Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

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:

Click here to be taken to the site to download directly.

Subscribe via iTunes

Subscribe via Zune

Subscribe via any other feedreader.

Games. Glorious games. I know that they’re only Spring Training games, but at this point I don’t care. Baseball is finally back. Reports from Surprise, Arizona are heading back east from a variety of sources. We’re past the phase of Spring Training where the only information is who is in what kind of shape. We have hits, doubles, homeruns, strikeouts and thank God in heaven we have boxscores, beautiful boxscores.

I know that few numbers in baseball mean less than those that come from Spring Training, but so what? I love digging into the statistics of the game and trying to tease out new and interesting information. There will be plenty of time for that once the real season starts, or even after a number of spring games are completed. At this point, I’m reminded that baseball is starting it’s re-entry into my life. Not that it ever actually left, there were trades and off-season signings to keep me mindful of the sport, but it’s just the periphery.

I love baseball because of the game, the pitcher and batter battle, the fielding plays, the typically warm summer air and some green grass in that familiar shape. The stuff in the periphery can finally be shoved aside and put where it belongs. For now, we have games.

So what have we learned from these two games?

It seems destined that barring an injury, Melky Cabrera will be the Opening Day center fielder. He has started both of the games so far and batted in the second spot in the lineup. Dayton Moore apparently promised Cabrera that he would be the starter and he won’t go back on that. What I’ll never understand is why on earth the promise had to be made in the first place. Did Cabrera have a lot of teams vying for his rather poor skillset? Even if the Royals do break their promise, is there truly a free agent out there that will refuse to sign a contract with the Royals because Melky Cabrera didn’t get enough playing time? I highly doubt it.

Mike Aviles has led off both games so far. That shocks the hell out of me. Baseball men think in terms of the “traditional” lineup, and that means a fast guy leads off. Dayton Moore on a number of occasions has talked of building the ball club in terms of lineup spots, which is typical but makes me cringe. Aviles isn’t anyone’s idea of a traditional lead off hitter, but I like him at the spot. He is one of the teams most proven hitters, and should be up there as often as possible. I doubt it will last, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

I expect to see lots of runs scored, especially in the early part of Spring Training. The climate and altitude of Arizona are conducive to a high run scoring environment. However, batters are also  typically ahead of the pitchers. It’s much easier to get back in the groove of hitting a baseball than it is pitching it. Also, pitchers are typically working on things and getting a feel for certain pitches while hitters are just doing what they do. Spring Training can be a time for pitchers to try and hone a curveball or changeup that they haven’t thrown well in the past. In order to do that, they need to keep throwing it even if it is getting crushed. So pitching lines are some of the least important and unreliable stats in the spring.

Speaking of those runs being scored, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer both drove balls out of the park yesterday. The official Royals blog has some excellent pictures of the young prospects in action. Word on the street is that they were absolute bombs too, not long fly balls that just cleard the fence. What’s that you say? Jeff Francoeur hit a homerun on Sunday? Meh.

Has anything jumped out at you so far during the Spring? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Also, we still have a few open spots for the Royals Authority live event at The Well if your interested. Just drop me an email and reserve your spot.

Boxscore from 2-27

Boxscore from 2-28

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

Since October, I have been visiting and revisiting the projected Opening Day roster for the Royals.   Usually, this column appeared right around the first of the month and was rather routinely outdated in short order by Dayton Moore.   We have seen this group of twenty-five change due to the DeJesus and Greinke trades, the signings of Francouer, Cabrera and Francis and more than one comment from the organization.

Now, on the heels of the first spring training game, we are really getting closer to knowing (barring injury) who is actually going to break camp with the Royals.   That may seem funny to say with all of nine innings of exhibition ball in the books, but I think it is true.   Ned Yost, after all, observed that the lineup from Sunday could very well be the Opening Day lineup and that should not have surprised anyone.    I already had the exact nine hitters that started today in this column as the starting lineup on March 31st (admittedly not in that particular batting order) and I imagine a lot of you had the same group…..for better or worse.

