Friday, May 12, 2006

The End of the Allard Era: Pitching Talent

After looking through the hitting talent, the new GM feels better about the team's future. The Royals have enough hitting talent to build a pretty good offense. The big question is do the Royals have enough pitching talent? No, but they are off to a pretty decent start.

The Veterans:

The Royals went out and signed a group of veteran arms that has yielded mixed results. Scott Elarton has been pretty average so far, and his success likely won't continue with the homeruns and walks piling up. Mark Redman hasn't been very good so far. The Royals' best pitching acquistion has turned out to be middle reliever Elmer Dessens. Dessens signed a two-year deal, so he should give the Royals two solid years of middle relief. Fortunately for the Royals the best signings were the long-term deals, so the Royals can keep the good pitching or use it as trade bait.

The 2003 Group:

The Royals still have 4 talented arms from the 2003 group that are at a critical stage of their careers with the club. Affeldt, Hernandez, MacDougal, and Gobble have shown the Royals flashes of their potential, but haven't been able to consistently pitch well. Hopefully they can give the Royals a couple of solid years before they become free agents, but it's not something to count on. If they do figure out how to become good, consistent pitchers, they will probably be too expensive for the Royals after becoming free agents.

The Current Youth:

The Royals' next group of arms offers more hope, mainly because the organization hasn't had as much time to screw them up. The Royals have some talented young starters, beginning with Zack Greinke. There's no question he has the talent to be a very good pitcher and he probably won't need much coaching help to do it. Hopefully he'll be able to overcome the issues he's been dealing with over the past two seasons.

The Royals' second-best bet to become a solid starter is JP Howell. Howell has below-average velocity, but has good command and excellent secondary stuff. He was doing very well at Omaha, but has missed two starts because of shoulder stiffness. Howell is a good candidate to become a mid-rotation starter if big league hitters don't feast on his fastball.

Denny Bautista arguably has the best stuff of any pitcher on the team. But, his injury problems and inconsistency make it tough to believe he'll put it together. If he does, he could be the Royals' ace.

Mike Wood has pitched very well for the Royals so far. He's picked up a staff-high 3 wins long relief. Wood has kept the Royals in some games that figured to be blowouts because the Royals' starter wasn't effective. Wood deserves a shot to start and it might turn out to be one of the team's most-effective starters.

So, for the foreseeable future, the Royals' rotation looks like this:

1. Free Agent Pretending to be an Ace
2. Hernandez
3. Greinke
4. Affeldt
5. Howell/Bautista

After 2007, hopefully Greinke becomes the ace of the staff. The Royals have Affeldt through 2007 and Hernandez through 2008.

Prospects: The Royals' starting pitching depth in the minors is improving gradually. Billy Buckner and Danny Christensen both have good fastballs and great curves and could enter the picture in late 2007 or 2008. Chris Nicoll has a combination of solid stuff and excellent command and might enter the picture by 2008. These prospects may give the Royals some options to replace Hernandez and Affeldt once they become free agents. Luis Cota is probably the only other starter in the organization besides Greinke and Bautista with the talent to fill the ace role, but that will be at least another few years.

Overall, the Royals' pitching situation is slowly improving. The Royals have actually had some decent performances out of their pitching so far. The Royals still need to acquire some top pitching talent to really solidify the staff. The 2006 1st overall pick should be a very good starting point.

In the next post, I'll discuss what changes the organization needs to make to become competitive again.


At 9:50 PM, Blogger DL said...

Good synopsis, Weatherman.

I see the Royals having four actual major league starting pitching talents at or near the big leagues - Greinke, Bautista, Howell and Sisco. Unfortunately, 3 of them have developed serious warts - Greinke had a terrible 2005 and is now MIA, Bautista is a mechanics disaster and has chronic injury case written all over him, and Sisco has regressed mightily from last year (a trend that started late last year) and he's not starting anyway.

I don't see Affeldt or Hernandez as useful starting pitchers, despite each having a couple of decent starts this season. I can't take Affeldt seriously when he has more walks than strikeouts and is a complete flake from start-to-start. Hernandez his neither the control to be a precision pitcher nor the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher, so he has no identity as a starter. He's always going to put far too much pressure on his defense to be successful on a consistent basis. Mike Wood is a fraud, much like Elvys - too many walks, not enough strikeouts. His peripherals are poor and his ERA will reflect it soon enough.

Gobble still intrigues me, if only because he hasn't really gotten much of a chance to be a starter lately and he's still young. That's thin hope, to be sure. I could see Gobble finally getting it in his late 20s and becoming an effective lefty well into his 30s, but he will be long gone from the Royals by then.

I agree that the Royals have assembled a decent cadre of young arms lower in the organization, but none of those guys strike me as having anything more than middle-of-the-rotation ceilings. But it does offer some hope that the Royals' best young pitching talents will be coming of age around the same time we can expect their fairly impressive group of young hitters should be maturing at the big league level.

Ever hopeful.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

I hope the Royals give Gobble a chance to start at some point as well. His improved ability to get strikeouts might make him successful at it.

The rest of the rotation depends on Greinke, Bautista and Howell. Bautista is most likely damaged goods and probably won't give the Royals much. I think Greinke will eventually become a solid major league starter, maybe a very good one if he can overcome his problems. Howell might eventually become a good starter, but he's nothing special.

So, the success of the rotation really depends on Greinke's progress and the No. 1 draft pick. That's a start, but the Royals need more frontline pitching talent.


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