Royals Outpost

The heart-felt musings of a Kansas City Royals fan who isn't always right, or logical, but does always care.


Summer Drags on, as do the Royals

It's been a season of one step forward and two steps back, a familiar dance for the Royals and their loyal fellowship. What few pleasant surprises and near successes are so easy to lose track of against a backdrop of mounting losses, failed signings, injuries, and a general sense of helplessness amongst the organization.. no clue what direction to go, and no means to move in one, anyway.

The biggest disappointment has to be that, with 98 of the season's 162 games completed, Zack Greinke has yet to throw a pitch for Kansas City. Much of a crucial recovery year, lost. What little time he does get in the Majors this year will be difficult to gauge. Because of this, it seems the potential the 22-year old righty possesses is being discredited, that he wasn't "the real deal". Greinke is still a legitimate talent with major upside, and considering our current shortage of starting pitching, he could well be the most pivotal player in the organization.

Zack still has plenty of youth on his side, but his arbitration clock is running, and I know I want to see as much of him in a Royals' uniform as I can. Greinke has a 2.33 ERA in his last four starts, so the Royals can't be far from bringing him back.

Denny Bautista's 2006 campaign is nearly as unfulfilled. In 2006, he has seven starts, a 5.80 ERA, has allowed 38 hits and 17 walks in 35.0 IP, and has 22 K. In 2005, he had seven starts, a 5.66 ERA, allowed 36 hits and 17 walks in 35.2 IP, and had 23 K. He is not improving, and will be 26 next month. Recurring arm problems have skeptics calling for him to move to the 'pen, but with the depth of his arsenal, that would be a waste. All he needs right now is health and experience -- and perhaps a bit better control.

Andrew Sisco.. has just about completely fallen apart. After a stellar 2005 that saw him post a 3.11 ERA and 76 K over 75.1 IP, his lack of command has earned him a 7.32 mark for 2006. He's no longer a Rule V player, so the Royals are free to demote him, and I can't understand why they haven't. He's only losing confidence, at this rate.

Mike MacDougal has only recently made his season debut and is off to a quick start, which is fantastic news, since the third member of KC's trio of hard-throwing relievers, Ambiorix Burgos, has also failed to repeat his success from last year. Twenty-six walks in 48 innings has led to a 5.25 ERA, up more than a run from last year's 3.98.

Angel Berroa, with all the talent he's been touted for having since he shocked the Junior Circuit by swiping Rookie of the Year out from under Hideki Matsui's nose in 2003, is having perhaps the worst season of any starter in major league baseball. His .269 OBP is the worst of any starter out there, and I don't even have to check that. Combine that with the worst average of his career and a mere 22 extra-base hits, and it's a shocking crime that he still has his job, without challenge. Andres Blanco, for all his offensive ineptitude, can certainly get on base as much and play some dazzling defense in the process.

These are the instances of lackluster performances that stand tallest, in my opinion. But there are many others worth mentioning Runelvys Hernandez has started just eight games, and has a 6.75 ERA. Jeremy Affeldt and Mike Wood (third and fourth on the team in IP, respectively) have both been rotten. Affeldt has 42 walks to 27 strikeouts and Wood has allowed 82 hits in 62 innings. Joe Mays was able to get in six horrific starts before KC got wise to the fact that he was clearly still playing for Minnesota. Jimmy Gobble's 4.88 ERA is the lowest of any KC pitcher to start a game, and his 50 K in 59 IP is definitely noteworthy.

Mike Sweeney, the face and captain of our hapless anti-heroes, has again been absent, due to his troublesome lumbar region. In 68 at-bats, he is hitting .176 with two home runs. He will begin a AAA rehab assignment, but it is far too late to have any impact, one way or another.

Two of the four "big" signings have also proved unwise. Scott Elarton's ERA had risen each month before he went down for the year, and Reggie Sanders has not been able to provide the production he put out with St. Louis last year, and is also now on the mend. He could well be traded before he is healthy again.