Without further delay, let’s get to this month’s addition of the Opening Day 25.

POSITION PLAYERS – The Starters

  • Catcher – Brayan Pena
  • First Base – Billy Buter
  • Second Base – Chris Getz
  • Shortstop – Alcides Escobar
  • Third Base – Mike Aviles
  • Leftfield – Alex Gordon
  • Centerfield – Melky Cabrera
  • Rightfield – Jeff Francouer
  • Designated Hitter – Kila Ka’ahuie

I think each month’s column has had a different player in centerfield, but my guess is Cabrera might be locked into the position.   While it is just one spring training game, I found it telling that when Lorenzo Cain was subbed in on Sunday, it was to play rightfield.   That hardly sounds like a move a team makes if they are legitimately giving a guy a shot at winning the job.   It’s early and that is an admittedly knee-jerk reaction (if Yost gives Cain 45 innings in center this week, I will be delighted – and incredibly surprised), but I doubt the Royals are seriously considering Cain as their Opening Day centerfielder.

The big name missing from the above lineup is, of course, Mike Moustakas.   It has been discussed in detail nearly everywhere by everyone, but it is worth reiterating that there are two time-lines when it comes to Moustakas.   The first is free agency and the second arbitration eligibility.   A player needs six full years (a year is defined as 172 days on the major league roster or disabled list) to become eligible for free agency and the Royals could essentially get a ‘free’ seventh year out of Moustakas by simply waiting until just mid-April to bring him up. 

When it comes to arbitration, however, Dayton Moore would likely need to keep Moustakas in Omaha until sometime into June to avoid him becoming a ‘Super Two’ and be eligible for arbitration (and hence more expensive sooner) an extra year.   The arbitration and free agency clocks have nothing to do with one another.  

Frankly, right now, I am all for getting that seventh year of team control, but less interested in avoiding Super Two status.    The Royals are being coy in this regard, with Dayton Moore mentioning this weekend that ‘some in the organization believe Moustakas needs more time in the minors, but others believe he is ready to go right now.’   In the end, Moustakas will not make the Opening Day roster for reasons related to free agency, arbitration AND experience.  

It would take little to persuade me that Mike might indeed be served well by another 150 AAA plate appearances and, hence, if it is June before we see Moose in Kansas City that is probably okay.   Of course, I will tolerate that a lot more if we see Lorenzo Cain in Kansas City by then as well.    Anyway, don’t look for Moustakas or Cain on the short bench.

POSITION PLAYERS – Bench

  • Catcher – Lucas May
  • Infield – Wilson Betemit
  • Outfield – Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco

That is an unimaginative group, I know, but the Royals seem much more cognizant of who has options and who doesn’t as opposed to who can play and who can’t.   Hopefully, this is the last spring where we can say ‘it really doesn’t matter right now.’   I think the odds are tremendous that the above four bench players will not even be on the 2012 roster.

PITCHING – The Starting Rotation

  • Luke Hochevar
  • Jeff Francis
  • Kyle Davies
  • Bruce Chen
  • Vin Mazzaro

We will hear a lot about the ‘competiton’ for the rotation this spring and the names of Aaron Crow, Danny Duffy, Everett Teaford and many others will be bandied about.  In truth, the first four guys are locks and Mazzaro will almost surely beat out Sean O’Sullivan (who is still young, by the way) for the fifth spot.    Mazzaro-O’Sullivan is the only relevant starting rotation battle this spring.

The Royals, should they so choose, could juggle the roster around a little early in the season as they won’t need a fifth starter until April 9th.   It may be more likely that they would use the fifth starter as a reliever for the first week of the season rather than make another roster move.

