Monday, August 07, 2006

Organizational Outlook: Up The Middle

The Royals have some problems up the middle. The Royals don't have many options at catcher and John Buck is still questionable as an everyday catcher. The Royals have a few options at second base, although none are particularly young. The Royals have a shortstop who is the worst everyday player in major league baseball and two young minor leaguers who are still a couple years away from being better. The Royals are in good shape in centerfield, with two quality options in Gathright and DeJesus.


The exception to the Royals' weakness up the middle is centerfield, where the Royals have an established centerfielder in David DeJesus who has been moved to a corner spot for Joey Gathright. If Gathright doesn't develop into a base-stealing, on-base machine to counter his poor bat, then the Royals still have DeJesus to play centerfield. The Royals also have a solid, all-around centerfielder in Mitch Maier, who is having a good season at AA. So, the Royals shouldn't have any problems fielding a quality centerfielder. After all, when was the last time the Royals didn't have a very good centerfielder? The pre-Damon era?


The shortstop position is the exact opposite of the centerfield position. The Royals have had a lot of trouble finding a quality shortstop over the past decade. Angel Berroa is a horrible baseball player who will make $8 million over the next two seasons. The Royals' two best options in the minors are Andres Blanco and Angel Sanchez. Blanco has a worse bat than Berroa and he may be a better defender, but he possesses the same maddening inconsistency on defense that Berroa has. Sanchez may eventually be the best hitter of the three, but his defense still needs a lot of work. Blanco and Sanchez will not be quality options until the end of Berroa's contract, so it looks like we're stuck with Berroa for now.

Second Base:

Mark Grudzielanek has done a nice job at second base, particularly defensively. He might be an option for next year, but the future depends on Esteban German or Jeff Keppinger. In limited opportunities, German has shown excellent on-base skills and great speed on the basepaths. To become an everyday second basemen, German will have to improve his defense. Hopefully Buddy Bell's tenure as manager ends quickly and German gets a chance to play everyday at second next year. I don't know much about Jeff Keppinger, but Moore says he will compete for the second base job as well.


The catching position remains a problem in the organization as it has been for about 10 years. John Buck hasn’t shown too many signs of improving offensively behind the plate. He’s shown some power, enough to hit 10-15 HRs a year and probably bring his OPS into the .700-.750 range. He is pretty average throwing out runners and probably above-average behind the plate. The Royals don’t have any options to replace him. The Royals’ closest prospects Paul Phillips and Matt Tupman project as backups at best.

Organizational Needs Up the Middle: The Royals need to address the shortstop problem and find a long-term replacement for Berroa in the next year or two. John Buck is an acceptable option behind the plate if he improves offensively. Catcher’s bats can be slow to develop, so it’s best to be patient with Buck. Unlike Berroa, he does contribute defensively at an important position.

Offseason Moves: The Royals will have to decide whether or not they are comfortable with giving German and Keppinger the everyday second base job. If not, Grudzielanek would be a likely candidate to return. The Royals should also try to trade for a shortstop prospect close to the majors, perhaps packaging Lubanski or Maier in the deal.


At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sooner, I agree with giving Buck more time. I'm curious about your thoughts on the huge number of wild pitches this year...could many of those be attributed to Buck? I wonder how the pitchers feel about Buck's defense and game calling. Concerning SS, I agree with you...we need a trade here. Concerning CF, I personally don't think that DeJesus projects well as a power corner outfielder. I think his value is maximized in CF. At 2nd, I'd like to see Keppinger have a chance there. Thanks for your excellent blogging (and posts on the Scout board).

At 2:31 AM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Buck has only been charged with 4 passed balls on the season, which is above-average among regular catchers. So, that would suggest he's not to blame. However, given the subjectivity of passed balls vs. wild pitches, he's probably allowed a few more than that. Buck always seemed to be pretty good at blocking balls behind the plate, so I think it has more to do with the erratic pitching staff.

I agree that DeJesus's value is highest in CF and that our corner OF depth should provide us with better power there than DeJesus will give us. I think Gathright is best suited as a fourth outfielder.


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