Tag Archive | "Jose Guillen"

Are the Royals For Real This Year?

I believe the Royals will do well this year. I know, there’s been a few years when it seemed the Royals would do well and they fell flat (like 2004, 2009 and 2012). If there’s any team out there who crushes fan’s expectations and pulls the rug out from underneath their fans, it’s the Kansas City Royals.

Kauffman Stadium

But 2013 isn’t like the hopeful mirage of the 2012 season. Yes, there was optimism in 2012, but with the exception of the bullpen, the team wasn’t that good. Throw in the injuries, the dismal play of Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur, the inconsistent play of Mike Moustakas and the 12-game losing streak in April, it’s a surprise the Royals finished as well as they did.

But this year, things are different. The Royals overhauled the starting rotation by getting James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis and resigning Jeremy Guthrie. Last year’s Opening Day starter, Bruce Chen, is in the bullpen. So is Luke Hochevar. The bullpen is strong and should be stronger with the improved starting rotation pitching more innings. Except for the question marks of right fielder Jeff Francoeur and second baseman Chris Getz, the Royals have a competitive lineup, a lineup not relying on washed-up veterans like Juan Gonzalez or Jose Guillen (the jury is still out on Francoeur). And unlike the Injury Bug Attack of Two Aught Twelve which decimated a part of the team, this spring has almost been injury-free. And the Royals are Cactus League Champions, which doesn’t mean anything, but at least they played well.

And the team did things that made sense. Like moving Hochevar to the bullpen instead of forcing him to be a starter. Choosing Luis Mendoza over Chen as the fifth starter. Making Getz the starting second baseman (Johnny Giavotella didn’t play well enough to earn a spot). The Royals didn’t do anything this spring that made you go, “what were they thinking?” Well, Sluggerrr getting a lap dance at a 2005 bachelor party notwithstanding (Google it if you must, But I warn you it’s NSFW and a little, well, awkward).

But we are talking about the Royals. The Royals starters got roughed up in a few Spring Training games. Lately, lefty reliever Tim Collins hasn’t been pitching well. Eric Hosmer might be playing right field and Billy Butler might be at first base in Interleague games. Key players may suffer injuries. The momentum and winning in Spring Training may not continue into the regular season. The Royals might have another 12-game losing streak early in the season. Sure, all this happening is unlikely, but if any team can do it, the Royals can.

But not this year. I believe the Royals will play much better this season. Winning the World Series? Not likely. Winning the American League Pennant? There’s a slim chance. Winning the American League Central? Only if the Detroit Tigers suffer a rash of injuries and their offense, defense and pitching falter. A Wild Card Berth? With good teams in the A.L. East and A.L. West, it’s unlikely. Finishing above .500? I believe an 87-75 record and a second place finish in the A.L. Central behind Detroit is a realistic possibility.

I hope so anyway. I am a Royals fan, after all.

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Concluding The WAR On The Trades Of The GMDM Era

In the final piece of this series, we use the WAR data to finish taking a look at the trades that Dayton pulled off in 2010, and try to determine what all of this really means.

August 13, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Jose Guillen to the San Francisco Giants for a player to be named later and cash. The San Francisco Giants sent Kevin Pucetas (minors) (October 14, 2010) to the Kansas City Royals to complete the trade.

By this point in Jose Guillen‘s tenure with the Royals, they were just looking to get rid of him and unload a portion of his salary.  Guillen was in the last year of his deal, had (obviously) cleared waivers, and it was time for the Royals to get a look at some of the guys who had a chance to be part of their future.  And if they could get something in return, well all the better.  Along came Brian Sabean and the San Francisco Giants, who were in the middle of a pennant race and needed a bat.  Pucetas is a 27 year old career minor leaguer, who is unlikely to ever crack the Big Leagues.  However, this trade has to be considered a huge success for Moore considering their desperation to unload Guillen at the time.  It is telling that in Guillen’s almost 3 years with the Royals, he managed to post a cumulative WAR of -1.0.  That’s what $36 million of David Glass’ money bought the Royals in 2007.  Guillen did little after going to the Giants and was not even included on their playoff roster, which was the year they won the World Series.  I’m not sure if Jose has officially announced his retirement, but it is safe to say he is done.

Guillen: -0.7 WAR with Giants (2 months of 2010)

Pucetas: 0.0 WAR (has yet to reach Majors)

Royals win trade by 0.7 WAR

November 10, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded David DeJesus to the Oakland Athletics for Justin Marks (minors) and Vin Mazzaro.

Yikes!  While DeJesus had a down year in 2011, he did not come close to falling on his face with the fervor that good ole Vinny Mazzaro did.  Royals fans likely have one memory of Mazzaro from the 2011 season and it is this:

IP     H     R    ER    BB   SO   HR   HBP
2.1   11   14   14     3      2      1        0

That was his line as he appeared in relief against Cleveland on May 16.  At least he didn’t hit anyone.  While Mazzaro did appear for the Royals a few more times before the 2011 season came to an end, it is that game and that game alone that Royals fans remember.  It is still unclear what exactly it was that Moore saw in Mazzaro when making this deal.  He showed very little in 2 seasons with the A’s, and managed to make that look amazing compared to what he did in 2011.  As for Justin Marks, he is a 24 year old pitcher who logged a 3.98 ERA in Wilmington, the Royals’ Single A affiliate last year.  Considering how much of a pitcher’s league the Carolina league is known to be, along with his age, it is unlikely he ever has any meaningful impact on the big league roster.  The Royals were shopping DeJesus at the time, and one would have thought they could have gotten more than they did.  So either the market was much softer for him than first thought, or Billy Beane somehow pulled yet another fast one on the Royals.  I would tend to believe the latter, considering that even after an extremely down 2011 season for DeJesus, the Cubs still decided to invest $10 million in him over 2 years to make him their Opening Day right-fielder.  After consistently putting up WAR’s in the 3′s with the Royals (with a 4.4 in 2005), he regressed to a 0.6 WAR in 2011.  I expect DeJesus to rebound nicely in Chicago.

DeJesus: 0.6 WAR with A’s (2011)

Mazzaro: -0.7 WAR with Royals (2011)

Marks: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

A’s win trade by 1.3 WAR

December 19, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jake Odorizzi (minors), Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress.

Moreso than any other trade analyzed in this study, time will tell whether this one will work out in the Royals’ favor or not.  And if this trade ends up working out well for the Royals, the impact of it will trump the impact of all of the aforementioned failed trades combined.  But for fun, we will take a look at how it worked out in the 2011 season.

After Zack Greinke‘s 2009 Cy Young campaign, it appeared the Royals had their staff ace that would lead the starting rotation into the youth movement we are watching today.  But in 2010, Greinke was not the same.  At times he would show the stuff that made him so electrifying in 2009, but overall he looked disinterested.  Royals fans were in denial about it at the time, but looking back, it was very clear that with 2 years left on his deal, Zack no longer wanted to be in Kansas City.  So the Royals were faced with a decision: keep an unhappy Zack Greinke around in a clubhouse full of young impressionable players and worry about his negativity rubbing off on them, or trade him.  In hindsight, it is clear that trading Greinke was Moore’s only option.  It is even more clear after reading the following quote from Greinke.  When asked, in Feb. 2011, if he ever asked the Royals for a trade, Zack replied:

“I guess I kind of did right before the Trade Deadline last year because we were trading all our players. … When I signed, I was led to believe we were building around the guys we had, and we were getting rid of all of them,” he said. “So I sort of did then. Then at the end of the year, I sort of did again. And then during the offseason, I sort of did again. And then the media got the one where I think my agent must have said it somehow. … So I guess I sort of did about four times.”

Hence, in December of 2010, the Royals and the Brewers came to agreement on this deal.  Greinke proceeded to go to Milwaukee and pitch (and act) like Greinke.  First, he hurt himself playing basketball during Spring Training and missed the first month of the season.  Then he comes out in May and posts an out of this world K/W ratio while somehow managing to have an ERA hovering around 5.  Eventually though, he settled down and pitched like a Cy Young candidate the rest of the way for the NL Central Division Champion Brewers.  Betancourt, who was a throw-in in the deal after the Royals received Escobar in return, actually had a solid season for the Brewers in 2011. And now, ironically,he will wear a Royals uniform in 2012 albeit as a utility infielder.

As for what the Royals received in return, so much is tied up in the future.  But in just last year, it became clear that Escobar is something extremely special with the glove.  While he wasn’t useless with the bat, he is still a light hitter.  If this part of his game can continue to come around, you have yourself an elite ballplayer.  Cain came up for a quick audition at the end of the year and did fine.  The Royals clearly believe he is ready to take over as the everyday centerfielder, as they have traded away Melky Cabrera to the Giants to make room for an everyday role for Lorenzo.  Jeffress began the season on the big league roster, and while he displayed a very live arm and the ability to strike batters out, he struggled badly with his control and was sent down for the majority of the rest of the season.  It remainst to be seen what his role might be in 2012, but it is likely he begins the season in Omaha.  And after all of that, we have not even discussed the player who was stated to be the biggest grab in this trade for the Royals, 21 year-old righthander Jake Odorizzi.  Odorizzi spent last season split between Single A Wimington and Double A Northwest Arkansas.  He figures to begin this season either in Northwest Arkansas or Omaha, with a chance at a September callup to Kansas City.  So while the Royals clearly gave up a bit of production in the short term in this trade, the long term looks extremely bright.

Greinke: 1.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Betancourt: 0.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Escobar: 2.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Cain: 0.1 WAR with Royals (23 September 2011 plate appearances)

Jeremy Jeffress: 0.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Jake Odorizzi: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

Brewers win trade by 0.3 WAR

So…what does all of this mean?

Strictly looking at WAR, Dayton Moore has clearly come out on the short end of the trades that he made in the years of 2006-2010.  Overall, these trades negatively impacted the Royals performance of the Royals through the 2011 season.  However, having reviewed all of these trades, it is very difficult to find one anywhere that set the fanchise back in the long term.  There are no atrocities such as Johnny Damon for Roberto Hernandez, Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez, or Carlos Beltran for John Buck and Mark Teahen.  Granted, there weren’t any Damons, Dyes, or Beltrans on the roster when Moore took over.  But the point is that it is clear there was a strategy.  Until the Greinke trade, there is a very conservative theme to the trades that Moore has made.  And it is this Greinke trade that will be the biggest indicator as to whether Moore will be able trade effectively when he needs to.  When Dayton took over the job in June 2006, he stated this his primary mission was to rebuild the farm system so as to get to a point where the majority of the big league roster is homegrown talent.  It has taken awhile, but the Royals are now just about there.  Moore should be applauded for not taking his eye off of the ball.  The Royals are almost there.  “The Process” is almost complete.

