Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Training Wrap-Up, Recent Royals News & Notes, and More

For those of you who have yet to figure it out, I at often times get zealous with my Spring Training observations and remarks. Hey, it's a once-a-year experience. The weather is second to none, the scenery is beautiful, and after five months of cold miserable midwestern/Missouri mayhem (how is that for alliteration?), I get to experience my quintessential life passion and joy, like I did when I was 7? Nonetheless, with regard to the photo-distributing, it gets frustrating when I churn out several hundred photos in a particular day, and then Wireless Internet - a wonderful technological endeavor, but not without its flaws - prevents me from posting them on Facebook or on this website in a time span somewhere south of 3 1/2 hours - extending well into moonlight hours.

Below are links to each Spring Training photograph album that I planted on Facebook. I hope these links work. I'll list them linear-ly: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and, finally, Part 8. You have to be a registered Facebook member to view, and there's always a chance you could be the second coming of Charlie Manson, but my life is an open book, anyway. At least through Internet sources.

Anyway, Season #8 (I attended Baseball City, FL in 1997 and 1999, and attended Surprise Spring Training in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and now 2009, respectively) was a resounding success. I met some Jennifer Love Hewitt and Britney Spears lookalikes along the way, so that was an added bonus. Just kidding (and, yes, Britney is still slammin').

I've offered the Royals Nation admin-job to skillset, but have yet to read a reply. If you're interested, skills, let me know. I think there is quite a bit to work with, myself. The board seems to have a loyal following without me. But I'm an Internet perfectionist, at heart. It was all or nothing - and as I stated earlier, I felt I wasn't reaping benefits for the time I was devoting to the board. and I'm a relatively busy guy. That's probably difficult to agree with, given the amount of times you read from 'Royals Nation' on several Royals blog/sites, but I'm like 1984 Rickey Henderson on these late-20th century devices. It gets the best of me, sometimes.

In other news, several Major and Minor League transactions have taken place in the last several days.

The Royals released southpaw/shoulda-been coulda-been 2003-2006 and 2008 LOOGY (left handed one out guy) Yimmy Yobble on Wednesday. As mentioned by Drew Silva in MLBTR, the Royals will shave roughly $1.1MM off the 2009 payroll with this release. It's a crying shame Trey Hillman couldn't have exercised his career splits more in the pitcher's (and the team's) favor last year. Gobble fell somewhat out of favor with casual fans after posting a career-high 8.81 ERA, and being used in an all-too high Game Leverage Index (gmLI) of 0.75. He posted a VORP of -10.6 in '08, costing the team approximately 1 1/2 wins. Nonetheless, his projections for 2009 don't appear too bad. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but projections don't account for situation implementation among relievers.

CHONE: 4.21 FIP, 4.73 ERA, 59 IP
Marcel: 4.60 FIP, 4.88 ERA, 47 IP
ZiPS: 4.41 FIP, 4.74 ERA, 49.1 IP

OK, rather pedestrian numbers, overall. But consider that lefties hit .200/.246/.323/.569 against him overall, in 2008, and .241/.325/.398/.724 against him in 2007. Eliminating the curve-ball likely hurt him, last year. I consider this a plus-pitch for Gobble, and if he could re-implement it for another club, he could likely add to his apparent success as a LOOGY for that particular team. (Note that many people believe that small to mid market ballclubs like the Royals cannot afford the luxury to devote an entire million dollars - and a roster slot on the 25-man - to a situational pitcher like Gobble. I disagree with this notion. In 2007, Gobble pitched 53.2 innings - a sizeable chunk for any relief pitcher making roughly twice the league minimum. Approximately 60% of the batters he faced in this season were left-handed. I understand cherry-picking should be avoided, but if he can post a 3.02 ERA, then he could prove as an asset. (And, yes, I understand the ERA was somewhat artificially small - his FIP this year was 4.23, which indicated that the defense played flukishly well against him in '07. His LD% was 79.9% this year - an amazingly high number despite his low result). Still, if implemented correctly, he is still worth devoting a roster spot to - especially over the likes of Ross Gload (1.6 WAR in 2008) and Tony Pena (-2.0 WAR in 2008).

