Thursday, February 28, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #17 Miguel Almonte

17. Miguel Almonte Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 20
Position: RHP
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 160
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent
From: Santiago, Dominican Republic

Paden Bennett (18):  I put Miguel Almonte at 18 on my rankings because this kid already has the ability to control the strike zone with plus "stuff".  That is rare for pitchers his age.  Almonte has a good fastball that can reach 94 mph and an above average change up.  His command is what intrigues me the most, this kid can locate his pitches.  Now he still needs to be able to turn his curveball into a pitch that he can go to.  For now though, I am happy to see a young prospect be able to control the strike zone with above average stuff. This guy is promising.

Joe Cox (21)Yet another pitcher during this portion of the prospect rankings, Miguel Almonte is a very young, up and coming prospect in the Royals system.  Almonte will turn just 20 in April and was one of the bigger surprises for the Royals in 2012.  Almonte pitched in the Dominican league in June and was moved up for six appearances in the Arizona league last season.  He was pitching well enough that the Royals sent him to the Appalachian league, where he made three appearances in relief during the league's playoffs.   Almonte has a 91-94 MPH fastball with a plus changeup, a developing curveball and great command for his age.  Between two levels he pitched 77 innings in 16 appearances striking out 74 batters while walking only 13.  From every indication this guy has a legit arm that some scouts would consider the best in the system.  After 2013 we could be talking about Almonte as one of the top prospects in the organization.

Damion Mandalas (12): Not surprisingly, I have never had the opportunity to see Miguel Almonte pitch. However, I couldn't ignore the deafening hype that this kid is starting to receive. It is tough for a low bonus kid to make much of a splash in an organization's top 30 without an inning in full season ball. It is even tougher for an individual to accomplish such a feat with only a handful of starts stateside. Almonte has big time stuff, and thanks to a new affiliate in the South Atlantic League, he should see full season ball sooner rather than later. 

Dan Ware (NR):  When Wil Myers was traded, this past offseason, there was a spot in the Top 10 that opened up. According to well respected prospect writer for Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks, deserved the distinction.  A Dominican native, Miguel flourished in the DOSL while going 6-1 with a 1.44 era.  With no surprise, he was moved up to the Arizona League to make a couple starts, while mixing in some relief appearances.  Almonte was then called up to pitch for Burlington in the Appalachian League playoffs, making only appearance, but threw 3 innings and striking out 4 batters.  Miguel certainly has the makeup to be at the top of the Royals prospect list in the near future at just 20 years old.

Total Points: 42

Not Exactly an Indictment

You can read the story to which Bob Dutton was referring here. Of course, when I read the above tweet, I couldn't wait to read a bunch of juicy quotes about the Rays belief in their superior player development system. Like many I was intrigued to have the opportunity to hear an organization compare their development strategies to that of our Kansas City Royals. However, instead of these types of quotes front Tampa Bay's scouting and player development department, I found a story with five quotes from Joe Maddon and four from... Matt Joyce?


Matt Joyce makes comments about Tampa's player development strategy and the Rays are not impressed by the Royals player development approach?

I mean, in all seriousness, why would Matt Joyce have any motivation to comment on Myers ability to be a complete player?

As for Maddon's quotes, he does make one comment where he states that he would like Myers to improve on his defense and base running. He even states that he needs to improve on things that he "may not have been pushed to do in the past." Not exactly a shot at the Royals player development model.

Quite frankly, we shouldn't expect Maddon to say anything different when asked about Myers. Of course Rays personnel are going to pick out things that Myers need to improve on. It is no secret they want him to begin the year in Triple-A Durham. The obvious is reason is that they want to game his service clock, although I do think they are sincere in their belief that midseason call ups are better for young players.

Listen, I've seen Myers play outfield defense on quite a few occasions. It wasn't pretty. I've seen him look pretty awful on the bases too. I don't disagree with the Rays feelings that he needs to improve in these areas. Let's not pretend Ned Yost wouldn't be making the same sort of comments. These comments aren't the Rays indictment of the Royals development strategies. These comments are simply preparing everyone for Myers inevitable demotion to Durham.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kauffman Stadium and Fly Ball Pitchers

I set out to write a post regarding how fly ball pitchers fair better in Kauffman Stadium than other parks. Basically, I took the top six pitchers in games started from each of Dayton Moore's six seasons at the helm. In a database I then compiled the innings pitched, ERA, ground ball percentage (league average 44%), and HR/FB (league average is 9.5%) of each of the starter's seasons. Following this, I weighted each starter's inputs into a team total based off of innings pitched.

Eventually, I ran a correlation analysis, as well as created a few line graphs that I overlaid over one another in order to get a quick visual. I did this in an attempt to determine how similar the line graphs were in structure. Not surprisingly, I did not find any serious connections between the elements. Of course, the sample size was incredibly small given that I was looking at team totals over six seasons.

I then decided that instead of focusing on the team totals, I would look at all of the starters individually. For this step, I simply created a scatter plot for both ERA versus GB% and ERA versus HR/FB. Here is a look at those scatter plots.

Obviously, there is nothing groundbreaking in this 15 minutes of research. The linear line above isn't anything to crazy. If we were to actually analyze how Kauffman favors fly ball pitchers compared to other parks, we would of course have to compare the above scatter plot to that of Major League averages. One thing that I will note, is that in general we are told that pitchers are better if they can induce ground balls. However, based off of the incredibly small sample above, our linear equation is actually very level across the board. In fact, if you examine the line closely, you will notice a slight slope indicated that fly ball pitchers fair slightly better at the K. 

