Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Moore Grabs 4 Pitchers for Dessens and Graffanino

Moore continues to deal away the Royals' expendable parts for more young pitching and a veteran starter. Moore traded Elmer Dessens to the Dodgers for Odalis Perez and minor league pitchers Blake Johnson and Julio Pimentel. The Dodgers are reported picking up $8 million of Perez's salary as well as his signing bonus and part of his buyout. The Royals are on the hook for about $3-4 million in salary and part of the buyout for roughly a year and a half of Perez's services. The Royals also traded Tony Graffanino to the Brewers for Jorge De La Rosa.

Odalis Perez will join the Royals' rotation, which will become a six-man rotation until Perez builds up his endurance. Perez has struggled as a starter this season, with a 8.53 ERA in 8 starts and allowing almost two hits an inning. He's pitched much better as a reliever, with a 3.80 ERA in 21 IP with 12 strikeouts to just 2 walks. So, if he fails as a starter, it seems he should be able to duplicate what Elmer Dessens did in the pen. If he succeeds, the Royals get a solid #2/#3 starter. Perez's career numbers are very solid, with a career 4.24 ERA and a very good 2.60 K/BB ratio. His career 1.27WHIP and 6.39 k/9 are solid as well. For $3 million, it's a worthwhile investment to see if Perez can revert back to his previous form. From 2002 to 2005, Perez had two ace quality seasons and two league-average seasons. A change of scene may do Perez some good, as he seemed to be unhappy with his situation in LA. I wouldn't be unhappy with a Perez for Dessens straight-up trade, so the prospects added to the deal make it all the better.

Moore was able to grab two young pitchers in the deal as well. Blake Johnson is a 21-year-old righty who had a 4.92 ERA and a 73/19 K/BB ratio in 106 IP at High A. He's given up a lot of hits (121), but that may be related to the defense behind him. The two previous seasons, he allowed 156 hits in 157 innings. Johnson has pretty average stuff with a fastball in the low 90s and a changeup and good curve to complement it. He has some upside, although probably not much more than a mid-rotation starter. He's most similar to Chris Nicoll in the Royals' organization.

Julio Pimentel also pitched for the Dodgers high A team. Pimentel is a 20 year old with a good power arm, reaching the mid-90s. Pimentel projects more as a reliever because his changeup and breaking stuff isn't very reliable. Pimental has struggled this season. He's walked 17 in 31 innings of relief, so moving him to the bullpen hasn't seemed to help much. He draws a lot of similarities to Luis Cota, who has also struggled at High A as a 20-year-old.

In a smaller deal, Moore acquired lefty Jorge De La Rosa. De La Rosa has great stuff, but has never been able to command it in the major leagues. He's only 25 years old and has a high ceiling if he can improve his command. His command in the minors was pretty good, with a 2.1 K/BB ratio. He's had some nagging injury issues that he must overcome as well. He is most similar to a left-handed Denny Bautista, as he's been traded several times and hasn't put together success at the big league level because of injury problems and command issues.

Overall, Moore has done a great job in the past two days of rebuilding the Royals' pitching depth without giving up much of anything. Lumsden, Cortes, Johnson, Pimentel, and De La Rosa are all still young and project as mid-rotation starters or relievers. Coupled with the progress of Buckner, Nicoll, Christensen, Kniginyzky, Rosa, and Cordier in the low minors, the Royals have some good pitching depth finally in the low minors.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Royals Send MacDougal to the South Side

The Royals just completed a trade sending closer Mike MacDougal to the White Sox for LHP Tyler Lumsden and RHP Daniel Cortes. Lumsden is a 23-year-old, 6'4", 200-pound lefty. Tyler Lumsden was pitching for the White Sox AA team and is having a solid season. Lumsden has a 2.69 ERA in 123 2/3 IP with 40 walks and 72 strikeouts. His WHIP of 1.25 isn't bad and he's allowed only 9 HRs. Lumsden's fastball and slider are his main two pitches. Both have been rated as the top fastball and slider in the White Sox organization during the past two years. Lumsden's fastball sits in the low 90s but can reach the mid 90s. The key for Lumsden has been throwing strikes and he has shown good command at AA, averaging less than 3 walks per 9 innings. Lumsden will head to AA Wichita.

The second pitcher in the deal is Daniel Cortes. The 19-year-old righty is a big pitcher, measuring 6'5" and 205 lbs. Cortes has pitched for the White Sox low A club and done a good job. Cortes has a 4.01 ERA and 38 BBs to 96 K's in 107 2/3 IP. He's allowed just 6 HRs as well and has pitched much better as the season progressed. Cortes is mainly a sinker, slider pitcher, probably closest to a right-handed version of Brent Fisher. Cortes will surrogate the Burlington Bees' strong rotation of Cordier, Rosa, Nicoll, and Kniginyzky.

Overall, it looks like a good trade to me. The Royals badly need starting pitching depth and don't really need a closer at the moment. MacDougal's inconsistency and lengthy trips to the disabled list are good reasons to move him. I'm surprised Dayton Moore got as much for MacDougal as he did since MacDougal just got off the disabled list. Lumsden and Cortes' stock has risen with their good performances this season. Both have shown improved control this year and had success at a higher level. My only concern is putting Burgos in the closer role with no alternative if he struggles. Otherwise, it looks like a good deal for the Royals.

