season.   One of those guys who could really jump through the system if it all clicks.

Truthfully, I skipped a fair number of legitimate talents in the low minors in order to save time and space, not to mention ignoring yet to be signed 2nd round pick Brett Eibner.   While none of the names above probably profile as ‘superstars’, a number of them could be average-plus to flat out good major league regulars.   Last time I checked, major league teams play with just three outfielders and just a smidge of optimism can lead one to project as many as six of the names above to profile out as major league regulars.   Two years ago, who was the best outfield prospect?  Joe Dickerson?   Tell me that’s not tremendous progress.

For those of you in central Kansas, you can catch me tonight on KSAL (1150 AM) with Kenny Titus talking about the Royals. 

The Royals just couldn’t scuffle along forever.  Even with Zack Greinke on the mound, they had to score more than a few runs against Ryan Rowland-Smith… Didn’t they?

(Of course, this is the Royals and we have been taught to expect the unexpected.)

Greinke was in cruise control for the entire game.  The Mariners felt it was necessary to squeeze home their run in the third.  It was small ball all around as the runner took second on a throwing error by Mike Aviles and moved to third on a ground out before scoring on the bunt.  SABR Trey would have been impressed.

I liked everything about Grienke’s performance.  He changed speeds, he located his pitches… Everything was working.  His slider featured some nice tail and those curves on the outer half of the plate to left handed batters was devastating.  And in the seventh inning, when he got into trouble, he kept the ball low against Michael Saunders before punching him out on a slider in the dirt.  That pitch was set up by a 1-2 fastball up and out of the zone – the only pitch Saunders saw above his knees in that at bat.

Easy cheese.  Love it.

My favorite match-ups were against Russ Branyan. High fastball after high fastball.  The guy just had absolutely no chance.

Blake Wood did his best to blow the game with his pitch to contact strategy, but was bailed out by the stupidity of a Seattle fan who interfered with what surely would have been a run-scoring, game tying double off the bat of Branyan.  The best part?  The guy (possibly) realizes what he’s done and drops the ball back on the field.  DeJesus is over there and picks the ball up and gives it back to him with a wave of thanks.

Someone from the Royals should give that fan some tickets for Wednesday’s game.  At least give him a save in the box score.

That overshadows the fact Wood really isn’t to be trusted in late inning situations.  Yost is going to get burned.

Offensively, it was all about Wilson Betemit.  Is this the time the guy finally realizes his potential?

I’m not holding my breath.

For starters, his batting average on balls in play is an insane .394.  There’s just no way that’s going to continue which means his batting average is going to fall.  It was at .350 entering Tuesday’s game.  If the Royals continuing giving him at bats, it’s going to drop below .300 within a month.  I’m not knocking the guy… He’s riding a hot streak.

One reason his average (and OBP) will tumble is because he just doesn’t put the ball in play enough.  The average major league hitter puts the ball in play 70% of all plate appearances.  Betemit is around 64%.

Of course, where he’s excelling these days is bashing the extra base hits.  He homered yesterday and over 18% of all his plate appearances have gone for extra bases.  That’s sick.  In a good way.

My hope is Betemit’s emergence gives the Royals the confidence to deal Jose Guillen.  Not that holding on to him could be justified for any reason, it’s common knowledge the Royals are reluctant to let him go because he’s the lone power option (when he’s not evolving into a singles hitter) in this lineup.  I know, it’s crazy… But that’s how they operate.

However, if they think Betemit can slide into that role… Maybe we can ship Guillen somewhere.  Sure, the return will basically be nothing, but I can live with that.  I defended Guillen when he arrived in ’08, didn’t care about him in ’09 and now just want him gone in ’10.  I said the other day, he’s a lame duck… The sooner everyone moves on, the better.

Of course, as soon as I write this, Guillen pulls up lame going down to first trying to avoid a double play.  You know… plays like that just burn me.  I know the guy was hurt, but if he crawled to first, he would have been safe.  Crawled.  Instead, he just stopped.  Oh well… The lame duck just got lamer.

And then the Royals compounded the issue of the inning by getting Betemit thrown out at home for the third out.  Eddie Rodriguez doing his best Dave Owen impersonation.  How many times this year have the Royals threatened to blow the game wide open, only to make one or two outs on the bases in a single inning?  Maddening.

