Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Royals Insider: Mark Teahen

Since mid-2006, outfielder Mark Teahen has been quite the conundrum, spanning two and a half months of flawless offensive baseball and an entire year where he would display a tremendous drop in power. The blogger warfare proceeds, even after a lackluster 2007, from many fans' perspectives. Just who is the real Mark Teahen? More importantly, what can we expect from the converted third baseman in 2008? Let Royals Insider delve into his career to discover the answer to that question, and possibly more.

Will the real Mark Teahen please stand up?

Born and raised in southern California, Teahen attended Yucaipa High School and three years of St. Mary's Collegiate before getting drafted by General Manager Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the 2002 amateur entry draft. Upon signing, Teahen was instantly plugged into Low-A ball and became a force to be reckoned with offensively, before slowing down tremendously playing up a level in Modesto, California, the Athletics' High-A affiliate. In 2003, he surged through in that level, hitting a respectable .278/.377/.362 line with 20 doubles in 102 games. In 2004, the A's promoted him to AA Midland, where he hit an astonishing .335/.419/.543 for the Rockhounds. After hitting a .774 OPS in 20 games in AAA Sacramento, Teahen was packaged with teammate Mike Wood and New Orleans Zephyrs catcher John "Mr. Incredible" Buck to the Kansas City Royals in a blockbuster, three-way trade that would send outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Houston Astros and relief pitcher Octavio Dotel to the Athletics.

Committing, once again, to a full-fledged rebuilding movement, the Royals considered Teahen their third baseman of the future - a successor to the steadily declining Joe Randa. While John Buck and Mike Wood were promoted instantly to the big club, the Royals decided to hold arguably their best prospect return back in AAA Omaha. Teahen performed not overwhelmingly, but respectably, posting a .280/.344/.447 line in 246 at-bats, clubbing 15 doubles and 8 home runs. After 27 at-bats in Omaha the following season, he made his Major League debut with the Royals in April, and emerged as the full-time third baseman. At age 23, Teahen struggled fairly consistently with the club, demonstrating promosing plate discipline, speed, and baserunning ability but not providing overwhelming defense or pop.

The following season, Teahen began the year poorly once again, and although he had already been featured on several Kansas City-area Royals television advertisements, he was demoted to Omaha. He reiterated his offensive capabilities in southeastern Nebraska, clubbing 14 extra base hits in 24 games. From may through early September, it became Mark Teahen's world - and we were merely living in it. He combined .815, 1.134, and .905 OPS'es for the following three months, clubbing 15 home runs, 5 triples, and 19 doubles. He would finish the season with BABip's of .344, .333, .362, and .333, respectively, excellent by any standard. Unfortunately, he would miss most of September with a scheduled back surgery, in preparation for a full recovery by the following Spring Training.

Attached is a brief synopsis from Baseball America, in 2005. Encouraging, indeed.

"He was probably the best third baseman in the Texas League. He's got the whole package as a guy who can hit and plays good defense at third."

I predict a shinier, prettier 2008 for one potential franchise cornerstone. Here are my projections for Mark Teahen's 2008 season:

GS/G: 148/150
AB: 563
H: 172
AVG: .306
OBP: .378
SLG: .444
HR: 11
RBI: 67
R: 71
2B: 34
3B: 7
BB: 63
K: 102
SB: 13
CS: 5
OPS+: 109

On-field performance:
Experiences significant dropoff overall: 10%
2007 Teahen, slightly improved: 45%
Repeats 2007 form: 25%
Reverts to late 2006 form: 20%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 15%

Chances traded before Opening Day: 5%
Chances traded mid-season: <5%

Job allocation:
Starting corner outfielder: 80%
Starting first baseman: 15%
Starting third baseman: (<)5%


- Well above average baserunning skills (30:7 SB:CS ratio)
- Solid contact hitter (.274 lifetime BA, .333 lifetime BABip)
- Above average plate discipline (+87 BA/OBP split in Minors)
- Strong arm in right field (17 assists last season in right field)


- Has not consistently demonstrated doubles and home run power in neither the Majors nor the Minors
- Struggles mightily against lefties (79 OPS+ career against southpaws)
- Will provide average-at-best production for a corner outfielder, where offensive production is typically more demanding than that of a third baseman
- Struggles vs. power pitchers (.232/.322/.381 career)

I would like to broadcast a newsflash for all Royals fans throughout the blogosphere and nation: the May-through-September 2006 version of Mark Teahen was merely a mirage. Teahen's chances of clubbing 25 home runs, 40 doubles, or repeating that unprobable .500 slugging percentage at the big-league level are about the same as Jorge De La Rosa posting a sub-4 ERA in 180 innings next season: slim to nil. However, I believe he will improve his already considerable contact ability, demonstrate even better plate discipline, maintain his baserunning skills, improve his power somewhat, and maintain comfortable range and a well above average arm in the corner outfield.

Teahen's defensive capabilities often go underrated, even among the most optimistic of Royals fans. Although his range factor was a good, but not overwhelming, 2.45 last season, he posted a team-high and league-high 17 assists in right field. Although one can reasonably expect that number to decrease somewhat next season - the argument that Teahen possesses a cannon of an arm is certainly fair. His presence in the outfield - combined with all those assists - will certainly prevent opposing baserunners from taking that extra base that much more often.

I believe Teahen's lack of power ability is overexposed in the #3 hole. However, I expect Teahen to contribute as a force in the #2 or #6 slot in the Royals lineup for many years. He will demonstrate the pure-contact abilities and on-base abilities, while possessing an above average arm.

A more accurate question for this topic should be:

What do you expect from Mark Teahen in 2008?

Royals Insider: Mitch Maier

Today on Royals Insider, we analyze the current Omaha Royals center fielder, Mitch Maier.


Maier was selected as a supplemental pick in the first round of the 2003 amateur entry draft by General Manager Allard Baird and the Royals. Maier had posted overwhelming offensive statistics in the University of Toledo, drilling 14 home runs his sophomore year and posting a 1.216 OPS in 194 at-bats his junior season. Maier had won a slew of awards in college, including but not limited to:

- Freshman first team All-America (as catcher)
- Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year
- Mid-American Conference All-Star (three times as catcher)
- 1st team College All-American DH (2003)

After posting an overwhelming .350/.403/.507 line his first half-season in the Royals organization (2003), he appeared destined for greatness at the Major League level. The following offseason, the Royals did not view him as a candidate behind the plate, and therefore moved him to third base. Offensively, Maier performed considerably well in Class-A Burlington and Class-A+ Wilmington, but his defense at third base was disastrous at best. In 2004, he committed 21 combined errors in 109 games at the hot corner, posting fielding percentages of .903 and .938 between the two affiliates. After realizing the Maier-at-third scenario would not suffice, the Royals front office converted him to outfield. They believed that his raw speed (48 stolen bases combined in college) to outfield range. After posting a .953 OPS in High Desert in 2005, Maier was promoted to Wichita mid-season, but experienced his first major setback within the organization. In 2006, he posted a .306/.357/.473 line in Wichita, but experienced another major setback in 2007, seeing his stolen base total diminish to a mere seven, and OPS fall by over 80 points. After going hitless in fifteen at-bats in Spring Training, Maier performed merely 'acceptably' in an everyday role in center field in southeastern Nebraska.

At this point, most scouts project Maier as a fourth outfielder in the Major Leagues. Entering his prime, it is probably a safe bet to say Maier could still prove that he can rake AAA pitchers, but his upside appears limited at this point. Recently, Baseball America ranked him the 23rd best Royals prospect, a far cry from his pre-2007 status and a disappointing ranking for a first round draft pick. Maier can provide acceptable center field defense in a pinch, but does not provide the necessary power or plate discipline to be realistically considered an eventual successor to David DeJesus in the spacious center field at Kauffman Stadium. Also, his diminishing speed (his stolen base totals have declined from 44 to 16 to 13 to 7 the last four years) and ability to avoid the strikeout (90, 96, and 89 K's, respectively, the last three seasons) hinder his ability drastically. He will also turn 26 years of age in June.

I will make an adventurous prediction for Maier this season. I believe he will provide considerably more power this season in Omaha. However, the power will be offset by his usual attributes: lack of plate discipline, declining speed, and merely average range and instincts in the outfield. His improvement in Nebraska will warrant an early-September recall, but, like fellow Omaha-ites Justin Huber and Chris Lubanski, his playing time will likely (once again) be limited to the occasional afternoon start.

