Friday, March 26, 2010

Danny Duffy: Not a Natural, O-Royal, or Royal

As we embark on another season in which the Royals look to be competing for fourth place in the American League Central, there were only a few things that we Royals fans had to look forward to. That list got a little shorter yesterday when Danny Duffy decided to walk away from the game.

For those keeping track at home, Duffy's likely retirement makes three pitching prospects widely regarded as Top 10 prospects within the organization that are no longer with the Royals--the other two being Danny Gutierrez and Dan Cortes, who were traded for next to nothing and much worse than nothing, respectively. Now that the organization has systematically dispatched of all top prospects with the Christian name of Daniel, let's hope Dayton Moore & Co. don't decide that the Mikes are next.

With this development and the John Manuel podcast report earlier in the offseason in which the organization was bristling with top pitching prospect Mike Montgomery over his desire to incorporate long-toss into his workout regimen, the pessimist within has to worry about whether or not any of these top-notch pitching prospects will ever pan out. After all, Danny Duffy was arguably the most advanced of any of the Royals' young hurlers up until Wednesday, with only the relatively untested Aaron Crow being as close* to the Majors as Duffy had been.

*Realistically, Crow's age and the fact that he came along through the college ranks likely would have resulted in Crow making it to Kansas City even before Duffy's injury, but now that's all speculation.

It should be noted that Duffy's strained left elbow could surely have been a factor in his decision "to leave baseball at this time to reassess his life priorities,"* despite assertions to the contrary.

*J.J. Picollo quote from a club statement cited in the afore-linked Bob Dutton article in the Star.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Logjammin': Middle-Infield Style

First things first, I need to apologize for my month long absence here. I've spent much of the last two months writing preseason fantasy baseball articles for Sports Grumblings. Sure, I've only written three articles, but they were 6,326, 4,775, and 6,829 words long, and when you couple that with the increased hours working as a result of being a quasi-seasonal worker and officiating over a now-three-week-long Year: One Keeper League fantasy draft on a message board, you could say I've been spread pretty thin lately.

So again apologies all around, but if you thought about the prospect of writing 18,000 words for draft kits while balancing a 60+ hour work week, you would probably understand the lack of output here (and at my other three blogs--yes, there is a third one).

Anyway, we're in the throes of Spring Training, and we've already got everyone and their sister writing about who should be cut or jettisoned from this roster that most closely resembles Frankenstein's monster.

There's Jackie Treehorn-style Log Jam in the middle infield, especially at second, where not only Chris Getz and Alberto Callaspo are duking it out, but so is Mike Aviles, whose surgically repaired (Tommy John) throwing elbow is thought to need more time to recover and therefore will not be able to throw across the diamond from short quite yet. Obviously, everyone who doesn't work in the Royals front office would love to see anyone other than Yuniesky Betancourt at short. Assuming that Aviles' elbow isn't ready yet, why is there virtually no talk of trying the fleet-footed Getz at short and Callaspo at second. The Royals have given Getz a total of five at-bats at short over the course of two games, both of which occurred almost two weeks ago.
*warning: video not appropriate for all ages

For a team that was willing to explore the possibility of slotting Mark Teahen at second base last season to get his bat into the lineup, it would seem that a slightly more logical move like trying to move Getz to short for the time being would make a whole helluva lot more sense given their roster make up and their need to get Callaspo's bat into the lineup everyday.

Despite Dayton Moore's assertions to the contrary, Betancourt is a vortex through which the entire team will get sucked if allowed onto the field too much--and "too much" could just as easily read, "at all." With his already abysmal glove and brutal batsmanship, nearly any middle infielder on the roster would be an upgrade.

Unfortunately, if we are meant to judge positional playing time as an indicator as to where players may end up, the only other player in camp who is getting any in-game reps at short is the limited Wilson Betemit. Why they have decided that Wilson Betemit is the best in-house option as the non-Yuni shortstop is utterly baffling. Sure, Betemit has garnered playing time at all of the infield positions, but the only position he has logged enough time at to draw any reasonable conclusions from is third, and there is nothing about his play there and his career -11.1 UZR/150 in 1623.2 innings that would suggest a move to short would be wise.

Yet, this is where we find ourselves. In-house options make more logistical sense than what seems to be playing itself out on the field. One of the only legit bats on the roster is being squeezed out because Jose Guillen presumably needs to get $12 million worth of at-bats, and there is no room for that bat at second because the moves that beg to be made will not happen.

Meanwhile, lesser options are getting more audition time to play back up to a man they're stuck with because The Management saw fit to trade two minor league pitchers (one being a top 10 organizational prospect, of course) to hamstring the team with the worst defensive shortstop in baseball and the worst offensive shortstop in baseball complete in one sleek package.

What do you do if your starting shortstop is the worst at his position in all of baseball? Well, if you are the Royals, you try to slide a below-average third baseman (both offensively and defensively) into that slot. It's likely that Betemit couldn't possibly be worse than Betancourt. Unfortunately, even if that were true, it does nothing to get both Getz and Callaspo's bats into the lineup, which is really what needs to happen.

So while Betancourt needs to be cut loose now (as does Guillen, of course), there is nothing to indicate that common sense has crept into Dayton Moore's train of thought because they continue to pursue non-solutions to their problems.