PITCHING – The Bullpen

  • Joakim Soria
  • Robinson Tejeda
  • Blake Wood
  • Jeremy Jeffress
  • Tim Collins
  • Nathan Adcock
  • Greg Holland

The last couple of spots in the bullpen are always the ones that go to down to the last day of camp.   I will admit to using a good deal of ‘hope’ in compiling the above list.   Quite honestly, the last two spots could have been written:

  • not Jesse Chavez
  • not Kanekoe Texeira

Pretty much everyone is on the Jeffress and Collins bandwagon, but I think Greg Holland is going to prove to be much better this spring than he appeared to be last fall.   I am also guessing that the Royals keep the Rule 5 acquired Adcock around because, well, it’s not like they can’t afford the time to give him a good long look.   That Louis Coleman is not on this projected 25 does not mean that I don’t expect to see him in Kansas City sooner rather than later.

Well, that is the ‘best guess’ for this month.  Thirty days from now, the guessing will be all over.

For various reasons, I have been pretty much out of the Royals’ loop for the better part of the past two weeks.   Here’s what I apparently missed:

  • Ned Yost views Jarrod Dyson as the best lead-off option on the team and that no one else really fits the role.  Of course, even Ned intimates that Dyson has little chance to make the roster.   I pointed out the void of a true lead-off hitter within the organization earlier this month.  Is it good or bad to have an opinion much the same as the Royals’ manager?
  • Chris Getz’s head is okay now.   Although I kind of have a weird fascination with Getz, that feeling will last exactly as long as it takes the Royals to call up Mike Moustakas.   At that point, Getz will either stop playing or start taking time away from a far superior hitting Mike Aviles.  When that happens, fascination will no longer describe my feelings towards this player.
  • Everett Teaford’s truck was stolen.   That’s a shame.
  • Joakim Soria wants a new nickname.   I can see his logic, given what is going on in his native Mexico, but color be completely bored with this topic.   Nicknames, at least non-sarcastic ones, have never really been all that interesting to me and maybe, just maybe, when you are as good as Joakim Soria we could just refer to him as, well, Joakim Soria.
  • A number of pitchers had ‘the ball come out of their hands real good’ and a similar number of position players reported to camp ‘in the best shape of their lives’.
  • Of course, as Craig detailed yesterday, Jason Kendall confirmed my feeling that he is pretty much of a clown (not the funny type, mind you).   Listen, I don’t have any fond feelings for Nick Wright, but there was nothing in his questioning of Mike Moustakas that warranted intervention from anyone.   I guess we can thank Kendall for making just another ‘softball question-cliche answer’ standard baseball interview something interesting.   Certainly, what Kendall did is no worse than what George Brett did to a young television reporter on the golf course last year (or was it two?).   The difference is that George Brett is in the Hall of Fame and Jason Kendall never will be:  nobody said life was fair.

I guess all this column really does is remind all of us how non-eventful this time of year can be.    All that changes on Sunday as the games start.   You can make the argument that spring training stats do not matter, but spring training games certainly do.  

Count me as ready for some actual baseball.

And finally, the Ned Yost over/under stolen base contest.   In Tuesday’s Kansas City Star, Yost talked about the Royals renewed emphasis on baserunning (the team has been a woeful unit on the base paths the past few years) and in that article offered up the following thoughts on stolen base abilities:

  • Mike Aviles: 25 to 30
  • Lorenzo Cain: 25
  • Alcides Escobar: 40
  • Jeff Francouer: 15
  • Chris Getz: 40

“You just have to know how to do it.   You just have to work at it.” (Ned Yost via Kansas City Star)

Alright, which of the above (if any) reach those numbers?   And how many caught stealing do they incur getting there?

As you have heard by now, the other day 610 Sports was interviewing Mike Moustakas about his time in camp.  It was, I assume, the standard boilerplate interview.  Until the issue of Moustakas beginning the season in the minor leagues came up…

As transcribed by Royals Review:

Wright: (To Moustakas) “There’s a decent chance that no matter how well you do this Spring Training, you might still start the year off in the minors just because of Baseball’s rules and wanting to hold on to eligibility, all that stuff. Do you think about that?”

Kendall: (Jumping in) “No, he wants to stay in the minor leagues all f—ing year. Are you s—ing me right now?”

