Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Royals Trade Broxton

I woke up this morning truly believing that the Royals deadline would end quietly. Instead, the Royals did the wise thing and flipped Jonathan Broxton to the Reds. In the trade the Royals acquired two minor leaguers and in the opinion of some made off like bandits. Here's a collection of information in each of the two prospects that are coming to Kansas City.

Juancarlos Sulbaran: Entered the season ranked as the 12th best prospect in the Reds' system according to Baseball America as well as having the system's top curveball. At this point some considered Sulbaran to be the fifth best prospect in the system. Also, John Sickels graded Sulbaran as a C+ prospect, but also considered him a potential sleeper. Sulbaran typically sits in the low 90s, and has been clocked as high as 95. He is also said to show flashes of a plus curveball and changeup, although both still need consistency.

Last season, Sulbaran took a huge step forward in the California League recording 155 strikeouts to 50 walks. This season, the former 30th round selection has improved his ERA to 4.06, despite his K:BB dropping down around 2. Sulbaran is said to have the upside of a #3 starter with a high amount of risk.

Donnie Joseph: Entered the season ranked as the 27th best prospect in the Reds system. He is said to have two plus pitches in his fastball and slider. As of this moment Joseph could probably hold his own as a lefty specialist. Long term, Joseph could very well find a spot in the late innings as a set up man. Also, John Mayo provided us with the opinion of a scout who believed that Joseph as of right now would have been just as good of an option as Broxton to set up for Cincinnati. That same scout also said that he viewed Joseph as a future closer.

I can't imagine any educated Royals' fan being disappointed with this deal. If nothing else, moving Broxton saves the Royals $1.8 million and allows the team to use the remaining two months as a dress rehearsal for newly anointed closer Greg Holland.

As for the prospects, I would have been happy if the Royals would have grabbed just one of the two aforementioned players. The fact that the Royals were not able to grab a near Major League ready starter as well as a Major League ready reliever is even better. Of course, on a day when the Cardinals traded a former first round draft pick for an average reliever, it shouldn't come as too big of a shock that former Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak gave up two quality prospects for a couple months of a reliever.

The Broxton signing should go down as the Dayton Moore's top offseason acquisition. In an offseason that required perfection in order for the Royals to jump the gap, the Broxton signing was one of the few positives. However after Soria went down, Broxton absolutely provided the Royals with what they needed. A few months later the one year deal has now turned itself into potentially 6 seasons of control for a set up man, and 6 more for a mid rotation starter. But like I said, even if neither prospect pans out, the two months of closer experience for Holland should make the whole thing worthwhile.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Notes on Adalberto Mondesi

I recently had the privilege of watching Adalberto Mondesi play in several games. So, I thought I'd offer up some of my thoughts on the recently turned seventeen year old. First off, I don't pretend to be a scout but I do believe that observations can be made by anyone. Since most Royals fans have never had the opportunity to watch this kid play, it only made sense to pass forward some of my thoughts.

In case you are unaware, Adalberto Mondesi signed for $2 million last July. He is a short stop and he is the son of former Major League Raul Mondesi. Despite being the youngest player in his league and the fourth youngest player in all of Rookie League baseball, Mondesi has hit .315/.379/.402 in twenty-two games this season.

Upon signing with the Royals, Mondesi was said to be 5-11 and 160 pounds. His player profile on MinorLeagueBaseball.com lists him at 6-1, 165. I can't be totally sure of his height based off my vantage point, but he definitely has a build very similar to Alcides Escobar. Defensively, he was very adept at charging balls and routinely displayed a very strong throwing arm. However, there were two occasions during the four games I watched that he committed errors on balls to his right.

On these plays Mondesi attempted to backhand the ball, and each time the ball ricocheted off his glove. But on both plays, Mondesi also was able to snatch the ball out of the error and fire to first making the play close despite the miscue. Sometimes even errors can show the athleticism of a particular fielder. Also keep in mind that this is a minor year old already playing in the Pioneer League.

When the Royals signed Mondesi, skeptics would have likely pointed to the bat as a reason of developmental concern. Clearly, Mondesi is doing his best to alleviate those fears. I saw a guy that obviously knew how to handle the bat. He had good bat speed, and other than an at bat against Damien Magnifico (look him up) I don't recall seeing him get a single pitch blown by him.

Mondesi's plate approach was also very promising in my eyes. Even though he was normally several years younger than the pitchers he was facing he always had a good plan at the plate. He picked his spots to sell out for a bit more power and would buckle down with two strikes. He didn't show much power in those four games, but he did show a consistent line drive stroke using the whole field from both sides of the plate.

Mondesi is a guy who should really shoot up prospect rankings this winter, assuming he can keep up the pace in the second half. I definitely will be bumping him way up my personal ranks. I've got some notes on several other Royals prospects and in particular I plan on writing a post focusing on Elier Hernandez and another on Jin-Ho Shin. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Royals Acquire Guthrie for Sanchez

Early this morning we learned that the Kansas City Royals acquired Jeremy Guthrie from the Colorado Rockies for Jonathan Sanchez. I have to admit that when Sanchez was DFA-ed earlier in the week I fully expected him to request his papers and move on. Instead, the Royals were somehow able to grab at least something for perhaps the most disappointing pitcher ever to don the Royals blue.

Jeremy Guthrie entering 2012 was a guy who could be relied upon to provide his team with 200 innings of average to slightly above average performance. He wasn't a front end guy, but he was consistent and dependable, the kind of guy that the Royals just can't seem to find when filling out their own rotation.

However, in 2012 things took a turn for the worse. Guthrie was traded to the Rockies and as a fly ball pitcher it wasn't exactly a match made in heaven. Opposing hitters have absolutely crushed Guthrie particularly in Coors Field where they are hitting .368/.415/.720. I'll give you a second to take that in. In 9 games in Coors Field this season Guthrie has turned National League lineups into lineups that would include guys like The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, The King of Crash, and Babe Ruth making every hitter seem as though they were an alter ego of the greatest hitter of all time.

While Sanchez's problems seem to stem from a loss in velocity that eliminated his best weapon, which in turn forced him to rely on other less dynamic pitches resulting in a total loss of command, (exhale) Guthrie appears to have simply lost the ability to throw the ball past hitters. His walk rate is up over three for the first time since his rookie season, but it is his drop in strikeout rate by over one per nine innings and a doubling in his home run rate that has been a huge problem.

The good news is this, Kauffman Stadium while not a pitcher's park does do a good job of suppressing home runs. Guthrie is a fly ball pitcher that has never had the opportunity to pitch in a park that favors fly ball pitchers. This season, Guthrie's HR/FB has nearly doubled from last year all the way to 18.6%. This is an astronomical number and if Kauffman can push it back down to his around 10% Guthrie should at least be serviceable. This may be asking for a lot, but don't forget about  Bruce Chen whom posted HR/FB of 17.4% and 21.4% in Baltimore and Texas before seeing that number shrink to 11% and then eventually settling at 8.1% for the following two seasons.

Also of note, Sanchez's poor performance stemmed largely from a decrease in velocity. However, this is not the case with Guthrie whose velocity seems to have stayed constant based on Fangraphs' pitch data. Hopefully, Guthrie will be an example of a guy whose game just didn't fit the park in which he was playing. Based on his pitch selection, he hasn't lost confidence in any of his pitches, so perhaps a change of scenery will do him some good. Although, I have to admit that this is an optimistic take on a guy with a 6.35 ERA.

Ultimately, this isn't a trade to get to worked up about. Both starters are going to be free agents after the season and both are owed roughly the same amount of money. I'm sure what both teams are hoping is that moving back into the leagues in which the starters found success will do them both good. For the Royals, Guthrie will hopefully find a way to at least eat innings through the remainder of the season, saving the bullpen a bit from the incredible taxation they've had to pay. At this point it is hard to imagine that either Guthrie or Sanchez will pitch for their new teams past the end of September.