I believe we can expect the following from the left-handed hitter in 2008:

AAA Omaha:
GS/G: 100/106
BA: .281
OBP: .327
SLG: .465
HR: 19
RBI: 62
R: 80
BB: 34
K: 79

KANSAS CITY: (September call-up)
GS/G: 2/4
BA: .200
OBP: .275
SLG: .340
HR: 0
RBI: 0
SB: 0
(Warning! Small sample size alert!)

- Acceptable arm and instincts in center field (range factor consistently in upper 2's)
- Translates raw speed into above average baserunning ability
- Possesses average power from the center field position

- Will turn 26 on June 30, which is considerably old even for an on-the-verge prospect.
- Lack of plate discipline combined with potentially acceptable power doesn't necessarily make him a viable candidate in any batting order
- Declining speed (SB/CS statistics the last 4 years: 43:12, 16:4, 13:12, 7:2)
- Inability to hit offspeed pitches

On-field performance:
Significant dropoff from 2007: 10%
Repeats 2007 form: 40%
Improves from 2007: 50%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 10%

Chances traded or dropped before Opening Day: 5%
Chances traded or dropped mid-season: 15%

Job allocation:
Omaha starting outfielder: 80%
Splits 2007 between Omaha and Kansas City: 15%
Full-time backup in Kansas City: 5%

(Obviously, Maier's outfield position will hinge on whether Joey Gathright starts the season in Omaha or in Kansas City).

Keith at The Royal Tower summarizes Mitch Maier quite well:

Take: Maier has had a wildly inconsistent minor league career. He's been compared to Mark Kotsay in the past for his offensive and defensive skills, but it's very iffy at this point to whether he'll live up to that billing or not. A little more plate discipline would go a long way for Maier, but as a 25-year-old, it's not likely to get any better. That said, he could make for an ideal fourth outfielder in the future -- with the ability to play all the outfield positions, run the bases well, and provide a little pop as a pinch hitter.

Unfortunately, that's about what Maier's upside currently is: that of a good fourth outfielder. His inability to dominate against pitchers with one hand does not make him an ideal platoon candidate, and he possesses no one outstanding tool which can even make him a viable #8 or #9 hitter. I do believe Maier will improve in AAA next season, but that probably won't be enough to unseat Jose Guillen, David DeJesus, or Mark Teahen in the Royals outfield on a permanent basis. As a fourth outfielder, he would come dirt cheap for at least three seasons, forcing the Royals to not try a Ross Gload experiment after 2009 (an experiment that may cost upwards of $1.5 million plus).

It will be interesting to see where Maier can improve in 2008, as I believe he will.

Monday, January 28, 2008

MLB Trade Rumors: Brian Bannister Interview

For those who have not read, MLB Trade Rumors recently conducted an interview with our very own starting pitcher Brian Bannister. He discusses BABIP (batting average on balls in play), his mentors, coming to the Royals, and much more.

Interview, Part One
Interview, Part Two
Interview, Part Three

Royals Insider: David DeJesus

Royals Insider stretches its legs once again on this fateful Sunday afternoon, as Royals center fielder David DeJesus presents himself.

Swagger. Moxie. Confidence. David DeJesus has all three.

The Royals selected Rutgers University junior David Christopher DeJesus in the fourth round of the 2000 amateur entry draft. However, in his final college game at Rutgers, he sustained an elbow injury and later blew it out completely. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2001, and missed an entire season. However, making the transition from Rutgers to professional ball, DeJesus didn't seem to miss a beat. He still projected as a solid contact hitter and on-base threat, after moving swiftly through the Royals' farm system.

In his first full season, 2002, DeJesus connected for 22 doubles and 6 triples in 334 at-bats, and also stole 15 bases in 21 attempts. The next season, DeJesus would move rapidly from Wichita to Omaha, hitting a combined .308/.392/.472 at those two levels. He became something of a sleeper prospect, and gained notoriety as a potential lead-off man of the future and successor to then-center fielder Carlos Beltran, whose departure from the small-market midwest was imminent.

DeJesus impressed the K.C. brass in his extremely short stint in Kansas City in 2003, and became the starting center fielder and leadoff man in mid-2004, and would essentially remain in that role thereafter. According to this still-relevant 2004 scouting report:

"DeJesus is not a physically imposing player, but he is a good athlete and strong for his size. He has a short, sharp, and compact swing. Although he does not have plus home run power, he generates good bat speed, has punch to the gaps, and will knock the occasional long ball. DeJesus controls the strike zone extremely well, seldom swinging at bad pitches. He thinks along with the pitcher, and will go to the opposite field when needed. He can sometimes be overpowered inside, but he has enough quickness in his wrists to punish the pitcher if a mistake is made over the plate. He holds in well against both breaking balls and changeups. DeJesus has above average speed, shows good instincts on the bases, and is a solid defensive outfielder. He has enough range for center field, but the elbow injury robbed him of arm strength. He works hard, and scouts like his work ethic and aggressive style of play."

Defensively, he has been a mainstay in center field, mostly because of his tremendous instincts and above average range. According to Operation Center Field, DeJesus' Revised Zone Rating was .910 in 2007 and Ultimate Zone Rating was an above average +13. His Range Factor was a respectable 2.70. Unfortunately, arm speed is a bit more difficult to truly measure quantitatively; however, scouts seem intent that DeJesus' throwing arm is certainly not a flaw in his game. According to this Bill James study, he was also one of the best baserunners in the game.

Offensively, despite playing in a career-high 157 games, DeJesus saw most at-the-plate statistics decrease sharply in his 2007 campaign. His OPS slipped by an astonishing 87 points (.810 in 2006, .723 in 2007). He hit seven fewer doubles, but showed an uncanny ability to get plunked with the baseball (23 hit-by-pitches was a team high). Perhaps, as an analysts, should we chalk 2007 up as merely 'one of those years', or did something more sinister prevent DeJesus from performing at maximum capabilities? Unfortunately, he has struggled fairly consistently against left-handed pitching throughout his career, hitting .262/.341/.379 against southpaws - respectable, but a far cry from his .290/.365/.429 showing against righties. Also, DeJesus loves hitting at Kauffman Stadium, and has a career OPS 50 points higher at the friendly confines.

On that note, will DeJesus rebound from a lackluster 2006 season, or will he continue to regress? Let's assess the crystal ball for David's 2008:

GS/G: 143/146
AB: 571
H: 163
AVG: .277
OBP: .358
SLG: .416
HR: 6
RBI: 51
R: 77
2B: 34
3B: 7
BB: 69
SO: 81
SB: 11
CS: 7
OPS+: 10

- Excellent on-base skills and ability to work the count makes him a viable leadoff candidate (Career +76 BA/OBP split)
- Fifth best baserunner in Major League baseball, according to Bill James' study mentioned above
- Above average range, instincts, and arm in center field (career 2.59 RFg in Center field)
- Signed to a safe, affordable, and tradeable contract (Was signed to a five-year, $13.8MM contract, with a club option for 2011, before the 2006 season)
- Destroys finesse pitchers (career .328/.396/.496 line in 973 plate appearances against finessers)

- Now that he is entering his age 28 season, not much upside remains.
- Excellent baserunning skills does not translate to stolen bases, which unquestionably hinders his leadoff ability (career 29:23 SB:CS ratio)
- Struggles against left-handed pitching (as mentioned above)
- His OPS+ dropped 19 points last season. Is this a sign of things to come?

On-field performance:
Experiences significant dropoff overall: 5%
Reverts to 2004-2006 form, with power surge: 10%
Repeats 2007 form: 25%
Reverts to 2004-2006 form: 60%

Injury contigency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 30%

Chances traded before Opening Day: 10%
Chances traded mid-season: 5%

Job allocation:
Starting centerfielder: 80%
Mostly starting centerfielder, some corner outfield mixed in: 20%

DeJesus has been the centerpiece of many a swirlin' trade rumor throughout this offseason and the last season altogether. His name surfaced in rumors with the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. However, in December 2007, General Manager Dayton Moore refuted such claims, and indicates that DeJesus is likely headed nowhere.

Despite his disappointing 2007, DeJesus has been remarkably consistent over the years. He has never been and will never be a formidable power threat. However, he gets on base, draws walks, doesn't strike out much, and is a solid contact hitter, and runs well, which makes him a viable leadoff candidate. Unfortunately, injuries have taken a slight toll on the 28-year old over the years, beginning (of course) with the Tommy John Surgery in 2001 and continuing with shoulder problems. His style of play is remarkable. He pushes his body to the limit and always gives maximum effort. Therefore, he is an injury risk. However, as David enters the second year of his prime, it is safe to argue that he will rebound and post numbers that rival those of 2005 and 2006, rather than 2007. Even the most cynical of Royals fans can reasonably expect 10 stolen bases, 30 doubles, and a .280/.360/.400 season from the lefty.

