Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Royals Hot Stove in Review: The First Movement(s)

As has been his modus operandi in his tenure at One Royal Way, Dayton Moore has wasted little time in heating up the stove.  As we Royals fans have become accustomed to, the moves that Dayton Moore* has made thus far have been met with a tepid response from the fan base, and by 'fan base' I mean bloggers.

*When typing 'Moore,' I inadvertently plunked out 'Moron.'  While not intentional, I felt it was funny enough to make note of here. 

Moore & Co. kicked off this 2010-'11 off-season with the claiming of Joaquin Arias* off of waivers.  Whether or not this was an effort to breathe life into what should have been a dead Contest, the claiming of this Mets castoff addressed what clearly had to be Dayton Moore's top off-season priority...

*Leading to other announcers surely butchering his name, as they have Joakim Soria despite his All-Star status.  This also will only confuse the legions of casual hipster Royals fans who already thought that this was the Royals closer:


Praying to the Gods of Utilitarian Cutlery
Replacing the dearly departed* Willie Bloomquist.

*Pennant race or not, being shipped to Cincinnati may as well be wishing death upon someone. 

In Joaquin Arias, the Royals have basically acquired a 26-year-old version of Willie Bloomquist.  Having garnered very little playing time at the Major League level, making too much out of a utility infielder's 275 plate appearances spread out over four seasons probably isn't very useful.  His triple-slash in the Majors has been .276/.314/.362, which is actually pretty comparable to his minor league line of .285/.317/.378.  If a sub-.700 OPS leaves you wanting, you're not alone.  That minor league triple-slash is not dissimilar the one Bloomquist posted (mostly before the age of 25) of .281/.336/.375. 

Over the course of nearly 3,400 plate appearances in just under 800 minor league games played, Arias has stolen 138 bases and been caught 51 times, good for a rather pedestrian 69.3% success rate.  Like Bloomquist, Arias has spent most of his young career manning either second or short.  His strike-out rate in the minors is just below 10% (9.9%), which is solid enough, but his walk-rate in the minors has been a paltry 4.3%.  To put this into perspective, Miguel Olivo's career walk rate in the Majors is 4.1%.
As long as he continues to hate the Tigers, I'll cope

The difference with Olivo, of course, is that he has extra-base power.  A 4.0% walk-rate, although never exactly palatable, is damn near worthless when in the form of an only moderately speedy slap-hitter whose likelihood of hitting a home run in an at-bat was a Bloomquistian 0.88% (for comparison, Willie's was 0.81% in the minors, and we all know how he turned out).

Now if you thought that the acquisition of Willie Bloomquist 2.0 would have sated Moore's hunger for cast-off utility infielders, you couldn't have been more wrong.

Enter Lance Zawadzki. 

To be fair, Zawadzki had been a borderline top ten prospect in the Padres organization heading into the 2010 season, but he lost a bit of his luster after a 2010 campaign that saw him hit a meager .225/.291/.316 between Double-A and Triple-A.  It is hard to look at those numbers, especially his stint with the same Double-A affiliate that he ended 2009--managing to see his triple-slash drop from .289/.372/.416 in 92 games to .216/.280/.345 in 35 games with San Antonio this year--without wondering whether or not he was playing hurt this year.

Unofficially courtesy of AP...  (Thanks?)
While he does turn 26 this coming May, it is still conceivable that the once somewhat highly regarded prospect could improve on his .268/.344/.401 career minor league triple-slash.  Clearly, there is more upside to his bat than there is to Arias's.  Zawadzki is also reported to have a solid glove and a very good arm and, like Arias, can play second (and third, for that matter), although he has primarily played shortstop in the minors.

With a far more respectable 10.0 BB%, his 20.2% K-rate and .495 BB/K ratio are such that he may be able to play semi-regularly without being a black hole in the batting order.  He has also enjoyed an 84% success rate in stealing bases.  As his slugging percentage would indicate, Zawadzki looks to be a better waiver claim than Arias, but given his woeful 2009, it is hard to get excited about him in anything more than a pipe-dream kind of way.  Unfortunately, for either one of these guys to be anything more than slightly cheaper Sporks, too much would have to break the Royals' way.

This just goes to show that you can take the Bloomquist out of KC, but two more just pop up in his place.

In the next installment: DeJesus is dealt, but for what?

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