Royals Outpost

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


Roster Changes: Revisited

Since it looks like Allard and his underlings have nothing more than roster filler moves left on their collective agenda, might as well slow things down long enough to have a more thoughtful analysis of what we accomplished this winter, and what it's cost us, in terms of money, players traded, and/or experience lost by prospects behind them, if applicable, then give it a crude ranking. I would have loved to have been able to analyze Victor Santos and Seth Etherton, but they were left unprotected, and were quickly gobbled up in the Rule 5 draft. Bummer, but no use crying over lost talent. As usual, I'm gonna pick a peculiar starting point.

Esteban German: For a few days, Esteban was able to call himself the starting second baseman for the Kansas City Royals. Then Grudzielanek harshed his buzz. As it stands, German's intended role with KC is entirely open to interpretation. He could be a utility-type infielder, mainly backing up second and third base, and a pinch-runner. He could also be destined for Omaha, since his experience at that level could be invaluable to the AAA Royals. At 28, he shouldn't be part of the youth movement, since he still doesn't have sufficient MLB experience, and he'll be easy to bump aside in favor of youth.
Costs: Money - Minor-league contract
Players - Fabio Castro, LHP, reliever (Rule 5 draft pick, 1st overall)
Experience - None
Grade: B-

Paul Bako: I was quick to question the proposed Todd Pratt deal. You can imagine how irked I am by this guy. Defensive backup? Nope, noodle arm and lethargic behind the plate. Pinch-hitter with pop? Heh, have a look at his career numbers. Paul Phillips and Mark Tupman are gonna be big-league bench players anyway, why not expose them to that fact now? It's hard to paint any other face on this: This was subtraction by addition.
Costs: Money - $700,000
Players - None
Experience - Phillips, Mike Tonis, Tupman
Grade: D

Elmer Dessens: Ugh, another move where you wonder what KC management was thinking when they decided to dole out a multi-year pact to an aging finesse right-hander. They even said themselves that he would be the long reliever! Who goes out looking for a long reliever?! He could pick up a few starts, but he'll almost certainly be mediocre if he does.
Costs: Money - $1.55 million, plus 2007 option
Players - None
Experience - Mike Wood, Kyle Snyder, Jeremy Affeldt
Grade: D

Mark Redman: This guy is the embodiment of a journeyman junkballer lefty. Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, and now a stop in KC. Despite classic pitcher size (6'5", 240), his fastball tops out at 88mph, and while none of his secondary pitches are out pitches, he mixes his arsenal up enough to stay alive -- just like you'd expect.
Costs: Kansas City assumed all of his 2006 salary, $4.5 million, plus 2007 option
Players - Jonah Bayliss, RHP
Experience - J.P. Howell
Grade: B

Joe Mays: This little contract has been at the center of quite a bit of back and forth bickering. I spoke vaguely about him in a previous post, so allow me to elaborate on my position. I do like Mays as a pitcher without his potential and small pricetag. When I say I like him, I don't mean I think he's a great or even good pitcher, I just think he gets quite a bit out of the skills he was given, and generally knows how to get himself out of trouble without imploding, something that might have rubbed off on him in the sage Minnesota system. Kansas City has much deeper fences than the Metrodome, which will obviously help him avoid several gopherballs, although the converse of that is a spacious outfield being manned by a trio with average footspeed. The big downer about Mays is that, despite the fact that he's a sinkerballer, whether or not he's giving up grounders or flies depends on whether or not he has his good stuff or regular/bad stuff going for him on a particular day. A losing record is all too probable, but he'll have his moments that make us believe Baird wasn't quite daft for bringing him to Kansas City.
Costs: Money - $1 million, additional $1 million in incentives for 35 starts and 225 IP
Players - None
Experience - Jeremy Affeldt
Grade: B-

Doug Mientkiewicz: I gotta admit, I've always been a fan of Doug, regardless of the fact that he's probably never going to top his career-high of 15 home runs. He brings a defensive pedigree to the infield (it really is a joy to watch him play first), and has a very calm eye at the plate, constantly making quality contact and rarely getting himself out. What doesn't he do better than Ken Harvey?
Costs: Money - $1.85 million, additional $700,000 in incentives for games played and plate appearances
Players - None
Experience - None
Grade: B-

