Saturday, February 28, 2009

Projecting Mike Jacobs

Last year during spring training I came up with Royally Speaking Projections (RSPs) on the Royals and because I did it in about thirty minutes without any research whatsoever I missed badly. And I know there are plenty of projections out there but I was really bored that day, really bored. And for a rush job I did get Callaspo's batting average (.305, I missed his OBP by .004 points) and Meche's win and innings total (14 and 210) right. Everything else was just way off.

This year I decided to be a little more thorough and project the stats based on some of their baseball reference age based comps. While it's certainly flawed the end result resembles other projections and I'll put those (Bill James, CHONE, and ZIPs) up for comparisons sake. And because of the time consuming nature I will only be doing a few players and up first is Mike Jacobs. Jacobs was acquired in a controversial trade from the Marlins, controversial not because of the 32 home runs he hit last year but because of his .299 OBP. In fact had he even a league average OBP just about every Royals fan would have loved it (though then it probably would have taken more than the oft-injured Leo Nunez to get him).

I didn't like this trade at the time but I do now and am quite confident he will put up a good season. I understand that many fans wanted to see what Ryan Shealy could do with 500 at bats thinking he would probably hit 20-30 home runs, maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't - we really don't know. What we do know is that Jacobs has averaged 23 bombs a year the last three seasons and has a 162 game average of 31 home runs and 95 RBI's.

You have to go back to the year 2000 to find the last Royal to have hit 30 home runs in a season (Dye, 33). Will Jacobs be the next? Projections (mine included) say no but if he can hit in the mid-20's then I think fans will be pleased.

RSP .263/.333/.458 22 88
ZIPs .262/.313/.485 24 85
CHONE .259/.313/.474 23 78
Bill James .270/.325/.515 26 80

Well not a big difference as you can see, I project the least power but the the best on-base ability though .333 seems unlikely. Truth be told I'd probably be happy with any of those seasons (especially James) and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a good year from Jacobs, despite his .299 OBP from 2008.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meche wants the ball on opening day and optimistic Royals fans

It's really a no brainer but Gil Meche should start opening day.

“When I got here (in 2007),” he said, “I said, ‘It really doesn’t matter to me if I’m the ace or the fifth guy. We’re all going to pitch.’

“The way I look at pitching is as a starter, whenever you go out and pitch, you have to feel you’re the ace of the team. That’s just the mind-set you should have when you pitch.’”

Meche still feels that way. But make no mistake, he now wants the ball on opening day.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “It’s been fun the last two years.”

I know fans are ready to anoint Zack Greinke the ace of the staff based on last season but his and Meche's numbers are skewed by their April stats. Here is what they did the first month:
Name Record IP ERA BB/K
Meche 1-4 33.2 7.22 15/23
Greinke 3-0 36 1.25 10/19
And here's what they did the other five months:
Name Record IP ERA BB/K
Meche 13-7 176.2 3.36 58/160
Greinke 10-10 166.1 3.95 46/164

Meche is still the ace and deserves the opening day start -  maybe next year Greinke moves into the #1 spot but right now it should still belong to the 11 million dollar man.
Royals fans who have participated in the contest are an optimistic bunch. I have gotten a lot of responses and the average record right now is at 84-78.  I'd say it's been awhile since there has been this much excitement surrounding the Royals.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grading Moore's offseason moves

This is a piece I did for Dugout Central, with some minor edits.

Traded Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs

- I blasted this deal afterwards due solely to Jacobs .299 OBP last season. His OBP has gone down every year of his career and one has to wonder if he can reverse that trend. He hit 32 home runs last season which is why Dayton Moore traded for him. Moore chose to address their lack of power rather than trying to fix the teams woeful .320 OBP. One positive side effect to this trade is that KC will not have Ross Gload and his .348 slg pct get most of the starts at 1st base. Ryan Shealy, despite a great September (.301/.354/.603 7 HRs 20 RBIs in 20 games), seems to be the odd man out. Jacobs and Billy Butler will split the 1B/DH duties. Nunez is an effective reliever when healthy but that seems to be a constant issue with him.

B- I've actually come around to this trade lately and originally rated it a C- but after seeing various projections I'm bumping it up. That seems to put me in the minority among Royals bloggers but I'm okay with that.

Traded Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp

- This trade doesn't help the teams OBP either. Crisp would probably make an attractive #9 hitter where his .331 career OBP would play better but he most likely will bat leadoff. Davis DeJesus was already quite productive batting at the top of the lineup but Moore was neither impressed with DDJ's speed or defense. This year he will bat 3rd and play LF. Crisp does offer speed and defense but so did Joey Gathright. I understand the thinking behind this trade but contractually speaking I'm still mystified - they traded away four year of Ramirez for one year of Crisp (unless they exercise the 8 million dollar option for 2010 which I don't think they will). Ramirez was lights out for most of the year and combined with Joakim Soria to give a KC a great 1,2 punch in the late innings. He will be missed more than Nunez. This trade will result in Moore overreacting in finding Ramirez' replacement.


Signed Kyle Farnsworth to 2 year 9.25 million contract

- Words fail me. So many free agents unsigned and Farnsworth gets over 9 million, weird. Setting aside the fact that he hasn't been good since 2005 this is spending money just for spending's sake. This move really baffles, I have to believe there were better, cheaper options available (or in house - Tejeda? Rosa?) so Moore must have really coveted the power righty. I'd be curious to see what other offers were out there for Farnsworth. I would've rather KC went after Juan Cruz and forfeited their 2nd round pick in June's draft.

F Originally had it has a D- but this signing may be the one that kept KC from offering Orlando Hudson a more enticing contract.

Signed Doug Waechter to 1 year 640,000 contract

- Waechter will be a 6th or 7th inning option and since it's it not a huge investment KC will easily move on if it doesn't work out. The betting man in me is willing to wager that he has a better year than Farnsworth though.


Signed Horacio Ramirez to 1 year 1.8 million contract

- Ramirez (who nobody wanted this time last year) pitched well in relief for KC last season and then was traded to the White Sox for a marginal prospect (Paulo Orlando) where he typically imploded. His reward for failing miserably down the stretch in the heat of a pennant race was this contract. Probably not though, most likely Moore gave Ramirez 1.8 million because of the 24 innings he pitched reasonably well for the Royals before the trade. Moore has done this before - he gave Brett Tomko 3 million dollars last season due to 27 late season innings he pitched for the Padres in 2007. To make matters worse Moore hinted at the possibility of Ramirez being a part of the rotation. That will not end well (much like Tomko, 6.97 ERA).

F I went into this in more detail here.

Signed Willie Bloomquist to 2 year 3.1 million contact

- He's a six position sub who's weak on-base skills (impressive.377 last season but just .322 for his career) doesn't hurt as long as he is limited to less than 200 plate appearances. The money seems excessive but nothing to get worked up over. Pluses to this move include keeping the defensively challenged Esteban German from playing SS and the offensively challenged Tony Pena Jr. from playing at all.

