Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Who IS the real Calvin Pickering?

I'm firmly on the anti-Ken Harvey bandwagon, which has been covered ad naseum by most religious followers of the Royals. The Royals have ample evidence that Harvey is a bottom-of-the-barrel major league first baseman, both offensively and defensively. No debate here.

But what about Calvin Pickering? I've gone back and forth on this issue, but I've now realized that most of the optimism I've had for Pickering is really misplaced disdain for Harvey. I'm not convinced that Calvin Pickering is going to amount to much of a major league baseball player. A lot of Royals fans are counting on Pickering to step into the starting 1B role and smash 35 HRs. Why should we believe that is going to happen? The plain fact is that the guy is 28 and he's barely sniffed the major leagues. There's a reason for that. Let's trace his career path:

-- He put up excellent numbers from rookie ball through AA in the Orioles system from the ages 19 to 22, and demonstrated improving plate discipline as he moved up the ranks. He was a serious prospect.

-- His AAA season at age 23 was decent, but his slugging percentage took a fairly significant dip. After a couple of failed brief stints in the major leagues, he struggled mightily in AAA at age 24 and left the Orioles franchise.

-- After leaving the Orioles system, he scuffled for nearly four years, landing a few brief stints with the Reds and Red Sox organizations, and I think he spent 2002 playing in Mexico.

-- He finally landed with the O-Royals in 2004 at age 28, where he put up his minor league career season.

His 42-game end-of-lost-season tryout for the Royals last year has many Royals fans salivating at the possibilities for 2005. I take very little stock in what he did last year; Royals history is littered with players who have looked great for 1/4 season before the league adjusted to them. Ken Harvey and Abraham Nunez are excellent examples of this, and should be a warning to Royals fans to temper their expectations.

Frankly, I don't believe the ridiculously optimistic MLB projections that Bill James, PECOTA and other forecasting systems are making for Pickering this season. Those projections are based largely on a 2004 season that is an aberration in Pickering's recent history; he hasn't hit like that since 1998 in AA. It has career year written all over it, and it was done in the minor leagues at an age when most major leaguers are reaching their peak.

In the final analysis, Pickering should make the club as the Royals' first baseman at the start of 2005. Given what he accomplished at the minor and major league level in 2004, he's earned the right to fail on his own merits. Harvey has tried and failed repeatedly with the big club, and there simply isn't much more we can expect out of him. The only case the Royals could make for keeping Harvey is that he might start hot and maximize his trade value, and the Royals will be able to cash in on any lingering positive sentiment floating around the league about his abilities. But I think most teams are wise to the hoax by this point.

Otherwise, Pickering deserves the shot. But I don't expect Pickering's reign to last long, in any case. The considerably younger and more talented Justin Huber is close to the majors, and Billy Butler is being groomed as the first baseman of the long-term future. Pickering won't have a place on the team beyond 2 years, max.

If Pickering has a place in the major leagues, its probably as a left-handed power bat off the bench. He might make useful trade bait at the deadline for a contending team that needs that kind of player. But he'll have to play in the majors for the first half of 2005 to make that to happen.

7 Comments:

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Fester said...

David -- take a look at the Bill James 2005 handbook on Calvin Pickering projections. It's insane. Something like 39 homers and 105 RBI in 440 at-bats.

'Course, James forwards the projections with his notion that they're silly and useless...but his publisher wants 'em.

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Fester said...

David -- take a look at the Bill James 2005 handbook on Calvin Pickering projections. It's insane. Something like 39 homers and 105 RBI in 440 at-bats.

'Course, James forwards the projections with his notion that they're silly and useless...but his publisher wants 'em.

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Fester said...

David -- take a look at the Bill James 2005 handbook on Calvin Pickering projections. It's insane. Something like 39 homers and 105 RBI in 440 at-bats.

'Course, James forwards the projections with his notion that they're silly and useless...but his publisher wants 'em.

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Fester said...

David -- take a look at the Bill James 2005 handbook on Calvin Pickering projections. It's insane. Something like 39 homers and 105 RBI in 440 at-bats.

'Course, James forwards the projections with his notion that they're silly and useless...but his publisher wants 'em.

 
At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David -- what am I doing wrong in posting to your site? The comments show at the left, but not on the main page.

Fester

 
At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

I think Pickering is fully capable of hitting 35 HR if given 450-500 AB this season. If you look at his career statistics, you'll see that he's only had ONE poor season/stint in which he got over 100 at bats, and I believe he was injured for much of that year (2000).

If you're looking for a reason to believe, it's clear...Pickerings peripherals say he's a big-time power hitter. His stats show that he's a patient hitter with tremendous isolated power, and those types of skills transfer well to the big leagues.

It's certainly not a sure thing, but there is FAR more evidence at this point to suggest he will be a big hitter this season than there is evidence that says he won't. And that by itself makes it Baird's duty to play the man.

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger DL said...

Fester, I just think there's a delay in posting to the main page. Your five consecutive posts prove that. ;-)

Dave, you're right: it is Baird/Pena's duty to play the man, because he's earned the shot. His peripherals do suggest that his hitting skills will translate into the majors. But on the downside, he is already 28 and he spent nearly four lost years between his last two good seasons. I don't think we can ignore that.

Anyway, my main purpose was to inject some skepticism into the Pickering bandwagoning. The man isn't without his faults, and I think that fact is a bit lost in the Royals blogosphere.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home