View Full Version : Getting Down to Business

Archie Bunker
02-15-2007, 09:13 AM
Part 1 (Part 2 at Post 13)


Get down to business: analyzing Royals
The Kansas City Star

Previous columns
Things are mostly better for sports fans these days. There is high-def television. Satellite radio. There are 259 ESPN channels, including one that plays the 2005 World Series of Poker every hour, every day, forever. There is YouTube and Deadspin.com and the NFL Network. Sports video games are so realistic, players hold out.

There is one thing I miss though; baseball preview magazines. One of the joys of my childhood was rushing to the Newstand International in February to read the dozens of preview magazines. That was how baseball began. Now, all you get are Fantasy Baseball Guides (“22 Hints To Help You Win Your League This Year!”). It’s not the same at all.

So for the next three days, as a public service, we offer a complete Royals preview, just like the old days. We’ll start today with the team on the field:


First base: Ryan Shealy is an odd hitter. He’s strong, but he doesn’t generate great bat speed. Managers rave about his hitting approach, but he doesn’t draw many walks. He hit .330 with some power in his 91 at-bat trial with Colorado, and the Rockies were dying to trade him. Royals general manager Dayton Moore took that deal — and Shealy hit quite well (.280 with seven homers in 193 at-bats). Scouts disagree about his future, but the Royals think he will hit 20 to 25 homers and play a solid first base. Ross Gload, a sturdy veteran, backs up. Don’t be surprised if the Royals sign a veteran first baseman to juice up the competition here.

Second base: Mark Grudzielanek won his first Gold Glove award last year — he was the first Royals player to win a Gold Glove since Jermaine Dye in 2000. He deserved the award; he made all the routine plays and a few exceptional ones; he was fabulous on the double play. Offensively, he was typically scrappy, hitting enough loopers the other way to hit .297 with some doubles. He’s very solid. You wish he would walk a little more — or a lot more — but if he did that, he would be too expensive for the Royals. Esteban German, Lil’ Papi, who led the team with a .422 on-base percentage last season, is the backup.

Shortstop: This is without a doubt the Royals’ biggest problem in the field. Angel Berroa may have been the worst everyday player in the major leagues last year. He had the lowest on-base percentage for any qualified player in the American League. He also had the lowest slugging percentage. Nasty daily double. Berroa was often brutal defensively, too. The Royals believe he will improve — in part because he can’t get worse and in part because they really have no other options. Angel Sanchez, the shortstop of the future, is a year away. Berroa’s keys to any success remain the same: He has to quit swinging at every pitch, and he has to concentrate better in the field. The Royals intend to give German some time at shortstop, too. That might be an adventure.

Third base: Everybody’s favorite prospect, Alex Gordon, will start on opening day barring a major collapse in spring training. Gordon is about as close as you can get to a sure thing. He hits, and with power (he hit .325 with 29 homers in Class AA Wichita), he’s a very good base runner, he plays a solid third base (and should get better), and he works. He’s the favorite to be rookie of the year, and he should become the best everyday player drafted and developed by the Royals since Carlos Beltran. The only question left is how he will adapt to the bright lights.

Right field: With Gordon expected to be a cornerstone at the hot corner, Mark Teahen will probably move to right field. Scouts say he should not have trouble with the new position; he’s a good athlete with a strong arm. But it will be the first time he’s played the outfield in professional baseball. As a hitter, Teahen emerged after being sent to the minor leagues last year. He hit .313 with surprising power after his return. Pitchers had no idea what to do with him. Teahen began turning on the inside pitch, and he’s always been a good opposite-field hitter. He still strikes out quite a bit, but his power is coming faster than expected, and he’s one of the better base runners in the game. Former GM Allard Baird predicted stardom for Teahen, and he may be right.

Center field: David DeJesus does many things well, but he does them so quietly people can’t help but miss it. He plays a terrific center field, even though he’s not that fast. He gets on base and drives the ball into gaps — he’s been among the league leaders in triples each of the last two years. He aggressively takes extra bases (he ranked fifth in Bill James’ ranking of the best base runners in baseball), and he seems to play hard day in and day out. If he can stay healthy, he is an All-Star-caliber player. But staying healthy has been the tough part. Backup Joey Gathright is one of the fastest players in baseball, but he will need a terrific spring just to make the team in this crowded outfield.

