Tag Archive | "John Buck"

Pirates Gear Up For Playoff Run

A day after major changes for both franchises, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets completed a trade that alters the remainder of the season for both.

Marlon Byrd

The Mets were told their ace pitcher, Matt Harvey, would miss the remainder of the season due to a UCL tear.  Meanwhile, the Pirates fell out of first place when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds in dramatic fashion.  The events of yesterday got the gears turning for both clubs and an agreement was reached.

The news was first reported by Anthony DiComo, the Mets beat writer for MLB.com.

The Pirates have acquired Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets in exchange for second base prospect Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.

Byrd is the notable piece of the deal for the Pirates as his stellar play this season shores up an outfield that has struggled for consistency.  His bat plugs nicely into the heart of the Pirates order and he brings with him 21 home runs and 71 runs batted in.  He has continued to produce in a season that was all but written off before it started.  Byrd was not expected to be a key piece at his age but he has provided a consistent bat and above-average defense to Pittsburgh and, more than likely, play right field alongside Andrew McCutchen while Starling Marte continues to recover from hand issues.

Buck, meanwhile, is a depth move that adds veteran leadership, solid defense, and a inconsistent bat to the bench.  He continues to throw out 30 percent of would-be base stealers and can drive in runs from time to time when he is playing well.

The Pirates part ways with a minor league second baseman who projects to be a decent hitter when he arrives at the big league level.  Herrera is only 19 years old and ranks just outside of the top ten prospects in the Pirates organization.  He benefits well from above average speed and surprising power, according to Baseball America, who ranked him 20th among Pirates prospects prior to this season.

The Pirates added two veteran pieces and a solid bat to their lineup as they enter the final push of a playoff run.  It is the type of mood that the Cardinals would have made under the Tony LaRussa leadership.

Cardinals fans hope it is not worthy of the same results LaRussa normally found.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.
You can find his work on Yahoo!InsideSTL, and here on i70.
Talk baseball with him on Twitter @poisonwilliam

Posted in Cardinals, MLBComments (0)

Wacha Wacha Wow

The St. Louis Cardinals have shown offensive prowess over the last week, racking up the run support and showing midseason form at the plate.  The offense was impressive, but may have been overshadowed by the presence of pitching prospect Michael Wacha.

MichaelWacha

Wacha took the mound behind starter Lance Lynn on Wednesday against the Mets.  The young prospect was making his second appearance in a Spring Training that has had many Cardinal officials raving about his work.  On the heels of Wednesday’s performance, I doubt the hype will be dying down anytime soon.

Mets announcers seem to be uttering the same phrase repeatedly in that highlight, “Oh Boy” seemed to be the order of the day.

The Cardinal farmhand took over for Lance Lynn to start the third inning and went right to work striking out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada.  Superstar David Wright would follow with a base hit, the only blemish on Wacha’s day, before Ike Davis and Marlon Byrd would send fly balls into left field for an easy inning.

If the third inning was easy, the fourth was borderline dominant.  Lucas Duda and Justin Turner would both strike out, the former looking and the latter swinging, before John Buck would ground out weakly to second baseman Daniel Descalso.

The fifth inning would be more of the same with different names at the plate.   Matthew den Dekker, who’s name is familiar thanks to his home run robbing catch earlier in the week (seen below), would watch strike three while Mike Baxter would take his chances swinging even though he would come up empty.  Ruben Tejada, seeing the Cards right hander for a second time, would also ground out to Descalso, though the Cardinals infielder had moved across the diamond to third base.

Wacha seemed dominant, at least on paper, but watching the young man pitch made it obvious that he was pitching smart.  His fastball was in the lower 90′s, but it was also in the lower part of the strike zone.  His changeup was pinpointed and seemed to keep guys off balance while his “third best pitch” as the Mets’ announcers pointed out, his breaking ball was sharp and kicked up dirt.  He truly stepped on the mound to pitch, not throw, and it was clear by the outcome that he was successful.

Most impressive might have been his efficiency.  Wright’s base hit was the only ball struck hard, and even that one was not crushed.

Fans have been hearing for some time now that this is a great farm system.  Spring training gives them their first chance to see this first hand.

Michael Wacha is the future of the organization.

The future looks really, really good.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, MinorsComments (0)

Hispanic Heritage in KC: All-Time Hispanic Team

In a by-gone era, there was a bit of a perception from the outside looking in that the Kansas City Royals were a franchise opposed to minorities.

Black pitchers were essentially unheard of in Kansas City. But John Mayberry, Hal McRae, Frank White and Amos Otis, prominent black position players in the 1970s, more than made up for it.

Hispanics, on the other hand, played almost no role with the Royals for decades. Tracing the history of Mexican-born and Latin-born Royals makes for a short story.

So to make a Royals All-Star team of Hispanic players is difficult. But in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s worth a try.

The first problem was what to do with new members of the team Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. Perez is already the greatest Hispanic catcher in team history. He has virtually no competition. But he’s not even played a full season in KC.

So for the sake of the exercise, the team will exclude current players who haven’t played at least two seasons for the Royals. And to keep it simple, the team will only include players born outside of the U.S.

Catcher: Perez will own this spot in no time. But the Royals first All Star was Puerto Rican Ellie Rodriguez. Someone had to make the All-Star Team in 1969. Why not a guy who hit just .236 with 2 homers in that inaugural season?

He gets the sentimental nod over Dominican Miguel Olivo, who hit 35 homers and had 106 RBIs while sharing the catching duties for two seasons. Olivo was probably a lot better than Rodriguez, but he never could unseat John Buck, which tells you something.

1B: Wow. Almost no options here at all. Tempting as it is to go with Orlando Cepeda based on his Cooperstown credentials, the truth is the Puerto Rican slugger did nothing in 33 games in KC, and played strictly DH.

The nod goes to… Mendy Lopez. The Dominican played a handful of games at firstbase in 2003, when he hit .277 with 3 homers.

2B: Lots of choices here, including some decent contributors like Jose Lind, Jose Offerman and Carlos Febles. But one of the most beloved Royals ever was Cuban Cookie Rojas. The diminutive, bespectacled Rojas made four trips to the All-Star Game for KC.

SS: The one position where the Royals have employed tons of Hispanics is shortstop. Alcides Escobar will claim this honor after this season. But before that there was a host of nightmarish options to choose from: Yuniesky Betancourt? Neifi Perez? Angel Berroa? Angel Salazar? Onix Concepcion?

I’ll go with Puerto Rican Rey Sanchez because he hit .294, .273, and .303 in his three seasons in KC.

3B: Two options here, which seem basically interchangeable. I’ll go with a tie: Dominican Wilson Betemit and Venezuelan Alberto Callaspo, who both hit reasonably while in KC.

Outfield: Not a lot of options here, surprisingly, so the choices are obvious. Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran is arguably the second greatest Royal in history, and has a chance to go into Cooperstown wearing a Royals cap.

Mexican Jorge Orta played four solid seasons and was a key contributor on the 1985 World Series champs. In that series, he reached first base safely (wink) on the most important play in team history.

And the third outfielder is Melky Cabrera, who rejuvenated his career in 2011. The Dominican hit .305, socked 18 homers, collected 201 hits and played solid defense in his one year in KC. Busted for PEDs in 2012, we may never know how legit those stats were, but it was a darn good season.

DH: Like it or not, Dominican Jose Guillen claims this spot. He belted 45 homers as one of the only power sources in the KC lineup from 2008 to 2010.

Starting Pitchers:

1), Hipolito Pichardo, Dominican Republic: 42-39, 4.48 ERA, 67 starts. Not many pitchers have a plus .500 win percentage recently. Pichardo has more wins than Luke Hochevar in half as many starts.

2) Bruce Chen, Panama: 35-32, 4.59 ERA. One rotten season (1-6, 5.78 ERA in 2009) sullies his otherwise solid numbers.

3) Luis Aquino, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic pitcher to play a significant role, from 1988-92, Aquino made 55 starts over five seasons. His career mark is 22-19. He pitched in 114 games in KC.

4) Runelvys Hernandez, Dominican Republic: Hernandez was given every opportunity to succeed. But on some teams that had almost no other option, he still wore out his welcome. Hernandez posted a 25-33 mark in 78 starts before eating his way into early retirement.

5) The options are so bleak, Hernandez makes the rotation, but no one else is worthy of consideration. (Jose Rosado and D.J. Carasco are ineligible because they were born in the U.S.)

Relief Pitchers:

1) Joakim Soria, Mexico: Without a doubt the greatest Hispanic pitcher in Royals history. Soria’s160 career saves rank third in team history, and only arm injuries keep him from being one of the best relievers of his era.

2) Roberto Hernandez, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic closer in team history. Hernandez notched 54 saves in two seasons, but was never really welcome in KC.

If minorities were discriminated against in some form or fashion in KC, hopefully that day has passed. Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar are getting every opportunity today, as Joakim Soria was before he was knocked out by an arm injury. The Royals have made more effort to sign Latin talent in the past few years, so hopefully more Hispanic players will bolster the current youth movement.

But as can be seen by this “All-Star Team,” the number of Hispanic stars in KC’s history is shockingly small. Not much history to celebrate in National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (1)

Where Are They Now: Mark Teahen

The Sad Saga of Mark Teahen reads like a Greek tragedy, but saddest of all, it also reads like a handful of other players in the recent history of the Kansas City Royals.

Teahen was acquired by the Royals in 2004 as a key piece in a three-team trade that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston, John Buck from Houston to Kansas City, Octavio Dotel from Houston to Oakland, and Mike Wood and Teahen himself from Oakland to Kansas City. Whew.

Of the three players Kansas City received in the trade, Teahen stood out. Here was a genuine prospect who had been mentioned in no less a book than the groundbreaking Moneyball as the next big thing – and quite possibly the next Jason Giambi.

A former first-round draft pick, 22-year-old Teahen was hitting his stride in 2004. Across the AAA systems for Oakland and Kansas City that season, Teahen batted .301 with a .379 on base percentage, 14 home runs and 77 RBIs. All signs indicated he could be an important part of the Royals’ lineup for years to come.

And in many ways, he was. Teahen saw Major League duty for the first time in 2005, and served as the starting third baseman for most of the season. His stats were unimpressive – .246 batting average, 7 home runs – but his .309 on base percentage and 55 RBIs showed promise.

That promise fulfilled itself in Teahen’s sophomore season. He crushed the ball in 2006, clubbing 18 homers and posting a .290 batting average. He also stole 10 bases and posted an impressive .517 slugging percentage.

But Teahen’s career was sidetracked by another Royals Sad Saga, this one belonging to Alex Gordon. In 2007, Gordon was the hot-shot third base prospect, and third base was handed to him on a silver platter. The ever-gracious Teahen accepted a move to right field. But he struggled defensively and with the bat. Although his batting average was still a respectable .285, his power stats plummeted to only seven home runs and 60 RBIs. Not acceptable for a Major League corner outfielder.

At the end of the 2007 season, the Royals signed right fielder Jose Guillen to a three-year contract, in large part to provide a power bat in the middle of the lineup. Teahen was displaced once again. He moved around the outfield in 2008, and also put in time at first and third base. By 2009, the Royals even considered putting Teahen at second base, an unusual position for someone of Teahen’s body type.

Mark TeahenThat year was to be the last for Teahen in Kansas City. At the end of 2009, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields.

Most trades have a winner and a loser. This particular trade seemed to have losers on both sides. Although Teahen signed a three-year contract with the White Sox before the 2010 season, he underperformed, and was again bounced around the field. For the Royals, Getz and Fields spent much of 2010 on the injured list. Getz will likely be the starting second baseman in 2011, but he could quickly be bumped if his bat does not improve. Fields played only a handful of games for the big league team, and he was cut after the 2011 season. He’s now a farmhand for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

What does the future hold for Teahen?

For one, he will benefit from playing in large-market Chicago. If Teahen does not earn a starting spot in 2011, the White Sox can afford to keep him around as a super-utility guy who can play four positions. That type of player, especially one with occasional power, can be extremely valuable to a contender

Teahen endeared himself to Kansas City fans during his time in Royal Blue. Although he’s playing for a hated division rival now, it’s a safe bet many Royals fans still root for Mark Teahen.

Maybe even when he’s playing at Kauffman Stadium.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and associate editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey14@yahoo.com.

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Where Are They Now: John Buck

Some think a .281/.314/.489 line with 20 home runs and 66 runs batted in equals $18million over three years. It does if you’re a catcher in the major leagues. John Buck of the Florida Marlins could not be happier. Those are the career best numbers Buck, the only major leaguer born in Wyoming, put up last year with the Toronto Blue Jays. Those numbers earned John a spot on the 2010 American League All-Star team, where he went 1 for 2 with a double, and a 3 year contract with the Marlins.

