Friday, September 30, 2005

Gordon Signing and Other Notes

Gordon signing has brought some hope to an otherwise miserable season. Gordon instantly becomes a top prospect who could make an impact as soon as 2007. Like Butler, Gordon could be the type of talent the Royals haven't seen in sometime. Gordon also gives the Royals some roster flexibility. The Royals believe Gordon is athletic enough to play 3rd base, 1st base, corner outfield, or even 2nd base (don't buy that for a second though, as Teahan would be more likely to make that move). If Teahan continues to improve and become the Joe Randa or Joe Randa-plus type player he was projected to be, then Gordon will likely make a position change.

Let's say Teahan develops into a solid player and the Royals want to move Gordon. The most logical place seems like the corner outfield. All we've heard over the past year is how badly Baird wants a power-hitting corner outfielder. Well, looks like he found one. I don't understand Baird's fascination with the corner outfield position considering that:

1. The Royals' farm system has good depth at the corner outfield spots with a variety of talent (speedy/defensive types with Ambres and Maier or power hitters with Butler, Gordon, Lubanski). It makes little sense to trade away depth from other areas to add to an organizational strength.

2. The corner outfield free agent market stinks. Any team with a young power-hitting corner outfielder is going to ask for two of our young arms (Burgos, Sisco, Greinke, Bautista), which we can't afford to trade. The price will be very high this offseason. The Royals don't have enough depth anywhere to make a trade for a corner outfielder.

So, the best place for Gordon appears to be RF. Gordon has a strong arm and good speed. The Royals have a lot more prospects who will likely end up as left fielders, so making Gordon a right fielder seems like a perfect fit, assuming Teahan develops. Either way, it gives the Royals good roster flexibility.

Overall, the Royals should be able to put together a pretty good offense in the next couple years.

C Buck (hopefully 15 HRs, .250 avg with low OBP)
1B Huber/Sweeney (both .300, 20-30 HR hitters)
2B FA/mediocre prospect
SS Berroa (see Buck)
3B Teahan (if he pulls the ball more, 15-20 HR season with 30+ doubles could happen)
LF Butler (.300, 30+ HR potential)
CF DeJesus (good OBP, solid gap power)
RF Gordon (.300, 30+ HR potential)

I don't really see much need to add any additional offense. The Royals have some impact bats and depth to create at least an average offense.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Obligatory Gordon Aboard Post

Even though the news is older than Julio Franco by now, the fellers at the Daily Lancer would like to welcome Alex Gordon aboard. I don't think congratulations are in order to Gordon or the Royals, however, who both wasted several months in senseless "negotiations" only to see Gordon basically settle for the Royals' initial offer. Gordon lost quite a bit of development time over what will amount to a squeaky pittance if his career progresses as hoped.

The Royals also say they have no plans to move Gordon off 3B, which is sensible. No reason to change anything until circumstances force you to do so.

If nothing else, this gives me a reason to keep one eye on the Arizona Fall League.

As always, Godspeed, Alex.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Free Agent Starters

To surrogate the recent posts on what free agents the Royals might target this offseason, here's some additional stats and analysis of the free agent starters available.

Cream of the Crop

Matt Morris:

2002 210 IP 210 Hits 16 HRs 64 BBs 171 SOs 17-9 3.42 ERA
2003 172 IP 164 Hits 20 HRs 39 BBs 120 SOs 11-8 3.76 ERA
2004 202 IP 205 Hits 35 HRs 56 BBs 131 SOs 15-10 4.72 ERA
2005 190 IP 201 Hits 19 HRs 36 BBs 114 SOs 14-10 3.94 ERA

Age: 31
Agent: Barry Axelrod
Career ERA: 3.58
Career K/BB: 2.61

Pros: Morris looks like he'd be a good option for the Royals. Unlike a lot of Baird's signings (Lima, Anderson), Morris has been consistently good. His ERA has always been under 4, except in 2004 due to injury concerns. His command has always been pretty good. His consistency is exactly what the Royals need.

Cons: He did resign with the Cardinals in 2002 for a 3-year deal worth $27 million. It would probably take at least a similar deal to lure him from St. Louis. He's also on the downside of his career. His K/9 ratio has consistently decreased over the past 5 years, but his K/BB has stayed about the same. Morris would have to adjust to the AL, which is often tough on aging pitchers.

Kevin Millwood

2002 217 IP 186 Hits 16 HRs 65 BBs 178 SOs 18-8 3.24 ERA
2003 222 IP 210 Hits 19 HRs 68 BBs 169 SOs 14-12 4.01 ERA
2004 141 IP 155 Hits 14 HRs 51 BBs 125 SOs 9-6 4.85 ERA
2005 185 IP 177 Hits 20 HRs 52 BBs 137 SOs 9-11 2.92 ERA

Age: 30
Agent: Scott Boras
Career ERA: 3.77
Career K/BB ratio: 2.68

Pros: Millwood is having a great season and has better stuff than Morris. But, he hasn't been nearly as consistent as Morris. Morris has had an ERA under 4 most years and Millwood's ERAs have been mostly over 4.

Cons: Millwood's agent is Boras, which may eliminate him right away. Millwood has been inconsistent throughout his career.

Jeff Weaver

Pros: Weaver has been a pretty good No. 3/4 type pitcher.

Cons: Weaver is also a Boras client. He hasn't been very consistent throughout his career and his career ERA of 4.44 isn't particularly intriguing. Weaver probably also wouldn't do much for team chemistry, if that actually means anything.

Other possibilities: Jarrod Washburn (Boras client), AJ Burnett (too expensive)

Middle Tier

Esteban Loaiza

2002 151 IP 192 Hits 18 HRs 33 BBs 87 SOs 9-10 5.71 ERA
2003 226 IP 196 Hits 17 HRs 56 BBs 207 SOs 21-9 2.90 ERA
2004 183 IP 217 Hits 32 HRs 71 BBs 117 SOs 10-7 5.71 ERA
2005 214 IP 222 Hits 17 HRs 54 BBs 171 SOs 11-10 3.70 ERA

Age: 34
Agent: John Boggs
Career ERA: 4.59
Career K/BB ratio: 2.33

Pros: Loaiza is having a solid year for the Nationals. Loaiza has a pretty good cut fastball that is pretty effective. Other than a rough stretch with the Yankees, Loaiza has been pretty good over the past 3 seasons.

