Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Saturday night, Bob Dutton provided us with some tremendous insight into the Royals’ bullpen competition.  What makes Dutton solid, in my opinion, is his ability to dance along the company line while also providing true glimpses of what the organization is actually thinking.  In this case, for those of us love the art of roster construction, this article gives us a number of interesting observations.

First off, for those of you out there that agonize over having a lefty or two, you will be delighted to once more hear confirmation that Ned Yost prefers to have two lefthanders in his bullpen.   I have always opted for a good righthander over an average lefthander (although a great lefty is always preferable), but in this case the Royals appear to have the luxury of at least one southpaw who is also likely to be an effective member of the pen:  Tim Collins.

After Joakim Soria and Robinson Tejeda (both locks according to The Star’s article, by the way), Collins was the next name on most everyone’s bullpen projections over the winter.   Nothing has happened this spring to change any of that and, despite not currently in ownership of a 40 man roster spot, Tim Collins is now closest thing to a lock in this competition.

Although some commenters here have speculated at various times that Danny Duffy or Blaine Hardy might make the team out of spring training, I have always thought the field was too contested and both too inexperienced to actually get a spot.   That, however, was before the zest for a second lefthander became so prevalent. 

If Dutton’s comments are true insights into the soul of the Royals’ organization then this tidbit is rather telling: “The other lefty spot, assuming there is one, shapes up as a battle between Danny Duffy and Blaine Hardy unless the Royals choose to push one of their highly regarding starting prospects into the mix. 

Given that I always counted Duffy as one of those ‘highly regarding starting prospects’, I found that statement rather interesting.   Is that a sign that the Royals view Duffy as less of a prospect than Montgomery, Lamb and Dwyer?   Did his sabbatical from baseball last spring change the team’s perspective of him?   Or, is it truly just a way to get Duffy on a different experience level from the other three?

That last question is what Dutton suggests and is also something I have been advocating since last fall (and it wasn’t exactly rocket science then!).    While the modern philosophy of baseball has moved away from having young starters begin their major league careers as relievers, it seems a good way to get Duffy experience ahead of some of the other prospects and also not expose him to a ton of innings.   Remember, Duffy only saw action in 62 regular season innings last year:   having him get 80 or 90 big league innings in 2011 might be preferable to 140 in the minors.

In the end, it is not cut and dried that the Royals will actually break camp with two lefty relievers and it is very possible that Blaine Hardy will be the second as opposed to Duffy.   If we go with Yost for now, however, then that leaves room for three righthanders behind Soria and Tejeda.   By all accounts, Jeremy Jeffress has a solid hold on the first of those spots, which is fine by most anyone who cares about the final few spots in the bullpen of a team that will not contend in 2011.

Right now, the top three contenders for the final two spots are apparently Greg Holland, Kanekoa Texiera and Louis Coleman.   The interesting thing about that list is who is not on it:  Blake Wood.   

After appearing in 51 games for Kansas City last season and finishing strong (18 strikeouts in his last 18 innings), I figured Wood to be a lock to open 2011 in the big league pen.    As it turns out, Wood’s inability to control the running game is so poor that it could actually keep him off the big league roster.   After some major rework at the big league level last year, Wood allowed just three steals in four attempts in August and September – down from six in seven attempts in the month of July.     If you put stock in the organization’s opinion, that improvement may well have been statistical only.   This is one we will definitely have to defer to the ‘baseball men’.   I think we will see a lot of Wood in 2011, but probably not in April.

The idea that both Holland and Coleman might break camp with the Royals delights me.   Both were college draftees picked with the idea that both would be relievers and both would move quickly through the system.   There is nothing better than when a plan, or a process, works out.  

Holland didn’t really impress anyone in a brief trial late last season, but he has a history of initial struggles at each level followed by a long stretch of effectiveness.    The guy has 243 strikeouts in 229 minor league innings and could be a valuable middle to late inning reliever if he can harness his control.   If anything, it appears Holland might have been throwing ‘too hard’ last year and has been much more accurate this spring.

Coleman has simply gotten people out at every level in his quite brief professional career and has continued to do so this spring.   Getting back to my ‘spread the experience out’ theory, I am all for breaking camp with a handful of rookies in the pen so that when the young starters begin to surface they have a quasi-veteran pen behind them.

