Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SI's WAR Power Rankings

Before you read this post, please take a look at these power rankings from Sports Illustrated. When I opened the post this morning, I immediately scrolled to the bottom and worked my way up looking for the Kansas City Royals. In fact, when I got into the low teens I actually started my search over thinking that I surely had overlooked the Royals. Instead, I eventually found Kansas City ranked 7th and it was then that I decided it was time to read how the rankings were compiled.

The rankings were compiled by translating each teams fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement into a team winning percentage. Based off this winning percentage the Royals are the 7th best team in the Major Leagues and the top team in the American League Central. According to this power ranking the Royals should be playing at .544 clip.

I'm not really sure what to make of this. I do would agree that based on the Royals should have several more wins to show for their performance than three. In fact, without the poor batting average on balls in play from Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer I truly believe that this is a team that would be right around .500.

Clearly a team that has just lost 11 in a row isn't the 7th best team in baseball. However, if you look at the list there really aren't many anomalies. The Royals are actually the only team in the top 10 playing sub .500 baseball. In the top 15 there are only three teams currently playing sub .500 baseball and the other two are the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies, two teams that clearly belong in the top half of the power rankings despite their sub .500 starts.

My point is this, it is easy to scoff at a power ranking that puts Kansas City at 7th. I'm right there with you. However, I do think the ranking is somewhat reflective of the Royals current state. The talent is there, the games have been close, but every night the team just can't quite get the job done.

The Royals WAR record is 9-7. The Royals Pythagorean record is 5-11. The Royals record is 3-13. The horrid start may have doomed this team from ever contending. However, luck has a tendency to even out, just look at the Royals injuries from 2011 to 2012. Maybe, just maybe, the pendulum is about to swing the other way for Kansas City and the talent of this team will be apparent in the wins it accumulates.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not #OurTime but #TribeTime

Well Chris Perez just went there and I have to admit, I'm glad he did.

For the second consecutive game the Royals starting pitching didn't give the team much of a chance. But for the second consecutive game the Royals continued to battle until the final out. Both games, I've been happy with the Royals fight.

Even in after an incredibly heart breaking game like tonight, I can't help but love this team. Images of Moustakas staring down Gomez, and Hosmer clapping his hands at second won't leave my head. I sit here writing this post and I can't wait for tomorrow.

Obviously, we didn't want to see the Royals get off to a 3-5 start. Four of the last five games have been frustrating in four different ways, the Royals have lost two in extras, one by a run to Oakland, and the home opener. However, we cannot forget that the season is only 5% over.

Call me crazy, but I have a hard time envisioning this team sinking into a losing record this fast. Do you think this team will never be at .500 after April 9? I have to believe this team will make a push, and as for Chris Perez's comments? Well, hopefully that will be the fuel to start the fire.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Just Isn't Working

I'm a huge Johnny Giavotella fan. However, when the Royals elected to option him to Triple-A this spring I understood the rationale of their decision. Entering camp Giavotella was in a competition with Chris Getz to win the second base job. At the time of the promotion, Chris Getz had outperformed Giavotella.

One tweeter commented that maybe Giavotella should already have been given the job. I can't disagree with this and had he already been given the job, like Moustakas, it would have made me outraged should the Royals have sent him down. Instead two players were competing for a spot, and Chris Getz performed better. I could understand why the team elected to open the season with Chris Getz at second. Unfortunately, one week into the season Chris Getz isn't our second baseman either.

We all hated the Yuniesky Betancourt acquisition. Even the defendants of the signing made comments like "well he's just a utility guy," and "he's only going to get 250 at bats." Let me tell you now, when your primary defense of an acquisition is the fact the guy won't play much, you shouldn't be defending the acquisition.

Robert Ford, whose opinion I respect very much, repeatedly defended the Betancourt acquisition and commented how much better he was at second base and how there was no way he would open the season as the regular second baseman. Seven games into the season, and Yuniesky Betancourt has started more games at second than any other Royal.

Granted, Betancourt is off to a nice start with the bat. He's hitting .357, but has already emphatically shown that he is in fact no better at short stop than he was at second base. Let me just be blunt, I believed that Betancourt would be solid defensively at second base. I was wrong. 

If Betancourt continues to hit .350, I'll put up with his defensive shortcomings. But if Betancourt settles back into his career averages, he'll be hurting this team twofold. When Chris Getz becomes your better option at second, you don't belong on the field. However, at least Getz could help the pitching staff with his glove. (Of course, the ideal solution would be to admit the mistake and recall Johnny Giavotella from Omaha.)