NW: “Well, you heard the question, Jason?”
JK: “Yes.”
NW: “The Question wasn’t-“
JK: “Do you wanna start in the big leagues this year?”
NW: “Well hold on, is it not a legitimate question? I know he wants to start in the major leagues.”
JK: “He wants to start in the big leagues in this year.”
NW: “That wasn’t the question, Jason.”
JK: “Rewind yourself.”

I’m just going to stop at Rewind Yourself because that’s the quote of the year.  Just a few days into camp, this one is going to be difficult to top.  Especially with Jose Guillen riding off into the twilight. (Quick aside: Was anyone else surprised to hear that Guillen was retiring.  I honestly thought he retired three years ago.)

A couple of things are going on here… Allow me to play clubhouse shrink for a moment.

Issue one – the veteran versus the rookie.

Yes, the tired but true clubhouse cliche rears it’s ugly head.  Veterans – especially those on the fringe of their career – (and Kendall has been on the fringe for the better part of a decade.) are a notoriously crabby bunch.  Especially when they see the replacements arriving.  Of course, Moustakas isn’t a replacement for Kendall (I wish), rather he’s a symbol.  New versus old.  The gritty, wily veteran has had his day and the future – while it isn’t here right now – it’s certainly close.

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to what’s happening in Surprise, you know that the entire focus of this camp has been about the minor leaguers.  The tweets, the stories, the features… All about the young guys.  Sure, there’s been mentions of Jeff Francis keeping the ball down in his bullpen sessions, or how Jeff Francoeur is a nice guy… But ultimately Royals fans don’t care.  They don’t care about the guys on the “one and done” contracts.  Nor do they give a damn about Kendall and his rehab.  And all the attention on the young guys – players who haven’t done anything at the major league level – will undoubtedly play on the insecurities of the veterans.

Kendall is grasping at relevancy but his age, past performance and injury have him well on his way to the land of retirement.

The message here:  Go talk to Kendall about the art of a .300 OBP instead of Moustakas, because Moose hasn’t spent a day in the majors.

Issue two – Clubhouse leadership and professionalism

Is it possible Kendall thinks he’s exhibiting his “leadership” qualities?  If that’s the case, it’s misguided.  The question was harmless, perhaps a bit weak, although a little complex for a baseball player.  That service time stuff is for their agents.  Although in Moustakas’ case, this has been discussed for the better part of a year.  I’m sure he knows the situation and I’m sure he has an opinion.  And I’m sure he’s savvy enough, if his opinion runs contrary to the Royals, to keep his mouth shut and toe the company line.

What’s hilarious is we all know how the Royals are with members of the media when they dare step out of line (I know, it rarely happens, but still…)  Ask a difficult question and the ban hammer is swung with impunity.  I wonder if the Royals PR was present when this went down.  And I wonder if there will be any kind of rebuke for Kendall for his unprofessional behavior.  The interviewer from 610 had the right to be in the clubhouse and had the right to ask his questions.  He also had the reasonable expectation to perform his job without interruption.  It’s not up to Kendall, who wasn’t involved in the interview to be judge and jury concerning the questions.  It’s not his business.

Bottom line, Kendall interfered with someone doing their job.  If the roles had been reversed you can be sure the Royals would have gone ballistic.  Will Kendall be punished for his unprofessional behavior?  Ha.  The Royals will probably lay the blame at the feet of the interviewer for his line of questioning and give Kendall a plaque or something.

Issue three – Rewind Yourself

As I said, the early candidate for quote of the year.  This will be used frequently this year at this site (and many others.)

— Billy Butler is leading the league in grounding into double plays?  Rewind yourself!

— Bruce Chen isn’t as good as you thought… Rewind yourself!

— I thought the Royals had that game in hand after jumping out to that massive lead… Rewind yourself!

— I miss Trey Hillman… Rewind yourself!

— Jason Kendall needs to rewind himself and ride off into the sunset.

%d bloggers like this: