Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 Prospect Countdown: #31 Daniel Stumpf

31. Daniel Stumpf Left Handed Pitcher

Age: 22
Position: LHP
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 200
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Drafted in the 9th Round of 2012 Amateur Draft
From: Humble, Texas

Landon Adams (NR): Daniel Stumpf features good size and throws from the left side of the mound. He has a strong Minor League track recored boasting a career 2.81 ERA and 3.61 SIERA over 166.2 innings. Given his handedness and size, Stumpf intrigues me as a possible fast rising bullpen piece. After all, this is the sort of profile that often gets slotted as a future lefty specialist. 

I was somewhat surprised to discover that throughout his brief Minor League career, the former 9th round selection has been just as baffling to left handed hitters (.596 OPS against) as right handed (.592). Perhaps Stumpf can continue to progress while developing a decent third offering. If this can happen he could have a shot as a back end starter. Otherwise he might have the ability to scrap out a career in a Major League bullpen. A guy like Stumpf could serve as an enticing enough "throw in" piece in a deal at the deadline in 2014.

Paden Bennett (NR): Stumpf is a hard throwing lefty with some good stuff.  As evidenced by Stumpf throwing a complete game no hitter last season against the Greenville Drive.  I expect Stumpf to have a good spring and start the season with Wilmington and have a solid season if he can continue to locate his fastball and fine tune his breaking ball so that he can use it as an out pitch.

Joe Cox (21): Lefty Stumpf spent his first full season of professional ball in A league Lexington, fairing pretty well.  In his age 22 season, Stumpf compiled 137.2 innings over 25 starts.  He had respectable walk and strikeout numbers (3.27 BB/9, 7.65 SO/9) and had an impressive 1.11 WHIP while being able to limit the long ball.  Looking at his peripheral numbers, he may have been a little lucky with batted balls and LOB%, but he still had a fine 3.69 FIP to go along with an ERA of 3.07.  

Being that he is a strong armed lefty with good size, there is a lot to like about the potential of Stumpf, despite the fact that he still needs to work on adding a more consistent breaking ball to the mix.  I like Stumpf as a guy who could rise through the system and make a major league impact as a lefty specialist, if not a back end starter.  It will be interesting to see what the Royals plan is with Stumpf, but I would like to see what he could do as a starter at the next level in 2014. 

Dan Ware (NR): Another kid with a great first name, Stumpf put on an excellent display for the Legends, mixing in a little fun and history making, to top it off.  Daniel was part of a stellar rotation in Lexington, which included Crawford Simmons, Christian Binford, and Future's Game participant Miguel Almonte.  With a 10-10 record, 3.07 ERA, 137.2 IP in 25 starts, 117 K and 50 BB, and 3rd best WHIP at 1.11, the 22 year old was named 2013 SAL Left Handed Pitcher of the Year. There's more to this kid? Ohhh yeah.  

On July 2nd, the same night Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey tossed a No-Hitter, Stumpf threw a complete-game no-no against the Greenville Drive, only the second time it's happened in Lexington's history. If Daniel gets good conditioning in this winter and has a solid spring, he should open up the 2014 campaign in Wilmington's rotation.  The Carolina League is considered pitcher-friendly, so hopefully the young lefty uses it to his advantage.

Total Points: 10

Friday, December 27, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #32 Justin Trapp

32. Justin Trapp Second Baseman

Age: 23
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 165
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 34th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft

2013 Rank: 30

2012 Rank: 46

2011 Rank: 56

Landon Adams (24): A former Division 1 quarterback recruit, Justin Trapp boasts plenty of athleticism. The former 34th round pick utilizes this athleticism in a variety of ways. Trapp has hit double digit home runs in back to back seasons while stealing 49 bases over the same time frame. In early June I was told by a Royals source that Trapp was close to a promotion to Northwest Arkansas after posting a .838 OPS in April and .811in May. Unfortunately, Trapp was on course to fall off a cliff in June when he struck out 18 times in 21 games and hit just .268/.307/.329. The slump continued throughout July, before Trapp rebounded a bit in August by hitting .257/.322/.410. Trapp is likely ticketed for a return to Wilmington in 2014.

Paden Bennett (29): I really like this Trapp kid.  He is a toolsy player with speed, a good eye (9% walk rate), and a little bit of pop as well with 10+ homers his last two seasons.  At 23 years old, Trapp has some time to really improve on his prospect status and that starts this season.  I think Trapp takes another step forward this season and you see him in Northwest Arkansas at some point.

Joe Cox (NR): I am a fan of any MI prospect with any amount of upside, and Trapp fits that profile.  The athletic 2B prospect spent his age 22 season in high A and posted a respectable .341 wOBA, which included 10 homers and 25 stolen bases.  He showed the ability to walk with a 9% BB rate (and 12 HBP) and a respectable 20.8% K rate, which is generally right in line with his career numbers.  Really, Trapp has consistently put up very similar numbers every year since 2010, moving up a level each season.  I consider that a good sign, and we will see if he can keep that consistency going, or even improve upon it, in 2014 when he will presumably move up to AA.

Dan Ware (30): Trapp entered 2013 coming off a career year with Kane County.  Entering the pitcher-friendly confines of the Carolina League, Justin's slash line went down in all 3 categories to .257/.340/.390.  He still managed to put up 10 HR for the second straight year, adding 47 RBI and 30 XBH, 5 of which were triples.  On the base paths, he added 25 steals for Wilmington and continues to show off his athleticism.  He's still considered a decent prospect, while being just 23 years old still helps him out.  Trapp could start off in Wilmington in 2014, get a few AB's, then head west to join the Naturals if he starts off strong.  

Total Points: 10

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Royals Trade Lough for Valencia

In another sneaky SABR move by the Royals front office David Lough was sent to the Inner Harbor for right hand hitting, OBP deprived Danny Valencia. It didn't take the Royals Twitterverse more than an infield pop up's worth of time to realize that Valencia hits left handers at a decent clip and would be an ideal platoon partner to incumbent third baseman, Mike Moustakas.

But then...

So the plot thickens.

Actually, it was extremely predictable that Dayton Moore would hesitate to label this as a platoon. There are too many factors at play. The most important of which being that Kansas City doesn't want to officially label Mike Moustakas as a platoon player. Ideally, Moustakas hits in 2014 like the prospect experts all expected him to. Yes, he has been terribly disappointing thus far in his Major League career, but there are still well respected people in the industry that expect much bigger things from Moustakas moving forward.

Nonetheless, if the Royals find themselves in a platoon situation in 2014, they could have done much worse than Danny Valencia. In 428 career plate appearances versus left handed pitching, the former 19th round selection has hit .329/.367/.513 against southpaws. Last year alone he torched lefties to the tune of a .371/.392/.639 line.

Individually, here are The Spitter's projections for Mike Moustakas and Danny Valencia for 2014 (adjusted to 600 plate appearances):

  • Mike Moustakas: .237/.290/.379 with 15 home runs, a .290 wOBA and a 1.98 WAR.
  • Danny Valencia: .261/.290/.445 with 20 home runs, a .312 wOBA and a 1.29 WAR.
Basically, you have a couple of guys with poor contact and even poorer walk rates. Moustakas comes in with a higher WAR thanks to an above average glove, while Valencia is below average at third. Here is what we get if we run it as a platoon between the two players with a 30/70 split in favor of Moustakas.

  • .265/.307/.437 with 19 home runs, a .319 wOBA and a 2.90 WAR. 
What we see here is that if the Royals did go with a true platoon from the offset, Danny Valencia would compliment Moustakas extremely well and raise the overall production from third base by about a win.Of course, if Mosutakas does prove that he is more than a platoon player, your problem is solved anyway. If implemented correctly, this is the kind of sly move that an organization can make to grab an extra win. 