Between Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Justin Huber, the top three prospects in the system, none of them have been given a fair chance to get experience at the big-league level, despite all three posting solid or strong seasons in the minors thus far.

However, it's easy to let all these poor performances, wasted signings, and questionable organizational alignments blind us to the handful of positives for the Royals in another wayward season.

In exchange for lefty reliever Fabio Castro, the Royals have enjoyed the utility services of Esteban German, who they plucked from Texas' AAA affiliate. Filling in at third base, shortstop, and in the outfield, the 28-year old Dominican has posted a sparkling .331 average and 20/21 K/BB rate. His defense hasn't been as impressive, but the speed and versatility he's afforded Buddy Bell has been welcome.

Mark Redman and Mark Grudzielanek have largely played to expectations. The soft-tossing lefty leads the team in wins (and in fact is the only pitcher with a winning record), and continues to absorb innings, taking some strain off of a bullpen that usually has to expect to pitch most of the game. The Grudz' is hitting for a solid average, submitting steady glovework, and helping to lead a group of young players. Nothing short of blue collar.

But perhaps Doug Mientkiewicz's free agent acquisition was the best. Coming off a season with the Mets that saw him hit just .240, Dougie has resurrected his contact-and-discipline approach to hitting, which has led to a .283 average, .360 OBP, and 24 doubles. And, of course, some of the flashiest defense you can get from a first baseman. Definitely a worthy signee.

A couple righties with good stuff and major control problems, Brandon Duckworth and Luke Hudson, have made their way to the team, and have been good.. by comparison. Duckworth, 30, posted 167 K in 163 innings with Philly in 2002, but high opponent batting averages eventually led Philadelphia, Houston, and Pittsburgh to let him go. In eight starts, Duckworth has turned in four good outings -- and, of course, has a 1-4 record to show for it.

In nine 2004 starts with Cincinnati, Luke Hudson, 29, posted a 4-2 record and 2.42 ERA over 48.1 innings. He followed that up with a 6.38 ERA in an injury-tainted '05, but he flashed a strong fastball and sharp curve, as well as a fair bit of resilience when his control faltered. To me, he's a bulldog-type pitcher who could be a contributor as a back-end starter/spot starter.

Alas, Allard, I'm sure you were a good guy, but I doubt you could have made a good deal like this. J.P. Howell was a good young prospect, but Joey Gathright is ready now, and walks enough for his world-class speed to come into play. The speed demon will man center and bump Mr. DeJesus to left, and I can only say bravo. For a team that was known for it's speed in it's glory days, it's a shame we've gone so long without a guy with these kind of wheels. Faster than Ichiro, than Chone Figgins, than Juan Pierre? Oh yes.

And lastly, but far from least, a couple of our young hitters are picking up some of the slack for the rest of the zombified offense. While again fighting injuries, David DeJesus is having the best year of his brief career, batting .300 with a .382 OBP. But the nicest surprise has to be Mark Teahen rebounding from a .246 average in '05 and a demotion after a .195 start in '06. After a two-homer game tonight to lead KC to a 7-5 victory against Baltimore, he is hitting .270 with team-leading marks in homers (11) and SLG% (.500). With Alex Gordon providing constant pressure, it's good to see Teahen beginning to perform. Even if Gordon does overtake him in the next couple years, Teahen could find a home at another position, or be traded for a positional need. I do have to admit, though, that he's growing on me.

So, in a nutshell, that's the lowdown on the baseball season in Kansas City, to date. Many things that could have been better, but what few things that have gone right really feel like the beginning of a foundation.. something for the future to develop around. It's impossible to tell, but I think this is the last year of 95+ losses for awhile. At least I hope it is, heh.


