Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Building a Perception

As the Astros' draft clock ticked down to zero the industry expected their selection to either be Standford righty Mark Appel or Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton. Yes it was known there was a slight chance that Houston may call out the name of the helium Puerto Rican short stop Carlos Correa.

Of course, the Astros were incredibly tight lipped throughout the entire process and may have had Carlos Correa at the top of their board from the start. If they did it was brilliant. How do agents develop signing bonus demands? The answer swings much further in the perception direction than the reality direction.

I may be giving the Astros too much credit, but in my mind they intentionally played up Mark Appel and Byron Buxton throughout the process. Those two and their agents then built their expectations for bonuses, as did the next tier of prospects.

Thanks to this perception and the new draft rules, Carlos Correa's bonus demands entering the draft were going to be several million lower than Mark Appel and Byron Buxton. Now we are hearing that Correa will likely sign by the end of the week. Personally, I can't help but wonder if the an arrangement was made just prior to the final pick.

It is a time when bonuses are restricted based off budget pools. When the Astros called Correa, it was an opportunity for Correa to make a couple million more than if he went at 3 or lower, and it was an opportunity for the Astros to get their top choice for less than the suggested slot. This wouldn't have been possible had the perception not already existed that Appel and Buxton were the top two prospects in the draft. I'm not saying this perception was entirely created by the Astros, but they could have certainly played a big part in it. Especially if their entire organization from the top to bottom knew which names to play up.

Oh and by the way, thanks to the Astros cleverness at the top, they were able to draft Lance McCullers Jr at pick 42. McCullers may have slid as much as any player in the first few rounds. He has huge upside and will likely require a bit extra thrown his way to convince him to stay away from the college bookstore this fall. It's hard not to be a fan of the Astros, and with one coy maneuver they've solidified themselves as a team I'm going to keep an eye on.

Royals Take Kyle Zimmer

There you have it. As I'm sure you are aware, the Royals took Kyle Zimmer with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. I'm sure you have all read up on Zimmer but just briefly I'll give you a few of the highlights. Zimmer is just 20 years old and has only been pitching for about a year and a half. I suspect this is part of the draw for Kansas City as they like the opportunity to shape pitchers.

Zimmer has upper 90s heat, with perhaps the best curveball in the draft. He has a change up that many believe could also develop into a plus pitch. In 2012, Zimmer went 5-3 with a 2.85 and a 104:17 K:BB. The Royals have roughly $6.2 million in the draft, $3.5 million of which is designated for the 5th pick of the draft.

This brings me to my next point. Thanks to Houston shocking the baseball industry with their selection of Carlos Correa, Mark Appel was available to Kansas City at 5. Appel entered the draft at as a what many thought the top college arm and clear top two selection. Instead the Royals passed on him to select Kyle Zimmer.

The Royals claim that Zimmer was always the top pitcher on their board, and if that is the truth than that is awesome. However, another benefit to selecting Zimmer over Appel in my mind is the dollars the Royals saved from their draft budget. Considering that Appel entered the draft expecting a bonus around $7 million, it isn't hard to imagine that it would be tough for him to accept half that amount. So instead of blowing their entire draft budget on one guy, the Royals will hopefully sign Zimmer around $3.5 and still have plenty of money to spend on the remainder of their picks, effectively diversifying their draft portfolio.

Think of it this way, if you had x amount to spend on dinner. Would you chose to eat a Filet Mignon, with crackers, cheese and Welch's grape juice? Or would you cut some cost on the steak, buy a KC Strip and surround it with mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a bottle of Boulevard? Both steaks are undoubtedly delicious and in the second option you get the side items and beverage to properly complete the meal. Of course if you believe in the Royals scouting department, you just got the best of both worlds.

Personally, I put faith in the Royals scouting and player development. Earlier today I didn't include Kyle Zimmer in my top five draft board, but make no mistake I couldn't be happier. This is how the draft goes and I know that the individuals making the decisions are light years more knowledgeable than myself on the subject and prospects.

I'm currently located in the northwest part of the country, so here's to hoping I get the chance to see Kyle Zimmer make a start with Idaho Falls.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fan's Draft Boards

Just for fun, I thought I'd post my personal draft board for the top five of the draft. I'm also posting a couple of my friend's boards and if any of you would like to post your top five in the comments, I'll do my best to add them to the post. Leave your twitter handle and I'll put that on the post as well. Here we go!