The Royals like Texiera more than anyone else in baseball.   To be fair, Kanekoa pitched a fair part of last season hurt, but as a minor league nerd and a Process believer the likes of him, Jesse Chavez and Luis Mendoza getting mentioned as possible relievers seems a little too much like buying retread tires.   Given that both Texiera and Mendoza have been very good this spring, they might well make the team.   Perhaps, as Ned Yost observed, Mendoza will be this year’s ‘Chen’, but I will be surprised to see either make it through June.

As one who has published a monthly update on the projected 25 man roster since last November, Dutton’s article scrambled my thoughts on the bullpen considerably.   As an unabashed, borderline over the edge Royals’ follower, the idea of breaking camp with a bullpen that includes Collins, Duffy, Holland, Jeffress and Coleman is actually quite exciting.   It will be interesting to see if the Royals are as excited about that idea as I am.

There are no words… Take it away, Kaegel:

The Royals are unveiling a new weapon in Spring Training: Billy Butler, base-stealer.

Yost wants to upgrade the Royals’ baserunning this year, taking an extra base on hits and getting more steals — even from an unlikely source like Butler.

Yost figures that Butler could get up to 10 steals a season by picking his spots.

As a long suffering Royals fan, I’ve seen a lot of crazy. The idea of giving Billy Butler a green light running the bases ranks among the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.  Picking his spots?  If the pitcher accidentally chucked the ball to the left field foul pole… That would be a good spot.  Or if the catcher blacked out.  That’s another one.  How about if the entire defense took a bathroom break? Yeah, that too… Although it would be close.

I know this is spring, and there are all sorts of crazy stories that come out of camps, but still… This is the early leader on the insanity scale.

What would we say if Ned Yost talked about how Chris Getz could hit 10 home runs if he swung more on 3-0 counts? Yeah, we’d think he was Trey Hillman Crazy.

I’m still undecided on Yost as a manager.  He seems to be a solid no-nonsense type of guy in the Buddy Bell mold. I’m fine with that, but then he goes and says some really crazy stuff.

In his career Butler has had 830 stolen base opportunities. (An opportunity defined as being on base with the base ahead open.) He’s run exactly twice. Caught once, successful once.  His stolen base came in a game against the Indians in September of 2009. He was on first with two outs after singling in a run and another runner was on third.  Mike Jacobs was up with a 2-2 count and Butler took off.  The count and situation make me wonder if Butler lost track of the count and thought it was full, so he ran. Odds are strong that catcher Chris Gimenez was surprised.

While this isn’t a huge story (yet) the response from the Royals is completely incorrect.  The right thing to say would have been something like, “Billy can run all he wants while we’re in Arizona. Once the season starts, he better not try anything like that.” Yost’s response seriously confuses me.  It’s totally something out of the SABR Trey playbook (make the other teams think that Butler will run!) that it’s just completely bizarre that this would even surface. I thought the days of Hillman Crazy were long gone.  Maybe not.

Plus, we all know that while Butler’s base running IQ has improved, he still has a ways to go.  I don’t think I would trust him to properly “pick his spots.”

Basically this serves as a reminder that while the minors are flush with talent, there are still some questionable philosophies at the big league level.

This Tweet from Buster Olney popped up this morning:

By the way:Other teams have asked Royals about Alex Gordon, and the asking price is high: prime-prospect return. KC still invested in him.

I can certainly see where some teams would be interested in kicking the tires.  We’ve discussed this at length, but it’s that old change of scenery argument.  And since Gordon made what appeared to be a seamless transition to left field last summer, why shouldn’t some team inquire.  Then add to the mix the Royals apparent roster problem where they promised playing time to two-thirds of their outfield before trading their ace, and it would seem that Gordon could be available.

OK, so that first part makes sense…

The second part about the Royals asking for a prime prospect… Huh?

How does one failed prospect equal one prime prospect?  Sure, power to GMDM if he can actually get this, and you always want to begin any negotiation by setting the bar high, but this seems delusional to me.

(I love that this Gordon info comes on the heels of this Heyman Tweet:

For greinke #royals asked #rangers for pitchers hunter, holland and kirkman, grt kid ss profar, cf beltre. Smart to say no

Holy cow, that would have been a haul. And then some. Again, it’s the Royals prerogative to ask for an amazing amount. If the Rangers want to deal, they can counter. Maybe they decided the opening salvo was too insane and didn’t come back with another offer. Or maybe they did and lowballed.  Who knows.

Still, from what we’ve learned this winter it’s that GMDM asks for incredible returns. That’s not bad.)

