Sunday, March 04, 2007

First Spring Training Games

Breaking News: Mark Grudzielanek will undergo knee surgery on Monday. There is no timetable for his return, but it is certainly weakens the Royals' defense up the middle until he returns. German will likely become the regular second basemen until he returns. German had an outstanding season for the Royals last year, hitting .326/.422/.459. So, he may be an upgrade offensively over Grudzielanek.

Spring Training games are finally underway and we've gotten a look at some of the Royals' new acquistions.

Game 1: Brian Bannister started for the Royals, pitching very well. Bannister went 2 innings, allowing 0 runs and throwing just 17 pitches (14 strikes). Bannister could be a nice find for the Royals. At the very least, it'll be nice to have someone in the rotation who can throw strikes. Joakim Soria's pitched two scoreless innings. A very good start for the Royals' young pitchers. The other big story was Billy Butler, who hit a 2-run single to put the Royals ahead 6-4. The Royals lost 7-6.

Game 2: Meche pitched well in his Royals' debut, pitching 3 scoreless innings and allowing just 2 hits. Gobble ended up with the victory, even though he allowed 2 runs in 2 innings. Butler continues to hit extremely well. He's 4 for 7 with a double and 2 RBIs so far. Shealy went 1 for 3 with a homerun and 3 RBIs. Huber later took over at first, going 0 for 1. Gordon went 0 for 4, making him 0 for 6 so far.

Game 3: Teahen and Buck homered for the Royals. Huber continues to play 1B, but struggled at the plate going 0 for 3. Perez pitched horribly, going 1 1/3 innings and allowing 4 runs. Perez was worth a shot, but I hope the Royals don't keep him around too long if he doesn't pitch better.

"B" game: Hochevar pitched in Friday's "B" game, throwing 2 scoreless innings. Rosa also pitched a scoreless inning and Buddy Bell was impressed with his stuff.

Sunday's game so far: Luke Hudson had a pretty good start for the Royals, going 3 innings and allowing just 1 run. Zack Greinke has pitched a scoreless innings so far. Alex Gordon got his first hit of the season, the only hit through the fourth inning.

Positives so far: The young players are doing very well. Butler, Shealy, Teahen and Buck have provided most of the Royals' offense. The Royals' young offensive talent is finally starting to show, which should make this season more exciting to watch.

Negatives so far: Perez looks like the Perez from 2006. Also, losing Grudz for an extended period of time is a blow to our defense up the middle, which already has a giant hole at shortstop.

Minor League News: Jeff Bianchi is healthy again. He will likely head to extended spring training and move to Burlington. The Royals' article also says he's throwing from the shortstop position (maybe insinuating a move to short?). Erik Cordier, who had a brillant season until getting hurt, will not pitch until the fall instructional leagues. Cordier may have the most upside of any Royals' pitcher next to Hochevar.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

College Prospect Update: James Simmons

I watched the University of Oklahoma play UC Riverside this afternoon and got a first-hand look at RHP James Simmons. Several scouts were on hand (including a Royals' scout) to watch Simmons and Sooner starter Stephen Porlier (more on him in another post). Here's a brief bio of James Simmons:

Simmons is a junior at UC Riverside. He is a 6'4", 215 lbs right-handed pitcher. Last season, he led the team with a 2.96 ERA and led the team with 94 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings. Simmons pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer and had a 1.18 ERA in 53 innings. Baseball America listed him as the eighth-best prospect in the Cape Cod League.

Projected Draft Position:
Simmons is currently listed on Baseball America's Top 100 collegiate prospects for the 2007 draft. Brewerfan.net currently has Simmons listed as the #59 prospect in the country, which would make him an early to mid second round. If he continues performing well, he probably won't be around when the Royals make their selection with the #65 overall pick in the 2nd round. But, he's worth keeping an eye on.

2007 Stats:

4-1 2.38 ERA 34 IP 38 SOs 8 BBs .185 BAA

Simmons is off to a good start for 2007. Simmons is a candidate for the Roger Clemens' Award for the top collegiate pitcher. Before Simmon's start today, he was 4-0 with a 0.62 ERA. However, he struggled against the Sooner offense, allowing 9 hits on 7 runs in 5 innings.

Scouting Report: Simmons strongest asset is his control, which was fairly absent today. In addition to his two walks, Simmons hit two batters today. So, his performance today probably isn't the best for evaluating him. Simmons displayed an average (cut) fastball sitting at 89-90 mph. His second main pitch was his changeup, which wasn't very effective in keeping the Sooner hitters off-balance.

