Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Louis Coleman

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.

With the signings of Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen this past weekend, the Royals have to make a couple of moves to free up space on the forty man roster for those two.   While this seems like a fairly easy process (for those of us who don’t have to call a guy and say, ‘Hey, how’s your winter going?  By the way, you’re being designated for assignment.  Take care.’), I have almost never guessed correctly which players Dayton Moore decides to remove.

A quick glance at the current roster probably would lead almost all us to think the decision comes down to a quartet of relievers:   Henry Barrera, Jesse Chavez, Dusty Hughes and Kanekoa Texeira.     Looking at pitching makes sense given that the two guys the Royals just signed are pitchers.    Taking a chance on losing relievers is logical given that Bruce Chen can pitch out of relief and also because the first wave of the actual Process that is going to reach the majors is predominately relievers.

It is very possible the Royals break camp this spring with Tim Collins in the bullpen.   Certainly, Blake Wood, now that he has learned it is okay to strike guys out, will be part of the twenty-five that go north.   They might well be joined by Louis Coleman and/or Greg Holland, with Blaine Hardy not far behind.   Those names are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to good bullpen arms in the organization.

Digressing just a moment, perhaps the impending arrival of a number of rookies (or near rookies in the case of Wood and Holland) in the bullpen is as good a reason as any for the Royals to sign Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis.   Signing those two veterans, even if they turn out to be Scott Elarton and Mark Redman revisited, buys time for the young starters we are all counting on.   Heck, it buys time for Sean O’Sullivan for that matter.  It also buys time for the young relievers.

Let’s say Danny Duffy makes his major league debut on August 1st.   He allows two runs through five plus innings, but gets into trouble in the sixth.   It makes a lot more sense to have Louis Coleman, with nearly a full season of experience under his belt, come in with two on and one out in the sixth than if he was also just weeks into his major league career.   Tim Collins, also with four months in the majors on his resume, would come in to pitch the seventh and Blake Wood, now with over a year of experience, would polish off the eighth.

That is a whimsical little scenario, of course, but what I am trying to illustrate is that the Royals have a chance to pair a very young 2012 starting rotation with a young, but experienced, bullpen corps.   I think there is genuine value in having that mix and doing so without spending four million on veteran relievers next winter.

Anyway, back to our 40 man roster dilemma – if you can call it that.  

Of the four pitchers mentioned above, Henry Barrera does one thing the others to not:  strike guys out (10.3/9 over his career).   Health has been an issue for him and with less than half a season above A ball, Henry is the only one of the four who has virtually no shot at being on the early season 2011 roster.   That said, I hang on to Barrera.

After that, designating either Hughes, Chavez or Texeira for assignment will not cause me to lose any sleep.   First off, there is a real chance that those guys do not get claimed by another team and end up right back in the organization just as Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadski did.   If not, does it matter in the long-term?   Does it even really matter in the short-term?

In the end, I would probably cut loose Texeira and Chavez simply because Dusty Hughes did manage to throw over 50 innings of marginally passable major league work in 2010.   If the Royals want to give Coleman, a month or so in AAA, then Hughes is the stop-gap guy they can turn to.      Left-handers who have pitched in the majors are also less likely to make it through waivers than right-handers who have yet to, you know, get anyone out.

While the long-term success of the Royals is hardly going to be effected by this decision, it is a roster decision that will give us an idea as to the make-up of the early 2011 bullpen.

After yesterday’s 12 inning win, I know of at least one loyal commenter to this site who is delighted and one big league manager who is smirking at everyone right now.   Not to mention at least one writer on this site who is delighted with Kila Ka’aihue’s home run, double and two walk game yesterday.

Given that Ned Yost did the unthinkable by batting Willie Bloomquist third (even national guys were chiming in on Twitter with sarcastic comments), then guaranteed that Willie would get two hits and THEN actually saw the guy do it, including the game winning homer, who am I to criticize?   Frankly, I don’t even know what to say.

Instead, let’s take a quick look at what the expanded roster in September might include.   Who, if anyone, will get a call-up and of those, who will actually get a real look?  

We’ll start with the easy ones:  veteran players who have been on the disabled list:

  • Gil Meche – all signs point to Gil getting a look out of the bullpen next month.  The Royals will be careful with him at this point, so we won’t see him even every other day, but I imagine six or seven appearances at least.  The snag here is that Gil is on the 60 day disabled list (which does not take a 40 man roster spot) and a spot would have to be made on the 40 man roster to accommodate his activation.
  • Luke Hochevar – if you can believe the organization, Hochevar will make a rehab start or two shortly, which would put him on pace for a couple of September starts.  Part of me says that is a good idea, the other part of me says that Hochevar should just shut down and come back 100% next spring.
  • Brian Bannister – probably could be pitching right now if the Royals really wanted him to.   Made a two inning appearance in Omaha earlier this week and will be back up in September.   Brian’s September starts – he might well step into a regular rotation spot for the month – will likely determine if he has a future with the Royals.
  • Robinston Tejeda – supposedly will be ready in early September.   If he is, Tejeda will step back into the late inning setup role that currently makes him the third most stable member of the entire staff.
  • Josh Fields – remember him?  He has been on a rehab assignment in Northwest Arkansas after spending the season the 60 day disabled list.     Like Meche, someone has to go if Fields comes off the 60 day DL.
  • David DeJesus – there was talk of getting him back in the final couple weeks of the season, but I have not heard much about that as of late.  You kind of wonder why the rush given that DeJesus is clearly the best outfielder in the organization and not exactly a mystery as to what he will give you when healthy in 2011.