Seeing a Selman Start

Tonight I had the privilege of watching the Idaho Falls Chukars, and I was definitely pleased that I had the opportunity to watch 2012 first round pick Sam Selman on the hill. Selman, a lefty, entered the draft as a projectable arm but whose numbers didn't match up with the pure stuff. He was said to have an electric fastball as well as a slider that at times also was a plus pitch. Tonight, he didn't disappoint.

One thing I noticed immediately about Selman is that he has a bit of a hitch on the back end. If you are familiar with the whipping action that Aaron Crow has, imagine that on a lanky lefty. It isn't quite as pronounced, but it is noticeable. The lefty also clearly has a dynamite fastball and it didn't take opposing hitters long to take notice; the first hitter of the game saw three fastballs on the corners and never even took the bat off his shoulders.

Throughout the first three innings, Selman was lights out. He threw 39 pitches, and 26 of them were strikes. However, in the fourth Selman seemingly lost his command. He began the inning by throwing six straight balls, but thanks to a double play he was able to get out of a jam only allowing one run. Had Elier Hernandez not missed on a diving attempt at a shallow fly ball, Selman likely would have escaped the inning totally unscathed despite throwing 11 balls out of 17 pitches.

It was from there on that I was really impressed by Selman. Rather than fumbling around for the next couple of innings, Selman regathered himself and proved to be just as dominate over the last two frames as he was the first three. There are no radar readings in Kindrick, but I heard that Selman was sitting in the low 90s.

He struck out several batters on a very nice slider, but at times he failed to get on top of the ball and would cause the catcher to reach high or wide to prevent it from going to the backstop. Quite frankly, Selman's fastball command was so good that he could've gotten through the evening on the fastball alone. It is for this reason that I believe he needs to be at a higher level than he is currently playing. He has been well seasoned by the SEC and he needs opposing hitters to challenge his fastball more than they are capable at the Rookie level.

Selman finished the night with 6 ip, 2 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 10 strikeouts.

*I have notes on several other players and will be watching Idaho Falls all weekend, so be sure to check back for some more insights.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Chicken or the Egg

First off I apologize for the hiatus, it has been an extremely busy month and a half for me. I'm delighted to see that many of you are continuing to check the site for postings on a daily basis (thanks mom), despite myself being totally non-existent and worthless. There's a ton of things I'd like to write about and over the next few weeks, I'm hoping to touch them all.

Today, I'd like to point out a positive. Despite the Royals being 10.5 games out of first and despite the team being on pace to win just 71 games and finish with the eight worst record in baseball, the team is on pace to finish very strong at the gate in 2012.

Through their first 40 games of the season, the Royals have averaged 23,878 fans per game. Compared with last year's average through 40 games (18,804), the Royals attendance per game is up 5,074. This means that if the Royals can keep this pace up throughout the remainder of the season, they will finish with an attendance 208,034 higher than 2011's total.

Should the Royals keep pace, they will finish the year with 1,934,118 in attendance. This mark would be the highest since 1993 and the fourteenth highest single season attendance mark in the franchise's history. If the Royals can somehow continue to push attendance higher and can average 25,485 fans for each of the last 41 games, the franchise will surpass the 2 million mark for the eleventh time in its history and the first time since 1991.

Obviously, the All-Star game has been a huge factor in the uptick in attendance. However, I think it is clear to all of those that know the fan base that with or without the All-Star game this summer attendance was going to rise. Kansas City is dying for a winner, and whether or not the #OurTime slogan was mistimed or not, fans wanted to buy in.

In sports, it seems there is often a chicken and the egg situation when it comes to attendance and payroll. Owners don't want to add payroll until they've seen attendance rise and can "afford" to do it. Fans don't want to attend a ton of games when it appears there is a lack of commitment at the top. Thanks to the All-Star game and a passionate fan base, it would seem that the egg has creeped into existence, now we just have to wait for the chicken to hatch.