Thursday, June 30, 2011

Storage Mart Ticket Giveaway!

Free is always a great word and everyone likes free stuff. That's why Storage Mart of Kansas City is giving away tickets to see the Kansas City Royals. The great thing about this giveaway is how simple it is to win tickets to games in July, August, and September.

Visit the StorageMart Kansas City Facebook Kansas City Facebook page, Like It, and let them know who you think will be the winner of the game. See, it is that easy!

These are the dates and opponents for the tickets StorageMart will be giving away. They will soon be opening up the contest for the July 10th date.

July 10, 2011 Royals v Detroit Tigers
July 24, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
August 7, 2011 vs. Detroit Tigers
August 21, 2011 vs. Boston Red Sox
September 4, 2011 vs. Cleveland Indians
September 18, 2011 vs. Chicago White Sox

Check back to their Facebook page as the dates approach and try to win those free tickets. What Royals fan doesn't want to see Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer holding down the corners. They are the future of successful Royals seasons.

This is a great opportunity for Royals fans to win free tickets. Since I don't have the resources like some other blogs do for giveaways and things, I am lucky to have found a partner willing to offer some tickets to the great Royals fans that frequent this blog. I encourage all of you to register ASAP and take advantage of this opportunity.

What to do with Joakim; Part 3

JThere are two other teams that I would like to speculate on. The first is the Texas Rangers and the second will be the Washington Nationals.

The Texas have made news recently, first for their rumored interest in K-Rod and then later when they denied having interest. Even more recently the Rangers have stated that they would be interested in upgrading their bullpen, but that they are currently content in what they have.

Texas is currently 21 of 33 in converting their save opportunities. Neftali Feliz has stabled after a rough, but Arthur Rhodes and David Bush have both struggled and the bullpen has definitely been a weakness for a Rangers squad that has hopes of reaching the World Series again in 2011.

Another reason that I believe the Rangers would be interested in Joakim Soria is that by acquiring an elite closer they could move Feliz to the rotation, something that they desperately wanted to do last Spring. They probably wouldn't move Feliz to the rotation this year should they acquire Soria, but the move would give their bullpen a huge boost and allow them to move Feliz for good next Spring.

Looking at what the Rangers could offer I could see it play out in a few different ways. But what the Rangers do have that the Royals would for sure covet is near Major League ready pitching. They also have a young shortstop by the name of Jurickson Profar that I would imagine the Royals would love to get their hands on.

First let's just refresh ourselves on Jurickson Profar:

Profar is well known for leading Curacao to the 2004 Little League World Series Championship. Profar has true five tool potential. He entered the season rated as the number 74 prospect by Baseball America and has done nothing to hurt that position. As an eighteen year old he has hit .268/.379/.491 line in the pitcher friendly Midwest League.

The Royals have worked hard to improve their organization depth at shortstop and with Escobar beginning to show that he could hit at the Major League level, the desire for Profar could be a bit less among Royals fans. However, if the Royals can nab Profar it would be a huge gain for this organization and he could become the star of the second wave of prospects making their way to Kansas City.

Here is a look at those pitching prospects:

Martin Perez- A lefty that entering the season ranked number twenty-four on Baseball America's top 100 ranking. Perez is also the top prospect in the Rangers system. He owns a career 3.97 era, and has posted 8.8 Ks per 9 innings to 3.5 walks. This season he is 4-2 with a 3.28 era.

Perez is only twenty years old. His fastball sits in the low 90s. He also has a very good changeup with life and a curveball that could also develop into a plus offering. He has shown improved command in 2011. The Royals were very interested in Perez the last time the two teams discussed a trade involving a star pitcher going to Texas and he seemed to be off limits. I am not sure if the Rangers would part ways with him now.

Tanner Scheppers- If the Royals wanted to add a high upside Major League ready starter this may be their guy. Since signing with Texas, Scheppers has done nothing but dominate when it comes to his peripheral numbers. In 107.2 career minor league innings he owns a 123:43 strikeout to walk rate.

Scheppers is a 6-4, righty that can dial up his fastball into the upper 90s when need be. He also displays a plus curveball and slider at times and has even showed a sinker that he throws in the low 90s. Scheppers is high upside starter, but like Royals reliever Aaron Crow he could probably immediately be a top flight reliever as well.

Robert Erlin- Rumors are that when the Royals were shopping Zack Greinke, Robert Erlin was a name that repeatedly came up in negotiations with the Texas Rangers. Erlin is a twenty-year-old left hander that so far has averaged about 10 Ks to every 1 walk in his minor league career. He boasts a 13-5 record with a 2.58 era.

Erlin isn't as far along as Perez or Scheppers, but he doesn't lack polish. It is his supreme command that has allowed him to move as quickly as he has and to command each of his pitches as well as he does. He throws a fastball in the low 90s, a curveball, and a changeup with good fading action.

Michael Kirkman- Kirkman like Erlin was also rumored to be a part of the package that the Royals were asking for in a Greinke to Texas trade. Kirkman has a low 90s fastball, a plus slider, and an average curveball and changeup. I believe that Kirkman would be a fine third piece to a deal, however I don't see enough upside in his numbers or scouting reports to believe that he could be a part of a two prospect deal.