Left field: Unless the Royals can make a move, they must find at-bats for Emil Brown (who led the team last year with 41 doubles and 81 RBIs) and Reggie Sanders (who is one of six players ever with 300 homers and 300 steals and is getting paid $5 million this year). Ross Gload will also play out here. Brown is a ferocious fastball hitter who gets off to bad starts every year and then gets hot with the weather. Sanders has been terrific in odd years (he’s hitting .278 and about 30 homers for every 500 at-bats in odd years; hitting .255 with 19 homers in even years) and he’s still in good shape, though he will turn 40 in December. Gload is a versatile left-handed bat. Shane Costa and Justin Huber also figure somewhere in here. None of them plays a Paul Blair outfield; Sanders is probably the surest defender of the bunch.

The good news is that the crowded left field should keep the Royals from rushing super-prospect Billy Butler, who is going to hit a ton in the major leagues someday real soon but who still needs, um, work in the outfield.

Catcher: John Buck and new addition Jason LaRue will compete for the job, and it’s likely that neither one will win it outright. They are very similar — both strike out a ton, both have flashed a little power (LaRue more), both throw well, both have taken some knocks for their game-calling abilities. The Royals would like Buck to emerge — he’s younger, and they love his makeup. They’ll probably split time.

Designated hitter: When Mike Sweeney is healthy, he can still swat. He hit .295 with his typical assortment of doubles and home runs after coming off the disabled list last year. But, of course, there’s the problem — he was on the disabled list again. It has now been five seasons since he has had 500 at-bats. This is Sweeney’s last year in what ultimately has been a disappointing and unlucky five-year, $55 million contract. It would be good to see him stay healthy just to see what kind of numbers he could put up. The team is loaded with potential designated hitters. Butler will not be a candidate for the job — Royals general manager Dayton Moore insists that Butler will not come up as a DH.

02-15-2007, 09:31 AM
what are these Royals you refer to?

02-15-2007, 09:38 AM
what are these Royals you refer to?

I believe they are a team in Omaha. :)

02-15-2007, 09:45 AM
Royals.. you mean royal-flush down the toilet...

02-15-2007, 09:46 AM
This team is going to be pretty decent in 2-3 years. I'm just hoping they can manage to play good ball this year, and flirt with .500.

Chief Chief
02-15-2007, 09:50 AM
JP forgot to mention that Sweeney's glaring problem of being a first-ball, anything-ball, anywhere-ball swinger. Sweeney begins swinging as soon as he leaves the batting circle. I'd rather they trade Sweeney for a decent SS and bring up Butler to DH.

02-15-2007, 09:56 AM
JP forgot to mention that Sweeney's glaring problem of being a first-ball, anything-ball, anywhere-ball swinger. Sweeney begins swinging as soon as he leaves the batting circle. I'd rather they trade Sweeney for a decent SS and bring up Butler to DH.

Are you sure you're not talking about Berroa?

02-15-2007, 10:03 AM
This team is going to be pretty decent in 2-3 years. I'm just hoping they can manage to play good ball this year, and flirt with .500.

I agree. I am really looking forward to the next few seasons.

Chief Chief
02-15-2007, 10:18 AM
Are you sure you're not talking about Berroa?

That's another good reason why we need to make one trade to get rid of two undisciplined players.

02-15-2007, 10:41 AM
Nice post Archie... thanks...

02-15-2007, 01:04 PM
That's another good reason why we need to make one trade to get rid of two undisciplined players.

Uhhh, that's actually one fault Sweeney does NOT have. He is disciplined off the field (bible-banger w/o Chris Henry tendancies) and he takes his share of walks.

The problem with Sweeney is that he's a HR hitter that can't swing hard without getting injured. If/When he's healthy he's a ligitimate .300 30 100 contributor....however thw <500 AB's in the last 5 seasons makes that argument moot.

Berroa, on the other hand, should be kicked in the nutz! I honestly think he has ADHD. He cant concentrate on getting a good pitch & he's proven he can make the web gem play, but the routine grounders are bobbled or thrown away.

RESOLUTION: Give Sweeney some pain killers and get his balls out of his mothers purse & maybe he'll get 500 AB's, and get berroa on Ritalin.

Pitt Gorilla
02-15-2007, 02:16 PM
Sweeney can't hit the slider away. Sweeney, however, believes he can. Hilarity ensues when the count reaches two strikes.

Archie Bunker
02-16-2007, 09:05 AM
Part 2


Royals armed, but dangerous?
The Kansas City Star

Previous columns
Part two of our Royals preview deals with pitching. So cover your eyes. The Royals had the worst pitching staff in team history last year, and one of the worst in baseball history. They did not have a starter with an ERA under 5.00, and they had eight different closers through the year, and none of them did much “closing.” It was a mess.

New Royals general manager Dayton Moore quickly realized that any chance to resuscitate this team would have to begin with a complete overhaul of the pitching staff. So in his first six months, he traded for prospects, signed some big-money free agents, invited some former prospects to camp. He surely prayed, too. It’s a work in progress.


No. 1 pitcher: OK, the point has been made that Gil Meche got a lot of money. But it seems likely that people outside Kansas City — and maybe even a few inside the city limits — simply do not realize just how bad Royals pitching has been the last few years. So, to remind you, we now offer the names and a few key statistics for the last five Royals pitchers to throw on opening day.

•2006: Scott Elarton.

Stats: 4-9, 5.34 ERA, 49 K’s, 52 walks, 26 homers in 114 innings.

•2005: Jose Lima.

Stats: 5-16, 6.99 ERA, 80 K’s, 61 walks, league hit .314 with 31 homers.

•2004: Brian Anderson.

Stats: 6-12, 5.64 ERA, 70 K’s, 53 walks, league hit .320 with 33 homers.

•2003: Runelvys Hernandez.

Stats: 7-5, 4.61 ERA, 48 K’s, 37 walks, only pitched 91 innings.

•2002: Jeff Suppan.

Stats: 9-16, 5.32 ERA, 109 K’s, 68 walks, 1-12 away from Kauffman Stadium.

OK? Looking at that list, you wonder whether the Royals might have paid more for Meche. Last year in Seattle, he was 11-8 with a 4.48 ERA. Those would have been Pedro numbers compared with what the Royals have been getting from their No. 1 pitchers. True, Meche has underachieved so far in his career. But there is some hope. His strikeout numbers jumped last season –– his 156 strikeouts last season are more than any Royals pitcher in a decade. Meche has ace’s stuff –– he throws a heavy low-to-mid 90s fastball and has what Moore calls one of the best power curves in the game.

He’s had some trouble harnessing and controlling his stuff, and scouts wish he would challenge hitters rather than trying to trick them. But he’s only 28, and the Royals believe he’s ascending. For $55 million, they better believe it.

No. 2 pitcher: Until last season, Odalis Perez was one of the game’s more underrated pitchers. He won 15 games and was an All-Star in 2002, and poor run support kept him from having a terrific year in 2004. But last year he gained some weight, lost some of the definition on his pitches, and he got beat up. Hitters batted .320 against him with some power. He battles with a pretty good assortment of pitches, and the Royals expect him to rebound with a solid year. It is, we might add, the last year of his contract.

No. 3 pitcher: Luke Hudson is one of those pitchers you watch and think: “Why isn’t this guy a star?” He throws a 90s fastball, he has a nasty curveball, he’s a great guy who seems to have an idea out there.

And yet, Hudson was released by Cincinnati last year, and nobody seemed to notice. Weird. In Kansas City, Hudson took a step forward. If you take away one nightmarish game (he pitched one-third of an inning and gave up 10 earned runs), he was 7-5 with a 4.24 ERA. He got better as the year went along. He struck out 10 Yankees in September and threw seven shutout innings in his last start at Minnesota. The Royals are crossing their fingers here, but they think Hudson might be the first good pitching break they’ve gotten since Paul Byrd came out of nowhere to win 17 games.