I’ve heard the argument that the Royals would be selling low on Gordon and I’m not so certain on that… His value was highest before he ever played a major league game and has been sliding ever since.  It’s definitely possible he could slide even lower.

Frankly, I’m tired wondering if Alex Gordon will ever “get it.” I remember writing in the Royals Authority Annual prior to the 2009 season that his “breakout” second half of 2008 of .277/.392/.496 was the product of smoke and mirrors.  I’m not surprised it didn’t take.  The injuries, expectations and the attitude have conspired against him. If he rebounds in value, I really don’t think it’s going to bounce much higher.

I have to think the only way another team would spring for Gordon would be for a single grade B prospect or a pair of C’s.

And finally, the third part about the Royals still being invested… Sure they are.  If only because they’re scared to death that he will go somewhere else and “dominate.” Could you imagine the grief GMDM and the Royals brain trust would take if Gordon somehow appeared in an All-Star game or was a solid contributor on a contending team? I think the Royals are pleased with how well he applied himself to his new position. That gives them a little hope he’s maturing, I suppose.  It’s almost as if he gained a fresh start when he returned to KC as a left fielder.  That’s probably why the Royals aren’t anxious to move him.  We’re only a couple of months into Gordon 2.0.

Even though the Royals foolishly promised playing time, Gordon still has a spot in the outfield – for now.  I expect Lorenzo Cain to open the year in Omaha.  I don’t see the Royals trading Gordon unless they seriously lower their expectations.

Good to see Billy Butler flash a little spring power.  And Kyle Davies is still putting runners on the bases like a madman.  He’s more than ready for the regular season…

And I’m ready to.  This is the time of the spring where I fall into a little exhibition game fatigue.  OK… I was pumped for the games, but the fact I can’t see them (more on that in a future post perhaps) and the fact they carry little weight mean I begin to lose interest about this time.  Sure, I still check the box scores, but I’m ready for the real thing damnit.

I contend most of the 25 man roster is set.  Clark has been watching it evolve since the end of the 2010 season and I feel he’s spot-on in his recent assessment.  For me, the most interesting (yet useless) competition is for the fifth starter spot.  There are six pitchers gunning for the rotation with Luke Hochevar the favorite to lead a staff that includes Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen, Sean O’Sullivan, Vin Mazarro and Davies.  I know Nick thinks Chen is out of the rotation by July.  Perhaps, but we do agree he will be in the mix at the start of the season.  Hochevar seems a lock, as does Francis.  I’ll include Davies here, too.  So that puts the competition down to O’Sullivan and Mazarro.

I said that was the most interesting battle in camp?  Sigh.

March 31 can’t get here fast enough.

A couple of spring notes of interest…

— I certainly fall into the camp that (most) spring stats are meaningless, but Everett Teaford had better get his act together.  Yeah, it’s just two appearances, but getting hammered for 11 hits and 10 runs isn’t going to get you anywhere… Even in March.  He will get a shot at spring redemption on Wednesday afternoon.

— We finally have a Wilson Betemit sighting as the third baseman started and when 0-4 with two strikeouts in Tuesday’s game.  He’s dealing with a hyper extended elbow from winter ball.  I think the injury, combined with Mike Aviles’ hot bat and improved glove, have Aviles positioned to be the Royals opening day starter at the hot corner.  Unless Chris Getz continues to underwhelm.  Which isn’t much of a reach.

— Getz is 1-14 this spring while Pedro Feliz is 1-13.  As I mentioned with Teaford, I’m not going to put a lot of stock in spring numbers – even when they validate my opinion of certain players.  (And in this case they certainly do.)  However, there’s something to be said about being part of the crowd.  In other words, you are allowed to struggle, but you don’t want to be so putrid that you stand out among your teammates.  That’s what a 1-14 will do… Get you noticed… In the wrong way.

— That fan that got pegged in the eye by an errant hot dog toss courtesy of Sluggerrr was in court on Tuesday.  John Coomer was allegedly struck in the eye by the Yuni-like frankfurter throw and suffered a detached retina and has undergone three surgeries.  When will these teams learn?  If I remember correctly, a vegetarian was clobbered with a hot dog (sans bun apparently) at a Blue Jay game several years ago.  As you can imagine, this caused extreme emotional distress.  (Although how it was worse than watching the Blue Jays, I couldn’t tell you.)  Anyway, the parties seem destined to see this through to the end, with the trial expecting to last to Thursday.

