Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where We Stand

So with the addition of Bruce Chen and the obviousness that Aaron Crow is expected to be given every opportunity to transition into the rotation, here is where we stand:

Luke Hochevar
Jonathan Sanchez
Bruce Chen
Felipe Paulino
Danny Duffy
Aaron Crow
Mike Montgomery

Here is a scenario that I could envision playing out. The first four guys on this list make the club out of Spring Training. The last three on the list compete all Spring for the final rotation spot and when it comes time to break camp are all assigned to Omaha.

There are several reasons for this..

1. A fifth starter spot will not be needed until early to mid May. I saw the exact date a couple of weeks ago, but I remember being a bit surprised how far into the season it actually was. I don't think you really can bring them allow as a swing man for a month before they start, so this would be a factor in only having the 5th starter go to Omaha. If they do elect to have a swing man look for either Duffy, Crow, or Monty to be in the rotation from the start and Paulino to be the guy

2. Also, by sending the last three guys on the above list to Omaha, the Royals will gain an extra month to evaluate which belongs in the rotation. Each of the three are young, and each have options. Not to mention that all three of the young arms still need to prove themselves at that level before a shot. Monty struggled in Omaha last year, and the Royals need all the evaluation for Crow that they can get.

Obviously, whether or not Crow can get out Pacific Coast League hitters will not show us definitively if he can start in the Majors, it will give us more information. Better to go off of that than Crow's results in Spring Training, at least the games in Omaha would be competitive.

3. Finally, the Royals could use the extra month and a half as a way to manipulate the service time of the three pitchers. Duffy is going to be right around the Super Two cutoff now. Crow could gain a year under team control if he spends about a month and a half in Omaha.

If all three pitchers perform well in Omaha, the Royals will have a great problem on their hands. One can join the rotation when the fifth starter is needed, and the other two can await an open spot due to injury or poor performance as they continue to hone their craft at the minor league level.

It is very possible that Duffy, Crow or Monty could emerge as one of the top starters on the team in Spring. I want to be clear that I'm not advocating for the Royals to not put the best team on the field. In fact I'm not really lobbying for this plan at all, I am just presenting it as a scenario in which I believe things could play out this Spring.

PS. I know that didn't mention Everett Teaford here. I think Teaford should be given every opportunity to win a rotation spot as well. But I think he could best serve this team as a swing man.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Royals Shock World; Sign Broxton

Granted the title of this post might be slightly exaggerated. However, I think that most within the industry are shocked by this Royals acquisition. As we have seen early on the closer market has been particularly harsh on team's looking to upgrade their closer position. Sure there are several quality options, but those guys are going to cost teams some major cash.

What is shocking is that for several teams Jonathan Broxton was likely an extremely appealing option. For the first four seasons of his career he was a dominating reliever, in 2010 he suffered some hard luck and had an inflated ERA and then in 2011 Broxton spent most of the year on the disabled list. For a team like the Rays, I thought Broxton was a great opportunity to buy low a guy with back end experience.

From a Royals perspective I hadn't even given Broxton much thought. Even after trading for Jonathan Sanchez and signing Bruce Chen the Royals clearly need an upgrade to their rotation before they become a trendy pick to win the AL Central. I expected the Royals to bring in a bench piece or hopefully extend Gordon before Spring Training, but I didn't expect anything of value on the Bullpen front.

Apparently though Dayton Moore, like myself, believes in the philosophy of always needing another arm for the bullpen. Given the inconsistency of even the top relief pitchers in baseball, I'm glad this is the case. Not to mention the Royals could be in need of another arm should Aaron Crow make a smooth transition to the rotation as the Royals are hoping.

*I'm not suggesting that the Royals weren't already planning to move Crow to rotation, but adding a bullpen arm definitely makes loss of Crow in bullpen less of a deterrent.)

Of course there is a train of thought among Royals' fans that makes the Broxton acquisition even more exciting. The Royals added Broxton to fill the role that is about to be vacated when they deal Joakim Soria.

I admit that it seems a little more than coincidental that one night a Toronto Sports writer reports that the Royals are interested in Colby Rasmus, and then the next day the Royals sign Jonathan Broxton. Of course the Blue Jays have also been pretty clear that they are interesting in acquiring a closer. Do I expect a trade to occur? No, but it definitely is fun to speculate.

For now I want to leave it at this, the Royals have improved a strength. The rumor is that they were unhappy with the free agent market for starting pitchers and instead opted to improve what was already shaping to be one of the top bullpens in baseball.

I definitely find it odd that a team in the Royals position will be paying 25% of their payroll to two guys at the back of their bullpen ($6 mill for Soria, $4 mill plus $1 mill in incentives for Broxton), but if Aaron Crow transitions to the rotation as we all hope it will be nice for the bullpen to not be an arm down.

Now Dayton Moore has made it clear that Broxton was brought in to set up Joakim Soria in 2012. I am aware of this, but let's not be naive. Whether or not Moore is planning on dealing Soria, he is going to make this comment. Moore isn't going to say that yes he plans on trading Soria. Get real. Moore's comments on the subject at this point really are meaningless in whether or not you believe the Royals will trade Soria.

Now if you still are someone that believes Dayton Moore's words are the truth, consider that maybe Broxton will be setting up for Soria in 2012. So what happens to the Royals set up men? Crow could be in the rotation, but what about Holland? I could imagine Holland gaining quite a bit of interest in other teams (edit: I just read the Blue Jays are interested in Holland.)

I like the Broxton move. I realize that the bullpen is the least of the Royals concerns this offseason. However, I like the idea of fortifying a strength just in case. The move opens up a lot of options for the Royals and gives them more depth in case Crow and/or another bullpen arm transition to the rotation. There's no such thing as a bad one year deal and $4 million for Broxton isn't going to change my mind even if he doesn't come back from his 2011 injury.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #42 Adalberto Mondesi

#42 Adalberto Mondesi

Position: SS
Age: 16
Height: 5-11
Weight: 160
B/T: S/R
Acquired: Signed as Intl Free Agent on 7/27/11

The Royals have made a habit of signing slender defensive minded shortstops out of the Dominican over the past couple of seasons. This is a habit that I fully endorse. However, I expect that with the cap now instituted for International Amateurs this habit will change. I still anticipate the signings of players similar to Adalberto Mondesi's ability and projection, but I suspect he is the exact kind of player whose bonus will be greatly suppressed by the new rules.

Mondesi is so skinny that it is clear his body won't push him out of the shortstop position. According to Baseball America Mondesi is a good runner with an average arm. Of course needless to say Mondesi has strong bloodlines, being the son of former Major Leaguer Raul Mondesi.

For those of you familiar with the development of Latin American prospects, the transition to American life and culture is often a pivotal step. Because Mondesi comes from the family that he does, he already has an advantage over his peers in this regard.

I expect Mondesi to be assigned to the Arizona League Royals after spending the early summer months in the warm environment of extended Spring Training.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On the Market: Rich Harden

Dayton Moore stated after signing Bruce Chen that the Royals were hoping to acquire another starter before the end of the offseason. If the Royals do that I will feel much more comfortable with the Royals decision to bring back the reigning Royals pitcher of the year Bruce Chen. Let me continue by stating that I don't want Rich Harden to be that "one more starter." I simply think that if the Royals can take a flyer on a guy, he would be a great guy to grab one on.