Monday, July 17, 2006

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

The AL Central is the strongest division in baseball with the two best teams in baseball. I will attempt to answer these two questions:

1. How long can we expect the division to remain extremely difficult?
2. How do the Royals matchup talentwise and what can they do to improve?

I will start with the Tigers. Here's a look at the core players the Tigers will be building around in the next few years. Note, the number in parathesis is the year the player becomes a free agent.

The Tigers have a very impressive collection of starting pitchers in their system. Justin Verlander (2012) is a Cy Young contender in his rookie campaign. Jeremy Bonderman (2009) has become a #1 starter with a good fastball and slider combination. Mike Maroth (2009) and Nate Robertson (2010) are solid #2/#3 types and should fill out the rest of the Tigers' rotation. The Tigers signed veteran Kenny Rogers through 2007. By the end of 2007, the Tigers' two other prized pitching prospects will be ready to move into the rotation. Humberto Sanchez pitched great in the Futures game and has the stuff to be another frontline starter. 2006 Draftee Andrew Miller, arguably the top talent in the draft, also has frontline starter potential and could move quickly into the Tigers' rotation. Overall, the Tigers' rotation has an abundance of power arms and 4 starters with #1 stuff and two already performing at that level. The Tigers' bullpen has one of the best ERA's in baseball and has some hard throwers. However, with the exception of Zumaya, none of the bullpen arms are likely to be excellent long-term relievers. Nonetheless, the group of relievers (Grilli, Rodney, Spurling, Colon) give the Tigers a group of cheap, relatively young relievers through the end of the decade.

The Tigers also have a strong offensive core to complement their pitching. The Tigers' offense isn't built around one player, rather 7 different players with .800+ OPSs. Most of the Tigers offensive core is within two years of 30 years ago, so most are in their prime. A few years from now, the Tigers' offense will probably start to decline. However, the Tigers are getting very good production out of centerfielder Curtis Granderson (2012) and Chris Shelton (2011). Marcus Thames is having a breakout season, leading the Tigers with 19 HRs and a 1.027 OPS. Although not particularly young, Thames is under their control until 2011. Cameron Maybin, the Tigers' 2005 first-round selection, has impressed scouts in his debut. He's a potential 5-tool outfielder who played in the Futures game. So, the Tigers have some younger bats who should help offset the decline of the older core players.

Outlook: The Tigers have made one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent baseball times. The Tigers' farm system which was once overlooked because of poor depth has paid off great yields thanks to high draft positions. The Tigers' excellent rotation looks to be one of the best in baseball for the next few years. The Tigers haven't had any problems putting together a good offense and have most of their core players under their control for the next few years. The Tigers aren't afraid to compete for top-tier free agents so they should be able to fill any major holes. Overall, the Tigers look like the most complete team in the division and may have the best pitching staff in baseball for the next few years.

Up next: Chicago White Sox

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The AL Central: Present

The AL Central is the strongest division in baseball, with its two top teams on pace to win over 100 games. The Detroit Tigers have been the surprise team of the year, on pace to win 110 games after losing 119 games just 3 years ago. The White Sox are on pace to win more games than last year's team that won the World Series. The Minnesota Twins are playing well and have two starters have Cy Young-caliber seasons. The Cleveland Indians have had a disappointing season, but still have a good core of young position players to build around. The Royals are in last place as usual. But, even the Royals are somewhat improved and might be more like a 90-100 loss team in most other divisions.

Here's a team-by-team statistical comparison (number in parathesis is ML rank):

Pitching Staff:

Detroit 3.53 (1)
Minnesota 4.33 (10)
Chicago 4.47 (14)
Cleveland 4.70 (20)
Kansas City 5.81 (30)

ERA (Starter/Bullpen):
Detroit 3.52/3.55
Chicago 4.60/4.12
Cleveland 4.66/4.71
Minnesota 4.84/3.31
Kansas City 6.26/5.20

Minnesota 632 (4)
Detroit 568 (15)
Chicago 531 (26)
Cleveland 520 (27)
Kansas City 444 (30)


Minnesota 194 (1) Note: team K/BB over 3!
Chicago 241 (2)
Cleveland 251 (6)
Detroit 263 (7)
Kansas City 354 (28)

The Tigers have the best pitching staff in baseball, anchored by a very strong, young rotation. The Twins, White Sox, and Indians' pitching staffs are in the middle third. The Twins have a great front of the rotation, but have awful #4 and #5 starters. The White Sox rotation has regressed considerably, with every starter except Jose Contreras pitching much worse than last year. The Indians' rotation is pretty average and their bullpen has struggled. The Royals, of course, have the worst pitching staff in baseball.