Reggie Sanders: This is a deal I don't like, but a player I do like, so I'd say I'm glad to have the opportunity to be conflicted over this move. There's no way Sanders is even going to approach his offensive performance from last year in KC, everything he had going for him in St. Louis is working against him, now. Exposure, age, lineup, he's gonna be fighting an uphill battle across the board. I would take .270 and 25 HR, and 500 plate appearances, but I fear .255, 16 HR and 400 at-bats might be on the way. Let's not forget it's a two-year deal. Hm.
Costs: Money - $5 million each in 2006-'07
Players - None
Experience - Chip Ambres
Grade: C+

Scott Elarton: Man, it's hard for me not to like a guy who's 6'8", but Elarton is hard to get excited about. His shoulder's clock is ticking, his fastball has wound down to the very low 90's, and his breaking ball is a fringe pitch. He's not gonna record a lot of strikeouts, he's gonna give up quite a few homers .. it's an improvement, but much like the questions surrounding the Sanders situation -- was it worth multiple years? Let's hope he holds together.
Costs: Money - $4 million each in 2006-'07
Players - None
Experience - Denny Bautista
Grade: B-

Mark Grudzielanek: A veteran who is adept at hitting the ball sharply to all fields and has a sure glove, I should be more pleased with the Grudzielanek deal than I am. But it was just three years ago that he was on the cusp of disappearing from the baseball world, and for good reason. He doesn't have even average range at his position, despite his NL-leading fieldign percentage, and he's little more than an annoyance for pitchers at the plate. Did anybody get helped out by this weak free agent class (the next-best 2B option was D'Angelo Jimenez, yyyikes) more than Grudz's bank account? This is essentially a two-year deal, after all, since his option for 2007 is very likely to kick in.
Costs: Money - $4 million, before option for 2007 (based on reaching 500 AB in 2006)
Players - None
Experience - Ruben Gotay
Grade: C+

Additions Via Waivers

Bobby Madritsch, Joel Peralta: I spoke of how optimistic I am about Madritsch's possible impact on the team in the latter stages of the season in my maiden post (he'll be out 'til roughly the All-Star Break), but I didn't touch on Peralta. A right-handed reliever with big-league stuff, his career was briefly in question due to injuries, much like Madritsch. He finally made it out of the minors last year and was quite respectable with the Angels, posting 30 strikeouts in 34.2 IP (3.89 ERA). His walk rate might be troublesome, but he should be an effective 7th inning guy. The bullpen gets another bullet. You can't lose much on waiver wire grabs, but you can sure get potential gems like these two.
Grade: A

For the winter thus far, barring an acutely foolish and short-sighted move on Baird's part, I think he's earned a B-/C+ for the winter, depending on your point of view on a couple guys. Sorry to jettison all my information on the new Royals, but I could contain it no longer. Do with it what you will.


As the Dust Settles and the Ink Dries...

Now that GM/dingbat/abuse sponge Allard Baird has gone on his contractual tirade, flinging fountain pens at potential acquisitions like he was in the House of Flying Daggers, I can't help but sit back with my carton of leftover Chinese food and murmur to myself .. now what am I supposed to do 'til pitchers and catchers report? How long can I get by on cheesy, off-beat pop culture references? What's a buttfor?

What had been a roster that looked like swiss cheese is now largely decided, leaving me to ponder the mundane. Is Ken Harvey bound to land a contract us? It's okay to cringe, I did. Twice.

But let's take a pause from issues dealing solely with the internal workings of the Royals. Shall we indulge a bit and visit our divisional rivals off-season undertakings -- and hope for their undoing? I know what team you think I'll start with, and you couldn't be more right..

Tigers: Ah, Detroit .. able to hide from ridicule by being in the same division as us. Despite a clear commitment from Mike Ilitch to make the team a contender, the results have come to a plateau, as their 72 wins in 2004 failed to continue their ascent in '05, at 71. The additions of Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, and Troy Percival haven't translated to a winning season, although to be fair Percy and Mags were big disappointment's in 2005, and I-Rod's production slipped. Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones have been added, but the team also lost Jason Johnson, who ate 200 average innings yesteryear, leaving the rotation with at least three lefties, and perhaps four if Wil Ledezma outduels 98mph-hurling Justin Verlander for the job in spring training. Offensively, Chris Shelton was a big success story in his rookie run, and Curtis Granderson figures to have a 15 HR/15 SB season, but the problem with this offense is that they're bogged down with support hitters, and no anchor. Dmitri Young, Craig Monroe, Carlos Guillen .. all great compliments to an offense, but without a legit run producer, their numbers will stay harnessed.

