Royals Outpost

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


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..


Player Interrogation: Mike MacDougal

In the opening post of what will be a crucial year for the Royals, both as a 25-man roster and as a franchise looking to regain it's footing in the league, we will begin with a player that is accustomed to finishing games. I'll go ahead and confess right now that Mac' is one of my favorite players currently with the team, but I'll do my best to deliver an even-keeled look at the volatile reliever.

At 6'4" with an upper-90s fastball, a sharp, diving slider, and a changeup that has become much more deceptive, MacDougal is what comes to mind for many when they first envision a closer .. even the spotty control. But he wasn't always tagged as the team's closer of the future.

Taken with the 25th pick of the first round in 1999 out of Wake Forest as an erratic, lanky starter, MacDougal arrived at Class A Wilmington at the age of 23, and between that and his late call-up to Wichita for two starts, he threw 156.1 IP in 28 games, all but one as a starter, and allowed just 131 hits, struck out 138 -- but walked 83. He didn't legitimately earn his promotion to Omaha after a measly two looks at the Texas League, but he was already 24, so he climbed again. In 28 games in Omaha (27 starts), he logged 144.1 innings, walked a very similar 76, but allowed 144 hits, a predictably sharp climb. With his ERA, WHIP, K/BB, and other ratios all at or below league average, questions about whether or not he should remain as a starting pitcher began carrying serious weight. Then 2002 happened.

A flying bat that fractured his skull in his 2002 September call-up deprived him of a chance at a smooth start to the year, which led to an eye-popping 84 walks in 82 innings to 57 strikeouts. He cited numbness in his fingers because of the injury as the cause, but at this point, it was clear that his career as a starting pitcher was over.

Along with nearly every other unknown on the Royals that year, MacDougal exploded on to the national stage as a reliever in 2003, emerging as one of several young pillars for a Kansas City club that ravaged the AL Central for much of the season. Through July 13th, he had logged 42.2 IP, allowed 35 hits, struck out 32, and walked 22, accruing a 2.59 ERA and 24 saves in that time, while allowing just one(!) home run. From there he tired, much like the rest of the team, and finished with a 4.08 ERA, but he'd made it clear he had the mental and physical makeup to close.

Unfortunately, his big fade at the end of 2003 carried over to 2004, where he saved just one game at the big league level, spending most of his year between Wichita and Omaha, and struggling mightily with his control at both levels, with 34 walks in 44 innings between the majors and minors. His status in the organization had never been more unclear, with Jeremy Affeldt assuming the closer's job at the end of 2004.

Faced with the prospect of falling out of favor with the organization, the light came on big-time for MacDougal in 2005, which saw him quietly reclaim the closer role from an injured Jeremy Affeldt. While he could only save 21 games, that was largely attributable to the harsh shortage of opportunities provided by the Royals. His ratios improved dramatically across the board, as he walked just 24 in 70.1 innings, allowed 69 hits, and struck out 72, finishing with an ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.32.

MacDougal is once again the man in KC, but 2006 is an essential year for him in particular: With flamethrowing relief prospects lining up behind him, he must solidify himself as a stable, dependable presence in the bullpen, or risk losing his job to the very promising Ambiorix Burgos, and perhaps being discarded from the team's plans entirely. His mechanics are tough to keep in line, and his body type is very wily, so walks will likely always be an issue, but if he continues his progression in terms of using his strikeout stuff more efficiently, he should be a bullpen staple for several years to come.

Up next: Mark Redman