Cons: Loaiza has been very inconsistent throughout his career. He struggled in the American League and is having success is a pitcher-friendly environment. His home/road splits appear to be warning signs of mediocrity in a less-friendly environment. Seems to be alternating good year, bad year, which means he's in line for a bad year. He's also 34 years old.

Paul Byrd

2002 228 IP 224 Hits 36 HRs 38 BBs 129 SOs 17-11 3.90 ERA
2004 114 IP 123 Hits 18 HRs 19 BBs 79 SOs 8-7 3.94 ERA
2005 198 IP 210 Hits 20 HRs 27 BBs 99 SOs 12-10 3.72 ERA

Age: 34
Agent Bo McKinnis
Career ERA: 4.23
Career K/BB ratio: 2.25

Pros: Byrd is having a solid year for the A's. His K/BB ratio has been very good over the last 2 years. He's familiar with the organization, so that could be a plus.

Cons: This is Byrd's first full season pitching since 2002. So, his durability is still questionable. He's also 34 years old. There was also some talk about him not wanting to come back to Kansas City.

Ted Lilly

2002 100 IP 80 Hits 15 HRs 31 BBs 77 SOs 5-7 3.61 ERA
2003 178 IP 179 Hits 24 HRs 58 BBs 147 SOs 12-10 4.34 ERA
2004 197 IP 171 Hits 26 HRs 89 BBs 168 SOs 12-10 4.06 ERA
2005 122 IP 132 Hits 23 HRs 56 BBs 96 SOs 9-11 5.67 ERA

Age: 29
Agent: N/A
Career ERA: 4.68
Career K/BB: 2.14

Pros: Lilly has good stuff and has been a solid pitcher at times. This is his first bad year in the past 4.

Cons: Lilly's control hasn't been particularly good. He's also really struggled this year, so offering him more than a one-year deal would be risky. He seems a lot like Affeldt, so I'd almost rather just convert Affeldt back to a starter. According to the ESPN scouting report, "Lilly has faced nagging questions about his focus throughout his career". Sounds like he'd fit in great.

Other options: Scott Elarton, Jason Johnson, Jeff Suppan (option)

I'd like to see the Royals pick up two starters, preferably one from the upper tier and one from the middle tier. I agree that Matt Morris is probably the Royals' best option for finding an above-average starter who will be consistently good for the next 3 years. Unfortunately, all of these starters are getting old, so they may have a good 2006, but beyond that (when the Royals are hopefully contending), they may no longer be effective. That said, the Royals must be very careful about making a significant financial commitment.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Spendin' Spree

With David Glass pledging to spend at least $50 million on player salaries next season, the Royals should be in line to make several key acquisitions and a decent possibility of adding a frontline starter, provided they overpay somewhat in terms of years or average annual salary. If the Royals want to stay in the $50 to $60 million window for the next few years, they're actually better off paying more money upfront, since their young players will start to become arbitration eligible in droves beginning in 2007. But let's focus on next season for now.

The Royals have the following obligations for 6 roster slots in 2006:

Mike Sweeney - $11 million
Angel Berroa - $2 million
Matt Stairs - $1.35 million
Jeremy Affeldt (arbitration) ~ $1.2 million
Runelvys Hernandez (arbitration) ~ $1 million
Emil Brown (arbitration?) ~ $1 million

I think there's a decent chance that Sweeney gets traded this offseason, but I'm counting him as being on the roster for the time being. I'm also estimating that another 13 roster spots will be filled by pre-arbitration eligible players at an average salary of about $350,000 each, for a total of $4.55 million. Scott Sullivan is also due a roster buyout of $300,000. That's a total of 19 roster spots @ a cost of $22.4 million, leaving $27.6 million for 6 open roster spots.

Contrary to the belief of some cynics, I have no reason to believe David Glass will not spend the money. It makes no sense whatsoever to publicly commit yourself to a specific dollar figure and subsequently not do it. If Glass was not committed to spending that much on payroll, then he could have easily equivocated by remaining vague about the payroll. But he didn't - he gave us a real dollar figure for 2006. David Glass might be a lot of things, but I don't think he's a baldface liar.

Frankly, I don't see how he couldn't have done this following two consecutive seasons with less than 60 wins. Serious Royals analysts might not care much about how the Royals spend money on free agents because they understand that in the end the Royals are not going to find glory through free agency; au contraire, the Royals' future success is almost entirely dependent upon drafting and developing solid major league baseball. But to the much larger casual fan base, Glass has to send a message that he's not going to tolerate being the cesspool of the league. That's probably going to mean spending $30 million to make this a 90-loss team instead of a 105-loss team, but its the act of progress that is more important to most fans than the absolute result.

The other concern that many fans have about this spending bonanza is that the man responsible for choosing how to spend it, Allard Baird, has a, er, sketchy track record in this regard. Baird has made some highly questionable moves, but he's also been snakebitten with moves that were considered good at the time of the signing but turned out to be complete disasters. He also has more money to spend this time so he doesn't necessarily need to avoid the higher dollar free agents that not only have more talent but also have a lower risk of collapse.

What does a 56-win team need? Oh, lots of things: a starting pitcher, another starting pitcher, one more starting pitcher, a veteran reliever and a corner outfielder. The 2006 free agent crop is quite uninspiring, actually, but here are some thoughts:

1) Matt Morris for 3 years, $29 million. Morris is a pitcher the Royals need to target and be prepared to overpay if necessary. He's a model of consistency - over his 8 major league seasons, his WHIP has never been lower than 1.18 nor higher than 1.30. His K-to-BB ratio is 3:1 practically every season. He's not an ace on a contending team, but he'd add desperately needed stability and experience to the front end of this staff. And he's played on winning teams for most of his career, so he understands what it means to experience both individual and team success, a commodity that is far too rare on these Royals.

Chances are Morris will re-sign with the Cardinals, but perhaps he could be lured with the prospect of helping to lead a once-great franchise back to prosperity - and tons of cash.

2) Ted Lilly for 3 years, $16.5 million. This would be a bit of risky move for the Royals, as Lilly is coming off a disappointing walk year performance, and I believe he's been working back slowly following a shoulder injury. But Lilly's 2003 and 2004 performances were solid, showing high strikeout rates coupled with less-than-stellar walk rates. He's still maturing as a pitcher and would nicely into the #2/#3 role with the Royals. I think he could also be had at a reasonable price given his poor 2005 performance.