Now as for where Valencia fits into the roster puzzle. Valencia is out of options (reason why he appears to be more than a Brandon Wood, worst case scenario back up plan to Moustakas). The way the current bench sets up is backup catcher, Emilio Bonifacio, Justin Maxwell, and Jarrod Dyson. This would give the Royals 13 hitters on their active roster. 

The wise thing for the Royals to do would be to carry 14 hitters. The rotation is full of innings eaters (except for the 5 spot which figures to be occupied by either Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy). There are also enough arms in Omaha to enable a sort of shuttle system that can stretch the bullpen deeper than a typical 6 man pen can. Dayton Moore has displayed the creativity to successfully utilize a psuedo shuttle system in the past and I believe he can do it again.

By carrying 11 pitchers instead of 14, it would enable the Royals to truly platoon Moustakas and Valencia, while also keeping a balanced bench with a nice array of skills. Maxwell could pinch hit against lefties. Dyson and Bonifacio can both run. Maxwell can hit for power. Dyson can get on base. Between Dyson and Bonifacio you have every spot on the diamond covered in case of injury or the need of a defensive replacement. 

I'm disappointed with the Royals decision to DFA George Kottaras. I still think it could wind up costing them a win. However, I think they have positioned themselves well to have a very nice bench in 2014. What is more likely to happen is that Kansas City will opt to go with the 12 man staff that they have had through a majority of the Dayton Moore era. If I had to guess, this would be it for Jarrod Dyson. 

As for David Lough, he will always be a personal favorite of mine. He is an extremely personable individual and always has a smile on his face. His rookie season was fantastic to watch and he played an enormous role in the Royals second half resurgence. I wish him all the best and I'm looking forward to watching him in an Oriole jersey next season. #YoLough.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Omar Infante deal

Last Friday, Omar Infante and the Kansas City Royals agreed to a four year, $30 million contract.  Omar Infante will be plugged into second base in 2014, moving Emilio Bonifacio into a utility role and moving Johnny Giavotella and Christian Colon to depth pieces who could move from AAA to the majors throughout the year depending on injuries/ needs.  I already went over in a previous post that I felt the Royals were best suited using free agency or trade to find a starting second baseman in 2014, as opposed to working from within the organization. 

I also stated in said post that I felt Omar Infante was going to be too pricy for the Royals, as the Yankees seemed to be a perfect fit after losing Robinson Cano to Seattle.  In fact, at that time is looked much more likely we would be seeing Beltran with the Royals and Infante in New York, not the reserve.  And boy it looks like things may have worked out for the Royals.  Carlos Beltran costs $15 million more for one less year of team control, while also costing the Yankees a draft pick in next year’s amateur draft, something that was not tied to signing Infante since he did not receive a qualifying offer from the Tigers.  
A comparable player to Omar Infante is Brandon Phillips, who still has 4 yrs/ $50 million dollars left on his contract that the Reds would happily get rid of.  When I say comparable, I mean they are within six months in age (with Infante being the younger 32 year old entering next year) while posting comparable fWAR over the last two years. 

That being said, Phillips has been worth almost twice as much fWAR over the course of his career, but I agree with the idea that it is unwise to evaluate players based on their peak, and instead based on present projections.  Phillips clearly has peaked and has been regressing each of the past two seasons after a very good 2011, and is still an elite defender.  Infante is on the wrong side of the aging curve, but had arguably his best season of his career in 2013.  Both are projected to earn about 2.5 WAR next season, as projection systems will (and should) expect regression moving forward. 
So if we agree that these two are more or less similarly useful players, then it is not hard to argue that Infante at 4/30 is a nice deal relative to a ‘bad’ contract.  But how should we evaluate the Infante deal in and of itself?  I will take very loose math that Fangraphs will sometimes use to quickly look at a player’s contract based on value of win and expected regression.  In this model they value a win in the present market to be worth roughly $6.5mil/WAR, with a player regressing .5 WAR per year. 
2014: 2.5 WAR
2015: 2.0 WAR
2016: 1.5 WAR
2017: 1.0 WAR
Total: 7.0 WAR
7 WAR is ‘worth’ 45 million dollars, so by this thought process the Royals may have gotten Infante at quite a bargain.  Even towards the end of his contract he could be above replacement level, and won’t be worth so much money that even in a Bonifacio like role in 2017 he could easily continue to provide value relative to his contract. 

Also this whole piece is heavily reliant on the use of WAR, which, like all Sabremetic statistics, is flawed in telling the entire story.  I do believe it is a helpful tool to use when evaluating contracts, however, and does help paint the picture of a player’s value. 
With Infante and Aoki in the fold for the Royals they have added two contact hitters with a little pop and a little speed (a little more from Aoki).  These players go right along with the low strikeout strategy that seems to be implemented within the team, as Hosmer, Butler, Escobar, Perez and even Moustakas (not counting all his pop ups) make decent contact for their positions.  The same can be said about the team’s clear strategy to field one of the best defenses in the league, thus utilizing their big ballpark, and help with a weak rotation.
In my post I referred to earlier, I concluded that by arguing the best alternative for the Royals was to sign Mark Ellis, who recently signed a one year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.  While Ellis could have had more playing time elsewhere, it would not surprise me if Ellis wanted to go to St. Louis all along in a platoon type role for a team that made the World Series last year, so this may not have ever been an option anyways. 

I still would rather have Ellis as a stop gap for one year in theory, but the contract that Infante received was far less than expected and I would consider myself a big fan of the signing.  The 2014 Royals are being built to contend, and now the biggest hole on the offensive side is filled, making rotation depth the next step in improving the team’s chances for a playoff run.

2014 Prospect Countdown: #33 Michael Mariot

33. Michael Mariot Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 25
Height: 6-0
Weight: 190
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted 8th Round of 2010 Amateur Draft
From: Southlake, Texas

2013 Rank: 23

2012 Rank: 44

Landon Adams (NR): At this stage of his career, Mariot profiles as a middle reliever. He has a good fastball but the last of a quality secondary offering places him low on the bullpen totem pole for 2014. Mariot's has been nails against right handed hitters throughout his career allowing just .656 OPS against them. However, as the former 8th round pick progressed up the ladder, his susceptibility against left handed hitters has become more pronounced. Before he gets a shot at the Major League level, he will need to correct the .867 OPS that he allowed to lefties in 2013. 

Paden Bennett (NR): My love for Michael Mariot has gone downhill, not because he has pitched poorly but because it looks like he is going to be a reliever for sure.  All but one of his outings last year were in relief and he did pitch pretty well with 66 k's in 60 innings.  However, I always had the hope that this guy would become a solid back of the rotation starter and it doesn't look like this is going to happen.

Joe Cox (NR): Mariot made the move to AAA and stayed there all year, making all but one of his 47 appearances in relief.  Prior to 2013, the organization seemed unsure as to whether he should be developed as a starter or a reliever, but it appears the 25 year old will be used in the pen from here on out.  Mariot has a plus fastball that hits the low-mid 90’s, but I am not sure what his pitch mix looked like last season.  Mariot struck out an impressive 66 batters in 60.2 innings (9.79 SO/9), but sacrificed his typically stellar walk rate by walking 25 batters (3.71 BB/9).  As a result he compiled the highest WHIP of his career, though that could be partially contributed to bad luck due to his .335 BABIP.  While I could see Mariot make his big league debut this season, I see him as a guy who would only be brought up in replace of an injury or tired arms in the pen.  His stuff makes him good enough to be a nice organizational depth piece with the upside of a middle relief arm.

Dan Ware (22): Year after year, Mariot has been a model of consistency with era ranging from 3.33 to most recent 3.56 in his 4 year career.  Even though he has average stuff, he gets through his outings with strong command of those pitches.  His GB and FB percentages this past season were 41.1% and 38.7%, respectively, while collecting in 66 K and 25 BB in 60.2 innings. His K% increased a great deal, but his BB rate increased to just above the Pacific Coast League average of 9.6%.  For the first time in his short career, he was used primarily as a reliever, when previously he started 14 games in 2012 and 9 games in 2011.  I still see Mariot compared to a Nate Adcock or Everett Teaford, in that he will be used in spot starts or long relief if and when he's called up to the Royals.