Ever since Major League Baseball has been classifying pitch types and publishing that data on the web, I’ve been fascinated with it. It’s not perfect, but it gives us an idea of how good each pitcher is at each particular pitch he throws. Fangraphs has taken the data a step further and attempted to quantify some of this data futher. There are numerous ways to slice and dice that data, and I’ve attempted one below.

I decided that I wanted to visualize how each of the projected Royals starters in 2011 threw each pitch in 2010. What you’ll find below is a graph I put together using Google Gadgets which attempts to do this. Each dot represents a pitch thrown by one of the 2011 Royals projected starting rotation in 2010. The size of that dot represents how often he threw that pitch. The left axis represents the velocity of the pitch. The bottom axis is the weighted value of the pitch per 100 times thrown from Fangraphs (basically how good the pitch is). If you hover your pointer over each dot, you will see whose pitch it represents. The Gadget also lets you change some of the parameters or just look at certain data points.

What I learned is that no pitcher in the 2011 rotation has a good fastball–every one of them lies in the negative territory. Vin Mazzaro has a good slider and changeup and Hochevar should probably be throwing his slider and changeup a little bit more than he does. What jumps out at you?

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

We all know by now that stats in spring training are a poor indicator of what the future season might hold.   I used to spend some amount of time analyzing who a given batter may have faced in the spring in attempt to separate the at-bats against true major league competition from that of the minor league guys filling in the late innings.   Even that method was hardly foolproof as you were never sure when/if a pitcher or hitter was ‘working on something’ and hence not playing in the same manner as he would in a game that matters.

In the past, we saw Zack Greinke have a horrible statistical spring and go on to win the Cy Young.   Angel Berroa was a notorious killer in the spring before notoriously hideous regular seasons.   It is all very simple, frankly:  a guy with his roster spot secure is probably not going to lay out for a line drive down the line the second week in March and a pitcher who just has his slider working and nothing else is still going to throw fastballs and changeups in the Cactus League.    All sorts of things like that make the art of analyzing spring performances in a statistical manner virtually impossible.

Still, there are some numbers that are interesting if not particular meaningful:

  • Mitch Maier is hitting .571/.625/.643 with four steals.   Last year, there was some buzz that there were a number of teams that would jump on the out of options Maier if the Royals did not keep him on their twenty-five man roster coming out of spring training.   Fast forward to this spring, where Mitch is off to another hot start and on the borderline of making the Royals.   Would there be a market for Maier?   Certainly not a big one and not one that would yield a huge return, but would someone like the Phillies trade for him to fill in for the injured Dominic Brown?   Doubtful, but marginally plausible, I suppose.  
  • Melky Cabrera is hitting .462/.500/.538.  Lorenzo Cain is hitting .462/.533/.615.   Cain has already made two defensive plays that have drawn raves and Melky has already lost a ball in the ‘Arizona sun’.   I’m tired of hearing about the Arizona freaking sun and sky.  I get it, it is a tough place to catch high fly balls.   Half of your job description is to ‘catch fly balls’ – do it.  Anyway, spring training stats don’t matter, but somehow I feel that Cain’s .462 average and good defense is going to generate a ‘he needs more seasoning’ line pretty soon.   Melky’s .462?   Well, my guess is the Royals will be happy to tell you that those spring training stats DO matter.
  • The up and coming Big Four of Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer have combined to pitch 9.2 innings this spring and walked 11 batters.  That is not unexpected for young pitchers and tells us nothing about their future, but is interesting nonetheless.
  • Chris Getz is zero for eight with three walks.  Alex Gordon is one for thirteen with six walks.   Can we pick and choose which spring training stats are valid indicators?  Please?!!
  • Everett Teaford has been tagged for 10 runs in just over two innings of work.   There is no real way to spin those numbers into anything but Omaha.

A lot of the above is a little tongue in cheek…okay, a lot of it is.   To be honest, the Royals have won six of eight games to start the spring and seen a lot of good things happen.   Eric Hosmer has looked the part, Kila Ka’aihue has been solid and Clint Robinson just keeps hitting.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to get some positive vibes from winning exhibition games:  especially for a young team like the Royals.

Inevitably, there will start to be talk of the 2003 Royals, who parlayed a Cactus League title into a 16-3 start and staying in contention until the final month of the regular season.   Let’s be careful there in that the 2003 Royals had Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Raul Ibanez and a then rookie of the year caliber player in Angel Berroa.    Offensively, that was not a young team (Joe Randa, Michael Tucker, Desi Relaford, Brent Mayne – were all veteran players with decent major league resumes) and probably more poised to make a cinderella run than the 2011 Royals are.