I still think Betancourt could still be a decent piece in the role the Royals allegedly signed him for. As a utility infielder he could back up every spot on the infield and provide some pop. However, as a starter we know what Betancourt brings to the table, do we really want to put ourselves through that again?

"Plenty of Time Left"

"We have the guys in here to do it. There's plenty of time left here. We can take this team where it needs to be." -Eric Hosmer
Interesting choice of words from the Royals' blossoming superstar. Let me preface all of this by saying I am probably reading way to much into his comments, and the following is more thinking out loud than anything. However, when I read this quotation, it was enough to make my stomach turn.

"There's plenty of time left here."
What do you mean there's plenty of time left here? Has Hosmer already made a decision to test free agency? Or does he just realize that the Royals core won't be together forever? Or was he just commenting in a calming manner for fans?

Obviously, we all know that the Royals won't keep their core together forever. We know that more likely than not in six seasons Eric Hosmer will be testing free agency. But there is something odd about a player referencing the ticking service clock.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Hosmer's comments. However, for a guy the fans are praying will sign long term, it is a bit disconcerting to hear him even hint that someday the clock will run out.

Hosmer, is right; there is plenty of time left in Kansas City. Unfortunately, Hosmer is also right that eventually that time will run out. I just wish it wasn't Eric Hosmer himself that reminded us.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Broxton Named Royals' Closer

The decision has been made and Jonathan Broxton will open 2012 as the Royals closer. I've got just a few thoughts on the subject.

First, I'm glad that the Royals went ahead and anointed a closer. Last season the Cardinals obviously had huge success in not naming a closer after Ryan Franklin's implosion. However, in the modern bullpen more often than not players perform better in clearly defined rolls. I'm glad the Royals will enter the year with clearly defined Royals for each of their bullpen arms.

Second, I'm glad the Royals chose Broxton over Holland to close ball games, but do not confuse this into me saying that I believe Jonathan Broxton is the better option. In the modern bullpen the closer role is often reserved for the team's top reliever. However, the traditional fireman role is often far more important. Holland only allowed 2 of 33 runners to score in 2011. By leaving him in the fireman role for 2012, the Royals are allowing him to once again be the most valuable pitcher in the pen.

Finally, there could be financial implications to this move. Saves are a statistic that are still valued more than they should be on the open market and in salary arbitration. Broxton will leave after 2012, so if his stock/market value rises it is no problem for Kansas City. However, if Greg Holland were to dominate in the closer position the Royals could pay the price through arbitration several times.

Hopefully, Broxton can lock down the 9th just like he used to do in Los Angeles and Greg Holland can be the fireman he was in 2011. If both of these things can happen, thanks to the depth, the Royals bullpen should be stronger in 2012, than they were with Joakim Soria in 2011.

Fun with Fangraphs Projections

Here's a look at the best case, median and worst case projections from Fangraphs for your Royals hitters.

Worst Case
  • Alex Gordon: 572 PA, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 12 SB, .261/.349/.442
  • Lorenzo Cain: 227 PA, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 6 SB, .255/.314/.470
  • Eric Hosmer: 482 PA, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB, .281/.338/.459
  • Billy Butler: 604 PA, 16 HR, 77 RBI, 1 SB, .293/.362/.462
  • Jeff Francoeur: 578 PA, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 13 SB, .266/.313/.423
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: 248 PA, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 2 SB, .251/.278/.369
  • Mike Moustakas: 382 PA, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB, .267/.314/.390
  • Humberto Quintero: 198 PA, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB, .228/.263/.308
  • Alcides Escobar: 554 PA, 4 HR, 46 RBI, 18 SB, .255/.301/.357
  • Brayan Pena: 189 PA, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 0 SB, .250/.301/.325
  • Chris Getz: 273 PA, 0 HR, 20 RBI, 12 SB, .252/.313/.305
  • Mitch Maier: 171 PA, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, .243/.323/.347
  • Jason Bourgeois: 172 PA, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 14 SB, .263/.310/.315
  • Salvador Perez: 279 PA, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB, .274/.303/.393
  • Johnny Giavotella: 294 PA, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 7 SB, .259/.307/.384
  • Jarrod Dyson: 189 PA, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 14 SB, .237/.290/.302


