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You think Omar Infante is going into spring training as the Royals starting second baseman? Not so fast.

From our main man, Dayton Moore:

“We’re going to play the best players. Omar is a terrific second baseman. I know offensively he has not performed the way he has liked or the way we expect him to. I just know we’re going to put the best team out there each and every night, and I know Omar is capable of being that guy. But we like Christian Colon, too. But you need them all to win, as you know. It’s a team, and you count on everyone to perform.”

This is the kind of red meat that gets you to sit up and take notice. The Royals owe Infante, who has more than 12 years of MLB service time, around $17 million for the next two seasons. Contrast that to Colon, a relative major league neophyte, who will earn around the major league minimum. Baseball is a funny sport in that with the guaranteed contracts, teams will stand beside their sunk costs even while they’re busy sinking the team. Infante was not part of the Royals run through October, marginalized by Ben Zobrist and injuries. It’s always been a safe assumption that with Zobrist moving on and Infante still cashing the big checks, that second base would return to the latter. Well, assuming they can’t unload him on a another team.

Of course, plenty of things are said in the winter, then forgotten once the club assembles for spring. Will Colon truly get a chance to supplant Infante? Or is this just a way the Royals are using to light a fire under Infante? A way to send a message they expect him in Surprise in a few weeks ready to play. Tough call at this point.

This post is about Christian Colon. Yet his potential contribution to the Royals over the next couple of seasons is tied to Colon.

We are all familiar with Colon’s pedigree. Of more importance is what he has done for the Royals.

If nothing else happens in his brief career, Colon will have cemented himself firmly in Royals lore. The high chopper in the Wild Card game plated Eric Hosmer with the tying run in the 12th. And his liner brought home the go ahead run in Game Five last November. Think about this. The Royals have played 31 post season games in the last two years. Colon has come to the plate three times. He has two of the biggest hits in Royals history. (His other plate appearance was a walk. Colon has a tidy 1.000/1.000/1.000 career postseason line.)

As Colon rose through the minors, his contact rate was his bread and butter. Contact rate is often something that translates as you progress from level to level and Colon is no exception. He’s maintained a healthy to put bat on ball in his limited major league action. The annual average contact rate is close to 79 percent. Colon, in a small sample of 168 career plate appearances, owns a contact rate approaching 85 percent. As we know from watching the Royals in the last couple of seasons, that contact skill set is something the club values a great deal. Put the ball in play. Move the line.

Since we’ve watched Salvador Perez the last couple of seasons, you may catch yourself thinking high contact is synonymous with free swinging. That’s sometimes the case, not always. By contrast, Colon’s high contact rate comes from working the count, getting into favorable hitting situations, and then joining bat and ball. The Royals as a team eschew the free pass, but given a proper chance, Colon may not fall into that trap. In his limited action, he’s managed to draw a base on balls in 8.3 percent of all plate appearances, which is better than the major league average. That’s right in line with a minor league walk rate average of slightly above eight percent.

With the ability to maintain a high contact rate, combined with a strong knowledge of the strike zone and the ability to stay patient to accept a free pass, Colon could give the Royals a solid on base candidate in a lineup where they can always use that skill set. On the flip side, Colon has limited power potential. He’s more of a gap to gap hitter whose power profile will be molded in the form of doubles and the occasional triple.

The projections don’t have enough of a major league track record on Colon to formulate numbers that make a great deal of sense. Steamer projects him at .264/.316/.352 with a 6.6 walk rate. Marcel projects a .277/.337/.391. Both systems have Colon as a part timer. ZiPS, which doesn’t attempt to project playing time, has the Royals utility man at .268/.317/.351. Maybe the truth can be found somewhere between the high and the low projections.

And that’s really the question surrounding Colon. Can he deliver with enough consistency to justify a full-time major league job? Last year, the Royals envisioned Colon as someone who could fill in at third, short and second. He filled in at all three positions at various times in the first half of 2015. In fact, as he’s progressed through the minors, his likely role seems to have adjusted to major league utility man. His upside is a steady, yet unspectacular second baseman.