If we were to really look closely at these types of numbers, of course we would want to include strikeout and walk rates in our study. But if I had to make a conclusion on this quick study, the fact that the line tilts ever so slightly in favor of fly ball pitchers would lead me to believe that this type of pitcher should find Kauffman Stadium's confines friendly. 

Examining our second graph, we once again don't find anything ground breaking. It doesn't take a genius to tell you that more home runs would lead to a higher ERA. I still have to wonder how this slope would compare to the slopes of other Major League parks, but given the dimensions of the K's outfield one would guess that HR/FB are lower for Royals starters. While I would expect the data points to be lower on the Y axis, I would also expect the slope to be less steep for other team's starters. 

I would theorize that due to the higher number of hits at Kauffman Stadium, home runs would hurt more than they would at a park where there are typically less base runners. For that reason, it is ideal for Royals pitchers to have a strong combination of a high fly ball percentage, with a low home run to fly ball percentage. This recipe for success is in no way unique to Kauffman Stadium, but given the park factors of Kauffman Stadium it is likely much more pronounced than the average Major League Park. 

An excellent example of this came in 2009. Zack Greinke was excellent in many facets of his game during that season, but one aspect that was particularly incredible was his ability to limit home runs despite inducing ground balls just 40.2% of the time. Like I said, this was just one part of Greinke's success. However, given Kauffman Stadiums park effects and the manner in which Greinke was recording outs, it isn't any wonder how the Cy Young winner was able to outperform his xFIP by nearly a full run. 

Over the last six seasons, eight Royals "starters" (ERAs include their time in the bullpen), have posted ERAs under 4.00. Six of those eight starters registered below the league average of 4t% ground balls. None of those eight starters posted a HR/FB above league average (9.5%). 

Eleven out of the 36 starters studied, recorded ground ball percentages below 44% as well as limited HR/FB to under 9.5% (I am including 2008 Greinke who just missed the cut with a 42.7 GB%). Here is how those starters rank in ERA among those unqualifying starters. I have put their names in bold
  1. 2009 Greinke 2.16
  2. 2012 Guthrie 3.16
  3. 2008 Greinke 3.47
  4. 2007 Meche 3.67
  5. 2007 Greinke 3.69
  6. 2011 Chen 3.77
  7. 2007 Bannister 3.87
  8. 2008 Meche 3.98
  9. 2008 Davies 4.06
  10. 2011 Paulino 4.11
  11. 2010 Chen 4.17
The two unranked seasons that met the criteria were 2010 Davies (5.34) and 2011 Davies (6.75). Outside of a couple of Davies anomalies (leave it to Kyle Davies to screw something up), it seems pretty certain that the recipe for success at Kauffman Stadium is to keep the balls in the park, while inducing a large number of air outs. (Again this is a good recipe for success anywhere, I just suspect that it is more pronounced for Royals starters. More work would undoubtedly need to be done in order to confirm or refute this belief.)

What does this mean moving forward?

Whether the Royals intended to or not, they acquired several fly ball pitchers this offseason. Ervin Santana's career ground ball percentage is 38.9%, Jeremy Guthrie's is 40.6% and Wade Davis's is 37.9%. (James Shields's is 45.1%.) Davis is the only one of the first three that fall below 10% HR/FB threshold. However, Santana's career mark is 10.8% and Guthrie's is 10.6%. It doesn't feel too crazy to ask they cut just 1% off of their career marks.

I've long felt as though fly ball pitchers can really thrive in Kauffman Stadium. I've wondered many times whether Kauffman's postive affects on fly ball pitchers have been undervalued. Let's hope that this proves to be true. Let's hope that the rotation can keep the ball in the yard and the outfielders busy. If I'm right, we could be pleasantly surprised by the rotation's results in 2013. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #18 Chris Dwyer

18. Chris Dwyer Left Handed Pitcher

Chris Vleisides/Kansas City Royals
Age: 25
Position: LHP
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
B/T: R/L
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th Round of the Amateur Draft
From: Boston, MA

Paden Bennett (NR):  I didn't put Dwyer in my rankings because my patience has run out.  He is 25 years old and we haven't seen any improvement at all. In fact, he has just consistently gotten worse.  He doesn't have overpowering stuff and he walks too many.  That's not a combination for success.  So as excited as I was for Dwyer when he was a young prospect. I am down on him until he shows me something big.

Joe Cox (15)Chris Dwyer has had a rough career relative to what expectations were for him as a former top prospect in the organization.  Dwyer will turn 25 this season and time is running out for him to prove himself useful to the major league club.   The lefty has had a similar career path of former Royal Mike Montgomery in that he still could make a difference in the majors, but scouting reports and stats show that they are not the same pitchers they used to be. 

Dwyer had a very disappointing 2012 season split between AA and AAA, but the Royals still added them to the 40 man roster following the season to protect him from being lost in the Rule 5 draft.   Dwyer combined for a 5.58 ERA between levels and struggled with command at both levels.  In 23 starts, Dwyer allowed 23 home runs and was only able to strike out 33 batters in 50 innings.  There is little to be excited about based on his numbers, but he has maintained his health somewhat the last two years and is still a lefty with a major league skill set.  I don’t see Dwyer starting in the majors but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Kansas City at some point in 2013. 

Damion Mandalas (30):  Chris Dwyer made my personal top 30, but only just. The issues with Dwyer last year stemmed from a lack of consistency in his command that resulted in way too many big innings throughout the season. By the end of the season the lack of command was coupled by a dip in velocity and all of the sudden one had to wonder if Dwyer would even be salvageable as a useful bullpen piece.