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How I-70 Saved My Life

Editor’s Note: When I was introduced to Todd Fertig, I was working with someone that knew his family through church. She told me of the recent employment change and showed me “The Desperate Houseguys“. These gentlemen, faced with adversity, found a way to have a little fun and keep their focus. Todd has been exactly what I-70 Baseball looks for in our writers and we all wish him a happy anniversary this week. – Bill Ivie

Todd Fertig

On October 28, 2010, I-70 Baseball.com saved my life.

Ok, that might be a stretch. Don’t picture me like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, experimenting with various approaches to snuffing out my existence.

But a year ago right now, I was certainly in need of something to lift my spirits. I had recently lost my job, couldn’t collect unemployment, and was scrambling to keep food on the table while hunting for my next real job.

I had been working for months to launch a second career as a freelance writer. Suddenly I found myself without a FIRST career. I was working every gig I could land – painting houses, substitute teaching, stocking shelves.

I had been peddling my writing services everywhere I could, but with limited success. Then out of the blue came the invitation – “How would you like to write articles about the Kansas City Royals for a website?”

Advice experienced writers often give to beginners is “write about what interests you.” Not exactly profound, and not necessarily the secret to success, but in my case it was a no-brainer.

My first assignment, a tryout of sorts, was to provide some kind of analysis of the Jose Guillen trade. Not like the Royals really needed to get anything in exchange for that dead weight, but they did receive Kevin Pucetas. Pucetas may not ever make it to the big leagues, but he’ll always have a special place in my heart – the subject of my first I-70 Baseball.com article.

Suddenly I had found myself reading, researching and thinking about my favorite team in all of professional sports. It was a diversion from my troubles, and something to give me hope for the future. I was writing, and I could tell other people to read what I had written. A door was opened.

Since that first article a year ago, I’ve found many other opportunities to write for publication – full-time, part-time, freelance. Some of the gigs have been fun, fulfilling and rewarding. But none is as enjoyable as writing about the Royals.

The highlights of the past year have been many. I interviewed Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue on the Royals Caravan. I interviewed Jeff Montgomery for a two-part feature. I interviewed several Double-A stars who are on the brink of the big leagues. I met with my counterparts at a baseball blog-writers conference.

Probably my most significant success came during the website’s focus on Black History Month. I dug out an article I’d written 20 years earlier – an interview with Negro League star George Giles. I turned it into an updated two-part feature that garnered some attention.

But it hasn’t been the interviews or events or successes that have made I-70 Baseball.com an important part of my life. It’s been the simple enjoyment that comes from sitting down with a book, a magazine, or computer, and thinking about something unimportant, yet beautiful.

In the grand scheme of things, baseball doesn’t rival paying the bills, finding a job, or parenting and being a good husband. But when those things become really challenging, writing about baseball can be a lifesaver.

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2012 Anticipation

“Same old Royals.” “Another pointless September.” “Time to trade off our stars.” Those are the statements that you’ll hear from casual Royals fans every fall. Pessimism is normally at an all-time high, everyone is more focused on football, and nobody cares about making it out to Kauffman for a “meaningless” baseball game.

Things have been different this time around.

The hope and optimism surrounding “The K” during the current homestand hasn’t been higher since 2003 (the Royals last winning season). Fans are finally believing that the Royals are close to being a legitimate contender.

Right now, the Royals are 20 games under .500, 22.5 games back in the division, and way past being eliminated from playoff contention. It’s hard to see any fanbase in professional sports rallying behind a team with those numbers, but Royals fans did it during the past week. Kauffman Stadium attendance from last week (September 13th-18th) averaged out to 24,621 people per game. Last season during the same time period, attendance was at 16,952 people per game. The 2010 Royals had about the same record as the 2011 Royals (2010: 61-91, 2011:67-87) and both teams were eliminated from the playoffs right around the start of September.

The difference this year is that the players are still having a ton of fun on the diamond, which makes going to games much more exciting. The players on the Royals’ current roster genuinely love playing the game. Not only do they love playing the game, but they love winning, and they love winning together. They are a group of kids who really like each other and want to bring a winning team to Kansas City.

Does anyone think that Jose Guillen really liked playing for the Royals? How about Mike Jacobs? Ross Gload?

Doubtful.

And has any Royals team since 2003 been this excited about winning games in September?

Doubtful.

Has any Royals team had as much camaraderie and chemistry as this team besides in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s?

Highly doubtful.

Everyone on the roster is excited to be playing for this team in Kansas City. There’s no doubt that they are disappointed about how this season went, but you can sense that they are all anxious for 2012 to be here. The excitement on the field has brought excitement to the seats inside Kauffman Stadium. Expect the excitement to multiply in 2012.

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The Smartest Move Of The Dayton Moore Era

Dayton Moore has done it – he has finally made a truly wise free-agent signing.

By signing Jeff Francis to a one-year, $2 million contract (that could pay another $2 million in incentives), Moore has given the Royals a better chance to win this year, which I think most Royals fans acknowledge is not a priority. But even moreso, Moore has brought in a temporary ace and a staff leader who can mentor a young pitching staff.

Jeff FrancisAs a former highly-rated prospect himself – and one who has actually found a modicum of success on the Major League level – Francis should have a thing or two to teach these kids.