Simmons has a very high leg kick (see photo at start of post), but does a very good job of maintaining balance over his right leg during his delivery. He has a very clean, repeatable delivery overall and fields his position well.

Here's a short video clip of Simmons: Simmons Video

Summary: Simmons has pretty average stuff, but has plus command of his repertoire. He has a projectable frame at 6'4", 215 lbs, so he may end up throwing harder than 90 mph. If he's available when the Royals make their second-round selection, he would be a good pickup.

Coming up: Wichita State Prospects

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Coming Soon!

I will have an in-depth look at 3 of Baseball America's top 100 college draft prospects. This will be the beginning of draft coverage from the Daily Lancer featuring college player previews with photos and maybe some videos.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Beginning to Look toward the Draft

2007 draft

We are 4 months away from the 2007 draft—most of the big college programs get started this weekend. We hope to provide coverage leading up to the draft—covering players that the Royals might be interested in.

There are some pretty big changes to this year’s draft. First there is an August 15th deadline to sign draftees—that means no more long holdouts—clubs and draftees have to get a deal done. As added leverage for clubs, if a club does not sign a player from the first couple rounds, the club is given a compensation pick next year right after the lost pick. (i.e. if the Royals failed to sign their top pick—the #2 overall—they would get the #3 overall pick in 2008). There are no more draft and follows—drafting a HS player who then goes to JC where he can be signed after he season ends and before the next draft begins. Lastly, due to changes in the way free agent compensation works, the Royals after the #2 overall pick won’t pick again until around pick 64.

The draft will bring to conclusion Dayton Moore’s 1st year as GM. It will be interesting to see if our draft strategy changes much. Deric Ladnier has a Braves background-so perhaps he has already brought many of those changes with him. I will especially be watching to see if the Royals new emphasis on pitchers with curveballs (as opposed to sliders) affects who we draft. That may have been one of the reasons that the Royals took Hochevar over Miller in 2006. Hochevar has a good curve—Miller is known for his slider.

The 2007 draft will hopefully be the last time the Royals have a top 5 (or even top 10) pick for a long time. It will be very tempting to take a college talent who is closer to the big leagues—but this year’s draft class has excellent depth. While there are definite front runners for the top couple of picks, there are plenty of other players who could zoom up the charts in the next few months. Here are some of the best known players.

Baseball America has excellent draft coverage, but you have to pay for most of it.

Brewerfan has excellent free coverage—I encourage you to check them out:

http://www.brewerfan.net/ViewDraftArchive.do?draftId=5


Here are my rankings as we head into the amateur season:
College:

1. David Price
Price has very good stuff—FB, SL, CH and good control. His numbers were better than his ERA indicated last year at Vandy. He pitched great for Team USA last summer—5-1 .20 ERA, 44ip, 7W, 61K. If he pitches well in the spring, he probably becomes a Devil Ray. I would love to have him—but wonder how dogmatic the Royals are about pitchers that that feature a slider.

2. Matt Wieters
If Price is #1, Wieters is #1a. A switch hitting catcher who also closes for Georgia Tech. He has power and patience. He as a rocket arm (he is also a very talented pitcher). Being 6-5 there are questions about whether he can stay behind the plate. His offense doesn’t seem quite as advanced as Alex Gordon’s but Wieters plays a premium defensive position. He has apparantly signed with Scott Boras--which may make things interesting (as has Brackman). The question is: if he has to move to 1st base, is he still worth the #2 pick?

3. Andrew Brackman
Brackman is 7 feet tall. Brackman throws easily in the mid to upper 90’s. That will get you noticed. He is supposedly more polished than most really tall pitchers. He will need to back it up this year with some good numbers—particularly K/BB ratio. More risk than your typical college player.

4. Joe Savery
Savery has had some injury issues but he has a good FB/CB combo. On the downside, the recent history of Rice pitchers, coupled with the injuries he’s already had, does not inspire confidence that he will develop.

5. Nick Schmidt
Schmidt posted a dominant year last year in the SEC (beating out Price for SEC Pitcher of the Year). He has three quality pitches--fastball, slider, change. However, he had a less than inspiring summer that left many questions as we head into this college season. He has to prove the doubters.

