Sunday, February 27, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 15-11

15. Johnny Giavotella 2B

Johnny Giavotella was drafted in the second round out of the University of New Orleans, a place he pays homage to every time he came to the plate in 2010 at Arvest Ballpark with his New Orleans style jazz playing on the speakers. Giavotella was drafted in 2008 and was immediately sent to full season Burlington Iowa. There he became a catalyst at the top of the order that the Bees to that point had been without.

Two years later Giavotella continues to be a catalyst to whatever lineup he finds himself in. This past season in Northwest Arkansas he cruised to a line of .322/.395/.460 and after setting the Texas League on fire in the second half he was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he continued to blaze to a line of .328/.371/.578.

Some have compared Giavotella to Boston's Dustin Pedroia and many scoff at the notion. However, in Pedroia's first stint in the upper levels he split the season between double and triple-A and posted a line of .293/.385/.452. Now most scouts are probably somewhat surprised that Pedroia developed the power that he did, but at the time he was still viewed as a very strong prospect and described as a "gamer."

Giavotella is a gamer. He is a vocal player that has quick wrists with a short swing. His forearms are massive and probably a major reason why Giavotella is able to generate as much power as he does. I don't see Giavotella winning any MVP awards, but he could be a top notch hitter if he continues to develop. I also believe that he is one of the most Major League ready hitters in the entire organization probably ranking between second and fourth in this regard.

The concerns with Giavotella stem from his defense, in particular his range which projects to be average at best. Because he is already a second baseman many see him as a future starter or bust due to his bat not being able to carry him should he have to shift to a corner spot. I believe that his bat will be good enough for a Major League career regardless. Teams are always looking for guys that can hit Major League hitting and if he is capable of that someone will find him a position.

As far as his future with the Royals goes though it will be important that he hits the ground running when he is granted the opportunity at the Major League level. This is because with Alcides Escobar at short, Colon is now looming behind Giavotella on the organizational depth chart. If Giavotella continues to knock the cover off the ball he should see Kansas City by season's end unless Chris Getz decides to become a .300 hitter.

14. Tim Collins LHP

Over a year ago I defended the Ankiel signing because I felt as though he was a good buy low candidate and he would be a tradable commodity come the July deadline. This turned out to be true and in exchange for a couple months of Ankiel and perhaps the only Royal to ever be booed in his home opener, Kyle Farnsworth the Royals were able to add a piece to the future. Of course I am talking about Jesse Chavez.... I mean Tim Collins.

Collins instantly became a favorite among Royals prospect buffs due to his diminutive stature and his awesome K rate, which as you can see in the graph above has been at 13.3 per 9 innings in his minor league career. Collins stands in at 5-7, 155. When he stands on the hill he turns himself in a cock eye fashion and a delivery that only shows his back at the beginning. He then hurls not only himself at the hitter but also hurls mid 90s heat that he occasionally mixes with a plus hammer curveball.

Collins has closer potential, but should become a very strong setup man for the Kansas City Royals for the next six or seven seasons. This Spring the Royals have Collins working from both sides of the rubber in an effort to add even more deception to his already deceptive delivery.

Even though he is not yet on the 40-man roster I expect that he will open the season in the Major League Bullpen. If this turns out not to be the case, it will be a result of roster manipulation and inventory control and not because of Collins poor performance. Either way we should see Collins in Kansas City sooner rather than later.

13. Salvador Perez C

Salvador Perez was signed out Venezuela in 2006 as part of Dayton Moore's first international signing class. So far he has yielded extremely promising results. So promising in fact that I predict Perez to break out in a big way in 2011 when he spends the season at Arvest Ballpark for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Much has been made of Perez this Spring as Yost has been enamored with his defensive abilities. Pitchers love to throw to him and runners hate to run on him. Perez blocks balls with ease and records an astounding 1.8 second pop time to second base.

In the Royals intrasquad game perhaps the organizations best basestealer Jarrod Dyson attempted to rob second base from Perez. However, when Dyson normally would go into his slide he found that the ball was at second waiting for him. After the play Dyson was quoted as saying "I aint never got thrown out by that much."

It isn't just Perez's glove that has the organization and me so excited. As the youngest hitter in the Carolina League in 2010 he was able to hit .290/.322/.411 a line that is reminiscent of Sandy Alomar Jr. a player that Perez is often compared to. He also was able to hit seven homers, which was the highest total of his young career.

Yost believes that Perez is major league ready, but because he hasn't had a single at bat in the upper minors that is where he will spend 2011. Nonetheless it seems that the presence of Perez in the system was a major factor in the organization's decision to move Myers to the outfield. Hopefully, Perez can continue to breakout with the bat because his defense is already top notch.

12. Brett Eibner OF

Eibner entered the 2010 draft as perhaps the most intriguing two way player available. He could either be the power hitting centerfielder that had a knack for the clutch in college. Or he could be the pitcher that entered the game throwing missiles and dominated hitters with heat. Eibner preferred to be a hitter and the Royals obliged by selecting him in the second round and signing him to an overslot bonus.

Eibner may possess the highest upside of any player in the Royals system. He could develop into a four or five tool centerfielder with plus plus power, or his swing could continue to be too long and he could strikeout so much in the low levels that the Royals decided to convert him back to pitcher. Either way his numbers will surely be worth keeping an eye on in 2011 for the casual prospect observer.

Eibner should open 2011 in either Kane County or Wilmington. If he can keep his strikeouts down he could ascend through the system extremely fast and could even see Northwest Arkansas by season's end. He could also strikeout 150+ times in Kane County and just move one level at a time. It is tough to say.

11. Aaron Crow RHP

Those that hated the Luke Hochevar pick seemed to hate the Crow pick as well. It isn't hard to miss the similarities. Both are guys that declined huge bonuses and then went the Indy League route only to be selected a year later in the first round again. Many Royals prospect observers were less than thrilled with the pick.