My only disappointment is that Moore didn’t sign him to a longer-term deal. But I can definitely understand Moore’s hesitation here; Francis has proven injury-prone, and his statistics are not all that inspiring.

But for a small price, what we have in Jeff Francis is someone who could be a part of this rotation for four, five, six years or longer – he could be the veteran anchor to what is bound to be a young team.

And, about those stats – they are a bit skewed by pitching his entire big league career in Denver. Despite that, Francis still has a winning record for his career as well as postseason experience.

What does this all mean for Dayton Moore? Well, it’s by far the smartest move he’s made as Royals GM. Yes, Moore has signed some impressive draft picks, including Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow and Eric Hosmer, and he should receive credit for that. But really, wouldn’t most GMs have signed those same players in those exact spots?

Moore has been ridiculously bad at signing free agents. The bottom-of-the-barrel, all-time worst free agent signing of his career was, of course, the Jose Guillen signing. The acquisition of Jeff Francis is, I don’t know, a billion times smarter.

To say that the Francis signing is the smartest move of his career is a little sad, too, because in the realm of the baseball universe, the signing isn’t that big of a deal (other than the fact that, reportedly, Francis turned down offers from the Yankees and the Rockies to come to Kansas City). This is more of a statement about how bad Moore has been than how good the signing is.

If this is the best move of Moore’s GM career, what’s the second-best? I would argue it was the Scott Podsednik signing, although many others have criticized that particular move. What we got out of Podsednik in tangible assets was a half-season of above-average offensive performance and a moderate haul of mid- to low-level prospects in trading him. But the biggest value of that move was that it changed the culture of Kansas City’s offense: prior to 2010, the offense was built around Guillen’s power, but the home runs never followed. During 2010, we saw a bit of a shift toward a speed-focused offensive attack, including but not limited to Podsednik. I think that was significant.

And the Francis signing will mean even bigger changes for the better.

I’m not convinced that Dayton Moore is a terrible GM, and I’m certainly not convinced that he’s a good GM. But perhaps the Francis signing is the beginning of a turning tide in Kansas City baseball.

(For a more detailed breakdown of the Francis signing, including lots of sabremetrics for those so inclined, check out this article at FanGraphs, which calls the Francis signing the “best free agent signing of the winter.”)

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

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Winners And Losers Of The Royals’ Offseason

The Kansas City Royals, more than likely, still have a few minor moves to make before extending all of their offers to spring training. However, the minimal splash from the weak cannonball that the Royals landed in the free agent pool the offseason has subsided. It’s now to take a look at who came out of the kiddie pool as winners and/or losers.

Winners:

1) Mediocrity

The Royals entered the 2010 season with an overcrowded outfield. After the trades of Scott Podsednik, Jose Guillen, Rick Ankiel, and the beloved David DeJesus, the immediate need for the 2011 was to re-tool the outfield. The Royals were never believed to make a run at the two biggest names out there in Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, but fans were still optimistic about the possibility of landing at least one impact player. Their optimism was rewarded with the likes of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, who combined to put up a line of .252 BA/.308 OBP/.369 SLG last season; not exactly world-beaters. The good thing is that the Royals have only committed $3.75M to these two players, so they turn about to be low-risk/high-reward moves.

2) Zack Greinke

In the end, Greinke got exactly what he wanted: out of Kansas City. While most players will give the cliché line when looking to get dealt of “The best scenario would be to stay here and win a championship in (fill in respective city here), but if that’s not possible, then I want to go to a place that can compete,” did you ever get the feeling that Greinke loved being in Kansas City? Here’s an even

Zack Greinke is now a Brewer.

better question, can you blame him? The Royals have done nothing to make this team competitive during Greinke’s tenure, which will wear on anyone, as it did on him. Fans could tell that he was not mentally devoted to this team last year, and it showed in his performance.

3) Dayton Moore

As much as fans are upset about the trade of Greinke, they will love the players that are coming in return. Alcides Escobar is a plus defender that will eventually become a decent enough hitter to anchor the lead-off spot for the Royals. Lorenzo Cain was a regular on ESPN’s Top Ten after his call-up last season. His stellar defensive abilities were put on display on a daily basis, but his offensive numbers were impressive as well. While he may not be a consistent power hitter, he will definitely frequent the gaps, which will play right into one of his greatest strengths: his speed. Jake Odorizzi is a former first round pick, and also was the Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the year in 2009. Jeremy Jeffress is another former first round pick, whose fastball has been known to touch the triple digit mark. However, a history of substance abuse could come back and haunt Moore. All in all, the Royals received a great deal of talent in return for Greinke, a couple of players that will help the team now, and a couple of players who have the potential to make an impact for years to come. This may turn out to be the best move that Dayton Moore has made with the Royals.

4) Luke Hochevar

Now that Greinke has moved on to greener pastures, Hochevar arguably becomes the best pitcher in this rotation. There are a ton of expectations that come with being the first overall pick in the draft, and it’s safe to say that Hochevar has not lived up to the hype. So, this becomes a “make or break” year for the young pitcher. While the organization will obviously not give up on him if he has another mediocre campaign, he has a golden opportunity laid before him. He has the chance to win over the hearts of all Royals fans, and become the next Greinke. However, with how irritated this fan base is, he may only have this season to win them over. No pressure……

Losers:

1) Zack Greinke

One thing that we’ve learned from the Zack Greinke ordeal is that if a player does not want to be in Kansas City anymore, then the fans don’t want that player here either. This town flipped on Greinke faster than anyone could have imagined. Fans have flooded the message boards and local radio stations to give their two cents about the wayward former Cy Young winner, and the majority of the retort has been extremely negative. Don’t expect to hear too many cheers from the Royals’ faithful the first time Milwaukee comes to town.