In the time it took to begin and finish this post, Dayton Moore has instituted some major in-house changes. Mike MacDougal has been shipped to the White Sox for a couple minor league starters (Tyler Lumsden for ROY in '07!), Elmer Dessens was sent back to the Dodgers for Odalis Perez and two more minor league starters (Legitimate steal!), and Tony Graffanino was dealt to Milwaukee for the injured Jorge De La Rosa lefty in the Ricky Vaughn mold; he throws hard, but where it goes is anybody's guess. Mr. Moore is very wisely stockpiling the minors with it's sorest need, starting pitching, in exchange for parts we simply don't need. Kudos, Dayton, for beginning the work that needs to be done. Odalis should find the rotation quickly, and De La Rosa easily could, too. Hopefully Mark Redman and Grudzielanek are the next to go. Nothing against them, but we can't leave a good job half done. Keep it up, Mr. GM!


Strong Effort, But Win Streak Ends

And SHAME on me for trying to capitalize on my team's personal struggles! Okay, I'll admit it: on Friday night, I thought I could get an easy win from Cleveland sinkerballer Paul Byrd the following day. After seeing how mightily the offense had struggled of late, I foresaw a cruise control-type outing for Mr. Byrd. Folks, it turns out I'm not clairvoyant.

The Royals, behind the strength of an 11-run spike on Saturday and a rare quality start by Jeremy Affeldt Sunday, won the last two of a three-game rendezvous with the youth-laden Indians over the weekend. Suddenly, the losing streak was in the rearview. In fact, they were only 2.5 games away from escaping the AL Central basement, and with the fourth-place Twins arriving in town on Tuesday, the boys in blue had an opportunity to remedy their standing quickly. For seven innings tonight, even the most calloused KC fan was entertaining the notion of a third consecutive 'W'. Unfortunately, this game went the full nine innings.

Luke Hudson (great first name), who had impressed me with his sharp curveball and plus four-seamer, gave up three singles without getting a batter out to start the eighth. Andrew Sisco gave up a go-ahead sacrifice fly, and the smothering Minnesota bullpen did the rest.

Scott Elarton had another strong outing, but a deeper look into the numbers gives cause for reserved expectations. Both of his strikeouts for the night came in the seventh inning, when he was pitching with runners on first and third. He also recorded 11 flyball outs to seven groundouts. He's doing just fine now, but when he doesn't have his best stuff with him, some of those flyballs are gonna land in fans' gloves, not outfielders'. Still, his 3.16 ERA should be rewarded with a 4-0 record, not 0-4. Hey, no one said signing with KC came with much glory.

Mark Grudzielanek grounded out in the fourth inning tonight, plating Mark Teahen. Minnesota starter Kyle Lohse, the only talented starter Minnesota couldn't mold into a go-to guy in recent memory, lived dangerously tonight: in six innings, he allowed 10 baserunners. Most teams would have scored more than one run against him.

Ambiorix Burgos, still stuck with a single save for the season, came in in another non-save situation tonight, logging 1.1 perfect innings, mowing down two. It's comforting to see our (temporary?) closer pitch well despite it not being with a lead to protect. He's definitely something special.

These two team will be back at it again tomorrow, precipitation permitting. Second-year right-hander Scott Baker will toe the rubber for Minnesota. Despite not being a power pitcher, Baker has been impressive, shutting down the Yankees for seven innings in his start before last. He has a 3.31 ERA on the year.

Runelvys Hernandez will make his first 2006 start in the majors tomorrow after being sent to the minors to get in playing shape. Let's see if our chubby buddy has dropped a few!


Two Rallies, One (More) Loss

When Steve Phillips made the emphatically bold pick of Cliff Lee as the best lefty in the AL, I rolled my eyes and changed the channel. After seeing Lee struggle to subdue an offense that was just crushed under the mighty heel of the Chicago rotation, I scoff at Phillips' ascenine analysis even more audibly.

Kansas City rallied from 3-0 and 6-3 deficits in this one, but fell one ninth inning double shy of their third victory of April. Mark Grudzielanek added three more hits to his club-leading tally of 14, and Mike Sweeney finally broke free of his funk with four hits in five trips to the plate, including two doubles. Reggie Sanders stole his second base of the season, giving him 299 for his career. He is five homers and a swipe away from the 300/300 club.

