Monday, December 31, 2012

Royals add to Outfield "Depth"

The Kansas City Royals added another piece to the Omaha Storm Chasers outfield today when they announced the signing of former Royal great Endy Chavez to a Minor League deal.

Chavez has played in 974 games at the Major League level. Over that time he has hit .269/.286/.333 but has received enormous praise for his glove work. In fact, Chavez may lay claim to the greatest catch in MLB postseason history. If you don't remember it, you can view it here.

Just a few days ago, I wrote a few paragraphs regarding the type of outfielder the Royals could target to complement Jeff Francoeur. I talked about a left handed hitter, or at least a guy that could eventually partner in platoon and also a guy that was very good defensively, so that if he didn't hit, he could at least offer some upgrade in the form of his glove. On the surface it appears that the left handed Endy Chavez fits that exact mold. However, a closer examination would reveal that Chavez isn't quite the answer that one might have hoped.

While Endy Chavez was an absolute stud defensively for a four year period from 2006-09, his defense has sunk to just slightly above average over the past couple of seasons. Also, despite being left handed, Chavez has never displayed much in the way of a platoon advantage and his .676 career OPS against right handers is almost identical to the .675 he posts against southpaws.

Ultimately, the signing was just a Minor League deal and you will never hear me criticize a Minor League free agent signing. There is no point. The risk is so insignificant that there isn't any reason for people to be critical of these types of additions. My only point, is that Chavez doesn't fill the role that I have been advocating the Royals to attempt to fill. This doesn't mean I don't like the addition from a depth standpoint, merely that I believe Kansas City should continue to search for a lefty outfielder that could complement Frenchy on the Major League roster. I do not think Chavez is that guy.

As of now, the Royals are likely out on any other Minor League additions in the outfield department. They already have Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Francoeur and Jarrod Dyson for the Major League roster, David Lough fighting for the 5th outfield spot and Xavier Nady, Willy Taveras, and now Chavez on Minor League deals. Basically as of now they have nine players between the outfields of Kansas City and Omaha. The Royals don't necessarily need to, but I still believe it makes sense to add one more outfielder on a Major League deal for 2013, if the right player presents himself. With Cain's injury history, Francoeur's poor performance, and some question marks that still surround Dyson, depth could be extremely important.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Seth Smith

By request we continue the 'In the Cross Hairs' series with a look at Oakland Athletics outfielder Seth Smith.   Unlike most of the other players we have looked at in this series, the former second round selection is not available on the free market and instead would have to be acquired via trade.

Smith has long been viewed as a target for teams looking to improve their outfield. Wwhen the A's acquired former Diamondback outfielder Chris Young at the start of the offseason, they all but ensured the Smith lust would continue for another offseason. After losing Collin Cowgill to the New York Mets, Smith currently slots in as Oakland's fourth or fifth outfielder. Ahead of Smith is Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Young, Josh Reddick, and Coco Crisp.

In 2012, Oakland implemented platoons as good as any team in baseball. More than likely they are looking to take a similar approach in 2013. Yes, the Athletics acquired another outfielder in Chris Young, but as a right handed hitter I don't see his acquisition as giving the A's any extra motivation to move Smith. However, given Smith's likely raise in arbitration, I'm sure the A's would at least listen. Smith currently would be under team control for two additional seasons and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $3.3 million through arbitration for 2013.

If Smith could be had, he would be an ideal platoon partner for Jeff Francoeur. In 2012, Smith hit .259/.353/.454 versus right handed pitching, a line that was actually down from his career marks of .283/.361/.503. He has averaged around 1.5 fWAR per season over the last three years and according to defensive metrics has been a slightly above average defender.

The problems with Smith are as follows. First, the A's don't quite have the surplus of outfielders that is perceived by most. I have no doubt that Smith could be had via trade, but his role is no different today than it was in the season, and the A's are fully aware of his value as a platoon player.

Secondly, the Royals are said to be looking for a low cost option to add to their outfield. Personally, I think that  $3.3 million is pushing "low cost." Not to mention, the Royals would have to part with some sort of cost in terms of talent as well, in order to acquire Smith.

Finally, and this isn't necessarily a big problem, but Seth Smith isn't an everyday guy. He is horrible against left handed pitching. For his career he has hit .191/.264/.307 against south paws and was even worse in 2012 hitting .157/.250/.271. If the Royals were to acquire Smith, they would need to fully commit to a platoon for 2013. If Francoeur doesn't pick it back up against left handers, they would need to search out a right hander to complement Smith, because Smith won't hack it as an everyday guy.

If the platoon was successful, the Royals would then need to spend next offseason finding a right hander to complement Smith for 2014. This isn't too difficult and could provide a nice bridge to Jorge Bonifacio or Orlando Calixte, either of which could be ready to man a corner come Opening Day 2015.

Smith mashes against right handed pitching. Quite frankly, the Royals could do a lot worse than a Smith-Francoeur platoon in right field for 2013. The commentor who suggested Smith is definitely on the right track and he is exactly the kind of player that could be very effective as a platoon partner to Frenchy. Ultimately, I don't think Smith is the guy primarily because of his price tag for 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rant of the Week: Colors

Can you hear me now?

It’s that time of the week again. I’m about to go on a rant that no one else agrees with/cares about and yet I won’t care less. To me, it’s the small things that are important; the little things that can make a big difference for my fan experience. And that small thing is colors.

I consider Pittsburgh the greatest sports town in America. Why? It’s not because they have had the most success of any other NFL city in America (Sixburgh); although that certainly helps. It’s not because they immortalize their players: did you know they have two statues inside the Pittsburgh International Airport – George Washington and Franco Harris. It’s not because their professional franchises are some of the oldest in the country: the Steelers were founded in 1933 as the Pirates, the Pirates were founded in 1882 as the Alleghanys, and the Penguins have always been the Penguins since 1967 when the NHL expanded (whatever happened to that sport?). And it’s certainly not because of those ugly yellow washcloths they wave around their heads like buffoons; although it’s getting closer.

The reason I consider Pittsburgh the best sports town in America is because all their professional sports teams have the same COLORS! When Wiz Khalifa did those obnoxious lyrics “Black and Yellow,” he could have been referring to any or all of the sports teams in Steelville. The black and yellow Pirates, the black and yellow Steelers, the black and yellow Penguins. Heck, even the Arena Football League’s Pittsburgh Power is black and yellow. And if they had a Lingerie Football League team, I’m sure they would be scantily and suggestively clad in black and yellow as well.

If you don’t see the significance in this, think harder! You could wear a Pirates hat to a Steelers game; a Roethlisberger jersey to a Penguins game; a Crosby jersey to a Pirates game. And it wouldn't even be weird!

I first came upon this realization while at a Pirates game. It was like walking into a Dick’s Sporting Goods, with about every sort of fan apparel you could imagine within the stadium. But with the colors all being the same, you couldn't tell the difference, nor was it even noticeable to anyone other than myself I’m sure. Where else can you do this?

Certainly not Kansas City.

For Chiefs fans that are also Cardinals fans, or Cardinals fans that are also Chiefs fans, I’m sure they are quite content with their color coordination. But for Royals fans that are also Chiefs fans, there is no carry over from one sport to the next. I've always thought wearing a Royals hat to a Chiefs game was odd, and a Chiefs jersey at a Royals game even odder. And it’s just not fair!

That means, for your average Kansas City sports fan, we have to spend twice as much as the average fan in Pittsburgh because they can buy one hat or one shirt and be set for all seasons. But we, and our teams with colors on the opposite ends of the spectrum, have to suffer at the checkout lane year after year.

I hope if Kansas City ever gets a basketball team its colors are either red or blue; because Lord help me if it’s purple. It might be the combination of both colors, but it’s still a whole new color Kansas City fans will have to account for when purchasing gear. That’s just more than my wallet and I can take. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Ryan Sweeney

Earlier today I took a moment to consider what sort of realistic solutions might be available to the Royals in order to improve their right field output in the 2013 season. After considering what sort of player the Royals might be in search for, there is one guy who fits the bill on both the defensive and platoon fronts. This guy also would likely come cheap and has served as a back up throughout his professional career.

Despite recording 7.6 fWAR over 535 professional games, Ryan Sweeney was recently non-tendered by the Boston Red Sox and would likely be available for a small guaranteed contract. Throughout his career, Sweeney has been a strong defender, recording a career UZR of 28.3. Sweeney has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions, but is strongest in right.

Of course, Sweeney is also left handed at the plate and thus could settle nicely into a platoon with Jeff Francoeur as the season progresses. For his career Sweeney owns a triple slash of .293/.347/.402 against right handed hitters, while hitting just .225/.298/.281 against south paws. In 2013, Sweeney was used almost exclusively against right handed hitters, garnering only 23 plate appearances against left handed pitchers.

As frustrated as Royals fans are with the right field situation, there likely isn't a more permanent solution on the horizon. However, that doesn't mean Kansas City shouldn't seek out a low cost option to complement their roster and provide additional value. If a platoon is implemented correctly, the Royals could salvage some value out of their $7.5 million right fielder, while netting some positive value from the position.

