Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Addition of a Wilcard

"Baseball's playoffs will expand from eight to 10 teams, starting this season, according to major-league sources." -Per Ken Rosenthal. You can read the full article here.  
And with that the Royals chances for making the playoffs from a purely statistical standpoint have increased from  28.6% to 35.7%. This will be the highest percentage of playoff teams ever fielded by a league and with the addition of the Houston Astros to the American League in 2013, it will be the highest percentage for the foreseeable future.

At first I hated the thought that a wildcard team, after winning several games more than another wild card team, could be knocked out in a one game playoff. However, after further thought I have really fallen in love with the idea. Last season we experienced one of the most exhilarating postseasons in Major League Baseball history. Part of the reason for that was game 162.

Now every season the playoffs are going to get started with a bang. Two teams will showdown; ace versus ace. Do or die. All or nothing. If you are a traditionalist you can take comfort in the fact that once again, an emphasis is placed on the division winners. I can't wait for the season to get started and I can't wait until the excitement of October.

Getz Drives the Ball with Authority

"Getz is showing, at least in the early days of camp, an improved ability to drive the ball." -Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. You can read the full article here
I wonder if this is Dutton's opinion or the sentiment of the organization. Either way we are about a week into camp. Getz hasn't even taking a Spring Training at bat and is taking his swings in the Arizona air. My guess is that at age 28, Chris Getz hasn't developed a new found gap power stroke.

I continue to believe that while the organization bills Giavotella as the favorite for the starting second base job, the pressure is actually on him to win the position. If both players struggle, Getz opens the season as the second baseman. If Getz does drive some doubles in the Cactus League and hits as well as Giavotella, then Gio will open in Omaha.

Let's just hope that if Getz does knock the ball around a bit this Spring, the Royals don't forget the density of the Arizona air.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Royals Extend Salvador Perez

By now I'm sure all of you have heard the news; the Royals have extended catcher Salvador Perez. The deal is for a guaranteed five seasons, with club options for 2017, 2018, and 2019. Here is a breakdown of the money and the fWAR he'd have to produce for the Royals to break even:

Year: Money-WAR
2012: $750,000- 0.2
2013: $1,000,000- 0.2
2014: $1,500,000- 0.3
2015: $1,750,000- 0.4
2016: $2,000,000- 0. 4
2017*: $3,75,000- 0.8
2018*: $5,000,000- 1.1
2019*: $6,000,000- 1.3
$21,750,000- 4.8
Incentives: $5,000,000- 1.1
Total: $26.750,000- 5.9

Obviously you can debate how accurate 1 WAR is worth, but by using fangraphs 1 WAR per every $4.5 million on the open market, here is what Salvador Perez would have to do in order to return market value. Unfortunately, in this situation the open market isn't the best way to evaluate Salvador Perez. The reason is because for the next three years he was going to be paid the league minimum regardless. The following three seasons his salary would have been reflect of his market value on a 40-60-80 scale.

We could go into hypotheticals in order to estimate Perez's pay depending on different levels of performance. Instead I am going to use a comp, for this case let's use Miguel Montero. (This is the player I had been using for Perez's arbitration figures in my payroll estimates for future seasons.) 

Montero made $2 million in his first year of arbitration, and $3.2 million in his second. If he keeps up his current pace he'll be due around $5 million for his final season of arbitration. For his three arbitration seasons, Montero should make around $11-13 million during his team controlled seasons. Perez will make $10.75 mill.

Maybe a better comparison for Perez would be defensive first catcher like Yadier Molina. In Molina's first six seasons he made $10.69 million. However, during those first six seasons Molina was never able to post an OPS above .750. I think Molina's a great comparison for Perez, but after a season that saw him hit .331/.361/.473 (albeit in 158 PA), I think most of us hope that Perez will do more with the stick than Yadi.

Of course the big draw to the contract, isn't obtaining cost control through Perez's team controlled years. (Although, if he develops as the Royals hope that will be a HUGE bonus as well.) The huge part of this extension is the Royals ability to control Perez through 2019. The Royals have club options for the final year of arbitration and two of Perez's free agent seasons. 