Cliff Lee went 5.2 innings, but allowed nine hits and a walk. By comparison, the recently activated Mark Redman allowed five hits in six innings, and even matched Lee's strikeout total of five. Lee is a fine young talent, but his lack of size reminds me a bit of Casey Fossum, and I could easily see some consistency troubles with him down the road. Definitely not deserving of such heady accolades. Steve Phillips should be modest with his words, lest he tarnish his sterling reputation (hhha!).

The Royals hung tough in this one against a tougher, younger team, and eventually pounded out 14 hits, although nobody but Sweeney contributed an extra-base hit. Wouldn't you know it, it was the previously-unflappable Elmer Dessens that let this one slip away. That's just the way it goes on a team struggling for some scrap of identity. Just when you think you've got one department covered, it fails you the one time you actually need it for a win. Oh well, at least we made 'em sweat, eh?

Paul Byrd will take the mound for the Tribe tomorrow, and he could be trouble. The Royals don't have much of the left-handed thunder that Byrd fears, so if he's economic with his pitches early, he could initiate cruise control pretty quickly. Royals have to get aggressive and, sadly, a little lucky in the first and second innings to do any significant damage.

Let's beat the streak, fellas!


Royals Score One Run, ChiSox Sweep


After arriving home this afternoon and bringing up my fantasy team's page, I checked the live box score and this message greeted me. I was immediately conflicted.

My rotisserie team, named the Dyna-Moe's and currently sitting second in the league, had just acquired Mr. Vazquez from an owner that was perhaps a little too desperate for saves, as I only had to surrender temporary Giants' closer Tim Worrell to get my hands on Chicago's new dart-throwing #5. After seeing how Vazquez fared against the Kansas City lineup at Kauffman, I suspected his first start for me would be good.

But seeing that he held the Royals without a hit until Doug Mientkiewicz nubbed a ball 50 feet up the third base line on a check swing left me with a hollow feeling in my stomach. The White Sox swatted Kansas City aside with such nonchalance that it actually made me not want to watch my team fight the inevitable.

The Royals, after surprising the White Sox by stealing two of three 10 days ago, have lost 10 games straight, sending their season into a swift tailspin. Their record stands at 2-12, and unless they start playing at least .400 ball soon, the team will undoubtedly be stripped of the few veterans even faster than expected. If you haven't seen Mike Sweeney live in a Royals' uniform, you're running out of time.

Despite the complete control Chicago was in from Jose Contreras' first pitch of the series, it was actually an accurate representation of the differences between the teams. They are such perfect opposites that one would think the Royals were actually Chicago's evil twin from a parallel universe. Right down to the pastel uniforms and untimely errors, Kansas City is the yang to Chicago's Fall Classic-winning ying.

In a series where a Kansas City cleat touched home just once, the Royals were done in by what they are so starved for most: starting pitching. In 21.1 innings against Chicago pitchers, the Royals' bats generated just nine hits. Joe Mays gave up 11 hits in just 5.1 IP (his longest and, sadly, best outing of the young season).

When presented with a performance like this one, it is reinforced in my mind just how far Kansas City has to go as an organization. Now, on to some KC happenings that aren't quite so bleak.

Opening Day starter Scott Elarton has been a pleasant surprise, although his short stint in tonight's game left something to be desired. He's starting to allow too many baserunners to keep this up, but with his ERA standing at 4.07, he's certainly been more useful than I honestly expected. If he can keep that number in the low 4's, I'll be extremely pleased. No doubt about it; he's the ace, now. Actually, with Denny Bautista proving once again that he should be in the rotation, Zack Greinke wrapping up his personal affairs, and Bobby Madritsch's left shoulder creeping back toward healthy, Kansas City could have a serviceable rotation by July. Until then, well.. it's Jeremy Affeldt every five. Yeesh.