  • Alex Gordon: 628 PA, 21 HR, 75 RBI, 14 SB, .277/.362/.465
  • Lorenzo Cain: 562 PA, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 16 SB, .279/.330/.399
  • Eric Hosmer: 655 PA, 22 HR, 89 RBI, 14 SB, .296/.349/.477
  • Billy Butler: 665 PA, 20 HR, 96 RBI, 1 SB, .298/.369/.471
  • Jeff Francoeur: 623 PA, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 13 SB, .271/.317/.432
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: 383 PA, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB, .258/.283/.385
  • Mike Moustakas: 582 PA, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB, .270/.320/.444
  • Humberto Quintero: 276 PA, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 0 SB, .236/.264/.324
  • Alcides Escobar: 567 PA, 5 HR, 48 RBI, 25 SB, .267/.309/.363
  • Brayan Pena: 242 PA, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB, .262/.310/.374
  • Chris Getz: 322 PA, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 17 SB, .262/.325/.318
  • Mitch Maier: 257 PA, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB, .249/.326/.352
  • Jason Bourgeois: 347 PA, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 27 SB, .273/.318/.356
  • Salvador Perez: 361 PA, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 1 SB, .281/.316/.411
  • Johnny Giavotella: 535 PA, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 12 SB, .275/.320/.403
  • Jarrod Dyson: 214 PA, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 17 SB, .243/.309/.336

Best Case

  • Alex Gordon: 683 PA, 23 HR, 94 RBI, 15 SB, .287/.371/.478
  • Lorenzo Cain: 597 PA, 10 HR, 81 RBI, 23 SB, .284/.337/.416
  • Eric Hosmer: 687 PA, 25 HR, 108 RBI, 14 SB, .311/.362/.501
  • Billy Butler: 657 PA, 21 HR, 110 RBI, 2 SB, .307/.378/.489
  • Jeff Francoeur: 638 PA, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 14 SB, .273/.320/.441
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: 575 PA, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 4 SB, .275/.301/.404
  • Mike Moustakas: 667 PA, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 4 SB, .278/.324/.455
  • Humberto Quintero: 364 PA, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB, .245/.275/.341
  • Alcides Escobar: 616 PA, 6 HR, 59 RBI, 27 SB, .270/.312/.367
  • Brayan Pena: 337 PA, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 3 SB, .275/.321/.388
  • Chris Getz: 439 PA, 3 HR, 48 RBI, 22 SB, .269/.329/.335
  • Mitch Maier: 310 PA, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB, .251/.339/.361
  • Jason Bourgeois: 415 PA, 4 HR, 39 RBI, 31 SB, .300/.336/.370
  • Salvador Perez: 580 PA, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 3 SB, .300/.353/.455
  • Johnny Giavotella: 685 PA, 8 HR, 64 RBI, 13 SB, .295/.342/.419
  • Jarrod Dyson: 429 PA, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 35 SB, .259/.354/.383

Poll Results: Which Royal would you like to see extended next?

In the last Royal Revival poll, I asked you "Which Royal would you like to see extended next?" Here's how the votes broke down (132 total votes):

  • Aaron Crow: 0 votes (0%)
  • Danny Duffy: 1 vote (0%)
  • Alcides Escobar: 7 votes (5%)
  • Alex Gordon: 40 votes (30%)
  • Luke Hochevar: 1 vote (0%)
  • Eric Hosmer: 75 votes (56%)
  • Mike Moustakas: 4 votes (3%)
  • Felipe Paulino: 0 votes (0%)
  • Jonathan Sanchez: 1 vote (0%)
  • Other: 3 votes (2%)
Judging by these results about 35% of voters should be pleased with the last couple of weeks, as both Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon have been extended. I'm sure all of us would love to see Eric Hosmer extended in the near future, but I understand those that voted another way given he is under team control through the next six seasons regardless.

I was also interested in how few of the votes went to the pitching staff. Sanchez is under team control for 1 more season, while Hochevar and Paulino each have two years of control. I also thought that some would like to see Danny Duffy signed to a Wade Davis like extension.

Finally, I'm intrigued by the three that voted 'other'. If you are out there please comment and let us know what player you have in mind. Perhaps, Greg Holland is the guy? He would make sense and probably should have been included in the options. 

The Royals extended three of their players this offseason, and I can't help but think that the Royals were do their best to continue the trend. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer may prove to be tougher to get on the dotted line, but if Duffy can turn the corner, or Hochevar can continue to be solid I could see extensions going their way.

