Tag Archive | "Futures"

KC Royals’ Spring Training Report: Full Update of Surprises, Busts and Injuries

The Kansas City Royals have had an eventful spring.  For the first time in recent memory, the team is feeling the stress of a team that is expected to win.

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Winning brings its share of scrutiny, and The Royals have certainly found themselves in the spotlight.  Some players have excelled and been a pleasant surprise for the team.  Some have fizzled under the pressure and face uncertain futures.  Others have found themselves injured, either seriously or mildly, and have many questioning the team’s depth.

Some teams simply hope for a quiet spring to prepare for the long season.  If that was the goal for the Royals, it may be a difficult road ahead.

Mike Moustakas Leads a Group of Positive Surprises

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The surprises of the spring start with the production of a young man that the team desperately needs to perform well this season. Mike Moustakas, a player that the team has been anticipating to be a big part of the offense for multiple years, has seemingly arrived with the chip on his shoulder that the team wants him to have.

Moustakas leads, or is tied for the lead, with all regulars this spring in hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and batting average. He is slugging an amazing .921 and is second on the team with six walks. His offensive performance this spring has the team very hopeful that he can be a breakout star in the regular season.

Moustakas is not the only surprise this spring, however. On the mound, Yordano Ventura came in to camp ready to compete for the final spot in the starting rotation. The electricity that flowed through this young man when he took the mound this spring was something very few people could have predicted.

Ventura proceeded to pitch just over 15 innings to date, striking out 15 hitters while only walking one. He has held opposing batters to a .185 batting average, and he has posted a 0.72 WHIP. Ventura, according to Barry Bloom of MLB.com among others, has been named to the team's starting rotation after his dominance in spring training.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to talk baseball all season.

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Rob Rains Inside Baseball: 2012 Answers Needed

Inside Baseball: Cardinals need to use rest of season to get some answers for 2012

RobRains
Since all but a few diehard optimists can now agree the 2011 baseball season is over, at least for the Cardinals, it is time to begin looking ahead to 2012. There is perhaps no other team in baseball which knows so little about what their team will look like seven months from now.

With the futures of Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman and others to be decided at some point this winter, there are only three positions in the regular lineup where the Cardinals can predict with any degree of certainty who will be at those spots next season – catcher, if the team picks up Yadier Molina’s 2012 option; third base, David Freese, and left field, Matt Holliday.

The other five positions, either because of free agency or performance questions, cannot be guaranteed. Which is why, beginning now, the Cardinals should use the remaining five weeks of this season to try to find some answers about who is deserving of a lineup spot in 2012.

There are four players currently on the roster, and a fifth in Memphis, who should play on an almost everyday basis between now and the end of the season if the Cardinals truly want answers about how much those players can be counted on in 2012.

Here are the five, listed in no particular order:

Daniel Descalso – He will be 25 before next season begins, and projects as a candidate for either the second base, most likely, or shortstop position. Much of his 71 starts this season came at third base in place of the injured Freese but with Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot and Rafael Furcal all possibly gone next year, the Cardinals will be looking for starters at both second and shortstop.

The left-handed hitting Descalso, who Sunday night started only his 15th game since the All-Star break, has a .284 average against right-handers and only a .167 mark against left-handers this season, meaning the Cardinals need to find out if can be a full-time starter or would be better suited to be part of a platoon arrangement.

In nine starts and 17 total games at second this year Descalso has not committed an error. At shortstop, he has two errors in 10 starts and 12 total games.

Jon Jay – Jay will turn 27 next March, so the time is over to stop thinking about him as a young player. What has to be concerning to the Cardinals is how much he has struggled offensively each of the past two years following a trade which almost guaranteed him a starting position in the outfield, Ryan Ludwick last year and Colby Rasmus this season.

In the last two months of the 2010 season, following the Ludwick trade, Jay hit .244 after hitting .383 to that point, albeit in a reduced role. This year, following the Rasmus trade, Jay was hitting the exact same average, .244, before getting his first home run since the trade on Sunday night, as he raised his overall average to .299. He also turned in several nice plays in center field in the win over the Cubs. Before the trade he was hitting .312 with an on-base percentage of .363.

He also has driven in only four runs over that 24-game stretch, while striking out 19 times.

Other than Schumaker, and expecting that Corey Patterson will not be back, the Cardinals have no other centerfield candidates on the current roster and do not appear to have any ready to move up from the minor leagues by 2012 either.

Allen Craig – He started three consecutive games, one at each outfield spot, before Sunday night but realistically if Craig figures in the Cardinals’ 2012 plans it has to be as either the right fielder or first baseman. Whether those spots will be open or not remains to be seen.

Craig missed almost two months of the year with a broken knee, which makes the remaining time very important for him to show the Cardinals they can indeed count on him to be an effective offensive player. He turned 27 in July, meaning he is the same age as Jay and also can’t be looked at any more as a young player.