The real surprise disappointment so far is how unhelpful the offense as a whole has been. They are scoring 3.75 runs per game, and yes, that is at the bottom of the AL. David DeJesus has been out with a lame hamstring (who called it?), but that's no excuse for Shane Costa to be the team's co-leader in home runs! Seriously: John Buck is second on the team in OBP. That is never, ever a good sign. I think it's a case of everyone looking to Mike Sweeney to lead the way, and the capitan feeling pressure to step up and lead the youngsters. Hard to hit when you're pressing, even harder when you've got a bone bruise in your hand. Hang in there, Big Mike.

With the mauling at the hands of the White Sox mercifully over, the Royals are off Thursday, then welcome the hot-hitting Indians at Kauffman. Their starters are expected to be Cliff Lee, former-Royals Paul Byrd, and Jason Johnson. Our boys will counter with Mark Redman, Mike Wood, and Joe Mays. Dang, overmatched again.


Royals Already Without Greinke, Redman

Whew, yet another robust break from the bloggin' action. I've been very thorough in my preparation for the fantasy baseball season this year, and between that and my 9-5 schedule, the ol' blog has fallen by the wayside until now, the early stages of spring--and what is already a riveting World Baseball Classic!

Between two no-doubt homers by David Ortiz off of the likes of Johan Santana and Carlos Hernandez (He's still a prospect, people!) and a ball off the bat of Miguel Cabrera that defied the very laws of physics and bounced off a wall and went UP in the air, the Dominican Republic's 11-5 triumph over Venezuela (don't let the final fool you, it was 6-5 DR going into the ninth inning), really helped woo me toward the WBC. If only the American players cared as bad as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic's players clearly do, it might be getting more media hype here in the states.

On to the latest KC news. The hot starts of outfielders Kerry Robinson (eight hits in 19 at-bats) and Chip Ambres (.733 SLG in 15 at-bats) have been lost in the shuffle with the departure of Zack Greinke from camp for personal reasons, and most recently, Mark Redman's balky knee that will keep him sidelined until as late as mid-May. Redman's had minor surgery and will soon be on the mend; the Greinke conundrum isn't nearly as simple as operate/recooperate.

Torn cartilage in the journeyman left-hander's left knee is why he is out of the running for the Opening Day (Elarton vs. Runelvys, now). Redman is a guy I like on a personal level, although I can admit he's not as good a fit in the AL. While his 4.85 ERA over 190 innings could have been useful to a team with so little to offer in terms of starting pitching, Redman missing six or seven starts is not much of a setback to the team other than financially.

Greinke missing more than a small handful of starts, on the other hand, is a very serious pinch. The Royals have a bright future in terms of position players, but when it comes to starting pitching, we are a critically-deprived system. Zack Greinke and Denny Bautista are the only arms I consider legit, so even one of them "busting" is a killer blow. What's more, there doesn't seem to be anyone in the front office who has a clue as to when Greinke will be returning. I realize baseball is the last thing on the boy's mind right now--doesn't mean it's not hurting KC to be without him. In my book, he's the most important player to the next four years of Royals' baseball, so we can only hope he can put his situation at home in the very back of his mind and use it as motivation for 2006. Hope all's well, Zack.

Since their 5-5 tie with Texas on March 2nd, the Royals have alternated wins and losses down in the desert, and their record stands at 3-2-1. Being a marginally sane individual, I put about as much weight into spring training stats, wins, and losses as I do into Steve Phillips' in-game analysis. That's very little, for those of you keeping score at home. Health and building stamina is all that I look for in March, and hopefully Redman is the only one too wounded to keep walking at the start of the regular season. Honestly, all I want to see--or rather, not see--are the words "Mike Sweeney" and "iffy back" in the same day.

With the baseball engine firing up, the pistons that are the sluggers, the speedsters, and the studs just beginning to churn, I can guarantee the posting will be much more liberal than once every five weeks. Can't ya just smell the outfield grass, the foul-line chalk? So what if we only win 63, so what if we only win 36?! I can't hardly wait any longer!


A Most Heinous Hiatus!