3) Esteban Loaiza for 2 years, $8 million. Loaiza is already 35 years old and was a tantalizing flake of a talent until his career-year breakthrough in 2003. He predictably fell back to earth in 2004, but he really wasn't all that bad for the White Sox that season (though he did stink with the Yankees). He's been solid for the Nationals this season, benefiting from playing in a canyon but still posting solid fielding independent statistics (168K:54BB). In short, he's ranged from pretty effective to outstanding for 2.5 of the past 3 years and throws extremely hard with good movement. He'll be a fine #2/3 starter for the Royals and will allow Greinke to do his thing as a #3 instead of having to be The Man at age 22.

4) Scott Elarton for 2 years, $5 million. I like Elarton's upside as a #3/4 starter. He's still quite young at 28 and has bounced back well with Cleveland the past two seasons and struggling with injuries since 2001. He's never going to be great, but I believe Elarton has a much better chance to solidify the backend of the rotation than practically all of the other candidates the Royals have in or close to the majors now.

5) Braden Looper for 2 years, $4 million. I've come to this choice for a veteran bullpen arm by process of elimination rather than a strong preference either way. My first choice would probably be to add Tom Gordon in this spot, but I'm afraid that he's going to be far too expensive and the Royals really don't have any business spending a lot of money on free agent middle relievers. My second choice, and pardon me for this, is Kyle Farnsworth, who probably has the best stuff in the bunch and is still relatively young. I'm sure Jeremy Affeldt wouldn't want him as a teammate, but I can't worry much about Jeremy's feelings right now. Again, though, I'm sure there will be heavy bidding for Farnsworth's services. My other choice probably would have been Ryan Dempster, but I don't consider him to be much better than Looper. The difference is that Dempster is coming off a 30-save season which "establishes" his credentials as a closer (and inflates his salary), while Looper is coming off a relatively poor season so his demand will be depressed.

6) Jose Cruz Jr. 2 years, $8 million. The Royals need a starting left fielder. I don't love Cruz, but he's league average with good defensive skills.

Royals' Financial Picture


The Royals are in good financial shape for next year. The only guaranteed contracts for next year are Sweeney's and Berroa's, totaling $13 million. Affeldt, Hernandez, and Brown will be eligible for arbitration.

Other players making league-minimum or so: Mike MacDougal (375), Zack Greinke (350), David DeJesus (350), Chip Ambres (325), Mike Wood (325), John Buck (325), Denny Bautista (325), Mark Teahan (325), Ruben Gotay (325), Andrew Sisco (325), JP Howell (325), Ambiorix Burgos (325), Leo Nunez (325), Kyle Snyder (325), DJ Carrasco (350), Justin Huber (325)

Without the 3 players eligible for arbitration, the payroll would be around $20 million. With the 3 arbitration-eligible players, the payroll will be closer to $25 million. With Glass supposedly committing $50+ million to next year's payroll, the Royals could have as much as an additional $25 million to spend this offseason. However, whether or not the Royals can use that full $25 million depends on the Royals' financial picture beyond 2006, unless they plan on giving out $25 million in one-year contracts. Whether the money is spent or not also depends on Glass's willingness to give 3 or 4-year contracts to above-average players.


Financial Commitments: Mike Sweeney ($11 million), Angel Berroa ($3.25 million)

Arbitration eligible:
Third-year: Jeremy Affeldt
Second-year: Emil Brown, Runelvys Hernandez
First-year: Mike MacDougal, Jimmy Gobble, Kyle Snyder, DJ Carrasco
Super Twos? Zack Greinke (2 yrs, 135 days), David DeJesus (2 yrs, 146 days)

The new arbitration-eligible players and arbitration increases could add $10 million or so in new payroll. Brown, Snyder, Gobble, and Carrasco may not be on the major league roster after 2006, so that could help. DeJesus is pretty much a lock to be a Super Two and Greinke has probably a 50% chance of being a Super Two (being arbitration-eligible a year early). The Royals' base payroll looks like it would be in the neighborhood of $30-35 million.

FAs after 2007: Mike Sweeney, Jeremy Affeldt


Major Financial Commitments: Angel Berroa ($4.75)

2007-2008 offseason Arbitration eligible:
First-Year: Zack Greinke, David DeJesus, Mike Wood, John Buck, Mark Teahan, Denny Bautista, Ruben Gotay, Andrew Sisco
Second-Year: Mike MacDougal, Jimmy Gobble, Kyle Snyder, DJ Carrasco
Third-Year: Runelvys Hernandez

FAs after 2008: Runelvys Hernandez, Angel Berroa (option for 2009)

The Royals unload Sweeney's contract after 2007. Berroa's contract starts to be a bit of a burden, but not too terrible. By 2008, I think the Royals payroll could be near $60 million if the Royals are competing. Glass has shown that he is willing to spend money if the Royals are contending and put up a $53 million payroll at the start of 2004. With any improvements in revenue sharing and increased revenues from not losing 100 games, a $60 million payroll doesn't seem unreasonable. But, a significant portion of that payroll will be going to the young players. However, these increases should be offset by Sweeney's contract ending.


The Royals have about $25 million to spend this offseason, $15-20 million in 2007 and 2008. Losing Sweeney's contract helps offset a large potential payroll increase due to arbitration. So, it seems reasonable that the Royals could offer $15-20 million in 3-year contracts to a couple of their top free agent choices. The rest of the money could be spent on one or two year deals.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Streaking into the Wilderness

Now I know how Galileo must have felt - my revolutionary thoughts have been prevented from reaching the mainstream for days by the sinister Blogger software. OK, Galileo may have suffered a bit more, but he still never had to deal with Blogger.

(Interlude: I'm still trying to learn to like Out of Exile, Audioslave's latest offering. It just can't match the sheer musical genius and intensity of their debut.)

The Weatherman beat me to the punch, but since I'm feeling chipper about the Royals after a bloodier-than-rare 4 game sweep of the Detroit Tigers (Denny Hocking! The 3,500 in attendance must have gone hog wild), I'd thought I'd dig deep into the very foundations of the franchise to find some "momentum builders" heading into the offseason that aren't just based on a player having a good September, which isn't enough to change my impressions of how they've performed through the course of a 6-month season (this means you, John Buck and Zack Greinke).