Some question whether the 1998 7th round draft pick of the Houston Astros, who came to the Kansas City Royals in the Carlos Beltran trade, has finally come into his own or if his season was merely the result of 437 plate appearances in a hitter’s ballpark in Toronto in a line up with fellow All Stars Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista. Buck, who turns 31 in July, will be starting his 8th season in the big leagues when he steps onto the field as the opening day starting catcher with the Marlins. His first 6 years in the majors, were spent with Kansas City before leaving for Toronto prior to the 2010 season. He was a career .235 hitter through 2009 with a career high of 18 home runs in 2007 and 50 rbi’s in 2006 with the Royals. Buck has not been in the majors because of his hitting. He has never shown much plate discipline, striking out 23.9% of the time while walking just 6.5% of the time. But with Victor Martinez out of the Marlins price range, it’s assumed they put a premium on Buck’s intangibles and leadership qualities he’d shown in Kansas City.

But Marlin fans are hopeful Buck can help fill the void created when secondbaseman Dan Uggla took his 33 home runs and 105 rbi’s to Atlanta in the off season. Early projections has put John batting seventh in the Marlins lineup ahead of rookie thirdbaseman Matt Dominguez, the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft. Rightfielder Mike Stanton, who hit 22 homeruns in only 100 games last year as a rookie, is believed to be the cleanup hitter in the revamped Marlin lineup. Make no mistake, the key to the Marlins offense is shortsstop Hanley Ramirez and his .300 batting average, 21 home runs, 92 runs, 76 runs batted in and 32 stolen bases, hitting third. Chris Coghlan coming back from injury and putting up similar numbers he produced in his rookie season of 2009 when he hit .321 in 504 AB’s with 31 doubles and 6 triples but in the leadoff position in 2011 would be everything the Marlins could hope for. But if Buck can show the power he displayed last year in Toronto, there is definitely room in Florida for John to move up into the heart of the lineup.

Even if John can put up similar numbers to his 2010 season, I don’t think they will earn him an appearance in this years All-Star game, nor will they vault the Florida Marlins any higher than another 4th place finish in the powerful National League East. But coming from Toronto, Buck knows all about playing in a tough East division. If my projection of 70 Marlin victories for this season comes to pass, John Buck might even think he’s back in Kansas City. But this time, he’ll have an $18mm contract, the memory of a positive experience in the 2010 All-Star game and another year in the big leagues……and that would make anyone happy……no matter where you’re from.

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How Are They Doing

Sometimes, players do not leave behind fans just because they leave behind a team.

Modern baseball, free agency, and the business of the game has players changing teams at a rate that is so alarming that people, even for a brief second, wondered if Derek Jeter would in fact be a Yankee by the time teams reported to Spring Training. Despite the speed at which teams will allow a player, by choice or otherwise, change uniforms, some fans do what they can to remain a fan of that player for the remainder of his career.

Some players catch our attention because of their off the field antics, some for their defensive prowess, others just for their guts alone. Some of the guys that take the field were once part of that next batch of “can’t miss” players to hit the major leagues in our favorite team’s uniform.

Fans of the Cardinals and Royals have seen their share of players come and go in recent years. Fan favorite short stops, former top of the organization outfielders, chick comment inspiring outfielders and top of the rotation pitchers have found their way into other organizations since they last wore the birds-on-the-bat or the baby blue.

This week, join us here at I-70 as we help you catch up on some of the players that are out and about in Major League Baseball. Come back throughout the week to check in on former Royals John Buck, Carlos Beltran, Zack Grienke, David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, and Mark Teahen. Our team of Cardinal writers will bring you up to speed on Blake Hawksworth, Brendan Ryan, Ryan Ludwick, Scott Rolen, Rick Ankiel and JD Drew.

The team will recap their years on the Royals and Cardinals, the success (or lack of) since leaving the team, and a look ahead at what 2011 might hold for them. We hope everyone enjoys this look at some of our favorite guys that no longer wear the uniforms we love.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, RoyalsComments (0)

Breakdown Of The Greinke Haul

Zach Greinke is gone. It’s time to get over it and move on. The harsh realities of life forced Dayton Moore to seek the best deal the market would bear for Kansas City’s one and only star. And now the only thing left to do is evaluate what the Royals received in return.

The superstar-for-prospects trades of the past haven’t worked out too well in the past for the Royals. Look back at the trades of Beltran in 2004 (which brought Mike Wood, Mark Teahen and John Buck) and Damon in 2001 (which netted Roberto Hernandez, Angel Berroa and A.J. Hinch). Because of the high profile of these trades, the Royals had no choice but to give these six players every opportunity to succeed. But what they got was years of mediocre performance which finally came to an end when the Royals finally purged Buck and Teahen a year ago.

Hope springs eternal, however, and the pieces added in the Greinke trade make sense, at least on paper. The Royals farm system features a couple of prime corner position players, but it’s been void of up-the middle prospects for years. They’ve tried desperately to add shortstops and centerfielders through trades and free agency, but that strategy has produced mostly one-hit wonders (Berroa) and washouts (Neifi Perez, Coco Crisp, Rick Ankiel, etc.)

So Moore insisted on getting young, major-league ready, up-the-middle players with several years left under the control of their current franchise in return for Greinke. He landed two highly touted players that fit that description in shortstop Alcides Escobar and centerfielder Lorenzo Cain.

Alcides Escobar

There wasn’t one “centerpiece” to the Greinke trade, but a big-league-ready shortstop was probably the non-negotiable element that had to be included. Escobar was Baseball America’s #1 rated shortstop going into the 2010 season when he was handed the starting job in Milwaukee.

Infatuation with Escobar waned during the last season when he struggled at the plate, hitting .235 with a .288 OBP. But Royals fans hope those struggles were merely growing pains at the expense of the Brewers. After all, he’d hit over .300 in the minors in both 2007 and 2008, and .298 in 2009, before getting into 38 games with Milwaukee in 2009, where he recorded a .304 average.

Escobar’s arm is reportedly one of the best in the league and he has the speed to be a threat on the base paths. He swiped 42 bases in his last minor league stop. If his bat can catch his other skills, he could finally vanquish the Yuninefi Berroacourt monster that has plagued the Royals for a decade.

At best, the Royals have fixed the shortstop problem for the long term. At the least, they have upgraded from a shortstop who will be 29 next season to one who will be just 24 and who is under the Royals’ control through the 2015 season.

The Royals don’t know what they have in Jeff Bianchi, a 2nd rounder in 2005 who has hit solidly but just can’t stay healthy. If he’s healthy, Bianchi will most likely start the season at Double A. Meanwhile, many are guessing Christian Colon, the 4th pick in the 2010 draft who played shortstop at Wilmington last season is a better fit at second base and will now shift over there. Many are already penciling in a double play combo of Escobar and Colon for the future.

Lorenzo Cain

Reportedly the Atlanta Braves coveted Cain but couldn’t swing a deal to get him. So the story goes that Braves scout Jim Fregosi told Moore “If you trade Greinke, get Cain.”

If that story is true, what is it about Cain that scouts love?

First off, Cain is an athlete. He’s tall, strong and fast. The Royals hope he can develop into a top-flight defender in centerfield, another position where the team hasn’t found a consistent fit. They tried handing the position to an injury-prone veteran the past couple of years – first Crisp, then Ankiel. They hope the 24-year-old who played 43 games in Milwaukee can solidify the position.

Cain shot up rapidly last season, partly due to trades and injuries. He hit .324 with 21 stolen bases at Double A Huntsville, then hit .299 with 5 steals in a short stopover in Nashville. Once in Milwaukee, Cain continued to hit, going .306 with a .348 OBP in 147 at bats.

The addition of Cain affects the way the rest of the outfield shapes up. One would assume that the Royals plan to make Cain their every day centerfielder. Before the Greinke trade, did they plan for Melky Cabrera to have that role? Will Melky now platoon with left-fielder Gordon? Or will they rotate Cain, Melky and Gordon with rightfielder Jeff Francouer?

Having options is a good thing for manager Ned Yost, but it might not be a good thing for Gordon. Gordon was not a Dayton Moore draft pick and may be running out of chances. The addition of Cain would also not bode well for reserve outfielder Mitch Maier and certainly not for Gregor Blanco. Blanco has shown some potential, but he’s mainly been in the mix because he’s a speedy slap-hitting type. Now the Royals have more options in center, so Blanco’s opportunity may have been short lived.

The acquisition of Cain is also not helpful to minor leaguers Jarrod Dyson, David Lough and Derrick Robinson, each of whom has been considered a prospect, but is about the same age as Cain.

The two major-league- ready position players were the essentials to get the Royals to consider the trade. But adding top-flight pitching prospects is what made the deal worth doing.