Now the Dwyer is on the 40 man, the clock is only going to tick faster for him to put thing together. He'll likely continue to log innings as a starter, but a switch to the bullpen could occur quickly if he doesn't show quick progress in 2013. Dwyer reminds me a bit of Brandon Wood, in that he was a high round pick that performed well at the low levels. Eventually, I think Dwyer with shift to the pen like Wood, where he could be serviceable as a middle reliever.

Dan Ware (21):  Dwyer could be a lefty in the mix to see some time in Kansas City upon September's arrival (pending on the Royals record, injuries).  His first 2 professional seasons in the Royals organization were very promising, which made him well known to the front office.  The past 2 seasons, especially last year, Dwyer has taken a couple steps backwards.  In 2012, his strikeouts have gone downhill while the walks have been staying high and steady, and let's not forget the fact that he was shut down in August for his decrease in velocity.  During the offseason, the Royals added him to the 40-man rather than lose him to the Rule 5 draft, so for his sake, this is a good thing.  Chris needs to come into ST feeling 100% fresh and needs to impress if he wants to start off in Omaha.  I still have hope for Dwyer, but it's wearing thin.

Total Points: 27

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Your Royals Offseason at the Helm

Since all of us love to second guess decisions, I thought it would be fun to take a moment to play out the offseason in some different manners. In order to make this post work, we are going to have to take some liberties. First off, we are going to make the assumption that any free agent could have been had at equal cost for the Royals. Second, we are going to say that any players that were traded, could have been had for an equal bevy of prospects.

So based on my quick math, the Royals spent the following on additions this winter:

  • Ervin Santana: $12 million
  • James Shields: $9 million
  • Jeremy Guthrie: $5 million
  • Wade Davis: $2.8 million
  • George Kottaras: $1 million
  • Brett Hayes: $600K
  • Elliot Johnson: $500K
  • Guillermo Moscoso: $500K
  • Total: $31.4 million
Of course, additional funds could be available by non-tendering the following:
  • Luke Hochevar: $4.56 million
  • Felipe Paulino: $1.75 million
  • Chris Getz: $1.05 million
One thing we won't allow is hypothetical trades for players that weren't dealt this offseason. Another thing we won't allow are trades involving Royals on the active roster. You can't dump Francoeur's salary to Phillies for example. However, you can deal prospects if you can build a similar package to that which was received by the team trading the player. 

Here is a link to MLB Trade Rumors' free agent tracker. For simplicity sake just divide the total value by the years of the contract and that is how much of your budget the player will eat up. We will make an exception for Jeremy Guthrie. Quite frankly, at the end of the offseason we can compare our rosters here and determine a winner based off of the WAR of their final 25 man roster. Here is what I have come up with:

  1. I would start by non-tendering both Luke Hochevar and Chris Getz. Raising my offseason budget to $37 million.
  2. I like the Kottaras claim so let's go ahead and do that to solidify the back up catcher spot. $36 million.
  3. I would sign Anibal Sanchez to a 5 year, $80 million deal. This would leave me with $20 million.
  4. I would sign Jeremy Guthrie to the exact same deal he signed with Kansas City, leaving me with $15 million.
  5. Give me Brandon McCarthy for two years at $7.75 million per. $7.25 million.
  6. Finally, I'll sign Scott Baker for one year at $5.5 million. $1.75 million.
  7. On Opening Day, I would still have Wil Myers left in Omaha in order to delay his free agency clock. Also, Scott Baker isn't expected to be back until Mid-April. Here is my roster by late April:
Gordon LF
Myers RF
Hosmer 1B
Butler DH
Perez C
Moustakas 3B
Cain CF
Escobar SS
Giavotella 2B

Kottaras C
Falu IF
Francoeur OF
Dyson OF



Obviously, hindsight is 20:20. One of the most important skills for a General Manager is his ability to forecast the market. This concept is eliminated in this game. Also, as has been previously stated, this game assumes that all things are equal on the free agent market. It is easy to sit back later and pick out the free agents that the Royals should have signed, but let's try to play this game out prior to the season. Royal Revival's other contributors will likely have their offseason plans up over the next couple of weeks. 

Moustakas and the Sprained Knee

Throughout the offseason, I have heard Bob Dutton in adament fashion and on several occasions attribute Moustakas's final season line to a knee injury that occurred in Seattle on July 28. As most of us remember, the former #2 overall selection got off to solid start after scuffling over the first few games of the season. In fact, after a 2-for-4 performance on May 7, versus Boston his triple slash stood at .313/.370/.545.

Unfortunately, we also remember his two month long slump that dropped his final slash line to .242/.296/.412. It is Bob Dutton's belief that Moustakas's disappointing close wasn't a reflection of declining performance, but instead the reflection of a player disguising an injury. What do the numbers say?

  • Opening Day through July 28: 95 games, .262/.317/.461 with 16 home runs, 50 RBI, 25 walks, and 76 strikeouts
  • July 31 through the end of the season: 54 games, .204/.259/.323 with 4 home runs, 23 RBI, 14 walks, and 48 strikeouts
Just a glance at those numbers would seem to back up Dutton's theory. Also, just to be clear we aren't dealing with hand picked arbitrary endpoints either. This is examining a particular event and focusing on the numbers before and after the event. However, we should also ask ourselves if Moustakas was already beginning the slump prior to his injury? Let's break it up this time into three parts. 