You know, just when you think you're doing okay with your own cheap little blog on your team, you start getting a little confidence, and start poking around to see who else is covering your team, although you're certain they can't be doing half the job you are. Then you stop by Royals Corner, and your heart drops through the freakin' floorboards, ya just fall off the wagon. People are catching on, too, because that site has really taken off, and rightfully so. I can only hope to end up one of his fabled correspondents.

How much of this disenchantment contributed to the Royals Outpost three week lay-off is probably diluded by me being in the midst of a career change, along with the cut and dry fact that there is just nothing to speak of going on in baseball right now, nevermind KC-oriented matters. Kyle Snyder and Devon Lowery cleared waivers and were returned to the minors, although where the two of them figure in the immediate or long-term plan for the Royals is murky at best. Mike Sweeney gossiped about how he knows a guy who knows a guy who did steroids, shouldn't be this big a deal.

Fantasy baseball has been a hobby/obsession of mine since 2001, and further fueled my love affair with the sport. My first experience taught me to invest modestly (if at all) in your favorite team's players, lest it blind you to the unpleasant truth. After finishing eighth in a 10-team league as a fantasy rook', I'd learned my lesson: Your loyalty to the real thing mixed with your decision-making for your fantasy team does not a championship bring.

However, just because the Royals have left me high and dry in the past doesn't mean fans of the same ilk should look past the fantasy value our boys in blue stand to accumulate in the future. So, here for you now, is a look at the most statistically intriguing Royals available in your league.

Mike Sweeney - 1B: Of course, how could I start with anyone else? The heart of both the lineup and the team has been a steady source of batting average and RBI in fantasy baseball circles for about half a decade, now. Yes, the only thing that has kept him from sticking amongst the top-1o first baseman in the game is troublesome aches that always seem to flare up in mid-July, and keep him just short of 500 at-bats. Now an expensive and aging veteran, Sweeney's hefty pricetag could see him shipped to a team in the play-off hunt around the All-Star Break, which would inevitably boost his fantasy appeal. In any event, another season with something like 450 AB, a .310 average and something just short of 25 homers. A very useful, if risky selection.

Reggie Sanders - OF: Perhaps the biggest addition of the off-season, Sanders makes his first Junior Circuit appearance with 292 HR and 297 SB, as well as mediocre batting averages and high strikeout rates. Reginald is probably the perfect example of the raw tools player; obviously very gifted in everything he does, but a lack of patience and/or refinement prevented him from reaching the upper echelon when his skills were at their peak. Now in the twilight of his career, just how much Sanders can offer to a fantasy team is very much up in the air, since he's going from a fine offense to a weak one, along with entering a league he is foreign to. I see him coming up just short of 500 at-bats, but that is of course under the pretense that he avoids the big injury, something one certainly couldn't stake any amount of their fantasy team's future on. If he does somehow tally something in the 450 at-bat range, I wouldn't project anything close to his .546 SLG in a shortened 2005. 20 HR, 15 SB and a .255 average is about all one could hope for.

Mark Redman - SP: A disappointing return to the NL in 2005 has many skeptical about whether or not Redman is a major league-calibur pitcher. A junk-dealing lefty with a herky-jerky motion that leaves spectators rubbing their own shoulders in sympathy, Redman was never more effective than he was in 2003, when he went 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. While a return to such a level is severely unlikely on a team as poor as KC, Redman's 2005 is hardly an accurate representation, either, as he pitched from late May to September in pain. Since strikeouts and WHIP will both be unpleasant, the modest number of wins he may pick up along the way shouldn't be too appealing to but the most desperate owners.

Mark Grudzielanek - 2B: Sorry, this signing really does suck. An aging middle infielder who never had much in the way of defensive range, power, speed, or anything other than knocking singles. Any amount of money spent on a guy whose ceiling is so low it forces him to lie flat on his back is overpaying. Second base is a position saturated by fine replacement options, so you have to be able to do better than this working class schmoe.