The Right Field Problem

Over the last couple of weeks, I cannot help but to think a lot about the Royals problem in right field. Thanks to the confidence of Bob Dutton's tweets, I have resigned myself to the fact that Jeff Francoeur will be the guy entering 2013. However, while Dutton has made this point very clear, he has also been clear that should Frenchy struggle out of the gate, the Royals will search out alternatives. Dutton has also suggested that the Royals might seek out a low cost option to push Francoeur this Spring.

The way I see it, this leaves Kansas City with two realistic low cost options. The first of which is to sign a cheap defensive oriented type. The second is to find a left handed option that could eventually platoon with the French Man.

By searching out a defensive option, Kansas City could open the season with the individual as the fourth or fifth outfielder. If Francoeur struggles out of the gate as most expect, the defensive oriented guy can provide slide in for Francoeur as a placeholder until a better option can be acquired. By getting a player that is good defensively, the Royals can at least obtain some sort of value upgrade over Francoeur who will likely be bad both at the plate and on the diamond.

The other option is likely a pipe dream out of the gate, but might be a possibility as the season progresses. The solution here would be to sign a hitter that excels against right handed pitching. For his career, Francoeur possesses a .820 OPS against left handed pitchers, but just a .702 OPS against righties. Of course, in 2013, Francoeur was awful against both, but even then his OPS was 43 points higher against southpaws.

It is hard for me to imagine the Royals totally cutting ties with Jeff Francoeur, but I could envision a scenario in which they first try to mitigate his poor performance by platooning him with another player. Of course, the Royals don't necessarily have to go outside of the organization to find Francoeur a platoon partner.

Jarrod Dyson and David Lough are both left handed and could settle into a platoon with Frenchy by season's end. Toying around with the projection machine, assuming last year's production, a platoon of Dyson and Francoeur could be worth about a 1.3 wins more than Francoeur playing everyday. This may not sound like a large amount, but when you are in Kansas City's position a single win could go a long way in improving the team's playoff odds.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Royal Revival!

It’s been a long year. We endured Our Time, we put up with Jonathan Sanchez, we traded the number one prospect in baseball, and we even survived the end of the Mayan calendar. This was a trying year for Royals fans, but we all made it through it, and we’re stronger now for it. Hopefully the Royals are also better for it or we fans will be begging for that whole apocalypse thing to finally hit.

As my Christmas gift to all the loyal readers of RR, I present you with this photo gallery that should put you knee deep in the Christmas spirit. The photos are of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs during their ‘Christmas in July’ promotion the team was running that evening. And in case you were confused, yes, those are Santa-style uniforms the team was donning. I've seen my fair share of ridiculous minor league uniforms, but this one takes the cake milk and cookies.

Anyways, I hope this holiday season finds you well, and that my gift of these photos is a present you will cherish forever; or at least until January.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Poll Results: Who will the Myers-Shields trade end up helping the most?

In Royal Revival's most recent poll, we asked the readers "Who will the Myers-Shields trade end up helping the most? It was a simple question, with just two choices and after a couple of weeks worth of voting the results finished dead even at 23 votes a piece for the Royals and Rays.

Obviously, the vast majority of our readers are Royals fans, so typically I would expect a slight lean toward the Royals in the results of the trade. However, after the open criticism of the trade from some in the Royals community it doesn't surprise me that the results finished in this manner. In fact, I am a little surprised that more of our readers didn't favor the Tampa Bay Rays in this poll question.

While in most trades, the final results of the trade aren't determined for seasons in advance, this trade will likely receive a grade in two years. In my mind, if James Shields and Wade Davis elevate the Royals to legitimate contention, I think this trade was a win for the Royals. Winning is the goal of sports, and even if Myers develops into a superstar, this trade is a win for me if the Royals reach the playoffs within the next couple of seasons.

The difficult and ironic part of this trade, is the way in which the fan base, which has bee told repeatedly to trust the process, feels as though the front office stopped trusting the process. Dayton Moore contends that it was the perfect time to strike and that the idea that he made the move to try and save his job is ludicrous. I hope this is the truth.

There is no doubt that this trade could severely hurt the Royals. If you think the selection of the Luke Hochevar pick has been second guessed, just imagine what will happen if Wil Myers turns into Ryan Braun. However, while I may have my doubts about the trade, I am excited for 2013. For the first time in my life, the "what if" list isn't a long one in order for the Royals to play meaningful games in September. When is the last time that we have been witness to those?

Prospect Countdown: #30 Justin Trapp

30. Justin Trapp Second Baseman

Paden Bennett (27): I am a fan of Justin Trapp as I ranked him 27th in my rankings.  I like his ability to have good plate appearances and draw walks.  We don't have enough guys like that in this organization so when I see a young kid that is showing the ability to take a walk that ups their stock for me.  Trapp has a "very unique set of skills, skills that make him a nightmare for people like you" (Taken reference).  But really, he does have an intriguing set of skills, he has good speed and good pop and a good eye.  Those three factors right there make me feel like Trapp could turn out to be a very good player one day.   

Joe Cox (NR)To be fair, I had very little clue who Justin Trapp was before this write up.  The most analysis I could find was from Royal Revival’s review on November 17th, 2011.   I learned that Trapp is a young athletic middle infielder with some power potential.  The 34th round pick from the 2009 amateur draft had a very solid year for Kane County last season smacking 12 home runs and compiling 24 stolen bases over 469 with a solid .788 OPS.  He played 94 games at second base and made 22 errors at the position, which obviously needs to be cut down.  Trapp has some interesting skills that he needs to continue to improve on as he slowly makes his way up Kansas City’s farm system, hopefully as a second baseman.

Damion Mandalas (28): I think Trapp is a decent prospect that could offer some upside as a late bloomer. While there is no tool that stands out, he seems to be pretty solid across the board. He showed decent pop in 2012, hitting 12 home runs and an ISO of .158. He also showed good speed, stealing 12 bases and a decent eye at the plate walking in 8.7% of his plate appearances. Trapp is a good athlete, having originally been signed to play quarterback at Coastal Carolina. Hopefully, his athleticism can continue to allow him to develop and he can turn himself into a solid second base prospect. He should open the season in Wilmington.

Dan Ware (NR):  Trapp was drafted out of Fairfield Central High School in South Carolina in the 34th round of the 2009 draft.  A former recruit by Coastal Carolina to play quarterback, he is a 2B who has great athleticism and potentially some pop in the bat, which was shown last season as Trapp composed a decent .272/.352/.430 line with 12 dingers and 50 ribbies.  Early in April of 2011, Trapp was suspended for 50 games for violating MILB Drug Prevention and Treatment program, but since then has had a clean slate.  It wouldn't surprise me if Trapp started off the 2013 campaign in Lexington considering the poor display he put on at 2B last season.  Look for Justin to play out next season between Lexington and Wilmington.

Total Points: 7

Rant of the Week: Stadiums

It might only be a few days away from Christmas, but I’m going to interrupt your holiday spirit with a rant; and this time, it’s about the stadium situation in Kansas City.

The Truman Sports complex is an eyesore; more specifically, Kauffman Stadium’s view. For football, it’s fine, and Arrowhead’s location is that much different from such stadiums as the one the Giants and Jets play at in the Meadowlands. A baseball stadium sharing that same sporting complex, however, I find ridiculous.

Let me explain: I don’t see anything wrong in the Chiefs and Royals sharing a sports complex. It’s the LOCATION of that sports complex that irritates me.  For football, traffic is a major concern and that’s why it’s common to find football stadiums located just outside of cities like Arrowhead. But how many baseball stadiums are also located 15 minutes outside of downtown? The result is one of the worst stadium views in all of professional sports.

Before I interned in West Virginia this summer for a minor league baseball team, Kauffman stadium was really the only stadium I had ever watched a professional baseball game at – besides one game on vacation in Anaheim – and I thought it was a very aesthetically pleasing stadium. After all, watching games on TV, it’s hard to fully grasp the scenery surrounding those other ballparks. This summer, however, I was able to travel to a couple of other stadiums and was wowed.
My view at Progressive field.

The stadiums I visited were Progressive Field in Cleveland and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Progressive field is in the heart of Cleveland, and is surrounded by the buildings that form the skyline. You feel encompassed by the city, and even become a part of the city. It’s across town from the Browns stadium, and you get the separate-but-equal feeling between the two giant sports of the Sixth City.

My view at PNC park. 

In Pittsburgh, to even get inside the stadium, you must first cross one of the famous yellow bridges that cross the Alleghany that you see in any postcard of Pittsburgh. While on your way there, there are vendors of hotdogs and of not-quite-MLB-authentic gear (I purchased a Pirates jersey-shirt of Andrew McCutchen but it simply said ‘Cutch’ on the back.’ It was only $10 so I don’t care if it was licensed apparel or not.) Once inside, you are swept away by the view of the Pittsburgh skyline, coming over the top of the outfield wall. And even when a Pirates’ homerun is hit, the lights of one of the buildings, already glowing at the top, began a little celebratory dance up and down the peak of the building.

My view at 2012 opening day.

