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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2014 Prospect Countdown: #37 Greg Billo

37. Greg Billo Right Handed Pitcher

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Age: 23
Position: RHP
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 220
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 28th round of the 2008 Amateur Draft
From: Orlando Park, IL

2013 Rank: 38

2012 Rank: 35

2011 Rank: 55

Landon Adams (NR): A regular on the Royal Revival top prospects list, Billo has failed to break his way into serious prospect status. A huge part of my thought process when I consider my personal rankings is the way in which the prospect is evaluated by the team. Obviously, this can sometimes be tricky, but in many cases you can tell how a team feels about a prospect by the way in which they treat him. For me Billo, is a guy that I believe the organization doesn't see anything more in than organizational depth. I think this point was made exceptionally apparent when he was demoted to Low-A in 2013 after mediocre results in High-A in 2012. If the organization was serious about Billo, I suspect he would have at least had the opportunity to return to Wilmington. I know injuries played a factor in this decision, but those injuries also factor in to me not placing Billo in my personal top 30.

Paden Bennett (27): I am the only one who ranked Billo in their top 30 and here is why:  Billo has always showed promise.  In 2011 he led the Midwest League in ERA (1.93) while striking out 119 in 135 innings.  Tommy John surgery put his status in the rear view mirror in 2012 but Billo came back strong in 2013 striking out 38 batters in 40 innings.  I'm not worried about his 13 walks in 40 innings last year because he just came off elbow surgery.  I look for Billo to make big strides this year and possibly reach Northwest Arkansas.

Joe Cox (NR): I did not rank Billo but he is certainly warrants attention as a prospect with potential for the Royals.  Billo required Tommy John surgery during the summer of 2012 but was able to come back in 2013 in time to log 49 innings (40 of them coming in A ball at Lexington).  Billo will be entering his age 23 season in 2014, his seventh season with the organization.  Billo has shown the ability to limit walks and strike batters at a decent rate.  His past two seasons have been a step backwards from his very impressive 2011 season when he led the Midwest League in ERA, but Billo has always had some sleeper appeal as a prospect and a healthy 2014 should help turn his career back in the right direction.  Many think he has back of the rotation upside at the big league level, and Billo could very well make the jump to the upper levels of the minors in 2014.

Dan Ware (NR): Prior to last season, I was hoping to see Greg in Northwest Arkansas' rotation.  Unfortunately, he needed T.J. surgery and came back strong in 2013 with the Royals Rookie League team and Lexington. While logging 9 innings in Arizona to get back into the swing of things, he spent the majority of his season in Kentucky, where in 8 starts, averaging 5 innings a game, recorded the lowest era of his career at 1.35.  After working hard to keeping the ball down in the zone during his 2012 season, his GB% declined and LD% rose drastically, meaning he wasn't keeping the ball down as much he would have liked.  I'll cut him slack because he came off a major operation to his elbow, but this year he'll need to start off on a high note.  If he limit his walks and keeps the ball low, he'll bounce back. Look for Greg to start off in Lexington to get a few starts before making the trip to Wilmington.

Total Points: 4

Saturday, November 23, 2013

2014 Prospect Countdown: #38 Dominique Taylor

38. Dominique Taylor Outfield

Age: 21
Position: OF
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 15th Round (444th Overall) of the 2013 Amateur Draft
From: Frankfort, Germany

Landon Adams (NR): Admittedly, I don't know much about the #38 prospect on our 2014 countdown. I do know that in additional to his impressive numbers in Idaho Falls, Taylor has the peripherals to back them. He squared up 2% more balls than his league counterparts and struck out 7.6% less. A right handed hitter, Taylor displayed much more power against same side pitching (.520 slug) than he did against southpaws (.417). I'm interested to see if this is a small sample size issue or if Taylor really will have a reverse platoon split as his career progresses.

Paden Bennett (NR):  Easy to forget about the 15th round selection out of last year's draft when Hunter Dozier burst onto the scene and started raking.  Well, Dominique Taylor stood out as well.  Taylor had a great first season in Idaho Falls with a .882 OPS.  The German native showed a good power/speed combination with 8 homers and 13 steals in 233 at bats.  Taylor may be a player to keep an eye on.

Joe Cox (28): Another player with very little major league experience (though more than nothing!) makes this list.  Drafted in the 15th round of lasts year’s draft out of UC Irvine, I ranked Taylor at the tail end of my ranks in part because of his impressive offensive debut in the Pioneer League.  At age 20, Taylor hit .322/.380/.502 in 261 PA’s for Idaho Falls, his starts split between LF and CF. The numbers that jump out to me were his 8 home runs and solid 11.1% strike out rate, he also added 13 SB.  There has to be an asterisk next to Taylor’s good numbers due to the offensive environments of the Pioneer League, but any sign of a power/speed combo with good contact skills is something to monitor.

