Thursday, July 21, 2011

What We Need for 2012: Part 1

As trade winds begin to swirl there are discussions regarding what the Royals need to acquire. According to people that have a lot more information and contacts than me, the Royals are seeking catching and Major League ready starting pitching.

You can't blame them. The Royals have one legitimate starting catching prospect playing full season ball, and that prospect didn't even make most people's preseason top ten catching prospect lists.

Don't get me wrong, Salvador Perez isn't a bad catching prospect. He is a stud defensively and I have been impressed with how his bat has progressed. But the Royals shouldn't be putting all of their eggs in one basket for this guy. He isn’t an elite guy in the Moustakas or Hosmer mold, there has to be a backup plan.

When it comes to pitching the Royals find themselves near the bottom of the rankings when it comes to team era. When you consider that the bullpen has been a bright spot all year long it isn’t pretty imagining just the starter’s numbers.

Of course it didn't help matters when Sean O'Sullivan and Vin Mazzaro were granted time as starters. Not to mention that Kyle Davies has been horrible again and Hochevar has seemed to take two steps back for every one step forward.

So where does that leave us when we look to 2012? The year we are finally supposed to turn the corner and make a some noise in the AL Central. The rotation has to be addressed. At least we won’t have to build from scratch, because the way I see it we have two guys that absolutely deserve a spot as of now: Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy.

Paulino has been a total disrespect to what the waiver player is supposed to be. You aren't supposed to be able to acquire rotation caliber pitchers with potentially dominating stuff. Let alone a guy that almost immediately is a top of the rotation guy. But that is what Paulino has become since landing in Kansas City.

So far in Kansas City, Paulino has posted a 3.60 era with a 53 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 55 innings of play. For the season he has an xFIP of 3.14 which includes his time in Colorado when he got lit up like a firecracker. Paulino is under team control through 2014, and if he can keep up what he has done thus far in Kansas City then there is no reason he shouldn't be a part of the rotation for the next several seasons.

The other guy that is a lock is Danny Duffy. Duffy has definitely struggled with his command and pitch counts, but he is a rookie and over the course of his last 3 starts he has been a top flight starter with an xFIP under 3.

Duffy has posted an above average strikeout rate and has displayed the third fastest heater amongst lefty starters with his 93.5 mph mark. The stuff is dynamite and if he can harness his control and trust it enough to challenge top flight hitters he will be more than fine.

With Paulino and Duffy the Royals have found 40% of next season’s rotation. It isn’t a stretch for both to be quality mid rotation guys and if they can improve could even be number 2 starters.

So that leaves three spots that the Royals need to fill. I suppose at this point we should assume that one of those spots will be occupied by the enigmatic Luke Hochevar. Hochevar has been incredibly frustrating this season and I refuse to buy into the problem solved talk every time he puts together one good start. If he can string together several in a row and put to proper use the stuff that enabled him to be a top draft choice, I'll reconsider my stance.

For now though, in my mind Hochevar has started down a path that could lead Royals fans to view him as Kyle Davies part two. For this reason he'll be back in the Royals rotation next season, but without a turnaround second half we really shouldn't expect anything more than a back end guy.

So now we are up to 60%. That is until we add Aaron Crow into the fold. According to CBS Fantasy Sports, Dayton Moore has confirmed to MLB Network Radio that the Royals will move Crow to the rotation for 2012.

I like this move. Crow's stuff reminds me a bit of Greinke's. His fastball can reach the upper 90s with life and his slider can be unhittable. The huge difference between the two is that Crow's command can't even compare to Greinke's. Nonetheless I hope that time in the pen will play a similar role in Crow's transition to the Big League rotation just as it did for Greinke.

Crow has front of the rotation stuff. But we should curb our enthusiasm, considering just a year ago he was about to be demoted to Wilmington after a dreadful first half in Northwest Arkansas. I'm not saying I don't think he can still be a front of the rotation guy, but when it comes to expectations for 2012, Crow shouldn't be the guy we are counting on to turn our rotation into a team strength (although it is possible).

The Royals have also suggested that they will consider moving Greg Holland to the rotation as well. Holland has been totally filthy in the pen this year, however, he himself has said that when he started in Wilmington he was unable to repeat his delivery enough as a starter to get past the first few innings of the game. I can't really imagine Holland making the move to the rotation and if he did I don't think I would feel comfortable with the arms in the bullpen without him.

End of Part 1

Sorry for the Lord of the Rings style ending but unfortunately this post really took on a life of its own so I have decided to cut it into parts. So I’ll get the next part up shortly.

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