Royals Insider: Joey Gathright

On this edition of Royals Insider, we explore the life and times of Joey Renard Gathright.

Born in Hattiesburg, Mississipi, Gathright attended Bonnabel High School in Kenner, Louisiana. There, he excelled as a high school hitter, combining a fleet foot with an exceptional contact bat. Noticing such tremendous tools, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected him in the 32nd round of the 2001 amateur entry draft. Upon signing in August, Gathright waited one year before entering Class-A Charleston, where he hit .264/.360/.269 in 208 at-bats. The following season, he combined a .324/.406/.359 and .376/.419/.388 at Class A+ Bakersfield and Class AA Orlando. In Bakersfield, Gathright solidified himself as one of the best runners in the Minor Leagues, stealing 57 bases in 70 attempts. Although he had never hit one career home run, he batted for tremendous contact, hitting .326 and .341 for two levels in 2004. He was revered as one of the hottest prospects in the low minors, and won the Baseball America 2nd team Minor League All-Star award, California League Rookie of the Year award, and the California League All Star award. The following season, he was promoted to the parent club - Tampa Bay.

By 2004, Gathright had begun to solidify himself as a precursor to the 1970's and 1980's era leadoff men extraordinaires, from Otis Nixon to Brett Butler. Joey split the 2005 season between Class AAA Durham and Tampa Bay. Throughout the Minor Leagues, Gathright had worked the count often and got on base at an excellent clip. However, initially, his high-OBP game did not translate to the big league level, with merely a +40 and +66 BA/OBP split the first two short seasons in St. Petersburg.

On a summer evening in 2002, the fleetfooted Joey Gathright decided to jump over two vehicles in a parking lot.

After a lowly 2006 campaign with Durham and Tampa Bay, Gathright, along with infielder Fernando Cortez, was sent to our Boys in Blue for 22-year old left handed pitcher J.P. Howell, always considered long on potential but, at the time, severely short on outcome. It was a controversial trade at the time on behalf of Dayton Moore, as it received mixed - and emotional - results on both the Devil Rays blogosphere and the Royals blogosphere. Dayton Moore defended the move, citing defensive need in a spacious ballpark:

"We've got to make sure that we've got outstanding defense in this ballpark," Moore said of the decision to trade a pitching prospect for speed and defense. "With DeJesus (David, who moved from center to left) and Gathright we certainly have some guys who can track the ball. We've got to be athletic in this ballpark."

That season, Gathright spent 229 at-bats playing mostly center field in Kansas City, forcing DeJesus over to an unfamiliar left field. Gathright delivered almost instantly in Kansas City with the potential he demonstrated in the Minor Leagues, connecting for a .262/.332/.328 line in 79 games. However, in 2007, after an epic Spring Training battle with fellow on-the-cusp outfielders Shane Costa and Justin Huber, Gathright was confined to the AAA level for at least a small part of one more season. Gathright performed brilliantly in Omaha early in the season, earning a permanent callup after outfielder Reggie Sanders was sidelined for the second time. Gathright performed promising in Kansas City, drilling 70 hits in 74 games.

However, the analysis of Joey Gathright must delve deeper than simply the numbers at first glance. Consider these numbers, referenced by the always informative mtroyals over on

Tampa Bay:
2004: 6 SB, 1 CS = 85%
2005: 20 SB, 5 CS = 80%
2006: 12 SB, 3 CS = 80%

Kansas City:
2006: 10 SB, 6 CS = 62%
2007: 9 SB, 8 CS = 52%

Gathright has not exactly performed well on the basepaths in Kansas City. Could the difference merely be coincidence, sending him on the incorrect counts, the natural grass at Kauffman Stadium, or simply having the cannon-armed Ivan Rodriguez in the same division? That is a question that remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: In order to maintain a position somewhere in the Royals lineup, Gathright must begin to translate his exceptional raw speed into baseball speed. This would not only include stealing bases more often and more effectively, but covering ground and getting better reads and reactions on fly balls.

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Gathright's Tampa Bay biography stated that he runs from home plate to first base in 3.3 seconds on a bunt. Also, he has been timed at an amazing 6.1 seconds in a 60-yard dash.

Because the corner outfield positions demand such power, Gathright would ideally be better suited as strictly a center fielder. Unfortunately, in our situation, the talented - yet not exactly power-talented - David DeJesus will occupy that role for the forseeable future (barring, of course, a trade). Gathright's singles-hitting isn't sufficient for a left fielder, and given the team's lack of doubles and home run power (they finished dead last in total bases and slugging percentage), his presence in the lineup takes away from something a player like Justin Huber or Chris Lubanski could possibly grant us. Power.


- Almost identical career OPS vs. lefties (.649) and righties (.647) makes him viable starting option against any candidate (although he hits finesse pitchers and groundball pitchers better)
- Raw speed translated into excellent baserunning skills and range in the Minor Leagues and in Tampa Bay (38-for-47 in SB attempts since becoming a Royal)
- Above average on-base skills makes him a qualified leadoff hitter (career +67 BA/OBP split)


- Presence of David DeJesus in center field gives him lack of power from a power-needy position (corner outfield) (1 career home run)
- Inability, thus far, to convert speed potential to stolen bases in Kansas City


GS/G: 49/81
AB: 221
H: 59
BA: .267
OBP: .343
SLG: .317
1B: 50
2B: 7
3B: 2
HR: 0
RBI: 21
R: 26
BB: 17
K: 34
SB: 15
CS: 9
OPS+: 78

On-field performance:
Tremendous dropoff from 2007: 10%
Slight dropoff from 2007: 35%
Repeats 2007 form: 40%
True breakthrough season (.300/.400/.350): 15%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 5%

Chances traded/released before Opening Day: 20%
Chances traded at 2008 Trade Deadline: 15%

Job allocation:
Starting outfielder: 15%
Platoon role: 5%
Bench/reserve role: 55%
Season split between K.C. and Omaha: 25%

To be honest, I think Gathright's maximum potential is still that of a capable vintage-style leadoff man. However, with David DeJesus present, that team is currently not the Royals. The Royals could best implement him as a fourth outfielder. What is most vital to his 2008 campaign is whether he can translate his running abilities into stolen bases. Then, Gathright could be used as a pinch runner. In fact, I predict that Gathright will translate his skills slightly more effectively this season, improving his instincts and range in left field (and occasionally center) and stealing a few bases in close and late pinch-running roles. Offensively, he could still forseeably become a true leadoff man. His OBP and contact skills rival that of DeJesus and Mark Teahen, although those two are slightly more proven commodities.

From a fans' perspective, Gathright is an energetic presence and a fun player to watch. Every team could use a sparkplug such as Joey, in some role, somewhere.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Royals Sign Brett Tomko

The Royals have reportedly reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year contract to right-handed pitcher Brett Tomko.

Here are Brett Tomko's numbers the previous three seasons:

2005: SF: 4.48 ERA, 190.2 IP, 57 BB, 114 K, 1.37 WHIP, 95 ERA+
2006: LAD: 4.73 ERA, 131.3 IP, 29 BB, 76 K, 1.35 WHIP, 95 ERA+
2007: LAD/SDP: 5.55 ERA, 131.3 IP, 48 BB, 105 K, 1.50 WHIP, 80 ERA+

The overall trend is downward. Tomko has a 4.62 ERA pitching in mostly pitchers' parks. His results have been decidedly below average the last three seasons, where he played in notoriously pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium, and PETCO Park. The strikeout-to-walk numbers indicate that he has moderate stuff and control, but his ground-ball percentage has been consistently in the 40's throughout his career. Quite simply, he's a fly ball pitcher with moderate stuff pitching in a hitter's park. Not exactly an ideal combination.

Tomko will earn $3MM in 2005 with another possible $1.5MM in performance incentives. At this point, the #4 slot in the rotation is likely his to lose. I fail to see how he's a significant upgrade over the likes of Luke Hudson, Jorge De La Rosa, and Brandon Duckworth, who are also each fighting for slots in the rotation and front end of the bullpen. I would rather have seen this money committed toward either future drafts, meaningful Free Agent acquisitions, or the always ambiguous "keep players in K.C. lockbox".