If Perez totally tanks the Royals are out around $7 million. (Less than the one year contract Edwin Jackson just received.) If Perez is simply Alcides Escobar with the bat, but a stud defensively this deal could be extremely fair. If Perez turns into the Hall of Famer that Art Stewart predicts, this deal will look like one of the most team friendly contracts in the history of the game.

Earlier this off-season, I thought there were two players that would be great candidates for extensions that were under the radar: Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. My rationale was that even if they struggled with the bat their defense would be strong enough to carry them through at least part of the deal. Both of these players are at defensive oriented positions and if they continue to be studs they can return fair value simply with their gloves.

The second reason, that I believed both would make good candidates is that neither were bonus babies. Any extension would be a life changing sum of money. Not that the sum wouldn't be life changing for Hosmer or Moustakas, but the fact that they are already millionaires makes it a bit easier to turn down a major offer.

In the Dayton Moore era, the argument can be made that the Royals have extended every deserving player, not name Alex Gordon (fingers crossed). However, these extensions have all occurred post arbitration. Prior to today, the Royals hadn't agreed to a player extension of this type. The fact the Royals have now completed one, tells me that they aren't just paying lip service to the idea.

Whether or not Scott Boras would allow Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas to sign an extension of this type is up in the air. But as of now we know for sure that the Royals would be open to one. I'm aware that it takes two to tango, but tonight I feel more optimistic than I did twenty-four hours ago.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Tale of Two Butlers

“It was a big adjustment,and it was hard to accept. It was hard to get the right mind-set. But there was (an inability) to just accept things, too. There was a need to accept the type of talent that Eric is, and realize what’s best for the team.” -Billy Butler on his move to being a full time designated hitter. You can read the full article here
The article attributes Butler's second half success to an improved in-game regime. The routine involves the stationery bike, swings in the cages, and imagining defensive positioning among other things. Personally, I was under the impression that Butler's second half power surge was the direct result of #countrybreakfast.

Butler's power also came shortly after a reworked approach (and if I recall some comments by George Brett and Ned Yost). In the first half Butler slugged just .415, but was able to post an astounding K:BB of 49:43. In the second half the slugging percentage jumped to .511, but the K:BB dropped to 17:52. If Butler can combine those two halves, plain and simple we are talking about an MVP candidate.

So what do you think, did the success come as the result of a change in approach? A change in in-game inolvement? Or the rise of #countrybreakfast? 

The other question of course is what kind of Billy Butler will we see in the second half? Will we see a guy that hits like the first half Butler? Something like .294/.390/.415 with 10 home runs and 69 RBI, and 89 walks? Or will it be the second half Billy? Hitting to a tune of .289/.327/.511 with 30 home runs and 131 RBI and just 39 walks?

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #13 Cam Gallagher

#13 Cam Gallagher

Age: 19
Position: C
Height: 6-3
Weight: 210
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Lancaster, PA

The Royals have made a concentrated effort to grab a left hander, short stop and catcher in the first five rounds of the Major League draft (at least that was there stated goal in post draft interviews). In the end the Royals wound up with Pennsylvania high school product Cam Gallagher. Gallagher hails from strong baseball bloodlines and the Royals were confident enough to select him with the 65th overall pick and sign him to an above slot $750K.

As a PA high school catching prospect, Gallagher draws comparisons to Cincinnati Reds prospect Devin Mesoraco. If these comparisons hold true then the Royals would be well advised to proceed with patience. Gallagher has big time potential and if does develop into a Mesoraco clone the Royals got the steal of the draft.

Gallagher is a strong receiver behind the plate and the Royals are extremely confident that he'll stick there. He's got great power potential and could one day hit 20 home runs annually. Gallagher could open the season in Kane County, but it wouldn't be a bad thing if the Royals exercise patience and start him in Idaho Falls instead.