Is Colon a viable defensive candidate at second base? All the evidence (the metrics and the eye test) suggest yes. Let’s start with the metrics. It’s limited at the major league level, but over the last two seasons according to Inside Edge, Colon has had 63 chances to record an out in 160 innings. Of those 63 chances, 56 have been classified as “routine,” meaning the average second baseman will make 90 to 100 percent of the plays. In Colon’s case, he’s converted every single chance in that category. He’s had seven non-routine opportunities and come away from those with just one out. That confirms the eye test that Colon is steady, but unspectacular with the glove at the keystone position. He possesses average range, a strong arm, and is good enough on the double play pivot you feel confident in his ability to turn two. What he lacks in ability, he counters with superior instincts. He has a feel for the game around second base. That helps him keep and edge and allows him to translate what are averageish defensive tools into an above-average package at second.

Same thing goes for baserunning. He not a burner by any stretch, but his speed is helped by good instincts on the bases. He knows when to take the extra base and doesn’t seem to take foolish chances on the bases. It’s an aspect of his game that can be an asset.

The only question Colon has to answer is: Would he be better than Infante? This is the question the Royals have to answer not just in this case, but in every situation throughout their organization. With payroll increasing to all-time highs every winter, they can ill afford to set money on fire by giving it to an underperforming veteran when they have someone with limited experience who can provide the same – or better – major league production.

That’s the Christian Colon question.

Baseball is a funny game. The Royals were getting dressed for their own funeral on Saturday. They won on Sunday, but it was the finale of a 2-4 homestand. They had lost nine out of 11 and had fallen out of first place. Three days later and the Royals are riding a four game winning streak. They are back in first and – catch this fact – they own the best record in the American League.

After a couple of close games to open the series in Minnesota, the offense came to life on Wednesday. Well, most of the offense. It seems Omar Infante is doing his best to keep his game in reverse. Since his six game hitting streak ended on May 22, Infante has five hits in his last 55 at bats. All five hits are singles. Oh, he has one walk. It’s a brutal offensive performance that, except for that six game stretch in mid-May, has been roundly awful.

We’ve seen enough. It’s time for the Royals to permanently remove Infante from the lineup.

To determine just how awful Infante has been in a historical context, I ran a report at the Baseball Reference Play Index. I limited my search to players whose primary position was second base and further narrowed it by searching for those who had an on base percentage less than .226 and a slugging percentage less than .300. Those are Infante’s current numbers through Tuesday. Oh, I also set a minimum number of plate appearances to 175.

Here’s the list.

1 Joe Wagner .210 .223 210 1915 26 CIN NL 76 197 17 35 5 2 0 13 8 35 .178 .433
2 Hector Torres .215 .221 199 1972 26 MON NL 83 181 14 28 4 1 2 7 13 26 .155 .436
3 Pete Suder .225 .263 215 1954 38 PHA AL 69 205 8 41 11 1 0 16 7 16 .200 .489
4 Ryan Raburn .226 .254 222 2012 31 DET AL 66 205 14 35 14 0 1 12 13 53 .171 .480
5 Harry Pearce .209 .217 260 1919 29 PHI NL 67 244 24 44 3 3 0 9 8 27 .180 .427
6 Jerry Kindall .196 .276 192 1957 22 CHC NL 72 181 18 29 3 0 6 12 8 48 .160 .472
7 Dutch Jordan .225 .234 284 1904 24 BRO NL 87 252 21 45 10 2 0 19 13 51 .179 .459
8 Omar Infante .226 .300 186 2015 33 KCR AL 50 180 12 39 11 2 0 17 3 27 .217 .526
9 Vic Harris .192 .177 198 1972 22 TEX AL 61 186 8 26 5 1 0 10 12 39 .140 .369
10 Ryan Goins .209 .271 193 2014 26 TOR AL 67 181 14 34 6 3 1 15 5 42 .188 .479
11 Charlie French .223 .190 229 1910 26 TOT AL 54 210 21 36 2 1 0 7 11 30 .171 .414
12 Hughie Critz .198 .242 227 1935 34 NYG NL 65 219 19 41 0 3 2 14 3 10 .187 .440
13 Frank Coggins .215 .222 183 1968 24 WSA AL 62 171 15 30 6 1 0 7 9 33 .175 .438
14 Juan Bell .201 .249 223 1991 23 BAL AL 100 209 26 36 9 2 1 15 8 51 .172 .450
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/10/2015.

On thing you can quickly glean from the list is that Infante is the best of this ragged bunch. He should be, since I set the parameters for OBP and slugging at his current numbers. Everyone else would fall below his level of performance. Another thing to note is that as much as the Royals fanbase actively loathed Chris Getz, he’s not on this list. Minor miracles and all that. The other, main thing that should leap off this page of the Interweb is that most of these players had their playing time either limited or cut short due to their overall offensive ineptitude.