Team OPS:

Chicago .826 (2)
Cleveland .817 (4)
Detroit .790 (8)
Minnesota .757 (17)
Kansas City .736 (26)

Home Runs:

Chicago 135 (1)
Cleveland 120 (4)
Detroit 119 (6)
Minnesota 80 (27)
Kansas City 71 (30)


Chicago 528 (1)
Cleveland 498 (4)
Detroit 477 (7)
Minnesota 435 (17)
Kansas City 409 (26)

The White Sox, Indians, and Tigers have pretty potent offenses, supplying very good power. The White Sox offense have one of the best group of power hitters with Thome, Dye, and Konerko. The Indians have a good group of young players supplying most of their offense. The Tigers don't have any standout bats, but are solid from top to bottom. The Twins are finally getting the production they anticipated from Mauer and Morneau, but are still an average offense at best. The Royals' offense is still pretty terrible, not surprisingly.


Defensive Efficiency:

Detroit .725 (1)
White Sox .706 (9)
Cleveland .692 (18)
Kansas City .690 (21)
Minnesota .676 (29)

Overall, the division is very strong, which the exception of the Royals. Every team except the Royals is an above .500 team in any other division. The Twins' strong bullpen and two aces have carried their otherwise mediocre team. The Indians have underachieved, scoring 42 runs more than they've allowed. The White Sox have a great offense and decent pitching. The Tigers have the most complete team in baseball. In the next post, I'll breakdown the talent in the division and see if it is likely to remain a difficult division over the next few years.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Midterm Report Card: Part III

The final installation of the Midterm Report Card focuses on the Royals' coaching, management and ownership. The Royals' management and ownership both share the blame for the terrible state of the organization. Thus, I wasn't very generous with the grading.

The ownership (Mr. Glass and family):
Although the ownership does not directly make baseball decisions, they are ultimately responsible for the people who make the baseball decisions and for the state of the organization. The organization has undergone an unprecedented period of losing, losing more games than ownerless teams of the 1990s. The model franchise of the Ewing Kauffman era has become the national media's favorite baseball team to pick on. The franchise crumbled under the watchful eye of Mr. Glass and he did nothing to stop it.

Everyone knew after last season it wasn't a matter of if, but when Allard was going to be fired. With two consecutive 100-loss seasons with no significant signs of progress, Allard should have been shown the door. Mr. Glass allowed Allard to spend $20-25 million in free agency instead of giving the new GM an opportunity to begin rebuilding the franchise with the players they wanted. That, IMO, only set the organization back further.

The season began and the team started off horribly as expected. Mr. Glass declared major changes were in the works, but didn't say Allard's job was in jeopardy, even though it obviously was. He began the search a year too late, but to his credit, he found the best man for the job, hiring Dayton Moore. The Glass family gave more a $1 million salary and contract until 2010, a pretty nice offer.

Also to Mr. Glass's credit, he is believed to have given Moore written assurance that Moore will have final say in all baseball decisions. What a novel idea! Just give Moore the budget and let him make the decisions. Although Mr. Glass says he never meddled in baseball operations before, there has to be a reason why Moore asked for the written assurance. With the owner out of the way, hopefully Moore will be able to do his job well.

Grade: D, franchise is in a terrible state, but chose the right person to fix it

The Front Office:

Muzzy Jackson: It's hard to evaluate how much involvement Jackson had in the Royals' mediocre offseason. But, he did a good job with the 2006 draft as the interim general manager. The Royals did a good job of filling their main needs through the draft, including getting a potential ace in Luke Hochevar.

Grade: B

Deric Ladnier/Scouting Department: The Royals appear to have had another strong draft. Luke Hochevar was a bit of a surprise at first, but the Royals reasoning seems sound. Jason Taylor, Blake Wood, and Jason Godin are off to good starts in the minor leagues. Derrick Robinson hasn't hit well, but his speed is his greatest asset and his bat may take a while to develop. Overall, that gives the Royals 3 very good drafts in a row.

Grade: A-


Buddy Bell: Buddy Bell might be the worst Royals' manager in the past decade and that's saying a lot. Bell is a terrible decision making and insists on playing the veterans over the younger, better players. The best example of this is Esteban German. German has been the second-best offensive player on the team. He has the second-best OPS, a great on-base percentage, and good speed. Yet, Bell keeps him out of the lineup as much as possible and usually bats him ninth. His misuse of German as an outfielder was ridiculous and apparently he never forgave German for an error he made there. Bell has also made a habit of using Sisco in critical situations, even though Sisco has been the Royals' most ineffective reliever this season. I'm sure I could come up with more examples of Bell's inept managing, but anyone who has watched the Royals can figure out he's a terrible manager.

Grade: F, hopefully the new manager search is underway

Bob McClure: The Royals' pitching staff is even worse than the Guy Hansen coached staff from last season. Even Guy Hansen was able to get a few positives out of what little talent was on the roster last season. Burgos and Sisco have regressed this season and the bullpen that was supposed to be one of the best in baseball is at the bottom. It's nice not to have Guy Hansen changing every pitcher's mechanics, but McClure hasn't done anything to fix this horrible pitching staff. There isn't much talent to work with, but there's no evidence he's making any progress.

Grade: F, hopefully Moore can bring in a long-term pitching coach

Mike Barnett: The Royals' offense has really improved in the past month or two, which probably has nothing to do with Barnett's coaching. Nonetheless, the offense has been about what was expected.