  • Opening Day through May 7: 27 games, .313/.370/.545 with 4 home runs, 15 RBI, 7 walks and 18 strikeouts
  • May 8 through July 28: 68 games, .243/.297/.430 with 12 home runs, 35 RBI, 18 walks and 58 strikeouts
  • July 31 through the end of the season: 54 games, .204/.259/.323 with 4 home runs, 23 RBI, 14 walks and 48 strikeouts
Of course, here we are dealing with arbitrary end points. I intentionally selected Mike's high water mark in order to make the middle set of numbers appear as poor as possible. Perhaps a more fair approach would be to simply look at Moose's 54 games prior to the injury and final 54 games of the season.

  • 54 games prior to knee sprain: .256/.310/.449 with 9 home runs, 13 doubles, 31 RBI, 15 walks and 46 strikeouts
  • Final 54 games of the season: .204/.259/.323 with 4 home runs, 10 doubles, 1 triple, 23 RBI, 14 walks and 48 strikeouts
The final set of bullets, I think is a good illustration of the point Dutton is making. Again, this is an attempt to use splits that are as far from arbitrary as possible. Ultimately, in each of these three breakdowns, it is clear that Moustakas was a totally different player over the final third of the season. 

Moustakas claims that the injury was having no affect on his performance, but we shouldn't kid ourselves. There is no media member with his finger closer to the pulse of the Kansas City Royals than Bob Dutton. If Bob Dutton believes that Moustakas's August and September struggles were due to an injury that he was trying to keep under wraps, then I believe him. This is especially true when the numbers back it up. Hopefully, Dutton proves to be right, and Moustakas's knee can stay healthy in 2013. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #19 Robinson Yambati

19. Robinson Yambati Right Handed Pitcher
Age: 22
Position: RHP
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 185
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent
From: Monte Plata, Dominican Republic

Paden Bennett (25):  I am a big fan of Robinson Yambati.  As much as I would have liked to see him succeed and become a starting pitcher it looks like he might have found his groove as a reliever.  He put some things together last season with Wilmington.  Yambati pitched 25 innings with 31 strikeouts and 10 walks.  Yambati is poised for a breakout season this year and I hope to watch him in Northwest Arkansas at some point this season.

Joe Cox (26)Robinson Yambati is a 6-3 righty that turned 22 earlier this season.  Yambati is someone to be excited about after making an impression between A and high A last season.  This was nice to see for Royals fans after seeing Yambati fall apart in 2011.  Yambati is known to induce lots of ground balls and was able to limit his walks to 27 batters in 70 innings last season, which is a huge improvement from 2011.  Yambati is used primarily in relief, averaging just over 2 innings per appearance last year.  He made quite an impression upon reaching high A averaging 11.16 K/9 with an ERA of 2.16.  This is a big year for Yambati, who has the potential and arsenal to reach the majors as early as 2014 if all goes well.  It looks like 2011 is behind him and he is an exciting player to watch this season.

Damion Mandalas (21): As my peers have touched on, Yambati does an excellent job in inducing ground balls thanks to a three quarter delivery and keeping the ball low in the zone. I view Yambati as a guy that could rise fast and in most organizations I would expect him to surface at the Major League level by seasons end. Sure it was a small sample, but in 25 innings at Wilmington, the Monte Plata native 3.6 K:BB with a 65.6% ground ball percentage. When a pitcher can couple strikeout stuff with a knack for keeping the ball on the ground he has the potential to be dominate. Yambati will start the year in Northwest Arkansas, but I don't expect that to be his only stop in 2013.

Dan Ware (25):  Yambati should be put on your "Watchlist" in 2013.  Used as a complete reliever for the first time in his young career, making 17 appearances while throwing 25 innings and striking out 31 and walking just 10 batters. While pitching for both Wilmington and Kane County, opposing batters hit into 58% groundballs compared to just under 20% FB.  His fastball sits in low to mid 90's, but is able to touch 96-97 when he's feelin' it. 

Total Points: 27

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #20 Noel Arguelles

20. Noel Arguelles Left Handed Pitcher

Carl Kline/
Age: 23
Position: LHP
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 225
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent
From: Guira, Cuba

Paden Bennett (24):  I was so excited when we signed Noel Arguelles, I had imagined him becoming a fixture in the Royals rotation for years to come.  So far at 23, Arguelles has done nothing to make me think he will even be in the Royals rotation at all.  He has been a disappointment.  In Northwest Arkansas last season Arguelles walked more guys (66) than he struck out (59).  The reason I still have Arguelles ranked 24 on my rankings is because I am still holding a brief glimpse of hope that he can become the pitcher I envisioned when we signed him.   This season Arguelles has to go out and prove he belongs, no question about it.

Joe Cox (23)Noel Arguelles turned 23 over the winter and the Royals are still looking to cash in on the talented Cuban that received a $7 million contract prior to the 2010 season.  Three years later injuries have allowed only two full professional seasons from the 6-3 lefty, and his results have been underwhelming.  After showing good command and an ability to limit home runs, Arguelles was good but not great in high A in 2011.  The Royals moved him up to AA last season and unfortunately took a step backwards in his development. 

Through 119 innings and 25 starts Arguelles walked more batters than he struck out and finished the season with a 6.41 ERA and a 5.23 FIP.  It is likely that Arguelles will start the year in AA again to begin the year, but the Royals have to hope that he can regain his command of the plate and move up the ladder this season.  I would not hesitate to say this is a make or break season for the up to this point disappointing Arguelles, and it is hard to give him a ceiling of anything better than a back end starter.  That is not likely without a strong 2013. 

