Tag Archive | "League Experience"

St. Louis Cardinals should choose Jorge Rondon for final bullpen spot

Now that St. Louis Cardinals management has decided which pitcher it wants to begin the season in the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, its focus can shift to a similar dilemma that exists for the last spot in the bullpen.

JorgeRondon

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced Sunday that Joe Kelly would begin the season in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, while rookie Carlos Martinez would move back to the either-inning setup relief role he had at the end of the 2013 season and postseason.

The Cardinals decided to reward Kelly’s experience rather than Martinez’s stellar spring training numbers. Kelly has a 6.28 earned-run average in four starts, while Martinez posted a 1.76 ERA in his four starts.

Despite those contradictory numbers, the Cardinals made a sound decision to go with Kelly instead of Martinez.

Kelly has the experience of two Major League Baseball seasons where he showed the organization he could be a consistent contributor, given his 3.08 career ERA.

Plus, Martinez proved to be a dynamic setup reliever during the 2013 playoffs when he had 11 strikeouts in 12.2 innings during a run that ended in Game 6 of the World Series in a loss to the Boston Red Sox.

However, the Cardinals should make the opposite decision when they determine which pitcher will receive the last open spot in the bullpen.

Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler and Scott McGregor are the three candidates, and the two losers will likely begin the season with the Triple A Memphis Redbirds.

Butler is the pitcher with the most major-league experience. He pitched in 16 games with the Cardinals in 2013 and had an ERA of 4.08, with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts, but the team sent him back to the minors after he pitched Aug. 7 and he did not make the postseason roster.

McGregor and Rondon have never appeared in a big-league game, but Rondon has been far superior in spring training. McGregor has allowed three runs in four innings of work with two walks and two strikeouts. Rondon has yet to allow an earned run in 8.1 innings, and he has three walks compared to seven strikeouts.

Each of those three pitchers is in competition to likely be the right-handed option for the Cardinals in the seventh inning of games in which they have a lead.

That is certainly an important role, and the Cardinals would have nearly as complete of a roster as they ever have if the winner of this three-way battle excels once the regular season begins.

Rondon would figure to be in the lead to win the spot because he has shown the most potential, even though Butler has the most experience.

Rondon throws harder than Butler, but he too has struggled with his command during his seven years in the minor leagues, as he has racked up 230 walks compared to 338 strikeouts and had 37 walks to 42 strikeouts in 2013 at Memphis.

Still, Butler’s potential appears to be limited if he can’t locate his pitches because he does not have the electric action on his pitches that several of the Cardinals top young pitchers do, and McGregor has not done much with his limited opportunities.

The Cardinals need a middle reliever who can consistently throw strikes more than anything, and they might not need the winner of this battle for long anyway.

They already have groundball-specialist Seth Maness penciled into a bullpen spot, and former closer Jason Motte is on schedule to return to the big-league team in late April or early May, and he could take the spot of Rondon, McGregor or Butler because he has the experience and the ability to consistently throw strikes.

Still, the team needs a reliever to fill in during the meantime because the Mitchell Boggs disaster of April 2013 showed how important a reliever is even in the first few weeks of the season.

The Cardinals have a dynamic duo to finish games with Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal, but they’ll need someone to carry leads the starter gives them and hand them off for the eighth and ninth innings.

As of now, Rondon looks to be the man for that job.

Posted in CardinalsComments (0)

Changes continue to confound Jaime Garcia

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia is one of the most dominating pitchers on the team when everything around him is satisfactory. When it’s not, a team such as the Philadelphia Phillies can tag him for eight runs in three innings, as they did Friday in Philadelphia.

JaimeGarcia

Garcia has struggled on the road throughout his career. He has a 15-12 record with a 4.40 earned-run average in road games, but he is 20-11 with a 2.45 ERA in his career at Busch Stadium where he is more familiar with the surroundings and can comfortably prepare for a game the same way every time.

But one more change might have factored into Friday’s poor performance. Regular catcher Yadier Molina had a day off for the first time all season. Tony Cruz got the start instead.

So without his regular home routine and normal catcher, Garcia gave up eight runs on nine hits and two walks. Sure, third baseman Ty Wigginton made a throwing error in the first inning to make four of their eight runs unearned, but four of the Phillies hits went for extra bases, so Garcia got hit around regardless.

Unfortunately, Garcia has too many of those nights, and that keeps him from being one of the better pitchers on not only the Cardinals, but in Major League Baseball.