We are at the point where the Royals are going to be giving the lion’s share of the playing time to a historically bad player at his position. Now, if this were the Old Royals, we’d just nod our heads collectively and say, “Same old Royals.” Except this isn’t the Old Royals. It’s not even a reasonable facsimile. This is a team with the best record in the American League and it’s a team with designs on another October run. Infante alone can’t derail this effort. He’s simply one of nine guys in the lineup. But he can certainly kill more than his share of rallies or otherwise negatively impact the game from an offensive standpoint.

It’s not as if the Royals don’t have options. Christian Colon has spent this season collecting a major league paycheck and service time. For his efforts, he has been allowed to swing the bat in anger 74 times and posted a slash line of .269/.329/.313. That’s not great, but that’s a helluva lot better than the production the Royals have been getting at the position.

The Royals (who, if they are being honest, are the last defenders of Infante) will cite Infante’s glove as reason enough to keep him around. There is some validity to the argument that his defense is worthy of discussion. To this point, Infante has saved four runs at second according to The Fielding Bible. That’s tied for seventh among fielders at the keystone. His plus/minus rating is at +5, meaning he has fielded five more balls than would be expected of him at the position. Again, that gets him on the leaderboard, ranking seventh among all second basemen. From the limited opportunity we’ve had to see Colon in the field, he doesn’t impress. The question the Royals have to ask themselves: Is the team better off with Colon’s bat in the lineup or Infante’s glove? Does the sum of the team improve if you replace Infante with Colon?

I think the answer is yes. I think Colon’s defense may be below average at second base, but Infante has become so inept offensively, replacing him with a corpse could be a net gain. The Royals? I’m not sure they’re at that point yet. And I think it’s easy to figure out why that is.

You want to identify the main reason Infante is still haunting the lineup? How about he’s only in year two of a four-year deal. He’s set to pocket $7.5 million this year, $7.75 million in 2016 and another $8 million in ’17. (And he can also make an extra $500,000 if Royals fans somehow get him voted to the All-Star Game. I say it’s worth it. But I have a twisted sense of humor.) Oh, and then there’s the requisite Royals option for $10 million for 2018 with a $2 million buyout. So we’ve got a player who is firmly in his decline years and the Royals are on the hook for $24.75 million for the remainder of his contract.

There isn’t a perfect offensive stat to encapsulate his offensive decline, but wOBA can come close enough. From Fangraphs, we can see just how Infante has stumbled at the plate in recent seasons.


Yes, there is an uptick in 2013, (it’s actually the best year of his career) but with below league average numbers in all other seasons since 2010, it’s safe to say that the ’13 season was an outlier. And it just so happens that was the year before Infante hit the free agent market and signed with the Royals. Rotten timing. A horrific contract results and the Royals are on the hook for a player who is no longer worthy of a spot on a major league roster.

(It’s weird how these contracts happen. The Royals bought on Infante’s career year and thought they would get a couple more years like that at the plate. A year later, the Royals bet against Kendrys Morales and his declining numbers. One deal worked out. The other deal… Not so much.)

Every team has a weak link. No team is perfect from one through nine. And the Royals collectively are good enough to cover for someone who isn’t pulling their fair share. At this point, given the depths Infante has fallen offensively, it’s time for the club to give him an extended break. Christian Colon may not be the long-term answer, but he’s a better option today than Infante. That’s pretty clear. And benching Infante won’t turn this team into some offensive juggernaut. That’s not the goal. The goal is simple: Try to field the best players at their position. Right now, there’s no way Infante is the best option for the Royals at second base.

The contract limits the Royals options. It’s toxic enough, no one will trade for him unless the Royals eat a sizable portion. It’s large enough the team certainly won’t release him. The only thing the Royals can do is put him on the bench. Hopefully, he would accept his demotion with some grace.  The bench is the only place the Royals can stash him so he stops hurting the team. This needs to happen soon.

Virtually every off-season discussion surrounding the Kansas City Royals has centered (rightfully so) on starting pitching.    The acquisition of Jonathan Sanchez was just step one in what most Royals’ fans assume will be at least a two, maybe even three, step process.  With the bullpen well stocked and eight of nine positions locked in, Dayton Moore certainly should be spending the bulk of his time focused on improving a starting rotation that was second worst in the American League last season.

That said, what about the ninth position?   I refer to second base, of course.