Grade: C

That's all for the midterm report cards. Coming up, a look at the Royals' farm system and a look at our division foes and the future of the AL Central.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Midterm Report Card: Part II

The Royals' pitching has been awful this year, which is nothing out of the ordinary. Here's how the Royals rank as a pitching staff:

ERA 5.79 (30th)
BBs 347 (28th)
SOs 436 (30th)

ERA 6.25 (30th)
BBs 201 (24th)
SOs 206 (30th, by almost 90 Ks)
IP 437 (30th)
which is approximately 5 IP/start

ERA 5.16 (29th)
BBs 146 (28th)
SOs 230 (11th)

These numbers won't really surprise anyone. The starting rotation's K/BB ratio of nearly 1 is atrocious. Combined with their hittable stuff and you get a very bad rotation. The starters' combined ERA is actually worse than last year's 6.00 ERA, which I thought was as bad as it gets. At least we don't have to watch Jose Lima this season.

Onto the grades...

Again, the grades are based on how well the player met preseason expectations.

Starting Rotation:

Scott Elarton: Elarton has kept the Royals in most of his starts and has also pitched relatively deep into games (5.75 IP/start). He hasn't been very good overall and his numbers are getting worse with ERAs of 4.28, 5.54, 5.60, 7.84 in April, May, June, and July. His peripheral stats suggest he's been lucky to do as well as he has. His BB/9IP has doubled from last season and he's allowing 2 HRs/9 IP. If there's anyway to trade Elarton, now would be the time to do it.

Grade: D+, drops a letter grade for having a K/BB of less than 1

Mark Redman: Redman was selected to be the Royals' All-Star representative. Redman has been a slightly better pitcher than Elarton and much better after his injury problems disappared. Redman has posted a 4.05 ERA after June 1st and has gone 7 innings or more in 4 of his last 7 starts. Redman is a league-average pitcher aside from his injury problems, so he's performing at the level he was expected.

Grade: B-, getting better and he's our All-Star!

Runelvys Hernandez: Hernandez put together a decent season coming back from Tommy John Surgery last season. He reported to training camp out of shape and was sent to AAA at the start of the season. After being recalled from AAA, Hernandez was terrible and was sent back down. He's pitched better at AAA (4.76 ERA and better K/BB ratio), but he's still had a horrible year altogether. The Royals were depending on him for a league-average season as a mid-rotation guy and he failed miserably.

Grade: F, get used to Rosenblatt

Denny Bautista: Bautista's promising start in Anaheim last season got everyone excited about his potential. Injuries set him back last year and he hasn't been the same since then. His command is still awful and everyone has hit him well this season. I don't have any confidence that he'll amount to anything, maybe a middle reliever.

Grade: F

Bobby Keppel: Thank you Bobby for the 4 good starts you gave us. Once the league adjusted to Keppel, he quickly faded.

Grade: D

Joe Mays: Mays was worse than Jose Lima and thankfully the Royals released him very quickly.

Grade: F

Brandon Duckworth: Duckworth has been alright as a starter thus far. He certainly hasn't been efficient though, throwing 94-103 pitches in each start and lasting until just the 5th or 6th inning. Duckworth isn't a long-term solution, just a placeholder until Greinke gets ready and keeping Buckner at AA where he belongs.

Grade: D

Seth Etherton: He's been awful throughout his career, so his 9.39 ERA was what I expected.

Grade: C


Elmer Dessens: Dessens has had a good year for the Royals. I thought Dessens was a pretty good pickup, as he's been a pretty consistent pitcher throughout his career. Dessens has been the Royals' most consistent reliever and has survived Buddy's abuse of him. He was originally intended to be a middle reliever and a spot starter, so he's performed above expectations by doing a good job as a setup man.

Grade: B

Jimmy Gobble: Gobble is the only Royals pitcher who got better. Gobble's command is much better, with a solid 2.3 K/BB ratio. He's striking out almost a batter an inning as well. The Royals' converted Gobble into a starter again. It's too early to draw any conclusions about his starting ability, but he's made 3 starts, 2 good and 1 bad. The Royals should give him at least 7-10 more starts to see if he can be a good starter.

Grade: A, for being the only pitcher to improve

Andrew Sisco: Sisco leads the team in appearances even though he's the most ineffective pitcher on the staff. Sisco only uses one pitch, his fastball. His fastball that sits in the low 90s, down about 4-5 mph from last season. The Royals must send Sisco to the minors. He needs to learn another pitch and fix any mechanical problems he has. He's still very young and can be a dominating setup man or closer with some good coaching. Of course, that won't happen in Kansas City until Moore makes some major changes.

Grade: F

Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt's career with the Royals is basically over. He's been awful ever since the Royals didn't trade him at the trade deadline last year. He's failed as a starter and a reliever. I wonder if he can hit?

Grade: F, likely offseason trade or non-tender candidate

Mike Wood: Wood hasn't pitched very well this year. His peripheral stats are about the same as last year, so perhaps he's been a bit unlucky. But, he's a middle reliever good for a 4.50-5.50 ERA and that's where he should remain.

