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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Clint Robinson

Clint Robinson will celebrate his 27th birthday on Thursday.

Besides Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur, Robinson is older than any Royals projected starting position player. Yet he has never swung the bat in a major league game.

Baseball people and prospect mavens have under estimated Robinson for years. He was undrafted as a college junior out of Troy University in Alabama. He played his senior year, hit .364/.449/.661 with 17 home runs and just 32 strikeouts, yet lasted until the Royals plucked him in the 25th round of the 2007 draft. Then they signed him for $1,000. He opened his professional career in Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League where he hit .336/.388/.593 and was named that league’s most valuable player. But the prospect watchers didn’t notice him until he won the Texas League triple crown – with 29 HR, 98 RBI and a .333 average – in 2010. And all that got him was a number 28 organizational ranking by Baseball America. Hell, in divvying up the players for our 40 man roster review, we forgot to include him.

Last season in Triple-A, Robinson’s rate stats took a step back – as you would expect as a hitter progresses through the system. Compare his killer 2010 season in Double-A with his results from the next level.

Still, not too shabby. What I like about that table is it looks like his plate discipline remained the same as his walk and strikeout rates both held steady. His approach was the same as he continued to spray the ball to all fields last summer. The big drop came in the power department where he hit six fewer doubles and six fewer home runs. (And his triples dropped from five in 2010 to a big fat zero last year. Yeah… He’s not exactly a triples kind of guy.) Surely the fact he was hitting against better pitching was part of the reason, though I suspect park factors are involved here as well. Still, he more than held his own in the PCL last summer.

Overall, we’re looking at a player who has put up solid minor league numbers over the last two seasons. Under normal circumstances, he would merit a long look in spring training.

But the Royals system isn’t a normal system. There’s so much depth… Of course, what can you do? Robinson is a first baseman – allegedly – but he truly projects as a designated hitter. That’s a role that is filled by Billy Butler, the Royals (current) best hitter. I suppose he could play first in a pinch, but that spot is locked down by Eric Hosmer for the next six seasons (hopefully). He throws left-handed and lacks mobility, so it’s not like you can give him reps anywhere else on the diamond. And it’s not like he’s trade bait. Since he’s not a prospect and because he’s yet to even sit in a major league dugout, there isn’t a single team who would give up anything of value to add him to their roster.

It just feels like Robinson’s Royal Destiny is to play out his career in Triple-A. At some point, he’ll move on to another organization – either as a minor league free agent, or as a waiver claim when he’s removed from the 40 man roster to make room for a new acquisition. As of now, he’s the ultimate Break-Glass-In-Case-Of-Emergency guy. And it would have to be one hell of an emergency for Dayton Moore to even think of reaching for that hammer.

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, third base, shortstop, left field, center field and right field.

First, let’s take a look at how the players who manned the DH position hit when they were in the lineup as a DH.

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Jose Guillen got the bulk of the duty at DH, which frankly is where he should have been for the last two years because of lingering leg injuries.  In the 84 games which Guillen hit in the DH slot, he was pretty average.  It’s not what one would hope for $12 million a season,  however he wasn’t exactly the glaring hole some assumed he was.

The only other players who had more than nominal DH duty were Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue, the two players who will most likely get the vast majority of the starts at the position in 2011.  It shouldn’t shock anyone at this point that Billy Butler can hit the ball, and 2010 was no exception.  Kila’s line is instructive. He was pretty close to an average DH offensively, but he does in in an unorthodox manner.  His OBP would have been 6th in the chart below and his slugging percentage would be 8th, however his batting average would have been thirteenth.

As a unit, the Royals designated hitters ranked 7th in the American League.  Once again the Royals find themselves pretty close to the middle offensively.  Doing this exercise opened my eyes to the fact that the offense was not that bad in 2010.  Jose Guillen is the biggest influence on those numbers, and it’s clear by the low walk rate, high strikeout rate and decent slugging.

2011 will be completely different with Jose Guillen gone and Butler and Ka’aihue likely to take the at bats.  2011 will be in many ways a make-or-break year for Kila.  The Royals are beginning to graduate some of their impact corner bats like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and even Clint Robinson.  Kila is likely to get all of 2011 to showcase his talents to the Royals and the rest of the MLB.  If he can repeat his minor league performance, the Royals will have a very difficult decision to make in regards to their future at first base and designated hitter.

Either way, 2011 will be interesting to watch because they will have a young legitimate hitter at both first and DH.  If they can anchor the middle of the lineup, it’s possible the Royals could improve offensively.  Clearly, they’ll need to to overcome the recent loss of Zack Greinke from the pitching rotation.