We'll cover the High Schoolers next time...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Royals Ink Gobble and Brown

The Royals avoided arbitration with Emil Brown and Jimmy Gobble, signing both to 1-year contracts. Gobble signed for $712,500. Gobble had a good year in the pen last year, striking out 80 in 84 innings. Certainly a good sign for a pitcher who used to strike out one batter every 3 innings. Gobble's stuff is probably best suited for the bullpen, especially since his fastball can reach 94 mph more regularly. He can also spot start and did a decent job last year (5.14 ERA as starter).

The Royals signed Emil Brown to a one-year, $3.4 million deal. Brown has been one of the Royals' most productive bats over the past two seasons, leading the team in RBI's over that period. With Brown and Sanders under contract, the Royals will have plenty of time to let Teahen transition to the outfield and give Gordon as much time as needed in the minors.

The Royals also signed Alex Gonzalez to a minor-league contract. He was downright awful for the Devil Rays last year, hitting .111/.158/.111 in 36 ABs. His career line of .243/.302/.391 isn't anything to brag about, but he is a good backup shortstop.

The Royals are still negotiating with Todd Wellemeyer. Wellemeyer has good stuff, but his even K/BB ratio is certainly a concern for next year. He may have trouble repeating a pretty good season last year if he can't improve his command. Nonetheless, he's a cheap, young reliever, so he's worth re-signing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Minor League Chat

meteorologistdave: The Royals seem to have set the main positions in the roster for 2007. The Royals could still use another veteran starter or reliever to add some depth. But, for the most part, the 2007 Royals are ready to go. And of course, if someone will take Angel Berroa, then by all means take him!

garoyal23: What I'd like to see the Royals do between now and Opening Day is to trade from our position of strength (outfielders) to land some more pitching depth. It doesn't matter to me if that depth is at the major league level or a legit minor leaguer. We just need depth. Like you say, Angel Berroa is a huge question mark. His numbers have been declining every year, but his defense seems to be improving. I'm comfortable giving him another year to see what happens with him. If he declines for the 4th straight year, then cut your losses. However, if he manages a .270 average with an OPS of around .670 to .700, then that will satisfy me. That being said, I'd like to see Moore sign a veteran middle infielder that could possible slide into the SS role if Berroa fails. Someone to push him.

meteorologistdave: Using their outfield depth to acquire more pitching or a shortstop would be a welcome move. Speaking of the Royals' tremendous depth at the corners, let's get started with Alex Gordon. If you put Gordon in the lineup now, he's probably going to be the best hitter in the lineup, even as a rookie. However, that could be detrimental to his development. I think he could use at least a couple months at AAA before he becomes the Royals' everyday third basemen.

garoyal23: I haven't seen anything that makes me think that Gordon will be a liability at third base defensively. I am leaning toward having him start in out in KC in 2007. That makes the lineup stronger instantly. I'm not sure where he'd start out in the lineup (I'm guessing 6th), but he'd definitely make the lineup stronger. Teahen was rushed to the majors, in large part to Chris Truby's spring training injury, and he struggled in his first full season. I really don't see that going on with Gordon. He put up fantastic numbers last year in AA. He's more of a hitter than Teahen at AA. If he starts in KC, he'd do fine with the bat and fine with the glove.

meteorologistdave: I think Gordon is talented enough to do very well in the majors right away, I just think it would be beneficial to give him a little more experience. Gordon's draft counterpart Ryan Zimmerman has already logged 672 ABs, so I'm guessing Gordon is probably ready. I just tend to be cautious, especially considering how important his development is to the future of the franchise. The next most likely prospect to make the team, Billy Butler?

garoyal23: In my mind, the thing that will keep Butler from making the team will be his defense. He was drafted as a 3B. He was then moved to 1B. Then moved to the OF. From what I've seen, he isn't doing all that badly defensively, but he would surely benefit from spending 2007 (or the greater part of it) in AAA working on his defense. I think the Omaha OF will be Lubanski in left, Maier in center and Butler in right. Huber will get the majority of his ABs (if he's not traded) from the DH spot in the order, but he's likely to play the field as well, so he's not viewed as one dimensional when Moore is shopping him.

meteorologistdave: That's pretty much what I was thinking when I asked the question. This season will tell us a lot about the future positions of Butler and Huber. My guess is that one of the two will become the Royals' left fielder (probably Butler) and the other will see time at DH. Of course, then there's talk about Huber moving back to catcher. So, his future is really up in the air. Butler is young enough I think he can become a passable left fielder. So, with Butler/Huber in left field and Teahen in right, how does that bode for the future of Lubanski, Maier, Costa, and the Royals' other outfield prospects?