However, MLB Trade Rumors raised an interesting point when analyzing the deal:

It could make sense to look at Tomko for the closer job and switch Joakim Soria to the rotation. Tomko's flexibility might come in handy.

Any thoughts on our latest pitching addition?

Royals Insider: Jose Guillen

After a four-day break, we focus on the next Royals Insider victim, arguably our highest profile offseason acquisition, Jose Guillen.

What brand of Jose Guillen will surface *this* year?

Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992, Guillen was projected as a five-tool corner outfielder. After working his way through the three lowest Pirates Minor league affiliates, Guillen experienced a breakthrough season in 1996, his first full campaign. He hit .322/.357/.498 and stole 24 bases in 37 attempts in 528 at-bats. The following season, the talent-thin Pirates, desperate to seek help in their depleted outfield, Guillen was promoted to Pittsburgh, and he stuck the entire season, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 70 runs in 498 at-bats and 143 games. In 1998, he almost duplicated his ’97 line exactly, connecting for a similar .267/.298/.414 clip. The right-hander began to develop a reputation as a free-swinger throughout the league, with considerable power (38 doubles in 1998) but not quite enough compensation for his lackluster plate discipline and batting average.

The following season, Guillen was traded to the Devil Rays for catchers Humberto Cota and Joe Oliver. Guillen spent most of the season playing second fiddle for last-place Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, and experienced a rather dramatic power dropoff, overall. Guillen spent the following two seasons being nagged with injuries, including two sprains to his left knee. He would spend the following two seasons playing for Cincinnati, Arizona, and Oakland. For Cincinnati in 2003, he experienced an overwhelming power surge, and hit .337/.385/.629 in the first half of the season, before being traded to the postseason-aspiring Oakland Athletics. Perhaps Guillen’s offensive breakout was stalled because of his age; he was rushed through the minors and began playing full time at merely 21 years old. The following two seasons, Guillen found success with the Anaheim Angels (.294/.352/.497/.849) and the inaugural Washington Nationals (.283/.338/.479/.817). After a 2006 that was riddled with injuries (right hamstring and elbow forced him to play in only 69 games), the Seattle Mariners signed Guillen to a one-year contract, with a club option, before 2007. He surged through again in 2007 with the Emeralds, hitting 99 RBI’s, 23 home runs, and 28 doubles in 593 at-bats.

After 2006, the Mariners declined a $9MM team option on Jose Guillen, who knew that he would perhaps receive more guaranteed cash on the open market. Retaining Guillen quite simply didn’t make sense for the Mariners, who had young outfielders Adam Jones and Wladimir Balentien (both of whom the Royals had reportedly pursued in the middle of 2007) ready to emerge onto the big league scene. Less than a month later, the Royals had become the frontrunners in the sweepstakes for the power hitter. On December 6, 2007, the R’s signed him to a 3-year, $36 million contract. General Manager Dayton Moore felt that Guillen would be an offensive force in the middle of the lineup.

Perhaps his late-career surge can be explained by being rushed through the minors, or could it perhaps be explained by a more sinister matter? Moore and the Royals front office seized a calculated risk that would force Guillen to continue his 2003-2005 and 2007 production while serving as an impact, middle-of-the-order bat that would eventually complement franchise hopefuls Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Mark Teahen. However, Guillen will serve a suspension on the first fifteen days of 2007 for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Guillen had admitted to Commissioner Bud Selig that he ordered and used performance-enhancing supplements at the beginning of the ’07-’08 offseason. Guillen's name would eventually appear in the San Francisco Chronicle, and later, in the Mitchell Report.

His activities in the clubhouse were often questionable at best. As I mentioned, the Halos suspended Guillen in September 2004 without pay - and also without delving into specifics. Former Devil Rays (and Royals) manager Hal McRae recently called Jose Guillen 'the most difficult human being I ever dealt with.' Most recently, the newly acquired outfielder imp lied that he wouldn't accept a position change in the Royals outfield. Although he would later refute such a comment, it's not difficult to realize that Guillen's "hot-headiness", so to speak, may resurface down the road in a Royals uniform. If his production tapers off in any fashion, he may become one of the most unpopular Royals in both the clubhouse and in the blogosphere.

Nonetheless, I believe Guillen will continue to serve as an above average offensive contributor next season. Here are my projections for Jose in 2008:

GS/G: 140/141
AB: 558
H: 158
AVG: .283
OBP: .349
SLG: .462
HR: 21
RBI: 85
R: 78
1B: 102
2B: 33
3B: 2
SB: 3
CS: 2
OPS+: 116

On-field performance:
Experiences significant dropoff overall: 30%
2004-2005, 2007 Guillen: 60%
Career season: 10%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 20%

Staying in Kansas City all season: 100%

Job allocation:
Starting corner outfielder: 100%

- Tremendous throwing arm (9 or more assists 2003-2005 and 2007)
- Doubles and HR power (28 doubles, 23 HR’s in pitcher-friendly SAFECO in 2007, .497, .479, and .460 SLG% three of last four seasons)

- Well below average base-stealer (46% CS percentage); with declining speed, not a threat to steal
- History as negative clubhouse force (In 2004, the Anaheim Angels refused to play him down the playoff stretch because of his clubhouse antics; also caused disturbances in Tampa Bay and Washington)
- Current salary and contract (3 Y/$36MM) might be steep considering his age (31) and the Royals current mode (rebuilding).

The acquisition of Jose Guillen drew mixed responses in both the Royals blogosphere and the national media. Well-known Kansas City Star writer, and now blogger, Joe Posnanski criticized the contract heavily in a Kansas City Star column. Some writers lambasted Moore for dramatically overpaying for a good, but never great, player, which was similar to the methods by which they criticized Moore following the Meche signing in December 2006. Jose Guillen carries the baggage of a poor clubhouse player and an ex-steroid abuser. He will also turn 32 years old in May, which, if his career path follows that of most professional ballplayers, his prime is probably in the past. The Guillen signing is an unquestionably risky move. Many Royals fans cannot help but be reminded of similar – but now disastrous – offensive signings, such as Kevin McReynolds and Juan Gonzalez.

Overall, I feel that despite (supposedly) ceasing PED’s, Guillen will continue his considerable mid-decade production into 2008. Although I somewhat dubiously questioned Dayton Moore’s offense-building skills several months ago, I believe Moore not only paid market-value monetary for Guillen, but will also receive market-value production from the corner outfielder. Perhaps what Guillen may prove the city – and (of course) its surrounding area of Royals faithful – wrong is that one can continue to contribute well after using the juice. His contract will unfortunately likely be dead weight by mid-2010, but which long-term contract isn’t, in this Seligian Money Era in baseball? Although Guillen will probably call his character and attitude into question with disheartening quotes several times in his Royal tenure, I believe Guillen will, in the long run, make up for it with his bat.

I'm looking forward to watching Guillen contribute from the middle of the order in 2008.

Royals Caravan

I'm not sure how many people actively read The Royal Treatment, but if you do, did you visit the Royals Caravan this year, or do you plan to visit? If so, please share your stories. I've encountered several interesting reads on Royals message boards, from people talking to Ryan LeFebvre to Denny Matthews to Dayton Moore to the players themselves.

Complete information on the Royals caravan can be found at

FanFest 2008 Concludes!

I attended FanFest on Saturday, arriving at the O.P. Convention Center around 11:30am. From not finding a single parking spot within the complex and, thus, having to park and walk at least 10 minutes away, I knew this convention would be crowded. To be honest with you, I felt the organization did a tremendous job with presentation - organizing a number of activities for children, including but not limited to: fast-pitch, batting cages, autograph sessions, and whiffleball. The area was remarkably clean, and it was cool to get to see the players up close and personal. I even strolled beside Joey Gathright, without even realizing it was him (he was wearing a Gathright jersey, which initially struck me as odd, until later....)

However, I'm not much of a man-amongst-crowds. Quite simply, I loathe crowds. And I loathe standing in line. The latter is probably why I did not receive any autographs today. The lines were utterly ridiculous, and waiting in one would have taken at least two hours. In fact, the term 'line' is loose....they were more like winding mazes.

My highlights of the late morning/early afternoon included taking 30-40 pictures, and witnessing a kids press conference, where Mark Teahen, Joey Gathright, David DeJesus, and Tony Pena were asked several dozen questions. Also, I bought a Brian Bannister powder blue t-shirt. That will complement my grey DeJesus shirt (yes, I have another one) and my Gil Meche jersey well, and will go along with my other Royals-related peraphernilia well.