Dan Ware (NR): 1st round pick Hunter Dozier wasn't the only player to impress in his debut season.  Now 21, the young outfielder compiled an impressive line to begin his professional career.  Taylor showed decent power with 8 HR, had a low K rate, low GB rate, and even flashed some speed on the base paths.  Dominique will likely head to Lexington come 2014, along with fellow team mate Hunter Dozier.

Total Points: 3

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Royals Sign Jason Vargas

The Royals made another one of their "major announcements" this afternoon, this time the news being that the team had reached a four year, $32 million pact with left hander Jason Vargas.

Jason Vargas is actually a pitcher that I have advocated for the Royals to acquire before, but I have to admit that a four year deal is two more years than I am comfortable. I realize that in free agency, you typically have to give one more year than you would like, so I would have been alright with three (allegedly this is what the Vargas camp was demanding.)

There have been whispers that the Royals were actually able to lower the annual value of the deal, while obtaining an extra year of team control. For instance, if Vargas was demanding 3 years, $30 million, the Royals are theoretically paying an extra $2 million for another year of control. What do you think, is an extra year at marginal additional cost worth it? Where would you draw the line for the extra year in terms of additional guaranteed money? $2 million? $3 million? $5 million? Ultimately, at just $8 million per year this isn't a deal that should cripple the payroll.

Another comment that I heard regarding the Vargas deal is that while four years seems like to much the market says otherwise. Really? Are you referring to the market that has hardly been set yet. A far superior, albeit older, pitcher Tim Hudson received two years at $24 million. Injury prone, but extremely talented Josh Johnson netted himself $8 million a season, unfortunately it was just a one year contract. I don't know that the market for Vargas has been set, but those two signings don't scream to me that Vargas should require a four year contract.

The most similar pitchers to Jason Vargas to hit free agency over the last couple of seasons are guys that Royals fans should be very familiar with. Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen are both flyball pitchers with less than stellar strike out rates. Guthrie received a $25 million deal over three years that many people believe was too large of a contract. Chen on the other, perhaps the most comparable pitcher to Vargas in baseball over the past three seasons, will definitely not be receiving four years this winter.

I can't help but wonder, will this really be the only upgrade to the rotation this offseason. On several occasions we've heard that the Royals are only looking to add one starter, well if that proves to be true they definitely went the safe route. Vargas doesn't have the upside of other available options, but he is a safe bet to post an ERA around 4.00 to 4.50.

After missing out on Josh Johnson and Tim Hudson, did the Royals hit the panic button? Not wanting to be the last team standing when the music turned off? Was the Royals interest in Phil Hughes exaggerated or has the bidding already surpassed what the Royals were willing to spend.

Personally, I think we'll see the Royals bring in another starter before February 14 gets here. I don't think Vargas is a bad option, only that it seems like an overpay and just the latest edition of Dayton Moore's front office jumping the market. Will this instance prove to be another poor piece of judgement in the way the market is heading? Only time will tell.

2014 Prospect Countdown: #39 Marten Gasparini

39. Marten Gasparini Short Stop

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Age: 16
Position: SS
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 175
B/T: S/R
Acquired: Signed by the Kansas City Royals during the 2013 International Signing Period for $1.3 million
From: Alture, Italy

Landon Adams (30): Just 16 years old, we've yet to find Gasparini's name appear in a minor league box score. Barring a Raul Mondesi Jr. type of debut, he'll likely spend a couple of seasons between Idaho Falls and Burlington. Given his Italian background, I expect the Royals to take their time with him than they would with other top international prospects. 

Paden Bennett (NR): Once the Gasparini rumors started last year I immediately was intrigued by the chance of signing him.  After all, he was considered to be the best European prospect EVER.  You can read the article I wrote about the Royals being the frontrunner for him here.  Bill Holmberg said that Gasparini reminded him of Derek Jeter: "The player who he reminds of most is Derek Jeter,” Holmberg said. “Now I realize those are some big shoes to fill and they are definitely different in their swings and some skills, but I think they are similar in their actions. I have seen Marten make some plays on (defense) that are more advanced than what should be the case considering the age on his identity card."  At age 16, Gasparini is still a long ways away from being relevant; but I am extremely excited to see him move through the system.  Keep an eye on this young shortstop.

Joe Cox (30): I am part of the reason that Gasparini makes our list, but I am glad that he gets mentioned here.  Gasparini was ranked as the no. 12 International Prospect signed before the July 2nd deadline in 2013, signed by the Royals for a reported 1.3 million dollars.  Gasparini is considered by many to be the best European prospect ever and has the ability to play a premium defensive position.  The talent level he has faced at this point leaves a big question mark in terms of his true talent, but he is certainly an exciting player to have in the system.  Paden Bennett predicted the future that the Royals would sign him last summer here, and gives us an idea of the upside that this player has.