C+ I didn't get worked up over this move like others though I understood their reasoning. If Bloomquist beats out Callaspo as the starting 2nd baseman then this move becomes a D-.

Resigned Miguel Olivo and John Buck

- Conventional wisdom would have dictated that when Moore resigned Olivo and promised him the starting catchers job that Buck would be on his way out. As a very annoying college football analyst would say, NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! The two players offer the same skill set - both bat right handed, marginal power, low OBP, lots of strikeouts. Keeping one and letting the contact oriented Brayan Pena backup would have made more sense.

D (I would have graded keeping just one a C)

Signed Zack Greinke to 4 year 38 million contract

- Moore salvaged his off season by keeping Greinke in Royal blue through 2012. Though not a free agent until after the 2010 season Greinke would have most likely been traded at some point in 2009 had extension talks broken down. He set career highs in just about everything in 2008 and is one of the top young pitchers in the American League.


As a whole I would give Moore a C+ for the off season. He really didn't do enough to address the teams OBP but may have figured that Butler/Gordon will improve and Guillen/Jacobs can't possibly be worse, and if that's his thinking I believe he may be right.

Sam Mellinger's latest headline amuses me.

Some sort of guest poster at Sam's Ball Star blog. Definitely worth reading.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guess the Royals record, win a gift card

I've always wanted to do some sort of contest on here but could never figure what or how. But given the optimism surrounding the Royals this year I decided to have a guess the Royals record contest. Here's how it works send an email to with your prediction of what KC's record will be at the end of the season. Of course there will be a prize to the winner (its not a contest without winners, losers, and a prize), and that will be a $25 Visa gift card.

I only have a few rules - all emails must be received by March 31st, any sent after that will be deleted upon receipt (my hands are tied man, rules are rules). Also I'm sure more than one person will correctly guess their record so rather than draw a random name I've decided to add three tiebreaker questions.

1. How many home runs will Alex Gordon hit?
2. How many games will Zack Greinke win?
3. How many bases will Coco Crisp steal?

Thats all there is to it. The winner will get the gift card and the title Nostradamus of Royals fans, seriously how cool is that?

Sweeney and steroids

I never believed for a second that he used PED's.

The biggest source for Sweeney's self-assurance: He says he's played clean.

Beginning when his neck and back began bothering him in 2002, Sweeney said teammates would tell him he should take a certain illegal substance, and he would be back playing in no time. Sweeney says he always stood by his convictions that such a shortcut was "just not right" and would cheat himself.

He increased his stretching instead.

So as much venom is aimed at him by KC fans now just imagine if he'd used and got caught. I get why people were disappointed in him because his production didn't live up to his contract. People also blame him for all the games KC lost while he was here - I understand that line of thinking too, I really do but anybody who believes that the Royals stunk because Sweeney was making 11 million dollars couldn't be more wrong and weren't paying attention. Here's the thing people, he took less money to stay in KC, Appier didn't, Dye didn't, Beltran didn't - Sweeney did. No it didn't work out but I seriously doubt that anybody was more upset about that than Sweeney.

I'm more curious as to who the teammates were that was telling him to use. It should be noted that Chuck Knoblauch and Jason Grimsley were both on that 2002 team. Grimsley admitted to using HGH and named names, notably for Royals fans Knoblauch was one of them (even more notably Sweeney wasn't). Grimsley and Sweeney were good friends so no doubt Grimsley let him in on his dirty little secret. I just wonder if there were more and if so, who?

Royals fans should feel that proud that right in the heart of the steroid era one of the greatest hitters in team history never used to even recover from injuries let alone enhance his performance.

Friday, February 20, 2009

2nd base competition aka Johnny Giavotella when art thou?

Royals fans are hoping (and expecting) Giavotella to lock down the 2nd base job for a decade, unfortunately he's about three years away so instead we will be treated to the epic battle between Willie Bloomquist and Alberto Callaspo. I'm gonna go ahead and toss Mark Teahen out of the equation, the guy is trying to learn the position and is set to play for Canada in the WBC and though they agreed to let him field some ground balls at 2nd he is going to be playing 3rd base. This puts him at a severe disadvantage and one he won't be able to recover from. (I don't think Orlando Hudson is going to happen either, maybe if Moore hadn't signed Farnsworth.......)

So that narrows it down to Bloomquist versus Callaspo, defense versus offense.

Greg Schaum, host of Baseball This Week on 610 sports, says Bloomquist has "ridiculous range". If Mike Jacobs (or Billy Butler for that matter) is their 1st baseman then whoever is playing 2nd base is going to have to cover more territory than if say Teahen or Gload were there, and no I'm not calling for either one of them to play 1st base. I'm just saying Bloomquists range will come in handy on groundballs that Jacobs or Butler can't get to. Offensively speaking Bloomquist is below average but not without some useful skills. He will take a walk and steal some bases but he had just one extra base hit last season while amassing a .285 slugging percentage. The .377 OBP was nice but unexpected as it was fifty-five points above his career mark of .322 (his minor league OBP was .337, like I said unexpected), he most likely will be unable to repeat that.

Callaspo, on the other hand, has demonstrated serious on-base skills - .361 last season in 234 PA's including a line of .330/.371/.423 in his last 27 games. Defensively he has made only one error in 59 career games at 2nd base but that is more a product of limited range than flashy glove work. The guy can flat out hit and personally I would love to see what he could do with 600 plate appearances.

I think they probably will end up splitting time with Bloomquist getting the nod when Hochevar and Ramirez pitch due to their groundball tendencies. This would eliminate the need for TPJ as Bloomquist could still back up Aviles at shortstop.  And really anything that keeps TPJ off the roster is a good thing.

And in case anyone has visions of Tug Hulett (.394 minor league OBP) manning the position I asked Keith Law if Tug was someone Royals fans could get excited about, he sent back a one word message - no!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cardinals blog

I answered some Royals related questions for the St. Louis Cardinals blog C70 At the Bat, you can check that out here.

Second Base Prospect Rankings

Every week until the start of the season I will go through what I consider to be the top 5 prospects at each position in the Royals farm system. Catchers. 1st Base.

#1 – Johnny Giavotella
5’8 – 185 lbs.

After a solid three year career with the New Orleans Privateers (Sun Belt Conference), Giavotella was selected by the Royals in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. In his final season with the Privateers he helped his team earn their second straight NCAA bid and finished the season hitting .354 with twelve home runs and fifty six RBI’s in sixty three games. This performance earned him a third team All American selection by Baseball America.

Giavotella joined the Burlington Bees (Low A) after signing a contract with a $787k bonus. He hit second for the Bees and finished with the following line - .299 AVG / .355 OBP / .776 OPS in sixty games. He also hit four home runs, had twenty six RBI’s, crossed the plate fifty times and stole ten bases. It is readily apparent that Giavotella has some work to do to improve his righty-lefty splits as he hit .313 vs. RHP and .250 vs. LHP, but he continued to show good discipline at the plate striking out only 12% of his at bats.