I came up with two:

1) Andres Blanco is a spectacular defensive second baseman. So dazzling, in fact, that I headed to the Hardball Times win share calculations for second basemen to get an idea of what I could expect from an all-defense, no hitting second baseman in the starting lineup. Granted, fielding measures are still fairly unrefined and subjective, but this at least gives us some idea of what Blanco is up against if he wants to be at least a league average second baseman.

The top-rated defensive second baseman in the major leagues by fielding win shares is Orlando Hudson, who has garned 8.1 shares. An average second baseman in the AL produces about 15 total win shares per season. Assuming Blanco's offensive win share contribution approaches the level of a player like Omar Infante, to the tune of .222/.254/.361 (which over the course of 150 games equals about 4.9 batting win shares per season), Blanco would need to contribute about 10 fielding win shares per season to be an average second baseman. That would require him to be about 25% more prolific defensively than the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball.

I don't think that's unrealistic given what I've seen from Blanco in the field. The contributions required to be an average SS are about the same, so the Royals could plug him in at short or 2B and have themselves something close to a league average second baseman for the next 6 years. If his offense improves at all, they'll have an above average second baseman. Plus, there's the indirect benefit of boosting the confidence their young pitchers have in the defense playing behind them.

As long as Berroa is shown the door, I'd feel pretty good about the Gotay-Murphy-Blanco troika manning the middle infield for this team for the next several years. But the Royals are stubborn with sunk costs, so I have no doubt that Berroa will continue to play everyday as the value of his contract increases (and his output per dollar shrinks).

2) Emil Brown might be a keeper. Emil Brown is the anti-Blanco. He might just be the worst defensive outfielder in the American League. He commits an unbelievable number of errors for a right fielder, has poor range and questionable “field presence”. But did you realize that Emil Brown is the 7th highest rated right fielder in all of baseball in terms of VORP and has produced the 10th most batting win shares among ALL outfielders in the AL? There really aren’t too many corner outfielders who are more productive with the bat.

Do I think Emil Brown is an above average right fielder? No. But I do think he’s probably a league average corner outfielder, and he’ll only cost the Royals two things for the next two years – less than $400,000 per season and a spot on the 40-man roster. He’s producing about as well as Jermaine Dye at a fraction of the cost. If nothing else, he’d be one of the best 4th outfielders in baseball. Brown would be fine batting 6th or 7th on a team that actually produced quality position players from their amateur drafts. But when he’s your second-best hitter…

-- And now, David Glass has announced his intention to increase the payroll to at least $50 million next season. With existing contracts expiring and the anticipated raises for remaining players, that gives the Royals $25 million to work with next year. The Weatherman has already opined below, and I'll post my thoughts about this development and what the Royals should do with this booty tomorrow, Blogger willing.

Looking Ahead: Offseason

In the Kansas City Star today, Glass said the Royals' payroll will be "$50 million-plus". To get to $50 million, the Royals will have to spend $25 to 30 million this offseason. Giving Baird that much money to spend this offseason seems like a great way to ensure the Royals won't compete anytime soon. But, perhaps with some extra money to spend, Baird can set his eyes on better players, instead of settling for Limas. I suppose that's the best we can hope for, because Glass also reiterated that Baird will return next year.

The Royals' financial situation is in pretty good shape, with just Hernandez, Brown, and Affeldt arbitration eligible for next year. So, the Royals' base payroll will be around $20 to 25 million. If Mike Sweeney gets traded, that could free up an addition $11 million. What will the Royals do with all this money?

Starting rotation: The first and most obvious need is the starting rotation. The Royals' starters have the worst ERA in baseball, 2 full points below the Twins, Indians, and White Sox. The Royals have some serious work to do. If the Royals aren't going to develop their own starting pitching, they are going to pay a hefty price. AJ Burnett, the only true ace available, will likely command a 4 or 5 year deal worth $12+ million per year. The next tier of No. 2/3 starters includes Matt Morris, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Millwood, and Jarrod Washburn. This group, filled with Boras clients, will likely command 3+ years at $7-10 million each. The Royals, if they can somehow convince one of these pitchers to come to Kansas City, could certainly improve their rotation. However, none of these guys are great starters. That's a big financial commitment, but I don't think the Royals have any other choice.

The second-tier is probably more realistic. This tier includes Paul Byrd, Kenny Rogers, Estaben Loaiza, and Jason Johnson. These starters will probably commmand a two-year deal worth $4-6 million per year. If the Royals could land one of the top tier starters and a pitcher from the second-tier, that should improve the rotation substantially. If Greinke pitches like he has in September and Hernandez's command improves, the Royals could have an average rotation next year.

Position Players: The Royals' second most important need is probably an offensive upgrade somewhere. With the exception of CF and 1B, the Royals could use an upgrade offensively at just about any position. Most likely, this upgrade will occur at a corner outfield spot or a middle infield spot. The Royals have expressed an interest in acquiring and an outfielder and a second basemen and would have the financial resources to do so.

The free agent outfield crop isn't particularly exciting. Johnny Damon, Brian Giles, Sammy Sosa, Jacque Jones, Matt Lawton, as well as many other older, not particularly good outfielders. With Butler, Maier, Lubanski, Costa, and Ambres almost ready to challenge for big league jobs, giving any of these free agents more than a one-year deal would seem unwise.

The second base free agents aren't very exciting either. But, the Royals could find a solid veteran to allow Murphy, Gotay, and Blanco to develop instead of being badly overmatched. Tony Graffanino or Mark Grudzielanek would be good candidates.

Relievers:The Royals could probably use a veteran reliever to help anchor a young bullpen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Positive September Signs

Several of the young players are having good months of September so far, perhaps giving us some hope for next year. John Buck and Jimmy Gobble had great Septembers last year, and that meant nothing for this season, so I suppose it could be meaningless as well. But, perhaps the players having good Septembers have made some progress.

Zack Greinke: Greinke is probably having the best September overall, especially considering how much he struggled throughout the middle part of the season. Greinke has a 2.96 ERA for the month of September and has a good K/BB ratio of 3. Greinke seemed to pitch better in August, but he was still giving up a lot of hits. If his sophomore slump is over, Greinke will be a solid league-average or better starter next year.