He has the stuff. He throws his fastball in the low 90s with movement, he has a knee-buckling curveball and owns a changeup that is as good as any top-tier left-handed starter in the game. And when he has those pitches working correctly, he has the potential to throw a no-hitter.

But he also has nights when he can’t command those pitches and simply gets crushed.

That has been the main problem Garcia has fought throughout his five-year career. He looks like a pitcher who can dominate, and at times he does, but mind games tend to get in the way of him being a consistent pitcher who can fill a spot near the top of the rotation.

The problem is Garcia now has five years of big-league experience, and he hasn’t been able to get over those issues.

The Cardinals are aware of these issues. They’ve even manipulated the rotation in recent years to try to minimize the times Garcia has to pitch on the road.

And while it’s great his team is trying to help him out, Garcia has to get past those concentration issues at some point or he is going to become the next Oliver Perez, a left-handed starter who came up with the San Diego Padres in 2002.

Perez, who is now a reliever for the Seattle Mariners, had electric stuff when he debuted and even posted a 2.98 ERA with 12 wins for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, but his inconsistency kept him from being Johan Santana or any number of other great left-handed starters.

For the most part, Garcia has had a good start to his 2013 season. He pitched well in spring training after recovering from a shoulder injury and started this season well in his first start on the road. He held the Arizona Diamondbacks to one run in 5.2 innings April 2 in Phoenix and then made two solid starts at home before the Phillies shelled him Friday.

Maybe Molina’s absence had more to do with the poor outing than anything, or perhaps he simply had an off night. All pitchers do. But Garcia is going to have to get beyond those relatively minor differences in each start if he is going to not only help the Cardinals in 2013, but also live up to his long-term potential.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

Royals Roster Breeds Little Suspense

It’s a so far, so good Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals. As of Wednesday, March 20, the Royals lead the Cactus League with a 18-6 record. There’s no major injuries. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are playing well. The team hasn’t done anything that makes you scratch your head, at least not yet. They even made a good decision moving Hochevar to the bullpen. In other words, it’s an abnormal Royals Spring training.

springtraining2013

There’s some roster spots up for grabs, but they’re more set than the Royals let on. For instance, the “battle” between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza for the fifth starting spot. If you go by stats alone, Mendoza is clearly having a better spring, with a 0.82 ERA in three games with 11 innings pitched, giving up an earned run and no home runs. Meanwhile, Chen has a 7.90 ERA in four games with 13.2 innings pitched, giving up 12 earned runs and seven (seven!) homers. So Mendoza should get the fifth starting spot, right?

Royals manager Ned Yost says he’ll decide the starting rotation this Friday and I’m betting Chen will get the fifth starting spot and Mendoza will be a long reliever. Why? Remember, Spring Training stats are meaningless and with Chen’s 14 years in the Majors, he’ll get the benefit of the doubt. Mendoza has six years of Major League experience, but except for 2008 and 2012, he’s had limited playing time. If anything, Yost is a traditionalist and he’ll go with the longtime Royals starter Chen over Mendoza. I’d be surprised if Yost chooses Mendoza over Chen.

This isn’t a battle for a roster spot, but with David Lough having a great spring (a .500/.513/.711 line, with 19 hits, six doubles, a triple and five RBI over 20 games and 38 at-bats), He’s making an argument to have a shot at right field. But it’s likely Lough will go to AAA Omaha.

It doesn’t matter what Lough does, he’s not supplanting Jeff Francoeur in right field. Yes, over 22 games and 53 at-bats, Frenchy has a .208/.250/.396 line with 11 hits, three doubles, two triples, a home run and seven RBI. Remember when I said Spring Training stats are meaningless? They still are, even when some fans want them to apply to Francoeur.

Like Chen, Frenchy has several years of Major League experience over Lough, who debuted in the Majors last year. Francoeur provides “veteran leadership” managers like Yost want to see. Plus the Royals don’t want to have a $7.5MM a year player on the bench. Unless Francoeur suffers injury or the Royals trade him, Lough will be in Omaha. Or Yost might surprise us all and choose Lough over Jarrod Dyson as a fourth outfielder. But with Dyson’s experience and speed, it’s not likely the Royals choose Lough over Dyson. If Lough stays on fire in Omaha and Francoeur crashes and burns, Lough might get a long-term roster spot with the Royals this season.