Due to his size and stature, Giavotella has already drawn comparisons to the 2008 AL MVP winner, Dustin Pedroia. With a quick bat Giovetella projects to be a singles hitter with gap power that will provide an occasional home run. It has been reported that one aspect of his game that he needs to improve upon is his fielding as he has limited range and an inconsistent glove. With Burlington, he finished with a .955 fielding percentage with thirteen errors in two hundred and ninety chances. Giavotella does have some speed but needs to improve on his base running skills as he was caught seven times in seventeen chances with the Bees and didn’t posses a much better percentage in college.

Although Giavotella missed out on Baseball America’s top 10 prospect rankings they projected him to be the Royals 2nd baseman in their 2012 lineup. I really like Giavotella, who will turn 22 in July, at the top of any line-up and expect to see him join Mike Moustakas in the Wilmington Blue Rocks infield for the 2009 season.

#2 – Kurt Mertins
6’0 – 175 lbs.

Mertins, selected in the 13th round of the 2006 amateur draft after finishing a two year career with JUCO College of the Dessert, began his professional career in the Pioneer League with the Idaho Falls Chukars where he hit .338 with a .395 OBP. While there, he quickly showed that his speed is the greatest tool in his arsenal as he stole twenty five bases and was only caught four times.

The Midwest League was not as kind to Mertins in 2007 as his numbers were not nearly as impressive as the year before as he finished with the following line - .249 AVG / .335 OBP / .668 OPS. His speed was once again evident as he stole thirty bases, good enough for eighth in the league, on thirty eight attempts. However, Mertin’s strikeout rate played a big factor in his decline at the plate as he struck out nearly 22% of his at bats but his walk rate also grew (10%) leading him to carry a decent OBP considering his average. He finished the season with four home runs, thirty nine RBI’s and also crossed the plate seventy times.

A promotion to Wilmington in 2008 served Mertins quite well as he improved his average thirty three points to .282 and also saw increases in his OBP (..335 to .351) and doubles (fifteen to twenty-seven). Mertins continued to be a demon on the basepath stealing twenty eight bags in thirty three attempts but his strikeout rate remained the same (21% of his at-bats) and his walks rate fell (8% of the time).

Even though Mertins has played around the diamond it appears as though he is most comfortable at 2b. In 2007 he played the majority of the games at 2nd with a .977 FPCT but also played at 3rd (.885 FPCT) and SS (.937 FPCT). This past season with the Blue Rocks his numbers were once again better at 2nd (.977 FPCT) then 3rd (.929 FPCT).

Mertins was selected to play in the Hawaii Winter League to end the year where he struggled at the plate with the North Shore Honu hitting only .218 in twenty four games. He did however steal five bases and got two home runs and sixteen RBI’s. I expect to see Mertins, who will turn 23 in April, advance to Double A in 2009 where he could possibly split time again with Jeff Bianchi.

#3 - Marc Maddox
5’11 – 185 lbs.

After a solid four year career with the Southern Miss Golden Eagles where he averaged a .331 average along with thirteen home runs and fifty three RBI’s, Maddox was selected by the Royals in the 9th round of the 2006 amateur draft. Due to his four years in college the Royals deemed him ready to play with the Idaho Falls Chukars, the highest level rookie league team in their system, to end the 2006 season. While there Maddox earned Player of the Year honors thanks in part to his .336 average and .438 on base percentage. He also sprinkled in three home runs and forty one RBI’s in sixty two games. After playing primarily 3rd and 1st while with the Golden Eagles he predominantly played at 2nd with the Chukars where he finished with a .986 FPCT.

To start the 2007 season, Maddox was moved back to 3rd base with the Burlington Bees. The move to his original position didn’t seem to bother him as he continued to post solid numbers - .301 AVG / .376 OBP / .801 in twenty one games in the Midwest League. He again showed a decent amount of power with three home runs and also added seventeen RBI’s. Maddox then got promoted to the High A Wilmington club where the Royals moved him once again, this time back to 2b. While with the Blue Rocks, Maddox struggled for the first time in his professional career hitting just .259. His walk rate went down significantly as well, as he only walked 6.5% of his at bats compared to a 12.5% rate the previous season. Maddox did not hit a home run while with the Blue Rocks and had forty four RBI’s in one hundred and one games.

After the season was complete the Royals invited him to compete in the Arizona Fall League, which is largely dominated by players that just finished playing Double A ball. Impressively, Maddox did not seem intimated by his surroundings as he finished the fall with a .321 average (which was good enough to finish 9th in the league) and a .398 on base percentage. This performance led to another promotion to start the 2008 season with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the Double A Texas League. After a rough start to the season, Maddox really put it together in the summer where he hit over .300 for three consecutive months before hitting .233 in August. In one hundred and twenty seven games with the Naturals he finished with a .283 average with four home runs and thirty RBI’s. With a full season at 2nd under his belt he ended up with a .983 FPCT turning eighty nine double plays and had just ten errors.

With limited power potential it’s obvious that second base is the best position for Maddox. He won’t hurt you at the plate and will provide a decent glove thus I believe the 25 year old will continue to ascend through the Royals system beginning the 2009 season in Omaha.

#4 – Jeff Bianchi
6’0 – 175 lbs.

Injuries have derailed many promising careers of young prospects and this could easily describe Bianchi’s career up to this point after the Royals drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2005 amateur draft. According to Baseball America, team officials believed that he had the best offensive approach they had ever seen out of a high school player. The Pennsylvania product quickly made the Royals scouting department look like geniuses as he put together an amazing campaign with the Surprise Royals in 2005 showing great contact and power at the plate. He finished hitting .408 and had an OBP of .484 while also smacking out five balls and driving in thirty three runs in just twenty eight games earning him an AZL all star selection.

Bianchi had labrum surgery leading him to miss most of the 2006 season, but he did see action in twelve games in the AZL where he hit .429 with two home runs and six RBI’s. To hold him back from the cold weather the Royals kept Bianchi in extended spring training before sending him to the Midwest League to begin the 2007 season. While with the Bees, he hit .247 with an OBP of .296 where he had only two home runs and thirty six RBI’s in ninety nine games. Bianchi also showed a penchant for striking out by getting K’ed seventy two times (nearly 20% of his at bats). To the pleasure of many, he finished the season with a flourish hitting .330 in his final ninety one at bats. Bianchi culminated the 2007 season in the Hawaii Winter Baseball league.

In 2008, Bianchi struggled with the promotion to the High A Wilmington team as he hit just .136 in April. He put together some decent numbers during the summer but his strikeouts (ninety five in one hundred and four games) continued to grow while his walks (just 5% of his at bats) diminished. The biggest change for Bianchi wasn’t at the plate, it was in the field as he moved over from his primary position at SS to 2nd base. While at 2nd he posted a fantastic .994 FPCT and only had two errors in one hundred and thirty nine games. Though he finished with a .255 AVG and a .290 OBP it was good to see that he came on again at the end of the season hitting .297 in August with four of his ten home runs coming in that month as well.