No. 4 starter: Now, the battle begins. There are several pitchers competing for the fourth and fifth spots. It looks as if Jorge De La Rosa is the leading candidate. De La Rosa has great stuff — big fastball, runaway slider, promising change-up, hard curve — but (see if this sounds familiar) he has been unable to control those pitches. As a result he has, of course, walked too many and he’s also grooved way too many belt-high fastballs (he’s been a home-run factory — he gave up 10 of them in just 48 innings in Kansas City). Still, he’s got toughness and stuff. The Royals think that when (or if) the light turns on, De La Rosa can be special. He does have to overcome pesky blister issues, though.

No. 5 starter: This looks to be a classic spring-training battle between a tough kid without great stuff (Brian Bannister) and a fragile kid with enough talent to win a Cy Young award (Zack Greinke).

Bannister might have the edge right now because Moore and manager Buddy Bell appreciate pitching guts, and Bannister has tons of that. He’s the son of former Royals pitcher Floyd Bannister, and though he lacks his father’s blazing fastball, he throws a good cut fastball, a pretty good change-up and he will not give in to hitters.

Greinke, meanwhile, has every pitch in the book, including a mid-90s fastball, but he spent most of last year in the minor leagues trying to overcome personal issues. He’s only 23 — he’s even younger than any of the Royals’ top pitching prospects — and he still has brilliant talent. But the new Royals regime will not coddle him like the old regime. Greinke will have to win a job outright in spring training.

There will be several other pitchers vying for a starting spot, the most interesting of those being Rule 5 pickup Joakim Soria, who dominated the Mexican Winter League and threw a perfect game the day after the Royals drafted him, and Dewon Brazelton, the third pick in the 2001 draft who battled through personal and professional problems and is now trying to put his career back together.

Bullpen: For the first time in five years, the Royals will go with a veteran closer, free-agent signing Octavio Dotel. He was, for three years, a dominant setup man in Houston, but he has struggled the last three years because of injuries and inconsistency — mostly injuries. At his best, Dotel has been an overpowering pitcher who will give up an occasional home run but little else (in his career, the league has hit .216 against him). The Royals say he’s healthy and should be at his best again.

The Royals traveled the world to revamp their bullpen. They signed veteran reliever David Riske, who has been a solid setup guy for years. They went to Japan to find lefty John Bale, who they think will match up well in the late innings. Soria is from Mexico and will probably fill a role in the bullpen. And they brought back Ken Ray, who was originally drafted by the Royals way back in 1993, bounced around and then popped up briefly for Atlanta last year. He was virtually unhittable for two months (1.38 ERA in April and May) and then collapsed as he tired. The Royals think he could be helpful.

The Royals will have a couple of holdovers, led by former starting prospect Jimmy Gobble, who seems to have found something in the bullpen. He was inconsistent last season, but at times he mixed a good curveball with an improved fastball and made batters miss. He actually led the team with 80 strikeouts. The Royals also like righty Todd Wellemeyer, who led the team with a 3.63 ERA, though he struggled with pitching on back-to-back days.

Joel Peralta, Joe Nelson, Leo Nuńez and hard-throwing Ryan Braun will fight for spots here, and it seems very likely that all of them and more will pitch for the Royals before the season is out.

•Tomorrow: The outlook.

02-16-2007, 09:21 AM
I think he sold the new catcher short. If I am correct he was one of the best catchers in the NL at shooting baserunners. Buck can't do anything worth a shit.

02-16-2007, 09:24 AM
Huh. No mention of Hochaever? Or did I miss it?

02-16-2007, 09:25 AM
Nothing about Hochevar? Hmmm...

02-16-2007, 09:28 AM
If I was Charley Brown, the Royals are my Lucy. Always talking me into getting excited and then jerking the ball away just as I approach and fall flat on my back.

Archie F. Swin
02-16-2007, 09:37 AM
Sweeney is the Fred Taylor of MLB