Robert Ross- Ross is another guy that I would love see the Royals nab in a Soria deal, should the Rangers not want to trade any of the top three guys and instead want to trade a couple of the second teir guys along with Profar. Ross is a short twenty-two year old lefty that is currently dominated the Carolina League. He has a career 3.10 era in 304.2 minor league innings.

Ross has a fastbal that hits up to 93 on the gun, but can be a devastating pitch due to the tremendous life he gets on it. The fastball moves so much and in so many different ways that it can be difficult for catchers to receive the pitch. He also has a good slider and a shows potential for a good change up as well. He has a good deceptive delivery that makes him even more effective. Ross is a great kid and a hard worker and like I said, I'd love to see him join the KC organization.

Neil Ramirez- Ramirez's stock has skyrocketed in 2011 as he has made the jump from low-A all the way to triple-A where he has more than held his own. This season he has a 3.80 era while averaging 10 Ks per 9 innings. He is twenty-two years old and is a former first round pick.

His fastball normally is in the low 90s, but he can dial it up to 95. His curveball has regained its form as a top tier offering. His changeup is an average offering. He probably belongs in the Perez and Scheppers group, but given his low prospect status entering the season the Royals might be able to get a bit of a steal here. Who knows.

In order for a deal to work out between the two clubs the Rangers and Royals would have to solve their ill feelings after the Greinke deal couldn't be reached. It could be a good opportunity for both clubs to improve and move forward. In my opinion for the Royals to make the deal they would need either Profar and two of the pitchers. Or they would need two out of Perez, Scheppers, and Erlin plus a lower level prospect to make the deal. I may be asking for to much, but that is the position I believe the Royals should take.

Later today I will try to get up my thoughts on what the Nationals would be willing to offer and if they would make sense as a destination. After that I should be done speculating on Soria and the Royals potential trade partners.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What to do with Joakim; Part 2

In my last post I talked about Joakim Soria and I exclusively talked about the Yankees as a potential trade destination. However, should the Royals field offers they are probably just one of several teams that would be interested.610 Sports host Bob Fescoe speculated that one of these teams that would also have interest would be the St. Louis Cardinals.

There are a couple of reasons why I believe the Cardinals should be examined is because they have only converted in 22 of 37 save opportunities. The Cardinals released former closer Ryan Franklin today. They do have Fernando Salas and he has pitched well since being given the job converting in 12 of 14 save chances. So it is extremely possible that the Cardinals could be totally comfortable with what they have which would make this entire article a waste of time. But the Cardinals also tend to have no problem trading their top prospects for immediate help.

The problem with this deal is that I can't imagine the Cardinals having enough to get the Royals to deal unless either Colby Rasmus, or Shelby Miller were included. Colby Rasmus has of course had some issues with Manager Tony La Russa last season and at one point many expected him to be dealt in the offseason.

It appears that Rasmus and the Cardinals have put the past behind them and I think it would be pretty surprising if the Cardinals dealt their young up and comer. But it is always possible that skeletons are in the closet or that the Cardinals are a bit frustrated with his .779 ops and premadonna attitude.

Shelby Miller on the other hand is often discussed as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. I think it would come as a real shock to the baseball world if he was moved. But if Miller was on the table, I'd really want the Royals to listen and it would make any deal involving him extremely difficult to turn down.

If either of these two blue chippers were included in the deal, it wouldn't take much for the rest of the deal to fall into place. Guys like Jordan Swaggerty, Seth Blair, Carlos Martinez could be discussed. What I am seeing though is that in order for the deal to be appealing on the Royals end it would require the Cardinals to give up too much of their young talent for it to make sense for themselves.

In addition the deal doesn't fit the Royals needs nearly as well as a potential Yankees deal would. If the Cardinals decided they were willing to move Rasmus the Royals could include Melky Cabrerra in the deal to fill the hole it would open up for the Cardinals. But unless the Cardinals were willing to deal either Rasmus or Miller, which I don't think they would be then I can't imagine a deal falling into place.

It is time for the Cardinals to hold on to their own young talent and I think they may finally be realizing this with Pujols's free agency looming.

What to do with Joakim

It appears that after abandoning his cutter Soria has refound his pre 2011 form. This is huge news for the Royals, because if Soria would have continue to fall off the ledge as it appeared he was doing it could have really hurt the timetable for contention. The good news is that he has gotten back to being the dominant closer that we have come to know and love.

As for his role in contention it would seem that it will play out in one of two ways. (The third way which I discussed about a month ago, is obviously not a legitimate option in the organization's eyes.) The first way that Soria could play into the Royals future is as the closer. Make no mistake about it Soria could very easily fit into this team's future.

Of course now is when you respond by saying "thank you captain obvious." The reason I say this though is because when reading outside sources they often seem to act as though since the Royals aren't contending now, there is no reason to keep him when they could trade him for pieces that fit into the future wave. This thought process is flat out wrong.

Soria is under team control through 2014 and while this doesn't directly coincide with the controlled years of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy. It does overlap by three and a half seasons. After which all three of the aforementioned players will hit arbitration and become more expensive.

People argue that it doesn't make sense for a non-contending team to keep a quality closer. However, if this team truly wants to and thinks it can contend as early as next season it will be important that the 9th inning is locked down and we know that Soria can do that.

