Saturday, January 31, 2009

Keith Law and Super Bowl Nonsense: Two Topics, One Entry

I've been ruminating on Keith Law's feelings on the Kansas City organization a bit for the past day or so.

As of January 21st, Law had the Royals ranked as the organization with the 12th best farm system. Obviously, much of the talent that he sees in the organization has been brought in by Dayton Moore and Company. The crop of talent brought in this past draft seems to weigh heavily on his ranking of the organization, with his capsule on the Royals section reading as follows:

Another improved system, boosted by an outstanding 2008 draft led by Eric Hosmer, lefty Mike Montgomery and sleeper Tim Melville, a projected first-rounder who fell after a mediocre spring. The Royals have good pitching depth but are a little light on impact talent after Hosmer.

Now, you may notice the suspicious absence of Mike Moustakas when Law speaks of impact talent. As has been discussed elsewhere on the Worldwide Interweb, Law is clinging to this notion that Moustakas has the build of a catcher and therefore needs to be moved to catcher. In his top 100 rankings, he had Moose tagged as his 44th best prospect and had this to say about him:

Moustakas had an odd year, to say the least: He spent the first half of the season as an awful defensive shortstop who couldn't hit a lick (but was young for his league), and the second half as an offensive machine who was sort of passable at third base.

Moustakas has a great swing, a smooth left-hander's stroke with good plate coverage and hard line-drive contact. He has intermittent power; his swing doesn't have great loft, and he needs to get his arms extended to really drive the ball, but it is in there when he gets the opportunity to use it. Physically, Moustakas offers no projection; he's 6-0, around 200 pounds or slightly more, and already thickset, with below-average speed.

He was never going to stay at short, and he may not stay at third, where he was improved but still has a lot of work to do on reading balls and improving reaction times. It has been said before, by me and others, that Moustakas should be behind the plate. He has a 65-70 arm, has a catcher's body, and caught a little bit in high school. The Royals have no catching prospects of note, and any questions about Moustakas' power become irrelevant if he's catching, because his bat will be plus back there at 15 homers a year or 30. As a catcher, he'd be top 20-25 overall.


Obviously, Keith Law is paid by ESPN, and I am just a lowly blogger who also writes for Sports Grumblings dot com. He has also possibly seen Moustakas play, as I know he attends his fair share of minor league games. He does get paid for that. He does state that his rankings are his own and independently reached without influence from outside sources.

That being said, his ranking of Moustakas at 44th in his top 100 prospects (with Hosmer--who played in only a handful of games at the Rookie Ball level after being an unfortunate casualty in the Pedro Alvarez fiasco--being the only other Royal ranked at 17th) seems to me to be quite the outlier.

At Project Prospect, Mike Moustakas is ranked fifth overall for 2010 Prospects (this list takes into account those expected to reach the Majors this season and removes them from contention), with Hosmer receiving an honorable mention nod, just missing out on the Top 10.

On the official site of minor league baseball, they have Mike Moustakas ranked 11th overall (Hosmer's 29th).

John Sickels has Moose getting the edge over Hosmer organizationally (both receive A- grades), and the most recent overall rankings he has up on his site has Moustakas at 26th heading into last season, with at least 11 of the guys ranked ahead of him on the list having garnered significant time at the Major League level.

So, Law conservatively sees the Royals as having the 12th best farm system. This with his differing view on Moustakas, who many see as a top 10 overall talent.

For all the railing we have all done on Dayton Moore this offseason, much of it justified, he has improved the Royals at almost every level of the organization. I'm not saying he should be off the hook for the questionable free agent signings and trades this off-season, but we are also not looking at having any of those players in blue past 2010. So the long-term effects (past arguably missing out on free agents--I'm not entirely convinced Furcal was the be-all, end-all solution at short and the contract the Royals may have gotten into could have been crippling) will likely be nominal, and the talent in the farm system he has acquired is certainly of a quality higher than Allard Baird was able to get (probably not all his fault, but still).

We are not far removed from the Royals being atrocious on both fronts, and the expectation for improvement yet again may have clouded our judgment slightly, but things are looking up from where they were.

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Also, head over to RoRetc's Royals bloggers Super Bowl predictions. If I'm right, I will gloat considerably.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Greinked up in Blue

The instant I saw the words "Zack Greinke" and "signs a four-year contract" I thought, "Well, Rany will be happy."