Overall, a low-key afternoon, and a slightly disappointing one at that. I was impressed by the overall cleanliness and presentation of FanFest, but was turned off by the multitude of people. In fact, most of those people were probably casual "fans" at best, attending because it was something to do with their kids on a cold Saturday in January. However, I'm glad the Royals are thrusting forth and promoting themselves on the local scene. Overall, the intentions of FanFest were good, but the activity itself just wasn't for me.

Pictures to come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Top Royals Prospects

I've compiled my own list of top prospects within the organization. Keep in mind that this list is purely from my own spare time, and isn't a "final say", by any means. Because of my lack of Minor League games visited and lack of extreme in-depth knowledge of the players' on-field tendencies, this list by any means shouldn't be interpreted as 'official'. My grading system is similar to that of John Sickels, writer for the website Minor League Ball. However, my grades are slightly friendlier.

However, I'd like to read your thoughts!

A = Absolute can't miss. Will be a big-league superstar.
A- = Can't miss prospect who should contribute at big-league level and will likely become a star.
B+ = Can't miss prospect who should contribute at big-league level and might become a star.
B = Prospect who should contribute at big-league level.
B- = Prospect who might contribute at big-league level.
C+ = Intriguing prospect who might contribute at big-league level.
C = Borderline prospect who might contribute at big-league level.
C- = Borderline prospect who will probably not contribute at big-league level.

*NOTE:* I was somewhat lenient in my definition of a 'prospect'. I included all Minor Leagues 27 and younger.

Mike Moustakas

Luke Hochevar

Dan Cortes
Chris Lubanski

Carlos Rosa
Blake Wood
Julio Pimentel
Dan Duffy
Blake Johnson
Jarod Plummer
Justin Huber
Derrick Robinson
Clint Robinson
Matt Mitchell
Neal Musser (At age 27, I considered him)

Mario Lisson
Rowdy Hardy
Brian McFall
Peter Hodge Nielsen
Mike Lehmann
Mitch Maier
Angel Sanchez
Brent Fisher
Sam Runion
Sean McCauley
David Wood
Zach Peterson

Dusty Hughes
Tyler Lumsden
Anthony Bradley
Rayner Oliveros
Jose Duarte
Jeff Bianchi
Joe Dickerson
Adrian Ortiz
Anthony Seratelli
Jake Lane
Patrick Norris
Eric Van Slyke
Dane Secott

Matt Wright
Mike Aviles
Mike Stodolka
Tyler Chambliss
Chris Nicoll
Brian Paukovitz
Fernando Cruz
Luis Cota
Jamar Walton
O.D. Gonzalez
Wilson Tucker
Nick Van Stratten
David Lough
Williams Farinas
Mario Santiago
Angelo Morales
Pat Cassa
Jason Roach
Matt Jensen
Burke Baldwin
Greg Holland
Chris Chavez

Matt Tupman
Ray Liotta
Paul Mildren
Justin Barnes
Gilbert De La Vara
Kila Kaaihue
Yovany D'Amico
Michael Penn
Arthur Santos
Kiel Thibault
Josh Johnson
Marc Maddox
Brad McCann
Chris McConnell
Miguel Vega
Brett Bigler
Harold Mozingo
Luis Castillo
Brady Everett
Kurt Mertins
Joe Augustine
Ryan Woods
Eduardo Paulino
Brian Gausman
Alex Caldera
Jason Godin
Matt Campbell
Chris Hayes

Monday, January 14, 2008

Royals Insider: Mario Lisson

One Royal occupying a slot on the 40-man roster whose name makes many fans respond with a resounding "who?" is Mario Lisson. Who is Mario Lisson? How did he become a Royal? What can we expect of him in the future? Let's find out on Royals Insider!

After graduating from Colegio Cervante High School, Lisson signed with the Royals as an undrafted free agent out of Caracas, Venezuela in April 2002. Lisson spent the majority of his first two professional seasons playing with the Dominican League Royals, primarily as an infielder. In fact, he was named the Dominican Royals Player of the Year for 2003. Lisson was a well-above average talent offensively, with promising tools in power, contact-hitting, plate patience, and quickness on the basepaths and in the field. After struggling mightily at shortstop throughout in Idaho Falls in 2004 (.895 fielding percentage in 50 games), Lisson was converted to a primary third baseman upon getting promoted to Class-A Burlington in 2005. His first half-season in low-rookie ball, he struggled a bit offensively, connecting for a .250/.386/.408 line in 78 games. However, in June, Lisson tore the labrum in his left shoulder, and therefore missed most of the second half.

Will Lisson prove the organization correct - or incorrect - in 2008?

However, a healthy Lisson thrust forth once again the following season, connecting for a lower OPS (.786) but stealing 41 bases in 52 attempts, drilling 30 doubles and 13 home runs in his first entire season with any Royals affiliate. Over a significant time period, Lisson proved the organization that drafted him correct, fulfilling what many scouts under the Allard Baird regime had hoped from him. His defense improved dramatically at third base, and he began to mature physically as he entered his low 20's.

In 2007, he connected for more hits (.285 batting average), but lost some plate discipline and power. However, defensively, he began to hone his skills into that of a dependable third baseman. He again implemented the speed game (23 SB's in 32 attempts). However, his declining success rate proves that he may not eventually translate his skills to the running game much longer. However, Lisson would win an award for Carolina League All-Star, as a third baseman.

In November 2007, Dayton Moore, like every Major League Baseball General Manager, was faced with critical decisions - protecting current Major Leaguers over organizational players on the 40-man roster. Lisson had spent his fifth year within the organization, and was now subject to Rule 5 law, which dictates that certain players must either be protected on the 40-man roster by a certain date or be exposed in the December draft, where any team can claim the rights to that player. Moore and the Royals opt ed to protect the young Lisson.

Unfortunately for Lisson, a potentially terrific defensive - and offensive - third baseman, Alex Gordon, stands in the way of his fulfilling his potential as a Royal at the hot corner. Given his athleticism and raw speed, a move to the outfield certainly wouldn't appear out of the option. He is probably still at least two years away from being discussed as a viable option at third base, barring an unforeseen breakthrough of epic proportions in either Northwest Arkansas or Omaha.

As for this year, I'm expecting Lisson to struggle initially in the first half with Northwest Arkansas, but establish himself once more in the second half. Here is my crystal ball for Mario Lisson's two double-oh eight:

Level: Northwest Arkansas
GS/G: 113/117
AB: 425
AVG: .271
OBP: .346
SLG: .431
HR: 10
RBI: 52
R: 46
2B: 26
3B: 3
BB: 49
K: 100
SB: 21
CS: 10

- Raw athleticism make him a viable option at a multitude of positions, from third base to outfield to second base.
- Projects as a raw doubles-power hitter in the Major Leagues

- Ever-bulking build likely won't translate to stolen base success in big leagues
- Has yet to post true breakthrough season as a Minor Leaguer, and has been relatively slow to adjust at each level

On-field performance:
Struggles mightily entire 2008: 10%
Repeats promising 2007 form: 45%
Thrusts forth in Wichita: 30%
True breakthrough season (.290/.380/.480): 15%

Injury contingency:
Spends 15 or more days on D.L.: 25%

Remains in Wichita entire season: 85%
Season split with Wilmington and Wichita: 15%

Job allocation:
Third baseman: 85%
Third baseman and outfield: 15%

I predict Lisson will essentially improve slightly upon his 2007 performance in Wilmington. It should be understood that his results could be skewed slightly from exiting a more pitching-oriented league (Carolina League) to a hitters league (Texas League). Like in Burlington, Lisson will likely be slow to adjust to Northwest Arkansas in his age 24 season, but is a safe bet to translate his raw athleticism and excellent build to moderate power from a corner infield position in 2008. Lisson remains a prominent prospect in the Royals' farm system, and time will tell if Dayton Moore's decision to protect him from the Rule 5 draft was a smart move or otherwise.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Emil Brown Lands In Oakland

According to MLB Trade Rumors:

Emil Brown Signs With A's

The A's signed 33 year-old outfielder Emil Brown to a one-year deal today. Terms are not yet known; Brown made $3.45MM in 2007.

Mychael Urban's sources say the Brown signing is linked to Oakland's likely Mark Kotsay trade, a deal that might be finalized on Monday.

Brown had a dreadful '07, slumping to .257/.300/.347 in 113 games. Before that, though, he posted a respectable .800+ OPS in 2005-06. The KC Star recently summed up Brown's Royals career, including the pellet gun incident.

