Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recapping Recent Moves

November 20:

  • Chris Volstad, Vin Mazzaro, Adam Moore, Brayan Pena, Clint Robinson, and Derrick Robinson designated for assignment
  • Chris Dwyer, Juan Gutierrez, Donnie Joseph, John Lamb, Justin Marks, and Mike Montgomery added to the 40-man roster
Nothing real shocking here. Although, I think many were a bit surprised to see the Brayan Pena era come to an end. As far as the 40-man additions go, Juan Gutierrez is the only individual that I wasn't sure of entering the day. However, it doesn't come as a shock after his numbers in the Venezuelan Winter League (1.13 ERA, with 17 strikeouts in 16 innings). The only player that wasn't protected that could be a big loss for the Royals in the Rule V draft is Robinson Yambati (although, there are conflicted reports regarding his eligibility). Fortunately, with the Royals bullpen depth they won't be devastated if they lose him. 

November 28:

  • Clint Robinson and Vin Mazzaro traded to Pittsburgh for Luis Rico and Luis Santos. 
There's no reason to get worked up about this trade. Both Robinson and Mazzaro were on their way out the door regardless of whether a trade was completed or not. At least this way the Royals get back a couple of young arms to fill out one of their Rookie League team's bullpens in 2013. Hopefully, Clint Robinson gets an opportunity to get regular at bats for the Pirates. I've interacted with Clint on multiple occasions and he is absolutely a class act. 

As far as the trade goes, I received this quote from Dayton Moore:
"I don't always make trades, but when I do I prefer Dos Luis."

November 29:

  • Royals and Felipe Paulino agree to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with $250K in possible incentives
I never really bought into the idea that the Royals were actually considering non-tender Paulino, but apparently Felipe's camp did. Paulino made $1.9 million in 2012, and despite his injury issues he was almost assuredly going to receive a bump in salary for 2013. MLB Trade Rumors projected that Paulino would make $2.7 million in 2013 through arbitration. The fact that Dayton Moore was able to convince Paulino to take $1.75 million is pretty incredible. Basically, the Royals floated out the idea that Paulino might be injured and without a job and were able to use that possibility as leverage to strike a deal with Paulino that saved an allegedly cash deprived organization $1 million.

It is for this reason that despite Bob Dutton's recent comments that every Royals official would be surprised by a Luke Hochevar non-tender, I believe there is still a very strong likelihood that he will not be extended an offer. The Royals are obviously hopeful that they can get something out of him via trade, and for that reason they won't to play up the possibility that he won't be a free agent in a few days. Time (24 hours) will tell if this assumption is correct. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #36 Fred Ford

36. Fred Ford Rightfielder

Paden Bennett (NR): Big, big, fan of Fred Ford.  Some fans will look at him and see his .248 average and cringe.  Yes, that needs to improve.  However, what have the Royals lacked in the Majors in recent seasons? The ability to take walks.  Now, perhaps the organization does not want the lineup to walk and would like the contact approach better.  I, like other Royals fans would love to see the walk approach put in and to see more pitches.  Jack Maloof seems to be the right guy for the job.  Fred Ford fits the bill!  I liked the Royals pick of Ford in 2012 and love what I'm seeing, this guy has power and is a good athlete.  Keep an eye on this kid.

Joe Cox (NR):  Ford was selected in the 7th round by the Royals in the 2012 amateur draft. The 6-5 210 pound outfielder played JuCo ball in Missouri and was not ranked as a top 500 player in last year’s draft.  While he has been looked at as a money saving pick at that slot, Ford did impress with the Burlington Royals by hitting 13 home runs in 254 plate appearances. Ford turns 21 in April but has a ceiling as a power threat three true outcome hitter. Even if he never sees the majors, he is worthy to note for his ability to take a walk and obvious size and power.

Damion Mandalas (29): Ford makes this countdown thanks to my placing of him at 29. The Royals have made a concentrated effort in the Dayton Moore regime to control their borders and they've done that by drafting All-American and NJCAA Region XVI Player of the Year, Fred Ford. At nearby Jefferson College, Ford crushed JuCo pitching in 2012 for a .430 average with 16 home runs, 20 doubles, 75 RBI, and 32 stolen bases.