But then Crow went to Spring Training and in a short time with the Big League club caused such a stir that some even argued he should open the season in Royal blue and I don't mean Omaha. Instead he was sent to Springdale where he would be the opening night starter for a team that would go on to win the Texas League title. Unfortunately for Crow by season's end he was no longer with the team due to a demotion to Wilmington.

Crow has great stuff. After watching most of his starts in Springdale I can attest to the fact that his stuff is still there. He has a mid 90s heater that has great sinking action that produced a huge groundball rate. (I can't remember the exact number, but I do know that according to Dayton Moore it was one of the top rates in the minor leagues.) Hopefully with improved infield conditions and a strong defense this rate can help Crow to produce strong results. Stuff is not what concerns me about Aaron Crow.

What concerns me is that his control in Northwest Arkansas yielded a 4.4 walks per 9 inning rate. Even with a ton of groundballs it is going to be hard to win with a rate that high. Perhaps part of the problem is due to Crow's questionable mechanics on the backside. I once read that a pitcher with a wrist wrap should never be a bonus baby, because their control will always be in jeopardy.

I am still optimistic that Crow's troubles were a combination of bad luck, overpitching and rust. I believe that he has ace potential, but if his control does not come around as a starter could still be a valuable member of the bullpen, perhaps even as a closer. Given that Crow is on the 40 man roster he needs to figure it out as a starter fast or else the Royals could use the Major League bullpen as an acclimation process. Crow should begin the season in Northwest Arkansas maybe even once again as the opening night starter.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poll Tally: Free Agent of Choice

In what turned out to be my most voted on poll ever I posed the question: Which of these players would you most want to have?
  1. Albert Pujols @ 10 years, 300 million
  2. Yu Darvish @ 5 years, 50 million plus a 50 million post fee
  3. Zack Greinke @ 5 years, 100 million

It was an incredibly close poll, but in the end Darvish garnered the most votes with 38 out of the 106 (38%). He was then followed by Pujols at 35 out of 106 (33%) and finally Zack Greinke at 33 out of 106 (31%).

I am a bit surprised by the result, but when I voted on the poll Darvish was my selection. At somepoint I hope to get a post up outlining why I believe he makes the most sense from a finanical and competitive standpoint out of the three options.

Anyway, be sure to vote on the new poll regarding who you believe should start the season as the leadoff hitter for the Kansas City Royals.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 20-16

20. David Lough OF

I am definitely a big fan in the David Lough camp. After breaking out in 2009, he made a bit of noise at spring training prior to the 2010 season and I fully expected him to be called up after the deadline to replace one of the traded outfielders. This unfortunately didn't happen as Lough got off to a semi slow start in the Pacific Coast League. But what happened in the second half of the season for Lough was something that makes me even more optimistic of his future.

Prior to the all star break Lough had drawn 19 walks to 33 strikeouts in 302 at bats. His triple slash was .262/.313/.424. Obviously this is part of the reason why Lough was not given an opportunity at the big league level post trade deadline. However from that point on Lough's approach at the plate took a huge step forward from where it had been in his previous three and a half seasons.

In the second half of the season Lough posted a k:bb of 25:21. In 158 at bats he hit to a tune of .316/.403/.462. This improved plate approach helped Lough in the contact and power departments. Also, given that the major complaint against Lough was his average driven on base percentage, if these numbers are a sign of things to come then his stock only rises.

I am a fan of Lough game. He has solid tools across the board, but no real plus tools. Royals' fans often throw out comparisons to DeJesus when talking about Lough and I suppose this is fair. Although it does seem like anytime the Royals have a prospect that is solid, but doesn't have any plus tools he gets DDJ comparisons. I believe that Lough has more speed than DeJesus and could even have more power. But I believe DeJesus still gets the nod in defense, arm and plate discipline.

Lough is an athletic player that could be a defensive asset in left field. He seems like a great guy every time I have had the opportunity to talk with him (twice). He could be a very valuable fourth outfielder for a contending team and a guy that other team's would like to give more at bats as a starter.

What Gordon does in 2011 will play a significant role in Lough's future as a Royal. Given that it is hard to see Francouer as a Royals for just one season. If Gordon performs as most expect him to, Lough will be a fourth outfield option for the team. However, if Gordon struggles or if the Royals do cut ties with Francouer I hope that Lough is granted an everyday opportunity. You have to be intrigued by a guy that posts 15 doubles, 12 triples, and 11 homers in a season. (Especially when he would be moving to the triple friendly Kauffman Stadium.)

19. Jason Adam

Entering the 2010 first year player draft, I thought that Yasmani Grandal was likely to be the guy. However, the Royals threw everyone a changeup when they selected Christian Colon with their first round selection. The other thing that I expected was that the Royals would find Jason Adam at some point later in the draft and that they would then sign him to an over-slot deal much like the one Tim Melville had received a couple years before. This prediction came true when the Royals selected Jason Adam with their fifth round pick and signed him to an over-slot bonus of $800K.

Like Melville, Adam was another local product actually living roughly 20 miles away from Kauffman Stadium. So the Royals did not want to let a local product slip through the grasps and it is a good thing they didn't. In instructs Adam received glowing reviews from Royals officials as his fastball routinely sat in the mid 90s. He also flashed promising secondary offerings with a curveball in the high 70s and a low 80s change-up.

I expect Adam to stay back in extended spring training as a way to limit his innings in his first season. But after that he should report to low-a Kane County for the 2011 season.

18. Cheslor Cuthbert

Cheslor Cuthbert was one of the big international signees for the Royals in 2009. He was hailed as the top prospect to ever come from Nicaragua. He actually came from a small island off the coast of the country called the Corn Island. On this island they speak primarily English and so Cuthbert will be without the burden of learning both a new language and culture as he makes his way into professional baseball.