Brown would probably be best implemented as a pinch-hitter, because he's virtually a guarantee to never repeat his 2005-06 performance again. It's been my knowledge that late-blooming ballplayers tend to fall abruptly after a brief peak. In this case, Brown is no different. According to what I've read, Beane has secured Brown with a $1.2MM contract. For the 33-year old, that sounds about correct. However, as I stated, his days as a productive every day player are likely over.

Au revoir, Emil.

(Picture courtesy of Royales With Cheese. Thanks, RWC!)

Royals Insider: Alex Gordon

On this edition of Royals Insider, we cast the spotlight on Kansas City Royals third baseman Alex Gordon.

Gordon, voted Baseball Prospectus' #1 Reason To Watch the Royals in 2007.

Perhaps no player in the organization holds a more vital role to the future of the franchise than the ex-University of Nebraska phenom. Gordon was widely considered one of the most talented ballplayers in college sports. During and after his junior season in Nebraska, Baseball America pegged Gordon to be selected early in the first round overall in the 2005 draft. Not only that, but Gordon had future Royal written all over him. As a child, he grew old idolizing Royals All-Stars like George Brett and Frank White, and hoped to someday hone his exceptional baseball skills in his favorite shade of blue. After Royals General Manager Allard Baird selected him second overall in the first round of the draft that season, the organization heralded him as not only a can’t miss prospect, but a future All Star third baseman. Even in 2008, the Royals hinge greatly on the future of Alex Gordon, and on the contrary, his future hinges on the Royals.

After posting an overwhelming 1.247 OPS his junior year in 211 at-bats with the Cornhuskers, Gordon entered Class-AA Wichita in the 2006 season, where he again posted phenomenal results as a third baseman. Gordon truly possessed “five-star” skills – terrific glove, an excellent arm, a keen eye at the plate, exceptional power, and speed on the base paths. Those skills translated into phenomenal results for the Wranglers, who finished 77-62, first in the Texas League North Division. Gordon began to draw instant comparisons to Royals legend and 29th greatest ballplayer (according to the Society for American Baseball Research) George Brett.

Awards, meet the Royals fans. Royals fans, meet the awards.

2000 - Appalachian League All-Star OF
2004 - Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, Big 12 Conference All-Star 3B, 1st team College All-American 3B, Summer League First-Team All-American DH
2005 - Golden Spikes Award, 1st team College All-American 3B, Big 12 Conference All-Star 3B, Baseball America College Player of the Year, Big 12 Conference Player of the Year
2006 - Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, Baseball America 1st team Minor League All-Star 3B, Texas League Player of the Year, Double-A All-Star 3B, Double-A Player of the Year, Kansas City Royals Minor League Player of the Year, Texas League All-Star 3B

The following spring, perhaps no issue circulated more vigorously among the Royals fanbase than whether Gordon would begin the season in AAA Omaha or with Kansas City. Throughout Spring Training, Royals fans and the front office alike literally couldn’t get enough of Gordon.

“There’s some guys you can just spot in the crowd and they’ve got it,” manager Buddy Bell says. “They just have it, and that’s what Alex has. … I’d be cool as hell, too, if I had that kind of talent.”

According to Sportsnet, Gordon not only demonstrated the necessary skills to become a superstar, but had an ideal work ethic:

Has phenomenal natural hitting talent and works hard to be even better. He can go deep to any field and has the speed and smarts to steal bases.

The Royals remained open to handing Gordon the starting third base job from the beginning of Spring Training. Of course, Gordon's entering into that slot would have forced incumbent third baseman Mark Teahen - another cornerstone franchise player - to another position. The organization experimented - rather successfully, as it turned out - with using Mark Teahen as a permanent right fielder. The Royals essentially gave Gordon the mile to prove his worth:

“We’re going to give him every opportunity to make the club,” manager Buddy Bell said. “But we’ve got to make sure we do what’s best for Alex Gordon. Because if we do that, that’s what will be best for the organization — and the fans — in the long run.”

“We all know it’s not a matter of if with Alex Gordon,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “It’s a matter of when. But we don’t know how it’s going to unfold; we just don’t. We’ve just got to see how he plays.”
After posting promising numbers (.317/.419/.556 in 63 at-bats) in Spring Training, Gordon’s third base job at Kauffman Stadium was his to lose. On April 2, 2007, he was greeted with a spine-tingling standing ovation, as he stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded against Red Sox legend Curt Schilling. He proceeded to strike out in that bat. Unfortunately, the strikeout was a precursor of what was to immediately come.

In April and May, Gordon hit .173/.316/.296 and .195/.286/.299, respectively, and caused many fans to speculate whether Gordon should be sent back to AAA Omaha.

However, in June, he found his niche and appeared to turn the corner for good, connecting for a .284 batting average for the following three months. Despite a somewhat lackluster September (.244/.289/.456), Gordon had successfully completed his first full season in a big-league uniform. His final numbers are nothing to gawk at, but are respectable, all things considered:

.247/.314/.411, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 36 2B, 4 3B, 14 SB, 4 CS, 41 BB, 137 K, 87 OPS+, 134 H, 543 AB

My forecast calls for a much shinier 2008 for the future of the franchise:

GS/G: 153/154
AB: 594
H: 164
AVG: .276
OBP: .340
SLG: .486
1B: 96
2B: 39
3B: 4
HR: 25
RBI: 71
R: 65
BB: 56
K: 135
SB: 12
CS: 4
OPS+: 109

- Tremendous arm and instincts at third base; reliable glove and footwork
- Exceptional pull power, especially against finesse pitching (.266/.331/.427 in 2007)
- Terrific baserunning skills and speed (88% SB success rate in Wichita)

- Frequent swing-and-misses (137 K's in 2007; 113 K's in 2006)
- Struggles against left-handed pitching (.217/.266/.420 vs. lefties, .258/.330/.408 vs. righties in 2007)

On-field performance:
Regresses from 2007: 5%
Repeats 2007 form: 20%
Improved significantly from 2007: 45%
Enormous breakthrough (.290/.360/.540): 30%

Stays in K.C. all season: 90%
Gets demoted back to minors: 10%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 5%

Job allocation:
Starting third baseman: 95%
Starting first baseman: 5%

I feel Gordon’s greatest liabilities are his ability to hit left-handed pitching and his ability to avoid the strikeout. However, those attributes are greatly overshadowed by his assets, listed above. In 2008, I predict Alex Gordon to thrust forward several steps as he progresses toward All-Star status. Essentially, the Royals will probably implement him in a similar fashion as 2007 – everyday third baseman hitting 5th or lower in the batting order. Gordon’s raw power potential, especially his pull power (to right field) will project him to be a cleanup hitter, in my opinion. The organization would probably benefit from (ideally) using the use-all-fields, contact-over-power Billy Butler in the 3-hole, followed by dead-pull Gordon in the 4-hole. However, I’m probably getting ahead of myself. Gordon has exceptional talent, and I feel he will implement his five-tool skills sooner rather than later. Manager Trey Hillman has stated he will likely use Gordon in the 7-hole, directly behind Ross Gload. Although I slightly disagree with this move, at least it might take some pressure of Gordon. He will move up the batting order as he progresses, anyway.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Former Royals Throughout Baseball: An Offseason Update!

Listed below are several former Royals and which teams they have signed with this offseason, thus far:

Denny Bautista - Traded to Detroit Tigers for Jose Capellan
Dee Brown - Los Angeles Angels (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Emil Brown - Oakland Athletics (One-year contract)
Ryan Bukvich - Baltimore Orioles (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Billy Buckner - Traded to Arizona Diamondbacks
Shawn Camp - Toronto Blue Jays (MiLB, with ST invitation)
D.J. Carrasco - Chicago White Sox (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Elmer Dessens - Pittsburgh Pirates (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Matt Diaz - Back with Atlanta Braves (One-year contract)
Mike DiFelice - Tampa Bay Rays (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Chad Durbin - Philadelphia Phillies (One-year contract)
Sal Fasano - Toronto Blue Jays (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Chris George - Colorado Rockies (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Alexis Gomez - Florida Marlins (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Runelvys Hernandez - Houston Astros (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Bobby Keppel - Florida Marlins (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Jason LaRue - Signed with St. Louis Cardinals (One-year contract)
Joe Nelson - Florida Marlins (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Paul Phillips - Colorado Rockies (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Mark Redman - Back with Colorado Rockies (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Glendon Rusch - San Diego Padres (MiLB, with ST invitation)
David Riske - Milwaukee Brewers (Three-year contract)
Matt Stairs - Re-signed with Toronto Blue Jays (Two-year contract)
Todd Wellemeyer - Back with St. Louis Cardinals (One-year contract)
Kris Wilson - Philadelphia Phillies (MiLB, with ST invitation)
Jamey Wright - Back with Texas Rangers (MiLB, with ST invitation)

Royals Insider: Angel Sanchez

Perhaps a shortstop named Angel can give Royals fans a glimmer of hope of the future at that position. No, I'm not referring to that Angel! I'm talking about 24-year old Angel Sanchez. Ranked the No. 19 Royals prospect by the blog The Royal Tower, Sanchez was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, moved to the United States at a young age, and attended West Covina High School in California. He was drafted initially by the Florida Marlins in the 12th round of the amateur entry draft in 1999. However, he did not sign with the Fish and waited two years to re-enter the draft. In 2001, Allard Baird, in his first year at the helm of General Manager, drafted him in the 11th round of the June draft.