The Royals sent Ford to Burlington to being his professional career and there he continued to mash. Ford ranked third in the Appalachian League in home runs with 13 and second among qualifying players in isolated power at .247. Ford's walk percentage also was strong at more than 6% more than league average. Unfortunately, the strikeout percentage of 32.8% will need to improve as he progresses up the ladder. 

Dan Ware (NR):  Fred Ford is probably not the name most look for in a box score for a team that also has the likes of Bubba Starling and Cameron Gallagher, or even Patrick Leonard (for you Royals nerds out there.)  Fred will be a guy to keep tabs on.  A Missouri native, he has shown in his first professional season that he has some power in his swing clubbing one home run per 16 at bats.  Hopefully he can start the season off in Idaho Falls and pick up where he left off.  

Total Points: 2

Monday, November 26, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #37 Jack Lopez

37. Jack Lopez Shortstop

Paden Bennett (29): Give this kid some time.  One of the younger players in the Midwest League at 19, Jack Lopez still has plenty of time to adjust.  Baseball America liked his approach at the plate and felt also that power would be there at some point.  I still have optimism for this kid, keep in mind he's only 19.

Joe Cox (NR): Lopez was a 16th round pick in the 2011 draft for the Royals.  The soon to be 20 year old shortstop was not impressive offensively in the 2012 season.  The 5’10 160 pounder managed only a .222 AVG with 0 homeruns in single A last year, and obviously needs more time in the lower minor leagues to see if he can develop any sort of offensive game.  While he is still young, there is very little to be excited about from Lopez until he can show that he can get on base.  

Damion Mandalas (NR): Due to a large stock of young short stop prospects in the low levels, the Royals were forced to hand out some aggressive assignments. Lopez received one of these. Despite being a teenager, Lopez was considered the more advanced than Adalberto Mondesi and Humberto Arteaga. In large part due to his assignment, Lopez did not have an impressive debut.

Lopez is said to have a very strong feel for the game, which shouldn't come as any surprise considering his father is a bullpen coach for the Cincinnati Reds. Lopez was drafted in the 16th round and somewhat surprisingly was bought out from his commitment to the University of Miami with a $750,000 signing bonus. Lopez should receive another assignment to low-A in 2013, this time to Lexington, Kentucky in the South Atlantic League

Dan Ware (NR): In just 274 AB, Jack hasn't done much with the bat to call himself a hitting prospect in professional baseball, although he did hit .462 with 10 HR and 34 RBI his senior season of high school in Deltona, Florida.  From what I've read, he's 'slick' with the glove, which is a nice trait to have at SS.  Lopez is playing in Puerto Rico for the Winter with fellow Royals prospects Christian Colon and Alfredo Escalara-Maldonado.

Total Points: 2

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #38 Greg Billo

38. Greg Billo Starting Pitcher

Paden Bennett (NR): This is a HUGE year for Greg Billo.  At 22 years old he is fairly old for Wilmington. We need to see consistency and fairly big strides made.  Like Dan said, I would love to be able to watch Billo painting the outside corner with fastballs in Northwest Arkansas this season.  Billo has shown flashes of brilliance and could easily move up with a little consistency.

Joe Cox (NR): Billo is a 22 year-old right handed pitcher who has been in the Royals organization since 2008. Billo only appeared in 12 games last year and is clearly on this list because of his impressive 2011 season where he led the Midwest League in ERA. For a team desperate to see consistent improvement from their minor league pitching, Billo still has a chance to regain his form from the not so distant path. It looks like Billo was forced to work without his best pitch, his slider for the time he pitched in 2012 which may account for his struggles. If Billo starts using all of his pitches and stays healthy he could move up this list. However Billo is getting old for his level, and needs to take a big leap in 2013 to become relevant again as any part of the Royals future.   

Damion Mandalas (NR): As Joe said, Billo's current claim to fame is his 2011 Midwest League ERA title. Billo is also a name recognized by prospect hounds, because he was once named as a sleeper prospect by Baseball America. Entering 2013, Billo will likely open the season for the Wilmington Blue Rocks with an opportunity to earn a quick bump to Northwest Arkansas if there is a spot for him. Yes, Billo's ERA was the highest of his career in 2012, but he struck out batters at a higher percentage than the average Carolina League pitcher and he continued to limit home runs. I think Billo has 4/5 starter upside and there is definitely value in that. The Royals clearly need front of the rotation starters, but guys like Billo in that they provide the depth necessary to get through a 162 season. Also, Billo is a type of guy who could be an appealing additional piece in a smaller trade. Think Justin Marks in the David DeJesus trade. 