While most people believe and I tend to agree that Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack at being the team’s regular second baseman in 2012, he is hardly a sure thing.    While Johnny possesses a minor league resume that is probably better than those carried by Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez, he lacks the one thing all three of those players possess:  a plus defensive skill.

Save for a magical stretch in mid-summer, Escobar hit sporadically at best for most of the year, but because he played a premium defensive position and played it very well, Alcides came home with a fWAR of 2.2.   Salvador Perez hit well for the Royals in his limited time, but more importantly displayed the type of defensive abilities behind the plate that will keep him in the lineup and allow him to be a positive impact even if he does not hit.   The jury is out on what type of defender Cain will be in the majors, but all indications are that he will be a plus defender if not more.   At one point there was some talk about Cain’s routes to the ball, but those were mostly due to his relatively late start in baseball and I heard little about that being a problem this past season in Omaha.

Bottom line, all three have at least one ‘plus’ skill and all three have athletic upside.   Giavotella, who made some spectacular defensive plays in 2011, is never likely to become more than an average second baseman, if that.   His body type does not lead one to envision the ever elusive ‘projection’ that we prospect hounds crave and Johnny is not  tremendously athletic.   All of those things lead us to a player that will have to hit and hit early or the organization will begin looking elsewhere.    Alex Gordon could hit .195 as a rookie and you could still look at him and say ‘that guy should get better’.   If Giavotella hits .195 in his first 300 at-bats this year, people are rightly going to start thinking ‘well, this is who is’.

Now, I am 100% willing to give Giavotella a bunch of at-bats to either prove he it the .305/.375/.437 hitter his career minor league line reflects.   He just might be the player who in four full minor league seasons (all at A ball and above) never posted an on-base percentage below .351.   While Johnny’s numbers have benefitted from playing the last two years in hitter-friendly parks, he managed a respectable .258/.351/.380 in the hitter’s graveyard that is Wilmington.   Frankly, if Giavotella could hit .260/.350/.400 and not terribly screw-up in the field, that might be good enough playing between a Gold Glove shortstop and hopefully MVP level first baseman.

The current alternative to Giavotella is Chris Getz.     When the Royals acquired Getz for Mark Teahen, I defended him (yes, I actually was on the GETZ TRAIN) by pointing out that his minor league numbers (.286/.363/.380) and partial first major league season were remarkably similar to those of Brian Roberts.   Heck, Robinson Freaking Cano had similar minor league numbers!   Truthfully, it was worth a shot and the Royals have won that trade simply because Teahen cost real money while giving the White Sox not much more, if any more,  than Getz has given the Royals.

Getz, for his part, hit .237/.302/.277 in 2010 and followed that up with a .255/.313/.287 line in 2011.   He did post his best fielding numbers (by any metric) of his career in 2011.   If you believe that three years of fielding data is equal to one year of batting data, then Getz is slightly above average in UZR and decidedly below in Defensive Runs Saved.  There cases to be made for both metrics, but let’s blend them and say he is an average defensive second baseman.   Watching him, that would be my uneducated analysis.   

While Getz appears to be a guy who will work the count and get on base, he simply has not done it over the long haul.  I am not sure there is a place in modern baseball for a player who cannot slug over .300 (in fact, I am almost certain there is not), but I KNOW there is no room for a player with zero power who gets on base at a .315 clip (career mark) and plays just average or a tick above average defense.

I can make a case that Getz, because he can run and handle the bat (yes, every once in a while I can see the need for a sacrifice bunt – I really can!), could be a nice utility player.  Except, Getz has little experience playing shortstop or third base and is widely considered to have neither the arm nor the range to handle the left side of the infield.   Unlike some, I don’t have a problem bringing Getz to spring training, but he has done his best to prove he cannot be a regular major league second baseman and simply has not shown he can be more than an emergency fill in at any other position.

After the above two players, one of who will almost certainly be in the opening day lineup at second, the Royals offer Irving Falu, who has spent nine seasons in the organization, played everywhere and only kind of hit (.275/.342/.350).   You have to like his versatility and on a young team where the lineup is going to be basically the same every day, I could see Falu being on the Royals’ bench in early 2012.  This is not a player whose development you are concerned with stunting and you could buy yourself another roster spot simply because Falu could not only be your utility infielder, but also serve as your fifth outfielder.

