Wednesday, March 18, 2009

25-Man Roster Breakdown: The Catchers

I'm making a concerted effort to compensate for lost time, as The Royal Treatment went approximately 100 hours without revealing a new post. I will compensate by churning out several posts within the next couple days, including the last post and this one. Not too long ago at Royals Nation, I predicted the final Royals 25-man roster, and then submitted my own 25-man roster (or what the roster should look like if Jack Dempsey were in Moore's helm).

I'll break down the positions by organizational depth charts. As a blogger-extraordinaire, I'll fantasize about actually holding the authority of General Manager and making these decisions. I'm an armchair G.M. at heart, ladies and gents. I won't describe the probable Moore selections, but will describe my own choices in limited detail. I might delve further into this subject in a future post.

Here is the Opening Day roster as I see it for 2009. Unfortunately, the "usual suspects" remain. Olivo and Gload are back. At least Pena's gone. To counter with some positivity, though, the defense looks better. And the front of the rotation and back end of the bullpen look awfully solid, don't they? And Trey Hillman has established that Joakim Soria's role will be somewhat expanded in '09.

Catcher: Miguel Olivo-starter, John Buck-backup
First Base: Mike Jacobs-starter, Ross Gload-backup
Second Base: Alberto Callaspo-3/5 starter, Willie Bloomquist-2/5 starter
Third Base: Alex Gordon-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Shortstop: Mike Aviles-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Left Field: David DeJesus-starter, Mark Teahen-backup, Ross Gload-backup
Center Field: Coco Crisp-starter
Right Field: Jose Guillen-starter, Mark Teahen-backup, Ross Gload-backup
Designated Hitter: Billy Butler-starter
Starting Rotation: 1. Meche, 2. Greinke, 3. Davies, 4. Ramirez, 5. Bannister
Bullpen: CL - Soria, SU1 - Cruz, SU2 - Mahay, MR1 - Farnsworth, MR2 - Tejeda, MR3 - Peralta, MR-4 - Waechter

Here is my proposed 25-man roster. Note that certain players (notably backups) have been repeated. I understand that Teahen can also play first, third, and possibly second base. However, for all intents and purposes, I included backups in positions where they might receive, say, 100 innings or more of playing time (barring extended injury). Notice that I have pegged Billy Butler as my starting first baseman against right-handers, and starting designated hitter against lefties. This enables a) Butler to play every day, b) the minimization of Jacobs' defensive woes, and c) an opportunity for Ryan Shealy to give us a plus-bat and plus-defense against his greatest offensive strength: left-handed opposing pitchers. Although Shealy would accumulate less than 200 PA's likely, total (in this hypothetical scenario), the difference is more than worth it. Gload's defense and ability to play two corner outfield positions in mediocre fashion is overstated. Shealy provided a TZ* of -1 in 188 PA's in '09. Gload? A -9 in an entirely too high 414 PA's at three different positions. Cut Gload. Also, implement Bloomquist as your starting second baseman, but only behind hopeful groundball specialist-in-the-making Luke Hochevar and probable "defensive specialist" Brian Bannister (let's hope he rebounds from 2008, where nine Craig Nettles' couldn't have prevented a Banny implosion). Limit Bloomquist's exposure by monitoring the Banny situation closely. If Bannister rebounds to 2007 levels or begins posting the Greg Schaum/Craig Brown-predicted 2007-8 'mixture' levels, then give 'Bert' the green light on those days. Use Callaspo and his upside of league-average defense as the primary second baseman, otherwise. Gordon is the starting third baseman. Aviles is the starting shortstop. Bloomquist essentially backs up several positions, with middle infield being his primary exposure. Mark Teahen platoons with Jose Guillen in right field (Yes, dejesus9, you've finally won me over). DeJesus, Crisp, and Butler, and voila, there is your offensive roster.
(Total Zone - a measure of defensive range based on analysis of retrosheet play by play data)

As far as pitchers are concerned, keeping HoRam out of the rotation should be the utmost priority. Why do we need a lefty in the rotation? Such a notion is overrated. Moore & Co. have performed solidly at not entrenching themselves in this particular mindset in the past, as Perez, Bale, and De La Rosa were all reasonable options for the rotation, competition include. However, Ramirez - isn't. No upside there. More on this to come. Just go with the 5 pitchers that rounded out the rotation for much of last summer, and leave the rest behind. Option Waechter to AAA Omaha, and reinvent the closer term and implement Soria as 'designated bullpen ace', designed to enter the game in the most crucial situations (usually in the later innings, admittedly). Extend Soria to 90-100 innings this season, where he can provide yet more value. The rest is history. Cruz and Mahay as prime set-up men are fairly self-explanatory. Farnsworth should be limited in high leverage situations. Tejeda should be a multi-inning middle reliever and possible set-up man should Cruz and/or Mahay falter. And Peralta and Ramirez rounding out the final two slots.