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Crow's 2012 Workload

“Realistically, it would be tough for him to make 32 starts, but he could make 10 starts and go to the pen. He could make five starts and go to the pen. He could open in the pen and make 10 starts later or 15 starts. I don’t know.” - Manager Ned Yost on Aaron Crow
I like that the organization is open to transitioning Crow to the rotation from the big league bullpen, should he not break camp as a starter. But this quotation also leads me to believe that the Royals will likely avoid sending Crow to Omaha, in order to keep his arm in the pen. In my opinion this could be a mistake.

If the Royals are serious in wanting to transition Crow to starter, he'll very likely need more seasoning before he is Major League ready. As we remember, Crow wasn't exactly a dominant force during his one minor league season. He struggled with command, and had difficulty avoiding the big inning. I watched Crow first hand for most of the 2010 season, and though I'm no scout, his stuff was impressive throughout the year.

Crow may very well be best suited in the bullpen, but there is front end upside if he can successfully transition to the rotation. The Royals are correct to at least giving him a shot. But if the Royals expect Crow to reach that upside without more seasoning, I fear they are severely mistaken.

The Royals have plenty of options for the bullpen heading into camp. They have enough options for the rotation as well. If Crow doesn't dominate in camp, but does show improved command, open him in Omaha's rotation. Allow him to build himself back up as a starter and log the innings necessary to develop.

I know he may only be able to pitch 100-120 innings this season and the Royals rightly want those to come in the Majors. However, sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. That might be the situation for Aaron Crow and the Royals in 2012.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #14 Noel Arguelles

#14 Noel Arguelles

Age: 22
Position: LHP
Height: 6-3
Weight: 215
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent on 1/7/10
From: Guira, Cuba

In 2010, the Royals landed Cuban defector Noel Arguelles with a 5 year, $6.9 million commitment. That year the Royals believed that Arguelles was a top international talent and by adding him, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Orlando Calixte they had grabbed three of the top five international players available. A couple of years later we see how fickle the market can be for young Latin American players.

After signing, Arguelles wasn't able to pitch an inning in 2010 thanks to a shoulder injury. The injury, which was believed to be the result of fatigue, came from pitching basically year round, while showcasing his talents for teams. Since the injury, Arguelles' velocity, which used to sit firmly in the low 90s, now ranges in the upper 80s.

Arguelles has plus command. His curve ball and change are generally said to be average offerings so the key for him will be the return of his velocity. If in 2012, the velocity can be back at his pre-injury level his ceiling is that of a mid rotation starter. If the velocity never returns, his ceiling is as a #5 or in long relief. Arguelles should open the 2012 season in Northwest Arkansas.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #15 Jorge Bonifacio

#15 Jorge Bonifacio

Age: 18
Position: OF
Height: 6-1
Weight: 192
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent on 12/9/09
From: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Some are calling Jorge Bonifacio a sleeper prospect entering the 2012 season, but Royals diehards are well aware of his enormous potential. Jorge is the brother of Major Leaguer Emilio Bonifacio and in two professional seasons as a teenager the early returns have been promising.

Bonifacio is an average defender with an above average arm. Despite a long swing, he has hit .290 as a professional. Last season he squared up Appalachian League pitchers 22% compared to the league average of 14%. Bonifacio's power is even more promising. Scouts say he has a special sound off the bat and his slugging percentage last year came in 100 points higher than the league average.

Bonifacio should open the season in Kane County. He's just one of a bevy a young outfield prospects.

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Return of the Six Man Rotation

After the enormous success of the Royals six man rotation last summer, it seems the Royals are going to boldly lead Major League Baseball into a new era of pitching. Ned Yost announced yesterday that the Royals would return to the six man rotation.

A six man rotation makes huge sense for the Royals, who have one of the strongest groups of starting pitchers in the league. There were really no other choices available to get all of Kansas City's pitching studs the innings they deserve. How else would the Royals have managed innings for Pacific Coast League stud muffin Luis Mendoza?