Although Bonderman has the physical components to eventually be a #1, with no established elite player in either the rotation or the lineup, the Tigers look doomed to another season of looking up at 3/4ths of the Central. Prediction: 75-87, 4th.

Twins: The three-year bully of a division that wasn't equal to the challenge found that their crafty way of business was not nearly a match for the talent-laden twosome that roared past them in 2005, leaving them to fade badly down the stretch, and decide how to recover in hopes of competing next year. Always frugal with their roster turnover, the Twins made modest changes in there areas of need. Luis Castillo was brought in to get on base (and replace the inept Luis Rivas), and Rondell White was added to play DH/OF and hit line drives -- while healthy. They rid themselves of Joe Mays, and refused to chase Jacque Jones to a three-year deal. Obviously, the belief is that the current foundation can win, and they're probably right. Justin Morneau was a disappointment in 2005, hitting just .239 with 22 homers and 79 RBI. Those numbers will improve, and as Morneau goes, so goes Minnesota. Also, hot prospect Francisco Liriano got a taste of the majors last year, and it clearly suited him. He's ready to match Johan Santana's K/IP now, although the walk rate will surely be higher. Still, two wicked lefties is hard to beat.

Between them, phenom catcher Joe Mauer, Morneau, and the return of Torii Hunter, Minnesota will be right back in the mix next year. Prediction: 89-63, 2nd

Indians: God, so envious of this organization .. and so disappointed that they were dismantled by the Devil Rays in their September run at the White Sox. Brimming with young talent that dwarfs that of every other team in the division, Cleveland very nearly pulled off a miracle that would have completely re-written the story of the play-offs. Jake Westbrook couldn't match his 2004 performance, but he could have just as easily gone 18-12 as 15-15. C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee are going to accumulate 150 strikeouts a year for several years, and Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson are worthy replacements for Kevin Millwood and Scott Elarton, although their strikeout totals will barely equal half. I can't quite explain why, but I can't help but think this team is going to experience a setback. Aaron Boone, Ben Broussard, and Casey Blake were thorough under-performers in 2005, and all their jobs seem relatively secure, despite capable prospects waiting for their shot at the majors (Free Garko!).

This offense has all the talent to place in the top three in the AL in runs, but V-Mart's slow start in '05 didn't feel like an aberration, and other than Hafner, there are no feared sluggers to cover for that. I could easily be way off here, but I gotta go with my instincts. Prediction: 85-77, 3rd

White Sox: Man, what a volatile transformation these guys went through -- and put us through -- last year. The perennial dormant threat, the ChiSox found the formula for dominance, throttling the league for four and a half months, teetering on the brink of an epic collapse for four and a half weeks, then simply dismantling all opposition in October, posting a ridiculous 11-1 mark in the postseason on their way to a World Series sweep of the 'Stros. Ken Williams, the GM who had been the overly-willing rip-off target before positioning his team for an awe-inspiring championship run, didn't hesitate to evaluate and upgrade, quickly locking down Paul Konerko, bringing in veteran slugger Jim Thome, and further cementing the starting rotation with the acquisition of Javier Vazquez, although he upheld his reputation as not being particularly minor league-friendly by dealing three big prospects in those deals. Honestly, Buehrle/Garcia/Contreras/Vazquez/Garland is incredible, whether Garland implodes or not. Or gets dealt.

While I wouldn't rule out the Sox falling from grace, it just doesn't feel like a team that is vulnerable to it. The Twins should be back with avengeance, but barring injury or player unrest, Chicago should fend them and the Tribe off. Prediction: 96-66

You may notice that I declined to lay out a prediction for the Royals. While I may still go into detail at some point, I think this says pretty clearly where I feel we're destined (or rather, doomed) to finish. Don't get too down, though. We've got not place to go but up. Or idle. Sigh ..


Player Interrogation: Jeremy Affeldt/Denny Bautista/Runelvys Hernandez

Guess who got stuck workin' on Christmas. I feel like Peter in Office Space. I hope somebody sets the building on fire ..

But unlike Peter, I love this job. I decided that, in the spirit of Christmas, I would tack on not one, but two extra Player Interrogations today. 'Tis better to give than receive .. hate mail.

Up first, Jeremy Affeldt. This .. should be interesting. I have some very harsh, although biased, feelings about the guy, so this might not be the most efficient scribing ever done. You've been warned.