Catcher: Brayan Pena-starter vs. RHP, J.R. House-starter vs. LHP
First Base: Billy Butler-starter vs. RHP, Ryan Shealy-starter vs. LHP
Second Base: Alberto Callaspo-3/5 starter, Willie Bloomquist-2/5 starter
Third Base: Alex Gordon-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Shortstop: Mike Aviles-starter, Willie Bloomquist-backup
Left Field: David DeJesus-starter, Mark Teahen-backup
Center Field: Coco Crisp-starter
Right Field: Jose Guillen-platoon, Mark Teahen-platoon
Designated Hitter: Mike Jacobs-starter vs. RHP, Billy Butler-starter vs. LHP
Starting Rotation: 1. Meche, 2. Greinke, 3. Davies, 4. Hochevar, 5. Bannister
Bullpen: BA* - Soria, SU1 - Cruz, SU2 - Mahay, MR1 - Tejeda, MR2 - Farnsworth, MR3 - Peralta, MR-4 - Ramirez
*BA = Bullpen ace

With regard to catcher, I understand Brayan Pena has reportedly had numerous communication problems with pitchers in Spring Training, especially during the practices and intrasquad games. However, he is generally regarded as an average defensive catcher. Don't let his pudginess fool you, as he is listed as 5'11" and 247 lbs. over at but appears more like 5'9" and 250 lbs. He is a rather fast runner and, as I observed in Spring Training, particularly fast when running from home plate to first base. (It is difficult to gauge a catchers' "range", as such a term only questionably exists, in the first place). Pena is a switch hitter with a career Minor League quartet of .313/.362/.411/.763 with only 193 strikeouts in 2,184 plate appearances. His career caught stealing rate is hovering at 50%, so it would be wise not to implement the running game for B. Pena this season in a hypothetical starting role at Kauffman II. CHONE believes Pena will post a .285/.338/.408/.746 line in K.C. over 365 at-bats. That likely translates to approximately 1 WAR, which is excellent for $400K in value. Pena has actually mashed lefties to the tune of a .931 OPS. However, the BABIP is a flukishly high .406. He's likely still a better right-handed hitter (unlike most switch hitters), so implementing him as such would be relatively wise in '09. More or less, the other Pena epitomizes the "Moneyball mentality", something which many members of Moore's former organization are evidently not particularly fond of. Exercising the most value of a $400K player with upside as an everyday MLB player is essential in this market. Pena should start most days. Cut Miguel Olivo's horrific on-base percentage and get rid of Buck, while we're at it.

CHONE projects a more-than-respectable .275/.339/.422 line for J.R. House in 2009, as well. At age 28, can House still be considered a prospect? He has demonstrated tremendous hitting potential in the Houston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh organizations throughout his Minor League career, but thus far that production has translated to a measly 63 big-league plate appearances? Like Pena, he has scored a MiLB OPS of .939 against lefties, and has still hit righties well, although not nearly *as* well. The Royals must exercise their Jack Cust-Beane-P.T. abilities and "break the mold." Although his defense could grade as mediocre at best in the Major Leagues, I think House could serve as a legitimate backup, and could post a positive WAR, overall. Again, for $400K? Excellent distribution of your resources. Scope his 2009 projections - and give him a chance to duplicate John Buck's upside for 1/10 the price.


Explanations for my picks for first base, second base, third base, and so on will be prominent features of The Royal Treatment from now until Opening Day. In the meantime, be on the lookout.

And I wanted to conduct 'Raw' Interviews with posters rock8888 and Duraflame, but have yet to hear back. Come on, guys, I know you want to unleash your fury on another Royals blog, and now is your chance!

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