It will be interesting to see what the Royals do with Bianchi, 22, leading into the 2009 season. Giovetella will deserve the vast majority of the playing time at 2nd in Wilmington and I don’t know if the numbers he posted in 2008 merit a promotion. At this point, his K/BB walk rate needs a lot of improvement and one can see that his injuries have sapped most of his power.

#5 - Deivy Batista
5’11 – 150 lbs.

Batista made his professional debut in 2007 in the Dominican Summer League where he did not post scintillating numbers hitting only .243 in sixty two games. He did however provide a good OBP (.382) and also stole eight bases (he also got caught five times) before coming to the states to continue his career.

Under the tutelage of former Royals prospect, Justin Gemoll, Batista had a very solid year with the Surprise Royals in 2008. He finished the year as a AZL all star with the following line - .317 AVG / .382 OBP / .854 OPS. His average was the sevent best in the league, and Batista again flashed some speed stealing eight bases but showed that his base running skills need to improve as he was also caught eight times.

At 20 years old, Batista is certainly a work in progress and it will be interesting to see if he can carry his numbers over to a higher level rookie league later this summer. Hopefully by the time he reports to Burlington or Idaho Falls this summer he will have had a few meals as well increasing his weight.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Aviles has to deal with a positional jinx

Royals fans have seen it before - a rookie comes up, has a great year, and then disappears in his second season. It's called the sophomore slump and in recent years affected the likes of Bob Hamelin, Mark Quinn, Carlos Beltran, & Angel Berroa. Beltran is the only one that recovered and put up seasons that matched or surpassed his rookie success.

But there is something else going on and it dates back to 1971 - Royals shortstops are never as good in their second season. Its a postional jinx and it doesn't matter their age or era, they always struggle. Looking at guys who played two full seasons at SS (so this will exclude David Howard and Neifi Perez, your welcome) none of them matched what they did at the plate in their first season as a Royal.

And that brings us to Mike Aviles who I'm sure is hoping to avoid this fate. Every projection has him regressing this season so to expect him to match last seasons .325/.354/.480 line is probably unrealistic. But more on him later, first let's take a stroll through KC history starting with a Royals hall of famer and the best shortstop in team history (and to this day my favorite player ever).

Freddie Patek
1971 .267/.323/.371 6/36 49 97
1972 .212/.280/.276 0/32 33 67

That '71 season was pretty exceptional for a shortstop back then, in fact only Leo Cardenas had a higher OPS+ (107) in the American League at that position. Patek even finished 6th in MVP voting, 5 points ahead of Bobby Murcer who OPS'd .970 that year (Cardenas finished 21st, go figure). It would be the best season of Pateks career and in 1972 he had his worst (as a full time starter). Ironically he made the all-star in '72 no doubt based on his '71 season because he was hitting .223 at the break.

Patek bounced back sort of in year three and became the player we remember. A fantastic defensive SS who could steal some bases (he was top 5 in the AL six times including a league leading 53 in 1977). He split time with UL Washington in 1979 and then left for the California Angels after that season. My 8 year old heart never recovered.

UL Washington
1980 .273/.336/.375 6/53 20 95
1981 .227/.310/.307 2/29 10 80

Best known for the toothpick that was constantly in his mouth UL became the full time SS in 1980. He became something of a household name in the 1980 ALCS when he hit .364/.462/.455 against the New York Yankees. His '80 season looks an awful lot like what Patek accomplished in '71 (both even had 11 triples). UL never really got going in the strike shortened '81 season but he did bounce back with a 106 OPS+ in 1982, it would be the best season of his career. He was traded to the Expos before the 1985 season for two guys who never made an appearance in a Royals uniform. Because he was the player who replaced Patek I never liked him.

Kurt Stillwell
1988 .251/.322/.399 10/53 6 101
1989 .261/.325/.380 7/54 9 99

Stillwell, acquired in a trade with the Reds for Danny Jackson, set the team record for home runs by a SS in '88, he also made the all-star team. And while his '89 season was pretty similar and in some ways better there was disappointment that at age 24 he didn't take the next step (unlike Barry Larkin). Stillwell had a reputation as a player who didn't give his all and while I don't want to believe that about any player you do have to wonder because the talent was definitely there. He regressed further in 1990 (85 OPS+) and though he bounced back slightly in 1991 KC let him leave via free agency after that season. He was out of baseball at the age of 31.

Greg Gagne
1993 .280/.319/.406 10/57 10 89
1994 .259/.314/.392 7/51 10 79

The Royals signed with Gagne to a three year contract after the 1992 season. He was known as a great defensive SS with a little pop in his bat and in '93 KC got exactly that. He matched Stillwells team record in home runs while making just 10 errors in the field. Offensively and defensively it was his best season as a Royal. He signed with the Dodgers in 1996 and basically replicated his '93 season (10 home runs, 90 OPS+).

Rey Sanchez
1999 .294/.329/.370 2/56 11 77
2000 .273/.314/.322 1/38 7 61

Sanchez was brought in for his glove and though the .294 average was nice he had only 22 walks and 26 extra base hits, hence the low 77 OPS+. Defensively he delivered making just 17 errors those two seasons (4 in 2000!!!). He gave KC what they expected and was hitting .303 when traded mid season to the Braves in 2001, thus began the Neifi Perez era and I'm not even going there.

Angel Berroa
2003 .287/.338/.451 17/73 21 101
2004 .262/.308/.385 8/43 14 78

Ugh! He was the key player in the 2001 Johnny Damon trade to the A's and the 2003 rookie of the year, he never again matched that season. Every year after, offensively and defensively, he went from bad to worse. Although his OPS+ was slightly higher in '05 (81) he was atrocious in the field and in '06 posted a 52 OPS+, he was traded to the Dodgers last June where he somehow managed to get over 200 at bats. He rewarded their faith in him with a .230/.304/.310 line.

Tony Pena Jr.
2007 .267/.284/.356 2/47 5 66
2008 .169/.189/.209 1/14 3 7

Ok so you may have noticed that I broke my rule about using guys who were a starter at least two full seasons. I just basically wanted to show again how utterly useless he was with a bat in his hands.

And that brings us to Aviles, a mid season callup who Trey was reluctant to play at first but when he got the opportunity he never stopped hitting. As I mentioned earlier it will be hard for him to improve on his .325/.354/.480 10 HR 51 RBI 122 OPS+ 2008 season. His walk rate is Berroa-ish which concerns me just a little. I really don't know what we'll get from him this season but lets check his projections to see what others expect.