I will start by saying that Affeldt is a tall left-handed pitcher whose fastball runs to 94 with bite, and whose curveball is a very live 12-6 yakker. When he's on his game, he misses bats with regularity and forces several choppy grounders and ineffectual pop-ups. And at 26, he is hardly without room for improvement. That said ..

Affeldt's minor league totals have not given any indication that he has the ability or even the potential to be even an average major league pitcher. His career ERA in the minors is 4.03, and in spite of the impressive strikeout rate of 7.28 per nine innings, he has allowed more than a hit per inning, which is very rare and concerning when it comes to a hard-throwing lefty, and his WHIP is 1.45.

When a young pitching prospect is rushed from the low minors to the parent club, it's a concern. When said pitching prospect didn't overwhelm in the low minors to begin with, it's alarming. Affeldt was in KC before he had pitched an inning at AAA, posting a 4.64 in 2002, mostly in relief, along with a stinker of a 1.57 WHIP. His 2003 was much better, where his walk rate dropped, and his WHIP plummeted to 1.30. But KC as a team was a phenomenon in 2003, and while I don't want to void Affeldt's accomplishments that year entirely, they must have had a substantial influence on them.

Then the trouble with blisters really flared up in 2004, forcing him into a nearly full-time reliever. He came on relatively strong toward the end of 2004 as the team's closer by default, leading many to believe he'd found his calling as a dart-throwing lefty stopper. Again, Affeldt struggled, missing the early stages of the 2005 season due to injury, struggling mightily at Omaha (6.48 ERA in nine appearances, 8.1 IP), and receiving the call-up in spite of that. His 5.26 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 49 relief showings were the worst of his professional career.

So, what to do with Affeldt. He has floundered as a starting pitcher due to high pitch counts and waning effectiveness too early in the game, along with blister issues. He was even worse as a reliever, and with the KC bullpen flourishing into our strongest asset, he is of little used to us there, with Andrew Sisco already holding the title of flame-throwing lefty. He is still young, but that only strengthens the case for trading him. There are obviously several teams who believe they can handle him with more success than we have. At this point, I'm prepared to see if that's true.

A'right, second go-around, let's do this thing.

I'll begin by saying that if we had managed to bring Jason Grimsley back for another stint in KC (he ultimately signed with Arizona), it would have brought the Bautista deal full circle. It was back in 2004 that we traded Jason Grimsley, an ailing right-handed reliever, to Baltimore for Denny Bautista, a gangly kid from the DR with waffle iron hands and a bender of a curve.

Last April, Denny Bautista's first start of the year came in Anaheim, where he faced Vladimir Guerrero, one of the best-known players from his country. Bautista would grab the spotlight that night, not his countrymen, as he pitched eight masterful innings, allowing just one run on three hits, and striking out eight. Vlad went 0-4, and struck out twice. (Sidenote: Jeremy Affeldt nearly blew the game in the ninth.)

Denny's season was derailed by shoulder maladies prematurely, but it only took an outing like that to show why that trade was such a terrific one for KC. His fastball is blistering, his curveball nearly wraps around the hitter's head before diving back down toward the plate, and an offspeed pitch is being honed. Everything he throws has movement or tilt, mostly because of his height, the whipping action of his pitching motion, and his very long, lean fingers. Bautista is the only power starting pitcher in the organization, so we desperately need him to succeed if KC is to advance in the next few years.

However, his delicate mechanics have been a problem to keep intact already in his brief tenure with the Kansas City organization, leading to control struggles, as well as displaced stress on his arm. After getting short-changed on high-level experience in '05, the Royals are clearly intent on returning him to Omaha for at least the start of '06, and after the recent addition of Joe Mays, probably the entirety of it. While Bautista has been allowed just 13 innings of AAA ball to date, he is 25, and needs to be in the show at some point this year.

Bautista has also been mentioned as a suggested candidate to be converted to a reliever, but with the recent saturation of quality young relievers, along with Mike MacDougal reclaiming the job that should have been waiting for him, there is no longer need or room for Bautista there. Some seasoning in Omaha is the right call, but if he's mowing down more than a batter per inning in June/July, the Royals can't afford to deny him further major league experience. In my eyes, this guy is nearly as important as Zack Greinke.

C'mon Adrian, cut me, I gotta get back out there .. cut me!

No anecdote for Runelvys, I'm afraid, in spite of his unique first name.