Dan Ware (29): As far as ERA is concerned, Billo has been up and down the past few seasons.  His 2011 campaign with Kane County was certainly a confidence boost.  I did a little research on Greg to figure out where the success came from.  Alan Barrington of 'Kings of Kauffman' interviewed Greg back in March, asking what contributed to his 9-5 year, "I learned to keep the ball down and that was a big help for me.  Being able to throw my off-speed pitches for strikes made it so much easier to pitch, and a few mechanical changes and little tweaks."  I'm hoping to see Billo in a Naturals uniform this season.  Greg brings a hard work ethic to the table, which can help revamp the rotation in Northwest Arkansas. Yordano Ventura, Justin Marks, and Tim Melville, along with Billo could make for some fun in the sun in 2013.

Total Points: 2

Friday, November 23, 2012

Another Course of Action

I'm about to present an argument for one course of action that the Royals could take. I'm not necessarily advocating that it is the ideal course of action, merely, that it is something I've been mulling over in my head and so I wanted to get it on to the site. This will not be a popular suggestion.

The Royals should not make a major trade for a starting pitcher.

As of today, here is where the Royals rotation stands entering the 2013 season:
  1. Jeremy Guthrie
  2. Ervin Santana
  3. Bruce Chen
  4. Luke Hochevar
  5. Luis Mendoza
  6. Jake Odorizzi
  7. Will Smith
Step one in this course of action is to non-tender Luke Hochevar (as should be the next step in any course of action the Royals take). I would then advocate that the Royals bargain shop for a starter on a one year deal. If you can wind up with a guy like Shaun Marcum, Dan Haren, or Brandon McCarthy that is fantastic and they absolutely could fit into the rotation suggested in this post. However, let's go ahead and operate on the assumption the Royals don't acquire any other starters. 

What the Royals could do instead of trading a starter, is to grant either Kelvin Herrera or Aaron Crow the opportunity to start in 2013. Obviously, both of these pitchers have question marks that will likely deter the Royals from this route. Herrera has already lost nearly two seasons due to injuries. Aaron Crow was ineffective as a starter in his first professional season. 

However, the incentive here is clear. Either of these starters, if they could transition successfully, could be a #2 or at least a #3 starter. Herrera has more front end stuff, but Crow has shown that he can handle the workload that a starter would require. If the Royals have a preference between the two, they could chose before camp. If the Royals aren't sure which would be a better fit, you let the two of them battle it out for the final rotation spot. 

If the Royals are ever going to try either of these guys in the rotation 2013 is absolutely the best year to do it. As bad as we all want the Royals to contend in 2013, they still aren't expected to do so. If the Royals were expected to contend, a much safer solution would be in order. Because the Royals have to bridge a large gap, it is an ideal time to take a chance on a high reward option. Right now, we are hearing a lot about the Royals talking trades for a controllable, young, front end starter. The possibility exist that you already have one in your organization. Now might just be the time to find out. 

There is another reason why 2013 makes sense to take this chance. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will likely both be on the D.L. through at least June. However more than likely, the Royals will at some point want to squeeze one or both of them back into the rotation. In addition to providing the Royals an exit should the experiment fail, this also allows the Royals an ability to cap the innings increase of the bullpen convert should they chose to do so. 

Like I said, I am not necessarily advocating this course of action. I am merely suggesting an alternative if you, like me, are a bit nervous about the idea of Dayton Moore trading away one of the Royals core hitters to a team like the Rays, Mariners, or Athletics.

It is said that fortune favors the bold. However, I don't think we should approach the offseason with the foregone conclusion that the only solution to the Royals is a major trade. In fact, it should be pointed out that there is no riskier route than a major trade. When you are a annually around a 70 win team, keeping status quo isn't going to push you into contention. Just keep in mind that there might be another creative play the Royals could make, while keeping their core hitters intact.

Prospect Countdown: #39 Alexis Rivera

39. Alexis Rivera Outfielder

Paden Bennett (30): I am a big fan of Rivera, a young outfielder with already an advanced approach at the plate.  Rivera also has some pop as shown by his .477 slug.  At just 18 years old their is a lot to be excited about with this kid.  Add him to the mix of young, promising Royal's outfielders.