Yeah, it’s kind of cliche, but it’s not such a bad idea to take stock from time to time and give a little bit of thanks.  Despite the continuing struggles with the Royals and despite the fact that the 2011 season is shaping up to be kind of brutal at the major league level,  if you look close enough you can still find a few positives.

So with Thanksgiving just past, here’s what I’m thankful for as a Royals fan.

I’m thankful for…

– Billy Butler’s line drive ability and his proclivity for doubles.  Doubles… Not double plays.

– Joakim Soria’s amazing curve ball.  Described in these parts as “baseball porn.”

– Zack Greinke’s slider.  Even though he got a swing and a miss on it only 18.6% of the time last summer.  Compared to 2009’s swing and a miss rate of 23.4%.

– The Royals minor league system that suddenly is a source of optimism.

– This being the last season where I have to put up with watching Yuniesky Betancourt.  Unless GMDM does something colossally insane, like picking up his $6 million club option for 2012.

– Redundant waiver claims (Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadzki anyone?) because it gives me something to write about in November.

– Alex Gordon’s smooth transition to left and the fact there’s still a glimmer (however faint) that he can possibly put together a solid offensive season.

– Clint Robinson’s Texas League Triple Crown.  Sure it was Double-A, but a Triple Crown is a Triple Crown.  Cool that he earned a spot on the 40-man roster and a likely spot in Omaha with an eye on Kansas City next summer.

– Eric Hosmer’s swing being compared to Will Clark’s swing.

– Kila Ka’iahue.

– That someone will probably overpay Bruce Chen this winter, giving him at least a two year contract.

– The fact it won’t be with the Royals.

– Trey Hillman finding employment with the Dodgers.  Is there any way to set up an alert to let me know when Don Mattingly gets ejected from games?  I really want to watch Hillman manage a team I don’t care about, so I can gawk like a car crash.

– My colleagues and readers of Royals Authority.  This may sound cheesy, but it’s incredibly fun to be a part of the internet community that make up the fans of this team.

Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.  I hope you had an outstanding holiday.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have an opinion on the new name of the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate.   My only real opinion is that I don’t like teams changing names, be it good or bad, and as such the new Omaha Stormchasers is nothing that gets me excited.

What does get me excited, however, is the Omaha team’s possible lineup next April.   Perhaps as much as anything else, it will represent just how much potential progress the Royals’ organization has made under Dayton Moore.

After years of being the depository of has-beens, almosts and never-weres, the Omaha Royals/Stormchasers are going to offer a somewhat breathtaking array of talent when they take the field next April.   Gone are the days of Brian Buchanan, Gookie Dawkins, Seth Etherton and Brandon Duckworth (all fine humans, I’m sure, but not exactly the solution to any major league problem that might arise during a season).   Instead, the Stormchasers might well roll out this lineup when they open up in their new stadium next spring:

Derrick Robinson, CF

Johnny Giavotella, 2B

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Eric Hosmer, 1B

Clint Robinson, DH

David Lough, RF

Paulo Orlando, LF

Jeff Bianchi, SS

Manny Pina, C

It may be a stretch to have Bianchi at shortstop that early, but he should figure into the mix at some point.   It is also possible that David Lough could well open 2011 in Kansas City, but for now we will start him off in Omaha.

When you couple this lineup with what is likely to be a bullpen stocked with near major league ready homegrown talent (Louis Coleman, Blaine Hardy, et.al.) and a starting rotation which at some point will include Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer (maybe even Aaron Crow), it will be hard to resist making a trek or two to Omaha in 2011.

While the organizational pitching depth is near legendary status at this point, the real positive about the Omaha roster next season is the position players who are not on it.

Just a rung below, we are likely to see Wil Myers (be it at catcher or in the outfield), middle infielder of the near future Christian Colon and catching prospect Salvador Perez.   When is the last time you could look at the AA and AAA batting orders and say with some degree of confidence that there were five or six future major league regulars playing?

2011 might well be a tough year to be a Kansas City Royals’ fan, but if you can tolerate the new name, it will be a fun year to be a fan of the Stormchasers.

Today is zero hour for the Royals to set their 40-man roster ahead of the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

The rules for the Rule 5 draft are fairly straight forward and simple.  Players eligible for the Rule 5 draft include those who were signed at age 19 and older and have been with a team for four years, and those who were signed at 18 or younger and have been with their team for five years.