In the last two partial seasons in the majors, Craig has hit 10 homers and driven in 44 runs in 91 games while hitting .281. In three consecutive years in the minors he hit at least 22 home runs and drove in 80 or more runs, and he deserves the chance to see if he can produce those kinds of numbers in the major leagues.

Fernando Salas – Considering nobody expected Salas to be the team’s closer in 2011, he has done an admirable job, converting 22 of 26 save opportunities. His lack of experience in the job, however, leaves many wondering if the team should look elsewhere for a veteran closer for 2012.

One of the reasons some people question Salas in the role is the fact he has given up six homers in 58 innings. Only three current closers in the NL have allowed more –Huston Street(10), Leo Nunez (8) and Drew Storen (7) and each of those closers has 29 or more saves.

There has been some suggesting that even Jason Motte, who has performed so well this year in a setup role, merits a chance as the team’s closer and it would not be a stretch to see him get some opportunities in September on days Salas is not available.

Tyler Greene – After having seen Greene on a part-time basis the previous three years, it is time to make a decision on his future. With almost 1,000 career at-bats at Triple A, he has nothing left to prove at that level, and at age 28, can no longer block a younger player, such as Ryan Jackson, who is ready to move up from Double A.

Greene has a .337 average at Memphis this season, with 12 homers and 15 stolen bases, but has only a combined .213 average in a little more than 300 career games in the majors. He can play shortstop and second base, but has to prove that he can hit at the major league level or else be labeled as a 4A type of player.

The Chicago mess

It will be interesting to see who Cubs owner Tom Ricketts hires as the replacement for general manager Jim Hendry. Hendry’s dismissal can be tied to the poor performance of several players he signed to long-term lucrative contracts, including Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez – one of the reasons why a lot of people expect the Cubs to proceed very cautiously this winter on pursuing free agent Albert Pujols.

The hottest name in Chicago’s job search will probably be Andrew Friedman, currently the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays. Ricketts has said he wants someone with GM experience who combines old-scout scouting techniques and the new sabermetrics approach to the game, and Friedman has done an admirable job with the low-budget Rays. He also is likely to receive a job offer from the Houston Astros once that team’s new ownership is in place. Friedman grew up inHouston.

One person who wants the Cubs job is Rick Hahn, currently the assistant GM of the White Sox. Hahn is a Chicago native who grew up living and dying with the Cubs. Whether he has enough experience for Ricketts, or if Ricketts is unable to talk a higher-profile candidate into the job, remains to be seen.

Head on over to RobRains.com to read the rest of Rob’s thoughts around the Major and Minor Leagues.

Rob Rains does his “Inside Baseball” column every Monday. “LIKE” us on Facebook for breaking news and features. Check back every day –we offer new content daily.

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Get Out To The ‘K’ And Watch The Youth Play

Well, it is that time of the year again Royals fans. Any whim of success left when the Royals booted Trey Hillman out, basically turning to 2011 and beyond with Ned Yost. With only a couple weeks left in the season though this is a perfect time of the year to sneak away to the ‘K’ and catch a few more games before the Royals wrap up 2010. Even though the Royals are not playing for any hardware, it does not mean their opponents are in the same boat. The Royals close the season with two teams battling for playoff berths. Kansas City hosts the Minnesota Twins, who are currently trying to fend off the White Sox, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who are battling the Yankees for the best record in MLB. Strong competition along with the September call-ups will make these intriguing games. Seeing the Royals put up their youth against playoff caliber teams will be a good gauge of their futures within the organization.

One of the most basic things I do as both a journalist and a sports fan in general is constantly try to view things objectively. For example, one thing constantly heard about the Royals is they play better in April and September than any other time of the year, usually because those games are of no relevance. When you actually look at the numbers though, this holds some weight over the past couple years. In 2009, the Royals had a winning percentage of .545 in April and .536 in September. Their next closest month was a .393 clip in May. In 2008, Kansas City went .692 in September. Although those trends have not corresponded with the 2010 year, as their highest winning month was June (.481) and September has been a disaster.

Little things like that get started on talk radio and radiate throughout the minds of baseball fans, reporters, and even front offices. While this circumstance happened to be true, the facts and opinions get pretty jumbled not just on sports talk radio, but national sports media in general. As fans of the game, it is our responsibility to not take everything said on the airwaves or running across the Bottomline on ESPN as completely true. You must keep in mind, those organizations have interests of their own as well. Whether it is a local sports broadcaster needing more listeners so he only says praises about the Royals and Chiefs even though they stink, or ESPN constantly promoting ‘sporting events’ that bring in millions of dollars in revenue for that company (The LeBron debacle comes to mind). It is common knowledge DJs get free services for promos on their shows, but the same company (Disney) at one time owned both ESPN and a major league baseball team (Angels). In 2003, the Angels were sold by the Walt Disney Company to Arte Moreno. Before 2003, though, were all the things said about the Angels on ESPN biased because ownership wanted to avoid conflict within the business? Did ESPN offer more national coverage to the Angels, in a way they could profit even more? I am not saying these things happened; I am simply saying they could have happened which is something needed to be considered by every fan.