First, we need to establish that Rich Harden will qualify as a flyer type of guy in 2012. Based off his 2011, performance I can't see his value increasing for 2011. Considering he only made $1.5 million last season as an Oakland Athletic he should be in a very low cost range. If the I could nab Harden for anything less than what he made last season, I do it in a heartbeat.

Yes, I know that in the past two seasons Harden has made only 33 starts and has posted a 5.36 era in 174.2 innings. But if you look deeper into his 2011, numbers there are signs that he was returning to pre-2010 form.

On the most basic level, Harden's fastball velocity rose 1.2 mph, after it dropped 1.6 mph the year before. Given that Harden has always relied heavily on just a two pitch mix, I suspect that this return of velocity was a strong factor in Harden's K/9 rising from 7.3 in 2010 to 9.9 in 2011. (Harden's K/9 prior to 2010 was 9.4.)

On a deeper level we find that Harden's swinging strike percentage which came in at just 7.7% in 2010, jumped up to 12% in 2012. Harden's contact percentage which was 82% in 2010 dropped off to 72% for 2011. In short I think it is pretty obvious that Harden, while not entirely regaining his pre-2010 form in 2011, was much more similar that version of himself than the 2010 version.

Of course the big problem for Harden in 2011, was his growing inability to keep the ball out of the air. The Coliseum historically has suppressed offensive output, thanks in large part to it's incredibly huge foul grounds, but in terms of suppressing home run totals, it doesn't work as well as The K. Harden's HR/9 has climbed considerably over the past several seasons, but if The K could mitigate Harden's home run totals he could take a huge step toward performing closer to his xFIP than his ERA.

By the way in 2011, Harden's xFIP came in at 3.68, considerably lower than his ERA of 5.12. I'm not guaranteeing that Rich Harden is going to rebound back to pre-2010 form in 2012. But for a flyer he would definitely appear to be worth the risk in my mind.

Obviously the white elephant in the room is Harden's propensity to spend large portions of the season on the disable list. This weighs into the risk, but in all seriousness Harden wouldn't even be an option here if he was a guy that could keep himself healthy.

Despite starting just 15 games in 2011 for the Athletics, Harden was able to net the team $2 million in value according to Fangraphs. Even if the Royals were only able to get 15-20 starts out of Harden in 2012, if those starters were of the same quality as his starts in 2011 the Royals would get more than fair value.

Also, even if the Royals' hand was forced, due to Mike Montgomery or Jake Odorizzi the Royals could deal Harden at the deadline for a prospect. Given his low salary I am sure there would be plenty of interested teams. If Harden doesn't perform it would be very simple to just cut ties at midseason or give him an opportunity to reestablish himself in the bullpen.

(Actually, given Harden's two pitch mix and injury history, it might not be a bad gamble for some teams to sign Harden just for the purpose of trying him in the bullpen.)

I doubt the Royals take the chance on Harden, and like I said if this was the only other pitching addition the Royals make in the offseason it will be disappointing. However, as an extra arm the rewards for Harden could be great, especially when you consider how weak the rotation is. Good teams have depth, it isn't a coincidence that the last two teams Harden has signed with were Texas, and Oakland. Two teams that have quality rotations already saw the potential reward in Harden, why wouldn't a team desperate for pitching take a shot? Why not?

Prospect Countdown: #43 Daniel Mateo

#43 Daniel Mateo

Position: 2B
Age: 20
Height: 6-1
Weight: 178
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent
From: San Cristobal, Dominican Republic

Daniel Mateo makes the list thanks to being arguably the most consistent hitter on the Idaho Falls roster for 2011. Mateo unlike many other mashers in the Pioneer League isn't a college graduate, instead he was a teenager just a couple of years out of the Dominican.

Now I should mention that Mateo's BABIP came in at a lofty .412. This sounds ridiculously high. But when you find that the league average BABIP was .345 and that Mateo's line drive percentage was higher than league average his BABIP doesn't sound nearly as insane.

Actually there is also the issue that only 11% of Mateo's flyballs left the yard in 2011, which doesn't compare favorably to the league average percentage of just over 14%. Basically when looking at the numbers I would have expected Mateo's batting average to be slightly lower in 2011, with his home run total and slugging percentage to have been just a tick higher.

Mateo has spent the most time as a shortstop, but I see the Royals shifting him to second. I have read reports that his defense is average at short, but if the Royals do move him to the opposite side of the bag, his defense should play up.

Mateo should get an opportunity to be the starting second baseman for Kane County in 2012. If he struggles he could be pulled out of the league and return to Idaho Falls when short season ball picks up. If he hits the ground running and continues to hit, he could shoot up these rankings.

Picture credit Idaho Falls Chukars' team website.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #44 Michael Mariot

#44 Michael Mariot

Position: RHP
Age: 23
Height: 6-0
Weight: 190
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted 8th Round of 2010 Amateur Draft
From: Southlake, Texas

Mariot features a fastball that prior to the draft was believed to be a potential plus pitch by Perfect Game USA. He throws it in the low to mid 90s while exhibiting good command. Mariot also throws a change, slider, and curve that at times are average to above average offerings.

The Royals liked the Nebraska #1 entering the 2010 draft and informed him that they were planning on drafting him between the 4th and 6th rounds. For some reason this didn't happen, but the Royals must have been thrilled when Mariot was still available in round eight.

Originally I viewed Mariot as a relief option, however, for most of the season in Wilmington he was developed more like a starter. Don't be deceived by only 9 of his appearances coming in starts, because for most of the season he piggy backed with Noel Arguelles, coming in after Arguelles reached his pitch limit.

Especially comforting with Mariot is his quality command. In Wilmington Mariot walked just 1.88 per 9 innings, which compares extremely favorably with the league average of 3.21. Mariot maintained such a low BB/9 while posting quality strikeout numbers all season long. Thanks to these numbers opposing hitters only were able to post a .248/.288/.386 slash against him.

I expect Mariot to open the 2012 season in Northwest Arkansas. I'd like to see him continue to be developed as a starter, but I still see his future in middle relief.

Picture credit to Wilmington Blue Rocks' team website.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Royals resign Chen

SI's Jon Heyman reports that the Royals have signed Bruce Chen to a two year deal worth $9 million guaranteed, with up to $1 million in incentives and up to $1 million in roster bonuses. I have heard that the report is premature, but I tend to believe it is probably correct.

I have several issues with this signing, the first of which is time. Why are the Royals making this deal with so many pitchers still on the market? Why not wait and see if the market forces Chen or another option to take less than they were hoping for. If the Royals were afraid that Chen would be signed soon, oh well, take the pick and smile.

To me your evaluation of Chen as a pitcher hinges on what type of fan you are. Do you value ERA? Or do you evaluate Chen based on his xFIP? Personally I think that when reviewing a season xFIP doesn't really matter, because luck is part of the game. However, when using one season's statistics to look toward the future I believe the more advanced statistics are way better than the crudeness of ERA.

For the past two seasons Chen has been the top starter to wear a Royals uniform. In that time he has also developed a cult following thanks to the work of Will Ferrell and company. For some fans this alone seems to raise Chen's value, but I digress.