Bill James .288/.322/.443 14/72 .765
CHONE .280/.317/.425 11/69 .742
Marcel .308/.351/.462 10/49 .812

I think James and CHONE may be closer to his rate stats than Marcel but honestly I can see him hitting over .300 again. He just didn't seem phased at all by big league pitching. We'll know in a couple months whether last season was a fluke but I'm betting it wasn't and while he may not OPS+ 122 again I certainly expect him to be above league average.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rethinking the Jacobs trade

I know I initially hated the trade but lately I've started to come around to Moore's side concerning Mike Jacobs. Look I get why people don't like this move (I was one of them after all), low OBP, terrible defense, slow runner - I get it, I understand it and I will hold no grudge to those who blast me for defecting. And I really don't know what swayed me (though pitchers and catchers reporting tends to bring out my glass half full side) but I now believe that this was a decent trade for the Royals. We can talk all day about if KC didn't get Jacobs/Crisp/Farnsworth then they could have afforded Adam Dunn and while that is definitely true I don't recall one time Dunn's name being linked to the Royals. I certainly would have rather had Dunn than those three but he's a National now and Hillman must play with the cards that DM dealt.

And one of those cards is Jacobs. My objection to his acquisition had nothing to do with Leo Nunez, he had a good year but always seemed easily replaceable. While he did put up an ERA+ of 120 and 143 in '07 & '08 he only pitched 92 innings in those two seasons, replaceable. No my objection was purely based on Jacobs Kingman-like .299 OBP last season. His OBP has gone down every season and his career mark of .318 is well below league average (.337) but that trend has to stop sometime and most likely will in 2009.

All of Jacobs value is in his power, he has to hit home runs to be productive. So how many does he have to hit to make this a favorable trade for KC? My original thinking was 30, anything less and he is weighing the offense down but I've changed that to the mid-20's with a stat line in the .260/.320/500 neighborhood. I think this possible and actually quite likely looking at his 2009 projections.

Projection AVG/OBP/SLG HRs RBIs
Bill James .270/.325/.515 26 80
CHONE .259/.313/.474 23 78
Marcel .256/.314/.471 22 73

I think James projection is a little more in line with what Jacobs will actually do. Looking at a different player CHONE & Marcel have Alex Gordon basically repeating his 2008 season while James has him putting up career highs in everything, which I think he will. So if Jacobs does OPS .840 with 26 home runs well it would be hard for anyone to call that a disappointing season.

Blast away.
Right smack in the middle of this Bob Dutton piece my biggest fear for 2009 has been confirmed:
The Royals are counting on Horacio Ramirez to fill their need for a left-handed starter after shelling out $1.8 million to reacquire him in the free-agent market.

The deal includes up to $900,000 in performance bonuses, and in a winter market characterized by austerity, represents a sizable commitment — especially since Ramirez hasn’t been an effective starter since 2005.

Ramirez pitched solely in relief last year, compiling a 2.59 ERA in 15 outings for the Royals before an Aug. 9 trade sent him to the White Sox. Even so, club officials acknowledge only a dreadful spring will keep him from opening the season in the rotation.

Well a dreadful spring didn't keep Tomko out of the rotation last year even though he was outpitched by Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar so I doubt Ramirez is in any danger. I just don't understand it.
Last year I sponsored the baseball-reference page of Gil Meche and he responded with another good season so this year I'm passing on the Royally Speaking karma to Hochevar.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First Base Prospect Rankings

Every week until the start of the season I will go through what I consider to be the top 5 prospects at each position in the Royals farm system. Catchers.

#1 – Eric Hosmer
6’4 – 215 lbs.

After a spectacular senior season where he hit .470 with eleven home runs and fourteen stolen bases with Plantation American Heritage High (FL), Hosmer was selected by the Royals with the 3rd pick in the 2008 draft. In Baseball America’s draft recap they named Hosmer as the closest high school player to the major league level and also indicated he possessed the greatest power potential of all high school draftees.

Hosmer, who has Scott Boras as an agent, signed a letter of intent with Arizona State but as conjectured by many this was just a move to add leverage during his negotiations with whichever team ended up choosing him. The negotiations with Boras went right up to the last minute, and by several confirmed reports, went close to an hour past the signing deadline. This fact, along with the Pedro Alvarez contract disaster with the Pirates, led to a late start with the Idaho Falls Chukars for the young lefty.

As one of the youngest players on the Chukars roster, Hosmer saw action in just three games getting eleven at bats in the process. He finished with a .364 average, got two RBI’s, three walks and struck out twice.

Not only does Hosmer provide power at the plate, he was also the closer for his high school team touching 98 MPH on the radar gun and has above average defensive abilities. David Rawnsley of (great site by the way) has stated that Hosmer is one of the best high school bats he has seen in the past twenty years. Rawnsley also reports that Hosmer’s swing is already very fundamentally sound and with his adjustable hands he has the ability drive balls to the opposite field while also making solid contact consistently.

I expect to see Hosmer continue on the same path that Mike Moustakas has taken and play the entire 2009 season with the Burlington Bees in the Low A Midwest League before ascending quickly through the system.

#2 – Kila Kaaihue
6’3 -210 lbs.

After being selected in the 15th round of the 2002 draft, Kaaihue was sent to the Gulf Coast league to begin his career with the rookie level Royals. At this early stage, he started to show that patience is the strongest aspect of his batting style walking twenty six times in forty three games. He showed a little power knocking out three home runs and also drove in twenty one RBI’s while maintaining a .259 AVG.

Ka'aihue spent both the 2003 and 2004 season with the Low A Burlington club in the Midwest League where he started to develop even more power (11 and 15 home runs respectively) and continued to show a penchant to control the plate possessing a strong OBP above .350 in both years. His batting average however, continued to struggle as he didn’t get above .250 in either year striking out eighty seven and ninety eight times.

With a promotion to the hitter happy California League in the 2005 season, Kaaihue had the best season of his young professional career up to that point earning a mid-season all star selection in the process. While a High Desert Maverick, he posted the following line .304 AVG / .428 OBP / .925 OBP. His strikeout numbers continued to grow as he got K’ed ninety seven times but he walked ninety seven times as well in one hundred and thirty two games. With these solid numbers, Kaaihue continued to move up the organizational chart playing the whole 2006 season in the Texas League with the Double A Wichita farm team. That year, his numbers came back to earth as his power numbers were wiped away as he hit only six home runs in three hundred and twenty seven at bats. He finished the year with a .202 average and a .305 OBP.

The then 23 year old split the next season between the High A and Double A levels posting decent numbers as he had the following figures with Wilmington (.251 AVG / .360 OBP / .780 OPS) and Wichita (.246 AVG / .359 OBP / .806 OPS). In one hundred and forty two games between the two levels he also had twenty one home runs and eighty two RBI’s.

As everyone that follows Royals prospects knows, the 2008 season is why Kaaihue has inspired so many Royals fans to be believers. In ninety one games with the Double A Northwest Arkansas Naturals he put it altogether knocking out twenty six home runs with seventy nine RBI’s while also maintaining a .314 AVG and a .463 OBP. This stellar performance led to a promotion with the Triple A club in Omaha where he continued his hot hitting by putting eleven balls out of the park in just thirty three games. Again, he combined his power with a solid average (.316) and OBP (.439). Kaaihue earned a September call up to the big club where he only saw action in twelve games and parked his first MLB career home run en route to a .286 average.