Total Points: 9

Friday, December 13, 2013

Billy Butler and the Toronto Blue Jays

The rumor of the evening yesterday for Royals fans would have to be the report from The Globe & Mail's Jeff Blair who declared via Twitter that the Royals and Blue Jays were discussing a trade that would send Billy Butler and prospects to Toronto. The MLB Trade Rumors post goes on to remind us of the thought Jayson Stark had earlier in the week that if Billy Butler was traded, KC would perhaps make an attempt to sign Nelson Cruz.

When it comes to rumors during the hot stove, one must always pay close attention to detail. Here is Jayson Stark's quote from earlier in the week:

At first glance, this makes it appear as though Kansas City is attempting to offload Butler in an attempt to sign Nelson Cruz. Also, as Twitter ran away with this tweet, this is what the rumor became. The tweet actually has two parts. First, Jayson Stark is reporting a rumor that he has heard: "Royals haven't completely dismissed idea of dangling Billy Butler." Second, he is adding in speculation on what Kansas City might do if they do move Butler.

Rumors are flimsy enough during this time of year, but we can help ourselves out by doing a better job of distinguishing what is speculation from what might actually be being discussed by front offices. This brings me back to the MLB Trade Rumors post from last night.

It seems that many in the Royals Twitterverse read the post and quickly took it as the Royals were trading Butler and prospects to Toronto in order to clear payroll for Nelson Cruz. If you read the post again you'll notice that these are two separate pieces of information, once again with half being actual rumblings and the other half being speculation on the part of Jayson Stark.

Also, we should just use common sense. Billy Butler is making $8.5 million in 2014 and has a $12.5 million option for 2015. He definitely isn't an asset that needs to be dumped. His contract isn't an albatross so the Royals don't need to add in prospects in order for a team to take Butler off of their hands. So why add the prospects?

If the Royals truly are discussing sending Butler and prospects to Toronto than it would quite clearly be for a legitimate Major League piece. Toronto offers a few options on this front. Colby Rasmus has been rumored to have been shopped around this winter and we know he is a player that the Royals have been rumored to be interested in before. Jose Baustista is another guy that there have at least been rumblings that he could be moved. Adam Lind is a guy that would likely be available. I'm sure the Blue Jays wouldn't mind moving R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle.

Finally, we should note that Jeff Blair stated the teams "have talked" and did not say that they are talking or are discussing. It is possible that Blair, meant that talks are on going, but it is also possible that these talks occurred earlier in the off-season and have since ended. Perhaps this Butler plus prospects for Rasmus was being discussed before Kansas City acquired Aoki and was still in on Beltran? We just don't know.

One thing that I do feel confident about is that the Royals have been very active in shopping Billy Butler. We discussed some of the reasons why in this post. Yesterday we even heard from a Royals official that they would like to use that spot as a rotation in the near future.

I wasn't in a position where I could pass this along last year, but I was told from a very high Royal source that even last off-season there were Royals officials that thought it would be best to move Butler. Ultimately, the front office felt like if the team was serious about contending in 2013, it would be too hard to justify trading away their top hitter. Coming off a down season a year later, it seems that the front office finally feels like a Butler trade is justifiable. At this point I'd be a little surprised to see him open 2014 in Kansas City.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Odds and Ends by Nathan

Welcome back ladies and gents! It’s been a while since I posted on here. Between my MBA classes (humble brag) and the surprising resurgence of the Chiefs (flat-out brag), my time and attention have been preoccupied. Fortunately for you all, I am finished with finals and decided that Jack Zduriencik has the right idea of getting rid of statistics from the Seattle front office. Statistics are awful. If I never have to calculate one more z-score in my life it will be too soon.

Speaking of the Chiefs, I heard Kansas City was looking to sign a former Notre Dame wide receiver. This is a good thing. If I have to watch Donnie Avery drop one more pass in a close game, I’m going to lose my friggin’ mind. If only Tony G had just been brought back home, our receiving corps would look so much better. Anyway, I heard the guy’s name was Jeff something-eastern-European. I guess I’ll go ahead and look it up.

[Types in Jeff Samardzjia into Google]

Ohhhh, he is the all-time leading receiver in Notre Dame History. Ohhhhhh, he had 27 touchdowns in his junior and senior season. Ohhhhhhhhhhh, he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff award in both those seasons as well. Dang, this guy seems legit!!! It’s just weird that he has no NFL stats that I can find … wait … what is this? He’s a pitcher?!!! For the Cubs?!!! So the Kansas City team interested in him was the Royals? Well that is disappointing; but I can at least check out his pitching stats and see if he’s a guy worth trading for.

[Googles Jeff Samardzjia, pitching]

Career 4.19 ERA. Career 2.29 K:BB ratio. Posted a 4.34 ERA last season. Has allowed 45 homeruns in the past two seasons combined. He seems like the type of player the Royals usually trade for …

Speaking of trades, how ‘bout Royal Revival breaking thatSmith-Aoki trade a few days back. That was pretty awesome, no? All the writers for Royal Revival gave themselves a collective pat on the back about that one, and all are very happy to be a part of it. And while the writers at Royal Revival are very humble in their success, and are just happy that the blog prospered after making the scoop, I find myself obligated to give a big shout-out to the contributor that came up with the breaking news. Without further ado, credit will finally be given to where credit is due:

It was me.

No, for real. Also, Landon did an outstanding job sending out the tweets and writing up the articles. Remember kids, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I will finally end this post with some very late news, and that is the new Royals alternate jerseys. I’m a big thing of anything alternate: alternative rock, alternative forms of energy, and especially alternative jerseys.

View image on Twitter
"The KC logo continues to be extremely popular with our fan base and is synonymous with Kansas City," said Kevin Uhlich, Royals Sr. Vice President-Business Operations. "With that in mind, the Royals are excited to incorporate the logo into our uniform collection for the 2014 season.

I enjoy how the “KC” logo is prominently featured. The only thing I might consider changing is the white lines that parallel the buttons. It just sorta reminded me of the blue version of those red onesie pajamas you always see cowboys wear at night in the westerns. I don’t know, but that’s my take.

Welp, that’s it. I’m sure you’ll hear from me again sometime in April. Until then, as always, you’re welcome.

Follow me on Twitter @tipof_arrowhead 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Converting fWAR to Wins; How can KC get to 45.5?

In 2013, the ranked 8th in all of baseball in total team fWAR. The only teams to rank ahead of Kansas City were the Red Sox, Tigers, Rays, Rangers, Athletics, Dodgers, and the Braves. Now we know that the Royals under performed in terms of their Pythagorean win expectancy, which called for them to finish the year 87-75, but I was curious about what the predictive value in fWAR was.

By taking the last three years worth of team fWAR totals, wins, and expected wins I was able to determine that fWAR has a predictive value of approximately .876 for a team's total win count. This number is somewhat lower than the predictive value of expected wins, which over the last three years was .946. Nonetheless, I had a linear formula created for converting Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement to wins. Here is what excel came up with: Wins = (fWAR*0.9069) + 50.772.

In 2013, it took 92 wins to reach baseball's postseason. Working backward, that would mean a team should need to accumulate roughly 45.5 fWAR to reach that threshold. A season ago, the Royals were able to net 42.4 fWAR. This would mean that from 2013 to 2014, Kansas City needs to bring in an additional 3.1 fWAR to close the gap.