Now in the KC Star Dayton Moore suggested that the club would still like to add two starters. If the team did this they would have a rotation of Hochevar, Sanchez, Chen, Paulino and the free agent. Meaning Duffy could begin the season in Omaha to ensure he misses Super Two and to allow him to develop just a little bit more. Eventually one of those starters falters or gets hurt and luckily you have depth.

I am all for depth., but guaranteeing $9 million to Chen doesn't seem like a depth move. It seems like a scared move. As in the Royals are scared they will miss out on other targets and won't have the security of Bruce Chen once the time comes.

Personally, Chen was my final back up plan. If all else failed, I would have loved to see the Royals bring back Chen. Especially if the deal could have been for one year, with some sort of option for the second. I would have been all for that deal. But promising Bruce Chen two years when there are so many other options out there seems silly to me.

Even if you don't believe that the Royals have other options on the free agent market, surely you can admit that there are several internal options that could be just as strong as Chen (Montgomery, Crow, Teaford). If you look to the 2013 season you may be able to throw several more starters into the mix as better options.

For me Jeff Francis would have been a better option to return to Kansas City next season. I see 2011, as similar seasons between Francis and Chen. Both are projected to post a 4.22 ERA by Bill James in 2012. But James also projects Francis to post a significantly stronger FIP, a prediction that would strongly resemble what happened in 2011, when Francis despite having an ERA nearly a full run higher than Francis, showed stronger peripheral numbers.

In the end, with the pitchers being so similar, I would have preferred Francis for the simple fact that Chen leaving would bring the Royals a draft pick. Surely that counts for something right? To me if the pitchers pitch the same in 2012 as they did 2011, it is a no brainer that Francis and a draft pick would be the more appealing option.

At this point we can't know what Francis will sign for, but early indications are that he will receive a similar deal for 2012 that he got for 2011. If Francis could have been had on a one year offer this becomes an even more obvious decision.

There are some pitchers that are able to consistently outperform their FIP, and I do think that Chen could be one of those guys. For the past two seasons he has carved out a Jamie Moyer kind of career. I wouldn't be shocked if Chen continued this trend. But personally I'm not confident enough in these odds to wager a two year, $9 million commitment.

There is also the issue of durability. For a long time you could pencil Jamie Moyer for right around 200 innings pitched. Even in 2009, when this figure dropped to 162, it would have been the second highest of Bruce Chen's career. If I knew I could count on Chen to log 200 innings I'd feel much more optimistic about this deal. But instead Chen hasn't made over 25 starts in either of the last two seasons.

Look around the Royals' rotation. Who is eating innings and protecting the bullpen? Hochevar has proven to be a bit injury prone over the last couple of seasons. Paulino has never logged over 140 Big League innings. Jonathan Sanchez battled injuries for most of 2011. Danny Duffy is a young arm that probably isn't ready to jump over 200 innings.

Let's hope Dayton Moore is serious when he talks about bringing in another starter, because for in my opinion this team will definitely need it at some point. But if you do bring in another free agent starter you basically assure yourself that Aaron Crow and/or Everett Teaford won't be shifting to the rotation and that Mike Montgomery won't be winning a spot in the rotation with a spectacular Spring.

The Royals rotation is probably stronger today than it was yesterday. But is it stronger than it was in 2011? Not in my opinion. Chen outperformed his peripherals, given this and his position on the aging curve regression should be expected. If he regresses at all the Royals rotation doesn't improve because of this deal.

Ultimately it isn't a horrible deal, but it isn't suave either. It is a deal that makes me feel uneasy. I hope that Chen continues to find the fountain of youth and can continue to defy the numbers and post quality seasons. If he does it is hard to argue with bring back the reigning Royals pitcher of the year for just $9 million guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Draft Lottery

With the newest CBA, Major League Baseball will be instituting the first ever draft lottery. According to the terms the bottom ten teams in revenue and in market size will be placed in a lottery with chances that directly correspond with their winning percentage from the previous season. The lottery will then award 6 teams draft picks following the first round and then six teams with picks after the second round.

So here is a look at the bottom ten teams for market size:

30. Milwaukee 1.55 mill
29. Kansas City 2.03 mill
28. Cleveland 2.07 mill
27. Cincinnati 2.13 mill
26. Pittsburgh 2.35 mill
25. Denver 2.54 mill
24. Baltimore 2.71 mill
23. Tampa Bay 2.78 mill
22. St. Louis 2.81 mill
21. San Diego 3.09 mill
Cut Off
20. Minnesota 3.31 mill
19. Seattle 3.43 mill

Figures based on 2010 Census.

Here are the rankings I found for team revenues. These rankings came from Forbes. Estimates are from 2010 season.

30. Florida $143 mill
29. San Diego $159 mill
t27. Pittsburgh $160 mill
t27. Kansas City $160 mill
26. Oakland $161 mill
25. Tampa Bay $166 mill
t23. Toronto $168 mill
t23. Cleveland $168 mill
22. Baltimore $175 mill
t20. Cincinnati $179 mill
t20. Milwaukee $179 mill
Cut Off
19. Arizona $180 mill
18. Colorado $188 mill

I think from the above figures it is safe to say that the Royals will find themselves with at least a shot in the lottery in every season. I am not sure if being on both lists doubles your chances, but odds are that if the Royals start winning they would find themselves near the cut off of the revenue side. If the Royals were to win consistently I think they would totally drop off that list. (I realize this would be a good thing.)

Some people may feel cheap by the free pick based on market size, but I definitely don't. I'm looking forward to the extra opportunity in coming drafts.

Crappy Bargaining Agreement

The new CBA was finally announced today, and while I am thankful that baseball won't have any labor issues like basketball and football have had in the past calendar year, I side with many in my sentiment that the decisions made could have even greater repercussions. Let's break this thing down. The CBA details can be found here.

Scheduling, Realignment, and Postseason Play

* Addition of wildcard team for each league.

First, the addition of a second wildcard. According to espn, Commissioner Selig will have the option to implement this into either the 2012 season and if he does not it will be in effect for 2013. At first I was against this idea. I hated the idea that after a full season's worth of games, one game would determine which of two teams would advance into the second round. I imagined a team winning 95 games and falling just short of a divisional title losing to a team with 87 wins, that barely won the second wild card. I thought the idea of this happening was ludicrous.

But then I thought about it a little more. Imagine the excitement of the last day of the regular season in 2011, occurring every year to kick off the postseason. This year I imagine that I wasn't alone in feeling like much of the postseason buzz was a result of such an awesome regular season finale.

I like how the addition of a second wild card places more emphasis on divisional championships. Not only will wild cards now have to win an additional game to reach the World Series, but they will also have to burn up an additional games worth of pitching before they get to face a division champ.

* Astros will shift to AL West.
* Interleague games scheduled year round.

I think it was a given that eventually baseball would realign or expand in order to make the two leagues even. If I were an Astros fan I'd be pretty pissed about this whole thing and as a baseball fan I can't say that I am happy that there will be interleague baseball all season long. For teams with a battle on DH that plays heavily into their offense(cough Royals) the increase of interleague play isn't going to be a good thing.

* Active roster will expand to 26.

I wasn't even aware that this was happening until I read it on the aforementioned article. In the past this has always been a defense for contraction. "We'll contract two teams, but we will add a roster spot so that jobs won't be lost by the MLBPA." I wonder if this will further put to rest talks of Major League Baseball contraction. A concept I have always found to be a bit silly in the first place.