This is the first legitimately great news of this offseason for the Royals, and the second item of great news for Kansas City sports fans in the past week, coming quickly on the heels of the Herm Edwards firing (and that Mike Shanahan is out of the running for the job).

Signing Zack Greinke to a four-year deal--buying out his two remaining arbitration years and extending club control another two years--clearly signifies that the Royals have righted their defeatist ways of old that would have seen Zack Greinke leaving town via a July trade in 2010.

Signing Zack Greinke to a four-year deal sends a message to the fan base that not only is this team going to spend money via free agency but that it will also attempt to retain its young, budding superstars.

Signing Zack Greinke to a four-year deal means we get to watch Zack Greinke pitch for four more years.

Now, there is obviously a chance that this contract saddles the team with an albatross of a contract if Greinke's body breaks down like Mike Sweeney's did. At the time Sweeney signed his five year $55 million, there was no reason to believe that he would spend much of the next five years on the Disabled List. At this point in Greinke's career, the same can be said of him at the time of signing. Sure, he almost walked away from the game in 2006, but he has been stellar for two years, and the time away from the game may have actually done some good for his arm. Oh, and he did just turn 25 this last October. Regardless, as a general manager, you cannot run away from signing your own talent to long deals because you are expecting the worst to happen.

Greinke will be getting $38 million over four years: $3.75 million this year, $7.25 million in 2010, and $13.5 million in 2011 and 2012. This is very comparable to the Scott Kazmir deal inked last summer--assuming the Devil Rays exercise their club option in 2012, Kazmir will be getting $39.5 million over four years. Kazmir is about three months younger, but has a more extensive injury history and has struggled to keep his walk rate down (Kazmir's career BB/9 is a rather pedestrian 4.13 to Greinke's 2.38).

When you think about the insane amounts of money that guys like A.J. Burnett and Ryan "Cum" Dempster (who had his first good year as a starter since, what, 2000?) got this offseason, this contract looks even better.

The $3.75 million this year does not break the bank and screw the budget for this season, and the increase the following year is more than made up for by Ron Mahay's $4 million contract coming off the books after the 2009 season. By the time he hits the $13.5 million mark, the $12 million that Jose Guillen is currently getting will be gone, too, so the money to pay him will have been freed up. This should also coincide with the beginning of the wave of early round talent that Moore has gathered through the draft that are currently occupying spots on the lower levels of the farm system.

Locking up Greinke through 2012 is truly encouraging. It is unfortunate that we had to wait until the end of January for the first bit of great news, but great news it is.

Thank you, Dayton Moore. Thank you, Glass family.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

More on Teahen versus Crisp

I never know how to respond to comments (whether to respond in the comments thread or inflate my post total), so I'll do this in the form of a post.

Jeff (and thanks for the active readership--I like what y'all do at Royally Speaking), I hear what you're saying completely. I do think that the Royals might be looking at trying to get DeJesus into more situations in which he is hitting with runners in scoring position, as for most of the year last year he was amongst the league's best with runners on base. So while DeJesus may be a better lead-off hitter than Crisp, the Royals may be better off hitting DeJesus second or more likely third, even though he doesn't have the base-clearing power that one might want from the third spot in the lineup.

You do make the sound point that Teahen and Crisp were roughly the same offensively, with Crisp flashing a little more speed (although even that may be neutralized by Teahen's Larry Walkerian skills on the basepaths) and Teahen a little more power. While the offensive ratios may be comparable between Teahen and Crisp, the defensive disparity couldn't be more drastic. Do we really want to sit through another year of Mark Teahen trying to get his bearings while reading fly balls? If I had to hold my breath that much again this season, I would probably have had an aneurysm.

As for the contractual implications that the Ramon for Coco trade carries with it, I understand your argument insofar as the club control over Ramirez for four more years is concerned, and I would be inclined to agree with you in theory. Ramon Ramirez did cost the Royals very little in the first place (a player to be named later, who of course ended up being the mercurial--at least in terms of his performance on the mound--Jorge de la Rosa), and to turn around and net a player with a track record of moderate success a lot longer than the one solid year that Ramon Ramirez put together at the K does not bother me that much. The other key is that it is a club option, not a player option, so assuming Crisp does perform well, they get two years of great defense on the left side of the outfield even if the offensive numbers Crisp puts up do not differentiate themselves much from Teahen's potential stat line.