garoyal23: DeJesus is under contract through the 2010 season (there's a team option for 2011), so he's going to be a fixture in center field for a long time. Well past the time that the Royals will have to make a decision on the futures of those you mentioned. I've seen that Maier has drawn some interest from other clubs and could eventually be traded. I'm sure that Costa is one that other teams would be interested in as well. I'd like to keep Lubanski in the organization, though. He is a young kid and has reached the AAA level. Both Lubanski and Maier were drafted in '03, so they could stay in the Royals minor leagues through the 2008 season. At that time, Lubanski would be only 23 and Maier would be 26. Shane Costa (also drafted in 2003) would be turning 27 after the 2008 season.

meteorologistdave: Lubanski would be a good prospsect to keep around considering his upside. He's just a year older than Butler and he's held his own offensively over the past two seasons. Maier could also be useful as a fourth outfielder with his versatility (he can play all the outfield positions). The outfield situation looks pretty good and the Royals have plenty of options and time to make these decisions with Sanders and probably Brown in the outfield this season. The Royals seem set everywhere except the middle infield positions. German's defense will have to improve before he becomes an everyday second basemen. Are there any middle infield prospects who seem like they could be the second basemen or shortstop of the future? Outside of Jeff Bianchi, who can't get out of rookie ball, I can't think of any who stand out.

garoyal23: I can't either. There's Sanchez and Blanco in the upper minors. Sanchez has the glove for SS (Blanco, too, for that matter) but I don't think either will put up the offensive numbers that you like to see out of your SS. Sanchez is going to need a full season at AAA and then we'll have to see what happens after that. We are set at 2B this season with Grudzielanek and probably 2008, as he has a player option for '08 ($4.0 to $4.5 million). I've read that Bianchi profiles out better as a 2B, rather than SS (I guess it has to do with his range). So, the way it looks, we've got no one to look to as our SS of the future. We used to think we were set at 2B for the future with Gotay and Murphy in the system, but they are both gone and all we got was Jeff Keppinger (who was recently DFA'd).

meteorologistdave: The middle infield looks pretty bare, so it'll be interesting to see what Moore can do to fix that. Next time we'll discuss the Royals' pitching and catching prospects. I guess that will mainly be a discussion about the Royals’ pitching prospects since there aren’t really any catching prospects to discuss.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Did the Royals really overpay Meche?

Barry Zito signed a 7-year, $126 million deal with the Giants yesterday, continuing the trend of overpriced starting pitching. The two top starters in the free agent market pulled over $15 million a year. But, they are clearly the two best starters available and will fill the ace role nicely for any team willing to spend the money.

Here's a list of the contracts given to the top free agent starters this offseason. The dashed line separates the two tiers of starters.

Ranked in terms of cost:
1. Barry Zito, 28 (7 years at $18 million/yr, total: $126 million)
2. Jason Schmidt, 33 (3 years at $15.7 million/yr, total $47 million)
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3. Gil Meche, 28 (5 years at $11 million/yr, total: $55 million)
4. Jeff Suppan, 31 (4 years at $10.5 million/yr, total: $42 million)
5. Ted Lilly, 30 (4 years at $10 million/yr, total: $40 million)
6. Miguel Bautista, 35 (3 years at $8.33 million/yr, total: $25 million)
7. Adam Eaton, 29 (3 years at $8.17 million/yr, total $24.5 million)

Meche was the most expensive pitcher out of the second-tier of starters in terms of contract length and cost per year. Was this justified by his market value or did the Royals overpay?

Justified:

Meche is the youngest of the free agent starters listed above. That certainly increases his market value. Meche also has the most upside of the second-tier starters, although Eaton is close. Eaton had a poor year which hurt his market value considerably. Suppan and Bautista are considerably older and are league-average starters, so there's no upside there. In terms of upside, age, and recent performance, Meche is the best available pitcher.

Overpaid:

The main downside to Meche is his past injury problems. Giving a 5-year contract to an injury prone player is certainly risky business. Meche also struggled in 2004 and 2005, most likely because of injury problems. He had a good season last year, with a 4.48 ERA and a 1.86 K/BB. Will his success continue or was it just an anomaly?

Conclusion: The Royals signed Meche for a deal that was reasonable for the market.