John Buck: Buck is having another solid September. Buck finished last season with 11 HRs in the last two months. Buck has a .910 OPS for September with 3 HRs. Without his slow start, Buck probably hit .250-260. So, hopefully Buck will be in that range next year with 15 HR power. With solid defense behind the plate, that will make Buck a solid catcher for us.

Mark Teahan: Teahan is hitting .276 and has an OPS of .780 for the month of September. Teahan’s plate discipline improved throughout the year. Teahan drew just 5 walks in April, May and June and walked 11 times in both July and August. Teahan has been a well-below average 3rd basemen offensively this year. But, he should improve and hopefully can become a 40-double hitter with 10-15 HR power. Otherwise, Mr. Gordon will gladly take his job.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

2005: The Good, the Bad, and the Royals

This season has been quite awful. There are a few bright spots, but not really enough to say this team is headed in the right direction.

The Good:

1. Bullpen Trio: MacDougal has become an effective closer for the Royals, saving 18 of 21 games so far. MacDougal has been much more consistent, but still makes you nervous. Burgos has been great in the setup role. The 21-year-old has an amazing arm, which is exactly why he belongs in the bullpen as MacDougal's setup man throwing 1/3 as many innings as he would as a starter. Rule V Pick Andy Sisco has also been a very pleasant surprise. Opponents' SLG% against Sisco is just .322.

2. David DeJesus: DeJesus had a solid sophomore season, doing exactly what the Royals expected. DeJesus continued to play solid defense, get on-base, and improved offensively (OPS improved from .763 to .804). DeJesus is a solid player, but he's not a player you can build a team around.

3. Hernandez: Runelvys recovered from TJ surgery and has had a solid year. His control should improve next year and he should be a league-average starter. Like DeJesus, Hernandez is a solid starter, but not one you can build your rotation around.

4. Butler and Huber: Butler and Huber established themselves as top hitting prospects by having great seasons in the minors. Hopefully, they give the Royals two excellent bats in the middle of the lineup.

The Bad

1. Terrence Long: While we were able to get rid of Darrell May, we got nothing useful in return. Aaron Guiel, Abraham Nunez, or any AAAA player could put up the same numbers that Long has playing everyday.

2. Mark Teahan: Teahan was prematurely promoted, even though Chris Truby was healthy after a few weeks into the season (and we had Hocking and McEwing available as well). Teahan hasn't shown much ability offensively, posting a .655 OPS. While I don't put much stock in defensive statistics, I think it's noteworthy that Teahan has the 2nd worst fielding percentage, worst zone rating, 4th worst error total (would have led it if he hadn't missed April). So, I don't see much to backup Teahan's "gold-glove" caliber defense at 3rd. Maybe Teahan and Sean Burroughs can fight for a spot on the PCL All-Star team. I don't think Teahan will be a regular 3rd basemen. I think it's more likely Teahan turns into Joe McEwing than Joe Randa. Better sign Gordon.

The Ugly (Royals):

1. Tony Pena: Adios Pena! As wonderful as the departure of Pena was, the hiring of Buddy Bell nearly ruined whatever progress the Royals made by firing Pena. At least we don't have to listen to Pena's dumb slogans or mumbling.

2. Angel Berroa: Berroa's sophomore slump continued into 2005. Berroa's lack of focus and plate discipline make him a below-average player with above-average tools. The Royals have no clue how to develop players. So Angel, figure it out yourself.

3. Joe McEwing/Tony Graffanino playing 1B: I still don't understand the need for two utility guys on the roster. McEwing playing in the outfield brought back bad memories from the "Pena" era, which is starting to look somewhat respectable compared to this team.

4. Zack Greinke: Zack regressed badly this year. Unfortunately, just 1 Royal starter has recovered from their sophomore slump since Kevin Appier, so don't get your hopes up.

5. JP Howell: Howell wasn't and still isn't ready to pitch in the major leagues. But, the Royals have poor starting depth, so he was called upon.

So, in summary, the "youth movement" is basically built around two average players (DeJesus, Hernandez) and some nice bullpen arms. Teahan, Gotay, Berroa, Buck, Greinke all regressed or didn't improve. It's looking more and more like the "youth movement" was a last ditch effort by Baird to save his job. If I was the owner of the Kansas City Royals, Baird would be gone. Small-market teams need excellent GMs, not terrible ones or even average ones. Would anyone even venture to call Baird an average GM? I just don't understand how the Royals can let Baird's teams continue to set franchise records for losses and not think twice about it. That's not signs of progress. This franchise was in bad shape in 2000 when Baird inherited it. It's in worse shape now. Don't let a couple hitting prospects fool you into believing the Royals have a top farm system because they don't. They have poor depth and just a couple promising bats. Just needed to vent. Football season is here, go Chiefs! At least there is one respectable sports franchise in Kansas City.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another Day

Joe Posnanski's article today sums up very nicely the rotting stinkpit that the 2005 Royals are.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Blogger Blotter

Larry Simpson, er, Johnson was arrested today for allegedly shoving his "girlfriend" in a bar late Friday night/Saturday morning. Even though the incident took place more than 36 hours before gametime Sunday, oddly enough he wasn't arrested until....Tuesday.

This is Johnson's second reported domestic abuse against a female companion. I find it very difficult to root for large, muscular men who feel its their privilege to beat up women when they do things that displease them. I wouldn't buy into Johnson's denials and the semi-recantation of the victim. There's smoke here...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Could there be anything more mind-numbing...

... than paying attention to the Royals right now? If the depressed traffic on this site is any indication, then I'm on to something. In a decade of haplessness, this September takes the cake for the most uninteresting month of baseball in the history of the sport. Instead of watching Chip Ambres, Justin Huber, Donnie Murphy etc. play everyday, we are treated to the likes of Terrence Long, Matt Stair, Joe McEwing, Denny Hocking, Aaron Guiel nearly every day, which will put a collicky baby to sleep posthaste. I recognize that Buddy Bell's job is to try to win every game (although pitching to ARod with two outs and runners at second and third in the midest of another epic collapse undermines his integrity in that effort), and for whatever reason he believes that Terrence Long and the Bunch give him the best chance to win. Bell's lineups don't seem to fit with the idea that this is a rebuilding season and time for young players to learn the game at the major league level, but it's all a big yawn to me at this point. There is nothing that can salvage this season other than it ending as quickly as hunanly possible. I can't wait for the season to end so I can actually begin to look forward to something - free agency, where I can look forward to being disappointed once again.