Be sure to vote in the latest poll regarding where you think the Royals will finish in the AL Central standings.

It Couldn't Have Been a Dream 2012

"I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. They got a crazy way of loving there and I'm gonna get me some."

It had been my IPhone alarm for the past month and a half. The Royals had just dropped to three games back with just a couple weeks left in the regular season and I was searching for something, anything, that could bring some good luck. It was then that the Boys in Blue caught fire.

I laid in bed for a moment. Half asleep, trying to comprehend what the past six months had brought. I still couldn't believe what the Royals had accomplished. The Royals entered 2012 as the youngest team in professional baseball. We all knew a bright future was ahead, but we failed to realize just how close it was on the horizon. If we had been paying proper attention we would have heard the call of "land hoe!" coming from the Crow's Nest.

Ahh The Crow's Nest! A group of fans that made themselves known throughout the season as Aaron Crow pitched spectacularly all summer long. Of course, the most memorable performance came in game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, when Crow made an early entrance due to a liner off Luke Hochevar. Man was he dominate! I still remember the way my house shook when he struck out Josh Hamilton for his sixth K in a row.

What's incredible was that Aaron Crow's performance wasn't even the highlight of the night; that honor would have to go to Johnny Giavotella. I can still picture it in my head. Giavotella's swing, the bat flip, the ball soaring into the left field stands of the Ballpark in Arlington, the waving of the arms to signal to Royals nation that they were going to finish this.

A week and a half later, there were more heroics, but this time they came from a more expected source, a guy who should bring home the MVP in a couple of weeks. It took place where Eric Hosmer's first career homer came. Down two in the 9th with two on against the most dominate closer of a generation, Eric Hosmer connected. Blasting a go ahead home run off the facing of the Yankee Stadium third deck. It was reminiscent of several George Brett blasts in the late 70s.

I wish we could have celebrated the pennant at the K, but there was definitely a sweetness to watching Yankees fans cry. Besides, it didn't have to be a home win for Kansas City to celebrate. All throughout the late season run, Kansas Citians had taken to plastering the town with with blue and white streamers after big victories. After the three game sweep of Detroit to grab the division title, there was almost no where left to cover.

Talk about an amazing three games of baseball with each game more exciting than the last. Whether it was Danny Duffy's 12 strikeout performance, Alex Gordon's two home run night, or Alcides Escobar's game saving stop in the hole, I can't remember ever being so glued to a television.

I gazed around my room. The walls were adorned by some of the best newspaper headlines throughout the summer. I stopped a moment to remember Lorenzo Cain's cycle on May 20 at Houston, Salvador Perez's return in late June, and Jeff Francoeur's game ending outfield assist. I smiled when I remembered Mike Montgomery's first big league start. He only pitched five innings and was knocked around for four runs, but he quickly morphed into the pitcher we all knew he could be. Without Mike Montgomery this team never would have accomplished all that it did.

I laughed when I saw the image of Everett Teaford and Tim Collins standing in Jonathan Broxton's pants. The bullpen which was hyped up entering the season proved to be even more dominant than we imagined. This got me thinking about another moment when Mike Moustakas dedicated a night's performance to a young girl that had faced so much adversity in her life. I've never seen a man hit a ball farther than Moustakas did that night.

Once again the Royals were the toast of Kansas City. Believe me I was feeling it as I was rolling out of bed. Less than twenty-four hours ago the Midwest was preparing itself for game 7 against the Philadelphia Phillies. The K parking lot had been packed since the Royals won the night before. People refused to leave the stadium.

Man, did Mike Montgomery pitch a gem. The young star brought memories of another youthful ace dazzling in the October Classic. It is hard to imagine that just a year before some were beginning to write him off. After seven innings, no walks and 8 strikeouts later he exited the game. Greg Holland shut down the Phillies in the 8th and in the 9th, the Jonathan Broxton closed the door. The Royals had the 3-0 victory and the 2012 World Series was Kansas City's. It couldn't have been a dream. I just wish I could go back to April 6, and relive every second of 2012. It truly was OUR TIME.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #1 Wil Myers

#1 Wil Myers

Age: 21
Position: RF
Height: 6-3
Weight: 205
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2009 Amateur Draft
From: High Point, NC

Entering the 2012 draft, Wil Myers was considered a clear first round talent. Some mock drafts had him going as high as the early teens, while most had him going to the Red Sox late in the first round. Instead Myers $2 million asking price scared off teams as he began to slide in the draft. Eventually, in the third round the Royals nabbed Myers and agreed to pay him his demands.