This is probably a major factor in the Royals decision to begin him in the states as just as seventeen year old. His final numbers weren't spectacular but when put in perspective they provide plenty of reason for optimism. His season was going very well until a hand or wrist injury wound up ending his season. Considering the kid was already playing against competition years older than him, it isn't surprising that an injury such as this could have brought a quick statistical collapse to his season.

Cuthbert won't win many races but he has good bat speed and an advanced approach at the plate. When signed several said he could one day develop into an Adrian Beltre type player. Since he is projected to have good power and strong defense I would say this is a fair comparison.

The Royals say there is no reason to be concerned about the injury and I don't see any reason to be. Cuthbert will probably stay in short season ball for 2011, but it is possible that he could start the season in Kane County if he really impresses the Royals in Spring Training.

17. Yordano Ventura

In 2008, the Royals signed Yordano Ventura out of he Dominican for $28K. But as it usually goes on the international market the best players tend to not be the fattest bonus babies. Ventura represents a good piece for the Royals scouting department. When he signed he stood 5-11 with about a 140 pounds on his thin frame. He threw in the high 80s at the time, but now he has added twenty pounds and he throws absolute gas.

His fastball is a plus-plus pitch that consistently sits in the upper 90s. He also throws an improving curveball that some project as a plus pitch and a changeup has shown flashes. Being 5-11 and Dominican, Ventura has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. It seems to me as though every promising short Dominican righty draws comparisons to Pedro so I am not going to get too worked up about this.

The Royals should continue to play it safe with an arm with as much potential as Ventura's. Steadily improve the workload as he is progressed through the minors. However, first sign of trouble I wouldn't be opposed to moving him to the pen where he instantly becomes a future closer. If he can prove that he can handle the workload he has front end potential written all over him.

Ventura should spend 2011 in short season ball in either the Appalachian or Pioneer League.

16. Robinson Yambati

Given their similar ascension up the Royals prospect charts, their nationalities, and their ability to throw heat Ventura and Robinson Yambati could be discussed as a pair for a long time. Yambati has larger frame than Ventura as he stands at 6-3, 185. For this reason I am going to give Yambati the slight odd, because his body type doesn't scare me quite like Ventura's does.

Yambati's fastball isn't quite on Ventura's level but he has hit the mid 90s on the gun before. He also has curve and a change that both need development. Given his size I expect him to stick in the rotation and one day he could play a critical role for the organization as a rookie and on. Just imagine in 2015 the Royals are in a thick playoff race and a starter goes down due to injury. The Royals call up Yambati and instantly he steps right in and succeeds.

Yambati and Ventura are going to be part of a group of guys that will be called upon in crucial situations as rookies and second year guys. They are the guys that will be asked to fill the shows of their older counterparts. Think Tampa Bay Rays, who the past couple of years have had a wealth of pitching talent to take advantage of at the major league level.

Yambati could make the jump to Kane County at somepoint in 2011, or he could spend the season in short season ball building up his innings count as he prepares for the workload that full season baseball offers.

Royals Sign Dominican Righty

In what has been an incredibly excited morning for Royals fans, the Royals continued to add to the top farm system in the top 100 era by signing seventeen year old right hander Igor Feliz. Like Darwin Castillo, Feliz had been starring in the Dominican Prospect League. Flashing a low 90s fastball that recently has climbed into the mid 90s. Also, according to the Dominican Prospect League site it is easy to see Feliz developing into a starter due to his good feel for off speed pitches.

It is hard to find any new information on prospects from the Dominican, but if I manage to I will add it to the post. As Clint from 14 for 77 pointed out Feliz's $225K bonus is about the same that would be awarded to a 5th -10th round selection.

Most of the top wave of talent will be hitting Kansas City at some point this season and they will then have roughly six or seven years before they hit free agency. It also takes approximately six or seven years to develop sixteen or seventeen year old signees. Given that timetable the Royals could be in a good position this offseason to build what could a critical wave in talent.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 25-21

25. Noel Arguelles LHP

Once upon a time, Arguelles was trapped behind the curtain of communism along with Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias. There they both starred for the Cuban 18 and under National team until they defected in July of 2008. Unlike most Cuban defectors Noel Arguelles defected at a very young age of 20. Because of this he only played in the Cuban League for a short amount of time and didn't post very impressive results while he was there.

Nonetheless the Royals eventually shocked the baseball world by signing Arguelles to a $6.9 million major league deal roughly 13 months ago. In his time pitching for the Cuban national team, Arguelles displayed a fastball that set in the low 90s with a curveball and changeup that could both be above average offerings. Most believed that with the combination of his receiver like build (6-3, 195) and the potential of his stuff he would have been a sure fire first round pick had he been eligible.

Unfortunately Arguelles had pitched for about fourteen months straight when he signed the contract with the Royals and they elected to shut him down for awhile to protect his young arm. However, when his stuff didn't come back like they had hoped the opted to have him undergo shoulder surgery, which took place in October.

Arguelles is throwing in Spring Training and early reports are that he should begin the year in Kane County or Wilmington and that his stuff has fully returned to pre-defection form. Due to his being on the 40 man Arguelles should rise fast and join the four headed lefty monster that is ahead of him.

24. Derrick Robinson CF

Prior to be drafted Derrick Robinson set a record for the 60 yard dash at the scouting combine he took part in. He also had a football scholarship in hand to attend college for his hometown team: the Florida Gators. Due to the football scholarship most teams were scared off from Robinson entering the draft. Robinson though was selected by Kansas City in the fourth round of 2006 draft.

At the time the Royals were in the transition process of installing a new General Manager. Due to his role in the scouting department of the Atlanta Braves, Dayton Moore did not officially oversee the 2006. Meaning that for the draft day festivities the Royals were without a GM. How much influence Dayton Moore had on the selections made that June day will probably never be known.