In the battle for second base, I believe Chris Getz will start at second base and Johnny Giavotella will go to AAA Omaha. This spring, Getz has a .359/.419/.513 line and over 20 games and 39 at-bats, Getz has 14 hits, three doubles, a home run (yes, Getz hit a home run) and six RBI. Meanwhile, Giavotella has a .273/.289/.409 line over 20 games and 44 at-bats with 12 hits, three doubles, a home run and 11 RBI. Despite Getz’s higher line, they have similar offensive numbers.

But it all comes down to defense, and Getz still has the edge. Like Chen and Francoeur, Getz has more Major League experience than Giavotella and Yost will go with the “safe” bet. Now with Getz’s recent issues with injuries, there’s a good chance Giavotella will be with the team sometime this season. But his offense and defense will need to improve if he wants to stay at second.

Salvador Perez will be the starting catcher this season, but there’s competition between Brett Hays and George Kottaras for the backup catcher role. Both are veteran backup catchers and with similar spring offensive numbers (Hayes with a .241/.313/.483 line, seven hits, a double, two home runs and eight RBI, Kottaras with a .269/.424/.346 line, seven hits, two doubles, and three RBI), it’s honestly a coin flip between the two. Either player will be a good backup catcher and let’s hope Perez stays healthy so Hayes and Kottaras stay backup catchers.

Besides the starting rotation, Yost won’t make his final roster decisions until the end of Spring Training. Unlike previous years, there’s not a real bad choice for Yost to make. But whatever roster decisions the Royals make, everyone on the roster has to play to their potential for the Royals to have a good season.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

Fourteen Players, Three Roster Spots

For the first time in several years, the Royals lineup, starting rotation and bullpen is pretty much set, barring injuries. But opportunities exist for some players to get a spot on the bench.

springtraining2013

It’s likely Manager Ned Yost will go with 12 pitchers and a backup catcher. Add the eight position players and the designated hitter and there’s only three reserve player spots available. How many players are vying for those three spots? Fourteen.

Of the fourteen, three of them are long shots. Infielder Brandon Wood signed a Minor League contract and is a non-roster invitee. A former top prospect with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Wood’s last stint in the Majors was 99 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011.

Royals Minor League infielder Anthony Seratelli is a non-roster invitee who provides Spring Training depth, but little else.

Non-roster invitee outfielder Luis Durango played 39 Major League games from 2009-2011 with the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros. He’s likely be in AAA Omaha’s outfield or could be released.

The next group could make the club, but a few things are going to have to go their way. Non-roster invitee Xavier Nady is an 11-year Major League veteran who’s played with several different teams. He’ll get an opportunity as a reserve outfielder or first baseman.

Former Royal and non-roster invitee Endy Chavez will see some time in the outfield during Spring Training, but barring a great spring performance or injuries to other players, Chavez has a slim chance.

The Player to be Named Later in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade is utility infielder Elliot Johnson, who played 123 games for the Tampa Rays last year. Being the Royals newest player, Johnson will get a long look as a backup to shortstop Alcides Escobar.

Non-roster invitee outfielder Willy Taveras provides some speed and seven years of Major League experience. If he has a good spring, he could be a reserve outfielder if Jarrod Dyson falters.

Royals infield prospect Christian Colon only has two seasons of pro baseball, but if he plays well, he might be in the mix for second base. But if the Royals think he needs more seasoning, he’ll go back to the Minors.

Outfielder David Lough played 20 games last year for the Royals, but Dyson will have to stumble for Lough to make the club.

And there’s longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu, who played 24 games for the Royals in 2012. Seeing how few opportunities the club gives him, it’s likely Falu ends up in Omaha, even if he deserves a real shot of making the club as a utility infielder.

The next group is the most likely to make the club, due to their contributions to the Royals last year or their veteran status.

Whoever loses the second base battle between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will end up on the bench, so that leaves two spots on the bench.

Outfielder Jarrod Dyson had a solid 2012 filling in for the oft-injured Lorenzo Cain. Dyson isn’t much of a hitter, but he’s got speed and plays a decent outfield. If Cain stays healthy, Dyson is a good fourth outfielder and will take the second spot on the bench, with one spot left.

So who gets the last reserve roster spot? I believe the Royals will give it to six-time All-Star and 2002 MVP infielder Miguel Tejada. He’s not the player he was ten years ago, but as a bench player in a limited utility role, he can play a serviceable third base, shortstop and even second. Perhaps “veteran leadership” is a baseball myth, but Tejada has the right attitude to provide guidance for a young team.

Sure, some fans might think the Royals have no business giving a roster spot to a 38-year old player whose best days are behind him. But he’s not taking the starting job of a younger player and you have to admit he’s probably a better player than Yuni Betancourt.

Posted in RoyalsComments (0)

Cardinals Winter Warm Up: John Mozeliak Chat Wrap

The St. Louis baseball season got off to its unofficial start on Saturday with an annual high mark. The club began the Cardinals Winter Warm Up down the street from Busch Stadium at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a three day festival of all things Cardinal baseball. From autograph signings from players both past, present and future, to an impressive showing of team related merchandise, the Winter Warm is the absolute best way to get primed for the upcoming summer of baseball.

John Mozeliak Warm Up

During the event, both players and club management take time to stop and discuss the state of the team as well. And there is no better place to start than at the top. On Saturday morning General Manager John Mozeliak took some time to speak on the state of team for the upcoming season, including how the team is managing to come around from 2012’s ending, as well as the status on both the health (and contracts) of some of the club’s biggest contributors.

On team structure: He shares the optimism that many do on the homegrown future of the ballclub. “There should be more minor league impact expected this year on the roster”, stated Mozeliak. While not going into specifics on who or when, he was very encouraged by the group of young pitchers with Major League experience, including Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. All will work as starters early in camp, and compete for the fifth starter slot. However, Lynn will enter with a slight edge on the group. “He shouldn’t show up and be completely comfortable” said Mo, “but based on what he did last year, he has the inside track.”

Regarding the competition at second base, he feels Daniel Descalso will enter camp as the owner of the position, but there are some conditions as well. Matt Carpenter, who has worked at the position this winter, will get a look but he cannot accurately assess his place in the competition until he sees him in action.

Concerning any further moves in the middle infield, the availability and heatlth of Rafael Furcal is the most critical factor to any further activity. “We have not ruled out any additions in the middle infield”, Mozeliak said, “but it all depends on the health of Furcal.” He went on to say that all early signs are positive for the Furcal entering into the spring.

On Mike Matheny: All signs were positive on where he stands on Matheny entering into his second season at the wheel. “He exceeded expectations in year one” he explained, going on to say that he did not meet with him over the winter in any advisory capacity, only to touch base. He expects there will be the most growth in his area of player usage. “I expect he may not ride the hot hand as much” he commented.

On team health: He admitted that breaking free of camp at full strength is a concern, especially with some of the lingering conditions that are already in place. They are taking a “wait and see” approach concerning Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter, but more so for Garcia. Carpenter could see a decreased training program, but it’s not unusual for him at this point in his career. “The expectation for 200 innings for Carp is probably at 50/50”, but he has high confidence in his health status.

On big name prospects: There is an expectation that top prospect Oscar Taveras will get “plenty of opportunities” in the spring, to see what he can do. Second baseman Kolten Wong will also get some opportunities in big league camp, but the goal is not for him to share time in St. Louis currently, and to be an everyday contributor in the minors again.

On contract negotiations: The Adam Wainwright contract extension matter will carry into the season, and potentially into the season, but shouldn’t be compared to past high profile dealings. He feels this matter is “more open ended than other negotiations we’ve seen before” and that “there are no lines drawn in the sand this time around.”

He also elaborated that the organization has “moved on” from Kyle Lohse, but won’t close the door on anything either.

CheapSeatsPlease

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

Royals sign four veteran players to Minor League contracts

After the James Shields and Wade Davis trade, the Kansas City Royals signed four veteran players to Minor League deals. Left-handed reliever George Sherrill and right-handed reliever Dan Wheeler, along with outfielders Willy Taveras and Xavier Nady should get Major League spring training invites.

KC Royals logo with blue background

Sherrill, 35, has nine years of Major League experience with the Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers and Braves. Sherrill has a career 3.77 ERA, appearing in 442 games over 324.1 innings pitched, all in relief. Sherrill spent most of his career as a left-handed specialist, but he has 56 career saves, most of them in 2008-2009. He’s fared well against lefties, who only have a .186/.245/.285 line with a 4.84 SO/BB ratio. He’s more pedestrian against righties, who have a .273/.380/.418 line with a 1.01 SO/BB ratio.

With Tim Collins the only current left-handed reliever locked in the Royals bullpen, Sherrill could fit in as a lefty specialist. He’ll have to join the 40-man roster and beat out candidates such as Donnie Joseph, Justin Marks, Everett Teaford and Francisley Bueno. Sherrill is recovering from Tommy John surgery and it’s likely he will spend most if not all the 2013 season in AAA Omaha.