For now, we’ll just enjoy the spring and periodically remind ourselves that the numbers probably tell us very little.   That won’t keep us from monitoring them closer than might be considered healthy, however.

Trust me… It’s not going to be this easy. It’s just not.

The Royals have opened the spring rolling off four wins in five games, with some quality individual performances along the way.

Not to be a buzzkill, but that’s not going to happen so much when the calendar flips to April.

I didn’t think Kyle Davies had that good of an outing on Thursday. I was able to see most of it, and the second inning seemed like vintage Davies… Leadoff single, get a couple of outs (sandwiched in between a wild pickoff throw to first, allowing the runner to advance) followed by a home run. The guy just seems to have a difficult time closing out innings, even in Spring Training.

There was a story the other day that the Royals are looking for consistency from Davies. That makes me laugh… After 130 big league starts and 700 innings, I think we have a decent idea of exactly who Davies is as a pitcher. He’s consistent all right… Consistently bad. I think the only reason he’s still here, and not Brian Bannister, is because of the Atlanta Connection. Neither one of those pitchers is major league caliber, but you can afford to keep one of them, simply as an innings eater on the back of the rotation. To carry two, at that price, is fiscally irresponsible.

Mitch Maier was your obvious choice for the player of the game… Our Mitch, hitting third in the order as the DH, went 4-4 with a pair of RBI to go along with two steals. We all know about the logjam in the outfield and how it’s basically going to come down to who has options and who doesn’t, this hot start bodes well for Maier’s future with the team.  I’m fine with that, because I view Maier as the optimal fourth outfielder.

Now if we could do something about Melky Cabrera…

While I discount almost every spring training stat, it is intriguing that the Royals have been showing some kind of crazy patience at the plate.  They have drawn 36 walks in five games and are working the count in their favor in the plate appearances where they put the ball in play.  Last season they were the hardest team to strike out and they only have 22 punch outs against them.  Is it possible after years and years of paying homage to OBP, but doing nothing about it (except acquiring guys like Olivo and Jacobs and now Francoeur) is it possible the Royals have finally learned the value of the walk.

I’m skeptical, but you can’t deny they’re off to a good start.

I saw Tim Collins pitch for the first time yesterday, and I can understand how the guy can get such action on his fastball… He really tilts back before he uncorks the pitch and gets every ounce of energy from his frame.  I can also see why he’s not a top prospect, despite bringing the heat… His fastball seemed a little straight.  And in his first spring outing, he threw it a little too much.

Still, I’m rooting for the guy and hope he gets a chance to open the year in Kansas City.

It’s good to be Dayton Moore right now.  

Seemingly everyday, someone comes out with a minor league ranking that is littered with Royals’ prospects.   The system has drawn such rave reviews from so many sources that it almost seems that the question is not ‘if the Royals be good’, but instead is ‘when will the Royals be good?’   Almost….

Prospects are guys who have yet to prove anything on the major league diamond and, as such, having a bunch of good ones is nice, but it doesn’t win you any games.   Keep in mind, if the Royals had acquired Alcides Escobar before the 2010 season, most everyone would have been delighted to acquire the then number twelve overall prospect in baseball.   Instead, the acquisition of Escobar this winter led many to believe that the Royals acquired a shortstop who ‘might not be any good’ or, as some of our more cynical (i.e. beat down) fans have said ‘simply can’t play.’

All that said, the top of Dayton Moore’s to-do list when he was hired was to rebuild the farm system.   Unquestionably, he has done so with spectacular results.   Now, he just has to hope that his system turns prospects into legitimate major league players.    Should that occur, all the grief Moore received (and it was warranted, mind you) for signing Mike Jacobs, Jose Guillen, et.al. and trading for Yuniesky Betancourt will be forever gone.   Heck, if the Royals are 47-33 at the All-Star Break in 2012, we will even have forgiven him for signing Melky Cabrera!

