Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Minor League Update - Lexington Legends

The mustachioed Legends of Lexington have started 9-10 to start the 2014 season. The club currently sits sixth in the seven-team South Atlantic League’s Southern Division, trailing first place Savannah (SF) by 2.5 games.

As a team, the Legends are hitting .249/.299/.350 with a league low 36 walks. The pitching staff has recorded a solid 3.31 ERA, ranking in the top half of the league. The staff has a league-high two shutouts this season.

Individual Hitting (Mary Lay)
Who’s Hot:

Outfielder and Missouri native Fred Ford leads the South Atlantic League with 17 RBI and ranks second with seven doubles. The 22-year old, who has also spent some time at first base is hitting .283/.338/.500 across 64 plate appearances in 18 games.

He and third baseman Michael Antonio each have two of the club’s eight total home runs. Antonio and outfielder Dominique Taylor have nine RBI, trailing only Ford on the Lexington roster.

Who’s Not:

Prospect Elier Hernandez is off to a slow start, hitting .206/.242/.222 in 16 games with only one RBI to this point.

Shortstop Humberto Arteaga may be turning the corner with seven hits in his last four ballgames, but his line is less than stellar at .239/.239/.254 – which of course means he has yet to draw a walk in 67 plate appearances out of the two-hole. Arteaga has collected hits in 13 of 16 games, but has scored only twice and driven in only two runs.

Individual Pitching

Who’s Hot:

Andrew Edwards ranks second in the league among qualified starters with a 1.06 ERA over 17 innings. Teammate Andrew Matt Tenuta falls just behind him with a 1.09 ERA in 24.2 innings and has allowed only 24 base runners thus far.

Luis Santos is 1-0 with a save as a tandem starter. In 14.1 innings, the right hander has allowed 13 hits and only one walk. He has struck out 13.

Who’s Not:

Andrew Fairchild was dominant in his first start of the season, tossing six no-hit innings April 8. He walked three and struck out seven in the outing and allowed one unearned run. However, in his next start, the 20-year old lefty surrendered nine earned runs in just 1.1 innings. He walked six and allowed two hits. To this point, Fairchild is 0-2 with an 11.05 ERA with four wild pitches.

Lefty Luis Rico’s three losses are tied for most in the league. He has allowed three earned runs or more in three of four starts this season, and has posted a 9.00 ERA to this point.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Minor League Update - Wilmington Blue Rocks

Through the season’s first 18 games, Wilmington is 7-11, four games behind first place Potomac (WSH) in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. The club has dropped four in a row.

Wilmington’s offense has struggled thus far hitting just .217/.316/.311 with only three long balls, fewest in the league (as is the Royals style). That number is half the next closest club.

The Blue Rocks have been good on the base paths however, stealing 21 bases, which ranks second in the eight-team league. In fact, the club is a staggering 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts!

While the team’s 3.67 ERA falls in the middle of the pack, the club has fanned a league-high 162 batters in 147 innings this season. Defensively, the club has allowed only four unearned runs, fewest in the league.

Individual Hitting

Who’s Hot:

Everyone’s favorite Blue Rock, Raul A. Mondesi has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games. The 18-year old shortstop is hitting .283/.358/.367 in 66 plate appearances as the Wilmington leadoff hitter.

Zane Evans is tied for second in the league with seven doubles, six of which game in his first four ballgames. In 11 games, the Georgia native is hitting .400/.467/.575 and has eight RBI. The catcher/DH is 10-for-22 against right-handed pitching with a 1.227 OPS in that small sample.

Middle infielder Jack Lopez leads the club with nine RBI, and is tied with Terrance Gore with a team-high five stolen bases. The 21-year old is currently the league’s hardest regular to strike out. Lopez strikes out every 16 at bats, on average, more than five at bats more than the closest player.