  1. Mark Appel
  2. Carlos Correa
  3. Byron Buxton
  4. Kyle Zimmer
  5. Max Fried
Paden on why Max Fried made his top 5: Although, I don't like that he's in high school, I feel like he has the potential to be a number 1 or 2. He's not a really hard thrower, but I like how he can already command his curve, which should be a Major League out pitch considering it is already plus. I envision him being a control pitcher with a good strikeout pitch.

  1. Mark Appel
  2. Byron Buxton
  3. Carlos Correa
  4. Michael Wacha
  5. Kyle Zimmer
Dan reasons thought that Appel was a clear choice for his top spot given his ability to eat innings a strong stuff. He was a little uncomfortable with Kevin Gausman's past command problems that come from overthrowing and for that reason he left him off the list. He comments "I like the heat, as long as you can control it!" Dan likes Wacha, because he has one of the higher floors in the draft.

And finally here is my own, @RoyalRevival:
  1. Mark Appel
  2. Lucas Giolito
  3. Carlos Correa
  4. Byron Buxton
  5. Kevin Gausman
If Appel managed to miraculously fall to Kansas City at 5, they would have to pounce on perhaps the best talent in the draft who also happens to fit into an organizational need. I'm putting Giolito second on my board because based off my readings he has the highest upside of any prospect in this year's draft. There is huge risk both in signability and injury so I would be shocked if the Royals took him at 5. 

If you want to see your own top 5 included in this post, put it in the comments section along with a few thoughts. As soon as I get the chance I'll add it in. Be sure to leave your twitter handle and I'll put that on the post as well!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Draft Day Eve Thoughts

Preface: I bring no knowledge to the table that isn't already available on the internet for any of you to read. I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I have any sort of inside information, and I'm not going to sit here in my mom's basement, while eating Cheetos and pretend like I have any sort credibility that makes me any wiser on the subject than any of you.

This time of year always get me excited, it is like a reward for the poor play of my favorite team from the previous season. Personally, I start out with guys who I would prefer to see the Royals take and eventually I've read all the hyperbole on the top prospects and I can't decide who I would want most. 

To complicate matters more is that in no way do I believe that I can fairly critique a Royals selection. This is basically an admission that whoever the Royals select in 21 hours, I will be happy with and I will immediately get excited about the selection. Of course within a year there's a good chance that I'll be looking at the early success of other prospects and wish that they would have fallen to Kansas City (cough Dylan Bundy cough) or Kansas City would have taken them instead. 

I fully expect the Royals to take one of the top three college arms. It just makes too much sense given the Royals pitching prospect woes and the fact that it is a strength of the top of the draft. If the three are all selected within the first four picks then I'm not sure which direction the Royals will go. 

At the same time, it wouldn't shock me a bit if the Royals stayed true to recent form and went the high school route or drafted simply for highest upside. I've always heard to draft best available and if they believe Carlos Correa is better long term than Kevin Gausman or Kyle Zimmer, than I won't complain. With that being said should the Royals reach into the mid-teen projections for their pick they definitely open themselves to a lot more scrutiny even if the player tops their board.

Most likely Mark Appel and Byron Buxton will be gone, that leaves Mike Zunino, Correa, Gausman, Zimmer, Lucas Giolito, and Max Fried as the guys most project as clear top 10 talents. There's a lot of smoke around Lance McCullers Jr. as well. By bedtime tomorrow night I think we can all agree that the Royals will have added another potential cornerstone to their organization.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

When to Pull a Starter Ned Yost Style

On the pregame today, Ned Yost said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that one of his strategies on how long to let a starter go is to not let his starter have the opportunity to lose a close game after six innings. That's all fine and well and when you have a great bullpen, which the Royals seem to do the strategy makes a fair bit of sense.

Here is my thought though, if a starter is dealing why would you pull him just because you want to ensure he doesn't blow his own win opportunity? Do teams pull Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, or other starters just because the going gets tough and they could lose the game? Obviously, the Royals don't have any starters of this caliber, but will the strategy change one they do? (fingers crossed)

If you aren't comfortable allowing your starters to pitch deep in close games just because their win is at stake, you aren't doing your bullpen any favors. Sure Kansas City's pen is strong and deep at the moment, but they lead the Majors in innings pitched and it isn't uncommon at all for pens to lose steam as a result of logging to many innings.