We, as fans, do tend to focus slightly too much on offense, and I do think that Crisp's glove (which Bill James insisted was otherworldly in 2007) sets him apart from Teahen. If the Royals can still find a way to pry a Mike Fontenot-type player from a team like the Cubs for Teahen (or in our wildest dreams, Jose Guillen), then the point is probably moot, but I still like the idea of Teahen being relegated to a utility role if only for what it says about the club's growing depth.

Teahen at the Two-Bag?

Well, maybe the move that everybody was speculating would happen back when Alex Gordon's presumed ascendancy to the throne of AL Rookie of the Year at the hot corner in Kansas City thrust Teahen in a new direction will be made this year, with two seasons (and two more position changes) having passed. As Sam Mellinger reported late last night, Mark Teahen has been taking grounders at second down at Trey Hillman's ranch.

Now two years ago, it was widely speculated that Teahen may get a shot at second in spite of his positionally-aberrant height (6'3") because of his general athleticism. That was only going to be possible were the Royals able to trade Mark Grudzielanek's Gold Glove to a contender in the offseason. No such trade ever happened, Teahen moved to the outfield, and all whispers ceased.

Now they can begin again, as Mark Teahen works to get his bat into the lineup. Past an injury in the outfield, Mark Teahen looks to be on the outside looking in as far as regular playing time is concerned, and if there were a real hole in the lineup that he could conceivably exploit to his advantage it would be at second.

When there was still hope for Grudz being turned into prospects from a contender, a lot of Royals fans started fantasizing

about plugging Mark Teahen's bat into the slot at second base and the ensuing increase in value at the position that we would have versus a move to the outfield where his bat was not nearly as impressive. It is an argument that still holds a certain degree of viability today, although the hope of a return to those late summer days of 2006 seems much more a dream than a reality.

Regardless of whether he is able to develop quickly enough defensively at second to be able to realistically play there often (if ever), it does speak to the increased depth of the Royals team that Teahen is at best battling for the starting job at second base and is more likely a fourth outfielder (although I personally would rather see his glove , and possibly bat, in right than Guillen's). At the very least, maybe the Royals are not looking at Willie Bloomquist as much more than a supersub.

Good God, I hope so.

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To respond to Jeff's comment in to my last post:

Of all of Moore's moves this offseason, the Crisp one makes the most sense to me--aside from the Doug Waechter signing, maybe (low-cost, solid in relief last year). I know Ramon Ramirez was solid last year, but I'd rather be getting Coco Crisp's glove than anything that Mike Jacobs brings to the table, and to me Ramirez and Nunez were fairly interchangeable. Of the other moves, signing Horacio Ramirez, Willie Bloomquist, and Kyle Farnsworth to contracts paying out much more than any of them were worth--and in the cases of Farnsworth and Bloomquist contracts past the end of this next season--irk me considerably more than getting a superb glove in center with a fly-ball prone rotation and a lead-off hitter who has shown (at least at times in his past) an ability to get on base.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Reason for Hope in an Otherwise Hopeless Offseason

Maybe hopeless is a strong word. In all fairness, the Royals will probably win more games this coming season than last. But the root of the improvement will probably have much less to do with who was brought in this offseason and much more to do with the improvement of players who were already on the 40-man roster. I mean Alex Gordon has to live up to some of his early promise, doesn't he? Billy Butler has to start to put it together for a full season sometime soon, right? If everyone else remains the same and these two start to fulfill their promise, that alone makes them a few games better.

Now, a couple of days ago the Star ran a feature on Coco Crisp in which Crisp states that his left index finger that he broke during his first season in Boston was not fully healed until the end of this past season--and he hit .341 in August and September, followed by .417 in the playoffs.

Obviously, no one is expecting a batting title from Crisp this year. The addition of his defense is what is so appealing, especially with the Royals starters being much more prone to fly balls. DeJesus in left and Crisp in center can start to make up for a lot of deficiencies on the defensive side of the equation.

But if the offensive version of Coco Crisp that we see is the Coco Crisp that was healthy in Cleveland and for the last two months in Boston, then we could actually be getting a helluva bargain for Ramon Ramirez, and maybe even an actual lead-off hitter, not just a guy hitting first.