Signed that very day, Sanchez would enter two half-seasons of primarily middle infield play for the Gulf Coast League Royals, the then-Rookie-ball affiliate. Sanchez performed disappointingly at first glance but acceptably considering his young age, finishing with .242/.287/.284 and .251/.302/.274 line over 270 at-bats and 79 games those two seasons. However, Sanchez performed well enough defensively to earn a promotion to Class Low-A Burlington the following year. That season, he posted a .270/.321/.309 line, hitting 2 home runs in 106 games. In 2004, he didn't necessarily improve in any facet of the game - baserunning, defense, or offense. Still, the organization promoted him to Class A+ High Desert, a hitters league, where he posted a groovy .313/.356/.409 line in 585 at-bats. His fielding percentage improved considerably (.964) and he began to steal bases slightly more effectively (33% CS). However, it must be noted that the California League is a hitters league, and features ballparks located primarily in elevated locations, such as New Mexico and Colorado. The following year in Wichita, Sanchez continued to hit well in slightly less of a hitters league (Texas League), posting a .280/.337/.350 line in 543 at-bats. Perhaps what struck Royals scouts the most the previous three years is his remarkable maturity at shortstop. When healthy, Sanchez possesses the arm and range necessary to compete - someday - at the big-league level.

However, after being promoted that year to the Major Leagues for a cup of coffee, Sanchez would miss the entire 2007 season with right elbow surgery. It is highly likely that Sanchez would have played in Omaha during that season, and it is unknown whether he would have continued to improve at the plate during his age 23 season, or regress slightly in the largest talent-leap in the Minor Leagues (AA to AAA). However, it should be understood that Sanchez began playing professional baseball at an extremely young age (17) and has improved noticeably each stop on the organizational ladder since 2002. It must also be noted that Allard Baird perhaps rushed the young prospect, forcing him to play with far more experienced and more talented players.

According to The Royal Tower:

When healthy, Sanchez is an unbelievable defender, similar to what we see in Tony Pena, Jr. in both range and arm strength. He's an advanced contact hitter with the ability to talk a walk, although hasn't hit for much power to date. Angel is a fairly well built guy, and should be a gap-to-gap doubles hitter as he matures physically.

Sanchez will enter his age 24 season in 2007, and it will be interesting to see if he has matured physically enough to resume where he left off in a promising, but not by any means overwhelming, showing in the Texas League. However, we must be patient, as he will likely still need several months to recuperate from his 2007 surgery and rehabilitation. It's safe to deem Sanchez a top 30 or 40 prospect, and I believe that he will again experience brief, limited time at the Major Leagues come late summer.


GS/G: 101/106
AVG: .267
OBP: .318
SLG: .389
HR: 3
RBI: 52
SB: 11
CS: 5

Kansas City:
GS/G: 4/8
AVG: .230
OBP: .308
SLG: .420
HR: 0
RBI: 0
SB: 0
CS: 0
(Please interpret the above statistics with a grain of salt).

- Tender age (24) makes him intriguing prospect likely to improve in the Minor Leagues.
- Improved bat-handling maximizes his potential as a #2 hitter. (11 SH in 2006)
- Solid range factor in the Minor Leagues (4.73 as SS, 5.17 as 2B) and above average arm when healthy.

- Extremely limited home-run power and marginal doubles power (13 career HR's, .343 career SLG in Minors - Texas & California league included)
- Injury-plagued 2007 season could serve as sinister indicator for his future (missed season with elbow surgery)
- Lackluster, but slightly improving, plate discipline (career +.46 BA/OBP split in Minors)

On-field performance:
Regresses dramatically at plate: 10%
Repeats 2006 Wichita performance: 65%
Improves significantly from 2006: 25%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 30%

Entire 2008 season in Omaha: 65%
Half-season in Wichita, half-season in Omaha: 25%
Half-season in Omaha, half-season in Kansas City: 10%

Job allocation:
Starting shortstop in Minor Leagues most of 2008: 95%
Backup/reserve in Major Leagues most of 2008: 5%

It's probably too soon to instantly deem Sanchez the "shortstop of the future" but if he continues his slight upward trend he will certainly remain in the mix with other future shortstops, such as Mike Moustakas, Alberto Callaspo, or Jeff Bianchi. Honestly, I have no idea how his elbow surgery will affect Sanchez's 2007 season, if at all. I'm also unsure when he'll be completely 100% for the season. I'm anxious to watch the 24-year old in Spring Training, whether he's merely practicing with the club or participating in games. Sanchez should set a personal benchmark for the 2008 season. If he can hit .270/.330/.400, and commit fewer than 22 errors in 100+ games, I'll be satisfied. I'm an Angel Sanchez fan and believe that, despite being rushed in the Minors, he can only improve with age.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Royals Insider: Tony Pena

As we delve forth into the biographical and prediction-filled journey that is Royals Insider, we must recap a blast from the past, in the affectionate name of Tony Pena. Of course, I'm not referring to that Tony Pena. Or that Tony Pena. I'm talking about our newest Major League shortstop acquisition.

Yes, that Tony Pena! Mierda!

Born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Pena was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Braves in the summer of 1999. Throughout the first two seasons in the Chops' farm system, Pena established himself as a little-power and little-contact hitter, but a defensive wizard nonetheless. Unlike some prospects, who waver and flash throughout their career, Pena's career Minor League numbers tell the entire story. His OPS-es from 2000 through 2006 were .495, .585, .593, .632, .648, .632, and .666, respectively. Uncannily low by any regard. Pena's defense, at the beginning, was also rather uninspiring. In his six years in the minors, he never posted a fielding percentage higher than .965, playing only shortstop and nothing else. Perhaps, because Pena began playing baseball at the age of 16, it's meaningful to expect him to improve?

Slightly, but not necessarily founded.

Despite hitting a somewhat flukish 11 home runs for AA Greenville in 2004, Pena has solidified himself as the player that he is. However, what is perhaps most notable about Pena's Minor League record is his ever-so-slight improvement at each stop upward on the organizational ladder. The offensive numbers are paltry at best, as his OPS has never topped the .666 he compiled for AAA Richmond in 299 at-bats in 2006. His Minor League totals respectively are unbelievably low - a .252/.285/.332 hitter in the minor leagues will certainly never translate well into the big-leagues.

On March 23, 2007, the Royals traded starting pitcher and 2004 fourth round draft pick Erik Cordier for Pena. Desperately seeking a shortstop, Dayton Moore and the Royals would grant the 26-year-old everyday opportunities for the entire 2007 season. Pena would play slightly below replacement value overall, according to the sabermetric statistic VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), which, mind you, does not include defense in its study. Before the 2006 season, three Baseball Prospectus writers voted for Tony Pena to win the Cristian Antonio Guzman Award for the position player most likely to put up the lowest VORP in regular playing time. In fact, he won the award for lowest VORP (-7.8) and Runs Created (47) for a regular shortstop. Meanwhile, Cordier had been plagued with injuries most of his career, having missed all of the 2005 season while recovering from a knee injury, and missing 2007 and part of 2006 with Tommy John elbow reconstruction project. The Braves more or less took Cordier as a long-term gamble, while sacrificing a player stuck in their Minor League purgatory, playing second fiddle to then-shortstop Edgar Renteria.

Despite his lackluster at the very best offense, Royals scouts herald his arm, range, and glove, using him in the same sentence as no-punch, all-field ex-Royal ballplayer Fred Patek. However, on July 7, 2007, he broke the club record for consecutive at-bats (192) without a walk.

