Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Long and "Short" of it

On January 8, 2001, the Royals traded Johnny Damon to the A’s and received their shortstop of the future in Angel Berroa. The Royals also traded current A’s second baseman, Mark Ellis and received AJ Hinch and Roberto Hernandez. The Royals thought they were getting a 19 year old who was named an Arizona League All Star in 2000 while playing for the Arizona A’s and even logged 17 at bats in AA Midland. As it turned out, Angel was really two years older than the Royals thought. He made is Major League debut as a 22 year old on September 18, 2001. He won the AL Rookie of the year award after his 2003 season. He batted .287 with 17 HR and 73 RBI. He also stole 21 bases. His OPS has dropped each season since 2003 and he posted a sub .600 OPS in 2006. Angel has become known for his mental lapses and his reckless abandon at bat. He committed a career low 18 errors in 2006, and had a fielding percentage of .969. He is our current shortstop. He signed a 4 year/$11 million deal in May of 2004. He is due $3.25 M in 2007 and $4.75 M in 2008. The Royals hold a $5.5 M option for 2009 or could opt to buy the contract out at $500 K. So, with Angel under contract for the next two seasons, it is more than likely his job. Dayton could attempt to move him, but I’m guessing the list of suitors for a 29 year old SS with a sub .600 OPS and an $8 M price tag over the next two years is pretty short, if it exists at all. Anyway, here are the footsteps that Angel is currently hearing.

Andres Blanco and Angel Sanchez (11th rounder in ‘01) are the two prospects the Royals have that have already spent some time in Kansas City. Blanco, who will be turning 23 in April of 2007, has already notched 226 major league at bats. He signed as a non drafted free agent out of Venezuela on 8/20/00 as a 16 year old. He then moved very quickly through the system, despite posting very low offensive numbers at every stop. He made his major league debut in 2004 as a 20 year old. In just under 1,400 minor league at bats, Andres has hit .247 with 6 HR and 106 RBI. He has a career .625 minor league OPS. Due to his lack of any kind of offensive production, I’ve always been a little leary of Blanco. He is regarded as a better defensive SS than Berroa, but his offense is not there (although, at the rate Berroa is going, Angel will catch Andres, soon). I view Blanco as a Rey Sanchez, except not as good of a hitter. He’s a slap hitter who’s good with the glove. In 87 Abs with the Royals this season, he batted .241 with an OPS of .600.

Angel Sanchez is 23 years old and just finished 2006 in Wichita. He has posted much better offensive numbers than Blanco. Sanchez batted .282 with 4 HR and 57 RBI last season for the Wranglers. His OPS was .691 (.339 OBP). He is also regarded as an advanced defensive player. Blanco and Sanchez may split time in Omaha in 2007 between SS and 2B, unless Berroa is moved over the winter. Sanchez made his major league debut this season and batted .222 with an OPS of .436 in 27 Abs.

At the lower levels, the Royals SS prospects include Irving Falu (Mavericks), Chris McConnell (Burlington/Idaho Falls), and Jeff Bianchi (AZ Royals). There are some other names down there, but I don’t know any of them to be prospects. Michael Gaffney started 18 games at SS for the Mavericks this season. He will be 25 next season. Gilbert Gil started 17 games at SS for the Chukars in ‘06 and has one of the best names ever! Good ole Gil Gil (Gil2). He’s 21, but didn’t put up very good numbers. He hit .223 in 103 Abs, but the name made him worth talking about. Manual Juan is a player out of the Dominican. He might be the best of the rest. He is 19 years old and batted .271 with 3 HR and 27 RBI for the AZ Royals. His OPS was only .709, so nothing that is too special. There’s a "17" year old kid playing on the Dominican Summer League team. He batted .296 with 39 walks and 31 K’s. He posted an OPS of .804 with 15 stolen bases. Who knows if his age will change later or if they’ve got the age thing all figured out, yet.

