Thursday, January 3, 2008

Royals Insider: Ross Gload

Thus far in Royals Insider, we have covered the three catchers on our current 40 man roster - John Buck, Miguel Olivo, and Matt Tupman. Now, we move forth to the first base position, beginning with Ross Gload. The mere presence of Gload generated much sparkfire on Royals Review - as the phrase "Gload Will Explode!" was used frequently and often in diary posts, response posts, and perhaps most of all, game threads. However, much more encompasses our contact-hitting first baseman/corner outfielder than three simple (but exciting and hilarious) words.

Drafted by the Florida Marlins in the thirteenth round of the 1997 draft, Gload worked his way up the Fish' organizational ladder in the late '90s before being traded to the Chicago Cubs and spending the large portion of one-plus years with their AAA affiliate, the Iowa Cubs. A University of South Florida first baseman, Gload was considered a promising, high-average hitting and solid defensive first baseman early in his organizational career. In his first three and a half professional seasons in the Marlins organization, Gload hit .261/.336/.376, .313/.386/.479, .298/.369/.424, and .284/.333/.494 respectively, which are respectable, but not overly impressive, power numbers at a position highly demanding of it. After posting spectacular offensive numbers with the Iowa Cubs in 2000, Gload was called up for a cup of coffee in September, but was sent back to the AAA affiliate the following year, only to be traded to the Colorado Rockies in 2002. Entering his mid-twenties, he began posting impressive - but somewhat artificially impressive - offensive numbers in the thin air of Denver and Colorado Springs, but demonstrated decreasing plate discipline, as the BA/OBP-split shrunk from +.71 to +.49 to +.43 to +.24 in those four seasons in the Minor Leagues. However, Gload's increasing power nearly compensated for it, as he stroked 40 doubles and 18 home runs for Class AAA Charlotte in 2003 after he was traded to the White Sox. Gload would then spend parts of the following three seasons as a backup first baseman and part-time outfielder for the South Siders. his contact, glove, and moderate power made him an asset as a left-handed hitting pinch-hitter and defensive replacement.

In 2007, the Royals packaged talented but troubled lefty reliever Andrew Sisco to the Chicago White Sox for Gload. Gload would then perform overwhelmingly in Spring Training (1.067 OPS in 56 at-bats), and win a much-expected part-time outfield and part-time first base role he maintained with the White Sox for the majority of three seasons. At age 31, Gload had clearly peaked in terms of talent. Nonetheless, as a short-term solution and certainly as a part-timer, Gload's gritty, grizzled presence would suffice, as the Royals aggressively pursued respectability (and beyond) under the first full year of G.M. Dayton Moore's tenure. Gload hit .288/.318/.441/.759 for the Royals in 2007, stroking 22 doubles in 320 at-bats. Those numbers were not considerably out of line with his career Major League numbers. In fact, the organization more or less expected Gload to produce those numbers.

Although Gload shows strong ability with range and glovework, his lukewarm pop at a power-demanding position makes him more of an asset from the bench and as a platoon player than as a true full-timer. There is no reason not to expect Gloadie to duplicate his 2007 numbers next year, as he enters his age 32 season. However, the Royals organization would benefit from giving the lefty fewer at-bats. It probably will not serve as a promising sign if Gload receives 300 or more AB's once again. Gload's presence is fine, mind you, but it doesn't necessarily conform to our direction of youth. Furthermore, Shealy should remain the starting firstbaseman until he falters once and for all. Gload should start no more than twice per week, serving as a reserve for Ryan Shealy, Jose Guillen, and possibly Mark Teahen.

Gload's grit factor increased by an astonishing 3.66 with that slide home. The batting glove-carry earned him another +.87 in VTLDSHP, a stat circulated amongst only the most knowledgable of Royals faithful.
Here are my predictions for how Gload will perform this year:
GS: 84
AB: 324
H: 90
BA: .281
OBP: .317
SLG: .425
1B: 65
2B: 17
3B: 2
HR: 6
RBI: 43
R: 39
BB: 13
SO: 38
SB: 2
CS: 1
OPS+: 90
- Excellent range factor and glovework at first base makes him a must-have from a defensive standpoint (8.88 RF at 1B in 2007, 3 errors and .996 FPCT)
- Solid contact hitter throughout entire career (.294 career MLB BA)
- General lack of plate discipline (career +.39 BA/OBP split, 16 walks in 320 AB's in 2007)
- Lack of power from three prime-power positions (career .439 SLG as a left fielder, right fielder, and first baseman)
OVERALL 2008 TREND: Slight regression
On-field performance: Mostly-offensive based expectations of player
Injury contingency: Chances of player spending at least 15 days on D.L.
Whereabouts: Chances of departing our organization
Job allocation: How the player will most likely be implemented, assuming he remains healthy and in our organization.
On-field performance:
Significant dropoff from 2007: 25%
Repeats 2007 form: 65%
Career season: 10%
Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 30%
Chances traded or released before Spring Training: 15%
Chances traded or released mid-season: 35%
Job allocation:
Similar role to 2007 (mostly starting first baseman): 50%
Starting first baseman from Day 1: 15%
Platoon with Ryan Shealy at first base: 15%
Backup/reserve: 15%
Starting corner outfielder: 5%
(Gload's job allocation depends greatly on how Shealy performs, so these numbers involves too many variables to truly be taken as seriously as the others).
In conclusion, I'm probably on the less optimistic tier of Gload analysts among the Royals fanbase. I think Gload is a safe bet to continue hitting the ball with contact and performing well defensively, but his weaknesses will probably be highlighted a bit more than last year, as tough AL Central pitching adjusts to an increasingly overexposed part-timer. Yes, Gload will nonetheless likely remain in Kansas City all season, even though - considering his age and escalating salary - the organization would be smart to trade him at the deadline for whichever Grade A/B/C prospect(s) they can receive. He is an asset reserve for a playoff-caliber team, but probably should not start at any position for an extended period of time. Obviously, his performance in 2008 hinges greatly on Shealy, Billy Butler, and to a much lesser extent, Justin Huber.

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