Damion Mandalas (NR): After a statistically promising 2011, Arguelles took another step back in Northwest Arkansas last season. It has been no secret that his stuff hasn't returned since the surgery following his signing, but at least in Wilmington he displayed excellent control on the mound. Unfortunately, there is a distinction that must be made between control and command, the latter of which Arguelles doesn't have.

At this point, one has to hope that his velocity, which has been in the mid 80s since surgery, will somehow return to 89-93 mph. If he can get back some velocity there's hope that the rest can follow. If the velocity doesn't come back, there really isn't much hope for this Cuban defector. Arguelles threw a perfect frame in the first intrasquad game of the season. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come.

Dan Ware (22):  I remember when we signed Arguelles to a 7 million dollar contract thinking we found a special lefty.  I was was everyone else.  Noel has been an utter disappointment, dealing with injuries and issues on the mound.  Last season going 4-14 with plus 6 era while lowering his K/9 and doubling his BB/9 didn't help his case at all.  I'm with Joe on this one, saying Arguelles starts off with the Naturals this season.  At 23, he can come into ST with the mindset of starting off fresh to reclaim his name.  He's got a LONG ways to go before he can put on the Royals jersey.

Total Points: 24

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sports Illustrated gives the Royals a 'D'

On Thursday, Sports Illustrated issued their offseason grades for each club in the American League. As you will see if you click the link, the Royals ranked last in the American League with a 'D'. Here is what Sports Illustrated had to say about the Royals offseason:

"They made a nice move to pluck catcher George Kottaras off of waivers from the A's, but he's only a backup to Sal Perez. Infielder Elliot Johnson might have a use in the second base mess given his .251/.308/.411 career line away from Tropicana Field, but if that's the best they can do, they still haven't done enough in the grand scheme."

I haven't wrote much about the Royals claim of George Kottaras, but I do think that it was one of the very best moves the Royals made this offseason. Hopefully, the Royals realize this and don't award the back up catcher role to Brett Hayes.

As far as Elliot Johnson goes, in terms of players to be named later, I thought he was a very nice pick up by the Royals. His versatility is a welcome addition to any team's bench. Also, he is likely the most legitimate option in team camp, because of his ability to play short stop. Also, Elliot Johnson is a switch hitter, meaning he could offer the Royals a platoon advantage regardless of if Getz or Giavotella win the second base job.

This brings me to my next point. While I think Elliot Johnson is a great fit for the bench, I do not believe he should be given the starting job at the beginning of the season. I've been very firm in this, but I still believe that Giavotella should be given a legitimate shot to be the everyday guy. (I touched on Giavotella's struggles a lot more in this post.) Ultimately, he will once again have to win the job in camp.

Getting back to Sports Illustrated's rankings, here's how the rest of the American League Central stacked up:

  • Cleveland Indians A-
  • Detroit Tigers B+
  • Minnesota Twins B-
  • Chicago White Sox D+
The Royals really needed to knock out the offseason if they wanted to contend in 2013. They definitely made some aggressive moves, but now we can only wait and see how they will pay off. Let's hope Sports Illustrated's grades aren't a reflection of signs to come. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Johnny Giavotella: Breakout Candidate

On Wednesday, Baseball Prospectus took the time to select nine players who they predicted to have breakout seasons in 2013. In the article, nine BP writers were given one selection a piece. Three of those authors selected Royals. I don't think it would come as a shock to anyone that two of those were Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez, but Johnny Giavotella's inclusion on the last was a bit surprising.

Giavotella was selected by BP writer Sam Miller. As evidence for why we can expect the former second round pick to break out, Miller pointed to Giavotella's robust .331/.391/.477 line and his steady walk and line drive rates. Last season in Omaha Giavotella posted a BB% of 11% (league average is 8.6%) and a LD% of 19.6% (league average is 18.3%). Unfortunately, Giavotella was only able to carry one of those over to his 36 game sample in the American League.

Photo courtesy of KCMB Kansas City News
Despite the dip in batting average between his Triple-A and Major League lines, Giavotella maintained a line drive percentage over 19% at each stop. What hurt Giavotella was his batting average on balls in play dropping from .338 in Omaha to .276. The Major League average babip was .296 in 2013, so when you factor in that Giavotella making more solid contact than the average Major Leaguer, it is reasonable to suspect that part of his poor performance was babip induced.

Of course, another big part of Giavotella's game is his ability to control the strike zone. Given that he is just 5'8", pitchers don't exactly have a large target to aim at. Thanks to Giavotella's strong wrists and quick swing, he has been able to take great control of the strike zone throughout his minor league career walking in 9.3% of his at bats. In the Majors, that number has been reduced to just 3.5%.

Another problem that Giavotella faced in his Major League time, was the spike in strikeouts. The University of New Orleans product struck out in just 10.4% of his at bats over 921 plate appearances at the Minor League level. However, over 314 Major League plate appearances, this number has ballooned to 17.5%. Due to the rise in strikeouts, Giavotella's above average line drive rate becomes less of a factor.

It is true that Giavotella's batting average isn't necessarily reflective of his peripheral contact rates. However, there are other issues contributing to his lack of success at the Major League level. This is evident even when one normalizes his babip to a point that reflects his line drive percentage. Considering this, one still arrives at a line somewhere around .250/.280/.315.

While it is good to see that Giavotella is still squaring up balls at the Major League level, he still needs to make a lot of progress in the pitch recognition department. It would have been nice if he was afforded this opportunity last summer, but ultimately he is yet again going to have to win his spot in Spring camp. Giavotella will always have a strong strike zone. The fact that he has proven the ability to turn on pitches and square up Major League pitching, leads me to have confidence that, if given the opportunity, his plate discipline will come around as well.