-- Although my #1 team is the Royals, my #2 is being an active member of the Anti-Yankee Brigade. With less than 20 games to play, the Yankees are actually on the outside of the playoff picture right now, and I am desperately rooting for the Indians or A's (unlikely after losing Crosby) to take the wild card (I highly doubt the Yankees can pass the Red Sox for the division title). The Indians have been playing some inspired baseball in the past 2 months, and if their starting pitching can hold up it will be very tough for the Yankees to surpass them. Cleveland also has the good fortune of playing the Royals 7 times in the final games of the season, and I hereby give my blessing for the Royals to lose each and every one of those games in the spirit of helping the Yankee miss the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.

-- Switching over to the Daily Redcoat...

... the Chiefs played nearly flawless football against a flat-footed Jets team. I was most impressed with the run defense, which turned in a stout performance for a unit that has been a festering wound for the past few years. It all comes down to run defense this season - if the Chiefs can play stout against the run and turn their opponents into one-dimensional passing teams against should be a pretty good secondary once Warfield drives (inebriated, of course) back to the stadium, this team will win at least 12 games and take the division title. If the run defense fails, then it's going to be another mediocre season.

-- Derrick Johnson is a beast. It's been a long time since I've seen a Chief defender with that kind of athletic ability. We're going to have to live with the blown assignments and playing out of position, but that's the price you have to pay to keep a young guy who is so uniquely talented on the field. The benefits will outweigh the negatives, I'm sure.

-- Two great cornerbacks lured two pretty good quarterbacks into interceptions yesterday. Surtain made an excellent interception on Pennington by leading him to believe he was covering elsewhere (on the play that ended in his concussion; godspeed, Patrick), and Ty Law suckered Trent Green with his end-zone interception. Trent has problems with the end zone interception, but in this case you tip your cap (if you're wearing one).

-- Priest Holmes' "touchdown" was a thing of beauty, even if he was down at the 1.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Farm System: Year in Review Part III

I can't believe I found more than 20 prospects in the Royals farm system, but I did. Here's the last 10 and a few sleepers.

21. Brian McFall 21/OF: McFall is very athletic and has shown good power and speed over the past couple of years. McFall hit 14 HRs and stole 17 bases in 20 attempts. He struck out at almost one-third of his plate appearances, so that will have to improve. His numbers should improve considerably at High Desert.

Low A 364 ABs .234/.319/.401

22. Matt Campbell 22/SP: Campbell's had an injury-filled pro career thus far. Campbell has a good curveball that's tough on lefties. So, he could end up as a setup man if he can stay healthy.

Low A 1-5 4.66 ERA 63.2 IP 74 Hs 37 BBs 48 Ks

23. Joseph Dickerson 18/OF: Dickerson was quickly tabbed a signability pick, which he may very well have been. But, it has worked out. Dickerson put up solid number in the Arizona Rookie League and will likely move up to Idaho Falls next season.

AZL 214 ABs .294/.371/.491 12 2Bs 9 3Bs 4 HRs 40 RBIs

24. Mario Lisson 21/IF: Lisson had a pretty good season at Burlington before getting injured. Lisson showed good on-base skills and excellent speed. He's a solid sleeper.

Low A 260 ABs .250/.386/.408 15 2Bs 6 HRs 36 RBIs 23 SBs

25. Rayner Oliveros 19/SP: Oliveros had a very good debut this year. He had an outstanding K/BB ratio of almost 10.

AZL 7-1 2.39 ERA 75.1 IP 5 BBs 48 SOs

26. Devon Lowery 22/SP: Lowery really struggled at Wichita to begin the season. But, he recovered from an injury and pitched well at High Desert. Lowery has a good sinking fastball and an average slider and change. Lowery must improve his control to become a successful pitcher in the big leagues.

High A 6-3 3.84 ERA 70.1 IP 70 Hs 25 BBs 50 SOs

27. Kiel Thibault 21/C: Thibault played well at Idaho Falls. His 7 errors in 41 games is too high for a catcher. But, he had a .593 SLUG%.

Pio 145 ABs .310/.388/.593 12 2Bs 9 HRs 34 RBIs

28. Henry Barrera 19/RP: Barrera had a solid debut in the AZL. Barrera throws in the mid-90s, so he could eventually become another one of the Royals' power bullpen arms.

AZL 1-1 4.73 ERA 26.2 IP 33 Hs 9 BBs 23 SOs

29. Eric Cordier 19/SP: Cordier had miscellaneous injuries that kept him from pitching this year. Fortunately, none were to his great arm. Cordier throws in the low 90s and should add more velocity.

30. Miguel Vega 20/1B: Vega had an injury-shortened season. He has excellent raw power and could develop into a very good hitter if he can harness it.

134 ABs .276/.310/.433 8 2Bs 3 HRs 14 RBIs

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Farm System: Year In Review Part II

11. Billy Buckner 22/SP: Buckner had a pretty good season, earning a quick promotion to High Desert. Buckner's K/BB ratio was solid throughout the season, but he allowed a lot of hits. Buckner's ERA was slightly-below California league average. Considering that Buckner relies heavily on an excellent curve (doesn't break as well at high elevations) and pitched half his games in a hitter's paradise, he had a pretty good season. Buckner could be a No. 4/5 starter in a couple of years.

Low A 3-7 3.88 ERA 60 IP 66 Hs 17 BBs 60 SOs
High A 5-6 5.36 ERA 94 IP 105 Hs 46 BBs 92 SOs

12. Kila Kaaihue 21/1B: Kaaihue had an excellent season at High Desert. Most impressive is his plate discipline, drawing 97 walks. Kaaihue hit 53 extra-base hits and had a .925 OPS.

High A 493 ABs .304/.428/.497 31 2Bs 20 HRs 90 RBIs

13. Mitch Maier 23/OF: Maier had a pretty good season. He hit 47 doubles and 15 HRs between two hitter-friendly leagues. Maier struggled at AA with just a .705 OPS. Maier's strongest assets are his basestealing abilities (16 for 20) and his defense (can play all three outfield spots well). Maier hasn't shown much power yet, which will be needed as a corner outfielder. Maier will likely start at AA and probably make his debut next year.