Irving Falu (21st rounder in ‘03) batted .299 with 3 HR and 49 RBI for the Mavericks in ‘06. He stole more than 30 bases in a season for the second straight season. He posted an OPS of .737 this season. Whenever a guy plays at High Desert, you have to take a look at the splits (thankfully, that is the last year of that). Irving looks as though he definitely benefitted from being in High Desert. At home, he batted .344 with a .450 SLG and an OPS of .838. On the road, he batted .256 with a .320 SLG and an OPS of .638. During the month of August, Falu batted .398 in 123 Abs with an OPS of .948. On the whole, the numbers look good, but under the microscope, there are some question marks, there.

Chris McConnell (9th rounder in ‘04) had a rough go in 2006. The 20 year old began the year in Burlington and struggled mightily while with the Bees. He hit only .172 with a .455 OPS in 239 Abs. When Idaho Falls began play, McConnell was moved to the Pioneer League to play for the Chukars where he was an All Star in ‘05. Things got better, but it was not a return to the way things were. He hit .262 with 4 HR and 35 RBI for the Chukars over the summer. I imagine, he’ll return to Burlington in ‘07 (perhaps Wilmington if Bianchi is ready for Burlington) and try to answer some of the questions about what the Royals really have in him.

Jeff Bianchi (2nd rounder in ‘05) has accumulated 140 Abs with the AZ Royals over the past two seasons. He has a batting average of .414 and has an OPS of 1.221. He’s just having a hard time staying healthy. It appears that the Royals have something pretty special, here, but we’ll have to wait to see just how special. It was thought that he was an overdraft as a 2nd rounder, but he quickly hushed the critics by becoming a league All Star the summer after being drafted. He was limited to just 98 Abs that summer due to injury. He had 42 Abs in 2006.

Here’s how I’d rank them:

1. Jeff Bianchi (just turned 20 years old). Jeff has the best chance to be an impact major leaguer, but must stay healthy. I’d think the best case scenario still has him in KC no earlier than 2010. 2007 team...Burlington (if healthy)

2. Angel Sanchez (just turned 23 years old). I’d guess that Sanchez would project as a .250ish hitter in the majors with 4 or 5 HR. OPS would be in the range of .685. 2007 team...Omaha.

3. Irving Falu (23 years old). Irving has some good speed. His splits are very skewed, so I’m not sure what to expect, and he’s too far away from the majors to do much projection to the majors. I’d expect him to hit in the neighborhood of .260 next year in Wichita. 2007 team...Wichita.

4. Andres Blanco (23 years old). Those of you that know me know that I am not high on Blanco. He is a career .247 hitter in the minors with an OPS of .625. If he’s going to follow the same career path as Omar Vizquel, we’ll have to wait about 4 or 5 more years to see anything with the bat. 2007 team...Omaha/KC

5. Chris McConnell (20 years old). Chris is a big question mark right now. Is he the .330 hitter that was in Idaho Falls in ‘05 or the .170 hitter that was in Burlington in ‘06? 2007 will help answer many questions that face McConnell. I’ll stick him at the bottom until he does something else. 2007 team...Wilmington.


At 4:25 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Nice analysis Eric. Shortstop is a position of deep concern. I don't have much faith in Sanchez or Blanco developing into everyday players, so I think Bianchi is the best bet and he hasn't even been able to complete a few months of rookie ball. This is certainly an area the Royals need to target via free agency or trades in the next couple of years.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Berroa is sure going to make for an expensive backup. It would be a miracle if Moore could somehow move him out in a trade. I think we're stuck with him. We are going to have to hope that he can approach .700 with his OPS and just survive the next couple of years.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just release bERRORa's sorry butt and get it over with. I don't care what his contract is. He's worth more to the Royals off their roster than he is on it. He's probably negative five wins if he plays, and if you keep him as a backup, he takes a roster spot away from a more deserving player. Release him and write it off as a sunk cost.


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