Wheeler, 35, has 13 years of Major League experience with the Rays, Mets, Astros, Red Sox and Indians. Wheeler has a career 3.98 ERA, appearing in 589 games over 640.2 pitched with nine career starts. He fares well against righties, who have a .216/.267/.366 line with a 4.04 SO/BB ratio. He’s not as good against lefties, who have a .281/.347/.499 line, and a 1.70 SO/BB ratio.

Being a right-handed reliever, Wheeler has plenty of competition, with righties Louis Coleman, Aaron Crow, Kevin Herrera and Nate Adcock, among others. Like Sherrill, Wheeler will have to join the 40-man roster to have a shot with the big club. Barring injuries or poor performance by someone in the bullpen, Wheeler will likely be on Omaha’s roster as a reliever.

The right-handed hitting Taveras, who will be 31 this Christmas, has seven years of Major League experience with the Astros, Rockies, Reds and Nationals. He’s appeared in 670 games with a .274/.320/.327 line, but 2010 was his last time in the Majors. He’s played most of his career in center field.

Speed and base running are his assets with 195 career stolen bases and a league leading 68 stolen bases in 2008 with the Rockies. However, he doesn’t draw many walks and with 71 doubles and eight home runs over his career, Taveras doesn’t hit for power.

With five outfielders on the Royals 40-man roster (Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Jeff Francoeur, Alex Gordon and David Lough), Taveras has a remote chance to make the Major League roster. He’s at least three years older than the other outfielders, Dyson is a faster runner and the rest have more power over Taveras. Gordon has the job in left, Cain is in center and even though Francoeur was horrible in right field, he’ll have every chance to keep his job. And if he doesn’t, there’s always Dyson and Lough to take Francoeur’s place.

The right-handed hitting Nady, 34, has 11 years of Major League experience with the Padres, Mets, Pirates, Yankees, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Nationals and Giants. He’s appeared in 939 games with a .270/.324/.432 line. His high water mark was in 2008, with a .305/.357/.510 line with 97 RBI, 37 doubles and 25 home runs. But the last couple of seasons, he’s been a bench player/pinch hitter.

At 34, Nady’s best days are behind him. He’s got the potential to hit for power, but he’s not an everyday player. Like Taveras, Nady is a long shot to make the Major League club and he’s likely a part of Omaha’s roster if he stays with the Royals organization.

Interesting note: Nady isn’t the only Xavier in Royals history. Xavier Dixon played 50 games in the Royals Minor League system in 1974 before playing three more seasons of independent league baseball and retiring in 1977.

A few years ago, these journeyman players would be in the mix for a spot on the Major League roster. But barring injuries or other circumstances, they’re playing for the Storm Chasers next season, or on another Major League team.

Posted in RoyalsComments (0)

I come to praise the Shields-Davis trade, not to bury it

If there’s a fan base pessimistic about everything, it’s the Kansas City Royals fan base. Not being in the playoffs since 1985 and not having a winning season since 2003 does that to you. And with all the other misfortunes the Royals experienced over the years, you can’t blame fans for being pessimistic.

Shields and Davis

So when the Royals traded top prospect Wil Myers, pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and infielder Patrick Leonard for Tampa Rays starters James Shields and Wade Davis, a lot of Royals fans, bloggers and pundits panned the trade. They claimed the Royals gave up too many prospects and traded potential long-term success for short-term gain. They believed the trade smacked of desperation, a cynical move by General Manager Dayton Moore to try to keep his job.

But what were the Royals supposed to do? Look, the Rays weren’t about to give up David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard. And I doubt adding someone like Eric Hosmer and/or Billy Butler to the deal would change things. The Rays aren’t rebuilding and they have no reason to give up Price and Hellickson. The Rays had room to give up Shields and Davis and still keep their strong, young, starting rotation.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed the Royals gave up Odorizzi. But Odorizzi projects as a number three or four starter, like Davis. And Davis has four years of Major League experience and is a free agent until 2016. If Davis works out as a starter, he could be the key success to the trade. And if he doesn’t fare well as a starter, he can go to the bullpen, where he succeeded with the Rays in 2012.

Making Montgomery a part of the trade made sense. This is the guy some thought would be a part of the Royals 2012 rotation. Instead, Montgomery ended up in AA Northwest Arkansas and struggled there. It’s likely he wouldn’t be with the Royals anytime soon and a change of scenery might do him some good.