Complicating matters for the Royals leading up to the deadline is the fact they are a young organization.  Players eligible for the draft are college players selected in Dayton Moore’s first draft. (For clarification, I’m calling 2007 as GMDM’s first draft.)  When you have a team as stacked in the minors as the Royals are it creates quite the conundrum.

Further complicating matters is the fact the Royals still have… let’s be nice and say they have issues when it comes to acquiring players to fill out their roster.   Case in point:  this month they claimed Joaquin Arias off waivers from the New York Mets.  Not a great claim, but the Royals felt they needed a backup in the middle infield.  Fine.  Except then they claimed Lance Zawadzki from the San Diego Padres.  Basically, the same player – a utility middle infielder who isn’t good enough to hold down a regular role on a half-decent team.

So now, through the magic of two waiver claims, the Royals have filled two spots on their 40-man roster with what we will call surplus.  They don’t really need either one of these guys and they certainly don’t need both.

Then there’s the fact the Royals are mindful of the future.  In other words, we all expect Mike Moustakas to make his debut at some point in the 2011 season.  Because he’s not eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there’s no reason to put him on the 40-man roster at this point.  Still, if the Royals do bring him to Kansas City at some point next summer, they will need to clear a spot for him on the 40-man.

The Royals won’t want to place a player on the 40-man roster now and then have to remove him during the season.  There’s a much better chance for a player to be claimed off waivers than to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

It’s a complicated process.  Dayton Moore has said he will protect three to five players.  Here’s who I think the Royals protect.

Everett Teaford – Since teams have to keep players selected in the Rule 5 on their 25-man roster during the season, these drafts feature a run on pitching.  It’s basically easier to bury a pitcher at the back end of a bullpen, that to keep a bat on what has typically become a very thin bench.  Of all the Royals pitchers eligible for the draft, Teaford is the best of the bunch.  He threw 99 innings last summer for Northwest Arkansas and posted a 3.36 ERA and featured a strikeout rate of 10.3 SO/9.  His control was exceptional as well, with a walk rate of 2.9 BB/9.

He’s an automatic add to the 40-man roster.

Clint Robinson – This one is questionable.  He turns 26 in February and has yet to progress past Double-A.  Except this summer in Northwest Arkansas all the guy did was hit .335/.410/.625 while winning the Texas League triple crown.  As a first baseman, he’s sandwiched between Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihuie in the majors and Eric Hosmer in the minors.

Still, his monster year in AA was too good to ignore.

David Lough – Lough has been compared to David DeJesus and with DeJesus gone, now is Lough’s chance to show us how accurate those comparisons are.  A little speed, modest power and the ability to make contact does make him sound like DeJesus version 2.0.  Last year he hit .280/.346/.437 for Omaha, so he’s basically ready to make the move for to the majors.  You don’t leave players this close to the majors unprotected.  Someone will take him.  Plus, with the current roster thin on outfielders, there’s a chance he will open the season as a starter.

Another automatic choice.

That’s it.  Those are my three.  That means three must go.  I leave players like Derrick Robinson and Paulo Orlando exposed.  Those guys won’t be drafted as they’re marginal major league players at this point in their careers.  Same for pitchers Eduardo Paulino and Mario Santiago.  Their skill sets won’t translate well to the majors at this point in their respective careers.

Fortunately, even though the Royals needlessly added a pair of utility infielders, there’s still plenty of fat to trim off this roster.

I think Gaby Hernandez is gone for sure.  Once upon a time he dominated in the lower minors, but as he progressed he started catching too much of the plate and became incredibly hittable.  He’s one the wrong side of the fringe.

Victor Marte has done well in Triple-A, but has been absolutely battered in a pair of turns in the majors.  The guy just doesn’t miss enough bats and doesn’t have the stuff to survive in the major leagues.

Then there’s a coin flip between Bryan Bullington and Phillip Humber.  I think one of these guys will go.  The one who remains will get a shot at the back end of the Royals rotation.  Or perhaps in the bullpen as a swingman.

Those are my choices.  Get in early and leave yours in the comments.

Reports earlier this week out of the Instructional League indicated that Wil Myers is beginning to take some fly balls in possible preparation of a move to the outfield at some point next season.    That revelation rekindled some talk about moving another prized prospect to a corner outfield spot as well.

The thought of Eric Hosmer playing in either corner of the outfield has been around as long as he has been a member of the Royals’ organization.    Considering that the year Hosmer was drafted coincided with Kila Ka’aihue’s breakout minor league campaign and also with the emergence of a then twenty-two year old Billy Butler as an everyday major league player, it is not surprising that the idea of moving Hosmer to rightfield was floated.   That idea has lingered ever since – albeit moreso amongst fans than within the organization.