Ideally, Pena's days as an everyday are probably numbered. At age 27, I'm expecting him to improve ever so slightly from his 2007 campaign offensively and defensively, as he matures physically and gains only his eleventh year of experience playing the game, period. Pena will likely receive everyday playing time as a shortstop, spelling Esteban German, Angel Berroa, Alberto Callaspo, or Jason Smith on that rare occasion.

Here is my crystal ball for Pena's 2008:

GS/G: 139/144
AB: 524
H: 140
BA: .267
OBP: .300
SLG: .355
OPS: .655
1B: 106
2B: 29
3B: 4
HR: 1
RBI: 33
BB: 19
K: 83
SB: 6
CS: 4
OPS+: 72

But the guy can field!....for reasons I will explain below.

On-field performance:
Significant dropoff from 2007: 25%
Repeats 2007 form: 55%
Numbers improved from 2007: 20%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 5%

Chances traded before Opening Day: 10%
Chances traded, dropped, or demoted mid-season: 25%

Job allocation:
Starting shortstop: 75%
Backup/reserve: 15%
Platoon: 5%
Sent back to Omaha: 5%

- Exceptional glove work and range; above average arm (2007: +10 UZR, which measures runs above or below average, +13 Zone Rating, 4.56 RF9 at SS)
- Largely unrefined, but raw, speed (7 3B's in 2007, 5 SB's)
- Can take advantage of wide gaps at Kauffman Stadium, with his limited gap-oriented power (20 2B's and 5 3B's at home)

- Utter lack of plate discipline (drew an astounding 10 walks last year, in 509 AB's)
- Little power to compensate for that patience (career .332 SLG in MiLB, career .354 SLG in MLB)
- Well below average baserunning skills (59% SB success rate in MiLB)

In essence, the positive attributes that separate Tony Pena from the Almighty Angel Berroa are defensive range and glove and the lack of primal instinct in fundamentally screwing up in crucial or obvious situations. This would be included, but not limited to: getting picked off numerously, carelessly letting the groundball pop out of the glove, and swinging at curveballs three feet southeast of the strike zone (but instead hacking at pitches merely two feet away from the plate). One reason to be optimistic about Tony is that he has improved marginally in each Minor League level, perhaps from not beginning baseball play until age 16.

Ultimately, I feel Pena’s liabilities at the dish do not compensate for his exceptional defensive abilities. His utter lack of power combined with a complete lack of plate poise make Pena an automatic out in any league and in any situation. Perhaps his only redeeming quality is his ability to make decent contact. However, I’m skeptical Pena can even continue demonstrating that attribute in 2008. Although I would love to witness him improve significantly – or even marginally – next season, I’m not banking on it. I tabbed his OPS+ at an underwhelming six points above last year, but, sadly, he'll probably only perform slightly above replacement level. I'm not even sure Jason Smith would be much less of a liability at the shortstop position than our light-hitting friend.

I believe what the front office must comprehend is that the 1970’s and the 1980’s no longer exist. No longer can a team truly count on an automatic out in the lineup, even if he has superior defensive abilities. In an era where injuries occur so frequently and teams never second guess sending a slightly injured player directly to the 15-Day D.L.- or more - counting on Pena, even in the #9 slot, defense included, will probably not make us significantly better in the short term or long term.

Royals Insider: Esteban German

After a brief two-day vacation, Royals Insider chugs forth with our ninth biography, this one focusing on utilityman Esteban German. Before looking at his 2007 results with the club, we must, as always, delve into his still brief professional career.

A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the birthplace of many current and former Royals, including Mendy Lopez, Runelvys Hernandez, and even the almighty "HWSNBM", Angel Berroa, German was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Athletics in 1996. At the mere age of 17, German would wait one entire season before beginning his organizational career.

In 1998, German immediately proved himself as a viable contact hitter with exceptional plate discipline skills and overwhelming speed. He won the Arizona League All-Star award for second base that season. Billy Beane's drafting of German was a classic move on his part, as German drew an astounding 102 walks in 128 games in 1999. In 2000, German regressed dramatically at the plate, hitting a combined .256/.357/.344 in 133 total games for the Visalia Oaks and Midland RockHounds. Perhaps most pleasing was his league-leading 78 stolen bases, which combined with eight caught stealings, made the young second baseman would become the most revered base-stealer, and base-runner, in the Minor Leagues. In 2001, he performed respectably in Midland (.284/.397/.415), but fared much better in Class-AAA Sacramento (.947 OPS in 38 games). German would then spend the next three seasons playing primarily in Sacramento, while receiving September call-ups with the Athletics.

It appeared that the once-revered contact-hitting and base-stealing prospect had settled permanently into a second-fiddle role, as Mark Ellis was clearly the Athletics' prime second baseman. He had become the Athletics' version of Justin Huber, a Minor League commodity who deserves consistent playing time at the major league level, but just can't find a team to grant him that time. After a .313/.400/.423 season with the Oklahoma RedHawks, the Texas Rangers' AAA affiliate, German would again see time in September with the big club.
And, thus, out stepped Allard Baird! The Royals' G.M. had previously scored big in Rule V two out of the last three years, landing such one and two-year successes as D.J. Carrasco (2002-03) and Andrew Sisco (2004-05). The Royals selected Minor League pitcher Fabio Castro, and then swapped him to the Texas Rangers for German. In turn, he continued Baird's successful trend in a notable way, connecting for a .326/.422/.459/.881 line in 279 at-bats in 2006. Although his fielding was poor to mediocre, German had finally found his niche in the Major League level - a Chone Figgins-like supersubstitute. At a league-minimum salary ($330,000, to be exact), he arguably became one of the most valuable Royals, dollar for dollar.

Under the regime of Dayton Moore in 2007, German, like seemingly the rest of the offense, regressed fairly dramatically, as he saw his on-base plus slugging-percentage plummet by an overwhelming 154 points. However, his .727 OPS proved tolerable for the role-player that he was, or had become. His defense remained stagnant, and he received less time in the outfield and more time strictly at second base, proving that the organizational depth at both locations had increased at least marginally under "GMDM."

In his two seasons with the Royals overall, German has solidified himself to that utility/backup role. He seems to enjoy it, becoming a "clubhouse type" when not playing; instructing hitters and cheering them on from the top stand of the bench. His mediocre at best defensive abilities can be overcome by his ability to hit for solid contact, and implement exceptional plate discipline and an average yet declining running game.

Go git 'em, Estey!
These are my 2008 projections for our 29-year old infielder:
GS/G: 51/89
AB: 253
H: 74
AVG: .292
OBP: .380
SLG: .387
OPS: .767
1B: 55
2B: 13
3B: 4
HR: 2
RBI: 31
R: 38
TB: 101
BB: 35
K: 49
SB: 9
CS: 3
OPS+: 103
On-field performance:
Regresses significantly from 2007: 20%
Repeats 2007 form: 35%
Reverts to 2006 form: 40%
Breakout season (.300/.400/.400): 5%
Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 15%
Chances traded/dropped before Opening Day: 35%
Chances traded at 2008 Trade Deadline: 15%
Chances released mid-season: 5%
Job allocation:
Utility infielder/reserve: 95%
Starting second baseman: 5%
- Exceptional poise and discipline at the plate (career .87 BA/OBP split)
- Solid contact, line-drive, and singles hitter (.286 career BA)
- Ability to lefties exceptionally well (.296/.382/.433 vs. lefties career) coincides
- Mediocre at best range factor, glove, and instincts at second base.
- While ideal in "super-sub" role offensively, his defensive skills beyond second base are borderline unsatisfactory. (Career Fd% of .964 with a 3.41 RF/G as 2B in 106 career games). German should absolutely not be overexposed as a non-second baseman.
- Once-exceptional baserunning and basestealing ability now decidedly below average (-0.97 Equivalent Stolen Base runs, according to this study).
German turned 29 on December 26, and therefore still safely sits in the prime of his career. Although two previous organizations had passed on German as "the answer" in the middle infield, I still feel German could provide Mark Grudzielanek-like valuable as an everyday second baseman. However, that scenario is not likely to happen. After trading top-five prospect Billy Buckner for Diamondbacks middle infielder Alberto Callaspo in December, he is probably confined to the only role he has known and loved throughout his brief Major League career. German enters his first year under salary arbitration this season, and will probably safely and respectably contribute. Although he provides below average defense, he's still a valuable asset off the bench, and can play a variety of positions in a pinch.