I am pretty sure the organization wants to see what Meche looks like coming out of the bullpen, so he will be activated from the 60 day DL.   They could make space on the roster for him by shifting DeJesus to the 60 day list or Hochevar if they decide to shut him down until next spring.   If the Royals also want to bring Fields up, then they will need another spot cleared.    They could make room by putting Jeff Bianchi on the 60 day list, as he has not played yet this year or Noel Arguelles, who is apparently not going to pitch this season, either.

Now, what about other guys that might get a look in September?   We will start with players who are on the 40 man roster now and would not require any correponding roster move to come up to the majors:

  • Victor Marte – I put him here only because he is on the 40 man roster and the organization still seems to have some attraction to him.   Now, given that with the above veteran activations, the Royals’ staff could already be at 15 pitchers, they might just call it good.   I have no burning desire to see Marte again and would, in fact, advocate his removal from the 40 man in favor of calling up someone else.
  • Brian Anderson – if you look at the Royals website, Anderson is listed under outfielders, but he has transitioned quickly into a relief pitcher.   Playing at three levels this year, after a lengthy instructional stint in Arizona, Anderson has thrown 13.1 innings, struck out 14 and allowed just six hits.  In three innings thus far in AAA,  Brian has been perfect.   That the Royals already have him pitching in AAA tells me they don’t want to waste any time with Anderson.  I think he comes up and gets a handful of September appearances once Omaha’s season is over.  The O-Royals, by the way, are in the hunt for a playoff berth, so they could conceivably be playing into the teens of September.  I don’t imagine anyone on that roster gets the call until that is wrapped up.
  • Amongst position players, the other guys already on the roster that might get consideration are catcher Lucas May and outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Jordan Parraz.   I could see May getting a call ‘just to get a feel for the majors’, but if he does he will not play much.   If Trey Hillman was still manager, Dyson would probably be up now, but he is hitting just .257 in Omaha and the organization would be better served by getting a true look at Gregor Blanco this September.   As for Parraz, his season was probably not enough to warrant a spot on the dugout bench.

Now, it gets interesting, as the players we are going discuss might well deserve a look, but would require making a 40 man roster move to get them to the majors:

  • Mike Moustakas – .273/.294/.453 in AAA probably cooled any front office ideas of giving Mike a look this year, but he has improved over time at this level (including an .856 OPS the last 10 games).  That said, with the Royals wanting to see what they have in Wilson Betemit and likely to take a look at Josh Fields, I imagine Moustakas’ major league career will start sometime next summer instead of this fall.
  • David Lough – A slow start this year has kept Lough’s numbers in Omaha to a modest .279/.343/.440, but he has exploded in August with a 1.006 OPS.   This is a guy who could truly factor into the Royals’ future, especially if 2011 turns out to be DeJesus’ last year with the club.   Who would you rather see, Lough or Victor Marte?   There’s your roster move if you want a look at Lough.
  • Louis Coleman – It’s always nice when a plan works and the Royals’ plan for Coleman after drafting him in 2009 was to ‘fast track’  him as a reliever.   Just over one year later, Coleman is in AAA with 39 strikeouts in 33 innings and opponents batting just .214 against him.   If Lough in place of Marte, why not Coleman?   If the future of the bullpen is Coleman and Greg Holland (who has struggled thus far in the majors, but has a habit of doing so the first couple weeks at a new level before become pretty decent) are the future of the pen in front of Tejeda and Soria, the Royals would be wise to make that move this September.
  • Blaine Hardy – He was dominant as a reliever, I mean flat-out dominant, at four levels including AAA before the Royals moved him into a starting role.    Blaine has been just okay as a starter (7 starts) but probably is not ready for major league action in that role.  I would expect some fall/winter work with an eye towards him getting a shot at the number five starter role next spring. 
  • Ed Lucas – He has played pretty much every position and hit .304/.394/.500 this year in Omaha, but I don’t know what the Royals do with him in the majors this September.   They want to get a good look at Getz, will not impinge on the Yunigma’s playing time and already have Aviles and yesterday’s hero Bloomquist.   It would be nice to reward Lucas for a good season with a major league salary for part of the month, but the Royals probably don’t want to mess with the 40 man roster just to be nice.

So, in the end, the September roster likely will swell quite a bit, but not with any player all that exciting.   Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Tejeda and Fields are almost certainties.   With a pretty good chance that May and Anderson get a call, if not much of a look, once Omaha’s season wraps up.    After that, the club could get imaginative and bring up Coleman or Lough, or stay the course and look to Victor Marte once more for no other reason than he has been in the majors this year and has a 40 man roster spot.

Truthfully, the players the Royals really need to get a feel for are already up and playing in Kansas City.   That is progress right there over previous years under this regime.

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