Grade: D

Joel Peralta: Peralta has been a decent middle reliever/setup man for the Royals. He pitched well for the Angels last season and has decent stuff, so he was a good waiver pickup by Baird.

Grade: C+, nothing impressive or disappointing

Ambiorix Burgos: Even though he has a 5.98 ERA, Burgos has pitched reasonably well for the Royals. He's pretty much done what you'd expect from a 22-year-old in the closer's role. About 2/3 of the time he's been on and got the job done, and 1/3 of the time he's fought his command. Moving him back to the setup role should help him a lot and he'll be ready to become the closer again in a year or two.

Grade: C

Chris Booker: Booker was awful for the Royals, can't say I was surprised

Grade: C, Booker was horrible, but at least he got out of here quickly and didn't linger around

Todd Wellemeyer and Luke Hudson: Both have pitched well recently for the Royals and have good stuff. They are still pretty young and might be able to turn things around, especially with a team that has infinite patience for anyone who throws hard.

Grade: Incomplete

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Midterm Report Card

The Royals had a pretty bad first half, although it could have been much worse. Before Allard was fired, the team looked like it would certainly challenge the 1962 Mets' record for losses in a single season. Firing Allard seemed to give the team new life and just about everyone has performed much better after the "changes" Glass promised arrived. The Royals' offense improved considerably during the month of June. The return of David DeJesus to the top of the lineup gave the Royals' offense a catalyst. Mark Teahen and John Buck also began to hit well and are finally starting to look like they belong in the major leagues.

While the offense is starting to produce, the pitching staff continues to be absolutely horrible. The Royals' team ERA is 5.79, a half point worse than any other team. The Royals' pitching staff has struck out only 436 hitters, dead last by a mile. The Royals also have the third most walks in the majors. That's a potent combination that results in horrible pitching.

Now, onto the individual player grades, which are based on the expectations at the beginning of the season for each player:


John Buck: Buck had a great month of June, hitting 5 HRs and putting up a .953 OPS. Of course, as quickly as Buck gets hot, he goes right back into a slump. Buck has a .182/.182/.333 line so far in July. Buck has been a very streaky hitter and is awful when he isn't hitting well. Buck has struggled against righties, putting up a .228/.273/.379 line against them. Against lefties, Buck is hitting .274/.361/.500. That's a huge differential and might be enough to keep Buck from being more than a half-time player unless he can improve his numbers against righties. His defense behind the plate is pretty good and he's done alright at throwing out baserunners (11 CS in 33 attempts, spot on his career average).

Grade: C-, his plate discipline has shown some improvement (better K/BB ratio), but he needs to contribute more consistently, especially against righties.

Paul Bako: There is no evidence that this guy contributes anything to this team. Buddy Bell uses him against righties, but even Buck's .652 OPS against righties is far better. Hopefully, the Royals can dispose of Bako and give Phillips or Tupman a chance to give Buck some competition.

Grade: F, raised to a D if he voluntary retires

First Basemen/DH

Doug Mientkiewicz: Mientkiewicz has played well for the Royals. His defense has been outstanding, contrary to his -6 FRAA. FWIW, Emil Brown is +4 FRAA, so that statistic seems to have some issues. Mientkiewicz has been out of place as the No. 3 hitter, but he's hit as well as expected. Mientkiewicz has a .783 OPS, which is below-average but serviceable for a first basemen.

Grade: B, solid offensive performance and great defense

Matt Stairs: Stairs has hit pretty well in a platoon role so far. Stairs has a .828 OPS and 8 HRs so far in 165 ABs. He's a nice hitter to have in a limited role, but hopefully he retires after this season and the Royals can give Justin Huber an everyday position.

Grade: B, good job and not being overused

Tony Graffanino: Graffanino is a nice utility infielder, but apparently Bell didn't get the message because he's playing everyday. Graffanino has been pretty average for an infielder at the plate, with a .272/.330/.405 line. I'm not really sure why the Royals brought him back since all he does is take away playing time from Esteban German, who has the second-highest OPS on the team.

Grade: C, he's doing his job, it's Bell's use of him that's the problem

Second Basemen:

Mark Grudzielanek: Grudzielanek has pretty much met expectations. His main job was stabilizing the #2 spot in the lineup and improving the infield defense. Grudzielanek is nearly on pace to score 100 runs, which is rather amazing considering the hitters in the middle of the lineup. He's a solid veteran and a good leader.

Grade: B, done everything he's been asked

Esteban German: German has been a pleasant surprise for the Royals. When Buddy lets him play, he's done a great job of getting on-base. He has a good track record of getting on-base and stealing bases in the minors and it appears those attributes have translated to the majors. The Royals haven't used his speed much, but he's 3 for 4 on stolen base attempts. The only downside to German's play has been his defense. However, he hasn't seen much time at 2nd base, his main position. So, it's hard to tell if he could be a regular 2nd basemen after Grudzielanek leaves.