The strategy may make sense with the current roster, but I'm not sure if I'm a fan of instilling a 6 inning mentality among the starters. In my opinion if a pitcher is on a roll and isn't showing signs of slowing, the length of his outing shouldn't be determined by the offense's performance. This team severely needs an innings eater and it is hard to do that if anytime the game is close after 6 the pitcher is likely to be pulled.

Friday, June 1, 2012

McCullers Safe Bet at 5?

"Pre draft deals are not uncommon.. the Royals have done this in the past with players (had one with Bundy last year) and it is not uncommon for that player to not be drafted by the team who has the deal. It is done as a way to budget out for future picks. But, I know JJ Piccolo prefers HS arms and since he has taken over the draft he has not gotten this wish... ...I will say if you are goin to Vegas and have to place money on the Royals pick there is too much smoke to not lay it on McCullers." -Greg Schaum
First off, if you aren't getting prepared for the Amateur draft by keeping and eye on Pine Tar Press, you definitely need to do it. Clint Scoles and Greg Schaum are killing it, and you can read the rest of the quoted article here.

Since Greg is so confident that Lance McCullers Jr. is the most likely candidate for Kansas City at this point, I thought I would give my thoughts. Most mock drafts have McCullers going in the mid-teens, but as Greg and Clint point out, one reason for this could be because he hasn't continued to breakout since he was deemed a top end type of player.

So here's my thoughts, if the Royals can arrange a pre-draft deal with McCullers that will make him richer than he would have been should he have been selected in the mid-first round and will save the Royals a bit of money from their draft pool, I can live with that. However, this is only true if the Royals believe that he is their guy and that they aren't reaching just for the sake of 'getting cute' and saving a bit of money for later.

Baseball America currently rates McCullers as the 13th best prospect entering the draft. He has the second best stuff out of any high school arm. BA states that his mid to upper 90s fastball and power slider are both 70 pitches and that those grades might sell McCullers short. This all sounds great but here is the comment that really caught my eye: "The majority of scouts still believe he's a future reliever."

Obviously the Royals aren't going to take a guy fifth overall if they view him as a future reliever. For me to be on board they better be totally sure and they better truly believe that he is the top arm available for them. If the Royals and their scouting department are truly committed to these beliefs, then I'm not going to pretend like I know more about drafting and development.

Make no mistake, if Zimmer, Gausman, or Appel are available at 5 and the Royals select McCullers it could be very bad. Hypothetically, if the aforementioned pitchers produce in the next couple of years and McCullers either busts or winds up in the pen, it will be one of the easier draft decisions to second guess. It would be the type of decision that could cost people jobs.

Jarrod Dyson: Replacement Player

Jarrod Dyson has played in 30 games this season for the Kansas City Royals. Since Lorenzo Cain went down with a leg injury, Dyson has basically been the everyday guy patrolling center field. He's definitely had his ups and downs. In his first stint as starter, his range allowed him to get to balls that other center fielders couldn't dream of reaching. In that same time he couldn't get those balls into the webbing and failed to convert the plays into outs. It was easy to cast blame on the former 50th rounder for several losses, despite that being unfair.

Dyson also started out pretty bad at the plate. Clearly, he was out matched by Major League pitching. Then from 5/1-5/15, Dyson hit .327/.419/.385 and some were wondering if Lorenzo Cain would ever get his opportunity in the Kansas City outfield. Since May 15, Dyson has hit just .167/.217/.214.

The defense has improved for Dyson, although he isn't wowing on the eye test, and he still possesses a negative  UZR. (I know it's early and an incredibly small sample for such data.) Here we are on June 1, and according to Fangraphs, Dyson is a "replacement player."

As of this moment Dyson is the mysterious player that all other players are judged against. He doesn't hurt the team, but he certainly isn't helping its cause. It's believed that a team full of replacement players would win approximately 35-45 games. Dyson is currently the equivalent of the caliber of player that could be picked up off waivers or a AAA roster at any point in time.

There are a ton of players currently playing in baseball that have negative fWAR values. In fact two of those have played center field this season for the Kansas City Royals. In his short time as the everyday guy, Dyson hasn't established himself as the man for the future. However, I have to appreciate his play. He hasn't solidified the center field position, but he has provided the Royals with a reliable option that they can pencil into the lineup day in and day out, at least for the time being.

As has always been thought, moving forward Dyson can still prove to be a very valuable piece as a fourth outfielder. If one day the Royals are in a race and an outfielder falls to injury down the stretch, Kansas City could do much worse than giving Jarrod Dyson everyday at bats. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jarrod Dyson: replacement player.