Super Two

* Super Two time increases from top 17% of players to top 22%.

Well this almost assuredly will make Eric Hosmer arbitration eligible four times instead of three, which will cost the Royals several millions of dollars. This was put in to prevent teams from leaving better players in the Minors in order to manipulate service time, but I don't think it will accomplish this and I imagine some teams will just have to leave their players down even longer to manipulate their service clocks, very unfortunate.

Amateur Draft

* The draft pick signing deadline will be moved up one month to July 15.

I love this, players negotiations that go down to the wire will not cost them the opportunity to get their feet wet in professional baseball.

No major league contracts for draftees.

Again I like this move. Players signing Major League contracts, a vast majority of the time are guys that have totally committed themselves to baseball, thus this will not make those players seek out opportunities in other sports. Major League contracts for draftees was a growing trend and I am glad to see it get bucked here.

* Signing Bonus Restrictions

Let's just say I am not a fan. Actually let's say that I hate this. If baseball's goal is to drive up talent for other professional sports. Mission accomplished. For a sport that already whines about the talent pool, they aren't doing themselves any favors by limiting bonus money.

The Royals that have built an incredible farm system through over slot signings have now lost their competitive strategy. I am hopeful that a large part of the Royals rapid improvement in farm system talent is as much a result of good scouting and hard work as their willingness to open their wallets, but I'm not sure.

A huge part of scouting is putting the Dollar Sign on the Muscle and in the Dayton Moore era I doubt a team has done this more effectively then the Kansas City Royals. Yes, the Royals scouts aren't losing their ability to outwork their peers, but they are losing the ability to leverage the Royals organization and their scouting reports in a way that nets the Royals top talents throughout the draft.

From a baseball perspective this move is horrible. The game will undoubtedly be hurt by this move. The only sides it benefits are the players that have established themselves in the Majors, and the owners who no longer have to shell out tons of cash for amateurs.

Of course there are also the penalties for teams that can't show restraint in their draft spending and here is a snapshot of those:

Excess of Pool Penalty (Tax on Overage/Draft Picks)
• 0-5% 75% tax on overage
• 5-10% 75% tax on overage and loss of 1st round pick
• 10-15% 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st and 2nd round picks
• 15%+ 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st round picks in next two drafts

Pretty harsh penalties. The most frustrating aspect of this move is that baseball is flying it under the false flag of competitive balance, when really this move is only going to hurt teams in that regard. If you wanted to cap draft spending and improve competitive balance. Create a cap that grants teams budgets for draft expenditures based on market size. Just incredibly frustrating.

Draft Lottery

Clubs with ten lowest revenues, and ten smallest markets will be entered into a draft lottery for 6 draft picks. The losers will be entered into a second lottery for 6 selections post second round.

Okay seriously, if you are going to award picks for the ten lowest revenues and ten smallest markets (two things that are different by the way) why does it have to be through a lottery? Why randomly select which six receive the award of a first round selection? What is the point? Why not just give each of these teams an additional first round selection?

I know some fans feel cheapened by the Royals potentially getting a free pick based off their market size, but quite frankly I don't care. The odds are already stacked against the Royals. It is nice to get an advantage here, for a change.

International Talent Acquisition

* Starting after 2012-13 offseason, signing bonus budgets will be based off inverse order of the standings.

I am not against this, once again it is nearly a good thing to improve competitive balance. Except that the budget isn't nearly large enough. In fact the budgets are so small the organizations will really have to rely heavily on relationships once again. I actually think this could favor the Royals considering they have already signed several high profile Latin players to bonuses less than what competitors offered.

What does seem to be a problem here is that teams will have roughly $85 million combined to spend on International free agents, while they will have around $200 million for Canadian and American born players. This is borderline discriminatory, but I don't want to get into that.

What this agreement does do, is eliminate many hurdles that would be in place to institute a worldwide draft. It's coming people, accept it.

One more thing that I do find humourous is MLB requiring all prospects to register in a database. So much for renting a mule, wading through an alligator infested swamp and finding a gem in the middle mountains...


* No obvious signs of tobacco.

If you are going to attempt to give yourself gum cancer, don't make America watch. Okay seriously, if you don't want to give off that image just outlaw tobacco.

* HGH Testing

I'm all for cleaning up the game from PEDs. I'm not sure how much HGH would help a baseball player gain a competitive advantage, but I have no issue with this addition and I also believe it is better to eliminate it before it becomes a major issue in the future.

That's all I've got, this probably reads like a giant rant on the new CBA, but I can't say that I'm upset about that. There have been issues in past CBAs that people haven't liked and eventually they turned out to be fine. I truly hope that is the case here. I love the Royals, but more than that I love the game of baseball. At this point I can't imagine the draft spending being good for the game. But who knows? Athletes will still be enticed by the money compared to a scholarship, it just won't be as much money.

My hope is that after a few seasons when players take their scholarship due to fresh memories of larger bonuses in the past, players will once again be able to signed away from college.

The Royals have their work cut out for them. They need to work their butts off to find their next competitive advantage, now that overslot expenditures will not be available as they once were. There are inefficiencies and loopholes in every system, my hope is that the Royals can find something quickly and can be trailblazers for the new CBA, instead of being left behind wondering what went wrong.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Poll Results: Who is your top Royals' Prospect?

In our last Royal Revival poll I asked the simple question: Who is your top Royals' Prospect? Here's how the 90 votes broke down:

Bubba Starling: 7 votes (7%)
Wil Myers: 56 votes (62%)
Cheslor Cuthbert: 7 votes (7%)
John Lamb: 1 vote (1%)
Mike Montgomery: 8 votes (8%)
Jake Odorizzi: 9 votes (10%)
Other: 2 votes (2%)

Of course you will have to wait several weeks to learn Royal Revival's top prospect.

In the next Royal Revival poll I ask you "What your top remaining offseason priority is for the Royals?"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #45 Bryan Paukovits

#45 Bryan Paukovits

Position: RHP
Age: 24
Height: 6-7
Weight: 240
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted 46th Round of 2005 Amateur Draft
From: Le Mesa, California

In 2008, Bryan Paukovits was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. Often times pitchers are able to pitch the following system, but what is also common is for pitcher's velocity to improve in the second season post surgery. This was the case for Paukovits.

Paukovits showed up on several sleeper watches for the Royals after posting a 3.32 ERA in his time in Burlington in 2010. After receiving a midseason promotion he struggled in Wilmington, but had done enough to earn a spot on my "keep an eye" on him list.

In 2011, Paukovits returned to Wilmington where he was surrounded by quality arms fighting for opportunities in the Blue Rock rotation. In part because of this, but also because he profiles better in the bullpen the Royals elected to shift him to relief in 2011.

For 2011, Paukovits posted an above league average ERA at 3.46. His K/9 came in at 7.57 which is virtually identical to the Carolina League average. However, what separates Paukovits as a potential bullpen arm is his control and propensity to force ground balls. His BB/9 in 2011, was 2.80, while his HR/9 was a minuscule 0.16. This figure was partly the result of a 47% ground ball percentage.