Dayton Moore was however in charge of what picks the Royals would sign and how much would be spent and thus began the Royals new mentality of overslot expenditures. It was not apparent as much in 2006 as it would be later on (you can't blame DM for not wanted to pay a bunch of money that he wasn't necessarily personally as high on) but the Royals did decide to sign Robinson to a deal for $850,000.

Perhaps Moore liked Robinson while he was with the Braves and was delighted that the Royals took one of the guys that he had targeted. Maybe Moore accidentally let the name slip as he was moving his things into his new office. Or maybe Moore realized that there was no top end speed in the entire system and that Robinson could immediately change that. Whatever the reason Moore shelled out the money and got Robinson signed.

Over the next four seasons Robinson rewarded the Royals 850K investment by stealing 187 bases. Oh, I guess I should mention he also didn't bat above .245 during that time. But hey he showed some flashes. Heading into the 2010 season I called for a breakout from Robinson and while many still aren't on the D-Rob bandwagon, I am surprised at how many are growing even less intrigued by his tools even though he just put together the best offensive season of his career.

In his twenty-two year old season Robinson was playing centerfield and batting leadoff for the top minor league team in baseball. There all he "did was win, win, win no matter what." He hit .286/.345/.380 while stealing 50 bases. For the first time in his career, Robinson hit and got on base. It is true that his strikeout totals were still high, but he showed tremendous improvement in his first trip to the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Many people have referenced how several Royals prospects' numbers in 2010 could be attributed to the Coors Field like park factors that Arvest Ballpark provided. I am not sure if I buy into that whole thing, but I will admit that the park did play into the hitter's favor in 2010. (Look at the Naturals pitchers numbers and tell me it was Coors Field.) I bring up this point though not to discredit Robinson's numbers, but instead to accredit them.

Unlike his fellow Natural counterparts Robinson actually hit better on the road than at home. This is probably because his game isn't as affected by park factors as the other hitters. So I believe that this means Robinson's "breakout" season was less a result of Arvest Ballpark than his actual progression. This is a very good thing for the fans in the D-Rob camp.

Also, unlike Moustakas or Giavotella, D-Rob is more of the soft spoken type. He keeps everything extremely even keel and if you only watch him once or twice this could be taken as him not caring. But I believe that this is a good mentality from a guy that would project as a leadoff hitter, given that it is a spot in the lineup that absolutely requires consistency.

Robinson has the speed to be a plus defender, but at times he does tend to make poor reads on balls. However, if given a couple more years in the minors it isn't unreasonable to think that at the same age as Dyson he could be as effective in center. The bigger concern with Robinson 's defense is his arm which is fringe average at best. If he can improve his routes and keep a quick release he should be able to get by, but it will never strike fear into the hearts of tagging runners.

With Dyson and Cain now ahead of D-Rob and Eibner possibly behind him, the pressure will continue to be on him to produce. Given Robinson's age and tools I do believe that the potential is higher for him then the two guys ahead of him and if he can continue to improve he could very conceivable pass both on the depth chart. As for Eibner many project him to wind up on a corner. So in my mind Robinson still has a very real chance at being the long term solution for Kansas City in centerfield.

Due to a crowded projected outfield in Omaha I expect Robinson to return to Northwest Arkansas to start the 2011 season. However, if he can get off to a good start and some things break right for him and a spot in Omaha opens up he could find himself donning a Storm Chaser jersey sooner rather than later.

23. Tim Melville RHP

Tim Melville represents two major aspects in the change of draft philosophy in the Kansas City Royals. First: control the backyard. Melville attended high school at Wentzville Holt, which is located just outside St. Louis, Missouri. Second: draft the best player available and screw the slotting system. Melville was considered by most to be an upper first round draft choice when he entered his senior campaign. However, due to signability and a slightly disappointing season he fell like a rock on draft day. The Royals drafted him in the fourth round and agreed to pay him first round money and seven figures to join the organization. Victory.

Melville pitched extremely well in his first full season and nearly averaged a k per inning. In 2010, he was to head to Wilmington and many (myself included) expected him to dominate in the Carolina League circuit. He didn't.

His strikeout rate dipped just a bit, his walk rate increased just a bit, and his era shot up by a over a run. He pitched a couple of gems, but there were too many games in which he got hit way too hard. Overall the change in his peripherals don't really match up with the change in his era.

Melville pitches from a 3/4 arm slot and has a good projectable frame. He has fastball that sits in the low 90s that sometimes even hits 95 or 96. The problem that he tends to find is that he pitches to contact too much and doesn't effectively attack hitters. His curveball displays a 12-6 drop and could one day be a plus pitch and his change up lags behind, but could one day be an above average offering as well.

The only pitcher that got as good as reviews in instructional league as Melville was fellow local overslot product Jason Adam. The Royals have time to be very patient with Melville due to the pitching depth in the system, but his 2010 season was no reason to lose faith in the righty. He should return to Wilmington to begin 2011. Once again I expect him to post outstanding results.

22. Jarrod Dyson CF

In the same draft class that produced Derrick Robinson the Royals nabbed another speedster in the last round of the process: Jarrod Dyson. Despite being a college senior when drafted, Dyson has moved slowly through the Royals system. In 2010, as a twenty-five year old Dyson finally got his first cup of major league coffee.

His numbers weren't good, but during his brief stint he showed more power than he ever had in the minors, even hitting his second professional home run. His offensive output was disappointed but he did display why the Royals brass was so high on him despite his meager minor league numbers.

During his time in Kansas City Dyson stole safely in 9 out of 10 attempts and tied a Royals record for put outs in a single game. I am not sure that there is a better defensive outfielder in the entire organization and even if Dyson can't improve offensively he could find a bit of a career as a late game defensive replacement/pinch runner.

