Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

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.

flickr/lambachialpha

This whole Jeckyll and Hyde thing with Brian Bannister cracks me up.  The day and night splits… It’s something that’s been going on for a long, long time.  Just for fun, here are his career splits:

Night – 5.43 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 1.68 SO/BB
Day – 3.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.00 SO/BB

And his splits from this year:

Night – 7.66 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 1.65 SO/BB
Day – 2.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2.25 SO/BB

I love it that people (i.e. reporters) feel the need to get to the bottom of this anomaly.  Just because Bannister is a smart guy, he’s supposed to have the answers.  Hilarious.

I’m not a smart guy, but here’s my guess at the answer:

It’s a strange coincidence.  You know, sometimes things just happen.  Did you know that Bannister has been much better at home this year than on the road?  Look at this:

Home – 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.56 SO/BB
Road – 7.30 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 1.47 SO/BB

So he struggles at night, yet he was at home where he’s thrived this year.  Someone needs to figure this out!

This is just a bunch of noise.  Pick your split to fit your game story.  I suppose if Bannister had dominated the White Sox, we would have read something about how he likes sleeping in his own bed.

Look, Bannister is a back of the rotation starter.  His xFIP is 4.62, which is right in line with his career mark of 4.82.  He generally allows a bunch of base runners and has difficulty keeping them from crossing the plate.  A full 31% of all runners are scoring against him this year.  And that’s among the best rate of his career.

Last year, he kept the ball down and enjoyed some success.  This year, he’s elevating a bit more and has been touched for about three home runs for every two games. That’s not good.  Not good at all.  His strikeouts are down.  His walks are up.  He’s not having a good year.  Yet, he’s having a Brian Bannister kind of year.

He’ll have good starts.  He’ll have bad starts.  Some will come during the day.  Some will happen at night.  Based on his skill set, he’ll have more bad than good – no matter the time of day.  Not by a ton.  But a few to make a difference.  Enough to keep him in the back of a rotation.

Let’s quit trying to pinpoint Bannister’s issues with meaningless splits.

— Speaking of meaningless splits, did you know the Royals are something like 1-10 this year on Saturday.  Did you know if Bannister starts a night game on Saturday on the road, the universe could explode?

— Kendall Watch:  Fair is fair, so I’m obligated to point out Kendall has strung together a handful of decent offensive games and is now hitting .222/.301/.259 as a number two hitter.  Maybe I should give him a break since his OBP is above .300.  Plus, he only has one fewer extra base hit than Jose Guillen since June 3.

— Apparently, Guillen’s power has been suffering due to a blister on his foot.  So he’s been playing more outfield.  Makes sense.

— Blake Wood is getting a swing and a miss in around 7% of all strikes thrown.  Yet he enticed Paul Konerko to flail at three pitches last night.  That was kind of fun.

It’s been awhile since I did some bullets.  Since my time is stretched very thin this week and I am stuck in Red Sox land, I figure it is a perfect time to load the chamber.

  • We all know the Royals love singles (not the movie with Bridget Fonda) however, they aren’t the biggest offender in that department. Both the Orioles (72.8%) and the Mariners (72.5%) have a higher percentage of their hits become singles than the Royals (72.4%).  However, there is clearly a correlation between no power and teams that are not winning lots of games.
  • The Royals are still tied with the Rangers for the highest team batting average in the majors at .283.  They are the only team in the top 7 in that stat category to not be in either 1st or 2nd in their division.  (see bullet point above)
  • Lerew and Chen combined have 58.2 IP, 3.83 ERA  and 1.79 K:BB ratio.  I don’t think you can ask for more out of two replacement starters.  If these guys had started the season in the rotation and pitched this well, the Royals would possibly have 5 more wins.  Sorry, Luke and Gil.
  • Chen and Lerew also have the lowest BABIPs in the rotation, and their FIP is higher than their ERA.  Translation from baseball nerd terms: give them enough time and they probably won’t keep up this production.
  • If you listen to my podcast, you know that I like to discuss the Hero and Goat of the week using the WPA statistic.  Based on most WPA added and subtracted, the guys who take home the award at this point in time are:
    • Heroes: Zack Greinke and Billy Butler
    • Goats: Kyle Davies and Alberto Callaspo
  • Not sure if you saw this a couple of weeks ago but the Royals are a terrible base running team and I doubt that has changed in the past two weeks.  What is doubly frustrating is that since the Royals have so many singles, then base running becomes much more important because they have further to run to score.  They are absolutely shooting themselves in the foot.  What is also funny is that the Angels are below the Royals, a team which people (a-hem stat hating announcers) gush all over because of the way they run the bases.
  • If you haven’t peeked at the standings (I can’t blame you), then you might not have noticed that the Twins are no longer in 1st place. They were passed by the Tigers.  However, the White Sox are also back in the race and have shown the Royals how to get back in it.  They just need to rattle off 11 wins or so.
  • There are fifteen, FIFTEEN! teams with a worse bullpen ERA than the Royals.  I need to fire up the flux capacitor and tell the me from April not to get too down on the bullpen, they will get it figured out.  Oh yeah, and lay money on Ghana vs U.S. in the World Cup.
  • This isn’t exactly Royals related, but I think it is hilarious that Joba Chamberlain has a 5.29 ERA.  And yes, the Yankees are one of the fifteen teams below the Royals in relief ERA.
  • Over 15,000 fans showed up to the ballpark last night to see the Royals Vs White Sox.  It was a Monday night following a sell-out weekend and the team was 9.5 games out of first and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1985.  Seriously, this is a baseball town filled with fans ready to win ball games.  It is going to happen, someday.
  • I keep hearing one question regarding the 2012 All-Star game.  Is it going to be affordable?  The answer: No.
  • I’ve been wanting to do a reader Q&A either in written form or podcast form.  However, in order to do that I need questions.  Send me your Royals related (if only slightly) questions to brokenbatsingle @ gmail dot com.  They can be serious, ridiculous, stat-based, SABRTrey or SABRNed related or whatever.