The Royals aren't permanently going with the six man rotation? It's only for the early weeks of Spring Training?

I can see the logic here. In fact, while I hanging out in the depths of my parent's basement, in between battles with Orcs in the World of Warcraft and handfuls of cheetos, I've been known to utilize the six man rotation in Spring Training while playing Out of the Park Baseball.

The Royals will be able to evaluate all of the starters competing for rotation spots. Six guys will start games and in the early weeks, and six more will be able to piggy back start. This allows the Royals to evaluate 12 rotation candidates. Do the Royals have 12 legitimate big league starters? No. But do the Royals have 12 starters in camp needing innings? Yes.

My only concern with the six man rotation, would be the delay in allowing the starters to get into their season routines. However, this concern is only minor and the fact that the Texas Rangers have used this Spring Training strategy before makes me much more confident in its benefits. Not to mention, that the competing starters have all had plenty of experience in five man rotations If a starter doesn't have a routine at this point in his career, well, no wonder they aren't a lock for the rotation.

The other thing I should mention, is that with each passing day a sickness grows in my stomach. It is the same feeling I get from overdoing the chips and queso at the local Mexican joint. Every day I get a stronger feeling that Luis Mendoza will open camp as the fifth starter. Mendoza is out of waivers and I believe the Royals are deathly afraid that if they cut him he'll be a beast in another team's rotation.

When breaking camp teams often look to control inventory. Duffy has options, Mendoza doesn't. For this reason I expect Mendoza to open as the five starter, with Duffy logging some innings in Omaha to begin the season. Although, there is an even worse scenario that involves Paulino struggling this Spring, but I don't even want to think about that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #16 David Lough

#16 David Lough

Age: 26
Position: OF
Height: 5-11
Weight: 180
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Drafted in 11th Round of 2007 Amateur Draft
From: Akron, OH

Former Division 2 standout David Lough has always been a personal favorite of mine. Most wouldn't rank him as high as I have him, but this is my list and I'm confident that Lough is a safe bet to be a solid Major League 4th outfielder or second division regular. I see Lough as a Major League ready prospect.

Unfortunately for Lough in the past 12 months the outfield has transitioned from question mark to set in stone for the 2012 season. Due to Lough's weak arm left field is the best fit defensively and as you might know the Royals are set there for at least the next two seasons. Long term the Royals have added a  bevy of outfield prospects and are now among the games deepest farm system's in that regard.

Lough has good gap power as evidenced by his 41 doubles and 23 triples in his last two AAA seasons. He's extremely athletic and is a plus runner, but his limited home run power and age limit his ceiling. At this point Lough sits behind Mitch Maier, and Jarrod Dyson on the Royals back up outfield depth chart. He gives the organization good outfield depth, but if he gets a shot in the Majors I envision it coming for another organization.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring is in the Air

Oh how I'm glad Spring Training has finally arrived. From this point forward every event is more exciting than the last, all leading up to the home opener at the K. For now pitchers and catchers have reported so let's take a brief look at the most important Spring Training battles. (In no particular order.)

  • Giavotella vs Getz- Giavotella enters camp as the early favorite, but in my opinion the pressure is on him to win the job. To put it simple here is why I believe that. If Giavotella doesn't hit this spring he won't win the job. This may seem a bit obvious, but normally if your competitor doesn't hit either the position would go to the early favorite. In this situation if neither player hits Getz will open the season as the everyday starter. If both players hit? It wouldn't shock me if they go with Getz. Giavotella absolutely has has to out hit Getz by a decent margin, for this reason I see Giavotella as having to do more than Getz to get the Opening Day job. I really hope Giavotella is the winner here, because the Royals have to find a way to fill the #2 spot in the order.

  • 4th Starter- My hope is that Felipe Paulino not being a lock entering camp is more of a motivational factor than the Royals not believing he deserves to be in the rotation. Paulino absolutely should be the fourth starter entering the season and the argument could be made that he is better than any starter on Kansas City's roster. 