In some respects, the thought of moving Hosmer might even be gaining steam as we saw another first baseman/designated hitter type in Clint Robinson lead the Texas League in just about everything good.   Robinson, who carries a career .909 OPS, played one game in left field for Northwest Arkansas late in the season.   Just from an ‘eye test’ point of view, Robinson does not look like an outfielder, at least not as much as Hosmer might look like an outfielder.

All that said, I don’t think Eric Hosmer is going to be moving anywhere (other than up to AAA this spring) and here’s why:

  • Kila Ka’aihue hasn’t proven anything…yet.  In 206 plate appearances this season, Kila did hit eight home runs but otherwise posted a pretty unappealing line of .217/.307/.394/.702.      Those numbers are incredibly similar to those posted by Travis Hafner in his first two hundred plate appearances and better than those compiled by Paul Konerko, who stood at .217/.276/.332  through his first 247 major league plate appearances.  The point is that while Ka’aihue has a chance to be a Konerko/Hafner (or a close enough resemblance to be an effective major league hitter), he might also just be a guy who can’t consistently square up major league pitching, too.  After spending two seasons scared to death to find out if Kila can hit, the Royals at last are going to find out.   That’s a good thing and one that will hopefully pan out, but having crappy stats that compare to some guys who later became very good hitters is not enough reason to make Eric Hosmer change gloves.
  • Billy Butler is going to start costing real money.  Some people will howl and wonder how a first baseman with just 15 home runs who grounded into 32 double plays could be worth anything, but I see (and an arbitration judge might as well) see a 24 year old who hit .318/.388/.469 with 45 doubles, 15 home runs and almost as walks as strikeouts.    He did that on the heels of a 2009 season in which Billy hit 51 doubles and 21 home runs with a .301/.362/.492.    We will be reminded that Butler posted his 2010 numbers playing half the season with a bad hand and that, on by the way, he has missed a grand total of seven games the past two seasons.   I am not sure how we got to the point in baseball where fans believe a player is either a slugger or a singles hitter with nothing in between, but I am pretty sure arbitration is not in line with that school of thought.   Bottom line, Billy Butler is going to make real cash this off-season.  If he hits even seven more home runs next year and grounds into 23 double plays instead of 32, he will make even more next winter.    Now, after all that, I have to admit being a little hesitant to offer Butler a multi-year deal and buy out those arbitration years, plus one or two of free agency.    First off, Billy is not a good first baseman and he isn’t getting any faster.     While Butler has been durable thus far, you wonder about that body type being injury prone as he reaches his late twenties.   Listen, I really think a lot of Billy Butler, but IF Eric Hosmer is all we think he might be, doesn’t it make sense to get the same or better production from a younger, cheaper player than to pay Butler seven, eight even ten million per year as we move forward?
  • No one ever said Eric Hosmer CAN play the outfield.  I imagine Hosmer played some outfield at some point in high school, but by the time he was on the draft radar, Eric was firmly entrenched at first (despite possessing a very good arm).  I have read and heard reports that say Hosmer is always going to be a first baseman, but there have also been reports that he might possess the athleticism to move to the outfield.   Eric did steal 14 bases in 2010, which gives the Hosmer to outfield thought some hope.   That said, Hosmer possibly just months away from major league action, the time to move him may have passed.   However, if it is July 1, 2011 and Kila is hitting and Billy is hitting AND Hosmer is torching AAA, maybe the Royals try Eric in the outfield.   A more realistic scenario, however, may relate to the bullet point above and the Royals may make a trade to accommodate Hosmer at first base.
  • If you’re not sold on Ka’aihue, then you sure can’t be on Clint Robinson.   Robinson was one of my sleeper picks to watch way back in 2007, so I am delighted to have seen him hit and hit with power at all four levels he has played thus far.   However, nobody is moving anywhere to make room for a twenty-five year old former twenty-fifth round pick who has not played a game in AAA yet.

In reality, the Royals have a very good, but not great, hitter in Billy Butler who has some obvious defensive weaknesses.   They have a minor league star who has yet to prove much of anything at the major league level in Kila Ka’aihue who will, by the way, turn 27 next March.      Behind those two, the Royals have one of the better hitting prospects in all of the minors, but Eric Hosmer really has had one very good season and a grand total of 211 plate appearances above A ball.     As mentioned just above, the organization also has Clint Robinson who will make his debut in AAA at age twenty-six.

Maybe that’s a logjam, maybe it’s not.   For now, Eric Hosmer is, and likely always will be, a first baseman.

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