But there is also another way in which Soria could play a key part in the future of the Kansas City Royals. That is by trading him. As we nearly found out the shelf life of elite major league closers is not nearly as long as we would like to believe. Also, given the way in which closers tend to be overvalued in comparison to their true value as judged by WAR, VORP and other sabermetic measurements it makes sense to flip a closer for more valuable parts.

If Joakim Soria has truly regained his value since his return to the closer role, then the Royals need to strongly consider offers for him. When you look at how next year's roster is taking shape there are a couple of glaring holes: starting pitching and catching. Also, when you look at the middle of the order for the coming years it would also seem that the Royals could use an elite right handed bat to stick in between Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.

It is true that the Royals could probably get by in the catching front with a veteran in the Matt Traenor mold. They could also wait and hope that Salvador Perez pans out in the way that they are hoping. The Royals also could have that middle of the order right handed bat playing right field Northwest Arkansas right now.

But consider that Salvador Perez wasn't even rated in the top 10 catching prospects by and that Wil Myers probably needs the rest of this season in Northwest Arkansas and could benefit by a full season in Omaha. Given this timetable he would be positioned for a promotion in mid April 2013. Effectively delaying his free agency two years later than Moustakas and Hosmer, while also positioning his controlled years closer to his peak years of control.

There is a team out there that could fit the Royals needs in a trade for Joakim Soria. It also happens to be a team that has been hot and heavy for Soria for years, and according to sources has been in discussions with the Royals on the matter for the last week. That team is the hated New York Yankees.

So let's examine what a deal could look like between the two clubs:

The Must Have

Jesus Montero

Here is the guy that could be placed fourth in the Royals future order. He entered the season as the number three prospect in baseball. He is a career .309/.366/.494 hitter in the minors despite being considerably younger than the competition at every stop. He is right handed catcher that is just twenty-one years old and has already shown the ability to hit at the triple-A level. He boasts a 70 on both the batting and power scouting scales and has drawn comparisons to Miguel Cabrera.

The downside is that Montero positions himself at catcher on the diamond, even though most don't believe he can actually play catcher. If the Royals acquired him a trade they could either bite the bullet and deal with him at catcher like the Mets did with Mike Piazza or they would have to find a creative solution. This solution could either be moving Eric Hosmer to an outfield corner, or trading their other top trading chip Billy Butler to allow Montero to become a full time designated hitter.

The Wish We Could Get Him Too

Austin Romine

Romine entered the season rated as the number six prospect in the Yankees organization and the number 98th overall according to Baseball America. Romine is considered a well rounded prospect that has a good shot at staying behind the plate. Reports are that he has cut down on his passed balls, however, he still owns just a 25% career caught stealing percentage. Scouts say he has a strong arm so I speculate that this is more mechanics and footwork than anything else.

Romine has improved his catching and his bat. This season he is hitting .291/.353/.408 in double-A. If he was acquired he could catch the remainder of the season in Omaha and if he showed enough with the bat could be given the opportunity to open the 2012 season as catcher for the Royals.

It would seem strange that the Yankees would be willing to part with two of their strong catching prospects. However, I speculate that since the Yankees have a short term solution in Russel Martin they may be willing to wait for Gary Sanchez who could be the best of the bunch. They also have J.R. Murphy who is a pretty good catching prospect himself.

One or Two of these Guys

Dellin Betances

Betances entered the 2011 rated as the number 43 prospect by Baseball America and as the third best prospect in the Yankees organization. He is a 6-8 righty that can dial it up into the mid 90s. He also has a great curve that some rate as a 70 on the scouting scale. Whether he winds up as a front in starter or dominant reliever will hinge on his change up which is average at best. Some scouts believe that the change up could one day be his third plus offering.

Betances currently boasts a 2.37 era in 64 innings at the double-A level. He could be Major League ready by Opening Day next season and could be a work horse front end guy. I am not sure if the Yankees would consider dealing him in a trade already involving Jesus Montero, but he along with the next pitcher would have to be at the top of the list of pitchers to inquire about.

Manny Banuelos

Interestingly enough Banuelos entered the year ranked fourth in the Yankees system behind Betances, but 41st overall two spots ahead of Betances in Baseball America's top 100. Banuelos is listed at 5-10, 155 and pitches from the opposite side of the rubber as Betances. The Mexican native normally sits in the low 90s but has hit 95 on the gun in the past.

Banuelos is also regarded for having top notch command. His changeup and curveball could one day be plus pitches and are already above average offerings. Banuelos has currently logged 69.1 innings this season in Double-A. He has a 3.38 era while posting the highest walk rate of his career at 4.8 per 9. The Yankees seem to be enamored with Banuelos so I don't know that the Royals could pry him away in a deal.

Hector Noesi

Noesi doesn't have quite the prospect flair as either of the two other pitchers we have discussed, but he is just twenty-four years old and owns a 3.20 career era over 373.2 minor league innings. He has only pitched in 20.2 innings so far in 2011, but has posted a 3.92 era in Triple-A. The concern is that his walk rate has spiked in those innings and his k rate has taken a dip.

He is near major league ready, but only really projects as a back end starter. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and he has a good changeup with tailing action. But without a breaking pitch his potential is limited.