  • 5th Starter- Competition for the back end rotation spots include: Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy, Luis Mendoza, Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery, Everett Teaford, Sean O'Sullivan, Vince Mazzaro, and even Chris Dwyer, Jake Odorizzi, and Will Smith. Duffy enters the camp as the favorite and in my opinion is clearly the best option for this spot. However, with each passing day I believe more and more that the final spot will go to Luis Mendoza. Mendoza, is out of options and the organization seems sincere in the belief that he turned a corner last season in Omaha. Early in the season controlling inventory gets the edge when players are neck and neck in Spring Training battles.

  • Bullpen Lefties- The Royals have been pretty clear in saying that they want two lefties on the Opening Day roster. The primary competition includes Tim Collins, Jose Mijares, and Everett Teaford. In addition to these three Ryan Verdugo, Francisely Bueno, Tommy Hottovy, and Brandon Sisk will get looks. I expect Mijares to win a spot, unless he is a disaster in Spring. I expect the Royals would prefer Collins in the second spot, but he's not a lock and will have to throw strikes to win the job.

  • Final 2 or 3 Bullpen Spots- Locks for the pen are Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton, and Greg Holland. This leaves Louis Coleman, Blake Wood, Kelvin Herrera, Jeremy Jeffress, Nate Adcock and any of the losers in the rotation battle. Louis Coleman would have to implode to lose his spot, while Jeffress would need to be lights out to get back on the radar. If the Royals go with an eight man pen, my guess  is it will be because Duffy wins the final rotation spot and the Royals put Mendoza into a long relief role. If the Royals go with a seven man pen, I expect it to come down to Blake Wood and Kelvin Herrera for the final spot.

  • Player #25- If the Royals do go with a seven man pen that will leave one more bench spot. Pena, Betancourt and Maier are likely locks for the roster. The Royals also seem to really want Jarrod Dyson on the roster and I don't blame them. In my personal opinion, if the Royals do go with the four man bench it would make more sense to have Dyson and Kouzmanoff, than Dyson and Maier. Kouzmanoff has an opt out for May 1, so him starting the year in Omaha doesn't mean he'll be gone. He is a good depth piece so I hope the Royals can keep him around.

I couldn't be more thrilled to see that baseball season has finally arrived. I'll be in Surprise for a few days in mid-March so I'm hoping to get some more up close observations as the season draws closer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Power at the Corners

Over at Baseball Prospectus Hall of Fame guru Jay Jaffe has posted an interesting article that you can read here if you are Baseball Prospectus insider. In general, the article breaks down the average offensive production, by each position for the 2011 season using a statistic called True Average. In short, this statistic basically rolls up a player's offensive value into one figure that is then presented on the average scale.

The most interesting finding from this study was the significant drop off in production from third basemen last season. Third base, which has typically been one of the most difficult positions to find premium talent for (there are less third basemen in the Hall of Fame than any other position) dropped below league average True Average for the first time since 2003. In fact, in 2011, third base production reached its lowest point since 1950. In fact, the only positions that it ranked higher in production in were catchers and short stops.

Another position that experienced a significant drop in production in 2011, was left field. Left fielders actually fell in production even more last season than third basemen. For the first time since 1966, left fielders ranked below center fielders in offensive output as judged by True Average.

One of the most popular mantras throughout baseball is power on the corners with defense up the middle. However, in today's game of shrinking offensive production, two of the corners appear to be harder to fill with mashers than they were just a few seasons ago.

If teams are able to find middle of the order production from their middle of the diamond players, they usually are able to field strong offenses. This is because of the scarcity of really good hitters at middle of the diamond positions. If third base and left field turn into positions of scare offensive quality it would mean that the teams able to find quality mashers at these positions would be at a huge advantage. This is the same concept that makes top prospects at premium positions so coveted. Players that can rake at low offense positions are worth more than if their bat is being played at a position on the opposite end of the defensive spectrum

What this means for the Kansas City Royals, is that if production continues to decline from the third base and left field positions, and the Royals can lock up Gordon to an extension, the Royals will be well positioned for the future. Alex Gordon's bat and glove combination would play up even more, should the left fielders around baseball continue the current trend. If Mike Moustakas turns into what the Royals believe he will be, he'll not only be a middle of the order hitter, but he'll also come from a position that around baseball has less production than second base.