Dan Ware (NR): This past summer, the Royals made a huge splash in the European Baseball scene, signing Gasparini for a record $1.3 million in July. The very young shortstop was considered to be the top prospect in the European market.  Baseball America had him ranked as the 12th best prospect on the International list.

Although Marten isn't known for the power, he has tremendous bat speed and the approach to be a leadoff or two-hole hitter.  Bill Holmberg, former Chicago Cubs scout, is now Director of the Italian Baseball Academy says Marten could "eventually hit 20 or so home runs a year."  As for his play at shortstop, scouts say he has good range on balls up the middle of the diamond, but going to his right can be daunting at times, because of his arm strength, which is said to be in the 40-50 range on the scouting 20-80 scale. During a Q&A with FanGraphs, which you can check out here, Gasparini mentioned he would be heading to the Arizona League to begin the 2014 season. This kid will be fun to watch and hopefully his adjustment to more hard-throwing pitchers goes smoothly.

Total Points: 2

Monday, November 18, 2013

2014 Prospect Countdown: #40 Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado

40. Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado Outfield

Age: 18
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Position: OF
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 8th round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft.

2013 Rank: 40

Landon Adams (NR): Escalera-Maldonado failed to make my personal Royals top 30, because I haven't seen enough results to place him ahead of others on the list. With that being said, Escalera-Maldonado has age on his side and a respectable .287/.337/.373 line over 78 professional games. He should continue to make a slow climb through the Royals system. Next year he should burn his final year of Rookie Ball eligibility and head to Idaho Falls. Hopefully, from there he can hit full season ball in stride as a 20 year old in 2015.

Paden Bennett (30): I am a fan of Escalera-Maldonado.  He's a young outfielder with good talent and has showed improvement each year.  Obviously he is still extremely raw and has a long ways to go.  The power is below average as of now but as an 18 year old he did slug .380 in Burlington which is respectable.  I look for Escalera-Maldonado to make more strides this season and show a little bit more pop.

Joe Cox (NR): Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado starts off this annual list of Kansas City Royals top prospects.   Escalera-Maldonado will not be the last young, toolsy outfielder that we have ranked but he may be the youngest.  The former 8thround pick made the move up from Arizona to Burlington and compiled another 204 professional at-bats, with all of his starts coming in center field.  Offensively there were nominal improvements in both BB% and K% but he continues to show no power (1HR in 332 career PA) or speed (5 career SB).  There is a chance we will see Escalera-Maldonado move up to full season ball in 2014, but nothing has changed from last year, he is too far away from the majors right now to have a good idea of how good this player is. 

Dan Ware (NR): With a great showing in the Arizona League 2 seasons ago as a 17 year old, Alfredo needed to do a little more in 2013, and he did.  K% dipped from 22.7 to 20.5%, BB% increased 12.6%, and his .277/.333/.380 line was well above the Appalachian League median.  Considering his strong start as a professional, it wouldn't be surprising to see Alfredo back in Burlington to get a few more at bats to start the year. No need to rush the soon to be 19 year old.

Total Points: 1

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Royals sign Francisco Pena; Added to 40-man Roster

It was announced today that the Royals had signed free agent catcher Francisco Pena to a Major League contract.  He will be added to the 40-man roster.  Pena has some family ties with the Royals, as his father, Tony Pena was a former manager of the Royals and is now currently serving as the New York Yankees bench coach.  His brother, Tony Pena, Jr., also a former Royal, played shortstop..and we all know how well that panned out for us!

Since 2007, as a 17 year old, he has spent his professional career in the Minor Leagues for the New York Mets.  With nearly 2,300 plate appearances, he has a career line of .236/.286/.348, 40 HR, 286 RBI, 103 2B, 6 3B, 415 SO, and just 136 BB.  Last season he played 89 games, 68 for Triple-A Las Vegas and 21 for Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League, hitting a career high .254 at both levels with 9 HR and 39 RBI.  Behind the plate, he managed to throw out just 15 runners, allowing 35 for steals.

With the addition of Pena, the competition for the backup role of Salvador Perez shouldn't change.  Veterans George Kottaras and Brett Hayes are considered the front-runners for the position, which means Francisco will have to work extremely hard to be even considered a legitimate backup.  Basically, this signing doesn't make any sense and was not necessary.