Adam Warren

Warren like Noesi has been an extremely effective starter in the minors despite not having the prospect status like Banuelos or Betances. Warren owns a career minor league era of 2.45 with a k:bb of 3:1. His fastball hits the lows 90s with a bit of deception. He has a fringey changeup and throws a cutter and curveball that need to develop for him to be a front end guy. If his breaking stuff doesn't develop his fastball could be good enough to land him in a big league bullpen.

David Phelps

Phelps is very similar to Adam Warren. Phelps often works in the low 90s and he also has a decent curveball. Entering the season it was said that he needs to develop his change up into an average pitch at least in order to really develop into a strong prospect. He may be doing that considering he has a 3.38 era in 85.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton. His k rate is currently 7.8 and his walk rate is 2.3. These numbers suggest that he is near Major League ready.

In my opinion the Royals would need to get the following Jesus Montero, plus either Austin Romine, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, and also one of Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, or David Phelps. Another prospect that could be discussed is Slade Heathcott. He doesn't directly fit into the Royals needs for contention, but the guy has five tool potential and could be a steal if the Royals acquired him.

It'll be tough for the Royals to pull the trigger in a deal for Joakim Soria. He represents so much to the organization and particularly the scouting department. They shouldn't make the deal unless they are blown away. But it is possible that a deal could be presented to make the move worthwhile.

If the Royals can fill multiple holes by dealing Soria it could push them closer to contention. If they traded Soria in a deal like the one I just mentioned they could then also look to move Billy Butler, given that Montero could take his spot at DH. Crow could move into the closer's spot and another starter could be ready to fight for a rotation spot.

The Royals are in a good position there are two routes they could move in. They could stand pat and play it safe. Giving them a closer for the next three and half seasons that could be lights out. Or they could roll the dice and risk winding up with less, opening a hole at the back end of the pen while not filling the holes they were expecting to. Or the trade could pay off and Crow becomes a dominate closer, with Montero becoming the second coming of Cabrera and a pitcher establishing themselves as a key member of the rotation.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Take Sign

Last night Yost caused a bit of discussion when he immediately through Eric Hosmer under the bus talking about how he should have known to take on the first pitch in his final at bat. It is true that Hosmer should have known that with Dyson on first, the first pitch should be took in order to get the winning run into scoring position, but I have one question. How long does it take to flash the take sign?

I am not blaming Yost for Hosmer's decision to swing when he clearly shouldn't have, however I do have a problem with Yost immediately putting the entire thing on Hosmer and accepting no responsibility. Isn't it the manager's job to manage?

I mean using the argument of Hosmer's should have known, then why even give signs in certain situations? Seriously, how long does it take to give the rookie the take sign? You know just to be sure that the ROOKIE is on the right page and understands.

I just don't buy into the argument that because Hosmer should have known, there is no reason to tell him. I think it is lazy and I think it is a cop out for defenders of Yost and Yost himself. At the very least if you are going to assume the rookie should know and he doesnt, keep the issue internal and use it as a learning tool. Don't immediately put it on the rookie when your job description is to manage the team.

Whether or not it was Hosmer's fault or not, it still wasn't even the first mistake made in the 9th last night. The first came when Chris Getz decided it was a good decision to steal third with two outs. Yes he made it to second. But if you are going to steal third in that situation, you better make it without a throw or at least be there with ease.

Little things ladies and gentlemen. Little things.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Johnny G. and Being Underrated

In what could one day be regarded as the best draft in Royals history, perhaps the most interesting pick may have came in the second round. It was 2008, and Dustin Pedroia was posting dominate numbers in a season that would see him when the MVP award. For the year he would post a .326/.376/.493 line with 17 homers, 83 RBIs, 20 steals and gold glove defense.

Pedroia was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2004 draft as a 5-9, 180 pounder. Four years later the Royals were on the clock and like other teams, were in search of the next Dustin Pedroia. So in the second round of the 2008 draft the Royals picked 5-8, 185 pound Johnny Giavotella.

Let's see what Baseball America had to say about the two players as they developed through the minors.

"his instincts and make up are excellent." 2005 on Dustin Pedroia
"team captain as a sophomore, first time in 11 years his coach did that." 2009 on Johnny Giavotella

Pedroia was rated as having the best strike zone judgement in Eastern League in 2004. Of course Giavotella has consistently been praised for his plate discipline. Baseball America has had this to say on the subject: "Very good batting eye, should rack up high on base percentages thanks to advanced pitch-recognition skills." -2009

Pedroia has consistently been praised for his extraordinary hand eye coordination, while Giavotella's strength comes from his lightning quick wrists. Both were projected as high average and on base guys with good gap power. Although the most interesting thing may be how of the two Giavotella was hinted at as having the more power potential due to his aggressive swings.

When Pedroia was drafted he was assigned to the South Atlantic League and after just 12 games promoted to high-A Sarasota. In fourty-two games in 2004 he posted a .357/.435/.535 line. After Giavotella was drafted he spent sixty-eight games in the Midwest League where he posted a .299/.355/.421 line.

In 2009, Giavotella struggled to a line of .258/.351/.380 line in Wilmington, but in 2010 he broke out in Northwest Arkansas. In his frist stint in double-A. Gio sizzled the competition psoting .322/.395/.460 line with 9 homers, 65 rbis, and 13 stolen bases. Pedroia in his first stint in double-A hit .324/.409/.508. Now I should say that Pedroia reached double-A a season earlier than his counterpart, but the numbers are similar.