Grade: B+, nice surprise


Angel Berroa: Berroa is a talented, toolsy guy. The Berroa who almost put up a 20-20 season his rookie year has vanished because everyone knows he'll swing at bad pitches. His horrible plate discipline and inconsistent fielding drive every Royals' fan crazy. Hopefully, the Royals can get rid of him to a team intrigued by his tools or just cut their losses.

Grade: F

Third Basemen

Mark Teahen: Before being sent down much to Allard's dismay, Teahen was hitting .195/.241/.351. Teahen tore up AAA pitching and returned a much improved hitter. His approach is much better and he seems much more comfortable at the plate. Teahen is starting to use the entire field and is pulling the ball for power. In spite of a slow start, Teahen now has a respectable .767 OPS and appears to be becoming a solid third basemen.

Grade: C+, nice to see the power starting to come


Emil Brown: Emil Brown has regressed somewhat this year, not displaying as much power as last year. His slugging percentage is down to .418 from .455 last season. His defense is still not very good, but he's cut back on the errors (just 1 so far after committing 12 last year). Overall, he's pretty much done what expected.

Grade: C

Joey Gathright: The Royals acquired Gathright to add speed and improve the outfield defense. He's certainly added speed and I noticed it making a difference in the Toronto game I went to this past week. If he can get on-base at a good rate, then he can be a valuable asset. Otherwise, his singles stick won't supply enough offense to warrant keeping DeJesus at a corner outfield spot. His great speed will help make up for his weak arm, making him an above-average defender.

Grade: Incomplete, not enough time to evaluate him

David DeJesus: David DeJesus has played a major role in the Royals' turnaround in June. It's not a coincidence that the offense has been immensely better since DeJesus returns, as he's become a very good hitter. DeJesus does a great job of getting on-base (.404 OBP) and has the second-best sluggling percentage (.477). Put those two stats together and he has one of the best OPS among centerfielders. DeJesus has become an above-average centerfielder and should be a solid contributor at the top of the lineup as long as he stays healthy.

Grade: A, he's everything Berroa isn't, getting the most out of his talent and pleasing the fans

Reggie Sanders: When Sanders signed a 2-year, $10 million, I was pretty skeptical that the 38-year-old would be worth a two-year deal. I figured he'd bring decent power (9 HRs isn't awful), but his increasing age and poor plate discipline were worrisome. His streakiness and frequent strikeouts make it difficult to rely on him as a cleanup hitter. He's a tolerable option for this season, but I don't think the Royals can rely on him next year.

Grade: D

I think I graded a bit too easy, but I was grading on how well the player's met expectations and it seems most of them did. Hence, all of the B's and C's. The pitching staff, however, is a completely different story. I will cover the Royals' pitching staff tomorrow as well as the team's management and ownership.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Royals' Future All-Stars Shine

The USA team beat the World team in the All-Star Futures Game. The Royals two prized prospects had a great showing. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon went a combined 4 for 6 with 4 RBIs. Billy Butler won the MVP award for the game. Billy Butler flashed his great power, hitting a home run to centerfield. Alex Gordon hit a double as well. Both players looked major-league ready at the plate. I was impressed with their plate discipline. Before hitting the home run, Butler worked the count and fouled off several pitches. He then hit a towering home run to centerfield. Butler made a nice grab on a deep fly to left field. He didn't seem to get the best read on the ball, but he got back in time. He looks pretty slow out there though. He probably will end up as a DH eventually, but there's no harm in letting him try and improve as much as possible. If everything goes according to plan, Butler and Gordon should be a mainstay in the heart of the Royals' lineup for the next 5 or 6 years. The Royals have a improving group of complementary players who can fill out the rest of the lineup. But, Gordon and Butler are the key to a potent offense.

Elsewhere around the minors:

Omaha lost 4-2. Hernandez wasn't very good as usual, allowing 4 runs and 9 hits in 6 innings. MacDougal pitched a scoreless inning of relief, so everything appears set for his return. Justin Huber went 1 for 2 with a walk and Costa went 1 for 4.

Wichita lost 9-7, as most of their offense was in Pittsburgh. Lubanski had a great day, going 3 for 4 with a triple (5). Maier went 0 for 3, but had 2 RBIs (57). Donnie Murphy went 2 for 4 with a double and a homerun. Murphy has pretty much disappeared after the premature callups.

High Desert won 15-4. Unfortunately, there isn't much on this ballclub. Mostly organizational players except for Cota and maybe Gilbert de la Vara.

Burlington won 5-3. Rayner Oliveros had a good start, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing just 1 run on 3 hits and striking out 7.

Idaho Falls had a the day off.

The Arizona Royals won 8-3. Brent Fisher had a good performance on the mound. Fisher allowed no hits and just 1 run and struck out 5. The Royals' 2006 4th Round Pick Derrick Robinson went 1 for 5 with a double. Fisher and Bianchi will probably be promoted soon. Bianchi had the day off, so hopefully he is headed to Idaho Falls.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Royals Fall 7-5 to the Blue Jays

I went to my second game in a row tonight. The game was on the Royals, so all the better. The outcome of the game was rather disappointing, but it was a fun night nonetheless.