High A 221 ABs .336/.370/.583 26 2Bs 8 HRs 32 RBIs
AA 322 ABs .255/.289/.416 21 2Bs 7 HRs 49 RBIs

14. Chris Nicoll 21/SP: Nicoll had a good pro debut. Nicoll has good command of a three-pitch repertoire. His polish should help him move quickly and he'll start at Burlington next year.

Pio 0-3 3.62 ERA 27.1 IP 26 Hs 9 BBs 34 SOs

15. Adam Donachie 21/C: Donachie put together a very nice season. Donachie's career has been inhibited by injuries. Donachie is an excellent defensive catcher and started to show some offensive abilities as well. AA will be a good test for Donachie and his High Desert teammates.

High A 347 ABs .294/.375/.467 24 2Bs 12 HRs 48 RBIs

16. Mike Aviles 24/Util: Aviles committed 41 errors. The rest of the Wichita team committed 56. Aviles is still light-years away from the big leagues defensively. He had a solid season offensively, with 53 extra-base hits. Aviles could become a utility guy with a solid bat.

AA 521 ABs .280/.318/.447 33 2Bs 14 HRs 80 RBIs

17. Juan Cedeno 21/RP: Cedeno was rushed to AA and didn't perform well. Nonetheless, a lefty with a mid-90s fastball has a lot of potential, thus justifying his spot on the list.

High A 2-6 5.49 ERA 80.1 IP 85 Hs 37 BBs 71 SOs
AA 0-2 7.20 ERA 20.0 IP 21 Hs 11 BBs 16 SOs

18. Brent Fisher 18/SP: Fisher had a great debut in the Arizona Rookie League. Fisher's K/BB was outstanding (69/13). Fisher was also tough to hit, allowing just 48 hits and 2 HRs in 50 IP.

AZL 5-2 3.04 ERA 50.1 IP 48 Hs 13 BBs 69 SOs

19. Chad Blackwell 22/RP: Blackwell had a solid season as the closer for Burlington. His K/BB was very good and he wasn't very hittable. Blackwell's deceptive delivery and good command make him tough to hit.

Low A 7-4 2.23 ERA 68.2 IP 62 Hs 27 BBs 74 SOs

20. Gary Perez ??/IF: Perez had a good debut, tearing up Idaho Falls. Perez's defense is questionable. Perez will likely start at Burlington next year.

Pio 127 ABs .362/.465/.559 11 2Bs 2 HRs 23 RBIs
Low A 115 ABs .252/.301/.409 6 2Bs 4 HRs 16 RBIs

21-30 coming soon!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Farm System: Year In Review

The minor league regular seasons have ended. The Royals' farm system had a pretty good year, considering the number of promotions during the year. Billy Butler and Justin Huber continued to establish themselves as top hitting prospects. On the pitching end, the farm system didn't make much progress. Most of the Royals' prospects have moved up to the next level and had success. Here's a look at the Royals' top prospects and their performance this season:

1. Billy Butler 19/LF: Butler has had a phenomenal season. Butler is easily the Royals' minor league player of the year. Butler tore up the California League, hitting .348 with 30 doubles and 25 HRs. Butler struggled, relatively speaking, at AA, but still had 14 extra base hits in 112 ABs. Butler did a pretty good job of adjusting to AA. Butler will be playing in the Arizona Fall League and will compete for a roster spot in Spring Training. Butler would be best served to start next season in AA and make a stop at AAA before joining the big league team. Given the Royals' pathetic situation at the corner outfield spots, he'll likely make his major-league debut early next year.

AA 112 ABs .313/.357/.527 9 2Bs 5 HRs 19 RBIs
High A 379 ABs .348/.419/.636 30 2Bs 25 HRs 91 RBIs

2. Justin Huber 23/1B: Huber has also had a great season, dominating AA again. Huber's minor league career has been very similar to Mike Sweeney, who was converted from catcher to 1st base. Although he struck out 103 times, Huber walked 68 times. Huber will play in the Arizona Fall League and likely have a full-time role at 1B/DH next year. Hopefully, Huber will develop into another Mike Sweeney.

AA 335 ABs .343/.432/.570 22 2Bs 16 HRs 74 RBIs
AAA 113 ABs .274/.374/.540 7 2Bs 7 HRs 23 RBIs
ML 29 ABs .207/.233/.241 1 2Bs 0 HRs 4 RBIs

3. JP Howell 22/SP: Howell has had a successful first full pro season. Howell breezed through short stints at high A and AA. Howell had a great first start, but has been knocked around. Howell's control must improve with his well below-average velocity. Once that happens, Howell could become a No. 3 or 4 starter.

High A 3-1 1.96 ERA 46 IP 33 Hits 24 BBs 48 SOs
AA 2-0 2.50 ERA 18 IP 12 Hits 5 BBs 23 SOs
AAA 3-1 4.06 ERA 37.2 IP 40 Hits 19 BBs 29 SOs
ML 1-5 7.08 ERA 48.1 IP 54 Hits 25 BBs 34 SOs

4. Chris Lubanski 20/CF: Lubanski had a successful season after having a terrible start. Lubanski put up amazing numbers, driving in 116 runs. However, he struck out 131 times and walked just 38. AA will be the best test for Lubanski. Lubanski hit 72 extra base hits, which is remarkable even in a hitter's haven. Lubanski still has a lot to work on, but could be ready by 2007.

High A 531 ABs .301/.349/.554 38 2Bs 28 HRs 116 ABs 14 SBs

5. Jeffrey Bianchi 18/SS: Bianchi had a outstanding debut in the Arizona Rookie League. A back injury prevented him from having more than 98 ABs. But, he was sensational nonetheless. Bianchi will likely start out at Idaho Falls or Burlington next year.

AZL .408/.484/.745 98 ABs 7 2Bs 4 3Bs 6 HRs 30 RBIs

6. Luis Cota 19/SP: Cota had a solid season as one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. Cota got off to a great start, but struggling down the stretch. Cota has a very good fastball, but will need to improve his command. That said, given his lack of command and minor league experience, he would be an excellent candidate to be rushed to the majors as a reliever, a la Burgos or Nunez.