This signing also adds another dilemma: who to protect for the 40-man.  The roster now has 39 players on it, including Francisco Pena.  As Kansas City Star reporter Bob Dutton mentioned in a recent article, the Royals have until Wednesday November 20th to finalize their 40-man roster, otherwise eligible prospects will be made available to other teams in the upcoming Rule-5 Draft.  Instead of choosing 2 players to fill the void, now we're down to just 1 player allowed to be added.  Some of the more notable names to protect are Michael Mariot, Christian Colon, Cheslor Cuthbert, Lane Adams, Brett Eibner, and Brian Fletcher.  We will find out who the lucky 40th member to the roster will be soon enough.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In the Cross Hairs: Josh Johnson

#Welp...he gone. With Ervin "Magic" Santana rejecting the Royals qualifying contract offer of 1 year, $14.1 million, he will test the waters of free agency in search of his 5 year, $112 million deal he so wishes for.  Is he worth 112 million dollars? Nah.  Will he get it? I mean... Vernon Wells once received $126 million so..who the hell knows what 'Magic' will get.  What is he worth? Perhaps a 5 year deal worth around 75 million wouldn't be too absurd.  If you want to hear a compelling argument from Santana's trio of agents, comparing their client to another former Royal..Zack Grienke, check out Jon Heyman's article from this morning, talking about some interesting points that make Santana and $112 million a plausible outcome.  As Jeffrey Flanagan reported on Tuesday, GMDM will continue to pursue a deal for Santana. On the plus side, we do get a compensatory pick in the upcoming draft if he signs elsewhere, so there's that, but hey...I've moved on. It was great having you in Royal Blue, Erv.

Let's get to the task at hand: replacing Ervin Santana. While other clubs are moving in on the services of Ervin, Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, and Tim Hudson, to name a few, I'd like to discuss the reports of the Royals interest in Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson.  Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted earlier this evening a potential signing for Kansas City would be the 29 year old righty, stating it would be a "possible high reward" and that he's a "good team guy." This is definitely intriguing.
Photo courtesy of

In his 8 year tenure as a Florida AND Miami Marlin, Johnson posted a 56-37 record with a beastly 3.15 ERA, along with being named a 2 time All-Star and finishing 5th in Cy Young Award voting in his 2010 campaign. The right hander logged 916.2 innings on the mound, racking up 832 strikeouts and 308 walks, a WHIP of 1.23 and giving up just 0.6 HR/9.  Prior to the 2013 season, Miami owner Jeffrey Loria decided to unload some payroll by creating a mega package including Johnson, pitcher Mark Buerhle, and SS Jose Reyes and sending them up north across the border to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Things got a little sour for Josh as a Blue Jay.  He hit the DL early in the year, came back for a dozen more starts before being shut down to a forearm injury. Coming off minor elbow surgery, Johnson is expected to be healthy and ready for Spring Training.

In his glory days with the Marlins, Josh had a lightning fastball that averaged 95 mph in 2009 and 2010, but since then, his velocity has dipped slightly each of the next years, to 92.8 mph. Along with the heater, Johnson has a slider with good movement, a curve that sits around 79 mph, and a decent changeup.  If somehow the Royals would be able to snag him off the market, his 45% ground ball rate and 31% fly ball rate would make a nice fit at Kauffman Stadium. Turning 30 in January, Johnson is well known for visiting the disabled list and if he can stay away from that list and pitch like he did in '09 and '10, he can easily be one of the top right handed arms in the game. That's the risk that comes with signing the once former ace.

Let's just say for kicks and giggles, Josh wants to come to KC.  Here's what the rotation looks like (in my world):
                                        1.) James Shields                         
                                        2.) Josh Johnson                        
                                        3.) Danny Duffy                          
                                        4.) Jeremy Guthrie                    
                                        5.) Yordano Ventura    

Moore has already gone on the record to say the 1-2 spots are already locked up.  Shields will lead it off, of course, and then Guthrie to follow.  The next 3 spots are up for grabs.  If we were to miss out on Johnson, you can already assume that Duffy will be a full-time member of the rotation, barring any setbacks and if "Ace" Ventura can figure things out, he should be a regular, as well.  Zimmer is close to ready, so in the mean time, someone will have to step up, whether it be Wade Davis or Will Smith.  There's also the risk of letting Luke Hochevar earn his way back as a starter, he was straight up filthy last year in the 'pen.  I say leave him there, but that's not up to me. 

To fill Santana's spot, we need an outside source, and I believe the ex-Marlin/Blue Jay should be the source.  A long-term offer would be way too much of a gamble for any organization to make on Johnson.  This is a bounce back season for Josh, in trying to regain his old form as a top 1-2 starter.  Reports have shown that Johnson could very well get a 'qualifying offer' type of deal, such as 1 year, $8-12 million range. I have no problem with this kind of deal.  The Royals should at least go after Johnson, before bidding on Phil Hughes.