Paukovits has struggled with control in the Arizona Fall League allowing 7 walks in 10 innings, so he probably isn't ready to legitimately push for a bullpen spot yet. I expect him to open the year in the back of Northwest Arkansas's bullpen in 2012. If he can get his command to where it was in Wilmington and continue to improve on that ground ball rate I believe he could one day surface as a middle reliever in Kansas City.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fun with Bill James Projections

So Bill James's 2012 projections are up on fangraphs, so let's take a look at what he's predicting our 2012 AL Central Champion Royals to do.

Alex Gordon: 22 HR, 96 Runs, 81 RBI, 14 Steals, .276/.361/.467
Johnny Giavotella: 7 HR, 65 Runs, 60 RBI, 12 Steals, .295/.342/.419
Eric Hosmer: 23 HR, 86 Runs, 92 RBI, 14 Steals, .311/.362/.494
Billy Butler: 20 HR, 80 Runs, 96 RBI, 1 Steal, .301/.372/.477
Jeff Francoeur: 18 HR, 73 Runs, 87 RBI, 14 Steals, .269/.317/.432
Mike Moustakas: 18 HR, 68 Runs, 84 RBI, 3 Steals, .278/.323/.447
Salvador Perez: 8 HR, 42 Runs, 51 RBI, 0 Steals, .287/.317/.413
Lorenzo Cain: 10 HR, 73 Runs, 58 RBI, 22 Steals, .284/.337/.416
Alcides Escobar: 5 HR, 72 Runs, 49 RBI, 27 Steals, .267/.309/.360

Brayan Pena: 3 HR, 17 Runs, 20 RBI, 1 Steal, .275/.321/.388
Manuel Pina: No Stats
Chris Getz: 1 HR, 34 Runs, 22 RBI, 13 Steals, .262/.329/.316
Yamaico Navarro: No Stats
Mitch Maier: No Stats
Jarrod Dyson: No Stats

Just to sum up quickly the Royals are projected to score 706 runs here, not including the contributions of the bench players listed. Last season the Royals scored 730 runs, so I think it is safe to assume that Bill James is calling for similar offensive production from Kansas City in 2012.

James also predicts 136 home runs and 121 steals in 2012. Again this doesn't include the contributions of bench players. In 2011, the Royals knocked 129 homers while swiping 153 bases. Based off this James is predicting the Royals offense in 2012, to rely a little more off homers than manufacturing runs as they did in 2011.

What also stands out is the dips in production from Alex Gordon and Jeff Francouer. Gordon's dip isn't great and is likely the result of a deflation of his BABIP. Francouer's line seems to suggest him slipping back to pre-2012 form something that myself and many Royals' fans fear.

The final thing that excites me about these projections are the solid lines from most of the young players. Between Hosmer, Giavotella, Moustakas, Perez, and Cain I don't think there is one line that Royals fans would be disappointed with should they post similar numbers in 2012.

Luke Hochevar: 9-12, 189 IP, 4.33 ERA, 6.14 K/9, 2.90 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9
Jonathan Sanchez: 9-9, 159 IP, 3.79 ERA, 9.40 K/9, 5.09 BB/9, 0.91 HR/9
Felipe Paulino: 7-10, 157 IP, 4.59 ERA, 8.20 K/9, 3.84 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9
Danny Duffy: No Stats
Everett Teaford: 3-4, 64 IP, 3.94 ERA, 7.03 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9
Sean O'Sullivan: 2-3, 37 IP, 4.86 ERA, 5.35 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 1.22 HR/9
Vin Mazzaro: No Stats
Luis Mendoza: No Stats

Joakim Soria: 4-2, 52 IP, 2.77 ERA, 9.69 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, 0.69 HR/9
Greg Holland: 5-3, 68 IP, 3.04 ERA, 9.79 K/9, 3.84 BB/9, 0.66 HR/9
Aaron Crow: No Stats
Tim Collins: 4-3, 58 IP, 3.26 ERA, 10.55 K/9, 5.43 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9
Louis Coleman: 4-3, 62 IP, 2.95 ERA, 10.03 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9
Blake Wood: 3-5, 73 IP, 4.68 ERA, 6.78 K/9, 3.82 BB/9, 0.74 HR/9
Kelvin Herrera: No Stats
Jeremy Jeffress: No Stats
Aaron Laffey: 2-3, 46 IP, 5.28 ERA, 5.09 K/9, 4.30 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9
Nathan Adcock: No Stats

I am disappointed that Danny Duffy's and Aaron Crow's lines haven't been posted yet. But one thing that I do find amusing is how strong Felipe Paulino's line is comparison with his era. Obviously Bill James expects hard luck Pauly (I kind of like that nickname) to continue his "if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all" routine in 2012.

The other couple of things that would thrill if they actually occurred are Teaford and Sanchez both posting sub 4 era's. I'd like to go ahead and declare myself a member of the Everett Teaford bandwagon should the Royals not acquire another starter this offseason. I believe that Teaford would be the best option in the bullpen to move to starter and I could see him being a solid piece in the rotation.

As far as the bullpen goes, it is nice to see James projecting Joakim Soria's HR/9 and ERA rates dipping back to his career norms. Hopefully this viewpoint is similar to the one possessed by the Red Sox front office and the Royals can deal Soria for a starter. (Fingers crossed, Clay Bucholz/not happening).

Outside of Crow, who we don't have projections for you also have to like the three headed hydra of Collins, Coleman, and Holland. If these three pitchers perform as James projects in addition to Crow getting back to first half form and Soria getting back to being the Soria of old, the Royals bullpen will be dominate in 2012.

Obviously these are just projections, and Bill James has a knack for being just a bit optimistic especially for hitters. But it is never too early to start daydreaming of next season and I at least was able to do that with this exercise. Here's hoping that every Royal can go above and beyond James's projections for 2012.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #46 Justin Trapp

#46 Justin Trapp

Position: 2B
Age: 21
Height: 5-10
Weight: 165
B/T: R/R
Acquired: 34th Round of 2009 Amateur Draft
From: Columbia, South Carolina

Justin Trapp was drafted out of a South Carolina high school in the 34th round of the 2009 draft. Trapp who was recruited by Coastal Carolina to play quarterback had great athleticism and potentially some pop in the bat. The Royals knew he would take time to develop and as you can see by his progression, they have taken a patient approach.

Prior to 2010, Baseball America rated Trapp as the 31st best prospect in the Royals' system and selected as a sleeper for the organization. One year later Trapp was coming off a sub par season and didn't garner the preseason buzz that he had a year prior. But in 2011, Trapp showed some pop that we hadn't seen out of his bat before.

Yes, Trapp's batting average was the lowest of his career, but in seventeen fewer at bats, Trapp was able to knock ten more extra base hits than he did in 2010. While his Home Run on fly ball percentage was 11.5% compared to the Applachian League average 9.7%, I don't believe that his power surge was a fluke.

Trapp's strikeout percentage is still was too high at 22%, but for a middle infielder that showed some pop in the Appy League there is some promise here. The Royals gave him most of his reps at second base in 2011, I hope that this doesn't mean his days are a shortstop are over (although a .900 fielding percentage aint gonna cut it).

Trapp will likely get a shot in Kane County this summer, but if he struggles he could be sent to Arizona until short season ball begins. There is some reason to be optimistic here, but he is still a long way from establishing himself as a true prospect.