Also by way of the Dominican Republic (although neither Denny nor Runelvys have been cleared to play for their native country in the World Baseball Classic, unfortunately), Runelvys has only his homeland in common with Denny. He's shorter and rather portly. The added bulk adds no zip to his repertoire, however. His fastball lives from 88-91, with minimal movement. His breaking ball was a useful pitch ahead in the count from time to time, but it was all too often a good way for him to get creamed. His changeup was what allowed him to pitch even 159.2 mediocre innings, as he was able to deploy it at nearly any point in the count with confidence.

Some will say that making it through 2005 as well as he did coming off of Tommy John surgery was an accomplishment on it's own terms. I disagree. Ex-pitching coach Guy Hansen took the time and effort to comment on Runelvys in spring training, and he said he'd never heard Hernandez pop Buck's glove like that before. Of course, Runelvys had never worked with Buck before to begin with, but we knew what he was getting at. He might have tired as the season wore on, but so do all pitchers, it's in the job description. That fish ain't flyin'.

I can't say I'm sure why Runelvys is considered an important cog in the future KC engine. His 7.97 K/9 ratio in the minors has not carried over to the majors (5.00), his walk rate remains a concern .. the only serious trait he garners is the fact that he tends to keep the ball in the yard, but that will only carry a guy so far. He doesn't take very good care of himself, so injury is likely to rear it's ugly head again, unless he trades in the see-food diet for the Atkins diet. On top of it all, he will be 28 in April, so it's not like he's got a ton of room left to improve. Marginal stuff along with marginal control on top of that have led me to question why he's already penciled into the rotation. He should be the one doomed to Omaha this spring, not Bautista. At least .. that's my take on things. Maybe I'm just a quack.

Man oh man, that was quite a feat, if I do say so. I thank you all for reading along, and wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Joyous Kwanzaa!

Up next: Mike MacDougal


Sanders Settles For KC, Mays Enjoys Christmas Miracle

Allard Baird has worked his magic again, as he hammered out the final details of a two-year contract with free agent outfielder Reggie Sanders, one of the more curious journeyman outfielders around, in that he constantly posts reputable figures in the power and speed departments. I like the player, but the move miffs me, if only because it makes my astute Chip Ambres bio useless. Also soon to be donning the Royals cursive is Joe Mays, coming off a very rough campaign for the Twins. We'll start with Reginald. By the way, did you know his middle name is Laverne? I love it! Joe, we're putting 'Shirley' on all your uniforms.

Reggie has bounced around like you wouldn't believe, as Kansas City will be his eighth big league club. However, this will be his first rendezvous with an AL club, so we'll have to hope he's not too set in his ways. Sanders has always had the raw physical attributes to shine, racking up 292 HR and 297 SB while shuttling around the country. He'll enter the 300/300 club as a Royal, hope we have a little celebration or somethin'.

Reggie's most public weakness is fastballs up and in, a strategy that was used with particular effectiveness in his time in Arizona and San Francisco. However, that tells me he'll have a really hot start; few pitchers would think to come inside on a veteran outfielder who they haven't faced before. Beyond that, I'm really not certain. I would expect strikeouts no matter what, since he's averaged one less than every four at-bats in his tenure. I'm not sure where Reggie fits in the lineup, though; he fits more as a 5/6 hitter than in the cleanup role he seems to assume. Honestly, I'd bat Mientkiewicz fourth, honestly. Why not bat doubles spray hitters back-to-back?

Sanders will lead the team in stolen bases. By a lot. That's about all I have to say about that.

The defense sure gets a shot in the arm! Move over Matt Stairs, move (to left) Emil Brown, this guy is .. okay. Still, compared to some of the leadfoots and iron gloves we were being faced with running to the outfield, this is a defensive epiphany! I'm glad to see we have upgraded the defense, it was a big reason Zack Greinke was so damned awful in 2005.

In the big picture, I've heard several colleagues (i.e., dumb friends of mine whose opinions I shouldn't take seriously, anyway) think Sanders is just blocking a younger player who could use the experience. To that I say, please, point me in the direction of the youngster Sanders is holding up! We don't have an outfielder in sight, ladies and gents. Butler, sure, but he could just as easily become a DH or 1B as stay in the outfield. Gordon? He might end up sticking at third, if Teahen doesn't win back the organization.

In a move that was supremely overshadowed by the Sanders deal, Joe Mays lept at one-year, one million dollar major league offer. I don't dislike the move, I actually think Mays could translate rather nicely to Kauffman, especially with the new defense at his back. But based on the level of non-interest this guy was making, why did we give him guaranteed money? As much as I like his low-risk, mid-reward projection, he was pretty crappy last year, even for a first year back from Tommy John. He might be worse in '06, for all I know.

