Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Greg Holland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2nd, 2010.  In many ways it was just another day in baseball.  The Royals got beat by 6 runs in Oakland.  Brian Bannister wasn’t effective. Chris Getz let a runner score while he was arguing with the umpire.  A perfectly executed hit and run was busted up when the shortstop caught the line drive while moving to cover 2nd base.  Kila Ka’aihue got one pinch hit plate appearance.  However in the bottom of the 8th inning, Greg Holland made his major league debut and as you may or may not know, Holland is the first draft pick by Dayton Moore to play for the Royals.

On the mound he seemed stiff and uncomfortable, which isn’t all that surprising for a 10th round draft pick out of Ball State Western Carolina University facing big league hitters for the first time.  I’d imagine standing on a major league mound is a pretty intense experience the first time you do it.  Things started off well when he got Rajai Davis to ground out.  However, he followed that up by walking Gabe Gross and giving up back to back singles by Cliff Pennington and Coco Crisp which allowed Gross to score.  Holland then loaded the bases by walking Daric Barton.

I would assume that the young mans mind was racing at this point.  His entire baseball career might have been flashing before his eyes.  I am sure he knows all about players who merely got their cup of coffee, got sent back down and never made it back to the majors.  It was impossible not to see it on his face.  Royals manager Ned Yost then emerged from the dugout instead of the pitching coach.  Normally that means a new pitcher is coming into the game.  Again, I’d imagine Holland thought his debut was over just like that.  However, Yost went out there to offer some words of encouragement, not pull him from the game.

Whatever Yost said; it worked.  Holland quickly got the next batter, Kurt Suzuki to ground into an inning ending double play.  Just like that, Greg Holland was out of a bases loaded jam.  The team was still down six to nothing, but things didn’t get much worse.

It’s probably a little bit cheesy to use a single relief pitching appearance as a metaphor for the Dayton Moore regime, but I am going to do it anyway.  Holland entered a game which the Royals had little hope of winning,which isn’t much different from what Dayton Moore inherited when he showed up as General Manager.  He had some early success and made some odd moves which seemed a little like a guy finding his sea legs.  Then things turned sour and the results were not as advertised.  Finally, he got a reminder that he had a plan, just trust what you have and do what got you to where you are.  Finally, something goes right and the current predicament is over.

The story isn’t written on Greg Hollands major league career just yet, and neither is the one on Dayton Moore.  Things haven’t gone as well as anyone had hoped, its been rocky and ugly.  There has been a handful of bright spots, but they’ve been overshadowed by numerous dark ones.  Regardless of how many good individual pitches a pitcher makes, if you load the bases, you load the bases.  However, it can be completely erased by a single double play ball.

Whatever unfolds in the future for Dayton Moore and the Royals, the possible excuses for not building a winning ballclub are dwindling.  Just like a pitcher, it doesn’t matter what kind of stuff you have if you can’t get guys out.  Both Holland and Dayton Moore will be judged by their results on the field.  Personally, I hope both succeed wildly but we will have to keep watching and see.

Can you imagine what the Royals’ corner of the Internet would be like if the team actually turns into a contender one of these years?   Where else could the trade of a nice (not to be confused with a ‘good’) player on a one year deal getting traded generate this level of interest?

Greg Schaum broke down the prospects shortly after the trade of Scott Podsednik went down and Matt Klaasen over at FanGraphs  gave us his analysis of the trade not much later.  Minda Haas had a great post on the musings of the casual fan and it’s always fun to read the comment strings over at Royals Review.    Plus, we had Nick’s podcast up (see below) as well and all of that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Having newly integrated myself into the Twitter lifestyle (cfosroyalsauth by the way), I spent enough time following the feed last night on my phone that my wife was certain I had a couple of girlfriends.  (Doesn’t she know I have an entirely different phone for them?!!!)   At any rate, I cannot offer much more insight than more astute writers already have to what I am considering a ‘good trade’.

Very quickly, the Royals gave up a decent player in Podsednik having a decent year (.310/.353/.400), but his 12 caught stealing and 3 pick-offs (none of which, I believe, were the result of botched hit and runs or missed signs on a sacrifice bunt) mitigate that batting average down to .270 with a .316 on-base percentage.   Now, that ‘mitigation’ is the result of some pretty rudimentary statistical analysis, but just let it go, Pods is gone.

In return the Royals acquired a AAA catcher of marginal prospect status with some pop.   Now, like everyone else, Luke May has no doubt benefited from playing in Albuquerque (.296/.352/.496), but he also hit .306/.390/.468 in Chattanooga last year.   He is still learning the game behind the plate, having converted from shortstop in 2008, but he gives the Royals another high minor catcher to pair with Manny Pina.   Frankly, both guys have another full year of watching Jason Kendall play every day in the majors to refine their games.

Dayton Moore also added another young arm in Elisaul Pimentel, who has raised his strikeout rate in each of his last three stops in the minors.   I view Pimentel as another guy to put into the ‘second wave of pitchers’ behind the almost unbelievable AA rotation of Montgomery, Duffy, Crow, Dwyer and Lamb.   Pimentel fits in with Melville, Sample and recently acquired Will Smith.    Hey, you really cannot have enough young arms.

Heck, on this feel good Thursday, I have even reconciled myself to the Royals’ apparent move to a 13 man pitching staff in the short term.   While the promotion of Bryan Bullington was at best uninspired and at worst unimaginative, all signs are pointing towards the promotion of reliever Greg Holland (an ACTUAL PROSPECT) to Kansas City.     Holland is a power arm who, after getting a rude welcome to AAA, has been lights out since then.     He was going to have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter, so Holland needed a 40 man roster spot sooner and later.  Plus, as I have been advocating recently, the Royals need to spread out the experience factor of the trio of quality relievers they had in Omaha (Holland, Hardy and Coleman).   Chances are that this 13 man staff is a temporary deal, as the Royals continue to market Kyle Farnsworth and might well have seen about all the need to out of Blake Wood and/or Dusty Hughes.

Further helping the mood today, are the statements in the Kansas City Star and on WHB radio this morning of Dayton Moore indicating that Kila Kaa’ihue’s long awaited promition to and installation in the Royals’ everyday lineup ‘can be expected to happen shortly’.   Hopefully Giants’ GM Brian Sabean will panic that the Dodgers added Podsednik and offer something, anything, for Jose Guillen.   Really, Brian, ANYTHING will do, just offer.

At any rate, it at last just feels like the organization is positioning this team with an eye towards the future.    Another look at Alex Gordon, a first look at Greg Holland and a chance for Kila Kaa’ihue are all a start.  

Now, Mr. Moore, let’s keep the ball rolling.

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