Scott Elarton didn't have good command of anything today. His stuff got hit hard as he wasn't able to keep it out of the middle of the plate. Elarton gave up 5 runs on 9 hits, exiting in the 4th inning. Sisco came in and pitched well, providing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and allowing the Royals to regain the lead. Sisco's command was better today, although his velocity was still pretty low (90-91 mph). Peralta came in to pitch the 7th inning and promptly gave up a homer to Shea Hillenbrand and that was the ballgame. The Blue Jays' bullpen shutdown the Royals' offense, allowing just 2 hits and no runs in 4 innings.

The Royals did alright against Ted Lilly. Berroa hit his 5th homerun, a deep shot into the top of the left field fountains. Berroa has good power. Unfortunately, everyone knows not to give him a decent pitch to hit because he'll swing at plenty of bad pitches and get himself out. Berroa had yet another fielding blunder which was charged to John Buck. Berroa forgot to cover 2nd on a stolen base attempt and the throw went out into centerfield...Typical Berroa.

It wasn't a terrible game and appeared winnable after Sisco's solid outing. But the Royals' makeshift bullpen was outdueled by the Blue Jays. Overall, I wasn't very impressed by the Blue Jays from the two games I saw. The Blue Jays played horrible defense, committing lots of errors on routine plays. The two middle infielders, Adams and Hill, were particularly bad. Justin Speier and BJ Ryan pitched well, but other than that, the bullpen looked pretty shaky. The offense was the most impressive part of the team, with a lot of good contact hitters and good power from Wells and Overbay. The AL East race looks to be between Boston and New York unless the Blue Jays can make some moves to improve the bullpen and the defense. They won't get far without pitching and defense.

On to the minors:

Omaha lost 8-7 to the Iowa Cubs. Shane Costa hit his 5th homerun, going 1 for 3 with 2 walks. Costa is hitting .418/.487/.759 after 79 ABs in AAA. Costa is right where he belongs right now and should spend the rest of the season at AAA. Costa has always been a good contact hitter and it appears the power may be starting to come. Justin Huber is slowly emerging from his Baird/Bell-induced slump. Huber went 2 for 4 with a double, raising his average to .262. Huber's .805 OPS is still nothing to complain about, especially with the Royals trying to change his position. Huber was in left field tonight. MacDougal pitched a scoreless inning and struck out 2. MacDougal should return to the big league club shortly after the All-Star Break. Nunez allowed 2 inherited runners to score, getting a blown save. Overall, the 22-year-old Nunez has pitched very well with a 1.10 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.

Wichita lost 5-4 to Arkansas. Greinke had another good rehab start, going 6 innings and allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits. Greinke walked 1 and struck out 7. He is just a few more quality starts away from returning to the big league club, although there's no rush. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon didn't play because they are on their way to the Futures Game. Hopefully, they will be our two All-Star delegates in a couple of years. Mitch Maier hit his 10th homer, going 3 for 4 and driving in 2 runs (55). Maier is having a pretty good season and was considered the best defensive outfielder in the system by Allard. Ryan Braun had a rough night, allowing 3 runs in 1 1/3 innings. Overall, Braun's numbers are very good, with 58 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 40 2/3 innings.

High Desert lost 5-1. Not much to talk about there.

Burlington won 5-4. Josh Johnson went 1 for 5 with a double (4). Johnson's great on-base skills are keeping his prospect status alive, with a great .417 OBP. The two catchers drafted by the Royals last year, Everett and Howell, both doubled. Carlos Rosa had a pretty good outing, allowing just 2 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Dayton Moore mentioned Rosa as one of the Royals' prospects who had impressed him on his first tour of the minors. Rosa has struck out 68 in 87 innings. The Bees have a good rotation going with Rosa, Nicoll, Kinginyzky, and Cordier.

Idaho Falls won 2-0. Rowdy Hardy had a great start, striking out 10 in 6 1/3 innings and allowing just 2 hits. In 22 innings, he has struck out 21 and walked 0! Peay State University lefty has pitched very well so far.

The Arizona Royals' game was postponed. The Arizona Royals have a couple of players repeating the level who don't have much left to prove there. Jeffrey Bianchi continues to destroy Arizona League pitching with a .429/.539/.667. Brent Fisher has been very good as well, with a 2.30 ERA and 17 K's to 4 walks. Both of those guys appear to be ready to head to Idaho Falls. The Royals' 2006 mystery pick, Jason Taylor, is off to a very good start. Taylor is hitting .452/.485/.548 after 31 ABs. Perhaps Taylor will be Bianchi Part II? The Royals have done a good job of spotting good high school hitters in recent drafts.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Great Night at the K

The game tonight was one of the best I've ever experienced in person. Everything went right for the Royals and they played very well. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, looked terrible, committing 3 errors and not pitching well.

Luke Hudson had a good first start for the Royals. He did a good job of commanding his fastball and the Blue Jays' hitters made weak contact against him. His 4-seam fastball was from 94 to 97 mph on the radar gun and his 2-seam was 88 to 91 mph. He did a good job of changing speeds with his fastball and it did enough to disrupt the hitter's timing. His curveball looked good, although he didn't throw it much and his command of it was inconsistent. Nonetheless, he had a very good first start. I'm concerned that he relies on his fastball too much and if he doesn't have command of it, he'll have a rough night. But, the Hudson starting experiment is off to a good start and should continue because he has good stuff and has had success as a starter. Hudson was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 9 starts for the Reds in 2004.