After struggling in triple-A as a twenty-one year old, Pedroia returned to face the International League competition as a twenty-two year old. In 111 games he posted a line of .305/.384/.426 with 5 homers, 50 RBIs, and just one steal. Also, it should be noted that entering the season scouts had begun to express concerns about Pedroia's arm, speed and range.

Now Giavotella has already battled the concerns over his own range and reports are that it has improved from below average to at least an adaquete level. Like Pedroia, Giavotella has long been considered a below average runner, but good on the base paths thanks to great instincts.

Thus far in Giavotella's first triple-A campaign he is bruising the opposition. Through June 21st he has a .321/.377/.445 line. He also already has 5 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 7 steals. The numbers definitely compare between the two players.

The two major differences between the two players is that Pedroia played shortstop for much of his minor league career, while Giavotella has been strictly a second basemen. The second difference is that Pedroia was consistently about a year younger at every stop than Giavotella was.

Obviously, virtually no one expected Pedroia to become a future MVP. I remember Sports Illustrated even describing Pedroia as less exciting than the rest of the rookie crop, but that he would be a pesky player at the bottom of a strong Red Sox lineup.

Most Royals fans envision Giavotella as an offensive minded second baseman that could be an on base machine from the two-hole. This will be an important role for him, given the mashers that could be on deck and in the hole behind him. The Royals will need a couple of high on base guys hitting in the leadoff and second spots.

If Gio can continue to play average defense at second base then there isn't any reason why Royals should be pumped when he arrives in Kansas City, which according to some scouts he is ready for at this very moment.

Watching Giavotella last year in Northwest Arkansas I can attest to the fact that he is a gamer. He is a dirtball in its finest sense. He hustles. He plays with fire. He plays with intensity. He leads men. Sounds a lot like number 15 for the Red Sox.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Time to get Frustrated?

Here we go again… It is June 20th and once again our beloved Royals find themselves in the cellar of not just the Central but also the entire American League. Of course now is the time for fans to flip out and complain about what little progress this team has made.

Fans have been told wait for next year for too long, and they are beginning to grow tired of it. I don’t blame them. But for those that are suggesting that the Royals could have prevented this in the offseason, they need to stop and consider reason.

You can’t in one breath complain about Lorenzo Cain being blocked in center by a free agent stop gap, and then in the next breath complain that the Royals didn’t sign a player to man second base. You have to chose one way or another or else you are someone who is going to complain regardless.

Either the Royals should have signed the stopgaps and stick with them until the deadline, while they keep the seat warm for the prospects in Omaha. Or the Royals shouldn’t have messed with either. What isn’t fair is to complain about the Royals being in last place because they didn’t sign free agents and then go off and bash the Jeff Francis or Jose Guillen signing.

Obviously there were other guys available this offseason, but there was no reason at all for the Royals to drop boatloads of cash on an aging veteran. Thankfully it seems they have learned from that mistake when they signed Jose Guillen to a three year thirty-six million dollar deal.

People are glad that the Royals aren’t blocking their own prospects, but some are also complaining that they should have added veterans to some of the positions that aren’t playing up to snuff, particularly second base. The thing that has to be remembered is that literally every position on the roster besides catcher could have a prospect emerge as major league ready this season.

No matter where the Royals spent the money they ran the risk of blocking a prospect, unless that money was spent on one or even two year deals for catcher or the rotation. One year deals aren’t the issue here though, because they are so easy to flip at the deadline and they involve very little commitment by the team.

So if fans are wanting the Royals to add more serious players to make them contenders this year, it is just ludicrous to think that it could have been done without shelling out multi-year deals and huge bucks. I mean what pitcher could the Royals have added without doing that? Carl Pavano? I’ll take Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen.

A local radio host openly complained today about how the Royals went into the season with Chris Getz and Mike Aviles competing for the job at second base. First off it didn’t seem that ridiculous in the offseason that one of the two could be a solid contributor. Secondly, Giavotella is waiting in the wings and after tearing through the second half of last season and the Arizona Fall League was knocking at the door. Finally, I question anyone’s baseball understanding if they really believe that the Royals could have became contenders in 2011 if they would have just spent a few million for a second baseman.

The same show host, then went on to talk about the rotation holes and how the Royals should have spent big bucks this offseason in that area. But my question is who should they have signed? What pitcher on the market could the Royals have brought in that could have made them contenders in 2011 and would have fit into their long term plans?

Also, we shouldn’t forget that heading into the season the Royals had four of the top starting pitching prospects in baseball, all of which could have been ready for their debuts within a year’s time. When you add in Aaron Crow and a couple of the lower tier guys, then it is easy to see why the Royals proffered the stop gaps in the rotation for this year anyway.

What the Royals didn’t foresee was Montgomery and Dwyer both struggling immensely and John Lamb having to undergo season ending Tommy John surgery.

It is much wiser for the Royals to wait out this season and feel for what they have before making the moves on the market. Next offseason the Royals will have had another year of evaluating their prospects, some even at the highest level. Not to mention that the starting pitching class for this offseason is much more impressive than last.