What do the denizens of Kansas City get to see when they watch a Royals game? A highway on a hill with a Fellowship of Christian Athletes building in the background, that’s what. No giant scoreboard, no crown, and no amount of fountains are going to get me over the fact that we have the ugliest view in all of sports. Minor league stadiums have better views that Kauffman.

Kauffman’s only redeeming quality is that it is easy to enter and leave the sports complex, which isn’t much of one. I would easily sacrifice any sort of tailgating opportunity to be able to enter a stadium and be wowed. I don’t even enter Kansas City when I go to the stadium since I come from the south. Something needs to be done, the stadium needs to be moved somewhere downtown, somewhere that you can see the city, experience the city, and become party of the city. Not part of the Truman Sports Complex.

So Royals: Get out of the parking lot and get into the city. Until you do, I don’t think it’s even a question that you have the ugliest view in all of baseball.

And I’m not even talking about the product on the field. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Royals Sign Two More Minor League Free Agents

Last week the Royals added two more Minor League Free Agents to the fold. Here's are some quick thoughts on each of the pair.

Mitch Canham

You might remember Canham as the catcher of the back-to-back College World Series champion Oregon State Beavers. Thanks to the success of his college career, Canham was selected 57th overall in the 2007 draft by the San Diego Padres. In six professional seasons, Canham has hit .254/.335/.361 with just 23 homers in 474 games. Behind the dish he has caught 21% of would be base stealers out of 523 attempts.

Canham will join Manny Pina, and Julio Rodriguez to provide some catching depth at the upper levels. I don't see a scenario in which he plays an inning at Kauffman Stadium.

Xavier Nady

Xavier Nady has a bit stronger pedigree than Canham. Nady has played in 939 career games at the Major League level and in that time he has hit .270/.324/.432. He's never been much of a fielder and he hasn't hit much since 2008. Nady likely will receive a non-roster invite to big league camp, but the odds of him seeing Kansas City are pretty slim.

If you are an individual that believes the Nady signing puts Jeff Fancoeur on alert, you are wrong. This is purely a depth move. Since we are on the subject of Francoeur, I do believe that Kansas City should be on the look out for a low cost upgrade. While Frenchy was pretty pathetic all around in 2012, in the past he has been strong against left handed pitching. One creative solution would be to finding a platoon partner for the Frenchman in 2013. This is not to say that the Royals will actually consider implementing such an arrangement.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Playing with the Projection Machine

So after a couple of projections caused a bit of a stir earlier this week (you can read Royal Review's here and view Replacement Level Yankees' here), I decided to tinker around with the wonderfully nerdy spreadsheet that was provided to Royals nation by Royal Review writer Jeff Zimmerman.

In Zimmerman's projection from earlier this week, he utilized Bill James' individual projections to determine how many wins the Royals should record during the 2013 season. Surprisingly, the projection system spit out a 94-88 record for your Kansas City Royals. Obviously, this caught the attention of the Royals Twitterverse, but many were quick to point out how rosy Bill James' projections are on a yearly basis.

I decided that I wanted to plug a different set of numbers into the projection machine to see how much that win total would swing. Ultimately, I decided to remove subjectivity from the equation as much as possible. Eventually, I decided to simply plug in the rate stats of 2012 while keeping the plate appearance and innings pitched breakdown that had already been provided by Jeff Zimmerman in his Bill James projections. To put it simply, this is projection attempts to quantify what would happen if last year's performances were replicated with a healthy Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain and the additions of James Shields, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie to the rotation.

For all of the pitchers, I decided to input ERA instead of FIP or xFIP. It could be argued that either FIP or xFIP would be more indicative of true performance, however, I wanted it to be on the conservative side and I found that most of the Royals staff's ERA came in higher than their FIP or xFIPs. This was particularly true in the rotation where Santana, Chen and Hochevar's ERAs were much higher than the Fielding Independent numbers. If anything, this likely made the win forecast more conservative.

I made three exceptions to simply using last season's ERA. First, I switched Wade Davis's ERA to the 2011 4.45 instead of last season's 2.43 ERA. I'm hopeful that Davis's experience in the bullpen will make him better in the rotation, but if nothing else it seems conservative to use his ERA from the last season in which he was a full time starter.

The final two switches I made were to change Felipe Paulino's and Nate Adcock's ERAs to their FIPs from 2012. I did this because both of their ERAs were much better than their FIPs due to small sample sizes and I didn't want this to play a huge role in swaying the projection in a positive favor.

The final note, is that I used Jeremy Guthrie's full season ERA instead of his Royals ERA.

So what was the result?


Not too bad.

So how much value could certain elements bring to the table? Here's a quick rundown of some things that could happen and how they affect the overall projection:

  • Alcides Escobar's defensive  matches the 2011 version instead of 2012: 87-75
  • Eric Hosmer performs at his 2011 level: 88-74
  • Jeff Francoeur performs at his 2011 level (yeah right): 89-73
  • Luke Hochevar performs at his 2011 level: 86-76
  • Bruce Chen performs at his 2011 level: 87-75
  • Ervin Santana performs at his 2011 level: 87-75
  • Jeremy Guthrie ERA is his career average: 86-76
Not too surprisingly, the biggest change from the initial projection would be if Jeff Francoeur could recreate his 2011 season. Hopefully, Francoeur can channel his inner Alex Rios and achieve just that. Keep in mind once again, the initial projection was based almost entirely on 2012 results. Also, notice that the what ifs that were just provided aren't pulled from a hat. All of them are grounded in past performance and all but Jeremy Guthrie's are based off 2011. 

Basically, what Kansas City needs is health, repeats of 2012, and a breakout or a rebound. If those three things happen, based off of these projections, there's a good chance we will see playoff at the K in 2013.

Again, it is incredibly earlier to be toying around with projection systems and of course they all need to be taken with a grain of salt. But if you are a numbers guy like myself and if you geek out over baseball statistics it is always a bit fun to manipulate the data. Thanks again to Jeff Zimmerman for the awesome spreadsheet. Let's hope it is an accurate one. If it is, 2013 could be hell of fun for Kansas City.

Oh and by the way,  if all of above happens the projection calls for a 99-63 season. 

Dear Mr. Glass

David Glass,

Here I am, the 13th of Decemeber, and organization has taken a huge transformation.  I'd like to say thank you for finally stepping up as the owner of this historic franchise by  adding a few bucks to the payroll (over $20 million) to finally bring in some pitching depth worth a darn.  Grant it, I was hoping we'd find a better use of $5 million than to give it to a former overall #1 pick who posted a 5.73 ERA last season.  If it's one thing I wanted to see more than to have Myers shaggin' flyballs in RF, which those aspirations have been shattered to pieces, it was for Dayton to rid us the torture of watching Hochevar step on the mound in 2013.  

I will say this, you've backed up your words... so far.  Back in October, you had a chat with the Wonder Dog and Lefebvre about the upcoming off-season.  One of the first things you mentioned was the fact that you were pleased with the work Dayton and his colleagues have done, including the strengthening of our Minor League system.  Oh, you also brought up the fact that you were a little hesitant when it came to making trades.  Welp, we certainly made a trade that shook up the farm, but not for the worse, in my opinion.  We won't discuss the trade.  What's done is done.  Although it hurt a lot of us emotionally, we got pitching, which is what we were craving for.

While I applaud you for funneling some cash into the team, a request has been made: add just a bit more to the payroll.  The past few days have been very crazy to us all.  Considering the historic trade giving up our bread and butter, the 2012 Minor League POTY in Myers, Odorizzi, Leonard, and Montgomery, it's evident that the Kansas City Royals are definitely going for it in 2013.  And this is a good thing!  But, if we were to possibly add just one more pitcher to the mix, perhaps all this hoopla about making the playoffs could actually HAPPEN.  

There's a pitcher out there who won the Cy Young last season.  Maybe you have even heard of him. Well, he's having trouble coming to an agreement on an extension with his current team.  As of recently, they've come out saying he's "becoming too absorbed with his new celebrity."  His name is R.A. Dickey.  He brings passion to the game and donates his time to charitable events whenever possible. I really think Kansas City could fall in love with him. Oh, and did I mention he won the Cy Young last season?

Even if the Mets' organization were to apologize and offer an extension, locking up R.A. isn't going to solve their problems.  When I say problems, I mean problems.  Do I see the Mets letting one of the two fan-favorites go?  Not really.  It would be like a block of C4 waiting to be detonated.  There's always the 'what if.'  Obviously, we can't give them Myers like they wanted a few weeks ago.  Our system is strong enough that we still have quite a few pieces of bait to entice GM Sandy Alderson. If we are going for it, let's really go for it.

Of course, there is another area on the team that we could improve. I know we all love the French man, but if we are going to contend, we've got to do better in right field. I know Dayton talked you into paying him a pretty hefty contract a year or so ago, but if you could just bite the bullet on that one we could really get this team over the hump. Again just an idea for you to consider. 

Once again, I thank you David Glass for your contributions this off-season, for living up to your word, for giving Kansas City and the rest of the Royal Nation a reason to be optimistic.  You have our attention!