Joe Cox (NR): Alexis Rivera was the 10th round pick of the 2012 amateur draft.  Similar to Escalera-Maldonado, Rivera is a young toolsy outfielder who doesn’t turn 18 until 2013.  Rivera is 6-2, 220 pounds and projects to be a slugging corner outfielder.  Scouting reports say that Rivera possesses decent skill in the outfield, but his power potential is what makes him a legitimate prospect.  Rivera was very impressive in his first 176 plate appearances, hitting .341 with a wOBA of .408.  Rivera also showed an ability to take a walk and only struck out 29 times, which I find very impressive considering his age.  It will be interesting to see how Rivera fairs in a full professional season, but he could wind up being an exciting player to watch move up the organizational ladder over the next few years. 

Damion Mandalas (NR): In Baseball America's 2012 Royals draft report card, Rivera was considered the best pure hitter of the entire Royals draft class. This idea was compounded by the fact that he probably had the strongest pro debut of any of the Royals' 2012 draft's hitting prospects. Rivera is praised for his short swing and advanced approach at the plate displaying strong strike zone judgement and the ability to use the entire field. The Arizona League is a good hitting league. With that being said, Rivera's 23:29 BB:K ratio and 17.9% line drive percentage are both reasons to be excited for this guy moving forward. The Royals could aggressively assign him to Lexington for 2013, but at this point I don't see room in the Legends' outfield. More likely, Rivera will open the year for Idaho Falls or Burlington. My guess is he'll play in the Appalachian League in 2013. 

Dan Ware (NR): What's not to like about a .341/.413/.477 line from an 18 year old in his first professional season?  A mixture of 6'2" 220 lb, speed, and plus power with Rivera could very well be a huge steal in the 10th round of the 2012 draft.  Considered to be a good OF, can read flyballs well and with some 'raw' arm strength, it's as if Rivera is the total package.  We can't get carried away.  Although he was pretty solid in the Arizona league as a teenager, he still needs to prove himself on down the road, but I'm not expecting any problems.  I approve of Alexis Rivera.

Total Points: 1

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Royals Sign Jeremy Guthrie

The Royals announced on Monday that Jeremy Guthrie would be returning to Kansas City on a three year $25 million deal. The deal is structured in a manner in which Guthrie will be paid $5 million in 2013, $11 million in 2014, and $9 million in 2015.

Naturally among the Royals' Twitterverse, this deal has received everything from praise to an incredible amount of criticism. One thing I think that most everyone can agree on is that a three year commitment is one year too much. However, I'd like to welcome those individuals to 2013, a time when most view inflation on the horizon.

This is not to say that the Royals are necessarily overpaying for Jeremy Guthrie. In fact, I think this contract is pretty well right in line with what Guthrie's value likely is. In fact, it has been noted by several that over the last three seasons Guthrie has been worth $23.8 million. Haters would respond to this by pointing out that Guthrie is on the downhill slope of the aging curve and that it isn't a good assumption to project Guthrie to continue his past performance moving forward.

Typically, I would agree that based on his age regression should be expected. In this instance, I feel differently. I've talked about this a lot in recent weeks, I think Guthrie fits the mold of what kind of pitcher can be excel in Kauffman Stadium. While it was a small sample size (fourteen starts), Guthrie's performance with the Royals evidenced this fact.

Guthrie has always been a fly ball pitcher. As a result of this he has been able to find consistent success in limiting the batting average on balls in play of opposing hitters. Ground balls result in a higher percentage of hits than fly balls. Of course, it goes without being said that fly balls result in a higher percentage of home runs than ground balls. Fortunately, for the first time in Guthrie's career he was able to play in a park that has historically suppressed home runs.

The other two parks that Guthrie has called home were both poor fits as far as Guthrie's pitching style goes. Camden Yards is a bandbox. Coors Field is a mile above sea level. Guthrie of course was a disaster in Coors, but somehow he was able to amass 11.1 fWAR while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles. That is good for 2.2 fWAR per season. If he can continue that for Kansas City, he'll be worth the contract.

