Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On the Eve of Spring Training, Where Do the Royals Stand?

Allard Baird and the Royals' brass believe (at least publicly) that their master plan is finally in place. They've cycled through the previous batch of veterans and near free agents, and now their core group of young players - Greinke, Teahen, Berroa, Buck, DeJesus, Bautista, Gotay and others will be with the team through 2010. This is merely the latest 6 year window of opportunity the Royals are presenting to their fan base among a cast of thousands, but I can't say there is no reason for optimism. The last draft produced Billy Butler and J.P. Howell, two top 100 prospects who appear - right now - to have what it takes to contribute on the major league level. Throw in the #2 overall draft pick in 2005, some long awaited development from the middle aged set of Affeldt, Gobble, Hernandez, and maybe the Royals are on to something.

But momma didn't raise no fool.

First, the good news. Detroit doesn't appear to have improved much in the way of minor league player development, and although they have considerably more market power than the Royals, they are hamstrung with considerably fewer resources than the big FA players and a city that no players seems to want to play in. The signing of Magglio Ordonez is a case in point; they had to massively overguarantee and pay on a risky, 2nd tier star player. They do have some nice young pitching, though, in Bonderman and Robertson.

That's the end of the good news. Chicago doesn't have a strong track record of recent success, and I'm not enamored with their manager or GM, but a team that has that kind of money will eventually start to get things right. Signing Freddy Garcia to a completely reasonable deal was a good start. Their player development system leaves something to be desired, but its at least as good as the Royals' system right now.

Cleveland and Minnesota are much more worrisome. They simply have better management and superior farm systems, and their major league ready talent is better than the Royals. Even if the Royals' young players develop as we all hope, there's a pretty good chance that Minnesota and Cleveland's young players will still be that much better.

-- C: Would you rather have John Buck, Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez?
-- 1B: Would you rather than Justin Huber, Travis Hafner or Justin Morneau?
-- CF: Would you rather than David DeJesus, Lew Ford or Grady Sizemore?
-- P: Would you rather have Zack Greinke, C.C. Sabathia (still 24!) or Jason Davis? (OK, the Royals win this one)
-- 3B: Would you rather have Mark Teahen or Casey Blake?

The Royals come up short in most of the positions we consider to be "strengths". Poor pitching could cripple any of these teams, but the Twins have Santana for the next 4 years, Radke and a better closer.

Plus, the Twins and Indians have better prospects in the minors than the Royals right now.


At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

Totally agree with your assessment. Minnesota and Cleveland really seem to be doing it right. However, as far as young talent at third base, I think I would take Teahen over Blake, since Casey's 31.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger DL said...

Wow, I didn't realize Blake was 31 already! Should have checked that out. Thanks for the tip.

In that case, I'd take Teahen as well.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger DL said...

I also forget to mention that Cleveland has a fireballing top pitching prospect in Adam Miller who can actually throw strikes (unlike our own Texas fireballer) and a very solid OF prospect in Frankin Gutierrez (obtained from the Dodgers for Milton Bradley).

Sidebar: Everyone knows the Milton Bradley story. Under intense pressure to trade Bradley in spring training 2004, and with about a week to get it done, Mark Shipiro managed to get a top OF prospect. Would Allard Baird have performed as well under the same circumstances? The short answer is "no", and the long answer is "Please don't make me count all of the ways the answer is no."

AB is not a bad GM, and perhaps he'll be a good or even very good one someday. But right now he is simply outclassed by Shapiro and Ryan.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Bradford said...

FYI - Blake won't be at 3B for Cleveland this season. The job is going to Aaron Boone and Blake is headed to the outfield. I'd take Teahen over either of them.

At 2:36 AM, Blogger john said...

The problem with Royalsis not totally Allard Baird's fault. He has to work with the noose that David Glass has around his neck. In today's baseball you can't improve your team by cutting payroll. Also sometimes I think the royals share player personnel and scouting departments with the chiefs.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger DL said...

No, you're right, its not all ABs fault. I think he's improved his performance significantly in the past 2 years, and his track record of minor league player acquisition has been impressive. I simply think he's a step behind Ryan and Shapiro.

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Dave S. said...

You know, I think I'd take DeJesus over Ford or Sizemore. Ford's a little better right now, but he's also got four years on DeJesus. And Sizemore is still just a prospect with a record of marginal minor league success.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with DeJesus. But I do agree with your overall point that the Royals still have a way to go before they can hope to catch the Twins or the Tribe.


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