The Royals will have money to spend and should they play it right in the offseason, could very easily position themselves as favorites for the AL Central entering 2012. It is frustrating that once again we find ourselves in last place. But sometimes one must take a small step back in order to take a giant leap forward.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interleague Play and Realignment

The Royals pick up the interleague play schedule again tonight with a three game set at St. Louis. As a fan of the Royals I am incredibly blessed to finally get an opportunity to see the great strategy of baseball. I mean I can't imagine what sort of solution the Royals will come up with when there is a man on second and the pitcher for the Cardinals is on deck tonight. I just don't know what the Royals will do to handle that sort of situation.

Of course based on the latest rumors regarding possible realignment we could see much more of this awesome strategy in the future. However, if the league was to go to just two fifteen team leagues with no divisions, I suspect that they would either totally do away with the dh, or add the dh for the National League.

Considering the DH provides aging sluggers jobs and already is providing fourteen job opportunities a year, I doubt that the player's union would be very happy to see the dh cut fromt he league rules. More likely the NL would add the dh as a way to appease the Player's Union in order for the league to get their way on another subject.

I am a huge proponent of the DH for the American League. But I can't say I would be totally happy if the National League adopted the rule. I am a bit ambivalent on the subject. On one hand I hate that a player like Billy Butler is basically forced to the bench because the National League thinks a pitcher should have to bat, even though they are in no way a major league player because they can hit. On the other hand it seems weird to think that the National League would adopt the DH and the days of pitchers hitting would be totally behind us.

Speaking of realignment, it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out. It seems a foregone conclusion that baseball will expand the playoffs to allow five teams into the postseason. The way realignment is gaining steam we could be saying the same for it in a few months. It is my hope however that baseball will consider other solutions before making a decision on the matter.

So far we have heard about floating realignment, and the latest proposal that involves one team moving from the NL to AL and the divisions being removed from the equation. What I would also be interested in seeing discussed would be expansion to 32 teams.

For some reason in American Sports 30 has always been the magic number for sports leagues, however mathematically and for schedule purposes that number should be 32. The NFL has expanded to this number and they have found the benefits to such a round number. Eight divisions of four teams each. Also, if the league wanted to expand and also tap back into that older style they could have four divisions of eight teams each.

I think this is a proposal that should definitely be considered. Some people fear that the game has been watered down and talent isn't what it used to be. However, for every one person that dies, seven people are born. What I am saying is that the potential market for baseball players is expanding at a rapid rate, and when you consider that baseball is branching out to new frontiers it isn't hard to imagine finding fifty more players a year to fill out major league rosters.

The biggest problem with expansion is dealing with television markets. Considering that the entire US is already claimed by teams there isn't much space for other teams to encroach enough to claim their own territory. However, many teams already share territories with other teams and as we saw with the Expos move to Washington deals can be struck to benefit both sides.

Another solution that could be easier for teams would be for the expansion to occur outside the continental United States. There are several cities that could be deserving of a team and have been considered in the past that would fit this criteria: San Juan, Monterrey, Vancouver, and Montreal. By exapanded to any two of these cities Major League Baseball could expand its brand.

Obviously there would be different difficulties to overcome should the MLB consider this route, for example currency exchange and international television rights. But the point is that there would be issues to overcome in any situation involving relocation and expansion but the benefits could be worth it.

I don't know what solutions will be proposed and considered by the Commisioners office, but I am hoping that creative solutions are considered. At this point I would almost be surprised if realignment doesn't occur.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Catching Up

I am finally back in the States, so I am glad to get to watch Royals games once again. It was a tough month but I followed the boxscores every day and it seems like I didn't miss much in the form of great baseball.

When I left on Tuesday, May 17 the Royals were 20-20. While I was gone the Royals played at a 9-17 clip, and since I have returned they are 1-1. What is really amazing though is that even though the Royals have played so horrible over the last month they find themselves only 7 games out of first.

The summer is far from over and there are definitely signs of life from the boys in blue. The Royals are 4-2 in their last six games, and for a team that has historically played well agains the National League there could be reason for optimism moving forward.

The Royals winning percentage over the last six seasons against NL clubs is .577. They are 1-2 so far this season so for them to put up a similar winning percentage in 2011 they would have to finish interleague play at a 9-6 mark.

The division is shaping up to be a tight race moving forward so if the Royals can get one hot streak they are going to find themselves right in the thick of things once again. Just as they were a month ago.


While I was gone the Royals also drafted local legend Bubba Starling with the fifth overall selection of the draft. I would love to see the Royals sign Starling fast and get him some games as soon as possible. I even have a slight hope that because Nebraska reports for football on July 10 that there could be pressure for him to strike a deal sooner rather than later. However, most likely the negotiations will go right down to the wire.

As for my thoughts on the selection. I think that given the way the draft unfolded the Royals weren't really left with the opportunity to go another route without clearly making a reach selection. Given the factors at play I believe the Royals made the best selection for their organization.

Also, given the way they were so high school heavy in the later rounds, I think it is apparent that they are committed to the first wave as is, and have now begun the process of focusing on that second wave. Given the work the team has done in Latin America and through the draft in the later rounds, they are already way ahead of where they were four years ago when they first began work on the first wave.


The other major story for the Royals over the last month was the promotion of Mike Moustakas. Moustakas's season line may not have been screaming domination, but over the last month and a half he caught fire. The promotion was warranted, and it is just the latest move that helps to put the Royals into serious contention in 2012.