Low A 5-8 4.01 ERA 148 IP 143 H 137 SOs 63 BBs

7. Chris McConnell 19/SS: McConnell had a very good season at Idaho Falls. McConnell is considered an excellent defender, so his bat was a nice surprise. McConnell will likely start at Burlington next year or could jump to High Desert.

Pio 262 ABs .328/.402/.511 16 2Bs 7 3Bs 6 HRs 36 RBIs

8. Leo Nunez 22/RP: Nunez had a pretty good season considering how quickly the Royals promoted him. Nunez throws a lot of strikes, although too many find the middle of the plate. Nunez pitched well at AA, but has struggled at the major league level. Nunez projects as a solid setup man.

AA 1-0 0.69 ERA 13 IP 2 BBs 14 SOs
ML 3-2 8.23 ERA 42.2 IP 13 BBs 26 SOs

9. Shane Costa 23/OF: Costa had an okay season, making his major league debut. Costa still hasn't shown enough power to be more than a 4th outfielder. Costa may split time with Ambres in LF next season until Butler is ready.

AA 277 ABs .282/.349/.448 18 2Bs 8 HRs 43 RBIs
ML 81 ABs .235/.287/.333 2 2Bs 2 HRs 7 RBIs

10. Andres Blanco 21/SS: Blanco has had a pretty good season. He's hit 4 HRs and shown some improvement offensively.

AAA 114 ABs .254/.331/.351 4 2Bs 1 HR 9 RBIs

11-20 coming soon!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Pitching Expectations for 2006

The 2005 season has been a disappointment. While the Royals didn't do much in the offseason to improve the team, I was hopeful that the Royals young players would develop and improve as the season progressed. If a few cases, that happened. DeJesus had a solid sophomore campaign, becoming the second-best hitter on the team. Sisco and Burgos have had great rookie seasons, even though both were in A ball last year. But, I'm afraid the negatives outweighed the positives. Expectations were highest for Zack Greinke, who has had a terrible sophomore campaign. Greinke's control has regressed, with his K/BB ratio dropping from an excellent 3.84 to 2.02. Expectations were also high for John Buck, who many Royals fans thought would have a 15-20 HR season. The lack of development of Teahan, Buck, and Gotay was disappointing as well. Hopefully, in 2006 we'll see more contributions from the young players.

Here's what I hope to see next year from our pitchers:

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke needs to pitch around league-average or better. Greinke's defense-indepedent ERA has remained around 4.75 during both 2003 and 2004, so that's what I expect to see in 2006. Greinke is probably the Royals' best bet to become a No. 1 or 2 starter. If he can't improve his Lima-esque 6.28 ERA next year, then maybe he should take Berroa's job.

Runvelys Hernandez

Runelvys Hernandez had a good return from TJ surgery. I expect Hernandez's control to improve some, making him a league-average starter or slightly better. Hopefully, Greinke and Hernandez give the Royals two league-average starters.

DJ Carrasco

Carrasco had a nice start, but has struggled as the league has adjusted to him. Carrasco has a 6.75 ERA in July and a 6.00 ERA in August. Carrasco will compete with Wood for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Mike Wood

Wood has pitched well in 5 starts, with a 3.45 ERA. But, like Carrasco, I don't think his success will continue, but he could be a decent #5 starter or a good long reliever.

JP Howell

Howell's premature debut hopefully hasn't hurt his development. If possible, Howell would be best served to start at AAA to work on his command. He must develop excellent control of his mid-80s fastball, otherwise he won't survive.

Denny Bautista

Bautista has shown flashes of greatness. But, he faces two major issues. First, he has to get healthy and stay healthy. Second, he must improve his command and consistency of his nasty stuff. If that happens, he could have a breakout season.

Free Agent Starter(s)

The Royals will need to add one or two good starters. Hopefully, the Royals can sign a No. 2/3 starter like Paul Byrd, Estaben Loaiza, Kevin Millwood, etc and avoid the Lima-types.

Mike MacDougal

MacDougal has improved his consistency this year and has become a good closer. The Royals need him to continue that in 2006.

Jeremy Affeldt

Affeldt hasn't made any progress as a Royal. The Royals still don't know what he can do. Affeldt's trade value has dropped considerably since the trade deadline, when the Royals made the mistake of not trading him.

Andrew Sisco

Hopefully, Sisco will become a starter. He has three good pitches and has no problem getting lefties and righties out. If not, hopefully he continues to improve and build on a great rookie season in the bullpen.

Ambiorix Burgos

Burgos has had a great debut as well, considering how young he is. Burgos will likely be MacDougal's setup man.

Leo Nunez

Nunez had a rough debut after being prematurely promoted to the majors. Nunez should be a good setup man once he develops. Hopefully, the Royals bring him along slowly and he can help contribute by midseason.


Depending on their September performances, Jonah Bayliss and Jimmy Gobble may earn a roster spot. Gobble hasn't been great in relief, struggling with his command. Gobble has the stuff to be a good starter, but his command will have to improve. Bayliss has pitched well so far and could be a good middle reliever next year.

Free Agent Reliever(s)

Should the Royals' wisely try Sisco and/or Burgos in the rotation, the Royals will need to add a veteran reliever or two, which they should probably do anyway. Finding a couple of good free agent relievers would be a much more feasible than signing a couple of good starters.

Overall, the Royals have a lot of young pitchers on their team. If they can develop them, the Royals' pitching will improve considerably in 2006. If not, the Royals will continue to lose 100+ games and change pitching coaches each season.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Vegas, Baby! Yeah!

I'm spending the last days of summer in Las Vegas -- with a toddler (party!) -- so The Weatherman is flying solo on the Daily Lancer for a few days. As miffed as I am that I'm going to miss this weekend's gripping series against the Rangers, I think spending some quality time in the desert will do me some good.

Anyone want me to bet on the Royals while I'm there? I subtract a 10% convenience charge.

And I'd like to add this plea - if you can spare a few (or more than a few) bucks to send to the Red Cross or your favored relief organization to help with the relief effort in New Orleans, please do. This is the worst devastation I've seen on U.S. soil in my lifetime, and they're going to need all the resources they can get. I'm still in shock at what's happening there.

Have a fantastic Labor Day weekend.