Who’s Not:

Bubba Starling has struck out 24 times this year, third most in the league. In fact, the outfielder has recorded at least one strikeout in all but one game this season (and 0-for-3 night on April 9). The one-time top prospect is hitting just .133/.284/.250 through 17 games, but has improved quite a bit from his low point of .098/.260/.220 a week ago. He has accounted for one-third of the club’s homers, however.

2013 first rounder Hunter Dozier is on a four game hitting streak, but has spent a large portion of April below the Mendoza Line. The third baseman currently stands at .203/.316/.266 in 72 plate appearances hitting third in the order for Wilmington.

Individual Pitching

Who’s Hot:

Christian Binford ranks ninth in the Carolina League among qualified starters with a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings. The right-hander did not allow an earned run in his first 12 innings. He has struck out 19 hitters (29.7%) and allowed just three walks (4.7%) this season. Opponents are hitting .197 against Binford, and he has allowed a total of 15 baserunners - 8.27 per nine innings – which ranks third in the league.

Lefty starter Jonathan Dziedzic is tied for the league lead with three wins, and owns a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings across three appearances. He has struck out 29.7% of the hitters he has faced this year. Lefties are 1-for-12 against Dziedzic thus far.

In the bullpen, Zeb Sneed has held opponents to a 2-for-29 start this season, good for a .069 batting average allowed. He also has yet to allow a run or a walk in 9.1 innings.

Fellow reliever Glenn Sparkman has struck out 15 of the 37 batters he has faced this season (40.5%) in ten innings across five outings.

Who’s In Between:

The club’s top pitching prospect, Miguel Almonte, ranks third in the league with 21 strikeouts, a round 25% of the batters he has faced. If that rate holds, it would be the best of Almonte’s professional career. He has held opponents to a .191 batting average. In four starts, the 21-year old is 2-0 with a 5.23. with two outstanding starts and two poor ones.

Relievers Matthew Murray and Ali Williams have ERAs of 1.35 and 1.17, respectively, in a combined 21 innings.

Who’s Not:

Following a very rough third start, in which he allowed seven earned runs in just two innings at Myrtle Beach (TEX), big-time prospect Sean Manaea sits with an 8.71 ERA. Opponents are now hitting .318 against the lefty.

Daniel Stumpf is 0-3, and his three losses are tied for the most in the league.

Minor League Update - Northwest Arkansas Naturals

The Royals' Texas League affiliate is off to a rough start to 2014, sitting at 4-13 and in last place in the North Division. The club trails first place Springfield (STL) by five games, and is winless at home in seven tries thus far.

Among the biggest struggles for Northwest Arkansas is a 5.77 team ERA, which is a full two runs higher than the next closest club. Opponents have scored a staggering 115 runs – 39 more than the second worst team. Perhaps worse, 22 of those runs are unearned. Naturals pitchers have walked 81 hitters and have thrown 17 wild pitches, both the most in the eight-team Texas League.

As a team, the Naturals are hitting just .236/.323/.328 and have scored only 62 runs in 2014, the league’s second worst mark. Northwest Arkansas batters have hit just eight home runs, which also ranks second lowest in the league.

Individual Hitting
Who’s Hot:

After going 1-for-16 to start the season, Jorge Bonifacio is now fourth in the Texas League with 12 RBI, just three off the pacesetter. The outfielder has five multi-hit ballgames in his last 10 starts and is hitting .310/.370/.429 since April 11. In all, Bonifacio has one home run with a line of .239/.338/.358.

Infield prospect Cheslor Cuthbert has a team-high 17 hits and 12 walks and ranks second on the club with seven RBI. In all, he is hitting .279/.392/.361.

Whit Merrifield is tied for the league lead with six doubles, three of which have come in his last four games. Over that period, the second baseman/left fielder has three multi-hit games and five RBI.

Who’s Not:

Lane Adams is on the rise with five hits in his last three games, but is still hitting just .224/.329/.284 in 74 plate appearances across 17 games.