Ka'aihue did not have an eye raising Dominican Winter League experience as he posted a .239 AVG with three home runs and ten RBI’s in twenty two games. Unlike many, I am not as high on Kaaihue. I would like to see the soon to be 25 year old spend at least half the season in Omaha proving that he can provide back to back stellar seasons, combining average with power, before being called up again.

#3 – Jason Taylor
6’0 – 200 lbs.

The best way to describe Jason Taylor’s career thus far is “frustrating.” The Virginia Beach product was drafted out of Kellam High School in the 2006 draft in the 2nd round and signed for $752,500. This was a surprise to many as Taylor was not even listed in the top 200 draft eligible players by Baseball America. Taylor, a shortstop in high school, started his professional career with the Surprise Royals and was moved over to 3rd base where he played in forty six games and put up mediocre numbers at the plate in the Arizona Summer League. While in Surprise he finished with the following line - .258 AVG / .374 OBP / .699 OPS. Along with these numbers he had seven stolen bases in nine attempts, nine extra base hits and twenty two RBI’s. Though his average was quite frankly average it was clear that Taylor had a sharp batting eye as he walked almost fifteen percent of his at bats keeping his OBP at a high level.

The frustration in Taylor’s career begins in the 2007 season where he was suspended by the Royals for the whole year due to disciplinary reasons. There have been many reasons bantered about as to why he was suspended (possible drug use or lack of work ethic) but the Royals never gave a specific answer.

During the 2008 season, Taylor spent the entire year with the Burlington Bees in the Low A Midwest League. He began to show great promise there and proved he was worthy of his second round pick. After starting the year at third base, Taylor was part of the Moustakas domino effect shifting him over to first base and fellow 1st base prospect, Clint Robinson, over to the DH spot. This might have been a good thing as Taylor did not post adequate numbers at 3rd with a .904 fielding percentage committing thirteen errors in sixty one games. After being shifted over to 1st he posted a stronger fielding percentage (.986) and only committed seven errors with four hundred and fifty two put outs. In one hundred and twenty seven games, Taylor again had a low average (.242) but made up for it by getting a lot of walks (81) leading him to finish with a .372 OBP. During his time with the Bees, Taylor was like Pedro Cerrano from “Major League” in that he showed good power against fastballs, hitting seventeen home runs in the process, but at times looked lost against breaking pitches, striking out 22% of his at bats. Maybe he’ll consult Jobu during the offseason. Another positive that Taylor continued from the 2006 season was his penchant to steal bases, even with a relatively big frame, as he swiped forty bases.

The “frustration” continued this off-season as in late January, Bud Selig’s office announced that Taylor received a fifty game suspension after testing positive for drug abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. This puts a damper on what was a positive step during the 2008 season for Taylor and puts into question how he fits into the Royals plans after already missing an entire season due to other disciplinary reasons. Should the 19 year old fail another drug test he will receive a 100 game suspension.

When Taylor returns from his suspension I expect to see him in Wilmington with several of his 2008 Bees teammates. I have read many reports that due to his athleticism, the OF might be a better fit for him. At this point, I’d just like to see Taylor on the field, honing his power, and moving up the ladder with no future off the field issues.

#4 - Clint Robinson
6’5 – 225 lbs.

After being selected in the 25th round of the 2007 draft many were surprised to see the Troy University product finish the season as one of the top college class performers out of the draft. After the husky first baseman finished his senior year with a .364 average, seventeen home runs and seventy one RBI’s he was sent to the Pioneer League to play with the Idaho Falls Chukars where he won MVP honors posting the following line - .336 AVG / .388 OBP / .593 SLG with fifteen home runs in sixty-seven games.

The 2008 season offered a greater sample size and the opportunity for Robinson to show that he could continue his progress on a higher level, this time it was with the Low A Burlington Bees. After starting the season at first he was shuffled to primarily play in the DH role as Moustakas moved over to 3rd and Jason Taylor assumed the majority of the 1st base time. The move did not affect Robinson’s prowess at the plate as he had seventeen home runs to go along with a .264 AVG and .333 OBP. As a power hitter it was nice to see that his strikeout rate did not change significantly and his walk rate stayed consistent as well.

During his career scouts have described Robinson as a “gamer” possessing great power along with a good approach at the plate however speed and agility at 1st is a concern. With the Taylor suspension it will be interesting to see if the soon to be 24 year old moves back to 1b with the High A Wilmington club in the interim or if they continue to give him at bats in the DH spot. Even with his big frame he has carried a .983 FPCT in two seasons.

#5 - David Wood
6’2 – 210 lbs.

To say that Wood had a nomadic college career might be an understatement. The Longwood, NY product started his career near home with the Stony Brook Sea Wolves where he only had ninety one at bats in thirty two games. He then transferred to Temple College, a JUCO baseball powerhouse in Texas, before finishing out his junior and senior seasons in the Southland Conference with Texas State. During his senior year with the Bobcats, Wood finished with a .380 AVG along with fourteen home runs and seventy seven RBI’s.

In the 2007 draft, Wood was not selected but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Royals and was quickly sent to begin his professional career in Surprise. He continued his hot hitting there earning an AZL all star selection as he ended the season with a .324 average with thirty nine RBI’s, sixty eight hits and seventeen doubles. Those last two statistics were the best for any AZL player. For his efforts, the lefty was named the Arizona Player of the Year for the Surprise Royals. You could say that Wood was playing below his competition level for his age as the AZL is normally a place where you can find international players and high school draftees in their late teens.

Due to that fact, the Royals wanted to see him play against competition more appropriate to his age as he began the 2008 season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks by-passing the Low A level. As a Blue Rock he struggled through thirty seven games hitting only .156 with an OBP of .179 in one hundred twenty eight at bats. He was clearly overmatched as he struck out thirty four times and walked only four times. The Royals demoted Wood to the short season rookie level with the Burlington Royals for the rest of the season where he regained his confidence hitting .340 in the month of August playing at 1st and LF. While with Burlington he finished with a .289 average in forty games and brought his strikeout rate from 26% with the Blue Rocks down to 9.4%.

I think the Royals will send the 24 year old Wood back to Wilmington to start the 2009 season to see if one of two things happen: A. he can carry over his rookie level success or B. see if his talent stalls at this level.