When talking about 2013, people list breakouts from Hosmer and Moustakas and the health of Cain and Perez as important factors in the likelihood of contention. A breakout from a guy like Johnny Giavotella could be a huge bonus for the organization. Let's hope Gio can make it happen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #21 Christian Binford

21. Christian Binford Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 20
Position: RHP
Height: 6-7
Weight: 215
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 30th Round of 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Mercersburg, PA

Paden Bennett (NR):  At 6'7" Christian Binford has got to be a hard throwing right hander doesn't he?  Actually, he is a 6'7" finesse righty who possess pinpoint control with all pitches.  Last year at the age of 19 Binford demonstrated that he can locate his pitches to the tune of a SO/BB ratio of 31/4 in 40 innings pitched.  He did give up 40 hits in 40 ip but "hits" at Burlington could also be due to lower level fielders missing pretty routine plays and shoddy infield conditions (no disrespect to Appalachian League grounds keepers).  I look forward to seeing Binford move up the ranks and progress.

Joe Cox (NR)Christian Binford is a 20 year old prospect who was drafted in the 30th round of the 2011 amateur draft.  Binford is a tall right handed pitcher, coming in at 6’7’’.  Binford processes great control and an 89-93 mph fastball.  He did undergo the TJ surgery in 2009 while in high school.  Binford only has 40 professional innings thus far, but did very well in his eight starts with Burlington last season.  With a strong SO/BB ratio and only having given up one homerun, it will be exciting to see how Binford can hold up in 2013.

Damion Mandalas (26):  A former 30th round pick, Binford is one of many former Bonus Babies to grace the 2013 Royal Revival top prospect list. As Joe stated, Binford's fastball currently sits 89-93, but it also has good life and given his frame there's a good shot that he could continue to add velocity. Binford's secondary stuff lags behind his fastball and control. His curveball is more of a show me pitch, and his change up will only occasionally flash plus potential. Binford finished only behind fellow Royals farmhand Colin Rodgers in opponent LD% among qualifying pitchers in the Appy League at 8.5%. Baseball America views him as a guy with a back end ceiling. He should report to Lexington as the weather warms up. 

Dan Ware (16):  Binford, like Colin Rodgers, performed exceptionally well on the mound in his first professional season of baseball.  Posting a 2.02 era while recording a great K:BB over 40 innings, Christian has a good reason to be put on our 'Watchlists'.  He has a great stature at 6'7'' while throwing in the high 80s, but remember he is recovering from Tommy John and is on a strict pitch count, so hopefully an increase in velocity is on the horizon.  There's still plenty of time for Binford to move up the ranks, although his top priority should be getting back to 100% health.

Total Points: 20

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #22 Colin Rodgers

22. Colin Rodgers Left Handed Pitcher

photo courtesy of:

Age: 19                                                                                    
Position: LHP
Height: 6-0
Weight: 180
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Drafted in 3rd round of 2012 Amateur Draft
From: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Paden Bennett (21):  I'm very excited for Colin Rodgers.  The southpaw had a solid rookie season in Burlington with 48 innings pitched and a 2.05 era and a solid 1.15 whip.  Dan says Rodgers compares to C.J. Wilson and I can definitely see some similarities between the two.  Rodgers fastball is in the high 80's to low 90's range which is the slot Wilson is almost always in.  The one aspect to Rodgers that I'm most excited about is his curveball.  I really feel like this can turn into be a very good out pitch for him.  I love the upside of this kid.

Joe Cox (NR)The 6 foot, 180 left handed pitcher, Rodgers was selected in the third round of last season’s amateur draft.  Rodgers is only 19 and features a low 90’s fastball, a plus curve and a work in progress changeup.  Rodgers is young and raw, but the Royals should view him as a potential starter as long as his secondary pitches can improve.  Rodgers should return to rookie ball this season and it should take a couple years of development before we can really tell where Rodgers projects to pitch at the major league level.  There is some obvious upside here in another young and promising arm that the Royals coveted enough to draft early in last year’s draft.

Damion Mandalas (24): Due to his advanced level of pitching, the Royals felt confident enough in Rodgers to sign him to an over slot bonus of $700K in the 2012 draft. Following the signing, the former Baton Rouge High School product baffled hitters in the Appalachian League with a calculate ability to add and subtract from his fastball throughout his starts, while showing off the potential of plus offerings in his curveball and change up. Thanks to his arsenal and pitchability, Rodgers was able to lead the Appy League among qualifying pitchers in LD% allowed, allowing opposing hitters to square up the ball just 6.5% of the time.

As he progresses up the system, I'd like to seem him focus more on fooling batters with location than changing velocity. Rodgers is an interesting prospect, but like all high school pitchers he needs to refine his secondary stuff.

Dan Ware (NR):  Colin Rodgers should be added to your 'Watchlist' this upcoming season.  The 18 year old lefty had a successful rookie campaign in 2012 with Burlington, posting a 3-1 record in 11 starts with a 2.05 era.  With comparisons to C.J. Wilson, Colin has an 88-91 fastball with great movement.  He possesses a good curve and solid changeup.  He's known to have a slider as well, but hasn't showcased it all that much.  I like what this kid has done in his first pro year and I hope he continues to work hard to accomplish the ultimate goal.  Don't expect him to be in KC anytime soon though.