2) Fans

While in the long run, the Greinke trade may benefit this organization, the immediate impact has to irk Royals’ fans. This situation has become all too familiar for fans in this area: a young superstar that was developed and fine-tuned in the organization, only to be traded away in the (or before the) prime of their career. Fans of the Royals should be given all the credit in the world. Time after time, they grow to love the players in this organization only to see those same players donning a new jersey sooner rather than later.

3) Dayton Moore

The Royals GM sent his ace packing.

Moore has been walking a fine line with the fans, and the Greinke trade may have just shifted him to the bad side of said line. Moore has put a lot of faith of the prospects within this organization, and also in the young players that he has received via multiple trades. Now, he needs these young guns to step in, and they better play well, or he will be run out of this town. Obviously, the chances of being competitive in 2011 are slim to none, but extreme progress needs to be shown during the 2012 season. If not, his tenure in Kansas City will be known as a complete waste of time and talent.

4) The Royals Farm system

The Royals have the most talented and deepest farm system in Major League Baseball. That’s not opinion. It’s a fact. However, has there ever been this much pressure put on kids who haven’t even played one major game in their careers? Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and company are expected to turn this franchise around and return glory to Kansas City. That’s a lot to ask, but what else are Royals’ fans to do? That’s what they have been told for the past few years. They have no choice but to put all of their faith in these highly touted prospects, and to be honest, what else do they have to look forward to? Let’s hope that those incredibly high expectations don’t wear on these young players before they even step foot in the batter’s box, which has happened before (*cough, Alex Gordon, cough*).

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2010 Year In Review: KC Royals First Base

At a position that could probably be best described as a logjam over the past several years, the Royals now have young, homegrown options for the future.

After attempting to plug the hole at first base with castoff sluggers in 2009, the Royals finally handed the role to two products of their farm system with the hope they could develop into solid contributors at the position.

The Mike Jacobs era lasted one inglorious season, producing just 19 homers and 61 RBI with a .228 average in 2009. The team saw enough potential in Billy Butler to allow him to play a handful of games at first toward the end of the year before they released Jacobs over the winter.

The Royals also let costly acquisition Ryan Shealy go over the winter. They are now fully committed to players they have drafted and developed – Butler and three promising minor leaguers.

Kila Ka’aihue spent most of the season at AAA Omaha, hitting .319 with a .463 on-base percentage and 76 RBI while crushing 24 homers in just 94 games.

Prized prospect Eric Hosmer torched pitching at High A Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas. The third pick in the 2008 draft combined for 20 HR and 86 RBI, zooming to the top of the rankings of minor league prospects. Rangy and athletic, Hosmer may already be the best fielding first baseman in the organization.

And the player who had perhaps the best season of all in 2010 may have received the least attention. Clint Robinson won the Texas League Triple Crown while having to share time down the stretch with Hosmer.

Two of these four will most likely play every day for the Royals in 2011. The late-season trade of Jose Guillen opened up the designated hitter spot in the Royals lineup, allowing both Ka’aihue and Butler to play every day. One of these four first base prospects will most likely fill the DH role for the near future.

Three questions will need answers as the Royals evaluate their prospects at first base/DH.

1) Can Ka’aihue hit consistently enough at the big-league level? 2) Will Hosmer get moved ahead of Robinson in the minor-league pecking order? 3) Is a move to an outfield position in the future for one of these players?

Robinson may end up the odd man out in the situation. He will turn 26 this winter and despite putting up good numbers, has risen slowly. The Royals don’t appear willing to put any roadblock in Hosmer’s path, meaning he may get the nod as the every day first baseman at AAA Omaha. Robinson could play DH at Omaha, or he could attempt a move to the outfield.

Ka’aihue, who will turn 27 before next season, has struggled with big league pitching but showed some promise down the stretch in 2010. In 52 games, he recorded 8 homers and 25 RBIs, but just a .217 average. Ka’aihue could have spent more time on the Royals bench, but manager Ned Yost said in the spring he preferred that Ka’aihue play every day at Omaha, calling him “a huge part of our future.”

Butler will definitely take one of the spots in the lineup, be it first base or DH. The Royals have been happy with his progress with the glove, but occasional mental lapses demonstrate his lack of familiarity with the position.

At the plate, Butler boasted a .318 average, good for 6th in the American League. But for a slow-running average fielder, more pop than 15 homers would be preferred. His strikeout to walk ratio improved, but he still hits into too many double plays – he led the league with 32. But all things considered, at just 24 and with four major league seasons under his belt, Butler is the closest thing the Royals have to a star hitter. He’s never hit below .275 and already has 590 career hits.

If Butler is a budding star, the Royals hope Hosmer is a super-star in the making. Baseball America tabbed him as it’s all-star first baseman for all levels of the minor leagues. Hosmer proved skeptics who doubted him after a luke-warm 2009 debut wrong. He recovered from a hand injury and opted for LASIK eye surgery during the off-season, then unleashed a power outbreak that culminated with 6 homers and 12 RBIs in 9 playoff games for Northwest Arkansas. His off-season plans include winter action with Team USA and in the Arizona Fall League.

