The Valencia Effect

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In mid December the Royals traded OF David Lough to the Baltimore Orioles for 3B Danny Valencia. On the surface this trade looks like two teams swapping two role players with no role.  Lough played well after finally getting his shot at the major league level but when the Royals acquired Justin Maxwell during the season and Norichika Aoki in December, moving an OF’er became almost mandatory. Lough was the odd man out.  For him personally he’s in a much better situation as he will get a chance to play in Baltimore and contribute. As for Valencia, he will initially provide much needed insurance and a possible platoon in the event Mike Moustakas duplicates his anemic 2013 offensive output.  As the Royals roster solidifies, 3B looks to be the key to an offensive improvement over last season.

 

  Of course Moustakas cannot have a repeat of last season if the offense looks to improve greatly. No matter how you look at it Moustakas’ 2013 season was ugly. Dayton Moore (whose night classes on general managing seem to really be paying off) recognized 3B as a pivotal position on the club and made the trade for Valencia.  As we move into the 2014 season I think we will look back on this as the most important transaction Dayton Moore will make this offseason. Reason being, I don’t see Mike Moustakas improving much in 2014.

 

  Whether you believe the rumors about Moustakas disregarding suggestions of mechanical changes by coaches or not, Moustakas has mechanical flaws. Flaws or not though it’s doubtful he starts hitting LH pitching at even an acceptable rate. His .222/275/332 (79 OPS+) career line against LH pitching doesn’t exactly instill confidence that he will get it turned around even if it is in a small sample size of 395 PA. He did manage a .690 OPS in 27 PA over the winter in Venezuela if that makes you feel any better. Moustakas has had a modicum of success against RH pitching posting a .707 OPS (108 tOPS+). That is where Valencia comes in.

  Valencia 29, comes to the Royals 4 years older than Moustakas but with roughly 230 less PA’s. Having his only true full season with the Twins in 2011 while posting a .677 OPS. He’s played sparingly since then with only 315 PA’s in 2 seasons. It’s the 170 PA’s last year (SSS alert!) and .888 OPS that makes me hopeful Valencia can provide solid platoon production with Moose. Valencia’s career .879 OPS against LH’ers suggests it’s an idea worth trying. In a platoon I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect a combined .750 OPS from the duo. In the event Moustakas is injured or regresses to the point he has to be replaced entirely I believe Valencia can step in and give competent offensive production.  Steamer predicts Valencia to be at .251/296/413 overall in 2014 while CAIRO is a bit more bullish at 255/296/433. 

 

  Though a platoon would seem the way to approach the 3B issue having Valencia take over full time wouldn’t be the end of the world and in fact should increase production from 3B over last year.  I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that Valencia is the answer long term but in the unfortunate event Moustakas doesn’t fulfill his potential the Royals have obtained quality depth at the position which could turn out to be the difference in a playoff berth next October. That’s something this longtime Royals fan has longed to see.

Hump Day Goulash/Potpouri/Roundup/PotLuck

I’ve decided to start a small tradition here at 1RoyalWay and gather some blurbs from other blogs around Royals Nation. I’m sure most of you know the Royals are one of the more represented organizations in the blogosphere. They also have numerous ties with major publications like Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, Baseball Prospectus and many more. The following are some excerpts that I found relevant this week. I hope you enjoy.

-The first is a quote from Ned Yost. Ned actually said this last year before the season started. Salvador Perez hadn’t played a game above A ball.

“The first time I laid eyes on Sal, it took me about two days to realize he was special. I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve seen hundreds of catchers come through and I’ve never seen one like him. He’s a very, very rare find.”
–Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost on Salvador Perez

This actually was in an article on ESPN talking about Perez and his affinity for pitches outside the zone as well as his ability to square them up regularly. The go so far as to make the comparison to Vlad Guerrero. Perez isn’t one to get on base at a high percentage but he has excellent hand-eye coordination and good power. You couple that with defensive ability that is at the top of the game you have a very special player.
You can find the ESPN article here – http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/21263/salvador-perez-the-new-vlad-guerrero

-From Rany Jazayerlis’ Rany on the Royals blog found here – http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/ remembers hearing this story about Sal Perez:

“Quick diversion to a (second-hand) story from last year’s camp: the first time Sal Perez caught Joakim Soria, he took charge the way he did with every pitcher, gently encouraging Soria, chatting up his pitches, and generally acting like he was the veteran helping the kid along instead of the other way around.