I like Dyson as a fourth outfielder. But at some point don't you have to hit to actually be considered a future starter? Ranking Dyson and Robinson was hard for me. I like Dyson's current abilities more and I believe that he is a more sure fire bet to have a major league career, because like I said he already has what it takes to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. But I believe that Robinson has shown more than Dyson with the stick and I wonder if in two years Robinson will be the same fielder that Dyson is.

In the end, I'm giving Dyson the nod, because he is closer and seems to be in more favor with the organization. I'd just like to see him hit some at the upper levels of the minors before the Royals hand him a starting job.

Dyson will see Kansas City at some point in 2011, although his future becomes a bit hazier with Lorenzo Cain in the fold. The Royals want both to start in Omaha and last I checked you typically only want 1 centerfielder at a time. With Dyson already proven in center they probably push him to left until Cain is promoted.

21. Louis Coleman RHP

When the Royals drafted Coleman in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, I decided to watch some of LSU's games in the college world series to get an early look at a prospect. Quickly Louis Coleman became a personal favorite as he guided LSU to a national title.
In college Coleman pitched primarily as a starter, but the Royals decided to make him into a reliever believing that the cross action of his delivery could be an extremely effective tool against right handed hitters. They were right.
Since he began his professional career the Royals have pushed Coleman up the ladder ad he has rewarded them with a 2.06 era in 113.2 innings pitched. He has averaged over a K an inning while giving up just 2.3 walks an inning. He has dominated.
Coleman has a low to mid 90s fastball, an above average slider in the low 80s, and lastly a changeup that could become an average offering. He has shown great command, but there are concerns that his delivery could be hard on his arm. This may be true but when a delivery is as deceptive as his is and such a critical part to a player's suggest there really isn't a reason to try and fix it. Hopefully by keeping Coleman in the pen the Royals can limit the stress on his arm and Coleman can continue to be a weapon.
Coleman has the opportunity to win a bullpen job out of camp, however given that he is not on the 40 man he will probably begin the season in Omaha. When he continues his success there he should be one of the first men promoted to the big league club in season. Coleman should one day join relief prospect Jeremy Jeffress, Patrick Keating, Tim Collins, and Blaine Hardy in what could be a lights out Royals bullpen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Whispers From Surprise 2/18/11

In an interview with Bob Fescoe, Ned Yost gave us the following thoughts:

  • Yost mentioned Mitch Maier, David Lough, and Jarrod Dyson as battling for reserve outfield spots. Then mentioned the obvious guys who are locked into the roster: Cabrerra, Francouer, and Gordon.
  • The only positions currently locked in are first, designated hitter, and shortstop.

  • The catcher position will be a battle until Kendall returns. The assumption here is that Kendall has the spot as soon as he is healthy.

  • Yost lists 10 guys competing for the rotation. He states that Hochevar, Davies, Chen and Francis are a step ahead, with Teaford, Duffy, Crow, O'Sullivan and Mazzaro looking in.

  • Five bullpen spots are up in the air. Power arms Jeffress, Keating, Collins and Coleman have looked sharp so far.

  • Duffy will get a real good luck and with injuries and/or inconsistency from guys ahead of him could sneak in.

  • Moustakas and Hosmer will get good looks in Spring but shouldn't be in Kansas City until the middle of the summer.
  • Pitcher and catcher are the spots that could most likely go to prospects.

And some other notes from the day's news.

  • Dayton Moore wants the pitchers to log about 400 minor league innings before reaching the majors. He says right now most are around 250.
  • Lucas May is back from his one day fever.
  • Kendall is now throwing at 65 feet and his began to hit off the tee.
  • Bianchi expects to be back in plenty of time to take part in the Cactus League games.
  • Manager Ned Yost plans to throw minor league free agent into the mix at thirdbase as well as outfield.

Thanks to Bob Fescoe and left of the foul pole. Also thanks to the Kansas City Star. I'm just doing my part to relay the message. The first intrasquad game is tomorrow and games against other teams are just around the corner. I can't wait.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whispers From Surprise 2/17/11

  • Royals have lowest payroll in baseball at $35 million. Second lowest is Rays at $41 million.
  • Royals have youngest Spring roster at an average of 25.7 years old. Second lowest are the Indians at 26.2 years old.
  • According to some in the organization "Perez is Sandy Alomar Jr., but better." Yost believes Perez to be major league ready.
  • Crow pitched well throwing live batting practice today. He continuously jammed hitters inside and even busted a bat.
  • Jeffress consistently was in triple digits on the gun. But it was his curveball that impressed Bob Fescoe as it came from virtually the same slot as the fastball.
  • Also according to Fescoe: Teaford looked filthy and broke multiple bats.
  • In an interview Dayton Moore said "it would be prudent to start (Hosmer) in AAA."
  • When asked about the excess payroll, Dayton Moore said "It will absolutely be used toward the future."
  • Dayton Moore prefers to develop starters as starters and not use the Major League bullpen as a development tool.
  • It wasn't until Milwaukee entered the Greinke discussions that the Royals found an outfielder that they truly coveted.
  • Dayton Moore expects 20-25 home runs from Gordon with a good on base, and good defense. He also expects strikeouts at the plate and compared him to Jason Kubel.
  • Yost favors Getz at second.
  • Aviles has continued to hit well in Spring, but is having difficulty turning double play.
  • Francouer is back to the same playing weight he had in his first two professional seasons.
  • Dayton Moore points to the team's athleticism as a reason for optimism. He expects that with it the team will play much better defense in 2011.
  • I have noticed that unlike in the past when the optimism seemed forced and cliche. There is a quiet confidence about the team. They aren't trying to convince people that they will contend. However, many have noted a change in the atmosphere. Dayton Moore described an energy level that hasn't existed in the past. He also stated that every player is at a point in their career when they have high incentive to perform.

