Sunday, January 15, 2006

Organizational Review: Starting Rotation

With a new season slowly approaching, it's time to take a detailed look at the organization and the direction its heading. The Royals have a long way to go to become a contender. But, the Royals do have some of the pieces that could make that possible by 2007. I'll break down the organization's depth and talent at each position, examine the organization's direction, and look at the team's financial picture. I'll start with the starting rotation, the weakest aspect of the organization.

The starting rotation has been a big problem for the Royals for the past 10 years. The Royals have been remarkably bad at developing starting pitching. The Royals have had some pretty good offenses at times, but no pitching to go along with it. The first step toward contention is improving the starting rotation situation. The Royals' starters finished last in ERA (6.00) and pitched the fewest innings in the majors. Hopefully, the Royals' free agent additions and improved infield defense will help the starters' ERA get closer to 5.

2006 optimistic outlook: Redman, Elarton, and Mays will hopefully pitch reasonably well (ERA around 4.50-5.25) and eat innings. Zack Greinke and Runelvys Hernandez will put together at least league-average performances.

2006 pessimistic outlook: repeat of 2005

2007 and beyond:

#1 starter:

The Royals really don't have a true ace right now. The closest candidate is probably Zack Greinke, if he regained his outstanding command he showed in his 2004 debut season.

Prospects: None at the moment, Andrew Miller or the Royals' first-round pick if they draft a pitcher

#2 starter:

The Royals don't really have a No. 2 starter right now. Zack Greinke probably fits best here in the future. Greinke has 4 good pitches and pretty good command of them, so he profiles as a No. 2 starter. Denny Bautista also profiles as a No. 2 starter with 3 very good pitches. But, his lack of command, small frame and potential injuries, and the Royals' inability to develop raw pitchers will probably prevent him from reaching his ceiling. Should the Royals move Sisco or Burgos back to the rotation, they might fit here as well.

Prospects: Luis Cota (High Desert)

Cota has a good fastball (mid-90s, good movement) and pitched well in the Midwest League as one of the youngest pitchers. He has a lot of upside if he can develop his secondary pitches and improve his command.

#3 starter:

Runelvys Hernandez profiles as No. 3 starter if he can stay healthy and in shape. Hernandez will probably be a league-average pitcher as his command improves (should as he recovers from TJ surgery).

Prospects: Juan Cedeno (Wichita)

Cedeno will be a starter for Wichita this season. He's a lefty with a mid-90s fastball. Cedeno has been pretty hittable throughout his minor league career and his control hasn't been very good.

#4 starter:

JP Howell will probably be the No. 4 starter by 2007. Howell has well-below average velocity, but still manages to do a pretty good job of striking hitters out (6.69/9 IP).

Prospects: Chris Nicoll (Burlington), Billy Buckner (High Desert/Wichita)

Nicoll displayed good command in college as well as his debut at Idaho Falls. Buckner did reasonably well at High Desert after a good start at Burlington. Both have pretty average stuff.

#5 starter:

Mike Wood may be the No. 5 starter by 2007. Wood pitched pretty well as a starter during the 2005 season. He'll probably move between the long relief role and the No. 5 spot.

Prospects: Matt Campbell (Burlington), Devon Lowery (Wichita), Brian Bass (Wichita)

Other prospects with unknown ceilings: Brent Fisher, Rayner Oliverios, Eric Cordier

Overall Grade:
1. Current Starters' Performance: F
2. Current Starters' Potential: D+
3. Current Prospects Depth: F
4. Current Prospects Potential: D

Overall, the Royals' aren't in good shape here. Even the best case scanerio looks like an average rotation. The Royals have some young starters, but the depth isn't very good. Zack Greinke and JP Howell were really bad and Denny Bautista spent most of the season on the DL. Runelvys Hernandez is a decent starter, but he's getting pretty close to free agency and isn't very young. The Royals convert so few young starters into quality major league starters that the Royals most improve their depth just to fill out the rotation.

How to improve the rotation: The biggest step to improving the rotation is to draft a starter in the 2006 draft. This is the Royals' best bet to fill the void at the front of the rotation. The Royals must focus on pitching in this draft and figure out why they can't develop starting pitching.

The organizational reviews get more optimistic from here. Next up, a look at one of the bright spots in the organization: the bullpen


At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Garth Sears said...

"Zack Greinke and JP Howell were really bad ..."

I don't know if you can call Zack Greinke's season "very bad."

He had a 1.56 WHIP, an above-average K:BB ratio of over 2, he averaged 5.3 Ks per game and 2.4 BBs per game, he only allowed 1.06 HRs per 9 innings, and only 23.3% of his hits were line drives.

Basically, he put together very solid averages, but when it rained, it poured. In 18 of his 33 games, he allowed 3 or less runs. That's pretty solid.

Greinke had a disappointing year? You could say that. A very bad one? That's a bit of a stretch.

At 12:50 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

All things considered, I'd say he had a very bad season. His Defense-independent ERA went from 3.36 to 5.38. His K/BB ratio went from 3.85 to 2.15. He was statistically one of the worst pitchers in the AL. I'd call that a very bad season. If he learned anything from his struggles and improves in 2006, then I'll write it off as a learning experience.

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you look at article from today about pitching Runs created, Greinke comes up relatively decent. 59th overall in the AL, and the best on the Royals team. That indicates that he was not one of the worst statistically, not extremely great either.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger DL said...

Even if you want to quibble about the facts, there's absolutely no question that Greinke was much, much worse than expected last year and that's the most important. He was disappointing enough to make me question how good he's really going to be. Unless he undergoes some radical transformation, he's going to be a low strikeout, flyball pitcher, which is not exactly a recipe for success in the major leagues. He needs absolutely impeccable control to succeed with his repertoire, and he didn't have that last year. Let's hope he gets down close to 1.5 BB/9 next season, or he's not going to have much of a chance to be an above average pitcher, much less an elite one.

The best thing to happen to Greinke last year was he pitched the entire season without injury. Considering the Royals' history, that's an accomplishment by itself.

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no doubt Greinke had a worse season in 2005 than 2004; worse K/9, worse BB/9 (Although, he did allow less home runs.)
Greinke was going progressing fairly well in the beginning of the season. --Then came his outing in Texas followed by his outing in Arizona. What came after (until September) was ugly.
I put a lot of blame in his decreased peripherals on Guy Hansen. He made adjustments to Greinke's stance as well as his pitches (mainly making Greinke throw at a harder velocity than what he was comfortable throwing at, resulting in decreased control.)

But, even though he regressed a bit in '05, a lot of failures can be attributed to a terrible defense. Historically bad, in fact.

I am really hoping his peripherals improve in 2005. I think they will. His ERA should improve just by switching out Gotay and Long with Grudz and Sanders.
Now, what to do with Angel and Emil...



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