Total Points: 17

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #23 Michael Mariot

23. Michael Mariot Right Handed Pitcher

Jake Rose Photography

Age: 24
Position: RHP
Height: 6-0
Weight: 190
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted 8th Round of 2010 Amateur Draft
From: Southlake, Texas

Paden Bennett (23):  I put Michael Mariot at 23 on my rankings because he does what you want every pitcher in a rotation or bullpen to do, throw strikes.  Mariot isn't going to blow you away with his stuff, but hes got good enough stuff that when he's in the strike zone (often he is) he can be very effective.  I look for Mariot to start in Omaha (hopefully in rotation) and continue to build on his solid 2012 season.  If he can continue to locate his pitches I could see him as a 4 or 5 starter or a swing man.

Joe Cox (24)Michael Mariot pitched predominately with AA Northwest Arkansas last year, and the 24 year old righty proved to have a solid season.  Mariot did not dominate, but continued to show that he has the ability to limit walks by commanding the strike zone.  Mariot showcases an above average fastball in the low to mid 90’s, and has a four pitch arsenal. 

The Royals look to be working Mariot to be a swing pitcher that can either start or relief, but it appears the righty will more likely be a potential middle reliever at the major league level.  It is nice to see young pitchers that limit walks at every level like Mariot has done, and as long as he can continue to strike enough batters out and limit his home runs he could be a valuable pitching piece for the Royals in the near future.

Damion Mandalas (NR):  Mariot's success continues to be a result of strong command of his average stuff. Mariot has been a staple of consistency throughout his time in Kansas City's system, posting ERAs of 3.54, 3.41, and 3.33 in each of his three professional seasons. Mariot has the upside of a back of the rotation starter, but more than likely he will serve a few seasons as a Nate Adcock, Everett Teaford type shuffling between AAA and the Majors as a spot starter long reliever.

Dan Ware (NR): Mariot has fared well with platooning from starting and relief work in his short minor league career.  In just 2 short years, he's already thrown in the Rookie League up to AAA in Omaha and for the most part, has been very consistent on the mound, especially with his good command.  It seems to be that Mariot is the future Everett Teaford, where he can start if the rotation is in a bind, or come in from the 'pen.  Either way, I don't think Mariot will mind as long as he gets to pitch.  I could see him starting off in Omaha for the start of the '13 season.  If he keeps the momentum going from 2012, he'll be in Kansas City in no time.

Total Points: 15

Monday, February 11, 2013

Updates on the TJ Brothers

I thought I'd pass along a couple of quick updates on the two Royals starters that are currently recovering from Tommy Johns surgery.

Paulino, who is coming back from July Tommy John surgery, is currently longtossing at 120 feet. "I'm playing catch four or five days a week," Paulino said. "I can feel my arm getting stronger every day." The right-hander is targeting a mid-July return. - Kansas City Star

Danny Duffy wil throw off a mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. It will only be a 20-pitch soft toss session, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Duffy will liekly return sometime around the All-Star break if his recovery goes smoothly. -Bob Dutton
 It is good to hear that the recoveries are going well for both Paulino and Duffy. It has been said on many occasions, but these two starters were clearly the most talented on the Royals staff in 2012. Their mid-season returns could play key roles in solidifying the Royals rotation in the second half.

I have been asked a couple of times what will the Royals do upon their returns to the Major League roster. First, I must be clear that the likelihood that this is an issue is extremely slim. The Royals will be fielding a rotation that includes 39 home run Ervin Santana, soon to be 34 year old Jeremy Guthrie, 2012 reliever Wade Davis, James Shields who apparently is just waiting to break down, and either Luke Hochevar the human pinata, or team China ace Bruce Chen. I'd say the odds that there isn't an opening or two in the rotation are low.

What if I am wrong? (Lord, I hope that I am.) If that is the scenario at play, it is a good problem for Kansas City to have. One thing that I could see the Royals doing is using an option on Danny Duffy to net him a bit of time in Omaha until another spot opens up. The benefit to this approach would be that by sending Duffy to Omaha and limiting his innings, the Royals could not only take their time with his recovery, but could also delay his service clock past and prevent themselves from an eventual Super Two hearing.

If there isn't even one spot available, I'm sure Paulino could be used as a long man until a rotation spot did open up. Ultimately, the Royals finally have some quality depth to their rotation. They are still lacking the front end punch that will push them over the top, but by August they could realistically have 10-12 Major League starters to work with. Hopefully this depth will carry them through the season and they can play some meaningful games come Fall.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dyson's Goals

"I would at least say 50 (steals). I got 30 last year and my numbers weren't even close to what I just said (.280 batting average, over .350 OBP). I just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win." -Jarrod Dyson
At first glance, it seems as though these goals might be a bit reaching for Jarrod Dyson. After all, in 102 games last season Dyson hit just .260/.328/.322 with 30 steals. Of course, as of now Dyson might have difficulty finding the field enough to compile 50 stolen bases. In fact, when I was talking about Dyson's goals with fellow Royal Revival blogger Paden Bennett, he commented that Dyson should be starting over Jeff Francoeur.

Personally, I think the best situation for Dyson and the Royals would be a Dyson-Francoeur platoon in 2013. Dyson's goals might seem a bit reaching at first glance, but last season against righties Dyson managed to hit .275/.340/.349. On a personal level, Dyson's best shot to achieve his personal goals would likely come as a member of a platoon where his poor performance against lefties wouldn't factor in as much to his overall line.

The steals will be harder to get as a part of a platoon, but starting against righties 110-120 times, plus the opportunity to pinch run in every other close game should afford Dyson plenty of opportunities. Of course, as we know, over his career Jeff Francoeur is much better against lefties than he is right handers. Here is a quick look for what the production might look like for a Dyson-Frenchy platoon.