Thus far this off-season and throughout 2013, the Royals have already bid farewell to George Kottaras (0.7 fWAR), Adam Moore (0.1), Miguel Tejada (0.4), Chris Getz (-0.1), Carlos Pena (-0.2), Elliot Johnson (-0.2), Jamey Carroll (-0.5), Jeff Francoeur (-0.9), Ervin Santana (3.0), Will Smith (0.5), Bruce Chen (1.4), and Luis Mendoza (0.4). Add this all together and you have 4.6 fWAR to replace just to hold even.

Fortunately, the Royals thus far haven't set on their hands this winter. They've already added Jason Vargas to the rotation (1.5) and Norichika Aoki to the outfield (1.7). In total the Royals are 4.5 fWAR away from that magic 45.5 fWAR mark and 92 wins according to that formula. Where can the Royals pick up these wins?

At this point, there are a few places left that the Royals could pick up a few fWAR:

  1. Player Progression - the easiest way to pick up fWAR is for the current crop of players to simply play better than they did last year. Unfortunately, you can't expect an entire roster to progress. As often as players progress, they will regress which typically means the treading of water for a team. The good news for the Royals is that the vast majority of their roster is in a good spot on the aging curve, making progression more likely than regression.
  2. Redistribution of IP and PA - Obviously, with players leaving there will be a redistribution of playing time. For example, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura were worth 0.6 fWAR in 40 innings pitched last season. If they can keep that pace and throw 360 innings, this would create an additional 4.8 in fWAR. Of course, the same can go the other way. With Aoki in the fold David Lough and his 2.4 fWAR figure to factor in less in 2014.
  3. Second Base - Given that eight spots in the lineup appear to be set, this is the last spot that could really see an upgrade in 2014. Omar Infante was worth 3.1 fWAR in 2013. Mark Ellis was worth 1.8. Howie Kendrick worth 2.7. Second base won't close the whole gap, but at this point it is the Royals most surefire way to inch closer to 45.5 fWAR in 2014.
  4. Bench - The final spot for the Royals to continue to upgrade is their bench. Last season the Royals had an excellent bench in terms of fWAR. That bench has already been weakened at back up catcher. The Royals look to have a good group of back up outfielders, and with Emilio Bonifacio pushed to a super utility role throughout the season it could provide just a slight bump in the bench's season long fWAR total.
  5. Starting Pitcher - The Royals already have brought in Jason Vargas, and they already have a few in house options to fill the final two rotation spots. However, if the Royals brought in a starter with decent value to replace the innings provided by Bruce Chen and Wade Davis in the four spot, the Royals could net another easy positive gain.
As you have probably realized right now, Kansas City is at a point on the win curve in which each little piece of marginal value is critical. This is why the Kottaras decision was so infuriating. It simply created an additional half win that Kansas City would need to find.

At this point, second base is the key spot moving forward. The Royals need to find an answer here. If they can do that they'll really close the gap heading into camp. It is much more realistic to need your lineup to pick up an extra 1.5 wins in progression than it is to ask them to pick up 3.5 wins in progression. I'll be severely disappointed if Emilio Bonifacio heads to Surprise with a starting job to lose.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams

Why Royals are Looking to Move Billy Butler

So make that three times that the Royals have been rumored to be considering trading Billy Butler in favor of signing a free agent to serve as the 2014 designated hitter. First, we heard the Carlos Beltran rumors, then we heard about Kansas City's interest in Mark Trumbo. So we have to ask, why does is seem as though the Royals are so motivated to move Billy Butler?

  1. Let's start with the most obvious reason; the Royals believe that these alternatives are upgrades. If the Royals truly believe that Beltran, Trumbo, Cruz, etc. are better offensively than Butler, than it would make sense to sign one and then deal Butler for another useful (for example, Nick Franklin of Seattle). The issue here becomes whether or not the aforementioned hitters are actually better offensively than Bill the Thrill.
  2. Option number 2 could be that the Royals believe Butler has started downward on his career projection. Billy Butler is coming off his worst offensive season since his rookie campaign when he posted a .320 wOBA and a 90 wRC+. Perhaps the Royals brass read this article and believe that Butler's weight could lead to an early decline, thus they want to stay ahead of the curve by dealing him while he still has value. This leads me to my next point...
  3. Maybe the Royals are frustrated by Butler's weight issues. After coming into camp in 2012 in excellent shape (by Billy Butler standards), Butler had a career year hitting .313/.373/.510. The Royals then spent the off-season gearing up for a playoff run and I'm sure were disappointed by the shape that Billy came to camp in for 2013. Butler obviously was carrying a few more pounds in 2013 than he was in 2012, and you have to wonder if his poor season was the result.
  4. Finally and probably the largest factor in all of this is that while Butler's $8.5 million salary in 2014 seems very fair, the Royals might feel more conflicted about a $12.5 million option for 2015. As a result, they might be fearful that this off-season and the trading deadline will be their last opportunities to flip Butler. Obviously, the Royals expect to be in the race at the deadline, so they could just being proactive. By flipping Butler now and signing a free agent to DH, they could get a return for Butler, while also continuing to get DH production without having to either trade Butler in July or see him walk at the end of the season if his option is declined.
The Rays are a team that has done an excellent job of trading assets to make their window to win sustainable. They've shown that the opportune time to trade a player is when they have two years of control remaining. For Butler that point is now. 

Ultimately, whether or not Billy Butler should be traded hinges on your view of his 2013 season. If you believe it was the first drop off in a sharp aging curve for players his size, then it makes sense to stay ahead of the game and move him for a return while you have the chance. If you believe that 2013 was simply a down year and that he will rebound in 2014, then he is a bargain and a $12.5 million option in 2015 is a no brainer.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Closer Look at Norichika Aoki

The more I think about the Norichika Aoki addition the more I am intrigued by it. One of the things that the Royals did an excellent job of last off-season was better molding their team to Kauffman Stadium than they have done in the past. The Royals front office acquired fly ball oriented pitchers and allowed those arms  to take advantage of a fantastic outfield defense.

I've theorized with fellow Royal Revival blogger Twitterless Joe that some teams are doing a better job of playing to their park than others. We both strongly believe this to play a major role in the Athletics resurgence over the last couple of seasons. The optimistic side of me hoped that the Royals were intentionally following a similar path an off-season ago.

The pessimistic side of me wondered if the convergence of a stellar outfield defense and fly ball staff was merely a coincidence. When the Royals opened the 2013-14 off-season with talks about acquiring a middle of the order bat, I was certain that they would undo their progress by putting a lawn chair in right field (albeit one that would theoretically hit 30 home runs and drive in runners, with a .300 OBP). I was dreading the day when the Royals would announce a trade for Mark Trumbo or the signing of Nelson Cruz.

Instead the Royals announced the trade for Aoki. Of course things could change, but I am hopeful that they have acquired him with the intent to play him in right field alongside Lorenzo Cain in center. When you add Alex Gordon to the occasion in left field, you have arguably the best defensive outfield in baseball. (This is a similar strategy to the one deployed by Cleveland last season.)  I'd like to think this isn't pure happenstance.

Once upon a time I was given the advice to play to my strengths instead of focusing on improving my weaknesses. The idea being that if you focus too much on a weakness, you end up sacrificing the true potential of your strengths.My hope is that the Royals have adopted this mindset.

Based off the type of player that Aoki is, I theorize that the often muted Royals analytics department might have had a major say in this acquisition. Let's be realistic, does anyone envision Dayton Moore wanting to acquire a high obp, good defender to play a corner? I don't. In fact, this conflicts quite a bit with his past quotes regarding defense up the middle and "run producers" on the corners. This alone tells me that there is someone else in our General Manager's ear in regards to this acquisition.

These thoughts led me to another question: why Aoki?

There are loads of quality defenders that cost little and offer little to no power (the Royals have a few on their roster). There are even some that offer decent on base abilities. So how did the front office land on Aoki? Before I answer this question, let me take a step back and tell you how I spent my three day weekend.