Myers began his professional career as a catcher. After an awesome 2010 campaign the Royals decided that his bat was just too advanced to be held back by a glove that still needed a ton of work. Another consideration was likely Salvador Perez's emergence as a legitimate catching prospect. The Royals hoped that not only would a move to right field allow Myers to reach the Majors faster, but they also hoped that the transition would keep him healthier throughout what they envisioned to be a long and a productive career.

Unfortunately, 2011 proved to play out quite differently than the Royals anticipated. Myers didn't receive the position change with the ease that many expected. At times he struggled and would look lost in the outfield, and at other times he was criticized for being indifferent to the position change. Low energy and not going after balls with a desire to prove that he belonged in the outfield.

Myers season took a turn for the worst, when he injured his knee on a rainy night while returning to his apartment. The injury caused a gash that required stitches and eventually would become infected. In total the injury kept Myers out of action for roughly a month, and you have to wonder how much of his poor results were a result of the incident.

I say poor results, only because of their relevance to our expectations for Wil Myers. In actuality, Myers' 2011 numbers weren't anything to be ashamed of his .746 OPS was basically league average for the circuit and when you consider that he was the third youngest player in the Texas League behind only Jonathan Villar and Mike Trout you understand how impressive of a player he is.

Myers resolidified his standing as one of the top hitting prospects in the game, though, with an excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League. In the AFL, Myers blistered the competition to the tune of a .360/.481/.674 line. Also, of note were the comments of Myers improved outfield defense. AFL numbers have small sample written all over them, but the strong performance reaffirmed why we are all so excited for this kid.

Myers continues to project as a plus hitter that projects for 20-25 home runs annually. He has average speed and his arm is a weapon in right field. He'll open the season in Northwest Arkansas, and thanks to the Royals have both their corner outfielders under team control for at least two more years there is no reason to rush Myers. For now he is the heir apparent for Jeff Francoeur and could force the Royals hand sooner rather than later.

Picture taken from MiLB.com

Prospect Countdown: #2 Bubba Starling

#2 Bubba Starling

Age: 19
Height: 6-4
Weight: 185
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted 5th Overall in the 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Gardner, KS

Heading into the draft all of the talk seemed to point to Kansas City targeting one of the four advanced pitchers projected at the top of the draft. Perhaps, it was always a cover for their true love of local standout Bubba Starling, but because the Mariners shocked everyone and chose Danny Hultzen over Anthony Rendon we will never know. In the end, I believe the Royals got the guy they always truly wanted.

In high school, Bubba Starling was a superstar. He lived 30 miles from Kauffman Stadium. He averaged 28 points per game on the basketball court and he was the quarterback of the future at Nebraska University. Thanks to the latter, Bubba Starling had leverage that most draft picks don't. As a result, Starling's agent was able to negotiate a franchise record, $7.5 million bonus.

Starling's physical tools are incredible. He has as high an upside as any prospect in baseball. His power projects as plus-plus. He has shown the ability to make adjustments, leading some scouts to believe that he'll hit for both average and draw his fair share of walks. He has incredible speed that will make him a threat on the bases and a Gold Glove caliber defender in center field. He was clocked at 95 mph, and has an arm that could play in right should the need arise.

Of course, the doubters would point to several things as well. First and foremost, Starling isn't the most advanced high school hitter. As a three-sport star and growing up in an area that isn't exactly considered a prospect hot bed, Starling hasn't logged the at bats that fellow high school hitters have. Of course, for that same reason Mike Trout fell to the 25th pick in the 2009 Draft. Hopefully, Starling proves a similar story as the fellow five tool prospect.

Starling will open the season in extended Spring Training. He represents the crown jewel of the latest wave of talent that the Royals are developing. A slow approach with Starling could result in huge rewards, and given the current state of the franchise there isn't a reason to rush Bubba. Starling will likely receive his first assignment to Kane County when the weather warms, but it is also possible that the Royals elect to send him to a rookie league for 2012.

Picture taken from NYPost.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #3 Mike Montgomery

#3 Mike Montgomery

Age: 22
Position: LHP
Height: 6-4
Weight: 200
Acquired: Drafted by the Royals in the 1st Round of the 2008 Amateur Draft
From: Valencia, CA

Thanks to a strong resume, excellent scouting reports, and a stud Spring in 2011, I rated Mike Montgomery as the top prospect on my rankings. However, after a brutal 2012 campaign some are starting to question the lanky left hander.