Picture credit to Burlington Royals' team site.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #47 Anthony Seratelli

#47 Anthony Seratelli

Position: Utility
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 205
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed 2/27/07
From: Matawan, New Jersey

I love Anthony Seratelli's versatility. During his time in Northwest Arkansas he has fielded every position beside pitcher, catcher, and centerfield. Due to this versatility he could one day get a shot to win a job in Spring Training. But in order to do this he is going to have to continue to improve at the plate.

This is something Seratelli has accomplished over the last couple of seasons in Northwest Arkansas. His line isn't overwhelming, but if he can continue to display on base ability and versatility he could have a shot.

Due to his age, Seratelli's upside is limited to a back up utility man. But he is a great clubhouse guy and in the playoffs a season ago he was instrumental to the Naturals success coming up with timely hits and providing excellent defense during their title run.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #48 Elisaul Pimentel

#48 Elisaul Pimtentel

Position: RHP
Age: 23
Height: 6-2
Weight: 170
B/T: R/R
Acquired: From LAD with Lucas May for Scott Podsednik
From: Santiago, Dominican Republic

Dayton Moore has made a habit of following in his mentor's footsteps by acquiring an additional pitching prospect in every deal. When he flipped Scott Podsednik to Los Angeles he brought back Major League ready catcher Lucas May and righy Elisaul Pimtentel.

At the time Pimentel was blistering through the Midwest League and was among the league leaders in strikeouts. He had 97 Ks in 90 innings pitched, but after the trade he posted just 19 in his final 25 innings. I was optimistic that this decline was a result of fatigue, however this past season the rate remained pretty steady from those final 25 innings and came in at just 7.1 while Pimentel was in Omaha.

Pimentel has always displayed solid command and for his career he has only allowed 2.8 walks per 9 innings. Pimentel typically works in the low 90s with his fastball and with his stuff he projects as a back end starter at best. If I recall correctly he has a pretty good slider, and I wonder if his future lies in the bullpen.

I expect Pimentel to open the season in the Northwest Arkansas rotation, where he finished 2011.

Credit to the Wilmington Blue Rocks for the photo.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What if... Aaron Crow Wasn't Available in 2009?

Just a couple of weeks ago Ben Goessling of the MASN Sports asked a simple question: What if the Nationals had signed Aaron Crow? of course since Goessling's target audience was the Washington Nationals fan base, he exclusively focused on what could have been from a Nationals perspective. You can view the article by clicking here.

So what would Aaron Crow's signing mean from a Royals' point of view, had the Nationals and Crow's agent the Hendricks Brothers not squabbled over the final points of the deal? (The two sides were said to be less than $1 million apart.)

Obviously if Crow would have signed with Washington in 2008, the Royals would not have been in a position to select him in 2009. Might the Royals have considered another advanced starter? North Carolina righty Alex White went just three selections later to the Cleveland Indians, maybe he would have been the pick.

Two seasons later White boasts a career minor league ERA of 2.31. He has amassed 155 strikeouts to 55 walks in 190.2 innings. This season he was traded along with Drew Pomeranz (more on him later) to Colorado for starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Obviously we don't know how White would have been affected by spending the last two seasons in a different organization (the same can be said for any player in this post), however if the Royals would have taken White he would have likely broken into the Big League rotation at some point in 2011, and would at least have a very strong shot to break in the rotation to begin 2012.

There is also, my personal preference for who the Royals should have selected and that would be the Texas teenage flamethrower Shelby Miller. Miller was selected seven picks after Crow, and while I have never read anything linking the Royals to Miller, he was another advanced righty (despite being drafted out of high school) selected in the middle of the first round, so the possibility exists that he was considered.

While Shelby Miller hasn't posted the ERA at the upper levels that White has he has dominated in his own right. He is now just twenty-one and has already pitched in 86.2 innings at the big league level. For his career he has an 11.4 K-Rate to a 3.2 BB-Rate and a 3.17 ERA. In my opinion this would've been the best case for the Royals, but not the most likely.

If the Royals wouldn't have selected Aaron Crow, most signs point to one other guy as being their selection: Athletics shortstop Grant Green. Green was selected immediately after Crow, after some predraft buzz predicting that the Royals would select him if he was available at pick 12.

Green was assigned to High-A in 2010 and burned the league for a .318/.363/.520 slash, while playing 114 games at short stop. Of course in 2010, the Royals had the 4th selection of the draft. For this pick they selected a player with a similar profile as Green in Cal State-Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon.

I'm not going to call this a need pick, because it was clear that after the top 3, there was no clear hierarchy. The Royals who felt several guys had similar value went with the position they felt was the weakest in their system: shortstop. Would they have selected Colon had they taken Green the year before? I seriously doubt it.

So who might they have taken instead? Well prior to the draft there was a distinct buzz around three other prospects. Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Yasmani Grandal.

Pomeranz was the advanced college lefty out of Ole Miss. He was selected fifth overall by the Cleveland Indians, and as I have previously stated he was flipped along with Alex White this past summer for Ubaldo Jiminez.

Had the Royals selected Pomeranz they would have yet another lefty knocking on the door of a big league rotation spot. I would guess he'd spend part of the season pitching in Omaha, eventually breaking in sometime midway through the year, unless he had a killer Spring Training. For his minor league career Pomeranz owns a 1.78 era with a 3.13 K:BB ratio.

Chris Sale was linked the Royals possibly more than any other prospect in the days leading up to the draft. Sale the tall lanky lefty taken out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Like Aaron Crow many projected him as a future reliever and for that reason he wasn't a personal favorite of mine.

Since being drafted 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox, Sale has spent most of his professional time at the Major League level. For his career in Chicago, Sale has came out of the pen for 94.1 innings, while posting a 2.58 era. He's been a force in the back end of Chicago's bullpen, but not necessarily what you want from a top draft pick.

Finally we get to Yasmani Grandal. Roughly twenty-four hours prior to the draft a rumor dropped that stated the Royals had reached a pre-draft agreement with Grandal to make him the fourth player selected in the 2010 Amatuer draft. You can read that report here.

Would the Royals be in a better position right now, had the Nationals signed Aaron Crow in 2008? We really can't be sure. We know that the Royals would have never been able to acquire the only player from the 2009 draft to already have an All Star appearance under his belt, but then again that same guy appears to be settling into a career as a reliever. (Yes, I know he will likely get a shot at the rotation this Spring. Yes, I'd also be surprised if he can thrive in a rotation.)

Had the Royals not been able to select Aaron Crow in 2009, and still went for the advanced righty, they would likely now have Alex White knocking on the door of the big league rotation with Christian Colon in Double-A.

If the Royals would have taken Grant Green like many believed they would they would probably have Grant Green coming off a monster year in Double-A, and either Yasmani Grandal pushing Salvador Perez for a roster spot or Chris Sale in the back end of the bullpen.

Things like this have a domino effect especially in professional sports, but it is no less fun to at least consider how it may have played out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Prospect Countdown: #49 Jin-Ho Shin

#49 Jin-Ho Shin

Position: C
Age: 20
Height: 6-2
Weight: 200
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent in March 2009 for $600K
From: Hwasun-gun, Korea

Jin-Ho Shin's entire prospect standing among Royals' fans like myself comes primarily from his $600K signing bonus. At the time he received it, the bonus was one of the largest ever the Royals had ever issued for an international free agent. He was considered the first major acquisition into the Pacific Rim talent pool for the Kansas City Royals. (Except for the Trey Hillman, of course.)