The Royals only get two years of Shields, but if he pitches as expected, the Royals have an ace they haven’t had since Zack Greinke. If you’re into statistics, Baseball Reference says Greinke is statistically similar to Shields, who’s going to make $9MM in 2013. Greinke will make $19MM in 2013.

Heck, the Royals will pay Ervin Santana $12MM in 2013 and he’s projected as the number two or three starter. Looking at it that way, Shields is a bargain, even if the Royals pick up Shield’s $12MM 2014 option. If the Royals do well in 2013 and 2014, perhaps Shields signs a multi-year deal with the team. It could happen.

And think about what the Royals didn’t have to give up. Players like Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and pitching prospects Kyle Zimmer and Yornado Ventura. The Major League team is still intact and when Duffy and Paulino return, they will be a part of the starting rotation.

But what about Jeff Francoeur? Yes, he had a terrible 2012 and it might be a stretch if he crawls back to being league average next year. But even if Myers stayed with the Royals, it’s likely he wouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster. Despite what some think, the Royals needed front line starting pitching over a right fielder like Myers. And if worse comes to worst, there’s always David Lough or Jarrod Dyson, right? And by the time Francoeur leaves, there’s a chance Bubba Starling will take his place.

Sure, the Royals could have gone the free agent route and got a Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum or Ryan Dempster. But would the Royals sign them for $9MM a year like they got Shields? And honestly, Shields is a better pitcher than Sanchez, Marcum or Dempster. If anything, the Royals might have been better off trying to sign Sanchez, Marcum and Dempster over Santana or Guthrie.

It’s true losing prospects like Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard hurts, but remember, they’re prospects, not proven Major League commodities. Of course, Shields could blow out his elbow and Davis might be the second coming of Luke Hochevar. But baseball is a game of risk and the Royals aren’t going to win by playing it safe and relying solely on their prospects.

Remember all the bold moves the Detroit Tigers took last year? They made it to the World Series. Sure, it’s a long shot the Royals will be in the World Series next year, especially with the Tigers in the division. But the Royals have to make bold moves if they want to succeed.

And don’t forget this trade brings the Royals payroll up to $80MM. Love him or hate him, David Glass is spending money and Dayton Moore is making an effort to improve the team.

It won’t take long to see if this trade works out for the Royals. If it blows up, Moore will be gone and the team could be wandering in the baseball wilderness for several more years. But if it succeeds, it could be the start of a new era of winning baseball for the Kansas City Royals.

Posted in RoyalsComments (1)

Royals call up Odorizzi, four other Storm Chasers after PCL Championship Series

After the Omaha Storm Chasers lost three of four games to the Reno Aces in the PCL Championship series, the Kansas City Royals called up starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, relievers Tommy Hottovy and Nate Adcock, catcher Adam Moore and infielder Irving Falu this week. Besides Odorizzi, the other players were on the 40-man roster. The Royals added Odorizzi to the roster to protect him from this winter’s Rule 5 draft.

Of the five, Odorizzi is the only one without Major League experience. Odorizzi, 22, the Royals top pitching prospect, is a leading contender for the Royals 2013 starting rotation. Between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha, he pitched a combined 26 games, 25 of them starts. Odorizzi compiled a 15-5 record with a 3.03 ERA, 145.1 innings pitched with 8.4 SO/9 and 3.1 BB/9.

The Royals plan to have Odorizzi start this Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. He could make a bullpen appearance, since he has over five day’s rest. The Royals want to give Odorizzi a taste of the Majors before his chance to join the rotation in 2013.

Hottovy, 31, spent the 2012 season in the bullpen between Omaha and Kansas City. In 41 games with Omaha, Hottovy compiled a 2-2 record with a 2.52 ERA, 50 innings pitched with a 11 SO/9 and 2.9 BB/9. In a couple of brief stints with the Royals, Hottovy had a 4.05 ERA, 6.2 innings pitched with 8.1 SO/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in six games. He provides lefty bullpen depth.

Adcock, 24, shuttled between Omaha and Kansas City as a starter and reliever. In Omaha, Adcock appeared in 26 games, 25 as a starter. His record was 8-6 with a 5.53 ERA, 99.1 innings pitched and 5.4 SO/9 and 2.7 BB/9. In Kansas City, Adcock pitched eight games out of the bullpen and made two starts with a 0-3 record with a 2.67 ERA, 30.1 innings pitched with a 4.7 SO/9 and 3.6 BB/9. Adcock had pedestrian 2012 numbers and his call-up provides bullpen depth and a chance to make the club as a starter or reliever in 2013.