Montgomery, who now famously was kicked off the high school team for too many technicals, has been called a bulldog on the mound. He has been praised for his ability to come inside, and his fearlessness on the rubber. In 2012, the Royals wanted Montgomery to focus on his change and moving up and down in the zone as opposed to side to side. Montgomery struggled throughout the summer, posting an ERA 6 in his final 22 starts.

The Royals have looked at the bright side of his rough 2011. They point to a curveball that now grades a full grade higher. But perhaps Montgomery's 2011 wasn't quite as dreadful as it looks on the surface. For a moment consider this comparison (I have taken the player's statistic and subtracted the league average mark):

Player 1: -0.20
Player 2: -0.26

Player 1: -0.22
Player 2: -0.28

Player 1: +0.69
Player 2: +0.39

Player 1: +0.32
Player 2: +0.22

Player 1: -0.15
Player 2: -0.27

Groundball %
Player 1: +5.4
Player 2: +8.3

Player 1 in this comparison is of course Mike Montgomery. Player 2 is Oakland A's starter Jarrod Parker. Parker's season  was considered an excellent year by most helping to solidify his status as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Montgomery's season was considered a huge disappointment.

There are a couple of things I want you to notice in this crude comparison. First, Mike Montgomery and Jarrod Parker had very similar seasons in comparison to their league's average in terms of peripheral performance. (Basically this is an attempt to adjust for the league average and compare numbers between players at different levels.) The second thing I want you to notice is that both out performed the league average marks in each of these statistics.

Finally, I want to add one more point. Jarrod Parker's results came in Double-A, while Montgomery's came in Triple-A. Throw in that Montgomery is about half a year younger than Parker, and you start to wonder if Montgomery's season was quite as disappointing as it appears after a cursory glance.

I'm sure that Montgomery was more frustrated with his 2011 performance than anybody. Not to mention that there were rumblings of a conflict in pitching ideology. Hopefully, with a new minor league pitching instructor in place a common ground can be reached to allow Montgomery's stuff to find consistency. 

As for the stuff it is still there. Monty can blow it past hitters with low 90s heat that can touch 96. Or Monty can have hitters swinging at nothingness with his plus change up. The curveball is still a work in progress, but at the moment he is throwing a traditional version that comes to the plate in the mid 70s. 

I remain optimistic when it comes to Mike Montgomery, but there is no doubt 2012 is a big year for him. With that being said, he should find his way to Kansas City at some point this summer. I can't wait until he gets going and as of now it is less than twenty-four hours away as he'll serve as the Opening Day starter for the Omaha Storm Chasers. 

Picture taken from KCRoyals.com.

Prospect Countdown: #4 Jake Odorizzi

#4 Jake Odorizzi

Age: 22
Position: RHP
Height: 6-2
Weight: 185
Acquired: Via trade with Milwaukee
From: Breese, IL

Jake Odorizzi was the 32nd overall draft choice by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 draft. Very early in his career he drew some comparisons to Zack Greinke, due to his high school pitching numbers, his athleticism, and the fact that he may have been a decent prospect as a shortstop as well. Just a couple years later, Odorizzi would find himself heading to Kansas City in a trade that would send Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.

The debate can be made about which pieces in the trade were the most critical for the Royals to obtain. Most likely Jeffries was the fourth piece, considering he was originally listed as a player to be named. However, at this point it would appear that the real gem of the deal is Jake Odorizzi, who has ranked in Baseball America's top 100 in each of the last two seasons.

Odorizzi features an excellent fastball that sits in the low 90s, but can be dialed up to 95-96 when the need arises. The fastball features strong movement, with sinking action. Odorizzi also throws a change, slider, and curveball, each of which project as average offerings. Because none of his secondary offering will likely develop into a plus pitch, Odorizzi's upside is likely that of a #3. If things break right though, and one pitch comes along more than expected, that upside could rise to a #2.

At the moment Odorizzi's biggest concern is his propensity to allow the long ball. In Northwest Arkansas, Odorizzi allowed 1.7 HR/9. Just for reference, the Texas League average was 0.94 HR/9. According to Baseball America, Odorizzi's problem is that he has trouble locating his fastball down in the zone, this is something that must be improved on before he gets a big league shot.