So if Guillen misses the rest of the season (given his *cough* history, we know two things: 1) He’s injury prone, and 2) He is slow to heal.) who gets the call?  Do the Royals dare to bring up Kila Ka’ahuie and hand him the DH at bats?  That would make too much sense, so I doubt that happens.

We’ll see Rick Ankiel instead.  Sigh.

The All-Star game is a funny thing.  It is an exhibition game, so it has no real importance yet it is one of the most debated games in all of baseball.  In fact, I would imagine that in terms of a single game, it is by far the cause of the most debates in baseball.  Oh, and don’t tell me that it actually has importance now because of the home field advantage thing.  There have been 80 All Star games and the American League has won 2 more games than the National League, so basically having home field advantage based on who wins the game is exactly the same as a coin toss.  So, there still is no more “meaning” attached to the All Star Game than previously, and I like that.

I am a huge fan of the All Star game.  It livens up the middle of the season, provides lots of new discussion points and lets me get a good look at some players I don’t usually see on a regular basis.  Also, since I always have and probably always will root for the American League, it gives me a chance to root for guys who I don’t normally get to root for.

One of the great things about the game is the debates it sparks.  Should there be ties (yes), should the pitchers bat(no), should every team get a representative (yes), should the fans vote (yes) and so on.  Locally, the debates rage on regarding which player is more deserving of an All Star spot, and this year in Kansas City is no exception.

By now you have probably heard that relief pitcher Joakim Soria has been named the Royals lone representative to the All Star Game.  Whether or not he is the most deserving Royal depends on how you select players for the game.  So who are the viable Royals All Star Candidates?

Billy Butler

Why he should be an All Star:

He is currently 10th in batting average (.321)  in the American League, 7th in hits (100), tied for 2nd in doubles (25) , and is a rising star.  He is one of the best hitters on the team and has a very good case to make as the best offensive player on the Royals. He is a young talent which would provide a very interesting story for the Royals and for the MLB.

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

He still has a lower batting average than two other AL first baseman, leads the league in GIDP (21), and he is fifth in wOBA for his position in the AL.  So while he is a good offensive player for the Royals, he isn’t near the top at his position. He hasn’t really been a DH that much so it would be kind of odd to select him as the teams DH.   Also, he isn’t having the best offensive season on the team….

David Dejesus

Why he should be an All Star:

He is 7th in the league in batting average (.329), 6th in OBP (.396), 6th in hits (102) and 9th in WAR (3.2).  He has been in the league for seven full seasons now and has played very well in all seven.  He is having a career year and it isn’t a complete fluke. He is a solid player having a great season and is having the best offensive season on the Royals.

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

His wOBA is 9th among AL outfielders and frankly he hasn’t been as hyped.  The guys on the team like Josh Hamilton (the drugs), Vernon Wells (the not being sucky any more), Ichiro (the legend), Torii Hunter (the HR Robber) all have some sort of hype surrounding them which helps them land on the team.  Carl Crawford and Jose Bautista are having good seasons, and a case could be made for either of them as well.  Frankly, if the Royals were a better team I think Dejesus makes the squad over someone on this list. The biggest problem I have is the fact that Delmon Young is one of the guys on the list for the final fan vote.  Nobody can make a case that he is more deserving than Dejesus or Shin-Soo Choo.

Joakim Soria

Why he should be an All Star:

He leads the league in saves (23) and is one of the best closers in baseball and an All Star team needs relief.  There really aren’t many big name closers in the AL this season and Soria can certainly be argued as one of the best.  He is one of the few Royals most likely to make a solid contribution in the game.  Also, this is obviously the only way the national media will figure out how to pronounce Joakim (hint: nobody except Joakim Noah pronounces it Joe-Kim).

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

Its been sort of a rough year in Soria terms.  His ERA is tied for the highest he has had in his career (2.48), but it still isn’t high.  Frankly, as I scan the numbers they aren’t as bad as I had assumed.  It just seems like he is always pitching out of trouble, but he is still a very good pitcher.  I think that he is so good, that we expect more out of him than we should.  Relievers tend to be over-rated in general and I think their value is a little inflated.