Most likely 2011 will see first base and DH split almost exclusively between Butler and Ka’aihue. This will be Ka’aihue’s one chance to prove he belongs at the big league level before Hosmer and Robinson advance. Trades or a position change will be part of the discussion before 2012 as there won’t be room for all four in the system and as Ka’aihue and Robinson enter their late 20s.

Too many quality players at one position is a good problem for the Royals. And it’s a far cry for the logjam of Jacobs, Shealy and others imported to plug the hole. Looking to become challengers in the American League in coming years, Butler and Hosmer in particular give fans hope.

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What’s In The Cupboard For KC In 2011

As the street sweepers continue to clean confetti off the streets of San Francisco, Royals fans can finally put the 2010 season to rest. Now the focus can be put on the exciting future of the organization. The foundation of a future contender will begin this offseason.

The Hot Stove action this winter will be faster and more furious than usual. Baseball has altered its offseason schedule to move transactions along. The 15-day free agent filing buffer after the World Series has been eliminated. Which means the offseason actually began November 2nd. The accelerated schedule allows teams only five days of exclusive negotiations with their free agents before they hit the open market. This also means club options must be exercised three days after the World Series.

The Royals have already begun looking towards 2011 by picking up David DeJesus’ $6 million option.

With the new schedule in place we could theoretically see the first free agent singing on Sunday, November 7. Some legitimate deals could be inked sometime next week.

With the action coming quickly let’s take a look at what the Royals have in place going into 2011. Of course there will be some speculation as to what personnel will be on the roster, but I will provide some background as to why.

2011 Royals Pre-Offseason

C – Brayan Pena

1B – Billy Butler

2B – Mike Aviles

SS – Yuniesky Betancourt

3B – Wilson Betemit

OF – Alex Gordon

OF – Mitch Maier

OF – David DeJesus

DH – Kila Ka’aihue

Bench – Gregor Blanco, Chris Getz, Empty, Empty, (Jason Kendall)

The Royals’ 2010 payroll was around $75 million, but will probably be around the $60 million range for 2011. This is attributed to the likes of Jose Guillen ($12 million), Kyle Farnsworth ($4.5 million), Juan Cruz ($3.25 million), and Rick Ankiel ($2.75 million) all coming off the books.

There are eight players under contract for 2011, taking up about $45 million of the payroll. Ten Royals are arbitration eligible this winter, most significantly: Butler, Betemit, Gordon, and Pena. Butler will see the most significant raise, considering he made only $475,000 in 2010. He could expect a salary ten times as valuable as his 2010 compensation.

Catcher

With Jason Kendall coming off of shoulder surgery, the Royals will need to find another backstop to contribute until he is healthy. Expect Pena to take most of the load in absence of Kendall. It will be interesting to see how the front office approaches the position considering they have been reluctant to give Pena an extended opportunity. He saw his most significant chunk in 2009, with 165 at-bats. I don’t expect to see youngsters Lucas May or Manny Pina around the clubhouse. Both are still developing and have holes in their game.

The Royals will be searching for a cheap, defensive minded receiver who can help a troubled staff. While catchers are probably the deepest free agent position, few seem plausible for the Royals. Here are a few they should inquire about.

Yorvit Torrealba – Torrealba split time in 2010 with Nick Hundley in San Diego. He helped lead a surprise Padres team to within a game of making the playoffs. The team’s success was centered around stellar pitching performances from young arms. Torrealba handled the staff well, contributing to a staff which posted the second lowest ERA in the MLB, 3.41. He only committed three errors on the campaign, good enough for a .996 fielding percentage. Torrealba hosed 22 of the 38 base stealers, while also posting his best offensive season, .271/.343/.378, 7 HR, 37 RBI.

All those numbers translated into a 2.8 WAR. Considering the Padres only paid him $750,000, they got a bargain. Surely he will ask for a more significant contract, but nothing outrageous the Royals couldn’t afford.

Jose Molina – Molina saw less time backing up John Buck in Toronto, but posted similar numbers to Torrealba. He hit .246/.304/.377, 6 HR, 12 RBI, in 167 at-bats. Molina mirrored Torreabla in fielding percentage at .996, but gunned down an impressive 15 of 19 runners. He is turning 36 next season, considering his position this could be cause for concern. Molina will be affordable, he made $800,000 in 2010, and as most baseball fans will tell you if you have a catcher, it might as well be a Molina.

John Buck – Buck is an interesting case. He had a career year with the Blue Jays, .281/.314/.489, 25 2B, 22 HR, 66 RBI, good enough for his first All-Star appearance. The upgrade in offense comes with a downgrade on the defensive side of the ball though. He made $2 million in 2010, and can probably expect a pay raise. He has been open about how much he likes Kansas City. I believe a second time around with the Royals could prove beneficial for both, but it is probably unlikely Kansas City will pursue Buck.

Shortstop

Even though the Royals already have their double-play combo penciled in, I have a tough time defaulting to Betancourt as the starting shortstop. Despite improving his numbers across the board, I still think he is one of the worst everyday players in the MLB. I probably have a bias being a Seattle Mariners fan. Watching him first-pitch hack his way out of the job in Seattle left a bad taste in my mouth. He continued his unimpressive performance in Kansas City. I’m sure many Royals fans feel my sentiments; we are tired of watching Yuni pop out on the infield and boot routine plays.

When Betancourt was coming up with the Mariners, many pegged him as a defensive wizard in the mold of Omar Vizquel. Now, Betancourt is 28 and it has become apparent he either refuses or doesn’t know how to make adjustments to his game. Either way, I’m tired of seeing it.

In his career Mike Aviles has played comparably to Betancourt at short. Many fear Aviles’ ability to handle the demanding position considering his past injuries. Former Cal State Fullerton standout and Royals 2010 first round pick Christian Colon is expected to break into the MLB in a few years. Aviles could be the stopgap for Colon over the next 2-3 seasons. I can guarantee you Betancourt won’t be in a Royals jersey in two seasons from now.

Second Base

If Aviles were to see more time at short it would open up get Chris Getz more playing time. It would also allow an opportunity for improvement through free agency. Whether Aviles is moved or not, another versatile infielder could help as the Royals farmhands begin to sprout into big leaguers.

Jose Lopez – Lopez could benefit the team in many aspects. On Tuesday, the Mariners declined their club option on Lopez for the 2011 season. He’s only accumulated five years of service, so the Mariners could retain his rights, but will most likely non-tender him (making him a free agent), or trade him. He sparked some interest at the trade deadline, and is continuing to do so early in the offseason. With the Royals’ depth of prospects and his falling out in Seattle, Kansas City could get him for cheap.

Lopez was a career second baseman until the acquisition of Chone Figgins pushed him to third base. Lopez struggled with his transition to third, but is a better career infielder at second than Aviles. Lopez, like every other Mariner, had a down 2010 offensively. Only a year removed from a 25 HR, 96 RBI season, Lopez is the type of player Kansas City should inquire about. His offensive numbers would see a jump considering he would be playing his home games at the ‘K’ instead of the spacious Safeco Field. He would potentially provide right handed power, in a lefty dominated lineup.

The only possible holdup is Lopez is expected to make $4.5 million in 2011. I’m not sure if the Royals would be willing to overextend for a guy coming off the worst season of his career.

Third Base

By now you have noticed I didn’t include Mike Moustakas in my projections. It’s unclear where Moustakas will begin his season, but it’s pretty definitive he will be with the big club within the first few months of the season.

The acquisition of Lopez would provide a right handed compliment to Moustakas, allowing him to spell the youngster when needed. Betemit played surprisingly well after coming to Kansas City, but isn’t very capable at third base.

With Lopez, Moustakas, and possibly Aviles rotating at third, Betemit could see more time at DH, especially against lefties. I expect Ka’aihue to get a chance to win a big league job, but with Betemit’s ability to switch hit, along with his production last year, he may turn the DH spot into a platoon.

Outfield

All of the outfielders on Kansas City’s roster hit left handed. One move the Royals need to make in the off-season is finding a right handed outfielder to compliment what they already have in place. The free agent market offers a few solutions.

Jayson Werth – Werth would be the perfect guy for the Royals to sign. He would provide a steady right fielder and right handed power in the middle of the lineup. With that said he will be asking more than the Royals will be willing to pay him, and he probably wouldn’t choose to come to Kansas City anyway. We can dream though.

Reed Johnson – Johnson is a hard-nosed player, who will hustle and run through a wall for the club, the kind of guy Kansas City fans love. Since leaving the Blue Jays after 2007 Johnson has seen limited action with both the Cubs and Dodgers. Although he didn’t perform great with the Dodgers last season he boasts a career line of .281/.340/.408. He reached double digit home runs three times, while knocking in at least 50 runs five times in his career. Johnson hits significantly better against southpaws (.312/.373/.463), currently a problem in the Royals lineup. He isn’t as good as DeJesus in the outfield, but is similar in the fact he has seen significant amount of time at all three outfield spots. Considering his down year and the fact he made only $800,000 last season, he should be very affordable.

Marcus Thames – Even though Thames struggled in the postseason, he put up pretty nice numbers in New York. Despite only 212 at-bats he still produced .288/.350/.491, 12 HR, 33 RBI. Thames would provide some right handed punch in the lineup, but would be a concern in the outfield. Thames is a career .978 fielder. If he were to become a Royal, a guy like Mitch Maier would have to constantly provide a late game fielding upgrade. Thames could also split time against lefties at the DH spot.

Outfield is the spot the Royals can make the biggest upgrade through free agency. Maier is more of a fourth outfielder type, and I don’t see much of a future for Gregor Blanco on the big league level. In all honesty, I’d like to see the Royals sign a player like Reed Johnson and have a guy like Jai Miller or Jarrod Dyson be the fourth outfielder. They could get their feet wet as big leaguers, while providing some defense and speed of the bench for late inning situations.

As you have noticed by now, I haven’t addressed the pitching staff. Quite frankly, it’s because their staff is a complete mess. The fact Bruce Chen had the most successful season (12 wins) for a Royals left-handed starting pitcher since Charlie Leibrandt in 1988 sums up the state of baseball in Kansas City. He came into town, not making his first start until May 30th. The Royals are Chen’s tenth team of his career and he has a career ERA of just below 5.00, to expect a multi-year deal is laughable.

Not to take anything away from Chen’s accomplishments and awards; he deserved the accolades for his performance this season. But a player with Chen’s skill set and career doesn’t demand multiple years, especially since he’s turning 35 in 2011. Except for 2006 with the Orioles, Chen has never made more than $600,000 in a season.