Individual Pitching

Who’s Hot:

23-year old pitching prospect Sam Selman tossed five innings in his season debut April 11, in which he allowed just one unearned run. The lefty allowed just two hits and walked four. Across two starts, Selman is currently 0-1 with a 2.79 ERA.

Two of Tim Melville’s three starts have been very impressive. The 24-year old tossed four scoreless innings April 4 and five scoreless April 15. He allowed a combined three hits in the two outings. In all, the right-hander has a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings and has held opponents to a .133 batting average.

Relievers Cody Fassold and Andrew Triggs both have ERAs under 1.80 in six appearances apiece.

Who’s Not:

Basically, everyone else. Specifically:

Prospect Jason Adam has lost three games, tied for the most in the Texas League.
He was roughed up in his first start of the season, surrendering eight runs (six earned) in just three innings against Midland (OAK). He followed that outing with a two-hit performance and one earned run across four strong innings also against the RockHounds , but then surrendered ten hits to Springfield in his last start. The Cardinals score five runs, four of which were earned. Opponents are hitting .388 against Adam with right-handed hitters scorching him for a line of .545/.519/.773 in 23 April plate appearances.

Angel Baez has struck out 17 hitters in 10.2 innings, which ranks among the league’s leaders in K/9. Unfortunately, he has a 10.97 ERA this year across six relief appearances.

Noel Arguelles is tied for the league’s most walks with 13 and has a 14.09 ERA in his first 7.2 innings across six appearances.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Minor League Update - Omaha Storm Chasers

Through the season’s first 18 games, the Storm Chasers are 9-9 and are in a three-way tie for second place in the PCL American Northern Division, trailing Oklahoma City (HOU).

The Chasers have played an astonishing 15 of 18 games at home to start the season, but will leave for an eight game road trip to New Orleans (MIA) and Iowa (CHC) following Tuesday’s morning game against Nashville (MIL).

Through eighteen games, Omaha ranks third with a .299 team batting average, but are middle of the road in the 16-team league with a .356 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage, including just 11 home runs (fourth worst in the PCL). The team does not rank any individuals among the league’s leaders in any major offensive categories.

The club is one of three teams with a sub-4.00 ERA, sitting third at 3.96. However, the Chasers rank third from the bottom with 119 strikeouts.

Individual Hitting

Who’s Hot:

Outfielder Brett Eibner took a big step forward April 9 when he went 5-for-5, including two home runs and nine RBI. The 25-year old scored three times in the game as Omaha beat Memphis (STL) 20-3. Eibner added a four hit game and a three hit contest over the next week and now sits at .333/.395/.500 with 12 RBI and 12 runs scored on the season. He has excelled against right-handed pitching to the tune of .340/.435/.566 with all three of his homers, which is tied with Francisco Pena for the team lead in round-trippers.

Matt Fields has held the everyday first base duties for Omaha and has responded offensively. Fields hit safely in his first 14 games, and was hitting a white-hot .459/. 524/.622 on April 11. Despite being held hitless through his last three ballgames, the 28-year old is hitting .361/.437/.475 with one homer and 10 RBI in 67 plate appearances.

Paulo Orlando hit safely in 10 of his first 12 ballgames and sits at .328/.371/.345 in 17 games. The Brazilian outfielder has four multi-hit games in early April.

Infielder Johnny Giavotella spent nine days in the big leagues, but returned to Omaha on a hot streak. In his first four games back, Giavotella had seven hits and has compiled a line of .368/.429/.526 in ten Triple-A games.

Who’s Not: 

Prospect Christian Colon has five multi-hit games this season, but sits at just .230/.275/.338 in 18 games. He has one home run, nine RBI and has scored 13 runs, but only four walks, in 78 plate appearances.

Individual Pitching

Who’s Hot: 

Spencer Patton is 1-0 with three saves and a 1.04 ERA in five appearances this season. In 8.2 innings, the 26-year old right-hander has nine strikeouts and allowed four hits and four walks.

Fellow reliever Buddy Baumann has yet to allow a run in ten innings across five appearances. The lefty has surrendered nine hits, four walks and has hit one batter.