This past weekend I decided to play with some numbers and create a projection engine. I will henceforth refer to it as The Spitter. The general premise behind The Spitter is that it takes a weighted average of a player's batted ball percentages from the last three seasons (55% for last season, 35% for the season before, and 10% for two seasons ago). The Spitter then utilizes Fangraphs' expected BABIP calculator as well as the player's weighted strikeout and walk rates to "spit out" a projection for 2014.

One thing that The Spitter does not consider is aging curves. I did not feel comfortable enough in applying values to aging curves that vary so much on position and player size. This is something I will look into adding to the projections in the future.

Another factor that The Spitter fails to fully recognize are park factors. Since we are dealing with contact rates, a majority of the issues surrounding park factors are mitigated, however, HR/FB is not adjusted and this is a contact rate that would be heavily affected by home park.

Finally, once The Spitter produces a line, it also takes into consideration a player's weighted defensive value over the past three seasons and adjusts a WAR output based on the player's position. The system seems to slant a little on the optimistic side, but I've ran about 45 players through The Spitter so far and there are only a couple of players whose 2014 projection outputs seem to be out of line from their careers.

One of these players is Raul Ibanez, who The Spitter projects to hit 31 home runs and slash .279/.340/.517. This number isn't too out of line to what Ibanez did in 2013, but for a 41 year-old it seems a little ridiculous for his line to continue to improve at this stage of his career. Obviously, this line is the result of 2013 being weighted more heavily than previous years, and the fact that The Spitter isn't considering age curves.

The only other player so far that comes out with a triple slash quite a bit different than what you would expect is Norihicka Aoki. Given the fact that the Royals acquired him just a couple of days before I began work on The Spitter, you can understand why this would intrigue me so much.

I'll just cut to the chase, here is what The Spitter produced for Aoki and 600 plate appearances in 2014:

  • .331/.393/.448 with a .371 wOBA and 4.52 WAR. 
Now before you click the X in the top right hand corner of the screen, let me remind you that while I believe The Spitter leans on the optimistic side, this is the only output out of 45 that seems at first glance to be an outlier. So the question has to be, what does The Spitter see in Aoki that we have not seen from him in 2 big league seasons?

So first, we have to remember that this line is being driven by weighted batted ball data from Aoki's first two MLB seasons (60% weight for 2013 and 40% for 2012). Using this data, Fangraphs expected BABIP calculator would predict Aoki to post a BABIP of approximately .350, a mark which is 50 points higher than what he has posted for his career. 

The reason for the high expected BABIP? Believe it or not it isn't his line drive percentage (which rates slightly below league average), it is actually his propensity to hit ground balls. In fact, since Aoki joined the Major Leagues in 2012, no player has hit a higher percentage of ground balls than his 58.1% mark. Ground balls don't land as hits as often as line drives, but they turn into hits a lot more often than fly balls.

At first glance, one would view Aoki's career BABIP of .300 to be average. However, what we are beginning to find is that BABIP like many other items is driven by batted ball frequencies. So just because Aoki's BABIP is league average, doesn't mean that his BABIP is reflective of where it should be. 

Now given the fact that Aoki has struck out just 7.5% of the time in his Major League career (his 5.9% mark in 2013 led baseball), a high BABIP benefits him even more than the average Major League player. What The Spitter highlighted was that based off Aoki's contact rates and extremely low K%  he actually presents the Royals with quite a bit more upside than the casual observer would realize. 

My guess is that the Kansas City front office is fully aware of all of this. They don't view Aoki as a solid, but unspectacular option. They view Aoki as a guy with a high floor, but with considerable upside thanks to his ability to limit strikeouts and the BABIP issues that we have discussed thanks to his ability to hit the ball on the ground at such a high rate. 

The final point goes back to my hope that Kansas City has improved upon its ability to play to Kauffman Stadium. Miller Park allows 98 percent of the singles that a neutral Major League park allows. Kauffman Stadium allows 103 percent of the singles that a neutral park allows. I'm not sure how I could quantify this, but is it possible that the Royals not only see Aoki's high BABIP potential, but that they also see Kauffman as a key ingredient to unlocking that potential?

Unlike The Spitter, I don't expect Norichika Aoki to hit .331 in 2014. However, after looking carefully at the data I do expect progression. The Spitter thinks that based off Aoki's batted ball data, he should be challenging for a batting title. Fortunately, all he needs to do is continue to post his career line of .287/.355/.399 to be valuable. But what if Aoki's line falls somewhere in the middle? How great of a trade would that be for Kansas City?

I don't think all of this is a coincidence. I think that Aoki was identified by someone in the Royals front office and on December 5, Kansas City got their man. Hopefully, for the Royals and their fans The Spitter's projection will prove to be more than numbers on a spreadsheet.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

2014 Prospect Countdown: #34 Terrance Gore

34. Terrance Gore Outfielder

Age: 22
Position: OF
Height: 5-7
Weight: 165
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 20th Round of 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Macon, GA

2013 Rank: NR

2012 Rank: 31

Landon Adams (NR): Terrance Gore had what many would consider to be a disappointing 2013 campaign. Despite improving his line drive percentage from 7.8% to 15.3% his BABIP dropped from .331 to .293. Hopefully, his BABIP will equalize and he will continue to improve upon his ability to square the ball up. Joe hits it on the head, Gore needs to stick in center to have a shot in the Majors. The fact that he played so many games in left has a lot to do with Bubba Starling, but I worry that it could also be a hint that he has a weak arm. 

Paden Bennett (NR): Terrance Gore is fast.  Terrance Gore is fast.  Really there isn't a ton to say about Gore other than he is fast.  The problem is you can't steal first base and Gore doesn't hit his way on first very often with a .215 average last year.  One thing Gore will do which this organization doesn't necessarily care about (but I do) is the ability to draw walks.  Gore compiled an 11.5% walk rate which is very encouraging.  His OBP was 120 points higher than his batting average which is awesome.  If Gore could just learn to hit in the .240-.260 range and play CF then I could see him making the majors at some point.  Think how many bases he could steal if he improved his average to .240-.260 while maintaining or improving his walk rate.  He stole 68 bags last year, let's hope Gore does improve his average and goes for 100.

Joe Cox (22): Terrance Gore is considered one of the fastest players in professional baseball.  He showcased said speed last season compiling 68 stolen bases playing for class A Lexington.  What the 22 year old outfielder failed to do was hit.  Gore has decreased all of his triple slash numbers since his debut in 2011.  Last year he slashed .215/.334/.242 in 541 PA’s.  The positive from that line comes from the over 100 point difference between his BA and OBP, as his 11.5% walk rate is very solid (22.2% K rate, however).  His slugging percentage is very weak, as Gore only managed 9 extra base hits in 2013.  He has never hit a professional home run.  

Surprisingly, Gore only managed a BABIP of .293 last year.  I could not find batted ball data but considering his speed and the assumption that he tries to keep the ball on the ground that could be a little fluky, but not to the point of trusting his hit tool.  Based on his other tools, he could move up the system and become a speedster on a MLB bench, but it seems doubtful unless we see a major turnaround at the plate.  Another slight concern, though I don’t know the whole story, is that he played majority of his games in left field last season; he would have to be able to play a plus center field to ever have any chance of reaching the majors.  Chances are he starts the season back in A-ball.

Dan Ware (NR): While playing for Lexington this past season, Gore easily displayed his strengths and weaknesses as a 22 year old outfielder.  Each of his last 2 seasons, his slash lines have decreased noticeably.  Last year, his worst as a pro, was .215/.334/.242 with 24 RBI and 9 XBH. Although his OBP was just barely above the South Atlantic League median, his BA and SLG were well below.  Predominately a ground ball hitter, he managed to double his line drive percentage to 15.3%, while racking up an ugly K rate of 22.2%.  Like Joe mentioned, he produced a .293 BABIP, which leaves his career rate at .322, which isn't uncommon, considering fast players will usually have high BABIP rates, as well as line drive balls usually land for hits more often than ground balls and ground balls usually go for more hits than fly balls. On the plus side, J.J. Picollo, Assistant GM for the Royals, rates Gore's speed at "probably 90 or 100" on the 20-80 scale, which If he puts in some hard work this winter and spring on hitting, imagine what he could do at the plate. It will be no surprise to see him in a Lexington uniform for a second straight year.

Total Points: 9

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In the Cross Hairs: Logan Forsythe

Yesterday, our very own Twitterless Joe published a nice post where he sifted through seven different second base options for the Royals in 2014. After reading the post, I couldn't help but plow through the various Major League depth charts to search out some additional options. Upon arriving at the Padres page, I recalled a rumor from the summer in which Kansas City had been reported to be scouting San Diego middle infielders. We've talked about Logan Forsythe before but as I examined his Fangraphs page, I began to grow more and more intrigued.

Forsythe, who will be 27 on Opening Day 2014, came up as a solid prospect in the San Diego system. In his final year of prospect eligibility, Baseball America ranked him as the Padres 13th best prospect and said that the former 1st round pick showed plenty of range a strong arm. Baseball America also praised his eye and modest line drive approach even claiming that eventually he could hit 12-15 home runs annually. At the time of the report, Forsythe had hit .278/.407/.389 in 251 career minor league games. The following season Forsythe broke out and hit .326/.445/.528 in 46 AAA games before getting the big league call.

Since that time Forsythe has hit just .241/.310/.349 in 228 career games. At this point you are wondering why I was so eager to write a post about him for this blog. You see I don't believe that this line is an accurate reflection of how good a hitter Forsythe has been during his time in the Majors. So I will first point your attention to Forsythe's 2013 BABIP of .255.

Now let me make this perfectly clear. A low BABIP doesn't necessarily mean that a player has underperformed his expectations. It seems that all too often we look at BABIP as a one stop shop for an explanation on how lucky a player has been. What we should be doing is comparing a player's BABIP to his expected BABIP. When we do this, there might not have been an unluckier player in 2013 than Logan Forsythe.

Consider this, of second baseman with at least 240 plate appearances in 2013, Forsythe ranked second in line drive percentage at 28.5%. Despite this Forsythe ranked 39th out of 44 second basemen in BABIP. This is astounding. When we expand our sample to include all hitters with at least 240 plate appearances, Forsythe ranks fourth in LD % and 297th out of 325 in BABIP. Something isn't adding up.

This immediately attracted me to Forsythe as an excellent buy low option, but I wanted to continue this exercise. So the next question I asked was 'what would Forsythe's numbers be if we swapped his BABIP for his luck removed xBABIP?'  So after finding an xBABIP formula that I liked, I plugged in Forsythe's numbers. Here is what I got (the additional hits were then spread across singles, doubles, and triples in the same way his hits were spread in 2013):

  • 75 games, 220 at bats, .285/.352/.417 with a .337 wOBA and worth 1.69 WAR. 
This is a player that I would love to have manning second base for the Royals in 2014. But then I asked myself another question. What would happen if we utilized Fangraphs 2013 park factors to determine what Forsythe's luck removed line would have been had he played his home games at Kauffman Stadium instead of Petco Park. Here is what I came up with:
  • 75 games, 220 at bats, .287/.354/.430 with a .343 wOBA and worth 1.8 WAR. 
Getting even more excited about Logan Forsythe, this led me to another question. What would Forsythe's luck removed 2013 line have looked like if he received 500 plate appearances with his home park being Kauffman Stadium?
  • 453 at bats, .287/.354/.430 with 17 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs, and worth 3.4 WAR. 
Some people might read this post and only see number manipulation. It is true, I have utilized numbers to manipulate Forsythe's 2013 statistics. However, what I have actually attempted to do is apply what we know about baseball to paint a clearer picture of Forsythe's true talent level. I have applied the statistics that are known to be the most predictive to create this image. 

What I haven't done is say things like "what if Forsythe can regain his line drive stroke and square up more baseballs with a mechanical adjustment?" I don't need to do that. The data tells us that in 2013, Forsythe was one of the very best hitters in professional baseball in terms of hitting line drives. His BABIP should have been one of the best in baseball, instead it was one of the very worst. 

This is the type of perfect storm that an analytics department dreams about. You have a player who has developed exactly into what Baseball America predicted 3 years ago, but no one sees it because of the park he plays in and the hard luck that he has endured. Forsythe is entering the prime of his career. He is right in that sweet spot where a step forward is to be expected. The point I am making is that Forsythe can repeat his 2013, he'd be an fantastic addition for the Royals for 2014. 

Forsythe will make the league minimum in 2014 and then be arbitration eligible for the three following seasons. What would you give up for four years of Logan Forsythe?

Follow me @Landon_Adams

Friday, December 6, 2013

What should the Royals do at Second Base?

After the expected non-tender of Chris Getz, the Royals look to move on to a new second baseman in 2014. As of right now, the Royals have Emilio Bonifacio, Johnny Giovatella, and Christian Colon as guys who you could argue as major league players who could conceivably man the position in 2014. The other option would be to find a new player in free agency or via trade. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing David Glass shelling out $240 million for Cano, which is err, surprising.

What would be the best avenue for the Royals to take? I don’t know, but let’s dig a little deeper on some of the options they have. Keep in mind I am considering Kansas City as a team that wants to be a World Series contender in 2014 within the limitations of their payroll. Given that they seem willing to give Carlos Beltran a 3yr/ 48 million dollar contract (which may or may not be true) I will at the very least assume they are willing to sign a mid-level free agent or two during this offseason.

1. Trust Emilio Bonifacio: I liked the move to acquire Bonifacio last season, as he has shown the ability to help major league teams due to his flexibility and speed. While there is little defensive value from Bonifacio at short or in center field, defensive metrics seem to like him at 2B, 3B or a corner outfield spot. His offense is not great, with his .279 wOBA last season, though he does switch hit. He is basically a no power speedster with below average on base skills. Fangraphs put him at 0.6 WAR in 420 at bats. For a playoff contender Bonifacio is a solid reserve and a bad starter, and I would guess that is how the Royals see him also.

2. Give Giavotella another chance: I am going ahead and discarding Giavotella as a realistic alternative. He was a fan favorite a few years ago as a no defense all hit second baseman, but he just simply hasn’t hit and there is no way to trust him as second division starter in the major leagues. He is a nice organization depth piece that can play in the case of an injury; but his clock is ticking to show something before he is not even a consideration to keep on a 40 man roster.

3. Roll the dice with Christian Colon: It seems to me that I like Colon more than most. The shine has worn off, as the former top prospect has yet to make a single at bat in the major leagues, and next year will be his age 25 season. That being said, he does look to have a skillset that would make him a viable bench bat in the major leagues in 2014. He can back-up at shortstop and second base with a decent enough glove and a decent hit tool. Last season he had a .325 wOBA in AAA which included 12 home runs and an impressive 9.9% K rate.

We know that the Royals do love them some low strikeout players and Colon seems to fill a hole in their 25 man roster as back up middle infielder. Like Bonifacio, though, his value is better served with limited at-bats, and the consistent rule applies that a playoff team can’t trust an average prospect with no major league experience to start for them in 2014. In my opinion, the Royals will be looking to add someone outside the organization to start at second in 2014.

4. Sign Omar Infante: Omar Infante was good last year. In fact, he’s been a valuable player for the last four years. He is a plus fielder and a plus at the plate, compiling 3.1 WAR in 2013 according to Fangraphs. The problem with Infante is price. The Yankees have been said to already have a contract offer on the table and it looks like he could demand a contract similar to the one Jhonny Peralta received earlier this offseason. This seems a little out of the Royals price range.