Jeremy Jeffress

The Royals gained a major talent when 23-year-old Jeffress was included in the Greinke trade. Although he was a starter throughout most of his minor-league career, Jeffress appears perfectly suited for the role of table-setter for Joakim Soria. He showed he was more than capable his rookie season, notching 8 strikeouts and a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings of relief in 2010.

But let’s cut to the chase. Jeffress has tested positive for marijuana three times. Is that the type of guy who can hold it together when major-league money and major-league pressures come with the job? Is that the type of guy the Royals need in the clubhouse as they bring up their prized crop of prospects? Moore must either be naïve, or he must be certain Jeffress has his personal life under control.

If Jeffress can live up to his potential, his potential is scary. He can push 100 miles per hour and reportedly has an effective curve – which is why the Brewers made him the 16th pick in the 2006 draft.

The effect of Jeffress on the franchise will depend upon him. If he has his act together he could be a dominant reliever. If he can’t, the Royals are used to muddling through the later innings, so expect more of the same.

Jake Odorizzi

Still a couple of years removed from the big leagues, Odorizzi was hardly a throw-in for Greinke. A supplemental first-rounder in 2008 and the top pitching prospect in the Brewers’ system, the right hander immediately becomes perhaps the Royals’ top righty in their entire farm system.

Odorizzi is just 20 and will most likely start the season at Northwest Arkansas. But with very few right handers to compete with, he’ll be a top commodity. His addition takes some of the pressure off Aaron Crow to live up to his first-round billing.

As we’ve seen before, if any team can screw up prospects, it’s the Royals. These types of trades are intended to reel in several quality pieces in exchange for one superstar. But how many of these four will the Royals have to hit on for the trade to have been worth it? Is one quality starter out of the bunch a good value? Do all four have to pan out?

This trade can’t be sufficiently judged for years. The Royals are giving Moore time to build the team from the bottom up. But if Moore someday is deemed a failure, it may be based more on the results of this trade than anything else he does.

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2010 Year In Review: Royals Catcher

Royals catching saw a dramatic turnover following the 2009 season. John Buck had been with the club for six seasons, and Miguel Olivo had seen most of the action in ’09. The Buck/Olivo combo produced a nice power surge at the plate, bashing 32 home runs. Cy Young winner Zack Greinke heaped praise on Olivo’s work behind the plate, but neither catcher had the reputation as being strong defensively, and GM Dayton Moore opted to let both go to free agency without attempting to retain either.

Jason Kendall

Moore wanted a veteran presence behind the plate, and reportedly went after Ivan Rodriguez as his first choice. After Rodriguez signed with Washington, Moore inked 36-year-old Jason Kendall. It was clear to most observers that Kendall was a shell of the All-Star catcher he had been with Pittsburgh, and Moore was questioned for giving Kendall two years with the Royals for six million dollars. Meanwhile, Brayan Pena had shown promise at the plate in limited duty in 2009 (.273/.318/.442), and it was thought he would get some playing time. Instead, Kendall was allowed to catch virtually every game until his arm literally fell apart (muscles completely detached from bone in his shoulder). It didn’t seem to matter that Kendall was ineffective offensively, defensively, and in his handling of the pitching staff.

Trey Hillman had Kendall in the bottom half of the lineup until the beginning of June, when he moved him up to the two spot. Hillman was canned a few weeks later, but new manager Ned Yost never batted Kendall anywhere but second the rest of the way. Yost went so far as to call Kendall an ideal number two hitter. This was apparently due to Kendall’s “bat control,” with the idea he makes a lot of contact that would hopefully move runners over. Royals fans could be forgiven for having a hard time looking past Kendall’s .298 OBP and .266 SLG when hitting second. Kendall’s lack of power was epic: in 490 plate appearances, he hit a total of zero triples and home runs.

Brayan Pena was no better on the rare occasions he saw the field before Kendall’s injury. The fault may not have been entirely Pena’s though — rotting on the bench may have prevented him from finding his rhythm. Once Pena became a regular in September and October, he found his stroke and hit .309/.349/.432. In the 142nd game of the year, Pena got Royals catchers off the schneid with the first—and last—home run hit by a Royals catcher all year.