While his ability to build a farm system is beyond question, at least for now, Moore’s acumen at managing a major league roster is less established.   Now, one can certainly point out that managing the 40 man roster that, at times, might have included less than twenty ‘true’ major leaguers may have been beyond the capabilities of anyone.  I would not disagree with that, but there have been some troubling/curious organizational decisions in the past:

  • The love affair with Tony Pena Jr. was one of the first red flags.   Tony’s only real distinction as a major league shortstop was that he was better not as annoying as whoever took possession of Angel Berroa’s body after 2004.   On June 3rd, TPJ was pounding the ball at a zesty rate of .158/.178/.196 when, at last, the Royals gave Mike Aviles – a ‘Baird guy’ who the scouts didn’t think could play – a shot.   It was laughable because, even if the Royals truly were convinced that Aviles could not play, Pena Jr. (whose defense was always overrated) was so awful that virtually anyone (probably even Berroa) would have been a better option a month earlier.
  • Kila Ka’aihue and slider bat speed.   I have written too much about Kila the past three years, so we won’t waste a lot of time here.   Suffice it to say that after hitting .314/.463/.624 in AA and .316/.439/.640 in AAA during the summer of 2008, one might have expected the team to NOT trade for Mike Jacobs during the off-season.    We still don’t know if Kila can hit major league pitching (at last we’ll find out in 2011), but probably he was ready to succeed or fail in 2009.   Dayton Moore could have found out then AND kept Leo Nunez as well.
  • The Yunigma.   This trade ended up not being quite as dismal as it seemed at the time.   Yuni was awful, but not god-awful, and until Dan Cortes turns into a back of the pen monster (of which the Royals seem to have about 25 guys in the system poised to do the same), Moore didn’t give up anything of note.   Still, a bad baseball team panicked over the injuries to Mike Aviles and Jeff Bianchi and acquired a poor baseball player in what still appears to be a shortsighted move.   The lurking rumor that a year or so earlier Moore explored a Billy Butler for Yuni trade adds the spectre of fear to the whole scenario.
  • The Pursuit of the Sixth Tool.   There is value in leadership, professionalism and veteran presence:  certainly and without question.   Dayton Moore’s relentless pursuit of it, however, has become blog legend.   For every Scott Podsednik or Gil Meche that has performed reasonably well, Moore’s resume has a Guillen, Ankiel, Kendall, Bloomquist (sorry % in UK) and Jacobs who could not hit taking up lineup space with their  veteran presence.

As we move forward, will the pitfalls referenced above continue or just be long forgotten examples of a general manager trying to cobble together something resembling a major league team while he, dare we say it, stuck to The Process?

From this point forward, Moore will have a number of critical developmental decisions to make, roughly in this order:

  • When does Lorenzo Cain become the everyday centerfielder?
  • How many rookie relievers do the Royals break camp with?
  • How long does Moore wait until bringing Mike Moustakas up?  If you care, I say you hold Mike in Omaha just long enough to control him for that seventh year, but not worry about avoiding Super-Two status.   His agent is Scott Boras, who we all dislike, but is a guy that is not going away and a person you would rather not antagonize.
  • Do you move Christian Colon off shortstop?   How about Jeff Bianchi?
  • Do you give Eric Hosmer a try in the outfield?
  • How long do you stick with Alex Gordon?
  • When do you start bringing your talented group of starting pitchers to the majors?   And in what order?
  • When does Eric Hosmer get the major league call?
  • When does Wil Myers move up to AAA?

All of the above really falls into one big question:   When do you start turning prospects into major leaguers?   It is risky, because some will fail.   Some of them will fail miserably and cast doubt on the entire farm system that Moore covets so greatly.

Somewhere in 2012, Dayton Moore will no longer be able to play the ‘look at the great farm system I built’ card.   Dayton Moore surely knows this, he is not an idiot.   What he needs to realize, what we all need to realize, is that building the system was not the hard part:  making the system produce is the hard part.

On Monday is was the Moose and Hosmer show as both Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer went deep against the Rangers.  Tuesday, is was Moose and Cain taking center stage as Moustakas drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth and Lorenzo Cain ended the game with a play that has been described as “spectacular” and a “circus catch.”

See for yourself from this highlight reel, courtesy of Desertfan…

(Desertfan has been shooting a ton of video in Surprise.  I hope he’s able to keep it up.  Check out more of his stuff on his YouTube page.)