Zack Greinke

Why he should be an All Star:

His 2009 season was so dominant that a case could be made that it is worth getting him into the All Star game again this year.  He is also nationally recognized and one of the few Royals that fans of other teams would like to get a look at since he is never on national television.  I would really like to see what the fan votes for pitches would look like, I feel like Greinke could have been voted in.  He is pretty much universally liked and widely known.  He also has the 4th best K/BB ratio in the league (4.6).  The main reason I feel like he should be an All Star is that he really is the best player on the team.  If I could keep one guy from this roster I wouldn’t need a moments hesitation to pick Zack.

Why he shouldn’t be an All Star:

He isn’t near the top in many important categories like SO (12th), ERA (24th), WHIP (14th) and xFIP (10th).  He is still an amazing pitcher but isn’t putting up dominant All Star like numbers.  If he hadn’t been the teams representative last year, then it would be a travesty if he wasn’t selected this year.  As it stands, his first half numbers just don’t force the hands of the people selecting the pitchers.

Before I did this exercise, I kind of thought that Soria was the least qualified of the group to be the teams All Star representative.  However, after looking at all the factors I think I have completely changed my mind.  In many ways he is the best representative for the Royals.  He is having one of the best seasons on the team, he is one of the best if not THE best at his particular position and possibly most importantly the AL team needs his skills.  Who do you think the Royals representative should have been?

Nick podcasts about the Royals at www.brokenbatsingle.com and for some unknown reason roots for the Portland Trailblazers.   He welcomes your questions and comments.  You can contact Nick via email at brokenbatsingle [at] gmail [dot] com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle and facebook.

A few quick thoughts as we head out the door for a long holiday weekend…

Apparently, the Missouri Department of Transportation destroyed a tree along I-70 that was planted to honor Dan Quisenberry.  This, as these things do, has created quite an uproar.  First, we need a little clarification.

— Quisenberry had a tree planted to honor his memory?  Seriously?  When did this happen?  Am I the only person in Kansas City – other than MODOT employees – who did not know this?

— There are just a ton of green spaces in Kansas City.  Why would they plant a tree like this along an interstate right-of-way?  Were all the trees in the parking lot at the Independence Center claimed?

Quiz loved gardening.  He kept plants and assorted green things in the bullpen.  I think he grew tomatoes or something out there. I guess that’s why he has had a tree.  It’s a nice thing for someone to do, but why wouldn’t they have planted the thing on the grounds of the stadium?

—  Obviously, now is the ideal time for the Royals to step up and do something nice to honor Quiz.  I’m not talking about a statue or retiring his number… Instead, maybe they could plant a tree in the space between the fountains and the stairs in right field.  Maybe at the top.  That way, they could have a plaque (you know, so it won’t get bulldozed in the next round of stadium renovations in 2030) and it would be where everyone in the stadium could see it.

Sounds good to me.

— The Royals head to the West Coast and will make an appearance on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.  That’s a rare event, but I don’t need to tell you.

Although I do love how the game is on July 4.  This has to be the lowest rated Sunday Night game of the year, regardless of the teams.

—  Now that almost everyone with access to the internet has weighed in on Jose Guillen’s comments (or should it be outburst?  Or rant?) let me throw out my two cents and say I agree with Clark.

There.

Otherwise, I should probably add I’m glad Guillen decided to shoot his mouth off.  It’s been a relatively quiet 18 months.

However at this point, Guillen carries a lame duck status.  He has three months left here – hopefully less.  Anything he says carries little or no weight.

Move along… There’s nothing to see.

— Alex Gordon and Kila Ka’aihue were named to the PCL All-Star team.  I have no clue who those guys are.

— Kyle Davies last start where he gave up fewer than four runs came on May 22.  Over his last 30 innings, covering six starts he has an 8.70 ERA and batters are hitting .306/.400/.508 against him.  That includes a start against the Astros, for crying out loud.  Oh, I should probably add that during this time he has struck out 15 while allowing 19 walks.

I like to see how many swinging strikes a pitcher gets as a percentage of all strikes thrown.  The best pitchers miss the most bats, generally speaking.  Since his start at the end of May, Davies has gotten a swing and a miss in just 7% of all strikes.  That’s abysmal.  Even more alarming, only 16% of his strikes have been called.