Daniel Ware

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rant of the Week: Royals and Quarterbacks

It is time for the inaugural “Rant of the Week,” seen only here on Royal Revival. And since this is the first one, I guess I should explain its purpose. Heck, I’ll even give a mission statement: The goal for this weekly-to-whenever-I-get-around-to-it post is to inform, entertain, and, most importantly, complain. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is safe. If something ticks me off, you’ll hear about it here. My rants do not represent the thoughts of the other writers, mostly because they aren’t clever enough to come up with them themselves. Prepare yourselves.

I am SICK and TIRED of the Kansas City Chiefs not having a quarterback. A real quarterback. A quarterback bred, drafted, and homegrown for the sole purpose of restoring the Chiefs to glory. Scratch that; BRINGING glory to Kansas City. I’ve never seen a Kansas City team do ANYTHING. I’ve never seen a playoff game for the Royals. I’ve watched the Chiefs blow it in the playoffs. I’ve even watched Sporting KC lose in the playoffs, turning into the next victim of this strange Kansas City curse hovering over our sports teams.

Players have come and go, some of which were great, some of which are future Hall of Famers in their respective sports. But never the title. Never the glory. But what a few Royals fans know, or at least remember,is that one of Kansas City’s teams could have been a dynasty. All it takes is a little hindsight and a little stretch of the imagination.

Before I start here, I want to acknowledge that none of the other writers for this blog are Chiefs fans. That being said, I don’t care. The Chiefs were close to being great so many different times during the 90s, and for that entire decade, the team was winning with a musical chairs rotation of quarterbacks with brief glimpses of stardom coming from a beyond-washed-up Joe Montana and a you-can’t-lose-your-job-because-of-injury-so-Elvis-freaking-Grbac-is-still-our-starter Rich Gannon. But if the Chiefs had just corroborated with the franchise they share a parking lot with (upcoming rant by the way), there is no telling what could have happened.

What am I talking about might you ask? Let’s go back through the Royals draft picks through the years. As General Manager in 1979, Joe Burketook John Elway in the 18th round of the MLB draft in 1979. In that same draft, the Royals took Dan Marino in the 4th round.

Fast-forward to 2011, Dayton Moore and the Royals took Bubba Starling, future quarterback of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, in the first round, plucking him away from college football and a chance for an NFL career. But let’s not forget former Royals GM Allard Baird picking up Brandon Weeden in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft as well as Moore taking a flyer on former Dolphins and West Virginia Mountaineers QB Pat White.

In that same time frame, the Chiefs have drafted: Steve Fuller (1979-1st Round), Bob Gagliano (1981 – 12th Round), Todd Blackledge (1983 – 1st round), Doug Hudson (1987 – 7th Round), Danny McManus (1988 –11th Round), Mike Elkins (1989 – 2nd Round), Matt Blundin (1992 – 2nd Round), Steve Matthews (1994 – 7th Round), Steve Stenstrom (1995 – 4th Round), Pat Barnes (1997 – 4th Round), James Kilian (2005 – 7th Round), Brodie Croyle (2006 – 3rd Round), and Ricky Stanzi (2011 – 5th Round).

Essentially what I’m saying is that the Royals are better at drafting quarterbacks than the Chiefs.

How can this be? How can the Chiefs be THIS bad at drafting QBs and the Royals be THAT good at drafting QBs? It’s embarrassing. Imagine how great the Chiefs could have been if Joe Burke had walked across the parking lot, walked up to Jim Schaaf’s office, – the GM at the time for the Chiefs –kicked down the door, and said “Listen here you dumb mothertrucker, I’m taking over this whole draft process and you’re gonna like it!”

Heck, Burke wouldn’t even have had to draft for the Chiefs. Just give the Chiefs his draft board. Sure, the Chiefs might have got a lot of wasted draft picks going towards players built to be speedy outfielders or defensive second basemen, but they also could have gotten one of the greatest quarterbacks of a generation: Dan Marino (John Elway was off the board when he entered the NFL Draft, but the Chiefs took Blackledge over Marino, something that wouldn’t have happened if Burke was in charge).

This lack of success in drafting a QB is laughable, embarrassing, and apparently, avoidable. As a return for the Royals help in drafting, I’m sure the Chiefs could throw a former USC pitcher with a 9.35 ERA.Boom, pitching problem solved. Ace found. 

In the Cross Hairs: Johnny Damon

One day Bob Dutton speculates that the Royals might look to add a low cost option and the next Johnny Damon states he wants to retire a Royal. Let's take a brief amount of page space to determine how these two thoughts could even match up.

First off, as a left handed bat, there is a possibility that he could platoon with Jeff Francoeur. Now obviously, Damon has one of the worst arms ever so right field isn't going to be an option for him. So to make a Damon-Frenchy platoon work, it would take some shuffling. Against left handed pitchers, Frenchy would start in right, with Gordon in left and Damon on the bench. Against right handers, Damon would start in left, with Frenchy on the bench and Gordon sliding over to right field.

In his time in the Major Leagues, Gordon has played 3219 innings in left field, but has only played 25 innings in right. Obviously, Gordon has good range, and thanks to his accurate arm and quick release, the arm to play the position. While I think Gordon would be fine in right, I have a hard to imagining the Royals shifting him to the position. I don't know why, but after shifting him around so much early in his career it almost seems as though they want no part of messing up a good thing. For this reason alone, Damon likely isn't a fit for Kansas City.

Even if the Royals were willing to shuffle Gordon between the corners, there is still the issue of Jeff Francoeur. I want to believe that Dayton Moore is looking to upgrade in right field, and at the very least is considering a platoon at the position. However, I struggle to imagine a 2013 outfield without Frenchy. This is unfortunate, as now the Royals are likely right on the cusp and any additional wins could push them over the hump.

The final problem with bringing back Damon, is the fact that he may not be any good anymore. Last season Damon signed for $1.25 mill and played in just 64 games for the Cleveland Indians. In that time he hit just .222/.281/.329. It was the lowest OPS+ Damon had posted since 1996 when he was a 22 year old playing outfield for the Royals.

From a fan's perspective I would love to see Damon retire a Royal. I know many Royals fans have ill feelings toward him, but I am not one of them. Quite frankly, he is one of the best players the Royals have ever produced. Damon currently sits just 231 hits shy of 3,000 and is a career .285 hitter with 408 steals and 235 career home runs.

When it comes to guaranteed money, I wouldn't put anything out there on Damon. As a 39 year old coming off a dreadful season, he no longer warrants an automatic roster spot. If Damon can be had on a Minor League contract with an invite to Big League camp, I would be all for it. Maybe he finds some of the old magic and can provide some value on the roster. Ultimately, the most likely way in which Damon retires a Royal, is the same way in which Mike Sweeney did, a 1 day contract.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Royals Add Depth, Poised for Playoff Push

With eyes on contention for 2013, the Royals announced the signing three Minor League free agents on Wednesday afternoon. Obviously, for any team that is giving any sort of thought on truly contending depth is critical. A 162 game season is a grind and you can't take any chances in losing ground simply because of an injury to a bullpen piece or fourth outfielder.

Today the Royals added relievers Dan Wheeler and George Sherrill, as well as speedy outfielder Wily Taveras. All three of these players have achieved some form of Major League success and it wouldn't be a huge stretch to envision any of them providing some small contributions at the Major League level in 2013. Here's a brief rundown on each of the three players.

Dan Wheeler

Wheeler spent most of the 2012 season in Triple-A Columbus for the Cleveland Indians. In 36 appearances he went 3-3 with 5 saves and a 2.32 ERA. Dan Wheeler is probably best remembered for a three year stint in Tampa during which he averaged roughly 67 appearances a season and recorded a 3.24 ERA.

In the two season since that time, Wheeler has thrown 61.2 innings between Boston and Cleveland to an ERA of 5.25. Interestingly, Wheeler's drop in performance directly coincided with the shelving of his slider in favor of a cutter. The cutter was likely a big factor in Wheeler's rising ground ball percentage, but he has sacrificed one of his best weapons in favor of it. Hopefully, Wheeler can find his slider and become the effective pitcher that he once was in Tampa Bay and before that Houston.

George Sherrill

Entering the 2012 season, I thought George Sherrill was an attractive option as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. Despite Sherrill missing the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John (he likely won't be healthy until May), I still think he is a good option in this capacity. For his career, Sherrill has absolutely dominated left handed hitters, allowing a triple slash of .186/.245/.285.

Quite simply, a Minor League contract for George Sherrill provides the Royals with a solid bullpen piece that will require no 40-man roster spot until the time he is needed at the Major League level. All Sherrill really needs to do to be a valuable Major League piece is get healthy. At this point in time the Royals really don't have a loogy on the roster that has near the track record of Sherrill.

Willy Taveras

It must be hard to be the first outfielder acquired by an organization that just traded away their top prospect who happened to be an outfielder. As Royal Revival contributor Dan Ware stated, this signing feels like deja vu. In fact, given the Royals bizarre affliction with speedy outfielders, it is almost surprising that it took this long for the Royals to get their hands on Taveras. (Although, I do recall rumors of their interest in him in the past.)