Thankfully, this move further cripples any chance Jeremy Affeldt has of sniffing the starting rotation. Conversely, it bumps Denny Bautista and J.P. Howell further from rotation consideration. Don't know how I feel about that just yet. Even if Mays isn't a joke, he couldn't be better than what Denny and J.P. might eventually be.

I've read a lot of hooplah pointing to Joe Mays K/9 ratio, which is absurdly low, to be fair. But it's been a long time since he's been legitimately healthy, and hey: Not his thing, plain and simple. I for one am more than willing to see what he does in a new environment before crucifying him for not sending guys down swinging. That said, if he comes out in April and posts an ERA in the teens, we should sell his rights to the freakin' Seibu Lions.

I do think these moves make us a better team, if only by an increment that isn't worth much excitement. Still, with how sparse our minor league reserves look to be for the next two years, especially in terms of pitching, it's gonna be little signings like these that determine if we take the road toward reconstruction, or crumble all over again. Remember, only 30% of rebuilding efforts are successful. I like those odds.


Player Interrogation: Mark Teahen

Since the first player audited in this cozy little pandemic didn't ruffle enough feathers, I'm going for the gusto in round two. Let's turn up the heat.

Mark Teahen was drafted with the 39th pick in the first round of the 2002 draft. Since he's an Oakland prospect that Kansas City traded for, there has to be something wrong with him, some massive flaw that renders him useless, nothing more than the latest entry in the growing list of gruesome pawn jobs the A's have laid on us. I'm going to wiz on Beane's grave, mark my words.

I could get into the minutiae of Teahen's minor league track record, but it all tends to point at the same thing, which is that Teahen's power is MIA, which doesn't help you last in the MLB. But I suppose we owe our hot commodity prospect from yesteryear a bit more detail than that, don't we?

Teahen looks and moves pretty comfortably at third base, which is a pretty important qualification to stay at the position. He was prone to mental mistakes last year, but he also made several plays that led one to believe he was a seasoned, battle-tested vet. He should be adequate at third, if not above-average.

Given his subdued power numbers in the minors, along with the guy he replaced, the Randa comparisons are inevitable. There are several noteworthy differences between their hitting styles, namely that Teahen is selective when he's in a groove, picky when he's in a funk. Randa was just looking for something to hit. Teahen also got the bat knocked out of his hands a little by hard stuff on the inner third, and I never knew Randa to have trouble catching up with heat. That would be the main reason why Teahen went to opposite field so much last year, although he began hitting to all fields more regularly in September, by far his strongest month.

His patience at the plate is an obvious plus, but will it forever be anchored by a high strikeout rate? Is it worth putting up with? Perhaps not, if his power doesn't emerge. The only thing he really had on Joe Randa -- or has on Alex Gordon -- at this point is the fact that he's a left-handed bat, and that alone won't make people ignore his whiffability.

Alex Gordon is on his way to Wichita, where he will immediately begin masticating Texas League "pitching", which means he's hot on Teahen's trail, since Gordon's the kind of polished college hitter who could leapfrog Triple-A with little adjustment time. It's not fair to Teahen to make him play for his job in the first couple months of his second full season, but the game is cruel to far more players than it's kind to. The organization will not move Gordon to another position if Teahen doesn't show that September wasn't a fluke.

Up next: Jeremy Affeldt


Diaz Dealt for Dud, Chip Loves the Move

Ya know, I'm starting to think we don't manage our talent very well.

The Royals made something of a giveaway trade today, sending outfielder Matt Diaz to the Atlanta Braves for Ricardo Rodriguez, a 24-year old relief pitcher. Rodriguez is a 24-year old reliever with a live arm, but whether or not his breaking stuff will be adequate enough to let him rise above Class-A Myrtle Beach is a question mark. He hasn't been pitching long, since he was only recently converted from a middle infielder, but did I mention that he's 24 and hasn't made it to AA yet? Oh, and he had a 5.34 ERA in '05. Longshot.

Diaz hit well at both Triple-A and in the majors last year, but his lack of versatility and his age made him expendable. The Braves organization has a lot of outfield talent that has stormed the parent club, so Diaz will be a bench player at best, and Richmond-bound at worst. He could be groomed as a first baseman, though, since the Braves need a platoon partner for Adam LaRoche.