Throughout his career, Jeremy Guthrie has been around 5.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 40% GB%. In Kansas City, Guthrie was able to drop his BB/9 under 2, while maintaining his K/9. There is a reason to expect this improvement to be reality and not sample size induced, due to a change in mechanics that the Royals coaching staff implemented following his arrival in Kansas City.

Interestingly in some research I came across another starter who posted similar peripherals in 2012. This starter recorded 5.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 with a 40% GB. This starter was able to pitch all of his home games in a fly ball pitcher's parks. The pitcher's name is Brandon McCarthy and he had a 3.24 ERA in 18 starts while compiling 1.8 fWAR.

Kauffman Stadium isn't the pitcher's park that the Coliseum is, but there's reason to believe that if Guthrie can keep his walk rate under two, it isn't hard to imagine him posting an ERA around 3.50, while logging 200+ innings annually with a fWAR around 3. If Guthrie can do this, it would be silly to complain about paying him $8 million annually.

***On a side note can we stop lumping contracts together and saying things like instead of player X, Y, and Z we could be paying for player A? Just because the Royals screwed up with one contract doesn't mean that every other contract is a bad one. Surely, the Royals blogosphere is smarter.

As I stated earlier, I wish Kansas City could have been brought back on a two year deal. With that being said, I think the timing of the Guthrie deal is important to note. By locking up Guthrie now and acquiring Ervin Santana, they have the necessary security to cut ties with Chris Volstad and Luke Hochevar. The former of these two tasks has already been completed, and I fully expect Hochevar to be non-tendered by the November 30, deadline.

If the Royals wouldn't have completed the deal with Jeremy Guthrie prior to the end of the month, they would have likely felt it necessary to tender Hochevar a contract. Instead, they can now non-tender Hochevar, adding about $5 million to their budget. If they can apply this budget elsewhere that's great, if not the addition of Guthrie gives the Royals enough options entering 2013, should the worst case scenario occur and the Royals not find any other starters between now and Opening Day.

Cutting Hochevar also would allow the Royals some additional financial flexibility. The structure of the Guthrie deal makes a couple of points apparent for me. First, the Royals don't have as much budget room available for 2013, as most of us believe that they should. Second, By back loading the Guthrie deal, the Royals provide themselves with some additional wiggle room to add a third rotation piece.

Another interesting point, is that while the deal is back loaded, it is also structured in a way in which Guthrie will be paid the highest percentage of his earnings in the second year of his contract. This also appears to be a smart approach as with the Royals youth, ideally the young players will continue to get more expensive through arbitration as time goes by. If nothing else, it at least shows a bit of creativity on the part of Dayton Moore and the front office.

Overall, I'm not in love with the Guthrie deal. I feel as though the contract is fair value. It is close enough to where I truly believe it can be argued one way or another if it was a good deal for the club. Personally, I think it is a good deal. People are making a fuss about the Royals pursuit of mediocrity, but yet those individuals aren't proposing any solutions to the problem. I believe that Guthrie is an improvement and I expect him to be solid over the next three years with some small upside due to Kauffman's park factors.

Oh and Jeremy Guthrie, I saw that you were tweeting Brandon McCarthy the other day. Why don't you try to convince him to join you in Kansas City? Talk about how well you two fit into the ballpark and if that statistical stuff falls short, you could always invite him hunting with you and Frenchy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #40 Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado

40. Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado Outfield

Paden Bennett (NR): I liked the gamble of taking this youngster in the draft in 2012.  Escalera-Maldonado had a solid season in rookie ball, look for this guy to progress fairly quickly.

Joe Cox (NR): Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado: Alfedo Escalera-Maldonado was the 8th round pick of the 2012 amateur draft for the Royals.  The seventeen year old Escalera-Maldonado was announced as a center fielder during the draft and is obviously very raw.  In his first 128 professional plate appearances Maldonado managed to hit over .300 but showed no power or plate discipline.  He is a wait and see prospect that will require a long wait before the Royals know if he will ever be a part of their future. 

Damion Mandalas (NR): Escalera-Maldonado was one of the very youngest players selected in the 2012 draft. For me he is worth mentioning because of his age and strong showing in the Arizona League. Yes, his numbers were inflated by a .396 BABIP, but part of the reason for this was his LD% of 15.3, which came in just above the league average mark of 14.3%. The Royals can afford to take it slow with Escalera-Maldonado, so I expect him to spend another season in rookie league before breaking into full season ball in 2014. 