Moore, 28, makes his 2012 debut with the Royals after being acquired off waivers from the Seattle Mariners July 12. Moore’s last time in the Majors was from 2009-2011, where he played in 68 games with the Mariners. Moore split his 2012 Minor League season between AAA Tacoma and Omaha, appearing in 59 games with a .259/.326/.413 average, 33 RBI and 38 strikeouts and 19 walks. As a backup catcher providing the Royals with depth, Moore could make a start or two by the end of the season.

Longtime Royals farmhand Falu, 29, spent most of the 2012 season with Omaha and is back with Royals for the rest of the season. Falu appeared in 88 games with Omaha with a .329/.375/.463 average, 50 RBI and 41 strikeouts and 28 walks. In his previous time with the Royals, Falu played 15 games with a .321/.333/.434 average, five RBI with nine strikeouts and a walk. If Yost remembers Falu is on the team, he could play a few games this season.

With 14 games remaining and the Royals heading towards another losing season, Yost will give these players limited playing time in games against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, A.L. Central contenders. Yost wants his “best” players in those games. The five are likely to see playing time against the Cleveland Indians, fourth place in the A.L. Central.

Of the five, Odorizzi shows the most promise for 2013. The other four players will get opportunities as role players with the Royals, provide Minor League depth or continue their career with another team.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

2012 Key Players: Moustakas hopes to establish himself in year two

When Mike Moustakas banged a homer in just his second game as a big leaguer, hopes soared. And when he had a .385 average with four walks after four games, it looked like he was on his way to a great rookie season.

Mike Moustakas by Erika Lynn

But things went sour from that point on. By the time September rolled around, you had to wonder if Moustakas could hit big league pitching. He had not homered since his second game and had just 18 RBIs and an anemic .232 average.

But the big third baseman had struggled to adjust at every level, so the Royals stuck with him.

The show Moustakas put on in September is, the Royals hope, a preview of things to come. He batted .352 for the month and popped 4 homers, driving in 12 runs.

We all know what we WANT from Mike Moustakas. We WANT another George Brett. We want 30 homers and 100 RBIs and a .300 average every season.

But rather than talk about how it’s unfair to expect Moose to be George Brett, Royals fans might look around to see what other, mere mortals are doing at third base.

More specifically, Royals fans can ask “What are other teams in the division getting from their third basemen?”

The Royals sights should be set on becoming the best team in the division. They need some of the parts of their whole to become the best in the division. And believe it or not, Moustakas is not that far off from being the best third baseman in the division.

This season, the Tigers plan to play Miguel Cabrera at third. No one can expect Moose to be Cabrera at the plate, but Cabrera’s work at third remains to be seen. This experiment may not turn out as well as the Tigers hope.

The third basemen in the division consist of, basically, four youngsters trying to develop into solid big leaguers, and one of the best hitters of the last decade who isn’t really a natural third baseman.

For Chicago, 24-year-old Brent Morel has a couple of years of big league experience to build on, but hasn’t blossomed yet. In Cleveland, 23-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall hopes to take the position from last year’s starter, Jack Hannahan. And in Minnesota, the Twins look to 26-year-old Danny Valencia to provide the power they lack in their lineup.

It may not tell a lot to analyze last year’s numbers. But based on them, Moustakas wasn’t far from the others in the division, even with his struggles to adjust to the majors. If you average the numbers posted last season by Morel, Hannahan, Valencia and Brandon Inge of Detroit, you get numbers Moustakas could easily match.

The averages of Morel, Hannahan, Valencia and Inge, compared to Moustakas:

Games: Others – 123, Mousatakas – 89
Hits: Others – 93.5, Moustakas – 89
Doubles: Others – 18, Moustakas – 18
Home Runs: Others – 9, Moustakas – 5
RBIs: Others – 44, Moustakas – 30
Walks: Others – 31, Moustakas – 22
Average: Others – .238, Moustakas – .263

If Moustakas plays 123 games this season, there is no reason to think he can’t blow those numbers out of the water.

Interestingly, the guy being drummed out of a job – Hannahan – actually put up the best OBP, SLG, OPS and WAR: .331/.338/.719 and 2.2. The guy who played the most – Valencia – posted the lowest WAR (-1.1) even though he led the group with 15 homers and 72 RBIs.