And honestly, this is the first Royals story in quite a while that doesn't wear the stench of borderline mismanagement. The past week has been spent coming to terms with players who were offered arbitration who should have been released outright (John Buck, Jimmy Gobble, and Joel Peralta stand to make $4.89 million between them in 2009). I have to find some hope to cling to.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Royals internet community

Some brief bits:

Dr. Thunder and Southern Lightning seem to be stirring shit up over at Hapless Royals. I like the name of the blog and the incite-ful--yes, I mean incite-ful--nature of the blog is kind of amusing. It seems like something my college self might have done. I now work far too much to be able to pick fights with random people on the internet now, unfortunately.

Ray W over at Royals on Radio etc. is doing a Royals blogger Super Bowl picks article coming up soon for which I was asked to throw in my two cents.

For reasons that can only be chalked up to my negligence, I had neglected to link up both Minda Haas' blog and Keith's blog The Royal Tower, both of which are daily stops on my waltz through the interweb. My bad.

And I would imagine that our new President will no doubt spend his entire inaugural speech talking about the Royals offseason and the top prospects that will begin to infuse the team with talent on the Major League level starting at about midseason 2010.

Maybe sometime in the near future, I'll reflect upon the players getting often undeserved pay raises via arbitration--yes, I'm looking in your direction fourth outfielder Mark Teahen and LOOGY ordinaire Jimmy Gobble.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the Pseudo-Radio

So tomorrow night, I'll be pre-taping an online radio segment for SportsGrumblings.com, a site I also write for. I'll be talking fantasy baseball, not specifically Royals, but I'll try to get some Royals chatter out there. The program should be airing Saturday night at 9:00 pm ET and is accessible at this link. Programs are also archived if you're curious, as I am sure I would not be around to listen to an internet radio show on a Saturday night were I not involved with it. I believe my segment is set to begin around the 15 minute mark of the broadcast. We'll be talkin' baseball for about 45 minutes if all goes according to plan. Feel free to email any questions to:

radio@sportsgrumblings.com

should you have any sometime tonight or tomorrow, as we will be able to address questions especially if they pertain to rankings of top tier starting pitchers or offseason player movement and its impact on fantasy values.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Willie Motherf---ing Bloomquist?

I've been relatively easy on Dayton Moore this offseason, preferring to patiently wait and see how most of his offseason acquisitions pan out on the field. Obviously, this is not easy with signings that reek of overpaying like Horacio Ramirez or Kyle Farnsworth and trades in which the Royals do not actually part with an irreplaceable piece but that piece nets a player that fails to address an actual need (read: the roster redundant Mike Jacobs).

In Dayton Moore's unyielding quest to acquire every former Mariner (who hadn't previously been a Royal) that hits the free agent market, our General Manager signed Willie Bloomquist. If Moore set his sights on a General Manager to emulate, he should have looked a little harder at, oh, every GM in the game not named Bill Bavasi. Now that Bavasi is gone and Moore continues to sign players who at best questionably address the roster issues at hand and at worst complicate situations that could have been solved from within, it would seem that Moore has an unquenchable yearning to grab a hold of the recently vacated title of worst General Manager in Baseball.

His bizarre obsession with a woe-begotten franchise that has plummeted rapidly from a perch as one of the model franchises in the league into a role as one of the dregs of Major League Baseball is positively inexplicable. Since the signing of Gil Meche (the one ex-Mariner who has panned out for the Royals), the Royals signed Jose Guillen and Miguel Olivo in the offseason between 2007 and 2008 and have spent this offseason attempting to acquire every other Mariners free agent Moore could get his hands on--Vance Wilson*, Horacio Ramirez, and now Willie Bloomquist. At this rate, we should be preemptively penciling in Erik Bedard into the Royals rotation for 2010 and Adrian Beltre at the hot corner, leaving Gordon and Mike Moustakas no place to play for years to come, but obviously that is not an issue for Dayton Moore.

*Well after the fact I remembered that Vance Wilson only played for the Tigers and Mets. Never the Mariners. Mi malo.