Soria was a little taken aback by the way this 20-year-old from A-ball was projecting his authority, so he decided to test out the kid: without warning, he purposely buried his next pitch three feet outside and in the dirt. In one smooth motion, Perez slid over, snagged the ball out of the dirt like he was fielding a grounder, yelled out some more words of encouragement, and threw the ball back to Soria like nothing had happened. To no one in particular, Soria mouthed a single word: “nice”.

I think it’s safe to say that as of right now, the kids got what it takes. Also for those 2-3 people that are Royals fans and are not familiar with Rany’s work, you will not find a more detailed, truthful yet usually positive analysis of the organization. It’s one you HAVE to bookmark.

-Nick Scott over at Royals Authority (found by going  here – http://www.royalsauthority.com/)

“Some folks are saying that the Royals are taking a risk here, but they’re wrong. There is almost no risk whatsoever in this deal for the Royals. The absolute worst case scenario is that Perez doesn’t play a single inning again and they are on the hook for $7m.(spread out over 5 years to boot) It would be like stepping to the roulette table and getting paid on every single number except 0. This deal is as risky as sitting on your couch. Sure a satellite could crash into your living-room and kill you, but it’s not very likely.”

Nick and the guys do a tremendous job of having truly quality content on a daily basis. Great analysis with a side of humor sprinkled in is usually the special for the day.

-One more from Nicks’ article on the Perez signing:

“Yesterday was a big success for the Royals. They just made a crazy cheap signing of a potential star and they dominated local sports talk. Both moves were intelligent, smart, well-thought out and executed to perfection. Whoa, I just used all of those words to describe the Royals. Maybe things really are starting to come together”.

-David Lesky at Pine Tar Press wrote an uplifting piece on a tweet by Danny Duffy last night that may be a the sign that the Royals organization is the antithesis of what it used to be. Here’s the link to this great site: http://www.pinetarpress.com/

‘I’m not sure if the love of this team peaked last night or if it’s just the beginning of things to come, but when I saw the tweet in my feed by Danny Duffy saying “Bury Me a Royal,” I couldn’t help but smile. Here’s Danny Duffy, this great kid, and he’s just coming out and saying that he’s a Royal through and through. Maybe that changes in five or six years when he’s a superstar and he’s just so expensive the Royals can’t afford him. Maybe he’s just really good at public relations, but I simply don’t get that impression from Duffy. What it means is that these guys absolutely want to be here. Kansas City is not a destination to refurbish your career and it’s not a place where a 39 year-old can hang on for one more year of a paycheck. It is a desirable place to play and if you don’t believe it, just ask guys like Danny Duffy and Sal Perez. We’ve come a long way from the days of guys like Jose Guillen, Jose Offerman and others. These Royals are young, they’re good and they’re easy to root for. This city will go crazy for any winners, but when these guys win, it’ll be an even greater feeling’.

-Michael Engle and the staff writers at Kings of Kauffman are another wonderful Royals site with tremendous content. Staff writer Brett Christie had this to say about a recent tweet from 1B Eric Hosmer that was directed towards bandwagon fans:

“The first thing that jumps out at me from this tweet is the confidence the youth core of this team continues to show. Quite frankly, it’s exciting to see the players display this kind of swagger and conviction in their abilities as a ball club that has been absent for a long time. They’ve heard they’re good, they know they’re good and they’re not afraid to talk about how good they’re about to be”.

The entire article can be read by going to this link – http://kingsofkauffman.com/2012/02/28/with-all-due-respect-eric-hosmer/

-Landon Keefer has his own take on Sal Perez’ deal and what was behind the Royals thinking. He talks about two players that had the potential to sign long term with the Royals saying this:

“Earlier this off-season, I thought there were two players that would be great candidates for extensions that were under the radar: Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. My rationale was that even if they struggled with the bat their defense would be strong enough to carry them through at least part of the deal. Both of these players are at defensive oriented positions and if they continue to be studs they can return fair value simply with their gloves”. Royal Revival can be found here – http://royalrevival.blogspot.com/

It’s a great time to be a Royals fan. The Salvador Perez signing coupled with the obvious attitude and mindset of young key players absolutely proves that. If you have followed this team as long as I have, you have endured some great times, and a lot of bad times. Make no mistake though, this team is primed to win. It’s always about the talent on the field, and there were times the Royals were lacking so much that they had no chance of competing. Well times, they are a-changin’.

Sal Perez and Money

Cost efficiency is a difficult thing to understand let alone obtain in modern day sports. In baseball, there are certain metrics that allow us to at least get a rough estimate of a players worth. Fangraphs uses fWAR (for a definition of fWAR and rWAR go here- http://www.fangraphs.com/library/index.php/misc/war/) to determine a players overall value to his team. Placing a monetary value to a certain WAR value can give you an idea of a players worth that season.

Sal Perez just signed a 5 year $7 mil extension with the Royals. That contract includes 3 one year club options for an additional $14.75 million. There is also $5 mil in incentives he could earn as well.

Here is the breakdown:

Year 1: $0.75M
Year 2: $1M
Year 3: $1.5M
Year 4: $1.75M
Year 5: $2M
Year 6: $3.75M – option
Year 7: $5M – option
Year 8: $6M – option
$5M in  incentives

Last year Sal put up a .331/.361/.473 line in 158 PA’s. No he won’t duplicate those numbers again but if he simply posts a .270/.320/.410 and plays solid defense behind the plate the Royals will come out so far ahead it will make the $12.4 mil Gil Meche gave back look like a small donation.  Sal’s  rWAR last year – 1.1. Sal’s value last year – $6.7 mil.  The catcher position in MLB is so thin, always has been, that the value of 158 PA’s is enormous. It’s no secret Ned Yost feels Perez is the most talented catching prospect he has ever seen. May be one of the best catchers he has coached period.

This could work out extremely well for the Royals with so little risk it’s hard to find any fault with it. Barring a major injury or chronic knee and back problems Perez will be a well above average catcher for every year of his contract. Hell, if the guy stopped playing right now the Royals would only be on the hook for the $7 mil over the next 5 years. That’s pocket change even for the Royals. Great job Dayton Moore!

The Bullpen and the Bench

Ned Yost surely has a plan on which direction he wants to go with the rotation, though as we said before, there are two spots that are up for debate. No doubt his lineup is set with 2B being the only possible question mark. The bullpen and bench will be no different. Unless there is a major injury or two the names that will be posted on the 25 man roster are pretty much the names most of us are familiar with. The one thing that might make a couple of spots in the bullpen a revolving door of sorts is if the starters maintain their status quo for raking up high pitch counts early in games. You could then see guys like Kelvin Herrera among others get call ups for short periods throughout the season. Another question will be whether or not Dayton and Ned decide to use a typical 7 man pen or go with the extra guy. Hopefully the rotation will make it unnecessary to carry an 8th.

Joakim Soria- The only question with Soria in my mind is how much will he bounce back after junking the cutter early last season. I think coming in to Spring Training this year and going through his normal routine will help him start out the season as solid as he has in the past. While not quite as sharp as he has shown to be in previous seasons, Soria posted a 2.39 ERA in his last 37 appearances last year after deciding to be Mariano Rivera’s clone wasn’t such a good idea. I think we all are looking for Soria to put up something resembling his usual numbers – 2.25 ERA – 42 SV – 70 IP

Jonathan Broxton – I don’t see Broxton coming back as strong as he was before he was given the relievers equivalent of the “Gil Meche” treatment but he could prove to be a decent bridge to Holland. If his fastball comes back (at least hitting 96-98) he would certainly prove to be a valuable piece to the bullpen but I think his days of upper 90’s-100 are over. I feel he will live in the 94-96 range which, for his 4 seam, may prove to be too hittable. I hope I’m wrong. 2012- 3.89 ERA – 2 SV – 52 IP

Greg Holland – It will be hard for Holland to duplicate let alone improve on his 2011 season. Anything even close to resembling his numbers from last year and he will prove to be the most valuable arm in the pen. I see no reason why that won’t be the case. 2012 – 1.90 ERA – 5 SV – 68 IP

Louis Coleman – Writing about the bullpen after closers and setup men is like writing about local politicians. You really just hope they do their job well and that you don’t notice them most of the time. Coleman provided 59.2 IP with 64 K’s while only giving up 44 hits and 26 BB’s. Louis has the stuff to duplicate last year’s success. Like ERA, it is not uncommon for a top reliever to have a low BABIP (around .265 or so). He did benefit from .246 BABIP last year but with his ability to get strike outs I don’t see an issue if Coleman’s BABIP goes up some this year, especially if he continues to limit his walks. 2.40 ERA 70 K’s 65 IP

Blake Wood/Aaron Crow-RHLR
Tim Collins/Everett Teaford-LHLR
Jose Mijares-LOOGY – These guys round out the bullpen. Collins or Teaford should make the Pen as the LH long reliever along with Blake Wood as the righty if Aaron Crow gets sent down or makes the rotation out of spring. Mijares will be the LOOGY by default, Visa issues be damned.

Bench

Mitch Maier- The outfield spot on the bench will most likely be occupied by either Mitch Maier or Jarrod Dyson. I’m not nearly as big a fan of Dyson as a lot of fellow bloggers are mostly because I don’t like players who only have one skill (I’m not big on Dyson’s defense as others either). That’s not to say I would be all that heartbroken if Dyson made the team I just think the team is stronger with Maier or Derrick Lough coming off the bench.

Brayan Pena- With the injury to Pina this put Pena as the near lock to take the backup catchers spot. Unless Yost feels compelled to sign a veteran (all glove no stick) to backup Sal Perez, Pena is it. I’m fine with Brayan back there. His defense is much improved and he still swings the bat well. Last year he played so sporadically that Pena never had a chance to do much at the plate. He won’t get much chance this year short of a team deflating injury to Perez.

Yuniesky Betancourt will be the utility IF unless Johnny Giavotella completely implodes and Betancourt is handed 2B. Otherwise the Yunibomber will be playing about 3 times a week, rotating between 2B,SS and 3B.

Possibles:

Jarrod Dyson- See above.
David Lough- Possible addition if Maier and Dyson prove unworthy.
Chris Ge…… never mind.

Rotation 2012

So we went over the position starters yesterday and now I will go over the rotation as it stands right now. As we all know the rotation was/is going to be the biggest hole on the roster. If there was one group that will be the downfall of this team it is the rotation. There will be 3 or 4 wild cards on this team, that if they make the 25 man roster out of ST, or get called up early enough and perform, they could make this team a contender for the AL Central.

I wanted to add that defensively this should be the best Royals team since the late ’70s and early ’80s without a doubt. They are solid at every position as well as the bench. This wasn’t the case to begin last season. The pitching staff will benefit greatly from the range, sure hands and strong arms of all the position players. Defensively, this is the best team in the AL Central and one of the top 5 in the entire AL.

I also wanted to post the lineup as Ned Yost laid it out yesterday:

LF – Gordon
2B – Giavotella
1B – Hosmer
DH – Butler
3B – Moustakas
RF – Francoeur
C – Perez
CF – Cain
SS – Escobar

Luke Hochevar will almost certainly be the opening day starter as well as be looked upon to anchor the rotation. That alone should tell you how much Dayton Moore and the Royals need to do to make the rotation playoff worthy. Let’s displace with all the talk that Hoch may have “found” it in the 87 innings he pitched after the All Star break. Even if a 3.53 ERA in the new offense deprived MLB for those 87 innings meant that he did “find” something, he would still be at best a decent #2. But I will take 480 or so innings with over a 5 ERA that tells me his is what he is, a #4 pitcher with a #3 ceiling that he could reach the next few years. He’s 28 and will be entering his 5th full season. I do see Luke improving on his 2011 season but only marginally. Look for something around a 4.10 ERA with 135K’s in 195 IP. Like I said, a decent #3.

Jonathan Sanchez is wild card #1, not only for this rotation but for this team. The offense will be there, the defense will be there, the pen should be solid but again, the rotation could be a sinkhole. Sanchez could provide a spark to this rotation that would solidify it. He certainly has the ability to miss bats, 9.4 K’s per 9 which ranks near the top of current starters in MLB. It’s his 4.8 BB per 9 that wipes that big ole smile right off your face. There is also the fact he’s coming off an elbow injury that could hamper his production. It’s been debated whether or not Sanchez get’s K’s because of his “stuff” or because of his lack of command. I would like to think it’s the way he throws the ball. A lot of two seamers, which is cause for his high walk rate as well. If Dave Eiland can get Sanchez to command not only the fastball but the off speed stuff as well, the Royals will have found a GIANT piece to their playoff puzzle. If not, they will continue to look up at the Tigers. If Sanchez stays healthy I think Sanchez falls somewhere in between great and awful- 4.45 ERA 175 K’s 85 BB’s 185 IP.

Dayton Moore felt it was necessary to bring back Bruce Chen. Ok, it’s easy to look at his tidy little 3.77 ERA, which he posted a year after putting up a 4.17 ERA in 2010, and think that he has figured it out. And maybe he has but the problem is I don’t think it will produce a lot of wins for the Royals. Chen has spent time on the DL the last two years while throwing 140 and 155 IP the last two seasons. Chen’s 6.8 K’s per 9 means he will have limit hits and walks greatly to be effective. It will help having a solid defense behind him but I’m not sure it will help enough. I see Chen regressing somewhat this season due to his inability to get K’s and his BABIP coming back to the mean. Hey, if Chen is your #5, or even your #4 you probably have a solid rotation but when he is coming in as your number #3 with Hochevar and Sanchez being the arms in front of him, well it’s not a good situation to be in. Chen in 2012 – 4.20 ERA 95 K’s 150 IP.

Felipe Paulino is wild card #2. He is the one pitcher in this rotation that has true top of the rotation stuff. Problem is until his 124.2 IP last year for the Royals he really hadn’t shown what level of pitcher he could be. Of course he really hadn’t had much opportunity either. He had 187 IP over 2 seasons in Houston at age 25-26 with a mid 5 ERA. He pitched 14 innings getting hit around in Colorado before they released him and the Royals picked him up. He then proceeded to throw 124.2 innings with a 4.11 ERA. His 8.6 K’s per 9 and 3.5 BB’s per 9 are certainly numbers that if repeated, would make Paulino a difference maker. Someone who could make the Royals 3-4 wins better and stabilize the whole rotation. If he’s great, the Royals have a legitimate shot at the AL Central, if not, well we can all groan about Dayton not getting that top of the rotation starter. Honestly though I don’t think anyone has a good idea of what Paulino will give the Royals. Gun to my head I say his ERA is around what it was last year, but he could certainly post a season like – 3.50 175 K’s 190 IP and I could also see 5.15 125 140.

Danny Duffy will be the favorite to win the #5 spot entering ST. Some people are split on Duffy remaining in the rotation and starting in Omaha. I will say I think the idea that more time in the minors is COMPLETELY over stated. I want Duffy to be in the rotation to start the season. One reason is I believe that he is the one true top of the rotation starter that has a legit shot at the rotation. I believe Duffy is a true #2 talent. I also think we will see improvement from him this season across the board. If it’s enough improvement, this could be a fun summer. Of course the “Phil Humber” disease has stricken Dayton Moore and he is so afraid of losing Luis Mendoza (yes he of the 7.36 lifetime ERA) due to the fact he is out of options, that Duffy may have to start in Omaha just to let Mendoza throw his 87mph fastball against real ML hitters. Hopefully fate is not so cruel as to let Mendoza sabotage this season from the beginning. Duffy in 2012 – 3.90 155 175IP

Mike Montgomery is wild card #3. He will be the only pitcher in all of ML camp with true #1 ability. In fact I think he’s really the only guy in the entire organization with #1 stuff. I don’t think Montgomery has much of a chance to make the team out of ST but I would not be surprised to see him up in late May or early June. It could be sooner if an injury is coupled with sever under performance. Bruce Chen or Jonathan Sanchez getting hurt and Felipe Paulino under performing, or any combination of the three would probably get Montgomery a quicker call up if he is in fact performing in Omaha himself. If he rebounds from a poor year in AAA and starts to fulfill his promise at the ML level, the Royals dire need for a top of the rotation starter will get a whole lot less.

Luis Mendoza, Sean O’Sullivan, Vin Mazzaro, Chris Dwyer etc. Unless Mendoza has a great ST making Moore and Yost’s decision more difficult I can’t see any pitcher not named above throwing many innings at the ML level. Dwyer will probably start in Omaha to gauge how he fits in future plans. Same with Will Smith. They are both young and have a shot at rounding out a rotation, cheaply I might add.

I think for this Royals team experience the level of success that they and all of us envision will require Dayton Moore and David/Dan Glass to spend some money on the rotation. They could even trade a couple of top prospects and throw in a top reliever to get a top quality starter in return. On so many levels it would be important that the Royals are in contention at the trade deadline. Not only could they possibly acquire a top starter for the remainder of this season but they may get one that would be here for 2-3 more season. If it works out right, DM can trade for a starter at the deadline, hopefully propelling the Royals to a strong finish and sign another one in the off season. Unfortunately I think that’s what it will take to make this rotation good enough for multiple playoff appearances. With this lineup anything less will be more than disappointing.

2012 Roster Preview

Just in case you haven’t spent every waking moment going over the possibilities.

One thing about the this year and the next 2 or 3 is that for the most part the roster will be fairly well set. This years position battles are for the 3rd and 4th bench spots and possibly 4th and 5th starters. That’s about it. 2B might be up for debate a month or two into the season but if Johnny Giavotella hits as well as I feel he will, there won’t be much of a discussion, unless of course Christina Colon has played his way back into the discussion.

I will begin with the starters in the outfield. As all of you know this group will remain the same at the corners with Cain taking over for Cabrera in CF. With the addition of Cain, the Royals will get a much improved defender manning the spacious outfield in Kauffman. It’s essentially the equivalent of going from Yuniesky Bentancourt to Alcides Escobar. Melky Cabrera has been one of the worst defensive CF’ers in the game for his entire career. He did have a decent arm for the position but even that is another area that Cain is superior in. Defensively the upgrade will be significant. Offensively Cain will struggle to put up the numbers that Cabrera did last year. Although I think Melky will also struggle this year to duplicate his 2011 season at the plate. If Cain can give the Royals a .270/320/390 line he will be an asset. Anything above that could push the Royals over their projected offensive production, anything below will be a disappointment.

Alex Gordon is probably in line for a regression at the plate but only in the percentage categories. Mostly his BA. Gordon’s .302/.376/.502 slash last year was very good. Especially for the overall offensive decline in Major League Baseball. He was the 16 most productive player in MLB if that puts it into any kind of perspective. He even finished with some votes for AL MVP. I look for Gordon’s average to dropped some based on this BABIP being very high last year. Gordon will start the year in the leadoff spot which could keep his OBP around the .370-.380 mark. I feel that the power that Gordon showed last year will only become more pronounced as well. I see him putting up a .280/.365/510 line. And that production is valuable to any team.

Jeff Francouer experienced a breakout of his own last year. With a .285/.329/.476 line he put up his best production of his career. Frenchy’s problem has always been his knowledge of the strike zone. With 123 strike outs and only 37 BB’s. Contrast that to Gordon’s 139 k’s and 67 BB’s and you get a sense of Francouers shortcomings. One positive is that I have hear Jeff talk about this very thing. He acknowledges that he needs to cut down on his K’s and make pitchers come into the zone more. That with the combination of Kevin “The Bat Whisperer” Seitzer will keep Jeff’s production at last years level. If Jeff can put up a .270/330/480 line he will be a productive bat in between Hosmer and Moustakas.

I look for the outfield to once again be the core group of the team, but the greatest thing about this years Royals team is that there is not one group of players that will be lacking. The group of infielders Dayton Moore has assembled will be more talented than any I can remember. There is power at the corners, both playing above average defensively, the best SS in MLB (defensively), a catcher that has more skills than any Ned Yost has ever seen and a 2B that if nothing else will play his ass off.

Eric Hosmer came up in May of last year (I made sure I was at the game) and from his first MLB game you could tell the guy was going to be a star. This year Hosmer comes in as the obvious incumbent at 1B. It’s his job for the next 5 years. Guys, enjoy this kid while you can because like the Beltran’s, Damon’s and Dye’s before him he will be gone after the 2017 season. It’s just how Boras does it. But the next five seasons, barring injury he should produce numbers from a 1B we have never seen. Defensively I look for him to gain recognition as one of the top 5 in MLB. Sophomore slumps are real but also can be avoided. Pitchers will be much more aware of how to attack Hosmer this year. If the zone recognition he showed in the minors surfaces this year, I think he will be fine. Look for a .295/355/500 line out of Hoz if the Royals are to make a push for contention. Anything much less than that makes .500 the goal.

Mike Moustakas showed that once he gets settled in at a level he hits. Witness his .373/.411/.623 line in his last 37 games in 2011. Moose has shown to be a high contact hitter. While he doesn’t walk a lot he usually puts the ball in play and puts in in play hard. Mike’s defense was above average last year and nothing like what I heard about in the minors. He has come into camp trimmed down from his 223lbs last year to around 210lbs which should make him much more agile around the bag, charging in and going back as well as running the bases. He has power to spare so slimming down should be a huge plus. I believe in being trimmer than heavier. It helped not only Melky Cabrera who lost 30lbs before camp last year but Jeff Francouer as well. Look for Moose to put up a solid .280/335/465 line. If his power really comes in this year, his OBP and SLG could both go up a lot.

Alcides Escobar had the season everyone expected him to have. Little offense but ridiculously great defense. Escobar is the SS the Royals have NEVER had. Not in the 42 season prior have the Royals possessed a true defensive difference at the SS position. That’s what Escobar is. And what’s even more scary is he should be better this year. Between being a bit stronger, quicker, better, he will have a much better idea about AL hitters as well. Not to mention Royals pitchers. Offensively whatever Escobar gives you is a plus but I see him slowly getting better at the plate. I think he will get stronger each year as well. He won’t be a Jeter of course but I can see a .265/325/385 line and that makes him one of the top 5 SS in the game.

Johnny Giavotella will start Spring Training as the favorite at 2B. In fact I’m not sure he can loose the job in the spring but if he struggles for the first month or so the incomparable Yuniesky Bentancourt was brought in for that scenario. So, needless to say, Gio needs to spray frozen ropes from the first day on. While playing Bentancourt at 2B isn’t nearly as bad as having him botch plays at short, the ceiling that Gio provides makes it painful to think of anyone else there. I do think that if Bentancourt has to take over 2B, he would provide average defense and more than likely above average offense. He’s really not a terrible option to have but it’s obviously beneficial for Johnny to take the job and run with it. I see Johnny busting out and providing solid offense with slightly below average defense. .280/.340/.440

Salvador Perez is perhaps the biggest key to the Royals becoming a great team than anyone. Defensively he has shown in the minors that he possesses the arm and mobility to be one of the top catchers in the game. His quick release, strong accurate throws makes stealing on the Royals a difficult proposition. With well above average OF arms, teams will have to work much harder to take extra bases from the Royals. Perez’s offense has never been slacking either. He has hit well in the minors and though he won’t ever hit .330 like he did in his two months last year he should be a solid .280/330/450 bat. With his defensive skills that makes him a top 5 catcher in MLB and that’s counting Joe Mauer.

This team may not put everything together and take the AL Central this year but it should position itself very nicely for future runs if it doesn’t. Obviously the starting rotation will be a weakness and the possible reason this team doesn’t overtake the Tigers this year but I think Dayton Moore is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to put the necessary arms together to do it in 2013 and beyond. I will tackle the rotation and bullpen tomorrow.

Starting Pitching – Filling the Holes

As we all know and most have pointed out, the Royals biggest obstacle to putting a .500 or better team on the field in 2012 is the starting rotation.  There is no massaging the fact that the Royals had the 12th worst team ERA in the AL behind only the Twins and Orioles at 4.44. With the large decline in offense all around baseball, pitching  and defense has taken on even greater importance. Walks are always an important issue when talking about pitching so it’s no coincidence that the Royals poor pitching was in part attributed to leading the AL in walks. With the addition of Jonathan Sanchez, the amount of walks the Royals give up doesn’t appear to be coming down any time soon. It’s no secret that to build a good pitching staff you need quality pitchers.  Quality pitchers usually have low walk rates.  Sensing a theme here.  That’s not to say that with Sanchez, Paulino and possibly Duffy the Royals don’t have the makings of a good staff but I feel it will be imperative for this staff to be rounded out by one or two pitchers who can go deep into games.  That means low walk rates.  This years market doesn’t contain many of those types.  Thus, the bidding is and will be fierce.

Yes we all got at least a little excited when Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Royals would be meeting with Bob Garber, the agent for Roy Oswalt (as well as CJ Wilson).  Shortly after that it was tweeted that the Royals were interested in Mark Buehrle.  Needless to say that sent Royals Universe into a full-out uproar. But I think we all know that signing either one of those guys is essentially out of the question.  Dayton won’t spend the money nor will Oswalt or Buehrle sign for less than market value.  The biggest stumbling block for the Royals will be the length of the contract.  Both pitchers will want multiple years and the Royals are not going to invest that much money or years in players of that age.  That may be a sound strategy anyway.  You can rule out Edwin Jackson as well.  Unless Dayton Moore,  Dan Glass  and Ned Yost absolutely feel that they have a team capable of competing for the division and can find a pitcher that would be willing to sign a club friendly contract, I think the best bet to fill out the rotation will be internally.  May be more to the point is that I feel is the direction the club will go.  Yes a trade could be made but I don’t see the Royals having the depth of prospects at the higher levels to get the quality of  pitcher they need/want in return.  Unless Moore goes back on what he said earlier in the off-season about not wanting to move any of his top prospects (a position I agree with).  With all that being said, lets take a look at some of the internal candidates already in the Royals organization.

Mike Montgomery: LH 6’4″ 190lbs  22yrs old – Montgomery has all the tools to be a top of the rotation starter.  He spent the entire 2011 season at AAA Omaha where he posted a 5.32 ERA in  a little over 150 innings.  His ERA coupled with a  7.7 K/9 as a 21 yr old at AAA isn’t a reason to jump ship on him but for a top 16 MLB prospect most of us were expecting much more.  I’m competely torn between him making the club out of spring training or getting a call up during the year.  What the Royals front office does in the next two months will tell us a lot about what they think of Montgomery in the present.  If they hold fast and go to spring training with what they have, then I think it will be a good bet that Monty will be in the rotation.  Right now, he’s the only one in my opinion that has the ability to anchor the rotation.

Danny Duffy:  LH 6’3″ 195lbs  23yrs old – Duffy made it to the big leagues last year at the age of 22.  He showed flashes of why he was one of the Royals top prospects coming into the year.  He also displayed the inconsistency of a young pitcher.  Duffy started the year at AAA Omaha and put up superb numbers making it hard to argue with his call up.  He just never could find the strike zone consistently enough to have sustained success at the Major League level.  He had a solid 7.4 K/9 but totally offset those strike outs with a BB rate of 4.4/9.  Some people may have Duffy penciled in as their 5th starter.  While that wouldn’t bother me much putting Duffy behind Sanchez, Hochevar and Paulino without adding a frontline starter would be asking for more of the same.  I expect Duffy to take a big step forward at the Major League level this year but still show some of the inconsistencies that plagued him this year.  He has #2-#3 stuff but if Duffy is in the rotation I think it will take adding someone else at the top (other than Montgomery) to stabilize the rotation.

Luis Mendoza:  RH 6’3″  180lbs  28yrs old – Mendoza had a fine season in AAA Omaha and got a September call up for his troubles.  He ended up throwing 14 2/3 innings in 2 starts and only giving up 2 ER.  He’s not going to have high K rates and his BB rates aren’t really all that good either.   Since changing his arm angle he does tend to get hit less.  Though his ground ball % isn’t any better than it used to be but his BABIP has gone down.  Hitters just don’t seem to be squaring Mendoza up near as much as they used to.  For me Mendoza is someone who is a stop-gap, a luxury to have in AAA but not someone you give a spot in the rotation to.  He’s out of options so unless the Royals stand pat and he has a tremendous spring training Mendoza is likely to become a FA in April.

Sean O’Sullivan/Vin Mazzaro/Aaron Crow/Greg Holland/Everett Teaford and anyone else you may think about trying out in the rotation, don’t.  It’s not worth it.  This team doesn’t need to be doing experiments with failed starters, PERIOD.  No Holland and Crow may not have started in the ML’s but there is a reason.  I’m fully in agreement with the value of a starting pitching being worth much more than a reliever.  But rarely does converting a reliever back to a starter ever work.  CJ Wilson made it work but I feel he is one of the exception rather than the rule. And there are reasons why, mechanics, arm troubles, mindset etc.  Sully and Mazzaro are just simply not ML level starters.

Jake Odorizzi/Will Smith/Chris Dwyer – all three may see some time up with KC this year but if they do it will mean that the season has not gone the way we all had hoped.  I will say Odorizzi may have a chance to get called up with a solid first half of the season.  He will likely start out at NW Arkansas but there is a chance he gets sent to Omaha in April.  Injuries happen all the time and if the Royals do not make a move to add another starter Odorizzi could be on the short list to make some starts in KC next summer.  As for Smith and Dwyer, I have both projected as back of the rotation guys and will likely spend the whole season in the minors.

So there are the internal candidates as I see them.  You could come up with a few more but the point of this exercise was to show how few options we actually do have.  Moore could resign Bruce Chen and I’m sure he would give us another average  150 IP season but I want more for this team.  I want them to strive for more.  We all are tired of the same thing over and over again.  It gets old.  I agree with not tying a lot of money up in long-term contracts for aging veterans but the time is now for this club.  Yes they should be competitive for the next 3-4 years at the very least but I get tired of hearing people disregard this season as being one where the Royals can compete.  In the AL Central there is always a chance.  Hopefully the powers that be at 1 Royal Way will do something we all hoped they would have done for years, go out and acquire a player that will help this team win NOW!

“The Process” Is In Full Swing

The Process is in full swing as Dayton Moore and the Royals have stoked the Hot Stove to a warm red glow.  As we all know starting pitching is the main focus in what is turning out to be a busier off season than most of us expected.  Kicking the tires on Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt after trading CF Melky Cabrera for lefty Jonathan Sanchez has gotten the majority of us salivating for what could be.

There does seem to be some division among fans as to whether or not the Royals can contend in 2012.  I’m a rather optimistic sort when it comes to the Royals but I try to temper  it with some statistical analysis.  Having said that, I see no reason with the addition of at least one starter the quality of  Buehrle or Oswalt, that this team can not contend in the AL Central next year.  As the off season moves along I will outline why I feel that way (along with the hundreds of other Royals bloggers) and help shed some light on what we should see out of the Royals in the 2012 season.

While I’m not sure DM is going to spend what it would take to acquire either of the aforementioned starters, he does have some in house candidates that could provide a good amount of quality innings.  In my next post I will go over some of top options the Royals already have on the

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