David DeJesus - OF: Finally, a player landing a long-term contract that actually deserves one! The Royals wisely locked up David DeJesus for five years at a considerable discount, and the dividends should begin to pay off immediately. Don't expect a spike in power, but for the position, he's an above-average value. His OBP should rise to .370 this year, and a string of 90-run seasons could begin in '06.

Mike MacDougal/Ambiorix Burgos - RP: These two are at the forefront of the Royals' greatest strength: bullpen depth. Both are big righties with power fastballs and big strikeout ability. Mac' is currently stationed as the closer, but if his control slips again, Ambiorix could step in and be just as productive. Even if things go according to plan, Ambiorix should sneak a handful of saves.

Angel Berroa - SS: "So much talent, great gap power, strong arm".. for a guy with such skills, he sure has sucked out loud. This is a case where a guy gets to continue his reign of terror as a starter on the chance that he suddenly fulfills his potential at a position tough to fill. That.. and the hefty contract he got after 2004. I don't see much reason for optimism, as his ratios continued their plummet for a second straight year. You can do better.

Zack Greinke - SP: At the start of spring training, I had every reason to be optimistic about Zack's prospects for the season ahead. Things haven't gone as planned. Zack is back home during the vital stamina-building spring training games. When he does get back, he could be rushed, and never have a chance to get in a groove this year. I felt he was a true sleeper as recently as a week ago; now, I have to strongly recommend that you avoid him until he's made a couple regular season starts.

There are other players on the roster with potential for plus fantasy value, but these guys were the most-debated Royals in my circles. In a deeper league, the KC kids could provide some usefulness off the bench, but in your average 12-teamer, all but Sweeney and MacDougal are better left on the waiver wire. Truth hurts.


Lowery, Snyder Wait for the Ax to Come Down

One of the pleasant luxuries afforded to Kansas City by the timing employed in signing Reggie Sanders and Joe Mays was catching the Commissioner's Office in the midst of a lengthy holiday break, giving those with such power a leisurely amount of time to decide whose roster spots the two additions would be taking. With the vacation at the CO drawing to a close, it would appear that decision has been made. Everyone who isn't getting designated for assignment, raise your hand. Not so fast, Kyle and Devon.

Devon Lowery is a 22-year old righty who has spent either the entirety or majority of each of his five minor league seasons at a level no higher than Class A, stretching to Double-A Wichita for four starts in 2005, each of which was horrendous, which resulted in a 24.84 ERA with the Wranglers. What's more, he walked 14 in 8.1 innings. Even before that startling failure, he was regressing with each promotion within Single-A from 2003-'05, allowing more homers, hits, and a higher ERA as he moved from Burlington up to High Desert.

Lowery is still 22, and he was taken straight out of high school, but his numbers are either average or below-average in every significant category, and he thoroughly flat-lined in his first taste of tougher competition. He's no stranger to coming out of the bullpen, so that would probably be his only avenue to any amount of time in the majors. Due to his limited upside, I'd say he's a safe bet to return to KC -- and High Desert. Chance of being lost: 10%

Kyle Snyder is quite another matter. The 6'8" right-hander is a former first-rounder out of UNC, it's pretty amazing to know that despite being a Royals property since 1999, he has amassed just 328.1 innings in the organization in that time. Mike Stodolka is his biggest fan.

Even though Kyle's arm has been wrecked by injuries, he does still possess a decent arsenal of the standard fastball-curveball-slider-changeup. He does have a solid grasp of how to use his stuff to get guys out. His minor league WHIP in 207 innings is 1.18, and he's given up just 12 homers over that time, to go with a 3.39 ERA. Given his long ago hype and minor league usefulness, I could see a team with pitching depth questions (Florida, Houston, Tampa Bay) snagging him and tucking him away as a 14th pitcher in the organization. Chance of being lost: 40%

I wouldn't consider either to be irritating losses, although Snyder would figure into the KC club's '06 run once two or three guys hit the shelf. But that's not to say his potential production couldn't be found elsewhere, for a pitcher much more likely to succeed and contribute in the years to come.