For an interesting read on Taveras's incredible ability to get on base via infield hits, check out this post by Fangraphs writer Jeff Sullivan. According to the post, Taveras is a career .500+ hitter on bunts and out of any player with 500+ plate appearances between 2002-2012, he has more infield hits and bunt hits per plate appearance than any other player. Jeff's conclusion? Dude needs to bunt more.

Taveras is a good depth piece to have in the Minor Leagues. His skill set screams fourth outfielder and while he can't hit a lick, he's the kind of guy who could provide a critical stolen base on a cool September night. What we shouldn't do is pretend like the Taveras addition is a warning signal to Jarrod Dyson or Lorenzo Cain who are both, without a doubt, and without question better players than Willy Taveras.

Wrap Up

These are good additions by the Kansas City front office. These types of signings go without praise and notice in many instances, but in every Major League playoff chase there will be players that come up with timely hits or key strikeouts that weren't in the picture on Opening Day. Creating depth is a good thing and while the Royals may have strong bullpen depth or a quality fourth outfielder already there is no opportunity cost for stashing away these types of players in Omaha.

If the Royals truly plan on contending in 2013, depth will be key. It won't be as key as the James Shields acquisition. However, the Royals need to continue to find ways to marginally improve. Hypothetically, if they are an 85 win team right now, they need to push themselves to become an 86, then an 87, then an 88 win team. There likely aren't many more big moves that the club can make, so depth, good in-game managing, quality roster shuffling, and incremental gains in value will go a long way in pushing Kansas City over the top. Good work today.

Prospect Countdown: #31 Anthony Seratelli

31. Anthony Seratelli Utility Man

Paden Bennett (NR):  I didn't put Seratelli on my list of prospects only because of his age.  I love this kid, and he really had a breakout season last year with 17 homers and an .866 ops.  A gritty player, much like Johnny Giavotella; Seratelli has the mold of a great utility player.  If Giavotella struggles at the beginning of 2013 and Chris Getz is Chris Getz like he usually is and Irving Falu cools down, it could open up an opportunity down the road for Seratelli to get some starts at 2B.  I also would like to see this guy come up to the big leagues and get a shot.

Joe Cox (NR)Anthony Seratelli will be 30 years old on opening day, so he should not be considered a true ‘prospect.’  The career minor leaguer looks like a feel good story and could potentially see a promotion to the majors if some injuries occur and he continues to hit like he did in AAA last year.  Seratelli had an .866 OPS and cracked 17 home runs in 384 at bats last season.  He is certainly not at all in the Royals plans for their playoff push over the next few years, but it would be cool to see Seratelli suit up for the Kansas City Royals for any amount of time next year. 

Damion Mandalas (NR): Anthony Seratelli is exactly the kind of individual an organization looks for to be a part of the organization. He is great in the clubhouse. He is great with the fans. He has a great mentality. He does everything asked of him. Will he make a mark in the Major Leagues, my guess is no. However, as he has progressed up the ladder his performance has increased. Should Seratelli be included in a prospect list? No. Best case scenario is Seratelli finds a bench role on a team that is in need of a utility man. More than likely he'll be a career Minor Leaguer providing an example of what intangibles truly are for developing players. 

Dan Ware (24):  If you've been a Royals fan for as long as my friends and I have been, there's nothing to dislike about Anthony Seratelli.  Besides baseball, he is an avid YouTube video producer and musician.  A true journeyman, Seratelli has definitely played his fair share of Minor League games, starting in the Independent League all the way up to Triple-A Omaha as of last season.

After his first year in Northwest Arkansas, I didn't think a 27 year old hitting just .254 would have a shot at the bigs.  2011 rolls around, numbers are much improved.  2012 arrives and Seratelli has, by far, the best season of his elaborate career.  A switch-hitter, who can play in any position he's needed (For the Naturals, he played everywhere but C, P, and CF).  At this point, he would be a utility man for the Royals, but one thing is for certain: if he ever gets the call to play at The K, he will certainly leave it all on the field.  To me, he's one of the guys that I hope gets a chance to fulfill his dream.

Total Points: 7

Monday, December 10, 2012

When Friedman Stole Christmas

Okay, I am the other writer for Royal Revival that has been chosen to spill his thoughts on the Myers-Shields trade.  While Damion Mandalas looked at a few of the positives and tried to see both sides, I am just going to react on how I really think this trade panned out for us as Royal Nation.

I will always remember last night, it could very well define my childhood love of the Kansas City Royals.  December 9th, 2012.  It was a cold, chilly night; I was sitting by the fire watching the Dark Knight rises when all of a sudden, I clicked the Twitter app on my iPhone only to find that Andrew Friedman had been lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on his prey.  Okay, I'll quit this theatrical thing I got going on, but really I was freaking out.  In fact, when I saw the possible trade I got that bad feeling in your stomach when you think you're about to puke.  This couldn't be true. Remember during the Winter Meetings when these rumors were going on? And they passed through?  Surely that would be the case this time.  No, this rumor seemed different, tons of analysts were reporting this rumor and tons were saying it could be done shortly.

After an hour or two of frantically panicking about us trading what some Royals fans called the "Last Hope" Wil Myers.  It was complete.  It was the worst text notification I have ever received from ESPN.  I just stared at it.  No words could come out.  That initial reaction was only seeing that we had traded Wil Myers and other prospects for James Shields and Wade Davis.  I was sick just seeing that, but when it came out that we had also given Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery AND Patrick Leonard.  I knew that Andrew Friedman had struck again.  I have two friends of mine that are Rays fans.  They are actually brothers, and I joke with them all the time saying "The Royals aren't smart enough to play with Friedman".  Now there is actually some evidence to that statement.

This trade made me sick.  It was a desperation move by a desperate General Manager who hasn't done squat in his tenure with the Royals.  What the heck is he doing?  We clearly overpaid for James Shields.  Those two Rays fans will tell you the same, and I am as big of a James Shields fan as they come. I've always loved this guy.  However, we gave up way too much for possibly (probably) only two years of "Big Game James".  I was happy that Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer weren't involved in the trade because I like them both better than Odorizzi and Montgomery but still, trading our Minor League Player of the year for a guy that we will probably only have for two years doesn't make sense to me at all.

I'm not a huge Jake Odorizzi fan but I definitely think he could turn out to be a solid 2-3 SP in the big leagues.  I don't know how Friedman got us to put him in the trade but whatever he said to sweet talk more really worked.  Mike Montgomery going doesn't rile me up as much, because he has just disappointed me the last two seasons.  I loved this guy and thought he was going to be a STUD.  I still think he has more upside than Odorizzi does, he just needs someone to tap into it.  The scary thing to me is I think the Rays will tap into his potential.  It makes me cringe that the Rays possibly could have one of the best hitters in the majors in Wil Myers and if Montgomery reaches his potential then they could possibly have one of the best pitchers as well.

Now that I have been through all of the negatives to this trade and why I don't think it was a smart move by the Royals; lets go through some WHAT IF scenarios.

If I would have wrote this post last night, this paragraph would not have been included.  I was too upset, and just pissed off at what Dayton Moore had done.  I was among those on the Royals Twitterverse that were just going crazy tweeting how stupid I thought we were and retweeting other people that were saying the same thing.  After a good nights sleep, I have thought through some things.  This trade maybe, just maybe could turn out to be a decent trade for Royals fans.  Just think, WHAT IF we do indeed advance to the playoffs in the next 2 seasons? WHAT IF James Shields leads us to an ALDS?  How much fun would that be?  Throughout my 20 years of being a Royals fan I have never once seen a playoff team or even sniff contention most years.  Now we have no excuses, we pushed the chips all in.  Dayton can say that these next two seasons aren't "playoffs or bust" seasons but they are.  Royal nation is aching for a winner, and now you made the big move.  It's time for us to make the transition to being a playoff team.  WHAT IF we do make the playoffs in the next two seasons or so, how fun would that be?  I don't know, I have never been a part of it.  However, I'm sure it would feel a heck of a lot better than consistently losing 90-100 games and watching Luke Hochevar take the mound on opening day.

I will end this post with one tweet I said last night, that drew some response from Royals fans.  I said I have been going to Opening Day for the last 8 years or so and not once have I seen an above average SP on the hill for us.  This year I can finally be there on Opening Day when we do have a stud who can beat anyone on any given day.

That is a step in the right direction, like I said I was unbelievably negative about this yesterday.  I still hate the trade but the chips are all in so we as fans might as well go all in too.  "Big Game James," you have a great opportunity to bring a winner to a city starving for one. I truly hope you embrace this challenge.

Playing Devil's Advocate on the Big Trade

At some point in the near future, another Royal Revival writer will put up his thoughts on the trade that sent James Shields, Wade Davis and a Player to be Named Later to Kansas City for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. For now, you are stuck with some of my thoughts on the subject.

There are a couple of ways that teams can go about roster construction. For the Tampa Bay Rays, they operate on the mantra of having one eye on the present with one eye on the future. The Rays are pretty unique in this regard, viewing players as assets while constantly trying to stockpile for the long term. The Oakland Athletics are another team that operates in this type of fashion.