No, not really.  

Mike Moustakas should not be promoted to the major leagues, at least not right now.   It is simply too soon, too quick and not worth the risk at this point.   That said, Mike Moustakas should be promoted to AAA Omaha sooner rather than later.

I touched on this last Thursday and this column may seem odd in its timing given that Moustakas is currently in an zero for fourteen skid.   However, I don’t really see the point of keeping Mike in AA and one step further removed from a big league team that needs a power bat any longer.

Despite the recent slump, Moustakas is still posting a line of .338/.406/.676/1.082.  Most of us know that the Texas League is considered a hitter friendly association and hence might say that those numbers are inflated.  Well, keep this in mind:

  • Mike’s .338 batting average has him leading the league by TWELVE points.
  • His on-base percentage is second in the league (Aaron Luna of Springfield leads at .417) and is thirteen points better than the next player and fifteen better than teammate Clint Robinson, who is fourth.
  • Okay, here’s the number that really clinches it.   Robinson is second in the league in slugging percentage, lagging behind Moustakas by ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT POINTS.      Third place Wilin Rosario and fourth place Koby Clemens have slugged .505 and .504 respectively.

It is also worth noting that Moustakas was coming off a 15 for 30 streak before the recent zero for fourteen slide (during which he has struck out just three times).   In fact, after striking out 90 times in 129 games last year, Mike has struck out just 37 times in 57 games thus far in 2010.   While that is more incremental improvement than dramatic improvement, he has upped his walk total at the same time (23 right now, versus just 32 all of  last season).  

Rany wrote a week ago about how Alex Gordon and Kila Kaaihue are putting up numbers so big that the Royals may simply not believe it is possible and hence ignore them.    Given that Chris Lubanski is tearing up the same league as Gordon and Kila, I can almost understand the logic, but no one in the Texas League is doing anything like what Moustakas is accomplishing.     His dominance is such that I have to wonder if the two slumps he has endured in June that have led to a monthly line of just .293/.333/.566  is in part attributable to simply being bored with the competition.

Now, the decreased production in June is one reason to argue against the promotion to AAA.   I can see that and frankly would be fine with waiting for the next hot streak (which is probably all of two games away) before moving Moustakas up.   When Mike gets hot again, there would be only two reasons not to move him and I don’t agree with either.

First, the Royals can fall back to the ‘gain experience playing with a winning team’ argument.  You know, the one that worked so well for Gordon, Butler, Greinke and the rest of the very good Wichita team of several years back.      The concept of develop players together and bringing them up has merits on a theoretical level, but simply does not work in real life.   To begin with, a small budget team like Kansas City simply cannot have all its young players reach arbitration and free agency at the same time.    Not if they want to compete year in year out, which is supposedly the end result of The Process.

The second reason is the argument that Alex Gordon tore up AA pitching and ‘look how he’s turned out’.   Well, Moustakas is not Gordon.   Other than they have played the same position on the diamond and sign autographs with the same hand, they actually have virtually nothing in common developmentally.    A closer comparison is Billy Butler, who also tore up AA, spent the next two seasons bouncing between Omaha and Kansas City and now is legitimate middle of the order major league bat.

Doesn’t it make sense to move Moustakas to AAA in early July and preparation for letting him get thirty or forty big league at-bats in September?   Maybe he competes for a major league spot next spring or maybe he returns to Omaha for a couple more months of seasoning.   Either way, with any luck, the Royals would have Moustakas ready to be in their everyday lineup by June of 2011.  