This is certainly a minor update, but I tend to subscribe to the school of thought that pitching should be the first priority for a team on the rebound, so the organization making vulnerable a pair of arms justified, I think I've got something of a bizarre obsession with giving some sort of ceremony to a bust who could be on his way off the team's radar. If you don't feel the same..then I'm sorry you had to read all this, but you probably should have stopped at 'Stodolka'. Until next time.

Free Agent Pool Drains, KC Lineup at a Glance

The last of the starter-quality free agents are finding homes here in the first days of January. Certain guys were able to sit on their hands while teams with needs at their respective position scrapped for their first choice, then settled for Plan B when they lost out. Preston Wilson received a one-year pact for a cool four million bucks from Houston, after the Astros were unable to woo Burnitz away from the Pirates. That same Pittsburgh team finally surrendered to sanity and brought Joe Randa back for a second stint as the third baseman after they fell short of signing Bill Mueller, giving him a one-year deal for 2.8 million. And in perhaps a last gasp for his career, Bret Boone accepted a minor league deal to compete with Kaz Matsui for playing time at second base for the Mets. After last year's dramatic drop in productivity, Boone will be playing to dispel steroid murmurs amongst his critics, myself include.

What does this have to do with the Royals? Preston Wilson fell under the heading of slugging outfielder, same as Reggie Sanders, and is considerably younger. However, Wilson has a pair of bad knees, and strikes out 120 times or so per full year. Boone was one of the players on a short list of candidates for the second base opening, before Grudzielanek's plus-sized last name filled it and then some. And I don't think you guys need me to explain Randa's significance to loyal Royal supporters.

There are still some bargains to be had, but it's unlikely that our team will be exploring any of them. The money's gone, the roster has been patched up as best we could this particular off-season. There are a few decisions that have been made I'm not entirely convinced of (I think Mark Bellhorn would have been a comparable option at 2B, except with more power and a much lesser pricetag), but knowing the Royals, it sure could have been a lot worse. I think I punched my ticket to purgatory with how much vulgarity I let loose with when I heard we'd signed Jose Lima last off-season..

With the MLB-related news trickling in in the winter weeks, and Royals info at more of a busted faucet drip, the blogger mind tends to wander a bit. I think I'll simply allow myself to brainstorm for the time being, since nothing prudent is surfacing in the ol' hat rack.

The offense has obviously been redeemed by a handful of intermediate signings, but people are too easily caught up in the individual upgrade, and don't look in to how the change will effect the dynamic of the lineup. Reggie Sanders, Angel Berroa, and David DeJesus are all nimble enough, but it would be a surprise to see any of them steal more than 15 bases. I know, the stolen base is an archaeic and crude approach to generating runs in the eyes of most any self-respecting sabermetrician, but today, stolen base totals double as a vague evaluation of a player's baserunning ability, and hey, just the general ability to score from second on a hard-hit single.

Good baserunning may strike you as more of a luxury than a necessity for a successful offense, but looking at who we have to smack extra-base hits, we're gonna need more than a few plays at the plate to go our way. Mike Sweeney is the long-time slugger, but he's never eclipsed the 30-homer plateau, and his health has been waning for several years, despite his off-season exploits. Reggie Sanders has hit 30 homers on multiple occasions, but at age 38 and in a new 'Circuit, it's a stretch to count on him for more than 20. Emil Brown should chip in with another 15 or so, and Mientkiewicz might match that given the proper number of at-bats, but any configuration of the hitters will result in a below-average home run output. We do have a fair amount of guys who could ring up 30 or so doubles, but lacking as much as we do in power and speed, our offense will rely far too much on good fortune. The improvement over 2005 will be apparent, but not overwhelming.

I know it's a sudden and heart-wrenching separation, but your underdog hero didn't have the stamina to go the distance on this one. Hopefully I'll be able to get my fingers on ice and wrapped, do some long type a couple days from now, and hopefully take my turn in the blog-tation five days from now. The pun is a terrible one, but you could say I'm day-to-day. Tuh-hee, tuh-hee..