I’ll delve into the state of the pitching staff in a later post.

No matter what moves the Royals make this offseason though, don’t expect them to make many big time splashes in the free agent market. With the majority of their talent still 2-3 years away, along with DeJesus’ and Zack Greinke’s contracts looming, the Royals will be looking to save money where ever they can. If major moves are made this winter, they will most likely come via trade.

GM Dayton Moore conveyed this premise in an interview with MLB.com writer Dick Kaegel: “The climate changes. What if somebody makes us a real good offer for Greinke and DeJesus and we free up $19 million, and we can sign ad free agent that makes sense for the next couple of years?” Moore said. “It’s just hard to predict. I don’t want to communicate to the fans falsely. We will certainly look to capitalize on as many opportunities as we can that come our way. But, yeah, we know that free agency is a flawed way to build your baseball team. … You can acquire a piece or two that helps you or puts you over the top.”

If the Royals were to make all the right moves – in my opinion – this offseason, their line-up would look something like this.

CF – David DeJesus

SS – Mike Aviles

1B – Billy Butler

DH – Kila Ka’aihue

2B – Jose Lopez

3B – Mike Moustakas

LF – Alex Gordon

C – Yorvit Torrealba

RF – Reed Johnson

Bench – Yuniesky Betancourt, Wilson Betemit, Jai Miller, Branyan Pena/Jason Kendall.

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NYT: Guillen Left Off Giants’ Postseason Roster Because Of HGH Investigation

Former Kansas City Royals slugger Jose Guillen is under investigation for performance-enhancing drugs, and he was left off of the San Francisco Giants’ postseason roster because of the investigation – and not because of an injury, as team officials previously claimed – according to the New York Times.

Guillen’s removal from the Giants’ postseason roster was a surprise to many baseball insiders, but the outfielder has been haunted by injuries in the past, so no one was shocked when team officials cited a nagging neck injury as the reason he was dropped from the roster.

Now, that appears to not be the case. According to the Times, it appears that Major League Baseball directed the Giants to leave Guillen off the roster because of the investigation.

The federal investigation apparently centers around shipments of Human Growth Hormone being sent to Guillen’s wife. In addition to the federal inquiry, Major League Baseball has also opened its own investigation.

Guillen has been a controversial figure during a 14-year big league career spanning 10 organizations. His two-and-a-half season stint with the Kansas City Royals, for which he was given a three-year, $36 million contract, was his longest tenure with any single team. While in Kansas City, Guillen provided a modest spark to an otherwise stagnant offense, but he also caused problems off the field by picking fights with fans, insulting his teammates to the media, and removing his own ingrown toenail without team or doctor consent.

Guillen has also run afoul of baseball’s steroids policy in the past. He was named in the Mitchell Report as one of 89 players in baseball linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Guillen was suspended for the first 15 games of the 2008 season – his first in Kansas City.

MLB Trade Rumors speculates that Guillen’s removal from the Giants’ postseason roster might actually have been a blessing for the team. After defeating the Atlanta Braves in the divisional series and the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS, the Giants hold a 2-0 lead over the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Guillen would have probably taken playing time away from Cody Ross, who is batting .317 with four home runs and a .732 slugging percentage in the playoffs.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey@i70baseball.com.

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Royals Receive Pitcher To Complete Guillen Trade

The Jose Guillen era in Kansas City officially came to a close on Oct. 15 when the Royals received right-handed pitcher Kevin Pucetas as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Guillen to the San Francisco Giants in August.

Continuing to add to their arsenal of young players as they build for the future, the Royals add a 25-year-old candidate for their pitching staff in exchange for Guillen, who was shipped to free up room in the KC outfield.

With their roster loaded with right-handers, the Royals hope Pucetas can rebound from a rocky 2010 to play a part in their rebuilding effort – something the 34-year-old Guillen no longer fit.

Pucetas made a push to be included in the World-Series-bound Giants pitching staff during the spring, but wound up spending the entire season struggling for Fresno of the Triple A Pacific Coast League. Having won numerous awards at lower levels of the minor leagues, Pucetas ran into a wall in 2010, going 5-7 with a 5.69 ERA.

The graduate of Limestone (SC) College shone in three seasons at low levels of the minor leagues, winning MiLB.com’s award for Class A Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2007 and being named California League Pitcher of the Year in 2008. In 2009, however, Pucetas’ ERA ballooned to 5.04 in his first year at Fresno, in spite of a 10-6 record.

The Giants acquired Guillen as a power bat in their drive to win the NL West. Now if the Giants are to bring home their first MLB championship since 1954, they’ll have to do it without him. A nagging neck injury prompted the Giants to leave him off their playoff roster.

The Giants gave Guillen every opportunity to contribute, using him in 42 of the 45 games following his acquisition on Aug. 13. Guillen batted .266 with three home runs and 15 RBI’s, but languished down the stretch. Over the last 10 days, when the Giants needed every bit of help they could get to make the playoffs, the slugger mustered just 2 hits in his final 24 at bats.

Pucetas, a 6-4, 225 Spartanburg, SC native who was selected by the Giants in the 17th round of the 2006 draft, was added to the Royals 40-man roster.

This is Todd Fertig’s debut article for I-70 Baseball.
You can follow his exploits as a displaced worker at his website by clicking here.

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