In other words, hitters are just making a ton of contact against Davies.  He’s fooling no one.

Except maybe management.

— Have a great – and safe – holiday.

The Royals enjoyed a nice, if not a little more thrilling than necessary, win last night over the White Sox to take the series.    It was one of those ‘go figure’ games in which Kansas City plated seven runs despite resting two of their three best hitters (DeJesus and Aviles) and batting major league journeyman Wilson Betemit fifth.  

They also saw a cruising Zack Greinke, having tossed just 87 pitches over seven innings of one-run ball, give up five straight hits in the top of the eighth inning.   Seriously, can anyone remember five runs being scored without the benefit of a home run in a shorter period of time?

We also saw Jose Guillen, YES JOSE GUILLEN, make a great running catch in the top of ninth that ended with him crashing into the wall.   Truly, it was a great catch which capped off a night that saw Jose being booed early in the game, only to be cheered as he slammed a three run homer later.   A typical Jose Guillen kind of night.   Speaking of which….

It is no longer quiet on the Jose Guillen front.   Jeffrey Flanagan at Fox Sports posted a story last night with a boatload of quotes from the Royals’ quotemaster.   I had just been thinking the other day how Guillen had said so very little this year and pretty much just gone about his business.   Well, no more.

I am not going to go into the comments themselves as they are either of the ‘Jose being Jose’ variety or, frankly, dead-on right.    You also are treated to the standard organizational cover provided by Ned Yost, who is quick to point out that ‘Jose always plays hard’.     I will leave the reaction to the commenters on all of this.     What is noteworthy about this outburst is what it might do to the Royals’ chances of trading Guillen.

Now, it is fashionable amongst Royals fans and observers to discount all Guillen trade speculation as a ‘waste of time’ as their ‘is absolutely no way anyone will want Jose’.   Maybe, maybe not.   It is very easy to dismiss all trade speculation as wrong and make yourself look astute, given that 99% of what is written or heard never comes true.   That said, in a world where the Rays have tried Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock at DH, only to release both of them, and where the New York Yankees’ primary designated hitter is hitting less than .200, I find it hard to believe there is not some market out there for Guillen.  

After all, we are talking about a guy who is posting a .281/.342/.472/.814 line, which would be good for a tie for 30th in baseball among all outfielders (I know, ‘outfielder’ is a stretch).   That mark ties him with Andres Torres, Carlos Gonzalez and Jonny Gomes: not exactly elite company, but still three regulars on teams that believe they are contenders.

With the Royals reportedly willing to take on a chunk of Guillen’s remaining salary and hoping (or at least they should be hoping) to merely clear a roster spot for Kila Kaaihue and not so concerned about what they might get in return for Jose, I thought a trade was a real possibility.   Thought being the operative word here.

You see, Guillen was posting numbers in line with some of his better seasons and was quietly going along with the team’s wish of playing him mostly at designated hitter, despite his own personal distaste for the idea.   Aside from a ‘blister issue’, Guillen had been relatively healthy as well.   Everything was adding up to making Guillen marketable in July until he decided to open his mouth.

Again, there is a lot that Jose is quoted as saying in Flanagan’s article that I flat-out agree with.   The Royals are fundamentally bad, they have lacked leadership and they do act like babies at times:  there is really no denying any of that.   Still, did you have to come out and say it thirty-one days before the trade deadline, Jose?

These quotes might well be every bit as damaging as Reggie Sanders’ conveniently exploding hamstrings that kept the Royals from trading him for Melky Cabrera twice.   

The Royals needed to trade Guillen this summer, if only to finally force management into giving Kaaihue a couple hundred at-bats to either prove or disprove he belongs in the majors.   I am okay with letting Alex Gordon spend the summer in Omaha perhaps realizing that half of fair territory lies to the left of second base, but I am not willing to enter next spring with the same debate that has raged over Kaaihue since 2008.

Truth is, the only way we avoid that debate is to have a rival general manager give Dayton Moore enough in return for Guillen so that Moore’s ego will be soothed sufficiently to allow him to portray the deal as ‘value for value’.  Truth is, Jose’s untimely comments might well have scuttled any such hope.

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