5. Trade for Brandon Phillips: Brandon Phillips generally gets called overrated by SABR folks but I think that his large RBI totals and mainstream media love makes people forget that Phillips is a very good player from an analytical standpoint also, even if he has declined each of the last two years. 2013 was the first year since 2006 that Phillips did not have a WAR over 3.0. Even banged up, he played in 151 games last year, and has hit 18 home runs for the past four seasons, all but guaranteeing we will see the same total in 2014. His offense has dropped significantly from his monster 2011 season, seeing his wOBA drop to .307 and an ever increasing K%.

Phillips has 4 years and 50 million dollars left on his contract. It would probably take some combination of outfielder/ prospect and relief arm to acquire Phillips, with the Reds conceivably eating somewhere between 10-20 million dollars of his contract. I was hypothesizing a Cain for Phillips swap or maybe a Dyson/ Crow for Phillips swap. This would give the Royals Phillips around the same price Infante will get this offseason, but with an extra fourth year on his contract.

The Reds seem to be wavering on whether or not they actually want to trade Phillips, but my guess is that they would have no problem seeing him go for the right price. While this certainly should be a consideration for the Royals, having to deal pieces for an arguably overpaid veteran on the decline could work out very poorly for them moving forward.

6. Sign Mark Ellis: This is one of my two favorite options for the Royals. Mark Ellis had his 5.75 million dollar option declined by the Dodgers, which seems pretty backwards to me since they were willing to shell out $10 million to Brian Wilson, but I guess Cuban defector Alex Guerrero makes Ellis as expendable. Ellis compiled 433 at bats last year and contributed 1.8 WAR. He has been an elite fielder his entire career and while this skill has declined over time, there is no reason to expect his won’t be the case moving forward.

Ellis isn’t a complete loss at the plate, either, as a guy who does a little but not much of everything. He had an OPS of just .674 and a wOBA of .300 last year. But that is not why you are signing Mark Ellis. I think the Royals could easily lure Ellis to KC given the playing time he could receive. I would have no problem giving him a multi-year deal worth 4-5 million per year to obtain him. That would be a huge upgrade over last year for a fraction of the cost it would take to get a slightly better player in Infante or Phillips. The Royals look to agree with me, as it looks like themselves along with the Dodgers and Rays have already expressed interest in the veteran according to Ken Rosenthal.

7. Trade for Nick Franklin: The Mariners are weird. Not only are they weird but they also just signed Robinson Cano to a reported 10 year, 240 million dollar contract, and now have a bit of a middle infield logjam with both Brad Miller and Nick Franklin already on the roster. After years of knowing that Franklin would have to move off of short, they finally did so once he reached the major league level in 2013, and he probably projects as an average at best second baseman defensively. He does have several years of control being that he didn’t get a call to the big leagues until midseason last year.

Franklin’s minor league track record and major league cup of tea suggest that he is going to have problems striking out at the big league level, but he has always shown a very good ability to draw a walk and has also shown a plus hit tool over his minor league career. Franklin did struggle at the major league level, so there is risk here, but there is reason to believe he will improve given what the scouts have said about him, along with the numbers he has put up.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, the Mariners are weird. It is hard to say what they would want in return for a trade. It does seem like a position of weakness for the Mariners (the bullpen) is a position of strength for the Royals, who have already expressed some interest in moving a guy like Aaron Crow for the right return.

I think the Mariners are more likely to add Franklin as a piece of a bigger trade (David Price?), but if that doesn’t work out the Royals could make a good trade partner for the talented middle infielder. Of course, there are other options out there, but I think these are all realistic options as to what we could see the Royals front office doing.

The market on Mark Ellis seems relatively thin, so unless the Dodgers get scared of their newly acquired Cuban defector playing second every day and offer Ellis an overpay of a contract (which is realistic), I think the Royals could be a prime candidate to acquire him. He wouldn’t be as big of a splash as other free agent/ trade options, but he is a solid major league starter that would allow the Royals to put middle infielders they have in the bench roles they should probably be in.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2014 Prospect Countdown: #35 Daniel Rockett

35. Daniel Rockett Outfielder

Age: 23
Position: OF
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 200
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 9th Round of the 2013 Amateur Draft
From: Sugar Land, TX

Landon Adams (27): Daniel Rockett makes my list in part due to a strong debut showing in the Pioneer League, but more so because of the positive comments that I have read regarding him from Royals officials. A natural athlete, the former second team All-WAC performer can handle center field while also being a threat with the bat. Rockett enters the system with question marks regarding his make up (was arrested at the University of Texas San Antonio for beating a track player) and baseball bloodlines (his uncle Pat was a former 10th round pick and manager of the Atlanta Braves). I look for the Royals to play it aggressive with Rockett moving forward, considering he is already 22 years old. For now he is just a guy to keep your eye on.

Paden Bennett (NR): Rockett is a toolsy outfielder with good power and good defensive skills in CF.  However, at age 23 he is considered "old" for a rookie league player.  Rockett showed good power in the Pioneer League last year with 11 homers in 226 at bats but did not walk very much with 13 walks.  Rockett also will strike out a fair amount.  He is a toolsy, exciting player that I would love to get on board with but I just can't yet because of his age.  He is going to have to make some serious strides this year and move through the system a couple levels THIS SEASON for me to jump on the "Rockett".

Joe Cox (NR): Rockett was the 9th round pick for the Royals in last year’s amateur draft out of UTSA.  He represents yet another young toolsy outfielder with very little professional experience; receiving 247 PA’s in the Pioneer League.  At 22 years of age Rockett showed solid power (11 HR) and hit for a solid average of .310 (.349 BABIP).  He did not take very many walks and did strike out just under 20% of the time.  Seeing that he will be 23 next season, he will be old for his level regardless of where the put him.  He did play 54 games in center next year which is a good sign, but he is a long ways away from making an impact for the Royals.  For what it is worth, he did have some off the field issues in college, so one would suspect he could have some maturity issues.

Dan Ware (28): Besides having an awesome name, Daniel put up very solid numbers in his rookie debut as a Chukar. He compiled a strong line of .310/.351/.531 with 11 HR, 53 RBI, 16 XBH, and showed great defensive skills in center field.  Known as an aggressive-minded player, it definitely shows at the plate.  His 49/13 K to BB ratio, along with a KSwinging rate of 15.4%, shows that he lacks a little patience at the plate.  If he can add a little plate discipline as he progresses through the system, he'll be a player you can't ignore. The 23 year old will likely start 2014 in Lexington, and at his age in Low-A ball, Daniel will need to impress the coaches a little more to move up in the organization.

Total Points: 7

Confirmed: Will Smith for Norichika Aoki

Wow! Have the last 12 hours been exciting for us at Royal Revival. First off, what an excellent job by our blog team to get the Will Smith for Norichika Aoki information out there. As we have said before: at this blog we have a very humble amount of connections throughout the baseball industry. Our goal has never been to be an entity that "breaks" stories.

On numerous occasions in the past we have received information and often we are forced to drop subtle hints into our posts as opposed to blasting the information out on Twitter. We have also had an internal debate about we should even take the chance of sending out information when we don't have the means to confirm it with secondary sources. Ultimately, last night our source was confident enough to give us the courage to go ahead and share the information blatantly with the Royals Twitterverse.

Even when we dispersed the information we were careful in our wording. The last thing we wanted was to come off to the Royals Twitterverse as another Scott Swaim. We were then relieved this morning to see that the source was correct in regards to the trade. Following the moment of relief we were then elated to realize that we had just broken a legitimate Major Leaguer for Major Leaguer trade. We have been even more overwhelmed by the congratulatory response that we have received by the fantastic Royals blogosphere.

Don't expect this to become a regular occurrence for us. In our 4+ years as a blog, on one hand you can count the number of moves we have actually broken (a couple of draft picks, a trade and an international signing). Most of what we hear is just internal opinions of players and rumors. Again we normally are careful about the way we sprinkle this information into our posts when we have it.