Jaffe suggests at the end of the article that there is a good chance the decline in third base production could've been a perfect storm in 2011. Some of the stars of the position were aging and others were hurt. Some league average third basemen regressed, while bad third basemen were worthless. The third base position could be turning itself over to a new generation, led by Mike Moustakas and Lonnie Chisenhall. It will be interesting to see if baseball can find other quality players at the position, or if Moustakas and Chisenhall will be aberrations and as a result, be all the more valuable to their organizations.

In this post today Kevin Goldstein stated "there is little doubt the club (Kansas City) is going to turn into an offensive juggernaut." Production from sub optimum offensive positions would go a long way in turning this prediction into reality.

Prospect Countdown #17 Will Smith

#17 Will Smith

Age: 22
Position: LHP
Height: 6-5
Weight: 235
B/T: R/L
Acquired: Via trade with Sean O'Sullivan from LAA for Alberto Callaspo
From: Newnan, GA

On July 19, 2011, Will Smith and Kelvin Herrera combined for the first and only no hitter in Northwest Arkansas Naturals history. It was around this point that Will Smith turned his season around. In the month of August, Smith posted a 4-1 record with a 1.91 ERA and a 37:9 K:BB in 42 innings pitched.

A couple of things changed for Smith over the course of the summer. First, the Royals allowed him to start throwing a slider. The slider isn't a plus pitch by any means, but it has granted Smith a much needed weapon against right handed hitters (34 of his 45 walks came against righties, although he did induce ground balls at a much higher clip against them). In addition to the slider, Smith also received a tick up in fastball velocity as the summer progressed.

His fastball which normally has sat in the high 80s, now has crossed the 90 mph threshold and has been clocked as high as 94. He is said to have just average command, but he was able to limit opponents to just 2.51 BB/9, which compares favorably to the league average mark of 3.40.

Smith has the upside of a #4 starter, but could also fit in a spot starter/long reliever role in the Majors. He'll start 2012 in Omaha's rotation.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #18 Tim Melville

#18 Tim Melville

Age: 22
Position: RHP
Height: 6-5
Weight: 210
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th Round of the 2008 Amateur Draft
From: Wentzville, MO

In Melville's return to the pitcher friendly Carolina League he continued to tease prospect watchers. He was great in June and July and he still flashes quality stuff. But other times his stuff is inconsistent and his command is even worse. In May he posted a 5.59 ERA and in August that figure was 6.75.

Melville's fastball is still a plus pitch that can come in the mid 90s. His curveball and change still haven't found consistency and scouts say he nibbles too much. According to Baseball America there are some that believe that Melville could take off once he begins using his two seamer and slider. Perhaps, in 2012 the Royals will allow Melville to add to his mix and it will give him the extra oomph he is looking for.

I still believe in the potential of Tim Melville. Sometimes power righties take a little longer to develop than their peers. The Royals believed in Melville enough to pay him $1.25 million out of High School. With such a strong fastball, if he can't find consistency as a starter he could still develop into a strong reliever.

Melville could open the season in Wilmington or Northwest Arkansas, but my guess is the former.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gordon Deadline and Roman Hernandez Jorrin

The arbitration hearing has been set for February 16. In my mind the Royals have until then to work out an extension with Alex Gordon before I begin to get pessimistic about the deal ever getting done.

The Royals also made some news this week by signing 22-year-old Cuban corner outfielder Roman Hernandez Jorrin. Jorrin is said to have good power with an above average arm. The Indians were rumored to be courting Jorrin with a $750K offer, so I'd expect Jorrin's bonus to be somewhere in the $700K to $1 million vicinity.