Of more promise at the AAA level is Yamaico Navarro, acquired for Mike Aviles late in the summer.   Now, Yamaico is a shortstop with some pop (.430 minor league slugging), who has some time at third, short and even a little in the outfield.  He has the look of someone with potential.   The downside is that Navarro has played 312 minor league games at short and just 23 at second.   If I had to guess, Navarro starts 2012 in Omaha and plays shortstop more than second as insurance against an Escobar injury or, and this is actually possible, the chance that Alcides hits .201/.240/.260.

I say the above, because I believe that the organization still has high hopes for Christian Colon (keep in mind, this organization has a pretty broad stubborn streak) despite hitting an unimpressive .257/.325/.342 in Northwest Arkansas.    Drafted as a shortstop, Colon moved over to play 15 games at second last season and I have to imagine he will spend most of his time there in 2012.  Truthfully, he has yet to show anyone much of anything to make one believe Colon is going to be a major league regular.

Down the line one more tick is Rey Navarro.  It is quite possible he is the best defender (at second or short) of anyone we have talked about today.  In 2011, Navarro hit an outstanding .285/.337/.484 in Wilmington and a pretty mundane .271/.332/.330 in Northwest Arkansas.    Prior to this past season, Navarro really had not hit anywhere and so I doubt there is a risk of losing him in the Rule 5 draft (as has been postulated in various spots).    I have not seen enough to get on the Navarro bandwagon yet and I think it is more likely that he becomes Irving Falu than anything resembling a major league regular.   Certainly we have not seen enough to consign him to the minor league journeyman scrap heap, but there is plenty that remains for him to show before we start our ‘Free Rey’ campaign.

This discussion, again, leads us back to the ‘can the Royals contend in 2012 or not’ debate.   If not, then you see what happens with what you have.  If you believe 2012 is a contending year, however, then you almost have to address second base.   With a young team, plugging in a Rafael Furcal or someone similar as a veteran presence at second might make some real sense.    I probably will take the chicken way out here and say the Royals should give Giavotella a shot and, should he be struggling but the team contending in July, THEN make your move for a veteran second baseman.

Without question, Kansas City is going to have a number of in-house options at second base over the next two to three years, I am just not convinced any of them will turn out to be good options.



It took me a few days to get the rest of my notes from Spring Training written up, but things have been busy around Royals Authority headquarters lately. Here are some things that I saw on 3-26:

Edgar Osuna – His fastball was sitting 86-87, it tails somewhat into the hands of a right handed batter. He threw a very nice curveball that was 70-71 and had a changeup in the 76-77 range. He didn’t miss very many bats and the hitters were squaring him up pretty good.

Eric Hosmer – What an absolutely impressive player. Even the least experienced baseball watcher can look at him compared to his peers and see that he’s different. His body type screams power but with athleticism, and that’s pretty much what you get. I asked a few scouts what they felt about his ability to play the outfield. Some say he could do it and it’d be worth a shot for the Royals, while others don’t see it at all. Personally, I’d like to see him try and play there and prove he can’t do it. He certainly has the arm to play out there, but while he’s athletic, he can be heavy-footed and not that fast.

Regardless of where he plays defense, his bat is special. He hit a monster homerun over right-center field that bounced off of the parking lot or sidewalk outside the stadium. My brother caught video of it and I put it up on youtube. Greg Schaum of Pine Tar Press got slow motion video of the same swing. His balance and transfer of power is just picture perfect. He’s without question the guy I’d rank as the best Royals prospect in the system. People tend to lump him together with Moustakas and Myers, but at this point I think he’s got them both beat solidly.

Mike Moustakas – It’s funny to see Moustakas and Hosmer together because they have very different builds. While Hosmer looks the part of a power hitting baseball player, Moustakas is shorter and a little thicker than Hosmer. He seems to have trimmed up a bit since last year, but he’s still got the same body type.

What he lacks in athletic build, he makes up for with bat speed. The word I heard the most often when discussing his bat speed, it’s “freaky”.  He uses that bat speed to put good wood on the ball in any number of locations and speeds. He’s an amazingly talented hitter. What I’m not so sure about is his ability to stick at third base.  It may not be an issue for the first few years of his career, but if he bulks up or gains wait, his already average range could get worse. It’s not a concern today, and I think he could play a passable if not average third for the Royals on Opening Day, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Christian Colon – I hadn’t got a chance to see Christian Colon in person, so he was high on my list of targets in Spring Training. My first thoughts on seeing his build is that it’s “college shortstop” not Major League shortstop or prospect shortstop. Basically he’s kind of think for a shortstop. If you’ve seen Alcides Escobar yet, you can see what an ideal defensive shortstop would look like. He’s athletic, but thinner and looks like he can run like a gazelle. Colon doesn’t look like that. Watching him run the bases and timing some of his runs both agreed with the eye test that he isn’t a very fast runner either. So his body type doesn’t seem to be masking some athleticism. All of that to me, adds up to second baseman. People have been suggesting it, but I was uncertain until first hand experience. I’m on the second base boat now with Colon. I think it’s a good idea to keep him at SS until he absolutely has to move, but that day is coming.