This blog wouldn't be possible without the outstanding work by Bob Fescoe in Surprise, Arizona. Any Royals fan with twitter should follow him immediately.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Whispers from Spring Training

  • In Moustakas's first two BP sessions he homered to right field.
  • David Glass said that the Royals will never commit 300 million dollars to one player.
  • In one BP session Salvador Perez homered 4 out of the 8 pitches.
  • Yost believes that Perez could be in the majors in two seasons.
  • Some believe that within a year Perez will be a top 5 prospect in the organization. That says alot considered the strength of the system.
  • Royals scout Art Stewart said this is the best collection of arms he has seen in a Royals camp in 42 years.
  • Art Stewart also said that this is the best young talent the Royals have ever had including the George Brett era.
  • In a single batting practice session today Eric Hosmer homered to left, center, and then right field.
  • Lucas May left camp today due to a 100 degree temperature.
  • Jason Kendall is way ahead of schedule and his goal is to be ready for opening day. He is throwing at about 35-40 feet now.
  • Clint Robinson hit a 450 homer today that was only knocked out of orbit when it collied with a scoreboard for a neighboring field.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of mlbtraderumors said that the Royals and Yu Darvish seem like a fit. I agree. Darvish will cost a lot of money but a lot of the will be in the posting fee. Basically this could be viewed as a major signing bonus enabling the Royals to front load their investment. Something they couldn't do if they invest a similar amount of money in the free agent market.
  • Oh and according to Bob Fescoe top Royals officials do believe the team would be in on the Pujols bidding in some capacity. In my opinion the Royals could be a serious player if they were offered a hometown discount. If they have to put the most money on the table I cannot see it happening.

That's all I've got for now, special thanks to Bob Fescoe who is doing an incredible job tweeting from Arizona. Jump on the bandwagon now, while it is still cool.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day and My True Love

Today is the day. The day that I can finally express my true love. The day that after months my love will finally come back to me. Today is Valentine's day, but fortunately my love isn't going to judge me for the amount of money I spent for a present, or for the flowers and chocolates that I bought her. My love actually happens to be a really easy date. Even if I don't act like I care she will still be there. Doing her thing, trying to get my attention.

It has been a long winter and I missed my love alot. There are things that I could do to ease my pain and believe me they help alot. Over the winter I would often lay in my bed and think about my love, imagining and then dreaming about what the future had in store for the two of us. Often just the thoughts were enough to give me goosebumps.

I could count on the boxscores of the Arizona Fall League, and the thrill of the winter meetings to satisfy my offseason lust. I even experienced some jealousy when seemingly everyone was falling in love with the future of team. By now of course you realize that I am in love with baseball, and more specifically the Kansas City Royals

What can women do when they go away? A love letter? A text message? A phone call to say I miss you? I mean I guess those things have a value. But I want something that shows me that they still are working hard to impress me. I got this when the Royals were represented so well in the Arizona Fall League all star game. I got more of this when the Royals had a flurry of offseason moves, that for once showed a maturity. My love had made mistakes in the past, but she wasn't going to make them again.

I wasn't always so madly in love with the Royals. It started with some flirting. I admit that falling in love was inevitable. My father always was sure to put the two of us near eachother. It was a bit set up. But now I don't mind so much. As a child I would watch highlights of the 1985 World Series and would even defend my love when jealous types would taunt me about a certain moment when she was granted an opportunity that she didn't deserve. I didn't care, because I knew that she had to take advantage for it to matter anyway. It isn't her fault that the Cardinals failed to show up in game 7.

I remember our first kiss even. It was a clear April evening in 2003, with the Royals in first place. The Royals were deadlocked in a battle with the Detroit Tigers and in the bottom of 11th Ken Harvey stepped to the plate. What happened next was a moment I will never forget. I leaned in close and instead of closing my eyes I snuck a peak. She was beautiful there in the night. The white dot of the ball soaring through the darkness. At that moment I knew it was destiny. There is no game-over feeling like that first live walk off homer.

Sure we have had our rough patches, all couples do. There have also been stretches when I was even unattracted to my love, take the entire Buddy Bell era for instance. But I'm sure most guys can say the same about their significant others. Sometimes they get a bad haircut, or gain some weight. But the beauty of the Royals is that I'll keep getting older and they will stay the same age, because unlike women a baseball team doesn't become complacement with the product.

You see a relationship with a baseball team never stagnates like relationships with women. Relationships with women often grow old and boring, but with baseball every spring is going to offer that kick-in-the-gut optimistic feeling that this time its going to be different. What relationship with a woman can do that?

Women can't change who they are. They are either a woman that is conservative or liberal. They are a woman that makes you a sandwich or asks for a sandwich. They are a woman that is willing to round the bases or a woman that isn't. But in the end they aren't going to change who they are.

When you fall head over heels in love with a baseball team and decide that you are going to wear they're merchandise and write about them on the internet, this is considered to be totally normal behavior. But if you fall in love with a woman and you start wearing clothing with her name and face on the front, or start blogging about her you are probably going to be slapped with a restraining order. There is also a good chance that your words will be used against you a court of law.

Look at superfan Chris for instance he followed his love around all summer long and even wore tickets around his neck, he would be looking at jail time had the Royals been an attractive woman. Fortunately for Chris though, the Royals are an unattractive baseball team and he is applauded by the organization for his fanhood.

Or look at Royal Man. You think in any other situation his lover would accept him wearing a cape and spandex on every date? I don't. Luckily though like myself he is in love with the Kansas City Royals. Like Chris the organization is proud to have fans like him.

Perhaps you aren't as obsessive as Chris or Royal Man and you would like to play the field. A baseball team is fine with having you as part of an open relationship. "Go ahead and watch the Tigers or White Sox play we don't mind." What girl would grant guys that opportunity? In the end guys are allowed to look for other opportunities without ruining the one at hand.

Really even when your team goes through stretches when they do everything in their power to piss you off, it is nothing in comparison to those stretches that woman tend to go through once a month. At least when your favorite team goes on a losing streak you still get to see some action. Maybe not a lot of home runs, but they will at least hit singles, doubles, and some occasional triples.