In other news, the Royals have signed Sidney Ponson of Aruban/Dutch influence to a Minor League contract. Sir Sidney now reigns supreme as heaviest current Royal in Spring Training (watch out, Phoenix-area buffet-lines!) but I think his chances of making the 25-man roster out of camp are slim to none. In fact, they're probably less than 1%. Greg Schaum (tanana) described the situation best at Royals Corner, when he stated that Ponson, a la Jamey Wright, will simply audition this spring for a permanent spot on any 25-man roster that will take him, even if that team is not named 'K.C.'

Here is my mini-analysis of the acquisition, posted directly at Royals Corner:

This is a 'bleh' move. I'm indifferent to it, overall. It's worth noting that Ponson has little, if any, upside, anymore, as a starting pitcher. The K:BB numbers have been too dangerously close to 1 the last several years. His career high ERA was 3.85 and his career high FIP was 3.67 (no other year did he have an ERA or FIP under 4). CHONE, Marcel, and ZiPS all project ERA's over 5 and FIPS over 4.8 for him this year....which makes him a borderline #4 and a decent #5. The problem with that is nobody seriously wants to pursue a #5 pitcher with upside that limited. That is why young pitchers with potential usually grab this role. His bit of success with the Yankees was a fluke - brief spouts of success like such happen more than occasionally b/c of the "book syndrome" (there's a real term for this, but I don't remember what it is).

He reminds me a bit of Horacio Ramirez. Similar OK-ish groundball-inducing ability, both are FB-SL-CB guys, similar K:BB ability. Maybe he'd fit in the bullpen. Who knows? More than likely Omaha fodder. OK move, though. Worth a flier on a MiLB contract, I guess.

As I mentioned, whatever upside Ponson had vanished sometime in the early 2000's. He is now seeking to eat innings in any fashion he can stomach (two puns in one sentence!)

Another "Minor" move occurred today. As mentioned in the MLBTR-linked Gobble blurb above, the Royals have signed ex-Atlanta Brave Anthony Lerew. You're probably thinking, "Why sign another ex-Brave, Dayton? Weren't the first 50 low-risk Minor League acquisitions enough?" The subject of ex-Brave acquisitions and their impact on the success of the ballclub is a valid one, and it is a subject likely worth tangling on TRT on another instance. Lerew has spent the majority of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he is worth a flier. I see no potential downside in this move*

*Of course (as always), if the player is implemented correctly.

Here are his projections for 2009, for what they are worth (and it's not much, given his recent injury history).

CHONE: 5.18 ERA, 43:32 K:BB, 66 IP
Marcel: 4.58 ERA, 44:23 K:BB, 56 IP
ZiPS: 6.49 ERA, 37:38 K:BB, 61 IP

J.J. Picollo originally signed him back in 2002. He has almost exclusively started games in the Atlanta farm system, so I assume Moore will implement him as a starter for this organization. However, Minor League experts might know better in this regard. The Braves evidently eliminated his curveball last year, although it was in limited duty. I described him as a fastball-change pitcher. His fastball ranges from 90-93 miles per hour, roughly, which is a tick above average velocity-wise. How have Lerew's secondary pitches progressed since undergoing "the knife"? It's strange the Bravos released him, as some upside appears to be remaining. In limited big-league time, he didn't appear ground-ball oriented, but has limited opposing batters to just 33 home runs in 763 innings pitched throughout Atlanta's system. Not too shabby.

Numbers-wise, his career Minor League ERA still stands at 3.41, and his K:BB ratio is a quite Kyle Davies-upside like 2 1/2 to 1.

Below are some pictures of Lerew. Hat-tip to none other than Dave Sanford at Royals Corner for providing these photos in the thread dedicated to the signing.

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