Every year, there is some kind of litmus test for the Royals brain trust regarding the roster coming out of spring training.  Remember how we were all hoping for Calvin Pickering?  Yeah, sometimes even us stat nerds get it wrong.  OK, so the occasional set back isn’t enough to deter me from picking a player who should be – who needs to be – on the 25 man roster when the team heads north.  I’m anointing Cain as this year’s player.  Cain has yet to make a start and as we know, he has options so he’s a candidate to open the year in Triple-A thanks to Dayton Moore and his eagerness to secure the services of fourth-tier talent like Melky Cabrera.  Still, he would give the Royals their best outfield defender and could fill the leadoff role for the Royals.

Of course, events could conspire that would make Cain a no-brainer.  Like if he had the camp of his life.  Or if one of the other outfielders likely to be a regular went down with injury.  It makes sense to have one too many outfielders at this point in the spring.  But the Royals shouldn’t be shy about eating some payroll if justified and opening the year with Cain in center.

Cain will finally get the start this afternoon against the Dodgers and will hit leadoff. Jeff Francis and Sean O’Sullivan will throw for a couple of innings.

Strange as it may sound, the two Royals I’m going to openly root for to make the team will be Cain and Tim Collins.

I don’t get excited by spring training performances.  These games are more about preparation for the grind of the regular season than anything else.  Although as Tim Kniker pointed out, Royals catchers are a combined one for 13 (he was making a point of small sample sizes, but get well soon JK!)  But this kind of start just fuels my enthusiasm for the real games in a few weeks time.

And it gives me a chance to write a pseudo game recap/analysis piece for the first time since September.  I’m all for that.

— Mike Montgomery and Jeremy Jeffress got their first of spring action and both gave the radar gun a workout as they were both regularly hitting the mid-90s with their fastballs.  Montgomery battled his command when he entered, issuing two walks in the fifth.

— The more things change… Padre starter Mat Latos issued four walks in the first and the Royals didn’t score a run thanks to a caught stealing by Mike Aviles.

— Nice to see Clint Robinson do some damage from the DH spot.  Two hits (a double and a triple) and a pair of RBI.

— I’ve caught the last two games on feeds from MLB.com and listened to Steve Stewart call the games.  Not only is Stewart as vanilla as they come, the same old, “Now we leave you with the sounds of spring” line at the end of every inning makes me want to smash my computer.  Would it kill you to change things up from time to time?  May I humbly suggest, “At the end of the inning, things will be quiet on the webcast because I’m reading the latest from Royals Authority.”

I’m begging you…

— Luke Hochevar struggled in the first and was keeping the ball up in the zone.  He allowed three straight singles before he settled down, made the proper adjustments and started finding his sinking action on his pitches.  Of his six outs, five of them were ground outs to go along with one strikeout.  That’s a very good sign.

Other notes…

— The Royals reached deals with Kila Ka’aihue and Vin Mazarro on Tuesday, which means all 40 players are under contract.  And that means I’ll soon have a new – and final – salary table.  I’m still thinking the Royals are under the $35 million mark for Opening Day.

— Sad story out of camp as minor leaguer Anthony Seratelli’s father was killed in a freak accident while driving on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey on Monday.  The Royals actively engage the families of their minor leaguers, so this is a loss that is undoubtedly felt by the entire organization.  Positive thoughts to the Seratelli family.

— Zack Greinke made his spring debut for the Brewers and talked about the trade.

“I kind of had to play the bad guy in order to do it. It would be nice if that didn’t happen, but the way things were in Kansas City, if I just kept on being the sweet person, the fans would have been outraged if I got traded. I kind of had to be the bad guy. It isn’t always your No. 1 choice.”
He realized he was a fan favorite — “I don’t know why,” Greinke said — and by making his trade requests public, he feels he helped avoid “backlash on the organization.”

Good to know Zack can sling the BS as good as the slider.

— Kaegel has a feel good story on Moustakas.  (Seriously, hire a decent headline writer…) Of course, we all feel good about Moose but this comment kind of caught my attention:

“His way is not set in stone. He’s always open to suggestions, anything to get better, and those are the type of guys that get better,” said Hall of Famer George Brett, a camp instructor.

Paging Alex Gordon…

Episode #044- In this episode, I talk about some interesting things happening in Spring Training and interview the Northwest Arkansas Naturals General Manager Eric Edelstein. All music in this podcast was provided by local Kansas City band Auternus.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs044.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Eric on Twitter @ericbaseball as well as the Naturals @nw_ark_naturals

Follow Auternus on Twitter @auternus and check them out on the web

Music used in this podcast:

Auternus – Until the Light is Gone

Auternus – Nonlinear

Auternus – Bipolar

How to Get the Podcast:

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