Jorrin has played against quality competition and I'm always a fan of adding quality depth to the system. Dayton Moore, said that Jorrin should begin his professional career in single A.

EDIT: Looks like the Royals signed Jorrin for $500K. Impressive the Royals were able to undercut the reported $750K that the Indians reportedly offered. This speaks to the Royals strength in the current Latin American market.

Prospect Countdown: #19 Brett Eibner

#19 Brett Eibner

Age: 23
Position: OF
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round of 2010 Amateur Draft
From: The Woodlands, TX

Brett Eibner was a two way star at the University of Arkansas prior to being drafted by the Kansas City Royals. He dazzled the Razorback faithful with a 97 mph fastball and walk off home runs. Leading up to the draft he was often slated as a late first round pick. However, when he made it clear that his preference was to hit he fell into the second round, where the Royals happily selected him and signed him to an over slot $1.25 million bonus.

Eibner is a top notch athlete with four very strong tools. He is an above average runner, solid defender with a plus arm. He also has excellent power, as evidenced by his HR/OFB of 15.2%. What will be the key for Eibner, is his contact ability. Scouts say that his swing gets long and last season in the Midwest League his contact percentage came in at just 45.8. This number is much lower than the Midwest League average 58.7%.

Hopefully part of the problem for Eibner, was the strained ligament in his left thumb that occurred in Eibner's second game of the season. Another cause for optimism is Eibner's strong strike zone judgement. Eibner offered at only 20% of pitches outside the zone. Thanks to that number he was able to post a walk percentage of 14.8%, over 6% higher than the league average. If your contact skills are bad, strong strike zone judgement and plus power are one way you can overcome it.

I don't envision Eibner ever developing into a contact hitter, but if he can continue to develop his power and refine his plate approach he could one day be a solid big leaguer in spite of that. If Eibner continues to hit around .200 though there is the possibility of a future on the mound. Eibner will get at least another full season to prove that he can make contact enough to succeed, but advancing to Frawley Stadium may not be the best opportunity for him to break out.

There's a lot to like in Brett Eibner, and to fail he'll have to do so twice before he can be considered a bust. The Royals system has a ton of outfield depth in the low levels, so I wouldn't be shocked if this season is Eibner's last chance before a switch to the mound.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #20 Bryan Brickhouse

#20 Bryan Brickhouse

Age: 19
Position: RHP
Height: 6-0
Weight: 210
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2011 Amateur Draft
From: The Woodlands, TX

The 2011 draft class was possibly the deepest crop of amateur talent in recent memory. For the Royals, the 2011 draft represented an enormous opportunity to restock a farm system that would eventually graduate 9 players in 2011. Eight months after the draft the Royals are likely feeling pretty successful in this endeavor. Third round pick Bryan Brickhouse is one of the primary reasons why.

After Bubba Starling's enormous $7.5 million signing bonus, no other 2011 Royals draftee received more cash than The Woodlands High School product Bryan Brickhouse. Brickhouse received $1.5 million, a bonus that was higher than nine of the bonuses handed out in the first round. Most years Brickhouse likely would have landed in the late first or supplemental round, however, thanks to the enormous depth of the draft class the Royals were able to nab Brickhouse in the third round.

Brickhouse's build doesn't offer much in the way of protection, however, his body type would suggest that he could one day be an innings eater in the rotation. At present he features a fastball that sits in the 92-95 mph range, that reach the high 90s at times. His curveball is inconsistent, but has shown flashes of being a plus offering when he commands it. Brickhouse also features an inconsistent change up. The change up will be pivotal in Brickhouse's ceiling as a big league prospect. If he can find consistency in his command and turn it into an average offering he could be a mid rotation starter, if not he could be a high leverage big league reliever.

For now the Royals will move Brickhouse along as a starter. I envision him hanging back in extended Spring Training in order to protect his young arm from the cold of the Midwest League. When the summer months roll around, he should get a shot in Kane County's rotation.

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