Dan Ware (30):  17 years old.  First professional baseball season.  .303 with a few RBI.  You never know.. The boy has some promise if he keeps workin' hard.  Verbal commitment to Florida State, a smart young man who has great bat speed, potential for power growth, quick on his feet, sky is the limit for Alfredo.  From a scouting report I've read, he tends to chase balls out of the zone, so he's looking to swing and make contact every AB.  No reason to not like the kid.  Not even old enough to buy a pack of smokes yet.

Total Points: 1

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #41 Jin-Ho Shin

41. Jin-Ho Shin Catcher

Paden Bennett (NR): Not much to say here, I'm not really a fan of this kid at all.  When we signed him, I had heard of his advanced approach at the plate and I love to hear that at any position.  Still only 21 years old, he could progress.  However, I just don't see it happening.

Joe Cox (30): It is a stretch to include a player like Shin on this list, and it is probably fitting that he is last on the rankings.  It is also my fault that he made this list of prospects.  Shin is a 6-2 200 pound catcher that seems to have some raw power but did just turn 21 and has struggled to produce outside of rookie ball.  I watched him play live in the pioneer league and he did at times pass the eye ball test due to his stature and a couple good games, but he clearly does not have enough power and does not make enough contact to have many expectations.  But depth at catcher is valuable and he could be viable minor league depth at the catcher position for the Royals system. 

Damion Mandalas (NR): Shin was one of the first high profile international signings of the Dayton Moore era. Unfortunately, he has yet to live up to the bill. However, for the first time in his career he produced some quality results at the plate, thanks to a sixty game stint in Idaho Falls.

I had the privilege of watching Shin and a few other prospects on this list for a few games this summer. I liked what I saw from Shin's offensive game enough to not write him off as a prospect. Throughout the series he showed good patience and good power, hitting a bomb to left and a line drive home run to center. However, I wasn't as inspired by what I saw from his glove work, which riddled the series with passed balls and poor decisions to throw behind runners. He should get his second start in Low-A to open 2013.

Dan Ware (NR):  So far in 3 seasons, Shin has compiled a career line .220/.296/.334..nothing to go crazy over.  Here's the bright side: Shin has been praised tremendously for his defensive presence as a catcher.  On the down side: I looked at his career numbers while crouching behind the plate.  I wouldn't say allowing 195 SB in just 159 career games and only throwing out 19% of them is all that impressive, but hey, he just turned 21 less than a month ago.  The time is running out, and quickly, for Shin to make a name for himself.  C'mon Shin!

Total Points: 1

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Royals Postseason Awards

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for two Royals players. Both Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have won postseason hardware; one for his glove and one for his bat.

On Tuesday, October 30th, left fielder Alex Gordon won his second consecutive Gold Glove Award. Gordon is the first Royal’s player to win back-to-back Gold Gloves since exiled former second baseman Frank White did so in 1986-1987. Gordon’s second Gold Glove also marks the 20th time a Royal’s player has won one; Alex being the only player since Mark Grudzielanek in 2006 to do so.

“I’m very excited about it,” Gordon said. “Hopefully, I can keep on being consistent in the outfield and keep bringing Gold Gloves home.” He should be excited; the boost in his paycheck because of the feat won't go unnoticed (Hint: Six Digits). 

Other Royals finalists for the award were right fielder Jeff Francoeur (who’s win would have signified the ending of all that is good), third baseman Mike Moustakas (who will win eventually), and first baseman Eric Hosmer (ditto).

Meanwhile, on November 8th, Billy Butler won the Silver Slugger Award for Designated Hitter behind the line of: .313/.373/.510 line with a career-high 29 home runs, 32 doubles and 107 runs batted in. 
It also didn't hurt that Butler made his first All Star Game this summer.

Butler becomes the first Royals recipient of the award since Dean Palmer in 1998, and fourth player in Royals history – George Brett won the award in its inaugural season of 1980, and again in ’85 and ’88; Willie Wilson won in 1980 and ’82 as well.

But Billy’s award isn't without its skeptics. One such argument is that Edwin Encarnacion should have won. The same sort of argument was posed for Alex Gordon’s first Gold Glove and how Yankee’s left fielder Brett Gardner should have won. But on both counts, I don’t really care.