In order to arrive at these numbers I took the 2012 splits versus right handers for Dyson and the career numbers versus left handers for Francoeur and then condensed them into a 650 plate appearance sample. I then weighted Dyson's numbers at .7 and Francoeur's at .3 because I felt as though this would be a similar ratio to how often the Royals face right handed versus left handed pitchers.

Here is the line that the Royals could expect barring no improvement from either Dyson or Francoeur's 2012 performance: .260/.323/.361. This would equate to an OPS .034 points than Dyson in 2012 and .019 points higher than Francoeur's.

It should be noted, that despite a career long history of quality performance against southpaws, 2012 Jeff Fancoeur actually only recorded an OPS of .695 against them. For his career, Francoeur boasts a .820 OPS against pitches coming from the opposite side of the rubber. If you conduct this same exercise, but with career splits adjusted for 650 plate appearances and then weighted, a Dyson-Francoeur platoon would post a line of .270/.329/.390, good for a .719 OPS.

I'm not expecting the Royals to take such an approach. Also, the best case is that Francoeur can find his 2011 form and Dyson is a fourth outfielder/pinch runner. However, injuries happens so my guess is that Dyson will get plenty of playing time. My stance on Dyson remains the same. He is a very valuable piece as a fourth outfielder, and might even be a second division regular. If Frenchy struggles out of the gate, a platoon should be in order until another option can be found.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reaction: Seitzer Criticizes New Approach

In case you haven't had the opportunity to read Jeffrey Flanagan article from earlier today regarding Kevin Seitzer's take on the Royals new hitting approach, please read here before continuing.

It doesn't come as a shock that Seitzer would be critical of the Royals approach, but there were a couple of quotes in the article that really stood out. The first was the following:

“That’s just not true. We went with the oppo-approach when we were down in the count, which is what all good hitters do. The key to being a good hitter is putting the ball in play — you increase your odds dramatically by keeping the ball in play. And we did that. I saw a lot of these young guys really start to figure things out as the year went on."
This quote came in response to Ned's explanation that part of the problem was Seitzer is that he emphasized only getting guys to hit to the middle and opposite field. Obviously, that is a major part of Seitzer's game plan with hitters, but I don't fault Seitzer for going out of his way to clarify his true philosophies moving forward.

Of course, these two things would lead me to believe one of two things:

  1. There were communication issues between Kevin Seitzer and Ned Yost. 
  2. Ned Yost exaggerated Seitzer's approach to justify his decisions.
Regardless of which of these two things were more representative of the truth, it is apparent that for Kansas City it was time for a change. Also, as I previously stated, I do not fault Seitzer for wanting to get his true philosophies out into the open. However, I don't necessarily think it looks good on Seitzer to go on and offer critical feelings regarding the Royals change in approach. 

“Personally, I think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Seitzer said. “And there aren’t too many hitting coaches who wouldn’t agree. You start committing yourself too early on pitches and a lot of bad things can happen. You’ve got less time to react and you’re going to see a lot of foul balls or weak ground balls."
I'm not saying that I disagree with Seitzer's concerns. Quite frankly, I have no right to speak on the subject, but Seitzer's logic makes sense. Also, I can't blame Seitzer for bitterness, but like I said it isn't very becoming of him to trash his replacement's philosophies. Of course, the ironic thing is that after Seitzer felt it necessary to clarify his own philosophies, he then took the time to make negative comments on another hitting coaches strategies. A bit hypocritical don't you think?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Come To Play

With football season officially wrapped up on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs aren’t the only team on the clock; that’s because BASEBALL IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER! Pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks, and on cue, baseball teams are now free to build the hype without being buried in the sports sections.

Just when I was starting to feel the depression of no football, the Royals released their 2013 slogan and I was once again in a cheery mood. That’s because I’m a big fan of the new Royals slogan (or it might be because baseball will restore meaning to my life), and what it means: Come To Play.

When I first saw the slogan, I had to take the time to analyze without immediately reacting. Obviously, it doesn’t have the instant impact that Our Time did, where you can tell what the meaning behind the slogan is immediately. Instead, the slogan has the same meaning without the risk of blowing up in their face by May. Plus, in its own way, it’s even more BA (no, not batting average).

As Bob Dutton from the Kansas City star wrote:

“The idea behind it is a dual thing,” said Toby Cook, the Royals’ vice president for community affairs and publicity. “We want to communicate that every one of our guys, every game, will come to play – ready to give it their all.

“The secondary idea behind it is that it’s an invitation for fans that when they come to the ballpark, they need to be prepared to play – to get involved in it. We’re all in this together.”

I even think it adds another dimension, one that the new ad agency the Royals hired this offseason, Walz Tetrick, probably already thought of but decided not to say. Yes it notes that the players are coming to play, and that the fans should as well, but isn’t it also stating that the other teams visiting the K should come to play because the Royals are here to compete. It’s not only inviting teams to play, but pretty much saying that they should bring their A-game because the Royals aren’t anyone’s doormat anymore. Did you get that feeling from the slogan as well?

Or, you could be a huge skeptic like Craig Calcaterra of NBC’s Hardball Talk and write: “If normal form holds, you have approximately 72 days until the Royals season is more or less kaput, so that should be plenty of time for you to come up with little jokes and things incorporating the slogan.

But don’t use ‘Come to play… because, really, we need all the help we can get? Do you have a glove? If not, we can get you one.’  Because I already thought of it.”

Everybody’s a critic.