All winter long I have been dreaming about the future, but I have realized that I don't have to wait for the future to enjoy what I have now. It is true that it will probably be a few years until the ring is slipped on to my love's finger, but from now until then I know that we will be building for that moment.

I shouldn't take these times for granted, because some day we will look back and think about how critical of a moment that decision was. Or how awesome it was when my love presented me with Mike Moustakas's first home run. Or Danny Duffy's first win. Or Lorenzo Cain's first steal as a Royal. These are the moments we live for and I couldn't be more excited about what is to come.

It all starts today, on Valentine's Day. Pitchers and catchers report. There is no turning back now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 30-26

We continue with our top prospect countdown. Keep in mind that I am not a scout, so I use statistical data, and scouting reports from various publications for my information. Some of these players I have seen play, specifically guys that played in Northwest Arkansas last season.

30. Blaine Hardy LHP

Blaine Hardy first caught my attention when in 2009, when he was one of the most consistent pitchers on the Burlington Bees staff. The Royals obviously impressed by Hardy, elected to push him past Wilmington and straight into the Northwest Arkansas bullpen for 2010.

While in Springdale I was able to see Hardy first hand on several occasions and during the early part of the season it became apparent that he was the top option that manager Brian Poldberg had in his bullpen. According to my research during his time with the Naturals not only did he post an era of 0.69, but he also didn't allow a single inherited runner to score, which could be in part due to a very strong pickoff move. The Royals took notice.

After just 26 innings Hardy was granted a promotion to Omaha, there he continued to pitch in the bullpen until the end of the season when he was asked to fill in for the Omaha rotation. Once there he continued to dazzle and wound up posting a 3.49 era in his time at the highest level of minor league competition.

Hardy was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft. He has a high 80s fastball with a good slider and curveball. He has good command so he controls the plate during his time in the game. Even though he pitched well as a member of the Omaha rotation, I don't believe that his future lies in the rotation and I see him as a middle relief arm. Nonetheless I believe he is major league ready and with a strong showing in Spring and in the early part of the season he should be in Kansas City sooner rather than later.

29. Jeff Bianchi SS

After finally putting together a healthy season long campaign in 2009 and posting solid offensive numbers and adding a decent year with the glove there was a hope among Royals fans that with a strong Spring Bianchi could force Yu-nasty out of the shortstop spot with the big league club. However, Bianchi suffered a season ending injury just as Spring Training began.

With the tommy john surgery people say that it takes about a year recovery. However, with Aviles we found that it takes more like fifteen months until the player is performing back at his previous level. With this in mind it is unlikely that Bianchi will be fully recovered in time to win a major league job out of camp.

Obviously with the newly acquired Escobar and Colon behind him in case Escobar falters, Bianchi will probably never be granted an opportunity to be an everyday shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. However, I think he would have been stretched a bit as a regular. But I do believe that he could be a top notch utility man down the line.

Bianchi has the defensive tools to be able to play both middle infield positions. Plus with a little work in Omaha I could see him playing a strong third and maybe even be a serviceable player in the outfield. Basically I believe that Bianchi could offer Willie Bloomquist type versatility with a much stronger bat. A player that other team's fan bases look at as a potential trade target because he "isn't being given a fair opportunity on the Royals bench."

Good teams become great teams due to players in that mold and I can see Bianchi being that type of player for the Kansas City Royals.

28. Will Smith LHP

When the Royals acquired Will Smith he wasn't an overly exciting piece from a superficial standpoint, but upon review of his development pattern, two thoughts occured. First, what the hell are the Angels doing? Second, this guy has a bit of potential. At the time we were told his potential was as a back of the rotation starter. But I am going to even go as high as saying that Smith could even one day find himself as a quality #3 at the big league level. (Upon saying that even I thought that I was an idiot, but I'm going to stick with it and if I eat my words later it won't be for going with the grain.)

Smith began the season in the California League, but after some injuries caused the Angels to shift around some pitchers he found himself first in double-A Arkansas, then in triple-A Salt Lake City. At the time he was dealt he hadn't found much success. But the Royals realized what needed to be done and they sent him to Wilmington to find himself.

Upon finally getting some consistent time in High-A the level he should have been the entire time, Smith found his stride. In Wilmington he strike out rate jumped and his walk rate disappeared. Then at the end of the season when the organization was attempting to limit innings on some of the other arms, Smith was called upon to make a couple of playoff starts for the Naturals.

Smith commented at one point as saying he felt totally at home with the group and his numbers would indicate such. Which has become a theme for prospects in that group. Perhaps it is good leadership, or good coaching, or a good atmosphere. Whatever it is prospects are feeding off one another in Kansas City's system right now.

Smith pitched extremely well in the playoffs for the Naturals including garnering the final win that crowned the team champions of the Texas League. Smith has a fastball that hovers around 90 mph with a good curveball that I have read could be a plus pitch. However, his changeup is way behind. If he can turn that change into an average offering he should be ready to go. His command is strong and he pounds the strikezone hard.

Smith hasn't done enough to join the Duffy, Dwyer, Lamb, Montgomery group yet. But him and a few others in the system could do that with a strong 2011 campaing. Smith should begin the 2011 season in the Naturals rotation.

27. Tyler Sample RHP

Tyler Sample was disappointing in 2010. After a good season in 2009 and displaying flashes of improved control, it all fell apart in his first trip to full season ball. Tyler Sample has tremendous upside but there is a strong risk that he flames out before he even makes it into the high minors.

At 6-9 Sample has a massive frame that allows him to dial up his fastball into the mid 90s on a consistent basis. He also has a knucklecuve that at times can be just as devastating. His change lags far behind, and his control is obviously a major concern. Hopefully if he can just become average in this regard his stuff will be dominate enough to carry him into a big league rotation where he can hopefully limit hits against him while logging 200 innings.