The Royals find themselves in the same position as the Twins, White Sox and Indians. Each has a third baseman with minimal experience who they hope can make dramatic improvement.

Moustakas has started slowly this spring, but he won’t be moved out of the lineup by anything but injury this year. The Royals, like three other teams in the division, will wait patiently for their third-base prospect to develop.

Cabrera may post big offensive numbers this year, but the Royals hope Moustakas is the division’s best long-term.

Posted in Featured, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, RoyalsComments (0)

Meet the newest Royals, Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois

With catchers Salvador Perez and Manny Pina being out for 2-3 months with knee injuries, the Kansas City Royals made a trade Tuesday, acquiring catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois from the Houston Astros for minor league left-hander Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later. To make room for the newest Royals, the team put Perez and Pina on the 60-day disabled list.

Ever since Perez’s injury, the Royals expressed interest to acquire a catcher outside the organization. There were rumors the Royals invited Ivan Rodriguez to camp, but it ended up being just rumors. Instead, the Royals went the trade route, getting Quintero.

The 32 year-old Quintero is a nine-year major league veteran, playing for the San Deigo Padres from 2003-2004 and with the Houston Astros from 2005-2011. He’s been a career backup catcher, appearing in 379 games. Quintero appeared in 88 games in 2010, the most he’s played in a season.

Quintero’s career line is .234/.268/.321, so the Royals didn’t get him for his hitting. They got him for catching and throwing ability and his major league experience. For now, Quintero expects to play two to four days a week, splitting playing time with Brayan Pena.

It was clear the Royals didn’t see Max Ramirez as a solution, despite his good spring offensive numbers. In fact, Ramirez only started a handful of spring training games as a catcher, so the Royals didn’t have much faith in his catching abilities. Cody Clark doesn’t have major league catching experience and it’s likely the Royals believe Clark would be a better fit for AAA Omaha, where they also need catching help.

There is one concern and hopefully it’s a minor one. This spring, Quintero was out with a bulging disk in his back but returned to action over the weekend. At least it’s not his knee.

As for Bourgeois, the 30 year-old outfielder has four years in the majors, playing for the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Astros. Bourgeois played 192 major league games in his career with a .262/.307/.324 line with 431 plate appearances and 22 RBIs. His speed and versatility are his main assets, with 46 career stolen bases, with 31 of those in 2011. Bourgeois also hits well against left-handers, with a .328 batting average compared to .205 against right-handers.

Bourgeois is not a everyday player, so Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur have little to worry about. But with his versatility of playing all outfield positions and some second base, players like Mitch Meier and Jarrod Dyson have some competition for the reserve outfielder job. Who knows, maybe Manager Ned Yost might have Bourgeois in the second base mix between Johnny Giavotella, Chris Getz and Yuni Betancourt. It is spring training after all.

Probably not. The Royals see Bourgeois as a right-handed reserve outfielder who’s a cross between Meier and Dyson. The odd man out in this situation could be Dyson, who bats from the left side but doesn’t have the versatility of a Bourgeois.

Both Bourgeois and Dyson have options remaining, so it’s likely one of them makes the Opening Day roster and the other one goes to Omaha. If Bourgeois goes to Omaha, he would serve as outfield depth in case someone get injured. If Dyson goes to Omaha, he would get more playing time, perhaps improving his chances of developing into an everyday outfielder. If either player makes the Royals roster, it will be as a reserve outfielder.

The Astros get Chapman, a 24 year-old left-handed relief pitcher who played two seasons with A+ Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas. His career ERA is high at 5.06, and he gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings. But his strikeouts per nine innings is 12.4, so Chapman gets a lot of strikeouts. Chapman projects to be a reliever if he makes it to the majors. And that could be soon, since he’s with the Astros.

The other player the Astros get is our old friend player to be named later. It’s uncertain who it is, but according to Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, this player was a big reason the Astros did the trade. Don’t worry, Royals fans, it’s doubtful the PTBNL are either outfielders Bubba Starling, Wil Myers or pitcher Jake Odorizzi. It better not be, if Dayton Moore wants to keep his job. And if Royals fans want to keep their sanity.

Quintero and Bourgeois are not long-term solutions for the Royals. Quintero was acquired to fill the gap of Perez and Pina being gone for half the season and Bourgeois was acquired to provide outfield depth and perhaps give Dyson and Meier some competition as a reserve outfielder. For now, they fill some holes, if nothing else.

Posted in RoyalsComments (0)