Fortunately, Colon can hit the ball well. He roped a good number of the times he was at the plate while I was watching. I think his bat can play in the Majors and can do so in relatively short order. He was playing with the AAA team the entire time I was in camp, but I doubt he starts the season there. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up there. He’s not a bust as a pick, he was probably still the right call at the time.

Will Smith – He’s much bigger than I had thought and can be an imposing figure on the mound. His fastball was sitting 88-90 and he featured a sweeping curveball at 75 and a changeup in the 78-80 range. He gets guys out by pounding the strikezone and not issuing many walks.

Mario Lisson – He has a really solid build that in sort of Hosmer like but not as strong. He’s clearly out-grown shortstop and has been put on third. I didn’t see him make a whole lot of use of his body at the plate. He’s now 26 and hasn’t been able to prove he can hit well enough to move up the prospect rankings. He seems to be a case where the physical tools don’t coincide with the skills required to be a Major League baseball player.

Patrick Keating – He was throwing his fastball in the 90-92 range, which shocked Greg Schaum when I showed him the readings. He said that Keating was 96 in the past. Maybe he was working through something or just taking it easy, but that’s a significant drop in velocity that he hopefully fixes once he gets back into the season. He had a good breaking ball that he threw in around 76. He showed some frustration on the mound when one of his outfielders bobbled a ball. There’s a thin-line between being a fiery competitor and over-reacting. Getting upset during a Sprint Training exhibition game seems to be a little over the top. However, it was only one moment in one game. I don’t know the back story and I can’t make any judgments based on that. We’ve all had bad days and been frustrated, he could have just been having one of those days.

Wil Myers – One thing needs to be cleared up in regards to Wil Myers, he is absolutely 6’3″ or so.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these prospect notes. These are my first hand observations combined with direct discussions with scouts. I’m going to try and make it to some Minor League games this year to bring even more detailed information throughout the season.

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

Yesterday was a night game for the Minor Leaguers as they took on the Texas Rangers prospects. These games are fun, but can be difficult because there are four games going on simultaneously. I was trying to catch as many interesting prospects as I could, but I kept getting pulled to another field. Then I kept missing out on guys that I wanted to see.

Jonathan Keck (LHP) – He’s a tall lefty who was pretty impressive in the high A game. He was throwing his fastball 90-92 and touched 93. It had good movement and he also flashed a really good curveball. In another organization he might get a lot more love, particularly since he’s a lefty. In the Royals organization he’s one of the many talented lefties. Someone to keep an eye on in 2011.

Tyler Graham (RHP) – Taken in the 22nd round of last year’s draft, Graham pitched in Idaho Falls last season. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He’s a “max effort” pitcher. When he throws the ball it looks like he’s trying to choke the life out of it—it’s a violent delivery. With that kind of delivery, he’s not going to be moved out of the bullpen and he might have some injury issues. It also hurts his ability to throw a secondary pitch, because getting a feel for it and also hiding it from the hitters can be difficult.

Shin Jin-Ho ( C) – He’s been kind of a mystery man since he was signed in 2009 as a 17 year old from South Korea. Behind the plate, he looked comfortable. He’s a “flat-footed” catcher, meaning when he crouches his heels are on the ground. It’s a technique that much better scouts than myself say they prefer. He seemed to pick balls out of the dirt pretty well, but I never saw him catch with runners on so it’s difficult to see how he would do when he has to block the ball.

At the plate, he seemed a little over-matched in the Low A game as he got blown away with a high fastball. It was only one plate appearance, so I wouldn’t take much away from it. He’s still very young and very raw. He might never be worth what the Royals paid for him, but he bears watching. He spent all of last year in the Arizona League (Rookie) and might graduate to Burlington (Rookie) this year.