The Royals certainly lost more than they gained in this move, since Matt Diaz was a candidate to win a job in the outfield out of spring training. That's how the Royals solve a potential positional battle: Don't let them play for it, give one away!

With David DeJesus entrenched in center and Emil Brown penciled in at one of the corners, the remaining spot is now a scrum between Chip Ambres, Aaron Guiel, and Matt Stairs, barring another signing. Great, a hick and two canucks.

Stairs will be 38 in February, so his number of starts should be scaled back a bit, and a fair amount of them will be covering for a Sweeney/Mientkiewicz day off, so his time in the outfield will be limited. Guiel hit 30 homers at Omaha last year, but I doubt Buddy Bell or anyone else will care enough to make him the starter, since he's already 33.

No, the smart money is on Chip Ambres, who was acquired from the Boston organization last year. A former 1st round pick by the Marlins, Ambres was a top prospect coming out of high school, and flashed his athletic pedigree in rookie ball in 1999, hitting .353 and stealing 22 bases in 37 games. It took him four years to get through A-ball, though, and he didn't exactly earn his promotion, failing to hit above .270 in a season, while falling short of 10 homers each year. While he hit 20 homers for Double-A Carolina in 2004, he hit just .241. He was then acquired by Boston, and at Triple-A Pawtucket the lights finally came on, as he hit .294 with 10 HR over 279 AB (.495 SLG), not to mential 19 bags swiped.

What helped Ambres through the minors in spite of his abysmal batting average was his ability to work a free pass. While his career average in the minors is a very humble .258, his career OBP is .365. However, he also struck out about every five at-bats, and he appeared to maintain that pace in his stint in KC this year. If KC were contending, he'd be a better option as the righty in a platoon with Stairs or Guiel, but since we're super not contending, I can admit to myself that he's the smartest play, especially since he has the versatility to play center if needed, which is always possible with David Daredevil.

While it would be comforting to see that we had another nimble, athletic outfield prospect ready to step in if Ambres' strikeout rate rises dramatically, since we don't, I'm more or less comfortable with him. He's earned his shot, he might as well get it here.


Player Interrogation: David DeJesus

I had a hard time deciding on who suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism in the first of what will be a recurring piece on this blog. I figured the leadoff hitter made .. some sense.

Once a career in peril after badly injuring his throwing arm, the former fourth-rounder out of Rutgers began his minor league career at Double-A, and moved swiftly to Triple-A Omaha in 2003, where he hit .298 with a .412 OBP in 59 games. After posting a .315 average and .400 OBP for another 50 games at Omaha in 2004, DeJesus was on his way to the parent club, where he's been ever since. His consistency between 411 plate appearances in 2004 and 519 plate appearances in 2005 is astonishing. He hit .287 in '04 and .293 in '05, with OBPs of .360 and .359, respectively. However, his slugging percentage jumped from .402 to .445 in 2005, where he stroked 16 more doubles.

While those numbers are respectable, DeJesus does have a modest ceiling. His contact-minded swing and stance will never allow him to put up more than 15 home runs, if that, and his 'leave it all on the field' approach to the game results in wreckless play that will keep him knicked up most of the time, and probably make him no stranger to the DL. Save for an appearance as a defensive replacement on September 21st, DeJesus didn't play in a game after August 28th last year, sidelined with another shoulder injury.

To go along with the bum arm, DeJesus doesn't possess the burst or top speed most centerfielders have in their employ. He tends to make up for it by getting excellent first reads on flyballs, particularly going to his right, which could end up with him developing into a Jim Edmonds-type defender, relying more on anticipation and reacting than pure ability. Still, he would need nimble corner outfielders around him (which Matt Stairs, Emil Brown, Matt Diaz, and Aaron Guiel certainly aren't) to keep him from turning 15-25 flyballs a year into doubles.

Overall, DeJesus is a polished hitter, which is evidenced by the fact that he needed very little minor league experience to get to his current level (he already has more at-bats in the majors than he did in the minors), but save for hopefully raising his OBP another 25 points, there isn't much room for improvement with the bat, and he's a candidate to miss 20-100 games, annually. Is he the foundation of a respectable outfield, or a player who will deterioriate prematurely?

Up next: Mark Teahen


Congratulations -- It's a Blog!

It's late on a Friday evening here in Seattle, Washington, some eight days from Christmas, which is certainly an impromptu setting for a blog inception. But, considering the happenings of late, I couldn't help myself.