Now let's get to the deal.

Personally, I think this move makes sense for Kansas City. Between this move and the Dexter Fowler rumors it seems obviously clear that one of the Royals offseason strategies was to deal from their relief corps in an attempt to bring in a right fielder. They have now succeeded in this endeavor.

Before I analyze the implications of this specific trade, I first would like to trace its lineage.

  1. Norichika Aoki acquired for Will Smith. 
  2. Will Smith acquired with Sean O'Sullivan for Alberto Callaspo
  3. Alberto Callaspo acquired for Billy Buckner
  4. Billy Buckner drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2004 Amateur Draft
Not too shabby. Thanks to some quality trades, the Royals are still managing to return value for a second round pick that was made nearly a decade ago. So far that pick has netted the Royals 4.2 fWAR with the opportunity to keep on giving. 

As for Aoki, he's an excellent fit for the Royals moving forward. One of my fears entering the offseason was that the Royals would allow history to repeat itself. In an attempt to find a power bat, they would sacrifice defense and on base percentage for home runs and rbi's (Mike Jacobs, cough). Dreams of Mark Trumbo in a Royals uniform danced through my head.

I even wondered if the Royals best course of action might be to go into 2014 with David Lough manning right. After all, in just 96 games he managed to post 2.4 fWAR. Unfortunately, I don't think the Royals trust Lough to post a similar mark in 2014. I would agree.

Lough is extremely BABIP dependent as an offensive player. In 2013, he walked 3% of the time and struck out 15.5% of the time. Both of these marks compare very unfavorably to Aoki who walked at an 8.2% clip and struck out at 5.9%, Based off these numbers I think there is a pretty safe bet that Aoki's offense will be better moving forward despite the difference in age. 

Lough's true value in 2013 stemmed from his stellar defense in right field. The issue is that we aren't dealing with an enormous sample size. Yes, Lough is a strong defender, but is he one of the best in baseball? I don't know that he is. Meanwhile, according to the Fielding Bible Aoki was the fifth most valuable defensive right fielder in baseball a season ago.

I don't know that Aoki provides the Royals with a huge upgrade from Lough's 2013 version. The problem simply was that it would have been very risky for the Royals to count on getting Lough's 2013 version again in 2014. Next season, Aoki will bring the consistency of a strong glove and strong on base percentage to the Royals. For a team with multiple wild cards, it is nice to have a position that they can count on for 2-3 WAR.

As for Smith, he will be missed but his loss won't hurt the Royals. Given his skill set, his value is higher for a team like the Brewers than it is for Kansas City. The Royals seemed to have already sentenced him to life as a reliever. For the Brewers he should get the opportunity to pitch in the back of their rotation. 

Smith is a good relief arm, but I applaud the Royals for dealing from a position of strength. I don't think this move immediately changes the fortunes for the Royals in 2014, but it does fill one of the voids that needed to be addressed this offseason.

One additional note, I've been asked several times how I believe this affects the Beltran talks. In my opinion it doesn't. I've heard that Glass is viewing Beltran as an opportunity to really squash his non-caring image. I think if the Royals do sign Beltran, it means that Butler is on the move. 

If anything this trade this protected the Royals from themselves and their own urge to regularly play Beltran in RF. The Butler vs Beltran debate is better suited for another post. In my opinion, this move does not remove Kansas City from the Beltran equation.

Thank you again to all those who have congratulated us on breaking this trade. We appreciate the support, but most of all we appreciate to talk Royals baseball with you every single day. 

Be sure to follow each of our writers @tipof_arrowhead @PadenBennett22 @Daniel_L_Ware and myself @Landon_Adams. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Royals Extend Dayton Moore

I met this news of the Dayton Moore extension with less frustration than most who occupy my Twitter timeline. Ultimately, the news was so predictable that I had resigned myself to it two months ago when Kansas City completed the 2013 campaign with their most wins in a single season since 1989.

I think the key point in the deal was the fact that it was only for two years. I think this strikes a good balance between a couple of sets of problems. Before we can focus on these two items, I think we also need to admit to ourselves one thing: Dayton Moore was not getting fired after 86 wins. 

I'm not going to open the can of worms that is the Myers-Shields debate and I'm not going to argue about the worth of an 86 win season. What is important is that for the front office this serves as a stepping stone. What is even more important is that for an organization that has been deprived of winning for two decades, 86 wins serves as a beacon of hope.

Once we accept that Dayton Moore wasn't going to be fired, an extension became obvious. When you extend your manager past the general manager there is a safe bet that an extension is on the way for the latter. The other concern would have been the incredible moral hazard that would have existed should Dayton Moore only been under contract for 2014. You think he acted in desperation to acquire James Shields? Imagine what might have happened if he entered 2014 knowing it was division title or unemployment line. 

The last time Dayton Moore was extended it was for four seasons. This go around it will be for an additional two seasons. What this says to me is that David Glass expects another step forward in 2014. Glass has kept the pressure on Moore. At the same time, does a three year contract prevent Glass from parting ways in a year, if 2014 is a disaster? Absolutely not. 

While I would love to see what an analytical, forward-thinking front office could do with the current roster, I think this extension treads a fine line for both parties. It eliminates the possibility of a moral hazard on Moore's part, but it also leaves Glass with the wriggle room to part ways as soon as the situation dictates it. Let's hope Moore can reward Glass for his faith.

2014 Prospect Countdown: #36 Jake Newberry

36. Jake Newberry Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 19
Position: RHP
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 37th Round of the 2012 Amateur Draft
From: San Diego, CA

Landon Adams (NR): Newberry failed to make my personal countdown and to be blunt, there might not be a player in our list that I am more unfamiliar with. Looking over the former 37th round pick's results, I am particularly impressed by the .223/.319/.312 slash line that he has limited opposing hitters to over his brief career. The other items that stand out to me are Newberry's splits. For his career Newberry limits right handers to .174/.250/.262, while lefties have hit .317/.434/.402 against him. Obviously, Newberry progression is going to rely on the development of a change up that can serve as a weapon to opposite side hitters.  

Paden Bennett (NR): Newberry, the San Diego native was drafted in the 37th round of the 2012 Amateur draft.  Last year in the Appalachian League he showed good ability to strike guys out with 50 k's in just 47 innings.  However he did walk 24 in those 47 innings.  I do not see Newberry becoming a starter, I think he becomes a reliever because of his inability to locate his pitches consistently.  But hey, he is still only 19 years old it is probably way to early to make that call.  Prove me wrong Jake.

Joe Cox (26): Jake Newberry was a late round flyer pick in the 2012 amateur draft for the Royals.  In 2013 as an 18 year old Newberry pitched 47 innings in the Appalachian League.  Newberry throws in the low 90’s and with improved mechanics could see that number increase.  He has a four pitch arsenal that includes a plus change up.  With only 22 professional appearances (6 GS) under his belt, along with only pitching one season of Varsity baseball in High School, there isn’t a strong conclusion that can be made about Newberry.  In reality, including him as a top 30 prospect in the organization may be a stretch, especially if he doesn’t end up at least attempting to start in the minors.  He has not shown very good command during his professional career, but has struck out more than a batter per IP during his professional career.  Newberry will stay in the low minors again this year as a 19 year old.  I would like to see a boost in innings next season and see what he does. 

Dan Ware (NR): For the Royals, Newberry was a very young steal for the organization in the 37th round.  The 19 year old held his own last year on the bump, throwing 47 innings, while striking out 50 batters. His fastball sits around 89-91.  He also owns a 2 seamer, a solid changeup, and recently added a slider to his repertoire.  As he gains a few more years of experience with weight training and conditioning, his velocity could very well increase a few notches, which will definitely help the right hander.  Newberry will likely start off in Burlington again, or head north to Idaho Falls for 2014. 

Total Points: 5