The opposite approach is the idea that a team has to go for a window. Teams like the Reds, Brewers, Giants and Cardinals tend to take this type of approach, using prospects as fodder to net Major League pieces in order to contend when the possibility exists. There isn't necessarily a right or wrong way and their are pros and cons to both approaches.

Using an asset compiling approach, the Tampa Bay Rays have been able to average 91 wins per season over the last 5 years. At the same time, the Rays have been criticized for not dealing from their pitching surplus to acquire offense and the Rays have advanced to the World Series just once. The Giants and Cardinals have taken a much different approach. Both of these organizations have seized opportunities and as a result have combined to win the last three World Series titles.

As much as I personally love the Rays way of doing business, I always knew that Dayton Moore was a window guy and as the 2012 off-season has played out it was inevitable that Dayton Moore would deal from his farm system in an attempt to improve in the present.

It appears, that Dayton Moore has marked his window. With the addition of James Shields many have said that Dayton Moore has sent a clear message to the American League that the Royals are ready to contend. Those same individuals rationalize that unless the Royals truly believe that they can contend, why would they pull the trigger on such a move. Of course, what isn't being considered here is that it is just as likely that the Royals front office felt as though they had to contend as opposed to that they would contend.

The ultimate fear in this deal is that Dayton Moore stretched himself because he is feeling the heat. As a result, he sacrificed far too much of the long term in favor of the present. Ultimately, the Royals traded what accounts for 24 seasons of team control for about 7 seasons. This is not to say the deal is clearly a bad one for Kansas City, in fact, I am amazed by the group think of the Royals Twitterverse.

Do I like the trade? No, I do not. However, it is amazing to me how an entire fanbase can achieve such singularity in thought on Twitter. Maybe this is because the trade is so obviously bad for Kansas City. More likely, there is so much pessimism and peer pressure among the Royals fan base that people are afraid to voice opinions contrary to what the so called experts think.

Once again, let me just state that I am not a fan of this trade. If I was in Dayton Moore's shoes, there is no way I would have pulled the trigger. However, I have always thought it is important to see both sides to any trade. For that reason, I am going to play a little devil's advocate for the remainder of this post.

Let's start with the most obvious point. James Shields is a damn good pitcher. In seven professional seasons he has compiled 25.3 fWAR, while logging over 200 innings in six straight seasons and posting a career ERA of 3.89. He will turn 31 in ten days and for three straight seasons has recorded over 8 K/9 while allowing just over 2 BB/9. Oh and by the way, over the past three seasons Shields has witnessed his fly ball percentage drop 9%. In 2012, for the first time in his career he recorded a ground ball percentage over 50%. If this trend continues, Shields represents that rare pitcher that not only has a strong K:BB, but also induces a solid amount of ground balls.

Contrary to what Ken Rosenthal might say, Shields is not an ace. However, there is no reason to be ashamed of having him front your team's rotation. To put it simply, anyone that is attempting to degrade this trade by bashing James Shields is ignorant of what this pitcher has accomplished throughout his career.

The other piece coming to Kansas City is Wade Davis. In his first full two seasons, Wade Davis was a pretty mediocre starting pitcher. In 2012, he threw 70 innings out of the Rays bullpen and saw his K/9 sky rocket to 11.1. The keys to Davis transition to the bullpen were the ways in which his slider and curve ball both became weapons to put away hitters. According to Fangraphs, Davis's slider rated at 4.8 runs above average, while his curve ball registered at 6.7.

The key to this trade, will be Davis's ability to translate those weapons from the bullpen into a starting job. It goes without being said that if Davis can continue to strike out hitters at his 2012 rate, he is clearly a front of the rotation piece. More likely there will be regression. If Davis can simply maintain a K rate around 7-8, while keeping his walks around 3 per 9, the Royals will have found themselves a three starter.

It may be oversimplifying matters, but whether or not Davis can keep a plus slider and curve ball in the rotation may determine if this trade is a long term win or loss for Kansas City. Davis is currently signed to guaranteed money in in 2013 and 2014 at $2.8 and $4.8 million respectively. He then has team options for $7 million, $8 million, and $10 million. Yes, the Royals have five years of team control on Davis. However, unless he can be a valuable member of the rotation, his price tag will be too high to warrant the exercising of those options.

Finally, let's get into the prospects involved. What is unfortunate, is that each of these four pieces are good prospects and it isn't hard to imagine each of them making Kansas City regret the deal on their own merit. However, there is also an overvaluation of prospects in baseball today.

According to some reports, many Royals officials view Myers as more of a Nick Markakis type than a Ryan Braun type. Also, there is a reasoning that it is much easier to find production in right field than it is to find front of the rotation pitchers. I expect Myers to have a very strong career, but it isn't a lock that he is going to be a superstar.

I've actually grown a bit bored with Jake Odorizzi and according to some the Royals don't view him in the same class of prospects as Kyle Zimmer or Yordano Ventura. In fact, several recent scouting reports slot him in as a 3/4 type, rather than the 2 starter that many of us were hoping for. Once again, I like Odorizzi. I think he is going to be a valuable piece in a big league rotation, but the upside isn't what we once thought it was. His fastball is straight and he currently is lacking an out pitch to make him a front end guy at the Major League level.

Mike Montgomery might be the most interesting piece of this entire trade. I can't wait to see if Tampa is able to bring out some of that promise. I am already preparing myself for Montgomery's breakout campaign. Royals fans will complain and rightly so, but at this point it is hard to imagine him ever taking this sort of step in the Royals organization.

Finally, there is Patrick Leonard. Leonard has excellent power and JJ Cooper even pinned him as a guy to watch moving forward for the Royals system. Ultimately, he is four years away and it makes sense to include him to get a deal like this done.

There is a good chance that the Kansas City Royals will rue the day when this trade was conducted. Myers could become a superstar, Odorizzi could throw 200 innings annually, and Montgomery could find that potential. Of course, there is also the chance that Myers isn't the superstar we all hoped, that Odorizzi doesn't have the stuff to be a mid rotation type, and that Montgomery will never live up to his once awesome potential.

Ultimately, even if the former of those things happen, there is no reason this trade can't be a win-win for both parties. The Royals haven't made the playoffs since 1985. If, by chance, the Royals do make the playoffs in 2013, should we complain? Does that make the trade a win for Kansas City?

This trade may have literally made me sick, but I've been a Royals fan for twenty years. Never in my life has Kauffman Stadium hosted playoff baseball. It is natural for Royals fans to critique moves. Every fan base should do it and it is irresponsible to not consider the implications of transactions, even if they make the current team better.

With that being said, I can't help but imagine James Shields toeing the rubber on Opening Day and I long for the summer when the Royals are actually playing meaningful games in August and dare I say September. I always attempt to evaluate moves from an analytical perspective, but first and foremost I am a fan, damn it. This trade may be incredibly costly to the Royals future, but they believe in a window and for the first time in my life they aren't just paying lip service to winning now.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Edwin Jackson

Admittedly, this is a bit of a follow up post on a topic brought up Pine Tar Press author Clint Scoles here. As I was scanning over the remaining free agents following Brandon McCarthy's signing in Arizona, I remembered that Edwin Jackson was still on the market. It is strange how little buzz has surrounded Jackson this offseason. In fact, on Friday Bob Dutton tweeted that the Royals and other teams were "very cool" on the right hander.


Edwin Jackson is is 29 years old. For four straight seasons he has been a very valuable pitcher averaging 203 innings per season and 3.5 fWAR per season. During that same time frame he has recorded a 3.98 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.

It is bizarre how little play Edwin Jackson is getting in free agency. Here we are hearing that the Royals should offer Dempster a third year at $13 million per year, and there is a younger option with more upside and similar past performance available on the market.

The thing about Jackson, is that there are hints that he actually is improving. For the second consecutive season his walk rate was around 2.75 and for the third consecutive year his ground ball percentage was over 40%. In fact, in 2012, Jackson posted the second highest ground ball percentage of his career at 47.3%. This recent improvement may be the result of the implementation of a cutter that Jackson is said to have thrown over 5% of the time in 2012.

We shouldn't go without noting that Jackson pitched in Washington in 2012. However, even if a move back to the American League knocks a full strikeout per 9 innings off of his K/9, he'll still be recording enough strikeouts for a strong K:BB.

Listen I don't think Edwin Jackson is going to come over to Kansas City and turn into an ace. However, Jackson is already a fringe 3 starter that has proven he can eat innings. He has excellent stuff and with a little more improvement, he could be be 2/3 type. The lack of buzz could be an opportunity for Kansas City. Clint Scoles speculates that a 3 year deal for 27-30 million would get it done. If that is the case, then Kansas City should strike. If it takes 3 years, 36 million I think that would still make sense for the Royals.

Does an Edwin Jackson signing shift the tables in the American League Central? Probably not. Does it make the Royals better for 2013? Absolutely. This goes without saying that the addition of Jackson, would hopefully end the thought of trading Wil Myers. Personally, the Royals are much better with Jackson + Myers than with Shields + Francoeur.

Once again, I can't imagine why Edwin Jackson is so irrelevant in this year's free agent class. But outside of Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez there isn't a pitcher that can match the combination of his age and track record. There is an opportunity here and the Royals would be remiss to not explore it.