With what had already been a questionable free agent herd thinning, the Royals consolidated their signing announcements into a single day, I suppose to generate the maximum amount of attention for the club at once, as opposed to blips on the radar, individually. Let's build to a crescendo, instead of starting off with a bang.

Paul Bako. Thirty-three years of age, left-handed bat .. .330 slugging percentage, career. Yeah, this is a guy whose impact 'can't be measured by numbers', I'm sure. Even for a backup catcher, he's iffy. Think Mike DiFelice. Remember him? Yeah. He'll make 700K.

Allard and Muzzy also cornered and held down Doug Mientkiewicz 'til he signed a contract on Friday, this one to the tune of 1.85 million. 'Vitch has been all over the map offensively the last couple of years, but he also hasn't been given anything close to steady playing time. And, hello, a guy who is supposed to be a slap hitter had 11 homers in 275 at-bats for the Mets in '05? All right, only three of those taters were in Shea Stadium, but that's still an interesting spike for a guy who never showed much pop in Minnesota. You'll see him as a starter, a late-inning defensive replacement .. Doug catches balls dead.

Mark Grudzielanek, who will finally be on a team where his last name is not the biggest pencil-killer. They talked him down from a two-year deal! Actually, it was a market fluxuation more than it was general managerial moxy, plus, the clause for the second year is very likely to kick in (500 AB, which he'll get.) He'll be decent, but in all honesty, what is this meant to accomplish? Four million bucks is a lot for this club, although if we trade him at the deadline, it will only be a little over half that. This strikes me as a move to keep Baird's head above water, in terms of employment.

Scott Elarton, who once won 17 ballgames in a season, and once posted an ERA near 10 before being mercifully dealt, is probably the best signing of the bunch. There's not much reason to think he'll fall apart coming to a worse team; similar ballparks, both his former catcher (V-Mart) and his future catcher are young game-callers. He's a big guy, and if he stays on the field, he'll win 10 games. But he'll also give up 30 home runs, tendency to get lazy when the pressure's off, hangs fastballs. He'd be a #4 on most teams; he could be the Opening Day starter, here.

In summation .. we're not going to accomplish a lot by signing any number of free agents, this particular winter. The parts aren't there, and even if they were, our needs our too vast and deep. Time will mend the Royals (I hope), not a checkbook.

To abruptly switch gears, I think Billy Butler needs to be handled a little more delicately. Alex Gordon and Justin Huber are fine prospects, but they don't compare to Billy's 100-floor ceiling. He's going to be a terror with a bat in his hands. But it's the glove that may end up traumatizing him! LEAVE HIM ALONE IN LEFT! Where he plays is not going to matter! Just let the boy hit, guys. Let him do what he's really, really good at. Honestly, that should be the organization's tip-top priority. He's the biggest piece of years 2007-2012, and hopefully beyond.

As for the upcoming campaign, I've given the starting pitching the most attention, as that's the most important thing for a rebuilding team to cultivate. Here's what we're probably gonna end up with one through five, if there are no more signings. This ISN'T what I want, but knowing KC management, it's what they'll give us.

1. Scott Elarton
2. Mark Redman
3. Runelvys Hernandez
4. Zack Greinke
5. Mike Wood

Denny Bautista and J.P. Howell both have more talent than either Runelvys or Wood, but they're both candidates to start the year in Omaha. While Howell might be a year away, it's particularly moronic to make Bautista wait, since he's the only power pitcher in the organization at the moment, and most successful teams have one in their rotation. There has been no word on what the team's plans for Andrew Sisco in the immediate future are, but I think he'd be better off in relief or the minors (KC can send him down without offering him to the Cubs, now). He has yet to learn how to pitch, but his potential is exciting. Jeremy Affeldt remains a fantastic candidate to get traded, which would make me positively giddy. He's had his shot, screw 'em. Kyle Snyder and Jimmy Gobble are extreme darkhorses .. again.

But the intriguing name is Bobby Madritsch. He'll be down 'til June (bad shoulder), but he could feasibly step in at the All-Star Break and be the team's best pitcher in the second half. He was extremely effective for the Mariners in 2004, to the tune of a 3.27 ERA over 88 innings, where he gave up just three(!) home runs. He's a peculiar specimen, in that he's the inverse of most left-handers: he has a great fastball that usually sits at 92-94, but his breaking ball is lousy. He does have an effective changeup, though.

I think that's gonna do it for our premier post. It wasn't picturesque, but I think it had it's moments. Call it a learning process. Oh, and R.I.P., Ken Harvey. You stunk.