Banners fly forever and trophies never rust.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Trevor Bauer

Obviously, the Royals need pitching and like every other team in baseball they would love to get their hands on front end, cost-controlled talent. Today the Diamondbacks made when ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported that they are also listening to offers for starter Trevor Bauer. You can read MLB Trade Rumors post on the subject here.

Bauer of course was selected third overall in what is already being billed as one of the greatest draft classes of all time. In fact, entering the draft it was said that if any of the four pitchers at the top of the draft fell to the fifth slot, the Royals would snatch them up in a hurry. Instead, all four were swiped up before the Royals could get their hands on them. (The Royals wound up with local legend Bubba Starling.)

In college, Bauer teamed with Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole to form perhaps the top pitching tandem in college baseball history. Bauer finished his career at UCLA with school records in strikeouts (460), wins (34), and innings pitched (373.1). Bauer, a disciple of long toss, has taken the discipline to whole new levels of preparation. It is also no secret that he is very into his own routine and perhaps this stubbornness is what has caused a riff in the relationship between him and the Diamondbacks.

Bauer has continued his success into professional baseball. In 29 starts and 156 Minor League innings, Bauer has posted a 3.00 ERA. He has also recorded 11.5 K/9, while walking 4.2 per 9. Obviously, the guy has tremendous stuff, but the walks are a concern. The interesting part is that Bauer has been very adamant that walks are a part of his game. He has even discussed how he personally keeps track of good walks versus bad walks, explaining that in some situations a walk isn't a bad alternative.

I can't help but imagine that Bauer's personal strategy will be incredibly frustrating to pitching coaches throughout his career. However, if he can continue to strikeout batters by the truckload he just needs to keep the walks around 4 to find success. It is clear the Royals would love to get their hands on this kind of talent, but given the commitment it would take in trade, I wonder if the Royals would pursue another route if all things were equal. This is not to say the Royals don't like Bauer, but I personally don't know if he is the best fit for this organization. Whether that is a negative implication or not I'm be sure.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Moving on from Our Time

On Monday, October 29th, the Kansas City Royals officially finished cleaning house. First, the Royals fired first base coach, Doug Sisson, on August 4th. Then, on October 4th, the Royals got rid of their hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer. Now, in the team’s final move to erase any memory of the disappointing 2012 season, the Royals have given the coup de grĂ¢ce to their marketing consultant firm. The Royals are now fixed.

Sarcasm aside, I think most people saw this move coming since about May. It’s not often that a marketing firm makes itself such a talking point amongst a fan base, but it’s also not often that a marketing firm takes such a balls-out approach for an upcoming season. Not to mention the upcoming season was for a ball club coming off eight straight losing seasons. I think we all know what I’m talking about.

“Our Time.”

A gutsy slogan that was supposed to usher in a new era for Royals baseball, it was branded everywhere and accompanied with current and former Royals players alike echoing it in perfect harmony and sincerity. Fans, including myself, couldn’t help but be excited about the 2012 season. After all, it was finally Our Time. Not anyone else’s time, they had had their time. No, from here on out, it was no one else’s time but ours.

But it didn’t take long for Our Time to transform from a slogan of hope to a punch line at the end of a joke. By about the time Chris Perez mocked it with a “Tribe Time” hash-tag on Twitter, the slogan was dying a painful death. Don’t get me wrong, I respect what the marketing firm was trying to do. Why should fans be confident in the upcoming season if the team and those around it aren’t confident as well? Things that are intended as good, however, can sometimes turn out so bad (and if you’re thinking, “You don’t know it was the slogan that caused the Royals do get rid of them!,” well, you’re certainly right that I can’t know for sure, but I’m certainly not the only person who is suggesting it either).

So, the Royals cut ties with those failed good intentions on Monday and moved forward with Walz Tetrick as their new advertising agency (Here's their website. If you take the time to look through it, it's some pretty creative and funny stuff). This is what the team’s press release had to say about the matter:

“We were fortunate to have several excellent options for an advertising agency partnership,” said Michael Bucek, Royals Vice President-Marketing & Business Development.  “Walz Tetrick came to the forefront with their originality, enthusiasm and an approach that meshed well with our staff.  We look forward to working with their team to further our brand development and provide fans with a connection to our players and organization.”