Johnny Giavotella (2B) – Giavotella is an interesting prospect.  Pretty much everyone who gets a chance to watch him likes what they see, but there is plenty of debate on what his ceiling is. Some say average Major Leaguer, some say below average some say possibly above average. What makes him difficult to guage is that he does lots of things well and no one-thing great. He’s kind of like David Dejesus in that way. I’ve gotten to see him as much as any prospect in the system and I’m a believer in his ability. There are some questions about his defense and whether it’s Major League or not.

Scouting position players can be difficult without watching them every single day. What I see and continue to see in Spring Training this year is a player who can and will get a shot to be a Major League player.  He has a decent bat with some occasional power and he has a decent glove that he works hard on.

Wil Myers (OF) – Myers continued to impress, but by not swinging the bat. I watched him walk three times in a Minor League Spring Training game. His pitch recognition and plate discipline are that good. It’s disappointing not to see him swing the bat when he can do it so well, but a guy who has the ability to take walks like that in that kind of game is advanced.

Brett Eibner (OF) – One of the guys I was really anxious to see, but kept missing when I went to his field. People that did get to see him said he looked really good and put some charge into the balls he got a hold of.

Christian Colon (SS) – His bat will play in the Major Leagues, questions linger over his glove and ability to stick at shortstop. I haven’t had a chance to see him field much so I can’t comment,  but I do like his bat. I think he has a really good season this year.

Episode #040 – I discuss being selected for the Royals Digital Digest and covering the FanFest next weekend.  I also discuss the age of the upcoming roster and the starting rotation.  Adam Foster of Project Prospect talks Royals prospects with me including Tim Mehlville, Wil Myers, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi and Johnny Giavotella.

[audio:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs040.mp3|titles=BBS Royals Podcast #040]

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Adam on Twitter @adamwfoster and check out Project Prospect

Music used in this podcast:

Steddy P. – Honesty

Steddy P. – Rap Lessons

Ween – A Tear for Eddie

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

First, let’s take a look at some of the players who played shortstop and how they hit while they played the position.

Willie Bloomquist got one game at short and Mike Aviles got thirteen, but the real story of the position is Yuniesky Betancourt.  Betancourt played the position day after day and he was never put in any other spot.  The numbers that we’ll see below come almost exclusively from Yuniesky, so he’s the one guys stats above.  The case of Betancourt is extremely interesting.  His existence on the team is representative of so many different things depending on who you ask.  Some people will tell you that he represents the absolute failure of Dayton Moore at the Major League level.  Others believe he is representative of the absolute trainwreck that the shortstop position has been for the Royals.  Still others will tell you he’s one of the best players on the team and and they’ll be countered with arguments that are nearly the polar opposite.  Those discussions will rage on as long as he’s on the team, and they’ve been analyzed at this site as well.  So, let’s just try and look at the numbers without the bias of our feelings towards the Yunigma.

One thing you can say is that Betancourt was durable.  He played 151 games at a position which gets a lot of work during a season.  Sometimes I forget about the durability issue with players, and I think that as a whole we underrate it.  The ability to stay healthy, whether it’s luck, conditioning or some combination could be in my mind the 6th tool for a baseball player.  Beyond durability, Yuniesky showed decent homerun totals for a shortstop by mashing 16 bombs.  He still doesn’t get on base at a rate which is respectable, and the combination of a burst of power and his lack of getting on base translated into an average offensive shortstop.    Lets see how the Royals shorstops compared to the rest of the league.

Clearly, with 151 of 162 games Yuniesky’s numbers mirror those of the entire Royals shortstop corps.  The numbers rank right about in the middle, not spectacular but not terrible.    What’s odd are that the very stark differences in the Royals numbers with those surrounding them.  Yuniesky is an extreme hitter, which makes the extreme as well.    The Royals shortstops had the lowest strikeout rate in the AL (shocked me), and the second lowest walk rate (didn’t shock me).  That clearly translated into a low OBP (11th) and an ok batting average (8th), but the one skill which propelled the Royals to the middle of the pack was the SLG (4th).

I’d imagine even the most die-hard Yuni supporter will admit that the power he showed in 2010 was likely an aberration, and therefore unsustainable.  The Royals are on the hook for $1.62m to Yuniesky in 2011, so it’s an almost certainty that barring injury he gets nearly the same number of games in 2011 that he got in 2010.  Mike Aviles’ arm has likely fully healed from his Tommy John surgery and could pick up some more time at SS as the Royals attempt to work out the third base and second base situations.  Christian Colon was drafted in the first round in 2010 and had a solid debut in his first professional season.  He’s unlikely to be ready to play in 2011, but he could be in the mix for 2012.