With all that being said it brings me to my main point of the article, seeing the Royals prospects play. Sports broadcasters tend to embellish player feats, talents, etc. to make the game seem more spectacular for the people watching and listening. I believe this translates specifically when promoting baseball prospects. It is a simple trap to fall into, because media outlets do everything to make these kids look like future saviors. They rank them within their organization and nationally, they evaluate them, and they showcase them (All Star-Games, Futures Game). There is usually quite a bit of hype surrounding the twenty year old ballplayers. It is easy to put the weight of the organization on the shoulders of some up and comers, especially if your team hasn’t seen success in some time. Like a team not having winning season since George Brett left in 1994.

For as many players that have made the dream scenario come true like Jason Heyward, there are hundreds of stories of guys flaming out before they could even contribute on a major league level. Even though they aren’t being showcased yet in Kansas City the names running through the minds of Royals fans as they look toward next year are Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Montgomery. All three players were first round draft picks and are expected by many Royals fans to be the future faces of the organization. When looking at these expectations though, my mind goes to the other left handed hitting, first round selection, third baseman billed as ‘the next George Brett.’ Instead of saving the team though, he now roams the outfield of Kauffman while fighting to keep his batting average from dipping below the Mendoza Line. Of course I’m talking about Alex Gordon and it is not to criticize him. Being a long time Huskers fan, it is hard to root against a Big Red alum. Instead, maybe this is his peak performance on a professional level and he should not have been painted as some sort of prodigal child.

When I look at a player, I like to see him play before I make my assessment. You can learn a lot about a player simply by watching them a few times either at the ballpark or on TV. If you can’t watch them in person, the next best thing to do is check out their stats. Statistically the year Mike Moustakas put together is pretty impressive by any measure. Splitting time between AA and AAA he’s amassed 36 dingers, 41 doubles, 124 RBIs, all at a clip of .322/.369/.630. While those are eye-popping numbers, what do they mean? Success at the minor league level does not always translate into MLB prosperity. Usually I like to try and compare young players’ minor league output to current MLB players, to try and create some type of potential career path for them. Comparing Moustakas to a few Royals prospects of the past may give some insight.

Player Age

Moustakas 21 .322/.396/.630 36 HR, 41 DB, 124 RBI, 484 AB

Beltran 21 .313/.394/.553 19 HR, 27 DB, 76 RBI, 374 AB

Damon 21 .343/.434/.534 15 HR, 16 DB, 54 RBI, 423 AB

Sweeny 21 .310/.424/.548 18 HR, 23 DB, 53 RBI, 332 AB

Gordon 22 .325/.427/.588 29 HR, 39DB, 101 RBI, 486 AB

While Moustakas’ numbers are better than anyone on the list it might be a bit disheartening for Royals fans to see who most closely reflected his season in past years, Alex Gordon. There are many different factors between the two players, specifically that Gordon went to college and Moustakas has been in professional baseball for four seasons now. This can have a profound difference in his staying power, simply because he is used to the life of a baseball player and has been doing it for four years now. Gordon was rushed through the minors and might not have been comfortable being unveiled so quickly. Gordon was also criticized for his erratic play at the hot corner. Gordon’s career minor league fielding percentage, including his shaky outfield transition, is .950, while Moustakas’ career fielding percentage sits at .942. Since being promoted to Omaha hitting averages have slipped, as well. His batting, on-base, and slugging percentages have all fallen by at least .100 from his AA totals. I am not proclaiming that Moustakas is going to be a bust; instead I am calling on you to make your own opinion. Either way, the statistical comparison is undeniable. These are all things to keep in mind when spring training comes and there will be debates about whether to let the Moose join the big club.

As for the here and now the Royals still have some good talent not named Moustakas or Hosmer trying to show they are worthy of a big league roster spot. Guys like Noel Arguelles, Aaron Crow, Kanekoa Texeira, Lucas May, Kila Ka’aihue, and Jarrod Dyson aren’t necessarily superstar prospects, but they will help fill the holes Kansas City will have over the next few years. With not a lot of experience this is a good opportunity to see what these guys can do in their first few chances as big leaguer. Without a lot of exposure it will be pretty easy to see which of them are over matched, and who is ready to make the next step. Are these guys the future of the team, or will they fizzle out and continue the dismay? Head out to the ‘K’ and do some of your own research of what’s really going on in the Royals farm system.

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