There really isn't much of a point in my dissecting Bloomquist's resume. To deserve such an exertion of energy, he would have had to have actually done something of worth. Past being a defensive super-utility player, he hasn't. If for some odd reason, Bloomquist is only used as a late-inning defensive replacement--which would make sense to every Royals fan but would show a shocking sense of insight on Trey Hillman's part and that does not seem likely--then adding him to the roster does not hurt the Royals for the 2009 season, especially if his limited at-bats mean that Tony Pena, Jr. does not set foot inside the batter's box. Unfortunately, Bloomquist will be a Royal in 2010, as well, barring a miraculous trade. His defensive flexibility may be of value but not so much that he should be on the roster for a second season.

I understand the need for depth in the Royals middle infield. I do. Aviles is universally expected to take a step back offensively this next season. There is also the concern that his superb defensive metrics this past season were aberrant. There are behavioral concerns on the Alberto Callaspo front. It is known that he does not strikeout, but the fact remains that his career-high in at-bats was last season's 213 AB, 234 PA campaign. The optimistic Royals fan wants to believe he will pan out, but that is a fairly big uncertainty. TPJ is a known quantity in the worst way and should not have lumber in his hands. We would all like to see Esteban German's bat in the lineup more, but he is not the ideal candidate for DH-ing and his glove probably should stay in the dugout. At the minor league level, there really do not seem to viable options, even for a late-inning replacement--that is unless David Matranga isn't really a 32-year-old shortstop with six career ML plate appearances or Marc Maddox really isn't a light-hitting, little-speed second baseman who hasn't yet hit above the Double-A level.

So in the sense that the Royals are not rife with options up the middle, Bloomquist addresses a need, but two years? There wasn't anyone else out there who would sign for one year at the same yearly pay rate or less? Were money better spent this offseason, perhaps a run at Orlando Hudson would have been possible. I'm guessing guys like Pablo Ozuna or Alex Cintron or Luis Rivas would have signed for one year, and there really isn't a discernable difference between them and Willie Bloomquist. Maybe someone who hasn't worn a Mariners uniform to show that Dayton Moore has scouted more than two organizations (the Braves being the other, of course)?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Vance Wilson!

Vance Wilson--who is at least in the conversation for being the second-best Vance in Major League Baseball History (after Dazzy Vance, of course) but would have to duke it out with Vance Law, who would certainly go down swinging--is now a Royal. Well, he signed to a minor league contract.

I don't really know what this means. I'd imagine that he was signed for next to nothing to add organizational depth at the position, giving them a veteran with ML experience who could step up should both Miguel Olivo and John Buck die in a freak golf cart accident and Brayan Pena and J.R. House and Matt Tupman all get injured/perform-so-miserably-that-Vance-Wilson-needs-to-see-Major-League-significant-at-bats.

OK, so I'm kind of joking there.

Wilson has been rehabbing his right elbow for the past two seasons--limiting him to a total of three games since his surgery. He is expected to spend Spring Training with the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals (what a weird-ass name, by the way), and he actually lives in Springdale so playing in his hometown probably will not kill him if he doesn't get back to the Majors. A veteran catcher might actually be a good thing for their young arms. Wilson in Double-A handling guys like Daniel Cortes (if he does start the season in Double-A, not Omaha or the K.C.), Danny Duffy, and Dan Gutierrez or perhaps more importantly, some of their pitchers who are of the borderline variety like Blake Wood, Julio Cesar Pimentel, and Blake Johnson. A stabilizing presence like Vance Wilson in the Crash Davis vein, especially if it he stays down there for a second season, could actually help a lot of those guys who have struggled to put it together in the lower levels of the organization.

Vance Wilson getting any playing time at the Major League level (and really, even Triple-A--although I doubt he'd want to play away from his hometown if he's not with the team in Kansas City) would not be mean good things for the Royals, though.

And I just spent that much time writing about Vance Wilson. Pitchers and catchers couldn't come any sooner.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year

Well, Royals fans, welcome to 2009.

As the Royals roster takes shape, I am going to come out today and say that they will hit the 80-win mark. This is a preliminary prediction, and things can happen between now and then, but I'm saying they'll get very close to .500.

It's sad that we get to look forward to almost .500, but things are looking up from that string of 100-loss seasons.

Unfortunately, there's little to write past the fact that Japanese news networks are linking the Royals to Tadahito Iguchi as a possible destination for the unimpressive second baseman. Let's hope that's not true. Let's also hope that something happens soon that seems like a clear win this offseason.