The agency’s responsibilities will include creative development and production, as well as media planning and implementation. 

“We are thrilled to be working with one of the most iconic brands in Kansas City,” said WTA president and owner Charlie Tetrick.  “WTA believes the Royals are a perfect fit for the agency, which holds an extensive portfolio of media, creative development and consumer promotional work across various industries, including sports marketing.  After assisting with branding campaigns for other local sport organizations including the Kansas City Chiefs and Missouri Mavericks, WTA is pleased to establish a partnership with the Royals, one of Kansas City’s marquee sports franchises.  The Royals have a promising year ahead, and we can’t wait to be part of it.”

According to their website, they have also consulted with Dairy Queen, American Royal, Boy Scouts of America, Prairie Band Casino & Resort, GE Transportation and Olathe Heath System. Give their website a look (which I already linked above) to check out some of their work. 

Since WTA is new this season, we at Royal Revival, out of the kindness of our hearts, are going to help them out with their 2013 marketing efforts and offer OUR suggestions for the upcoming team slogan. All for FREE! Can you believe that?! I mean, out of all of us, we have … like … (scratches head) … TWO full years of real world marketing experience. Obviously, we know what we’re talking about. So here’s what we came up with.

“2 in 13”

“Yeah, we booed Cano. What’s it to ya?”

“Cassel doesn’t play here.”

“Let’s be honest, we’re looking for a .500 season.”

“See, we traded Melky for a reason!”

“Soon-to-be-relevant. Or is that too close to Our Time?”

“If you like Garth Brooks, you’re going to love us.”

“What else are you going to watch? Soccer?”

“We’re not the Cardinals.”

Friday, November 2, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Carlos Villanueva

I will continue the Cross Hairs series by discussing a somewhat under the radar free agent starting pitcher, Carlos Villanueva.  Villanueva, who will be 29 on opening day next season, has quietly been a reliable spot starter/ swing man arm for the Toronto Blue Jays for the past two seasons.  Prior to his stint with the Blue Jays, Villanueva worked primarily out of the bullpen for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Villanueva is a proven major league pitcher who is probably looking for an offer to become a part of a team’s rotation plans and leaving his relief pitching behind him.

Villanueva is a 6’2’’ 235 pound righty originally from the Dominican Republic.  His fastball clocked in at an average of 89 MPH last season and he has a four pitch arsenal including a change-up, slider, and curve ball.  Villanueva threw his fastball just over 44% of the time last year and is known to feel comfortable throwing off speed pitches in any count.  Villanueva had a 4.16 ERA last season.  He gave up fewer hits (113) than innings pitched (125) and has nearly a strikeout per inning with 122 strikeouts last season.  Villanueva gave up some of his command last year in exchange for a higher strikeout rate, but did end the season with a respectable 3.6 BB/9.  He was vulnerable to the home run last season, giving up 23 long balls during his 125 innings.

The only manner in which the Royals would view Villanueva is as a starter.  While Villanueva managed more strikeouts and a lower ERA as a reliever, he did a solid job during his 16 starts with the Jays last season.  The most notable difference from his time as a starter is his ability to cut down on walks.  He walked 21 batters in 33 relief innings while only walking 25 over 92 innings as a starter.  Villanueva also managed a strikeout rate of 8.4; but did allow 18 home runs as a starter, which was the main culprit for his 4.50 ERA during his starts.

Carlos earned about 2.3 million dollars last season and should be looking to receive a raise and could even warrant a long term contract.   He is still young and would be able to contribute to the Royals who desperately need more pitching.  As long as Villanueva continues to find ways to punch batters out and limit his home runs even a little he could become a valuable back end starter.  Pitchers like Jeremy Guthrie have shown that Kaufmann is able to suppress home runs enough to make fly ball pitchers more effective than they otherwise would, and this should hold true for Villanueva. 

The Royals could choose to offer Villanueva a 2-3 year deal worth 3.5-4 million per.  With the addition to Ervin Santana the Royals are making a concerted effort to improve a rotation that is currently very thin.  Villanueva is a jack of all trades pitcher that could start for them regularly in 2013 and be a valuable swing-man as the Royals continue to add starting pitching depth from their system and otherwise over the next few seasons.