If he can't develop the control as a starter the Royals could always give him a shot at reliever. There his stuff could continue to play at a high level and perhaps even in short stints his control can improve. I'm not sure how I feel about Sample. If I was a betting man I'd stay away, but with his upside I feel compelled to continue to put him in the top 30. I expect Sample to start the year in Kane County and hopefully the improved environment can help him find himself.

26. Paulo Orlando OF

Paulo Orlando. Maybe it is because of the way his name was called on the Naturals PA, maybe it was because of his walk up song, maybe it was because of his attempt to be the first Brazilian in the Major Leagues, maybe it is because of his tools, maybe it is because when I watch him I imagine him being this team's Willie Wilson. Whatever the reason Paulo Orlando is one of my personal favorite prospects in the entire organization.

Orlando was formerly a track star in Brazil before he pursued a career in professional baseball. His speed translates to the baseball diamond, not as eye opening speed from home to first, but primarily when he glides into third for a triple or scores from second on a line drive to the rightfielder. I say glide because when Orlando runs it is extremely effortless and doesn't look too high energy, think Willie Wilson/B.J. Upton.

But Orlando has always had his speed, his glove, and his hose. But this season in Springdale he showed two other tools some power with a .480 slug and some contact by hitting over .300 for the first time in his career. His plate discipline is going to need to continue to improve, but he made major strides in the 2010 season.

Throughout his time in the Royals organization Orlando has been playing along side Derrick Robinson and sometimes Jarrod Dyson. Due to this he hadn't been given too many opportunities in centerfield. However, when he started hitting home runs Poldberg was instructed by the organization to play Orlando in centerfield multiple times a week.

I believe that his bat plays better in centerfield but if he plays left he would give the Royals a top notch defensive leftfielder. He is a bit old in age but in baseball experience he is young. Due to this he should continue to develop as he gets reps. I think he will split time between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha this season, and I am going to predict a 20/20 year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Royals Sign Pedro Feliz

This morning the Royals stole the spotlight away from the Chiefs offensive coordinator signing with a signing of their own when they signed thirty-five year old veteran Pedro Feliz to a minor league deal. (Just kidding). Feliz has a reputation as a premium defender at the hot corner. However, after his uzr regressed in each of the las four straight seasons it finally came in at a below average mark for the first time in 2010 at -4.9.

Hopefully, Feliz's defensive woes last season were just an abberation and not reflective of his current fielding abilities. Quite honestly if that isn't the case I can't imagine Feliz having any value at all. Even if his defensive abilties have returned the most I could handle out of Feliz on the roster would be as a late inning defensive replacement at third and first.

As far as Feliz's bat is concerned, well he did hit for 20+ homers from 2004-2007. But of course in that same time period he broke the .300 obp plateau just once. In fact his career on base percentage comes in at paltry .288. But it wouldn't shock me if at some point this season we see Francouer and Feliz hitting 5th and 6th in the lineup.

...and I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

By channeling my inner optimism and by giving the signing the benefit of the doubt I can rationalize that the signing was made as an insurance policy to Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles. As I see it one of the two will be starting at third and the other will be serving as a utility man. With the Feliz signing should one of the two of them go down to injury the Royals can have a back up plan to fill that reserve role.

There is a small value to this just ask Mark Teahen. As some of you may recall the Royals signed Chris Truby in the offseason prior to the 2005 season and planned to use him to fill in the third base spot until Mark Teahen was ready for his big league debut. Heading into the season Teahen had played in 86 games at the triple A level, but it was apparent that the organization did not feel he was ready and would have been wise to manipulate his service just a bit by having him begin the season in Omaha.

Then disaster struck and Chris Truby went down to injury in Spring, leaving Mark Teahen as the only option at third base to begin the year. Teahen began the year in Kansas City and went on to post an OPS of .685. One is only left to imagine the kind of damage that Chris Truby would have done had he stayed healthy for the Royals in 2005. What could have been...

The other thing that the Feliz signing could mean is that the Royals could be active in the trade market come Spring, or that they could want to have the flexibility to be active in the trade market in Spring. With the addition of Feliz, should a team lose their second or thirdbaseman to injury in Spring the Royals could matchup as a trading partner by offering either Aviles or Betemit. Both of whom would be considered very appealing commodities to a team in desperate need of a viable option heading into the season.

I am not a fan of Feliz. The only way I would be able to put up with him being on the roster and earning his 800K would be if it is only as a late inning defensive replacement. But I can also see the rationale by acquiring a bit of depth and securing some insurance to Betemit and Aviles. I do believe it is important that the Royals give Moustakas more triple A at bats, and even if he is ready service time is of the utmost importance. So I guess if Feliz can help the Royals in that regard I will have to put up with the signing.

It is important to remember that it is just a minor league deal with a non roster invite. So even though I am not a fan of Feliz, any positives that can be found make the deal worthwhile. Also, with next to no other options available on the free agent market for third base it would seem that it would be better to be ahead of the game then to be left scrambling should an injury occur.

*On a side note if the Royals could have signed Wily Aybar (the only other real option in my mind) to the same deal I would have without a doubt preferred that option.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Time to Reinvest: Royals Sign Castillo

Yesterday the Royals spent a little bit of money (300K) to sign Dominican righty Darwin Castillo. Now reports state that Castillo is eighteen years old and throws between 88-92 mph. Castillo is also 6-5, 215 lbs and seems to have an easy repeatable delivery, that can be seen via youtube if you search his name.

Given his age, frame and delivery it isn't out of the question to expect that Castillo could add a few miles per hour to his delivery in the future. I love this kind of move for the Royals and it is the second time this offseason that they have signed a righty out of the Dominican Prospect League.

My hope is that with the Gil Meche contract coming off the books for the 2011 season, the Royals will be extremely active in Latin America this year and that this is only the beginning.