Upon his signing I recall Shin being promoted as a strong kid, with an advanced approach at the plate. According to scouting reports, he projected to have solid average power potential with above average discipline at the plate.

Shin also garnered high praise for his defensive game. Like current Royals' backstop Salvador Perez, Shin catches from the flat footed technique, a technique that is preferred by most scouts. As a professional Shin has allowed 16 passed balls in in 72 games behind the plate, while only throwing out 14% of would be base stealers. While pitchers in rookie ball often struggle to control the running game, these aren't exactly impressive numbers.

Offensively, Shin has done even less at first glance. After all a career .189/.293/.277 line in rookie ball isn't getting it done. Shin did show improvement in 2011 and upped his OPS from .480 to .681 and if we throw out all of his at bats against those pesky lefties Shin's line in 2011 was actually .268/.341/.423.

Hopefully Shin's poor results against throwers from the opposite are due to lack of experience rather than a technical problem in Shin's approach and/or swing. If Shin can improve through experience against southpaws he could turn into a very interesting prospect fast.

Whatever potential Shin has, he has yet to start fulfilling it. He is only twenty-years-old and given his background it isn't shocking that he has struggled thus far. There is still time for Shin to turn his baseball body and potential into results, however if Shin never reaches High-A ball he wouldn't be the first bonus baby to flame out.

Shin makes this list simply because of the cache of being a bonus baby. I debated about including him at all, but in the end I decided to give the young catching prospect one more free pass before I held him accountable for his poor results.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Top Prospect Countdown: #50 Whit Merrifield

If today hasn't already been exciting enough for Royals' fans I am pleased to begin the rolling out of the Royal Revival top 50 prospect countdown. Let me preface this undertaking by emphasizing that I am not a scout. I base my opinions and rankings off of a combination scouting reports, statistics, and for some prospects even personal observation.

I enjoy doing a top prospect list, despite how time consuming the process. I also must admit that in some instances I can't help but over rank some players due to personal feelings toward them. Nonetheless I hope you enjoy these rankings as much as I do, and I hope that you take the time to comment. Especially if you have any personal observation on the prospect in discussion.

#50 Whit Merrifield

Position: Utility
Age: 22
Height: 6-1
Weight: 175
B/T: R/R
Acquired: 9th Round of 2010, Rule IV Draft

I start my top prospect countdown with a guy that doesn't make many prospect lists. But when I check the box scores every night during the summer he is a guy whose line I make sure to read, not to mention where on the diamond he played. Last season Merrifield's line was split extremely evenly over three spots: second base, left field, and center field.

Think of Whit Merrifield as a Willie Bloomquist type player, and for those of you that scoff, please provide me with great teams that lacked versatility on their benches. I like the Royals grooming Merrifield to be this kind of player. After all for every Edgar Renteria walk off moment there is a Craig Counsell one.

Speaking of walk off moments, Whit Merrifield knows a thing or two about them. In his final year at the University of South Carolina he notched perhaps the biggest hit of his career when he hit the game winner to give the Gamecocks their first ever College World Series Title.

In his first full professional season as a professional the Royals weren't shy about taking an agressive approach, electing to send him to the pitcher friendly Carolina League. As a twenty-two year old Merrifield hit .262/.337/.369, but given the league average line is just .250/.322/.379 Merrifield's line looks a little stronger than you would initially believe. Of course I will also mention that Willie Bloomquist's career Major League line is .262/.317/.337.

If Merrifield can prove his versatility and become an above average defender in both the outfield and at second base, there could be a Major League future for him. His line in 2011, doesn't scream prospect, but it was his first full season as a pro and it came in one of the roughest hitter's parks in all of minor league baseball.

I am interested to see where Merrifield is assigned to begin 2011, but I expect it will likely be to Wilmington. There I'll be rooting for him to pick things up with a bat, so that one day he may have an opportunity to do something magical once again.

Royals acquire Jonathan Sanchez

Less than twenty-four hours after I took a look at Jonathan Sanchez as a potential trade target the Royals acquired him for center fielder Melky Cabrera. In the comments section Slappy even speculated on a possible Cabrera for Sanchez swap. So without further ado let's jump right into this.

If you want to read my concerns with Sanchez please scroll down to the previous post. However, I want to be clear that just because I have concerns regarding Sanchez (especially the decrease in fastball velocity, which in my opinion has caused the enlargement of his other problems) I don't view this as a bad deal. The acquisition is high risk, high reward. If the Royals would have traded six years of Lorenzo Cain I'd likely be feeling much differently, however trading one year of Melky Cabrera for one year of Jonathan Sanchez feels like a win for both sides.

Of course, Melky is coming off the best season of is career. He posted 201 hits, 18 home runs, 87 rbis and a slash of .305/.339/.470. He was a part of one of the most productive outfields in baseball. With that being said Melky is also coming off what you would call a career year. Realistically, how many Royals fans can honestly say they expect similar results in 2012. The Royals are dealing Melky Cabrera at the top of his value, while the Giants are moving Sanchez while his value is likely at an all time low.

It is hard to not like this trade. Despite my concerns with Sanchez, he has shown at the Major League level that he is a mid rotation starter. He is going to be twenty-nine years old, and he boasts a career k-rate of 9.4. It is hard not to be optimistic regarding Sanchez's potential.

In many ways Sanchez is exactly what the Royals were looking for this off season. He requires a very small financial commitment, an estimated $5.2 million in his final year of arbitration. Also, considering the raise Melky was due in arbitration for 2012 this move only adds roughly $1 million to the Royals 2012 payroll.

Sanchez improves the current rotation and if he can reduce his walk rate back down to his career figure of 4.8 from last year's 5.9, he could drastically improve the front of the Royals' rotation.

The Royals' pitching staff will also receive the benefit of what I expect to be an extremely improved outfield defense. It is no secret that Cabrera isn't exactly a dynamo in terms of covering ground in center, but by all accounts Lorenzo Cain is. It seemed all season long reports came in from Omaha that Lorenzo Cain had made another highlight reel play.

The Royals' also will be receiving left handed pitching prospect Ryan Verdugo in the deal. Entering the season Verdugo ranked as the 25th best prospect in the Giants system as judged by Baseball America. Up to 2011, he had been used exclusively from the bullpen. In three seasons he had compiled a 13-1 record, and a 1.75 era. Not to mention 167 strikeouts to 59 walks in 113 innings.

In 2011, the Giants gave Verdugo a shot in Double-A Richmond's rotation. For the year he finished with an 8-6 record and a 4.35 era. His fip came in at just 4.07 thanks to a k-rate of 9.2, and a walk rate of 4.4. In some way he resembles Sanchez. He's a power lefty that racks up huge strikeout numbers, but struggles with command. At first glance he appears to be a "throw in", but with such a propensity for missing bats, I'm taking him very seriously as a left handed relief prospect.

The Royals signed Melky Cabrera last winter for just over $1 million. The move was criticized at the time and just a few days later it drew more criticism when the Royals announced the trade of Zack Greinke. Even after putting up a stellar first half, many Royals fans were infuriated when the Royals elected to hold on to Melky past the trade deadline.

The Royals made a fantastic bargain signing last winter. A year later the Royals needed rotation help and had outfield depth. They dealt from this depth and have clearly improve their rotation. They cashed in on Melky's career year and instead of flipping a guy after his value began to diminish they flipped him at his peak.