Not only does Odorizzi allow a ton of homers, but he also gets very few ground balls. His 33% ground ball percentage in 2011, is a bit surprising after reading that Odorizzi's fastball gets good sinking action. If he can't improve his ground ball percentage it will be imperative that he keep his K:BB very high, somewhere over 3, in order for him to find success. Of course, if you are going to be a fly ball pitcher, Kauffman Stadium is a good park to call home.

Jake Odorizzi will open 2012 in Northwest Arkansas, but he could reach the Major Leagues by season's end.

Picture taken from MiLB.com

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #5 John Lamb

#5 John Lamb

Age: 21
Position: LHP
Height: 6-4
Weight: 200
Acquired: Drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 Amateur Draft
From: La Palma, CA

John Lamb fell into the Royals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, due to an elbow injury caused by a car accident in his senior year of high school. The Royals happily snatched him up and paid him $165,000 to keep him away from college.

In Lamb's first professional season the Royals started him slow and worked him in short season ball the entire year. The following year, the Royals gave Lamb a shot at Low-A Burlington. It didn't take long for Lamb, to become one of the top prospects in baseball. In 2011, Lamb advanced across three levels garnering consideration for Minor League Player of the year prior to his rough finish in the Texas League (even then posting a 2.00 K:BB).

In 2011, many believed that John Lamb would make his Major League debut at some point in the season. However, the injury bug bit John again and he entered the season with a strained oblique. Despite that the Royals elected to not play it safe with Lamb, and instead allow him to gut through the ailment. It is my belief that as a result Lamb overcompensated in some way and caused the injury that ultimately ended his season.

Eventually, Lamb underwent Tommy John surgery. I'd much rather it be an elbow injury than a shoulder. Today Tommy John carries a roughly 90% full recovery rate. Often pitchers actually increase velocity post surgery. Lamb for instance had suffered a severe dip in velocity in 2011. In 2010, Lamb's fastball routinely sat in the low to mid 90s. In 2011, he struggled to hit 90 mph.

But this is why I am so excited about the guy. Throughout 2009 and 2010, Royals prospect aficionados heard all about Lamb's moxie. We heard time and time again that the guy possessed poise beyond his year's and just knew how to pitch. What I learned in 2011, was that despite not having his best stuff, Lamb got by on exactly the aforementioned things. He kept the ball down and kept runs off the board.

Baseball America lists John Lamb's upside as that of a #2 or #3 starter. In their definitions of #1 and #2 both posses two plus pitches and an average third pitch. The difference is that an ace has plus-plus command and plus makeup as opposed to being average in both regards. We know Lamb's change is plus, if the velocity returns he'll have a second plus offering. I'm also convinced as ever that he has plus make up. If the command comes around as the Royals predict, his upside is that of a rotation head.

Picture taken from KCRoyals.com.

Prospect Countdown: #6 Cheslor Cuthbert

#6 Cheslor Cuthbert

Age: 19
Position: 3B
Height: 6-1
Weight: 190
B./T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent on July 2, 2009
From: Corn Island, Nicaragua

When Cheslor Cuthbert put his name on the dotted line he set a record for the largest bonus ever given out by the Royals to an International Player. The $1.35 million bonus also became the largest bonus ever handed to a Nicaraguan prospect. Just two seasons into Cuthbert's professional career, early returns are very promising.

Cuthbert possesses such an advanced approach that the Royals pushed him to Kane County as an eighteen year old. For three months it appeared as though, even the pitcher friendly Midwest League was a conservative assignment, that is, until the wheels fell off in August. In the final month of the season Cuthbert hit just .135/.280/.208. As a result we are talking about one of the top prospects in the system as opposed to one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Scouts attributed the downward spiral to physical fatigue. After all Cuthbert had never played a summer full of organized baseball in his entire life. If Cuthbert can maintain his early season performance for an entire season, he will be a beast at the plate. Cuthbert projects as a plus hitter with plus power. I've heard Adrian Beltre comparisons thrown out there in the past.

Personally, I don't imagine Cuthbert ever being the fielder that Beltre is. Cuthbert is considered to be an above average fielder at present and I have heard that he is excellent making plays while coming in. However, there are concerns that his range is fringy and his thickening low half will eventually force him off third.

Cuthbert is going to open the season as the 3 hitter in an intriguing Wilmington order.

Picture taken from KCCougars.wordpress.com