Prospect Countdown: #32 Sugar Ray Marimon

32. Sugar Ray Marimon Right Handed Pitcher

Paden Bennett (26):  As the only guy that listed Marimon on their list, I am responsible for him being a part of our prospect countdown.  Let me say this first, Marimon is not an overly exciting pitcher by any means.  His strikeout numbers are low, he doesn't get a ton of ground balls and at 24 years old he isn't extremely young for the level he needs to be pitching at.  He wasn't impressive at NWA last season with a 4.59 era in 12 starts but NWA is a tough place to pitch.  It is a big time hitters park.  I like Marimon because I can possibly see him becoming a 4-5 starter with the upside of a 3.  He just needs to continue to develop his curveball so that it becomes more of an out pitch and limit his walks.

Joe Cox (NR): Another 24 year old right handed pitcher who will likely begin his season in AA, Sugar Ray Marimon needs to improve on a disappointing 2012 debut at that level.  Marimon was a tale of two seasons; he was very successful in 68 innings in high A, and very poor in 66 innings in AA.  Marimon is another case of a player far too old for his level to be considered a true prospect.  The fact that he needs a lot of work to improve at the AA level leaves nothing for me to be particularly excited about.  Even though he started most of last year I see Marimon as more of a reliever whose stuff is simply not good enough to make it to the majors. 

Damion Mandalas (NR):  Marimon has pretty average stuff. He has a fastball that sits 89-93 mph, as well as a curveball and change up with some decent action. He is said to have a good approach on the mound and as a result has outperformed his likely talent level. Marimon's numbers took a big dive upon his promotion to Northwest Arkansas. You can get by in the low levels with mediocre stuff, good pitchability and command, but this isn't the case in the higher levels. Marimon really needs one of his pitches to take another step or else it will be tough for him to scrap out anything in the form of a big league career. 

Dan Ware (NR):  I can think of two "Sugar Ray's" in sports that have had great success: Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson.  Both men have enjoyed countless wins and KOs in boxing. Unfortunately, Sugar Ray Marimon hasn't gone down the same 'easy street' as the other two men.  Although his stint with Wilmington wasn't bad at all: 4-2, 2.12 ERA, and holding opposing batters to a .206 average, his assignment with NW Arkansas was no cake walk.  As for his future with the Royals, he's nothing more than a possible bullepn arm.  His command and confidence issues with his pitches are holding him back.  I see this as a make or break year for Marimon to prove himself.

Total Points: 5

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rule 5 Draft Recap

In this morning's Rule 5 Draft in Nashville, the Royals declined to take a pick in all 3 phases of the draft: Major League, Triple-A, and Double-A.  On the other hand, 4 different teams selected 5 players from the Royals organization, 3 of which played for Northwest Arkansas in 2012.  Here is a brief description of the 5 Royals minor leaguers selected in the Triple-A phase of the draft:

     Brendan Lafferty - LHP - Selected by the Philadelphia Phillies
     NWA - 1-1, 4.77 ERA, 43 G, 60.1 IP, 71 K, 40 BB, 32 ER, 9 HR, .240 AVG

     Ethan Hollingsworth - RHP - Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates
     OMA - 2-3, 6.44 ERA, 11 G, 29.1 IP, 18 K, 10 BB, 21 ER, 2 HR, .357 AVG
     NWA - 3-8, 4.17 ERA, 23 G, 73.1 IP, 48 K, 20 BB, 34 ER, 6 HR, .285 AVG

     Federico Castaneda - RHP - Selected by the San Diego Padres
     MEX - 2-4, 5.71 ERA, 51 G, 52 IP, 52 K, 15 BB, 33 ER, 9 HR, .276 AVG

     Diego Goris - 3B - Selected by the San Diego Padres
     IDF - .286/.297/.545, 40 G, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 2 BB, 22 SO, 0 SB
     ROY - AZL - .425/.442/.688, 18 G, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 2 BB, 10 SO, 0 SB

     Ryan Dennick - LHP - Selected by the Cincinnati Reds
     WIL - 2-1, 4.57 ERA, 6 G, 21.2 IP, 17 K, 6 BB, 11 ER, 2 HR, .313 AVG
     NWA - 6-5, 4.62 ERA, 30 G, 74 IP, 72 K, 30 BB, 38 ER, 9 HR, .230 AVG

  Stats from

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #33 Andy Ferguson

33. Andy Ferguson Right Handed Pitcher

Paden Bennett (NR):  Ferguson had a solid season last year between 3 levels of ball.  The numbers don't lie.  In 96 innings pitched he had a 2.42 era and 87 strikeouts to only 20 walks.  Those numbers suggest that he could definitely make his mark in NWA next season.  From a few scouting reports I've read, Ferguson doesn't have great life on his fastball or movement.  His best pitch is his splitter, if he can find a way to get ahead in the count with his fastball and slider; his splitter could be a good out pitch.

Joe Cox (NR):  Scouting reports for Ferguson and the fact that the 24 year old right hander has yet to make it to the AA level suggest that Ferguson my not be a good enough pitcher to make it.  His numbers from last season, however, makes 2013 an interesting season for Ferguson.  Ferguson was able to strike out a respectable 87 batters compared to just 20 walks across three levels and 96 innings.  Any pitcher who is able to command the plate has hope, but the writing does not seem to on the wall for Ferguson to make it.  Scouting reports give his splitter as his only pitch that could be considered average-above average pitch. 

Damion Mandalas (27):  I decided to take a chance on including Alex Ferguson in my personal top 30. This season in Wilmington he was an absolute force and over 133 professional innings he has recorded over 8 strikeouts to every one walk. His stuff hasn't caught anyone's attention at this point in time, but I'm sticking him in my top 30 purely off his dominant Minor League results. Perhaps it is a strong approach to pitching, quality command, or maybe there is something to his stuff or deception that scouts haven't picked up on. Whatever it is, there is something that has enabled Ferguson to find some huge success in his professional career. He is worth keeping in an eye, but until we get some firm reviews on his stuff, I wouldn't pencil him into future rotations.

Dan Ware (NR):  In just 2 seasons of professional baseball, Ferguson has already thrown at four different levels in the minors.  While in Burlington, Andy didn't fair well, giving up a HR on average and allowing close to 4 walks a game.  Obviously it was his first year on the mound in a whole new environment, while pitching out of the pen..something he wasn't familiar with.  2012 was a giant step forward for the 23 year old.  Ferguson started 16 total games at 3 different levels, combining for 96.2 IP, a 6-3 record, 2.42 ERA, striking out 87 and walking just 20 batters.  Although I think he's earned a spot in the rotation for Northwest Arkansas, it's going to be a competitive season, to say the least.  With the likes of Justin Marks, Greg Billo, Noel Arguelles, and more than likely Sugar Ray Marimon all vying for innings, Ferguson will have to put in the time and effort to make sure he doesn't go unnoticed this coming season.

Total Points: 4

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #34 Chad Johnson

34. Chad Johnson Catcher

Paden Bennett (NR):  The young catcher showed a solid approach at the plate last year.  walking 26 times in only 151 plate appearances.  I don't have a lot of exciting things to say about this kid, except I hope he does well.

Joe Cox (NR): Chad Johnson is another 2012 amateur draft selection by the Royals who came out of high school.  The 18 year old catcher was drafted in the fifth round and last season’s draft.  Johnson has only seen 150 plate appearances at the professional level for the Burlington Royals.  In his limited at bats he showed an ability to get on base.  Johnson is very young and very raw, so it will take a year or two in the minors just to see if he can become a legitimate prospect or not. 

Damion Mandalas (28): As has been said, the Royals selected Johnson in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Royals fans heard praise of Johnson that he was a good defensive catcher that possessed an advanced approach at the plate. This proved to be true in Johnson's walk rate in the Arizona League. Among hitters with 145+ plate appearances only four on the entire circuit posted a higher mark than Johnson's 16.9%.

Sometimes young hitters have inflated walk rates due to a lethargic approach at the plate. Only time will tell if this proves to be the case for Johnson, whose KS: KL came in at 1.92 (The Arizona League average is 2.98). It is hard to tell if this number would indicate that Johnson isn't aggressive enough at the dish.

Wil Myers, for example posted a 1.55 KS:KL in 2011, before he was instructed to be more aggressive at the plate. The following season that number jumped to 2.90 as Myers hit for more power than he had in his entire career. Eventually, Myers was also able to reign in that number to 1.91 upon his promotion to Omaha. Taking a ton of pitches and posting high walk rates doesn't necessarily mean an advanced approach, especially at the lower levels. However, the fact that Johnson shows patience at such a young age is a positive sign.

Dan Ware (NR):  A young pup, Chad completed his first professional season as an 18 year old in the Arizona League.  Nothing too depressing, but nothing too impressive either.  The Royals try to find a way to draft a catcher within the first 5 picks, and Johnson was this past year's 'chosen one', taken in the 5th round for a slotted bonus of just under $260,000.

An Illinois State recruit, Johnson is considered to be a projectable left-handed hitter with room for power to come along.  A few reports suggest his arm and overall strength have improved behind the plate, possesses soft hands and has excellent footwork.  What the Royals love most about this kid is makeup on and off the field and his great work ethic.  These tool will help him tremendously in elevating his skills with the bat and the glove.