Good move for the Royals, let's not stop now.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On the Market: Jonathan Sanchez

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports the Giants are open to trading Jonathan Sanchez, in an attempt to upgrade their offense and free up some payroll space. Of course we all know the Royals (like nearly every team in baseball) is emphasizing the improvement of their rotation this off season. Is Sanchez a good target?

Sanchez boasts a career 38-46 record with a 4.26 era. He's a twenty-eight year old lefty that has a no hitter under his belt and features a three pitch mix that includes a high 80s to low 90s fastball, a slider, and a change up. Sanchez's stuff is without a doubt nasty most of the time. He averages over a K per inning for his career, however, where he is hurt is by his less than stellar command. He averages allowing nearly 5 walks per 9 innings.

In 2011, he posted the highest walk rate of his career and as a result saw his era rise from 3.07 to 4.26. However, his xFIP which previously had ranged from 3.94 to 4.14 jumped to 4.36.

The increase in walk rate isn't the only factor here. The other thing that stands out is Sanchez line drive percentage going from just 14.8% in 2010 (his best season as a professional) to 20.5% in 2011. Interestingly, despite such a jump in line drive percentage, the BABIP against Sanchez moved from .252 to .272. It would appear that even though Sanchez allowed much more line drives in 2011, he sustained pretty good luck in how those line drives were turned to hits.

This number scares me in terms of Sanchez, but here is something even more off putting. Since 2009, Sanchez's fastball velocity has dropped a Jurrjens' esque 1.8 mph. His fastball which fangraphs rated as his best weapon in 2010, as being 17 runs above average, actually was worth -0.5 runs in 2010. Sanchez's change up which he threw nearly 20% of the time in 2011, actually posted the first positive value of Sanchez's career.

You could probably take this information in a couple of different ways. First the optimistic look. Well Sanchez has now added a quality pitch to his arsenal and if he can get back that zip on his fastball that he has lost over the last two seasons, could be poised to really break through.

Then there is the pessimistic view of Sanchez. Here is a guy that is a power lefty, a strikeout pitcher, that is seeing his velocity gradually slip and his command crumble. My guess is that as a result of not being able to throw the fastball by people with as much regularity he is going to his offspeed stuff more often (evidenced by the highest change up percentage of his career), meaning he is throwing pitches that he can't command as well. As a result of this his walk rate is beginning to balloon.

There is much less to be concerned with in Sanchez than Jair Jurrjens, and I also believe that Sanchez would come at a much more bearable price. However, I'm not sure that Sanchez, would be the wisest acquisition. When I set out to write this piece I expected to find that Sanchez was an excellent candidate to be a high risk/ high reward pick up.

In most ways he still is that, however, the risk here comes from a steadily decreasing velocity and that is something that scares me. If Sanchez's numbers were shaky just because of the increased walk rate it would be one thing, but when a 5.78 walk rate is just part of the problem, it really starts to make me wonder.

Sanchez would undoubtedly improve the current rotation. But is he worth six years of Lorenzo Cain? I'm not so sure. I know you have to give to get, but at the same time just because a guy becomes available he doesn't automatically become a solution. The Royals shouldn't be desperate in their search for starting pitching. Continue to play out the offseason and if Sanchez can be had later for what you feel is a fair price reconsider the move.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Poll Results: How Will Royals Acquire Starter?

In the latest Royal Revival poll I asked How the Royals will acquire their front line starter? Here are the results:

They won't acquire one - 14 votes (18%)
Trade - 39 votes (54%)
Free Agency - 11 votes (14%)
Posting System - 10 votes (13%)

Earlier today CBS Sports predicted the Royals to land C.J. Wilson for 5 years and $80 million. Later ESPN reported that the Royals had been in discussions regarding Jair Jurrjens. Trade talks involved Wil Myers and Lorenzo Cain.

Personally I don't think the Royals would move Myers unless for a legitimate number 1. Jurrjens absolutely doesn't do it for me in that regard. However, if the Royals could acquire Jurrjens for Lorenzo Cain and a couple of lower level guys and the Royals could find an explanation for Jurrjens dip in velocity in 2011, I would consider the deal.

Jurrjens improves the rotation, that is clear. However, I don't believe he is the game changer the Royals are looking for. Due to this reason I wouldn't include any of the system's elite prospects to bring Jurrjens to Kansas City.

It wouldn't be the end of the world for the Royals to stand pat this off season. It isn't what the fans want, but it would allow the organization another year to evaluate what they have. Also, the Royals wouldn't have to overspend on the trade or free agent markets when they are likely not quite ready to contend anyway.

Don't force your hand and hurt yourself long term. The organization has made it this far and put themselves in a good position through patience and faith. Don't blow that now.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Alex Gordon and Domination

By now we all know the story, Alex Gordon was hitting .233 and was asked what he expected to do in 2011. His reply was short. His reply was simple. His reply was bold. "I'm going to dominate." Just over a year later we can look back and smile. He was right.

Last night Alex Gordon won the Gold Glove. It was the first time a Royal had won the award since Mark Grudzielanek won it in 2006. If you have ever conversed with me about the award you know, that I find it to be one of the most ridiculous in all of sports. Even with Alex Gordon winning it this season, I can't help but think that he wasn't necessarily the most deserving. (I'm referring to my long time man crush Brett Gardner.)

Nonetheless I couldn't be happier that a Royal will be receiving the award on Opening Day 2012. I do believe that Alex Gordon is deserving, and as is the case in professional sports arguments can be made for both sides. It isn't like the award went to some future Hall of Fame shortstop that was barely passable... that wears pinstripes... that also wears number 2... fine. It isn't like a guy like Derek Jeter won the award.

Gordon winning a gold glove in left field was awesome. For the entire season he displayed a strong, deadly accurate arm, and wowed us with diving catches. I expect that as he continues to progress defensively many of his diving catches will disappear and instead we will see him glide through balls.

Just one day after winning the Gold Glove, Alex won another award: Royals Player of the Year. I am just thankful they got this one right. For the season Alex hit .303/.376/.502. He had 23 home runs, 87 Rbis, and 17 steals all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense!

I admit that I was semi-nervous that the award would go to Jeff Francouer or Melky Cabrera. Don't get me wrong both had fantastic seasons, and both were great offseason pickups. But for those of us that watched Alex play all season long it is now clear that this guy, is going to be what we all were hoping for.

For a long time I was an Alex Gordon apologist. Not because I thought he was going to be a superstar despite hitting .215, but because I just thought he was having incredibly bad luck as a baseball player. Injuries and a poor batting average on balls in play had plagued his career.

Gordon is now entering his prime seasons, he has finally shown his true colors at the Major League level, and I think that most Royals fans are quietly expecting him to garner some MVP votes in the near future. I admit that I am one of those. If the Royals are going to contend in 2012 or 2013 a huge part of the reason why will likely be Alex Gordon.

For each of the following two seasons Alex Gordon will remain under team control. If acquiring pitching is top goal this offseason then locking up Alex Gordon should be goal 1b. I would love a four year deal with a team option for year five. Gordon hasn't been shy about his love for Kansas City and this part of the country. Lock him up Dayton and even more Royals fans will truly accept the old Royal way may be coming to an end.