I admit, there is something nice about a regular contributor at shortstop who can hit for some power and who can play every day.  I don’t believe that Yuniesky is anything more than a stop-gap and what happens in the post-Yunigma era will be a very important decision for Dayton Moore.

Comparing players is an inexact science and can all too easily lead one down the wrong path.   Both Rany and myself, among others (and I was before Rany, but who’s keeping track?) have circulated the similarities in both age and performance between Kila Ka’aihue and Travis Hafner.   

Frankly, if you want to prove a player might be good in the future, a few minutes on Baseball Reference will get you a comparable early history that will allow you to make a case that your prospect is on his way to the Hall of Fame.   Of course, the same few minutes will allow someone else to find an equally applicable comparable that will make the case that your highly regarded prospect is on his way to playing in the Can-Am League.

Last spring, I offered the Chris Getz-Brian Roberts comparison as their minor league numbers, ages and early major league careers were eerily similar.   Maybe that will still work out, but that analysis remains a damning indictment of my admittedly biased research.

Undaunted, however, I continue down the same path this morning. 

Probably no position in the Royals’ organization is as desperate for a prospect to come through than shortstop.   Ignoring the Yuni is good-Yuni is awful argument that frankly has just worn me out, the truth is that Betancourt’s track record should not be giving anyone reason to consider him being the Royals’ shortstop past next season.

With Mike Aviles apparently destined to play second or third and Jeff Bianchi beginning his comeback from arm surgery, which would seem to indicate at least a temporary move to second for part of 2011, the Royals’ future at shortstop rests squarely on the shoulders of last summer’s first round pick Christian Colon.

And that brings us back (at last) to our title.  

The similarities between Colon and Troy Tulowitzki:

  • They both played shortstop at highly regarded college programs in California.
  • They were both drafted in high in the first round (Colon 4th & Tulo 7th).
  • At the time, both were considered the ‘most major league ready’ of their draft class.
  • Both started their professional careers in High A ball.

At age 20 back in 2005, Tulowitzki played in 22 games for the Rockies’ affiliate in Modesto.   He hit .266/.343/.457/.800 with 6 doubles and 4 home runs in 105 plate appearances.    Troy struck out 18 times, walked nine and committed 5 errors.

By contrast, at age 21, Colon hit .278/.326/.380/.708 in 60 games for Wilmington last season.   He hit 12 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs.   Christian struck out 33 times, walked 13 and committed 17 errors.

While the strikeouts, walks and error rates are really pretty similar between the two, Tulowitzki posted better all around offensive numbers than Colon in their first professional seasons.   At least when you look at the raw numbers.

That 2005 Modesto team hit .281/.355/.445/.800 as a team and the California League as a whole hit .286/.357/.452/.809 that season.   Basically, Tulowitzki posted offensive numbers right in line with what his team and the league did.

The 2010 Wilmington team hit .262/.319/.387/.707 and the Carolina League as a whole hit .260/.330/.388/.718 last season.   Basically, Colon posted offensive numbers right in line with what his team and the league did.

Following his rookie campaign, Tulowitzki moved up to AA Tulsa and hit .291/.370/.473/.843 in 104 games, slugging 34 doubles and 13 home runs.   It is also noteworthy that Troy committed TWENTY-FIVE errors that year.   

Tulowitzki also got into 25 games in the majors that season, not really showing much at the plate.   Still, he opened 2007 as the Rockies’ starting shortstop and played in 155 games.   He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .291/.359/.479/.838 line.    Tulowitzki suffered through an injury plagued 2008, but has been basically great in the two years since.

Can we expect Christian Colon to have a similar career path?   That’s asking a lot and, as I started column with, my guess is many of you can find a player with Colon’s first year stats that was never heard from again.  

Still, while a lot of us viewed Colon’s rookie season as something of a disappointment, it was really no worse – relative to his league – than that of Tulowitzki.     Like Troy, Christian will move to the Texas League for his second pro season and maybe, just maybe, he too will blossom offensively.

The Royals will never admit it, but deep down they drafted Christian Colon with the idea he would be the club’s 2012 shortstop.   Can he make it in the majors?   Can he make to the majors that quickly?  Can he stick at shortstop? 

All relevant questions that the Royals may need to have answered ‘yes’ more than any other set of questions within the organization.

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