Total Points: 3

Royals Interested In Bud Norris?

According to a report by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports (KC Norris?), the Royals are believed to have interest in Houston Astros starter Bud Norris. Norris who is arbitration eligible is under team control for three more seasons and will make close to 2.9 million in 2013.

My Thoughts:

Norris who is 28, has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career.  He as also shown a lot of flashes of being mediocre or below average.  However, I am a pretty big fan of Bud Norris.  Throughout his career (minor/major), he has averaged 8.83 K/9.  So far in his 4 year stint in the majors he has had a K/9 over 8.60  in 3 out of 4 of those seasons.  Norris is a fly ball pitcher but also gets a fair amount of ground balls as well.  Norris's career FB% is 39.5% while his career GB% is 40.2%.  According to Fangraphs the league average FB% is 36% while the league average GB% is 44%.  

According to Park Factors Kauffman Stadium, in 2008-2011 had a park factor of -92 which means that:  
This means that in the years 2008-2011, Kauffman Stadium produced 104 runs for every 100 runs produced in the average MLB park, and 80 HRs for every 100 homers, for a mean Park Factor of 92.
Kauffman continues to be a flyball pitcher's park.
Also according to Park Factors Minute Maid in 2008-2011 had a park factor of +103 which translates to:

This means that in the years 2008-2011, Minute Maid Park produced 96 runs for every 100 runs produced in the average MLB park, and 110 HRs for every 100 homers, for a mean Park Factor of 103. 
 This park plays close to neutral, but has nearly the opposite affect on flyball pitchers as does Kauffman Stadium.
So when looking at these factors, Kauffman plays as more of a flyball pitcher's park than does Minute Maid.  Somewhat oddly, given his flyball tendencies, Norris struggled on the road last season and was very good at Minute Maid.  While Kauffman stadium doesn't have a ton of foul territory, it has more than the ballpark down in Houston, which only would lead us to be more optimistic regarding Norris.

After digging into Bud Norris' numbers more extensively I think Norris would be a good fit for Kauffman Stadium assuming Kauffman plays at the pitcher's park it has in the past.  I don't know what the asking price would be of the Astros from the Royals, but if we could trade some of our lower-mid level prospect/prospects for him, I think I would take a gamble and hope his fly ball numbers translate well to Kauffman.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #35 J.C. Sulbaran

35. J.C. Sulbaran Right Handed Pitcher

Paden Bennett (NR):  Acquired in the Broxton trade, Sulbaran has good stuff.  However, when he came to the Naturals last season he struggled with his command walking 22 in just 26 innings.  He did have 24 strikeouts, so the stuff is definitely there.  For Sulbaran it's all about locating his pitches and limiting his walks in order to move up the system.

Joe Cox (NR): A 23 year old right hander acquired from the Red’s in the Jonathan Broxton trade during the 2012 season.  Sulbaran was on several top Red’s prospect lists coming into last season and got his first taste of AA during the season with both the Red’s and Royals.  Sulbaran is able to miss bats with a high strikeout rate but did have problems with too many walks and homeruns.  He struggled mightily in his six starts with the Royals organization, compiling a 7.62 ERA.  Sulbaran has a solid build for a pitcher and his scouting report includes a low 90’s fastball, curveball, and a change-up.  It will be interesting to see how Sulbaran fairs in his first full season as a part of the Royals organization. 

Damion Mandalas (29): At first glance, it sounded as though Sulbaran was the more interesting of the two pieces that Cincinnati sent to Kansas City for Jonathan Broxton in July. However, less than a year after Baseball America ranked him as the 12th best prospect in the Reds organization his stock has clearly taken a significant drop. Sulbaran sits in the low 90s and has hit 95 from time to time. His curve and change have both shown flashes, but haven't shown any signs of consistency. Despite his horrid post trade showing in Northwest Arkansas, Sulbaran has the upside of a mid-rotation starter and will be just 23 this coming season. He should repeat a level and return to the Texas League.

Dan Ware (NR):  I surfaced the web for a few scouting reports on J.C. and what I found were consistent trends: great velocity, a high flyball rate, but very poor mechanics. The now-22 year old threw just 26 innings in 6 starts for the Double-A Naturals last season after being acquired from Cincinnati in the Jonathon Broxton trade.  Sulbaran mixes up 3 pitches, a fastball, changeup, and curve.  The fastball seems to be the one pitch he can use consistently when his change and hook aren't effective.  That can be a problem as well, considering young hitters in the minors are learning to hit the off-speed stuff.  J.C. is still young and has time to work on fixing delivery issues.  Hopefully he can reunite with his former high school buddy and teammate, Eric Hosmer, in the next couple years.

Total Points: 2

Thoughts on Today's Butler Rumors

Earlier today we learned that according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Mariners and Orioles are both showing strong interest toward Billy Butler. Of course, Butler would be an incredibly tough asset to part ways with, and while it likely isn't a shock, according to a source I have that has spoken with David Glass, the organization is conflicted regarding the 26 year old designated hitter. He would be incredibly valuable on the trade market, but he has huge value to the team in that he is one of the few sure things on the roster. Based off my conversations, it sounds to me like Kansas City would have to be floored by an offer to move Bill the Thrill.

But what would it take?

Seattle Mariners Thoughts

As far as Seattle is concerned, the Royals would have to look to fill multiple holes in any trade. What I mean by this, is that not only would Seattle have to send a young arm Kansas City's way, but they would also have to send a hitter. There are two hitters that fit the bill. First, there is Nick Franklin. Franklin is near Major League ready and could feasibly slide right into second base, thus filling one of the few holes the Royals have on the offensive side.

The other option would be Jesus Montero. Montero has been linked to the Royals in the past, but I don't see any point in rehashing that subject again. Montero is coming off a disappointing year in Seattle, but as Royals fans we know how it goes with young hitters. The upside is still there and he continues to project as a middle of the order designated hitter, with the capability to spell Salvador Perez on occasion.

On the pitching side of things, the Mariners offer a triumvirate of Minor League hurlers with front end upside: Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. Personally, I would prefer the three in that order, but I have to admit I am very back and forth between Hultzen and Walker. Hultzen is the closer of the two, but not many pitching prospects can match the upside of Walker.

Finally though, I would like a sweetener, his name is Jason Vargas. Vargas is a nice piece, but only offers one year of team control. His presence could hold down a spot in the rotation, which would allow the other pitcher in the deal some time to develop before making the jump to the Majors. Quite frankly, if it made sense perhaps the Royals add in Bruce Chen to fill Vargas's void in the Seattle staff. Here's how the deal would look:

Franklin or Montero + Hultzen, Walker or Paxton + Vargas for Butler and Chen

Pros: Royals are able to diversify their assets, while potentially acquiring a front end starter. Royals also gain more years of team control. Royals slightly upgrade 2013 rotation. Royals clear around $7.5 million in payroll space.

Cons: In the short run the Royals take a step back. They trade off their most advance hitter and a guy who was the eighth most efficient hitter in baseball in RBI situations.

Closing Thought: I've done a lot of research regarding the expected production of top prospects and my findings mirror those of others in the field. There is about a 50% chance that Franklin or Montero turn into the guy you hope they will be. There is about a 25% chance that whoever you get out of Hultzen, Walker or Paxton will turn into that front of the rotation starter. For a team that believes it is about to turn the corner do you trade a guy that already has developed into an All-Star for these odds? Do you roll the dice?

Baltimore Orioles Thoughts

As far as Baltimore is concerned, the trade discussion pretty well has to start and end with Dylan Bundy. Of course, Bundy is considered by many to be the top prospect in all of baseball and almost as untouchable as players come. But here is the problem, there are only about three players in the entire Baltimore organization that would be worth trading Butler for. The first is Manny Machado, who seems to be entrenched in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. The second is Kevin Gausman, who was just drafted last June and thus can't officially be traded for several months. The third is the aforementioned Bundy.

Obviously, I would love to see Kansas City get their hands on Dylan Bundy. He seems to be as sure fire of an ace as they come. But even he has the odds against him. (Not to mention the hype surrounding him has gotten a bit out of control. I mean seriously, to get him Kansas City should trade Myers + Butler for him? Give me a break.) Much has been said regarding the Royals love of Dylan Bundy entering the 2011 draft and since. Could this finally be their opportunity to acquire him? My gut says "no way". However, if the Orioles offered him for Butler straight up, I would have an incredibly hard time saying no.

Update: According to Bob Dutton, Royals officials view Seattle as a fall back option. This is an interesting choice of words. The implication to me is that the Royals are definitely looking at other options regarding Butler. Although, this could also be taken to me they are a fallback to upgrading the rotation. If this latter is the case, I don't think moving your top hitter should ever the fall back option, that just screams of desperation.

As for Baltimore, Dutton states the Orioles are an even "tougher match." As I outlined in this post, there is zero pieces of interest outside of the aforementioned prospects and I can't imagine Baltimore willing to part with any of the three. Situations like that make deals incredibly hard to navigate.