Honorable Mention
One other 1st base prospect to keep an eye on is 19 year old Henry Moreno who played with the Dominican Royals in 2008. While there he had the following numbers .314 AVG / .411 OBP / .914 OPS along with forty one RBI’s in fifty three games.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tomko redux

Count me as one that believes Horacio Ramirez has a spot in the rotation already locked up. While I would like to think Ramirez was brought in to add competition in spring training there unfortunately are a couple things that won't let me believe this is true. The first one is that we've seen this before, Tomko (I still refuse to use his first name) was signed for the 2008 season based on 27.1 innings for the Padres late in 2007. Ramirez is getting 1.8 million based 24.1 innings with KC last year. It does make me wonder if DM really looked that closely into Ramirez' stint with the White Sox. Now I know it was only 13 innings but looking at his 2007 season (98 IP 7.16 ERA) it shouldn't have come as a surprise how truly awful he was.

But back to Tomko, I think it was largely his K/BB rate with San Diego that intrigued Moore and got him the contract.
Here is Tomko's 2007 stats.

Dodgers 2-11 104 6.30 67 79/42 1.59
Padres 2-1 27.1 4.61 88 26/6 1.13

Now look at Ramirez 2008 stats.

Royals 1-1 24.1 2.59 165 11/1 0.90
White Sox 0-3 13 7.62 60 2/8 2.46

Tomko of course reverted back to his pre-Padres form and put together a 2-7 6.30 season before being released mid-season. Unfortunately KC had signed him to a 3 million dollar contract (?), a move I immediately blasted. The talk last year much like this season with Ramirez is that Tomko was brought in just for added competition and would have to earn a rotation spot in ST.  He responded by giving up 21 hits and 12 earned runs in 10.2 innings (10.13 ERA) and somehow still won the job. Like I said this all a little too familiar.

Another reason I think he will be starting is because KC seems to have plenty of left handed bullpen options and all are better than Ramirez - and yes that does include Jimmy Gobble. While there are certainly some questions in the pen I don't think Ramirez would be a viable answer to any of them.

Moore wanted a left handed starter so he went out and signed one. He just didn't sign a good one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Zack Greinke, ROYAL (Second in a Series)

123 ERA+, 202.3 IP
127 ERA+, 122 IP

This could be a case of cherry picking, but Zack Greinke is a special case because he spent so much of 2007 in the bullpen. Would it be fair to hold it against him? Yes, certainly as he was given a shot at the rotation at the beginning of the season. But in making a special case for Zack, let's look back and see when the last time a Royal pitcher had back-to-back seasons of 120 ERA+ in over 100 IP*. (Greinke would qualify if you were doing 3 out of 5 seasons--or even 3 out of 4 since he was a special case in 2006.)

Of course, the answer would be Kevin Appier in 1996-97. Appier being the more dominant pitcher, of course. And Kevin was 1 game under .500 in that time to still prove that not having an offense will kill a team. I would have guessed Kevin Appier with Jose Rosado being my back up, but Rosado was very inconsistent--probably due to overuse. When Rosie was Zack's age, he had 27.7 innings left in his career. A great Royal crime committed too many times. In Kevin Appier's favor, it was his eighth such season in a row. So the answer to my next question, when did a Royal as young as Zack last accomplish this, the answer is still Kevin Appier in 1991 and '92.

Appier was the man known to Royals fans as the last young pitcher the Royals successfully developed. Maybe it's unfair to Rosie because he was a finished product more or less (did anyone think he'd ever pitch better than he did in 1999 comparative to the league?) and maybe he should have been given that "honor". However, the Royals are likely to change that. I'm not going to call Zack Greinke a finished product yet as I think his ceiling is even higher than he's shown thus far.

On June 27th, to give you a bitter taste, the Kansas City Royals hired Allard Baird to replace Herk Robinson. The draft that had just proceeded this hiring gave the Royals David DeJesus but in Mr. Baird's first draft no player ever played in Kansas City while Allard was general manager. I bring this up because no matter what I've written in the past, I realize that at some point, extending young and talented Royals is going to be the only thing to save the Royals. And it was in his second effort that he brought in greats Donnie Murphy and Jonah Bayliss on top of some Greinke guy. So from 2002 until at least 2012, Zack Greinke is Kansas City Royal, maybe defined.

After writing Option A and finding it to be a completely reasonable, though unrealized, course of action, I will state that no one could have been full-heartedly behind such a transaction. And the reason is, of course, a lack of patience with an organization that's asked nothing but patience of us for over two decades. I feel I made a good argument in favor of trading Zack Greinke, but what I've now noticed is that other than Matt LaPorta, all of the competitors within the division have young stars in the lower parts of their systems. If the Royals can hold on tight enough and long enough, this might be the point where the Central is at its weakest. After that, it's going to be completely up to the general managers and what trades they can make to strengthen their squads.

Going back to look at the course of several drafts, gives more reason to actually get Zack Greinke under contract because while the system wasn't has bad as it seemed, it wasn't growing at a good rate. Out of the Baird drafts, only Greinke, Gordon and Butler have thus far received significant playing time. Zack was the beginning of a strong growing period for the Royals' farm system. So far, Keith of The Royal Tower has only given reports on 21 top Royal prospects, and while the top Baird prospect left is "only" number seven--making most of Baird's remaining prospects "depth" prospects--1/3rd of the list is from Baird. Quite a bit better than the initial thought of Alex and Butler and nothing else. This isn't a statement in support of Allard, but more like coming to grips with the state of the farm system as it was comprised May 31st, 2006. Though it wasn't good, it wasn't bare after the Big Two. So yes, Zack was the start of something new, something fresh... It would only make sense that we begin a new period of sustained growth by re-upping with one of the best young pitching talents in the game.

I can't and won't argue in favor of the signing's public relations aspect because of several reasons.

1. I will never believe in fan-driven transactions because fans rarely know what's in the organization's best interests as not enough information is given.
2. I don't believe it sends a message to young players because I believe they'll still sign for their own reasons whether Zack Greinke is a reason or not.
3. I choose to not give it any significance towards signing free agents because it's hard to define what the general perception is going to be and the reasons various players have for signing.
4. Winning will always be the bottom line for: increased attendence, young players being likely to sign, free agents wanting to come to Kansas City.

Of course, it was a public relations win, but unlike the refusal to trade Sweeney, PR doesn't drive this deal.

*Paul Byrd was close in '01-'02, but fell short by not quite making either 100 IP or 120 ERA+ (119 in 93 IP in '01)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Catcher Prospect Rankings

Starting this week and then continuing every week until the start of the season I will go through what I consider to be the top 5 prospects at each position in the Royals farm system.

It’s easy to see that the catching depth for the Royals is limited. Like the system as a whole, the majority of the catching talent is in the lower levels with several years left to go before many of these prospects can think of playing at Kaufman Stadium. The lack of talent in the system can be greatly attributed to the fact that this past years draft was the first time since 2005 that they drafted a catcher in the top 10 rounds. In that draft, they selected catchers in the 8th, 9th and 10th round and of those selections only Kiel Thibault has seen significant time at the AA level or above. The Royals, however, have had success signing international players at this position and that is very evident with the top 2 catchers in my rankings.

#1 – Jose Bonilla
5’10 – 180 lbs.