Brayan Pena was a different hitter before and after getting regular playing time

As for game-calling and defense, surely the gritty veteran was better than Pena, right? Well, the pitching staff had a 5.13 ERA with Kendall behind the plate and a 4.75 ERA when Pena was calling pitches. Base-runners loved to test Kendall’s arm: he led the AL in both stolen bases allowed and caught stealing. Kendall threw out 23% of would-be stealers, and Pena nabbed 28%. (The AL average was 21%.) Matt Klaassen’s involved catcher defense ratings put Kendall’s defense at -.8 runs below average, and Pena’s .4 runs above average.

Brayan Pena & Bruce Chen

When it comes to the intangibles that Kendall reputedly brings, it is next to impossible for a fan to gauge the existence or worth of those. But from where I sat on my couch or at Kauffman Stadium, Pena has one of the most infectious attitudes and smiles in the game, and seemed to get more excited than anybody when the Royals pulled off an exciting play or win. Kendall never had much to say on the bench or to the media as far as I could tell. Who knows, maybe behind closed doors Kendall turned into a guru and imparted valuable wisdom unto the Royals’ young players. Even if that was the case, there just did not seem to be any reason for him to play so much. (Only A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Wieters saw more action behind the plate in the AL than Kendall, even though he missed the last 31 games of the season.) Kendall could have mentored Brayan Pena just as well in a back-up role. The harsh reality is that the Royals were a much improved team after Kendall was out of the lineup.

Pena was joined in KC by Lucas May after Kendall’s move to the IR. May had just joined the organization after coming from the Dodgers in the Scott Podsednik deal at the trading deadline, and didn’t see enough big league action (12 games, 39 plate appearances) to draw any conclusions. Soon after May was acquired, Brad Mertel wrote for RoyalsProspects.com that “May projects as a future backup catcher at the big league level but if his power numbers and defense continue to improve he could force the Royals hand into giving him a starting spot.”

final 2010 numbers

Kendall’s injury is expected to keep him on the shelf for the first six to eight weeks of the 2011 season, leaving Moore with a difficult decision between standing pat with a Pena/May combo or trying to make an off-season move to add a catcher from outside the organization. It doesn’t help that he has tied up $3.75 million in Kendall for next season. It seems Pena may have earned some playing time, but it would not be surprising if Moore adds a veteran backstop before the season starts.

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The Trend Of Royals Stars Brings Back Memories

As long back as I can remember the trade deadline would come and go to only have the Royals trade away a good or soon to be great player for nothing. This trend would then continue into the summer months where more trades would ship All-Star guys like Damon, Dye, and the list goes on to teams with more money. Yet other times these players would just simply leave for more money even after offering the Royals a hometown discount. Some of this can be blamed on bad management, bad ownership, the small market, black cats, and a list of other reasons that no real fan wants to hear.

The one thing that I do remember is that the start of every season would bring joy, hope, and my grandpa watching the TOP TEN on ESPN yelling at the TV “And the Royals couldn’t use em” every single time anyone ever traded from the Royals did anything. His constant reminder of the talent that this team has let go was something of a daily standard. My grandpa has since passed away but his now immortal words still ring throughout the many households of my family on a summer night. This one simple saying has not only become a long running family joke but a slogan that could sell a thousand t-shirts in Kansas City.

I only bring all of this up because it is once again trade season in Kansas City and the words of my grandpa are starting to echo in the dark corners of my mind. So, before the Royals go trade off Bannister, DeJesus, Chen, Farnsworth, Bloomquist, Gordon, Butler, Hochevar, Callaspo, Greinke, ball boy number 2, and three players to be named later I thought it might be fun to see who “The Royals Couldn’t Use” who are on the All-Star Team this year.

The list this year after the first vote only sees one Royal from last year making the squad. This is comforting because in past years the entire starting outfield roster at the All-Star Game looked like a Royals Team Reunion. John Buck, now of the Toronto Blue Jays, has been selected as a reserve to this year’s squad. This might not sound like it is that big of a deal but Buck was thrown away like boxes after Christmas in KC once his contract was up. The Royals spent all winter trying to get a catcher to only have Buck make the All-Star team this season, not to mention Olivo having a great season this year after also being allowed to walk.

The Royals are a small market team and will from time to time have to let a player go because they simply can not afford to pay them, but the pure amount of players that have been traded away or simply let go is much too large. This points to the fact that the Royals are simply not evaluating their own talent as well as the rest of the league.

The reason these words seem to be more important than ever is because the Royals now have one of the better lists of minor league talent as well as early big league talent. So, lets all hope that the words “And the Royals couldn’t use ‘em” will never be spoken again.

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