If the goal is to compete, really compete, in 2012, then you don’t want a rookie Mike Moustakas batting fourth behind Butler, you want a second year Moustakas in that slot.   

Don’t be stubborn because another number two pick has not yet panned out.   Move Moustakas now.

This was quite possibly the most insane sports week ever.

That World Cup game against Algeria was massive.  A tennis match that lasted for three days…

And then Brian Bannister outdueled Stephen Strasburg.

How much cash would I have won if I had the foresight to parlay the USA winning their World Cup group, with a tennis match going over 160 games along with the Royals handing the phenom Strasburg his first major league loss?  That would have been better than the Publishers Clearing House.

A few quick notes as the Easterners prepare to invade:

— I’ve dabbled in the nostalgia of ’85 from time to time, but I’m pretty much done with that.  Maybe because it’s been 25 freaking years, I’m just kind of bored with the whole “We Haven’t Been Relevant For Decades, But Come Celebrate Our Lone Championship” meme.  This weekend’s series against the Cardinals is just another made-up inter-league rivalry.  Just another three games on the schedule where visiting fans will outnumber the locals and the Royals can charge a premium on tickets.  I care as much about the Angels as I do the Cardinals.

The only time this was a rivalry – the only time – was in 1985.  And since that was 25 years ago, who cares anymore?  Mellinger nails it in today’s column.  You have to win to have a rival.

Suggested slogan for these games with premium ticket prices:  “The same crap at almost twice the price!”

— Continuing my take-down of Jason Kendall:
He is five of 12 on stolen base attempts.  His 12 attempts are the most since 2006 (16).  It’s possible this isn’t entirely his fault.  The Royals aren’t exactly known for smart baseball, so it’s entirely possible he’s gotten the steal sign 12 times.  I’d be a bigger fan if he came out and said something like, “Yeah, I had the steal sign, but I’m old and I’ve caught every freaking game of the year so I’m kind of slow.  I realize the Royals think I’m the same player I was in 1998, but I’m not.  So I ignored the sign.”

Working against him, Kendall has also made an additional three outs on the bases and has been picked off once.  Kendall has made 11 outs on the bases and scored 16 runs.

According to Bill James Online, Kendall is a -21 in Net Gain on the bases.  That’s the worst rate on the team.

Why?

– Quiz: The league average walk rate for an American League hitter is 8.8%.  Guess how many Royals are better (higher) than league average.  Answer in a bullet point – or two.

— Did you know that Mitch Maier leads the team in RBI%?  I prefer that metric because it doesn’t penalize a player who lacks RBI opportunity because of the ineptitude of his teammates when it comes to reaching base.  Maier has brought home 17% of all base runners.

Maier has done extremely well in place of Rick Ankiel.  Yes, extremely well.  Qualify the adjectives here given that Ankiel would have undoubtedly been a drag on this team.  Both offensively and defensively.  We should be extremely hopeful that Ankiel’s recovery takes another couple of months.

— Yuniesky Betancourt, who surprised many of us by not epically sucking in the first couple of months of the season, is hitting .247/.278/.397 in June.  Give a hitter 162 games and he’ll reveal his true talent level.  The bottom awaits, Yuni.

— Red Sox beat writer Nick Cafardo reports the Royals “love” shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias.  Although the Royals have taken shortstops aplenty in the last few drafts, they still have a huge hole at this spot in the organization.  More on that in a moment.

Take the Royals love affair with Iglesias with a grain of salt.  Cafardo mentions an Allard Baird (currently an assistant GM for the Sox) and DeJesus “connection.”  OK, makes sense on some level.  Although DeJesus has been around long enough that teams know what he does… No “connection” is necessary.  Then, Cafardo brings up the “connection” and says Baird was instrumental in bringing Ryan Shealy to the Sox Triple-A club.   Uhhh, Baird was gone from KC when Shealy was traded for.  That was one of GMDM’s early trades.

— According to Peter Gammons (what’s with all these Boston writers scooping the KC guys?  Come on, locals!) the Royals signing of first round draft pick Christian Colon is imminent.  He’s a shortstop, but won’t stick there.  Hence the need for a guy like Iglesias.

– Answer to the previous quiz: One.  Only David DeJesus has a better than league average walk rate.  He’s at 9.1%.  The Royals have four of the 25 lowest walk rates in the league.  The culprits?  Betancourt (3.8% BB rate), Callaspo (4.0%), Guillen (6.5%) and Kendall (7.2%).  Mitch Maier leads the team with a 11.2% walk rate, but he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboards.  He’s about 30 plate appearances shy.

– Final question: Who should be the Royals All-Star representative?  Do they deserve more than one? Fire away in the comments.

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