The Royals' offense had a great night, scoring 13 runs on 15 hits and 3 errors by the Blue Jays. Everyone except Emil Brown, who had a forgettable night, contributed to the Royals' offensive surge. DeJesus and Mientkiewicz both had 3-hit games and drove in 3 runs. DeJesus is having a great season. His OBP of .407 is outstanding and he's scored 32 runs in 44 games. DeJesus is a very solid all-around baseball player. He's not nearly as talented as Beltran, but he's a solid contributor at the top of the lineup.

Matt Stairs and John Buck both hit their 8th homeruns of the season. It seems like every Royals game I attend, Matt Stairs hits a homerun. Buck's power has always shown throughout his young career with 32 homeruns in 834 ABs. He's already averaging about 15 HRs a season if he gets 400+ ABs. With Buck's plate discipline improving (much improved K/BB) and his solid defense behind the plate, he has become a solid player for the Royals.

Another guy who impressed me tonight was Joey Gathright. He created the first run of the night by creating havoc on the basepaths. Burnett got distracted by him at first and made a poor throw to pick him off and he took second. Gathright tagged on a flyball and then scored later on a sac fly (no other Royal probably could have scored there except for maybe German). Since joining the Royals, Gathright is 12 for 38 (.316 avg) with 9 walks (.447 OBP). Gathright has been doing a very good job of getting on base. If he can keep getting on base and the Royals use his speed wisely, he and DeJesus will give the Royals lots of scoring opportunities. Gathright was caught stealing in the 5th inning, but the Devil Rays and everyone in the stadium anticipated it. The Royals were, however, very aggressive on the basepaths today and it usually paid off. Teahen and Brown both had stolen bases.

The bullpen made the game interesting before the Royals scored 9 unanswered runs in the final two innings. Affeldt had trouble commanding his stuff as usual. Dessens command wasn't much better. Wellemeyer gave the Royals two solid innings to finish the game. Wellemeyer has good stuff, throwing in the mid 90s and had pretty good control of his fastball today. He has pitched pretty well since joining the Royals.

Overall, it was another very good game for the Royals. The Royals are 7-2 so far in July and are playing very well. A .400 winning percentage isn't so far away is it? The offense continues to score plenty of runs with the young players hitting well and solid performances from the veterans as well. Amazing, the Royals are only 2 games below .500 at home.

This team has been much more enjoyable to watch. Fortunately, I was in England for most of the bad part of the season, so I was able to avoid most of the horrible start. The fans got a lot of freebies tonight. The Royals gave away free Cooler Bags to the fans before the game. The Royals had twelve hits and won, so fans receive a dozen doughnuts and a free frosty from Wendy's. The Friday night fireworks spectacular had "technical difficulties", so the fans can use their ticket stub as a raincheck for a free Royals' game. I was quite surprised the Royals gave the fans a free game. I was expecting 50 cents off a small Pepsi or something, but that was really nice. A classy move by an organization that hasn't been classy for nearly a decade. On top of that, we got to watch a great game tonight.

Here's a few pictures from tonight's game:

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Royals Set to Sweep the Cards

The Royals will have a chance to sweep the Cardinals today in St. Louis. The Royals won 8-7 yesterday in 11 innings, even after blowing a 6-run lead. The Royals had 3 outstanding offensive performances yesterday. David DeJesus had a 4-hit game, scoring 3 runs. DeJesus leaped over the catcher and nearly scored on a play he should have been out by a mile. Mark Teahen hit his 6th homerun of the year, a nice blast to RF. Teahen has been pulling the ball a lot more and it's starting to show with improved power. DeJesus and Teahen's return to the club have played a major role in the Royals' recent success.

The Royals' piecemeal bullpen managed to keep the Royals in the game yesterday, in spite of two blown saves by Burgos and Peralta. Wellemeyer and Hudson worked around trouble to keep the Cardinals from scoring. The Royals will send Mike Wood to the hill today. Mike Wood has been alright as a starter. In his 5 starts in June, he has a 4.56 ERA with a solid 11/3 K/BB ratio.

The Teahen/Gordon Debate: Teahen is finally starting to look like a legit major league third basemen. He's a solid defender at third and is starting to show some power. Teahen is basically the second-coming of Joe Randa, as most scouts projected him to be. He might have a few 20+ homerun seasons since he is much stronger than Randa, but he looks like a 15-20 HR guy. Gordon, however, projects to be as good or better than Teahen in every aspect. Gordon has superior hitting ability, most likely better speed, and should be at least as good a defender as Teahen. So, I think Teahen is the obvious choice to move to a different position. I don't think you take a chance by moving your prized prospect from his natural position.

This decision probably won't have to be made until next year at the earliest. There will be plenty of time to see how improved Teahen is and maybe showcase him for a trade. Moving him off 3rd certainly decreases his value, but I'd much rather decrease Teahen's value than Gordon's. What do you think?