The Dominican Republic product was signed in September 2006 and had a sip of coffee with the Surprise Royals in 2007 where he saw action in three games and went hitless in five at-bats.

Bonilla broke out this past season as he was named the offensive player of the year for the Surprise Royals where he hit .357 in thirty four games and finished with nine doubles, three triples, five homers and twenty four RBI’s. Bonilla also flashed some speed as he was flawless on the base-path stealing five bases. Like most young players Bonilla (20 years old) will have to work on getting more walks as he only walked in 4.3% of his plate appearances. Regardless, Baseball America was impressed enough with his performance to list him as the 13th best prospect in the Arizona League.

This past fall Bonilla was invited, along with eight other catchers, to participate in the instructional league at the Surprise facility. Bonilla’s likely destinations to start the 2009 season will be with the Burlington Royals or in Idaho Falls.

#2 – Salvador Perez
6’3 – 175 lbs.

Perez certainly showed his offensive prowess this past season but his play behind the plate is the aspect of his game that at this point is most promising. In 2006, the Royals signed Perez for $75,000 which many now consider a bargain since he had a growth spurt that fall/winter.

Perez, now 19, started the 2007 season in Arizona and although his offensive numbers were not spectacular his defense certainly was as he led all AZL catchers in assists and finished second in the league throwing out base-runners at 48.1%. He ended the season with eighty six at bats and had a .244 AVG with ten RBI’s and three doubles. The right-hander had impeccable results against lefties as he hit .368 against them but his numbers versus right handed pitchers came back to reality as he was limited to a .209 average.

Perez started the 2008 season with the Burlington Royals and in thirteen games he finished with the following stats - .325 AVG / .404 OBP / .779 OPS. After an injury to Idaho Falls Chukars catcher, Sean McCauley, he finished the season in the Pioneer League. While there he continued his solid pace at the plate and had a .395 average in twelve games. Through two seasons one can conclude that his power is limited as he has only one home run in 170+ at bats but you must also remember that his glove and arm will keep him ascending through the Royals system.

He finished the 2009 season as the youngest player on the Chukars roster and was recently named the best defensive catcher in the Royals farm system by Baseball America. Since Perez is so young he will more than likely start the 2009 season at extended spring training but I expect to see him with the Burlington Bees before the season is over.

#3 – Sean McCauley
6’2 – 170 lbs.

It was thought that prior to the 2007 draft, Sean McCauley wanted to be picked in the 10th round or higher for him to forgo a scholarship offer from Western Carolina. When the Royals selected the Manassas, Virginia product in the 12th round they immediately hopped on the phone and offered him what equated to be sixth round money and McCauley quickly signed. In Baseball America’s draft recap, McCauley earned high praise as they listed him as the Royals best defensive player taken indicating that he has a plus arm with 1.9 second “pop times” from behind the plate to second base.

The Royals sent McCauley to the Arizona League in 2007 where he had the following stats in eighty four at bats - .286 AVG / .375 OBP / .851 OPS. He knocked two balls out of the yard and had thirteen RBI’s. He struck out nineteen times while walking ten times and had ten extra base hits.

After extended spring training McCauley went to Idaho Falls for the 2008 season and posted the following numbers - .278 AVG / .347 OBP / .732 OPS in 169 at bats and finished with a .983 fielding percentage. McCauley ended up winning the Chukars “Player of the Year” honor even though he missed the end of the 2008 season with a leg injury. He earned high praise by his manager, Jim Gabella, who had this comment in an article by in mid-August, “It’s amazing the progress he’s made offensively and defensively. I really haven’t seen a catcher in our system that blocks balls like he does or throws people out like he does. Offensively, he’s starting to come into his own.”

McCauley recovered enough to take part in the Instructional League with fifty nine other Royals prospects this fall and it has been reported that the Royals have him on a strength program to build upon his frame over the winter. He will turn 20 in May and figures to start the 2009 season with the Burlington Bees in the Midwest League.

#4 – Brayan Pena
5’11 – 210 lbs.

The next catcher finished the 2008 season with the following minor league baseball stats - .303 AVG / .373 OBP / .835 OPS. With numbers like this one might think, how is he the #4 catching prospect? The only problem with Brayan Pena is that the “prospect” tag is quickly fading away as he turned 27 in January.

Pena, a former Cuban national player, burst onto the scene in 2001 after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2000. While with Danville in 2001 he earned an all star appearance and showed good plate awareness by hitting .370 and had an OBP of .440. In 2001-2005 it became quite apparent that he could hit for average but his power was limited as he hit only seven home runs during that time. In the 2005 season, Pena got his first taste of the big leagues after posting a .326 average with the Triple A, Richmond Braves. That same year in thirty nine at bats with the Atlanta Braves, Pena hit only .179 and struck out seven times in thirty nine at bats. Pena then spent the next two years bouncing between Richmond and Atlanta and proved to be a AAAA player as in 2006 he hit .302 with Richmond and .268 in Atlanta while in 2007 he again pounded the ball in Triple A finishing with a .301 average but when in Atlanta he hit only .212.

After getting fourteen at bats with the Atlanta Braves to start the 2008 season he went onto the 15 day disabled list with a mild back strain. The Braves welcomed him back by designating him for assignment on May 23rd which then led to the Royals picking him up off of waivers on May 30th. He never saw time with the big club after that point as they immediately sent him to Omaha where he played in sixty games. On November 3rd, the Royals added him onto the 40 man roster making him unavailable for the Rule 5 draft.

After a solid showing in winter ball action, Pena will go into the 2009 season as a good insurance policy should Buck or Olivo get injured but it is obvious that Pena is not fit to play an everyday role in the majors.

#5 – Mauricio Matos
6’0 – 185 lbs.

There is a litany of unproven catchers to choose from in the bottom levels of the Royals farm system to fill this slot, so I went with the Royals 2008 10th round selection out of the Bronx.

Matos, 18, jumped onto the scene in his senior year and led his high school to the semi-finals of the NY Public School Athletic League. He quickly proved his desire to be a major leaguer as he missed one of the semi-final games to attend a pre-draft workout with the Royals. After being one of the last Royals draftees to sign ($150,000 bonus) he reported with the Surprise Royals. Sharing time with several other backstops he finished with a .269 AVG in 78 at bats.

It has been reported that a very young age Matos already has a great aptitude for the game. Like McCauley, Matos will have to build on his frame as he currently lacks the ability to drive balls but as scout Allan Simpson suggested he has solid mechanics and with a workout program he projects to have power.

As one of the youngest prospects in the Royals system (he’ll turn 19 in September) expect to see Matos spend the summer in Arizona refining his craft before continuing his professional career with the Surprise Royals.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grading Moore's offseason

I graded Moore's offseason moves for Dugout Central. Some of the comments suggested I may have been too generous but extending Greinke was bigger than non-Royals fans could ever imagine. I had been against trading him but felt like it was inevitable so once I found out he would be here through 2012 well it took the odor out of a few of DM's other moves.