Going into the season the Royals needed to get Hosmer and Moustakas as many big league at bats as possible in order to allow them to be ready to hit the ground running in 2012. By promoting these two players when they did I believe they will have successfully accomplished this goal.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Second Day

I'll write on Bubba when I get a chance, but as Royals fans we have grown to love the next few rounds just as much as the first. This is because of the Royals tendency to nab top talent and lure it to KC with massive amounts of cash. So here are some names we should watch out for in day 2:

Name, School, Pos, BA PreDraft Rank, MLB Predraft Rank

Josh Bell, Texas HS, OF, 15, 23
Austin Hedges, California HS, C, 28, 31
Andrew Susac, Oregon State, C, 30, 35
Alex Dickerson, Indiana, OF, 37, 42
Peter O'Brien, Bethune Cookman, C, 103, 39
Jason Esposito, Vanderbilt, 3B, 77, 40
Derek Fisher, Pennsylvania HS, OF, 41, 66
Johnny Eirman, Missouri HS, SS/OF, 84

Daniel Norris, Tennessee HS, LHP, 16, 15
John Stilson, Texas A&M, RHP, 23
Dillon Howard, Arkansas HS, RHP, 31, 18
Matt Purke, TCU, LHP, 32, 27
Anthony Meo, Coastal Carolina, RHP, 55,26

Just some names for Royals fans to keep their eyes on. There are still quite a few guys left that would be great second round picks. I am especially intrigued by Daniel Norris, Austin Hedges and Josh Bell. If Purke falls a bit more I would also be thrilled if the Royals took a shot on him.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just a Draft

So the draft is right around the corner and I don't think I am alone in the feeling that this has become one of the best days of the year for Royals fans. This is probably because the Royals have really done well under the current administration which is evidence in their top ranking farm system. Also, even though it is loads of fun picking high in the draft the Royals have also made habit of selecting top talents later in the draft and signing them for big time deals.

I am hoping for more of the same this year and here is how I feel about the players that should be available. I will begin by stating that the Royals have finally gotten a break in their draft position. There is a clear top 6 available so the Royals should have an option when they select at number 5. If the Royals select any of the top six players I will be thrilled and extremely happy with the pick. However, if the Royals decide to reach beyond the consensus at the spot I can't help but be skeptical.

This is not to say that I feel like I know more about these prospects than the organization does, but when people agree so strongly on six players going in the top six it makes me feel as though the Royals could really botch an opportunity should they make a reach pick. So without further ado... (I am going to place the players in my personal preference order, again this is splitting hairs among these prospects.)

1. Gerrit Cole RHP- For a guy to be considered a top pick contender after his freshman year and than become the favorite to be selected first for most of the time in the months leading up to the draft he would be an awesome steal for the Royals at 5. Reports are that his stuff is incredible and I remember him saying last year while at a Royals game that he would love to be a part of this organization. If a rough season allows him to slide to 5, then from a Royals perspective we may have just gotten a steal. I believe the rumors to be true that Gerrit Cole will be selected by Pittsburgh tomorrow night.

2. Dylan Bundy RHP- I love the upside, I love his proximity to the Majors. He could rise as fast as a college pitcher and probably has the highest ceiling of any of the pitchers in the draft. His numbers were absolutely dominate in his senior season at Owasso High School in Oklahoma. He had 158 strikeouts to 5 walks in 71 innings with a 0.20 era. I think Bundy will probably join his brother in Baltimore's organization.

3. Anythony Rendon 3B- I don't think there is much of a chance he falls to number 5, but if he did it would be an extremely interesting situation for the Royals. A year ago he was a clear cut number 1 choice. He has dealt with some injuries, but none of them are expected to hurt him moving forward. He is the best combination of high ceiling and high floor in this draft. If the is there at 5 and the other two guys aren't the Royals should draft him and figure where everyone plays later. I expect him to be draft at 2 by Seattle.

4. Danny Hultzen LHP- I know the Royals have a stable of lefties but right now Lamb is out for the year and Monty and Dwyer are struggling. By drafting Hultzen you could add a pitcher as close to Major League ready as you are going to find in a draft and he could really help to push contention forward to 2012. His ceiling isn't as high as the other players on this list, but his floor might be. If he is available at 5 he would be really hard to pass up. Most say that Hultzen to Arizona is the surest pick in the whole draft.

5. Bubba Starling CF- This is where it gets difficult. The Royals could continue to build that second wave, which is already starting to look impressive or they could add the sixth guy on my list who seems to fit what they want. My thoughts on Bubba are basically summed up here: How often does a team get the opportunity to draft the player with the highest upside and most hype at number 5 overall. This is a truly special draft.

6. Trevor Bauer- Bauer is a long toss guy and an innings eating machine even though he is only 20 years old. He could be ready for the majors as fast as Hultzen and he could be an ace in the Lincecum type mold when he gets there. If the Royals are scared about is arm and aren't comfortable with his training methods then Starling should be the choice. But if they are confident that Bauer is just a unique kid and can handle the work and will be able to going forward then Bauer seems like the most logical choice in the 5 spot.

Tomorrow night there will be several things at play when the Royals select. Obviously how will the first 4 picks have gone? Will they be able to nab one of the guys most predict as going in that first 4 range? But if it comes down to Starling vs Bauer? Will they go with the local kid? Will they take a step back from their stance on long tossing? Will they add to the first wave? Will they work on the second? Or will they draft for need and comfort and make a reach pick? Either way this is a truly special draft and I can't wait to watch it unfold.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Modest Proposition.

Let me preface this post by stating I don't expect the Royals to take the route that I am about to suggest. I myself am not totally convinced that it would be the wisest move, but I have thought about it a bit and I want to throw my thoughts out there for Royals fans. It would be a bold move and the potential reward would be great.

The fact is that for whatever reason Joakim Soria isn't the pitcher that we have grown to love. There are no obvious signs mechanically for why this is the case, but looking at his numbers it is blatantly obvious that he has lost his command. But if it isn't a mechanical issue why has he lost the ability to feel his pitches? We'll get back to this in a second.

But what Soria's shakiness and demotion could be for the Royals is opportunity. When Soria took over as closer for the Royals in 2007, he quickly established himself as one of the premier closers in the game. He never had your typical closer's stuff, and many considered his array of pitches more in line with what you would expect from a starter. What Soria did have was the "closer mentality." Joakim was Mr. Cool. Even when a team would get a rally going or when Joakim would enter the game in a tight spot it was obvious that he wasn't concerned.

This season, however, he hasn't gave off that same vibe of confidence. He has gotten behind in the count early and often and because of this hasn't had the benefit of getting hitters off balance. His walk rate is 3.8 which is by far the highest of his career. I believe that the reason Soria has fallen off is that his mentality is gone.

I have no idea why Soria has lost his killer instinct, or what has caused this but at this point it is nowhere to be found. Just look at this quotation from Soria in today's KC Star:

“I felt I had better command today,” Soria said. “I didn’t change anything in my mechanics. I just go ahead and try to change my mentality a little bit.”

This statement strikes me as a guy that is just trying to get his mound presence back. So if his stuff is still sharp... and if his command is still there when he is composed (he threw five of six first pitch strikes yesterday)... then maybe now is the prime opportunity for the Royals to move him to the rotation. This would be especially easy at this point, because there is no longer of the fear of breaking something that didn't need fixing.

Obviously if the Royals attempt this there is the possibility that something could go wrong. It is natural to think that if he can't hack it as a reliever then why would he hack it as a starter? But like I said stuff doesn't seem to be the concern, and it was always his mentality that really put him into that closer role.

You could make the point that Soria could be prone to injury should the Royals attempt to stretch him out? That is a valid fear, but it wouldn't be the first time a reliever has been given the opportunity and when Soria has been injured in the past the cause was believed to be lack of consistent innings, not because he was logging to many innings.

Even when Soria has been effective as a reliever his WAR has been on average 2.0 according to fangraphs. Don't get me wrong this is about as high as one could expect from a relief pitcher. However, in 2010 there were ninety-four pitchers that posted a stronger total. Meaning Soria was considered as valuable as starters like Paul Maholm, Carlos Silva, Barry Zito and oh yeah, Kyle Davies posted a WAR of 2.0 in 2010.

What this means is that even though Soria had the ninth best WAR among relievers in 2010, his value didn't lead to anymore Royals wins then Kyle Davies. Let that sink in. Now the value of a closer will not cease to be a hot topic among traditionalists and sabermetricians anytime soon. It seems that using this argument we are seeing at least a somewhat undervaluation. However, even if that is the case Soria would be much more valuable to the team in the rotation than in the bullpen.

What we see in this illustration is that even if Soria transitioned to the rotation and he didn't become the ace or frontline guy that many would expect, he would still be vastly more valuable as a 3 or 4 starter than he would be as a closer. This is definitely something that should not be overlooked.

Value is something that the Royals will need to maximize, especially with the rotation in the short run if they truly want to contend in 2012. Right now there pessimism brewing regarding the farm system particularly the young arms up at the top. Danny Duffy has performed well, but Mike Montgomery has struggled more than anticipated, John Lamb is out for the season, and Chris Dwyer has been dreadful. What this means is that the Royals may not have the arms to contend as early as next season, unless they either think creatively, look outside the organization or both.

By moving Soria to the rotation you could be potentially be adding a frontline arm without shelling out the cash on the free agent market that it would take to acquire one. At this point the rotation options for opening day next year are: Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar, Sean O'Sullivan, Vin Mazzaro, and Mike Montgomery if he is able to right the ship. Not exactly an awe-inspiring bunch.

Duffy will be a strength and Hochevar seems to warrant a spot, but I don't believe that O'Sullivan and Mazzaro have done anything to show they are more than AAAA guys and even if Montgomery becomes the ace that we are hoping for by next season, the Royals still have two gaping holes. Soria, could be the answer that we are looking for.

If the Royals believe that Soria's struggles are due to command issues, perhaps they should take the same route they did with Jeremy Jeffress. Let him start, give him the greatest opportunity to improve or get back his command. The most critical thing is that Soria is able to regain his value and if a move to the rotation does that it will be the best thing for all of us.

But if Soria's struggles are rooted purely in mentality as I am suggesting, the opportunity is there for the Royals to improve on an area of great weakness. Crow moves into the closer role and does his thing, with Joakim Soria becoming the frontline guy that Kansas City is lacking right now. If that turns out to be the case then we can really start to gear up for contention in 2012.