Columbian starter Sugar Ray Marimon is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in two starts this season. He collected a win in his first appearance, five scoreless innings against Nashville on April 11.

Who’s Not:

John Lamb has allowed five home runs, which is the third most in the Pacific Coast League. The lefty is 0-4with a 5.31 ERA, has surrendered at least two runs in every start this season, and has allowed a .333 batting average across 20.1 innings. With runners on, Lamb hitters have posted a line of .368/.429/.632.

Lefty reliever Donnie Joseph has had two rough outings, in which he allowed a combined eight runs (five earned) across two innings. In 22 plate appearances, left-handed hitters are posting a staggering .357/.609/.357, which includes eight free passes. Not very good for someone that hopes to get lefties out in Kansas City this season.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Royals Roster Issue

This morning the Royals received about as good as news as they could have hoped for on the Omar Infante front. No fractures. No concussion. As a result, the Royals are going to attempt to avoid a DL stint for their shiny new $40 million second baseman.

Unfortunately, for the Royals there is no back up middle infielder on the roster. It now appears that the Royals are going to stick with the current roster for 2-3 days in the hopes of Infante being healthy enough to play by the weekend. What this means is that Danny Valencia will be manning second for at least today and tomorrow's contests.

Personally, I think this is a mistake. Even last night, we saw first hand how risky playing Valencia at second could be. When Valencia turned a potential double play into a throwing error, the Rays were given new life in the 9th inning. In fact, thanks to this play the Rays were able to get the tying run to the plate.

So what could the Royals do?

Well yesterday the Royals called up Donnie Joseph and Michael Mariott. The Royals also recently called up Aaron Brooks. Each of these three pitchers have options available. We also know that Louis Coleman is nearly ready to return to the team following a trip to the disabled list in spring training. Either way in a few days the Royals will need to option one of their relievers to AAA Omaha.

The Royals could speed up that process and option one of the relievers to Omaha now and bring up either Johnny Giavotella or Christian Colon. Another option could be Jason Donald, although he would need to be added to the 40 man roster. By bringing up one of these middle infielders now, the Royals could then have an actual second baseman for the next couple of games, instead of playing Valencia out of position.

If Infante is ready to return to the lineup by the weekend (something that I think is very unlikely), you simply send down the recently called up middle infielder and bring back Coleman off the disabled list, getting you back to a 12 man pitching staff. For the next two games, you'd have to have an 11 man staff, but every reliever should be available for tonight. If having an 11 man staff wasn't an issue a week ago then it shouldn't be now.

If Infante takes a week to return to the lineup, then that makes the call up of a middle infielder even more important. For a team on the borders of contention every game is of the utmost importance. They can't afford to be playing multiple games with players out of position. It is great that Valencia can fill in as an emergency second baseman in situations like last night, but there's no reason the Royals should enter a game with him as the only option.

There is a move that can be easily made and improve the team for tonight. There's no excuse for the Royals not to make it.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!

Money to Spend on Amateur Talent

Last Wednesday, Baseball America brought us a few different articles breaking down the bonus pools by team for the 2014 amateur draft and international signing period. If you missed it, you can read the article here.

Once again, the Royals rank very highly in terms of total money available to spend on amateur talent for 2014. They rank 18th in baseball in terms of international budget at $2,136,800, but despite not selecting until the second half of the draft they rank 5th in draft bonus pool at $8,602,900. This is a result of the compensation pick that was received for Ervin Santana and the competitive balance pick they received for playing in one of the smallest markets in baseball.

Overall, the Royals rank 8th in total budget for 2014 at $10,739,700. The White Sox rank 3rd, the Twins 6th, the Indians 10th, and the Tigers 25th.

With what is rumored to be a deep draft in 2014, the Royals will have four selections in the first 56 (17, 28, 40, 56). This should again present the Royals with a prime opportunity to add to what figures to be one of the top farm systems in baseball heading into 2015.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams!