Monday, February 28, 2011

The Farm System That The Moore Regime Has Constructed Lauded Again

Hot on the heels of the Royals' dominance on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, Kevin Goldstein's Top 101 list (subscription required, and you should subscribe) at Baseball Prospectus. Where the Royals placed nine prospects on Baseball America's Top 100 list, they have placed ten on the Baseball Prospectus list. A quick rundown shows the Royals charting as follows:

7. Mike Moustakas
11. John Lamb
12. Eric Hosmer
13. Wil Myers
21. Mike Montgomery
66. Chris Dwyer
67. Danny Duffy
76. Jeremy Jeffress 
77. Jake Odorizzi
88. Christian Colon

If you were following closely and waited for this list's release with baited breath, then you already knew there were ten Royals on the list. Knowing where they fall is a different story. Not only are there five in the top 21, but there are four before 13 hits.

Sweet Jesus.

I know we need to temper our expectations, but goddamn it feels good to have a ray of hope.

For those not keeping track at home, Baseball America charted the Royals' top prospects like so:

8. Eric Hosmer
9. Mike Moustakas
10. Wil Myers
18. Mike Montgomery
19. John Lamb
51. Christian Colon
68. Danny Duffy
69. Jake Odorizzi
83. Chris Dwyer

Obviously, we would be foolish to assume that the future is entirely contained within this list of prospects. The likelihood of the starting lineup in 2014 being

C - Salvador Perez
1B - Eric Hosmer
2B - Christian Colon
SS - Alcides Escobar
3B - Mike Moustakas
LF - Brett Eibner
CF - Lorenzo Cain
RF - Wil Myers
DH - Billy Butler

SP - Mike Montgomery
SP - John Lamb
SP - Danny Duffy
SP - Jake Odorizzi
SP - Chris Dwyer
CL - Joakim Soria

is nice in theory, but realistically some grounding needs to take place. I could finish off the 2014 25-man roster that I think we're all penciling in in our imaginations with homegrown products like Johnny Giavotella, Jarrod Dyson, Jeff Bianchi, Tim Collins, etc., but optimism and realism are two different things, and the last 17 years should have beaten any optimism out of just about all of us.

That isn't to say dreaming of that line-up isn't fun. There is also cause to believe that from the non-list-makers, players like Eibner, Dyson, Collins, Cheslor Cuthbert, Yordano Ventura, Robinson Yambati, and Jason Adam could make future lists or contribute at a meaningful level without ever having made the list. There are also guys who have lost a bit of their sheen like Aaron Crow and Tim Melville--who seemed to be the only Royals youngsters who struggled last season-- that could turn things around now or in the near future.

Now, if Dayton Moore could only begin to competently evaluate veteran talent, we could call the engravers and place our bets in Vegas.

Oh, by the way, I'd like to thank Ray W at Royals on the Radio, Etc. for linking to my bullying post and also  Michael Engel at Kings of Kauffman, Corey Ettinger at AL Central In Focus, and Will McDonald at Royals Review (and anyone else I may have missed) for linking up to my last entry (Equating Your Royals To A Character In The Wire: The Joakim Soria Edition). Engel and McDonald are well established entities in the realm of the Royals blogosphere, but Ettinger's work on the Central (Royals-specific info can be found here) should definitely be read. His scouting reports are outstanding, and the volume of work he gets done in the course of a day is often stunning. Any such treatment is much appreciated and coming from those sites serves as validation. As far as that series is concerned, I intend for the next entry to be the second installment in the series, but that can't be what this site becomes entirely.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Equating Your Royals To A Character In The Wire: The Joakim Soria Edition

This is the first in what I expect to be an ongoing series that should break the monotony of writing about a largely abysmal team. Sure things are looking up for the future, but the future is not here quite yet. When you have devoted as much time to writing about the Royals as I have, diversions like this are necessary.

Of all of the characters in the seminal crime drama series The Wire, there is perhaps no comparison more apropos than the one drawn between a character and a member of the Royals than the one between Brother Mouzone and Joakim Soria.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Obviously, both Brother Mouzone and Soria read Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, and The New Republic, but where do the similarities extend past that?

In Arabic, the word mouzone means "judicious" (at least according to Wikipedia). As any regular viewer of The Wire could tell you, the naming of the character is apt. If Joakim Soria has been one thing in his tenure with the Royals, it has been judicious. Each time out on the mound, he has been exceptionally prudent. He has parsed out pitches both carefully and expeditiously. He rarely does himself harm by giving away free passes, having never exceeded 19 walks in a season or a BB/9 higher than 2.72.

Furthermore, he wastes little while on the mound. Giving away little, he elects to go after his foes, mowing them down at an impressive 9.92 K/9. This works out to a career K/BB of 4.01. Since breaking into the Majors in 2007, only nine pitchers with at least 250 IP have posted a better K/BB than Joakim Soria. Of those ten pitchers, Soria has the lowest ERA and the second-lowest FIP and xFIP, behind only Mariano Rivera. The man means business.

He has done all of this while not looking the part of the closer. Soria is not a flame-thrower. While being 6'3", he is listed as being under 200 lbs. Unlike many closers, Soria is relatively unassuming. These are all traits that he shares with Brother Mouzone, who does not look the part of a drug enforcer and professional killer. Despite the fact than neither are the prototypes for the role they inhabit, they excel at their trade. In fact, Soria is so proficient that he has been bestowed the nickname The Mexicutioner*.

*I wrote this section before Soria tweeted that he no longer wants this nickname used because of all the violence in Mexico. The point remains, but I'll cease using the nickname per his request.

That is not all. Brother Mouzone is introduced to the show as the man who Avon Barksdale brings in from New York to regulate on Proposition Joe's crew who are slinging at the Towers. Just as Brother Mouzone is brought in from off the radar, Joakim Soria was acquired via the Rule V draft, having never pitched above high-A ball in the United States when the Royals brought him in from the Padres organization. Both are essentially brought in from foreign lands. Not unlike Brother Mouzone, whose reputation as a fearsome hired gun preceded him was balanced out with mystery as no one knew what he looked like, there was little known about Soria when he arrived in town, other than the fact that the day after Soria was selected by the Royals he performed the herculean feat of hurling a perfect game. Clearly the arrival of each was predated with tales that should have struck fear into their imminent foes.

And then there is usage. Of the The Wire's 60 episodes, Brother Mouzone appears in a scant seven episodes. Any Royals fan can tell you that the 60 innings that Joakim Soria is going to get in any given season is not enough to satisfy. There is also the related argument that perhaps, if each were used more, they would be overexposed or less effective.

There you have it: Brother Mouzone = Joakim Soria.

Comments? Concerns?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bullying of Butler and Its Parallels to Full Metal Jacket

Following a few seemingly second-hand accounts of teammates in years past calling meetings to ridicule Billy Butler, many of us have spent far too much time contemplating a redefinition of these former Royals. We have spent time hypothesizing that Zack Greinke was the ring leader. We have assumed Jose Guillen--and possibly Mike Jacobs, depending on how long we think this went on--was guilty of douchebaggery because that fits the narrative we want it to.We have let our imaginations run wild with irresponsible assumptions, possibly at the cost of innocent players' reputations, although the assumption that Jose Guillen could have been involved is at least supported by mostly factual evidence.

Now as these rumors of a less than kind clubhouse climate for a younger Billy Butler began to swirl in the small corner of the internets that we Royals fans dwell in, I couldn't help but be brought to the first half of Full Metal Jacket. The first time I saw Full Metal Jacket was while I was a freshman in college. I had a very good chubby friend who was going through boot camp at the time, and to be frank it kind of messed me up in a weirdly personal way.

Without meaning to err into any territory in which Billy Butler could take offense at the comparison, the tales of mistreatment inevitably draw me to the figure of Leonard 'Gomer Pyle' Lawrence. For those needing a frame of reference, this video should take care of it for you:

From the really hazy speculation based on hearsay and some statements that Dayton Moore made at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon (that have at been corroborated by Minda Haas without naming names), it seems like Billy Butler was a little awkward--being very young at every stop--not unlike Pvt. Lawrence. The Jose Guillen "babies" rant was mostly likely directed to him. Older players apparently seemed to have been rubbed the wrong way by the way the youngster interacted socially in the clubhouse. Some have connected Butler's statements about Greinke after the trade to the informal player meetings in which Butler was the butt of their jokes to Greinke perhaps leading these meetings*.

Sheepish Billy.
Photo courtesy of Minda Haas @
*This is easily the least verifiable of all the information presented. It was fairly well known within insider baseball circles that Butler was treated poorly by veterans. The leap to Greinke leading these meetings, or even taking part in them, seems to have come about from people using a combination of Greinke's past quotes (i.e. the following statement about Billy Butler in '09, I think: “For the first month of the season, (Billy Butler) has definitely been an above-average first baseman. That’s hard for me to say because I never thought anyone would say that but him and his family.”**) and Billy's statements regarding Zack's level of involvement, emotional and otherwise, with the Royals last season.

**Yes, this quote is funny. As fans, we can all appreciate that, and it is part of the reason we all loved Zack so much. But I can't imagine that this wouldn't piss you off as a teammate.

This all led to what was apparently some pretty cruel hazing. If it was anything like the blanket party in Full Metal Jacket, color me repulsed.

Of course, the parallels don't end at the hazing. After Pyle is hazed, he transforms a superb soldier. The same could be said for Billy, who after his initial struggles in the Majors came into his own as a hitter. I'll not venture so far as to say that the hazing turned him (because I don't think it did), but he definitely seemed to turn a corner and become a [doubles-hitting] force to be reckoned with.

Now, the awful end to Pvt. Lawrence's story clearly does not apply. He seems to have grown into the leadership role he has taken on ably. I don't think he'll be in the latrine pointing a rifle at Matthew Modine and R. Lee Ermey (Jose Guillen?) any time soon.

I guess the real issue here is that I don't like to think of Billy Butler in this context. There doesn't seem to be anything about him that is anything less than a nice guy. He settled down in Idaho Falls with his wife and daughter. He seems to live a simple life in the offseason, and I mean this in a sincerely envious way. Sure, we probably don't have a lot of common interests, but I like Billy Butler.

I don't like to think about his teammates being shitty to him.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Working on a Semi-Irregular Post

but I swear I'm working on it. I got sidetracked writing this. The Royalscentricity entry should be finished tomorrow evening and up on Friday. Until then...

  • At AL Central In Focus, Corey Ettinger lays out the payroll situation in an easy-to-read format for the Royals going forward. As we all know the only money the Royals have guaranteed
  • The Royals are apparently interested in signing John Maine to a minor-league contract. I have to say there would be very little to complain about if they did, as it is low-risk, non-guaranteed contract that gives them a guy who has been a legitimate back-end-of-the-rotation starter at the Major League level if things go to hell in a hand-basket.
  • Keep an eye on Drunk Jays Fans tonight as their initial reaction to the 5-year, $65MM deal sums it up pretty well--"Holy shit, that's way too much." Add that to the prospect of having to look at Scott Podsednik, who was signed to a minor-league deal today, and it's a huge news day for Toronto. The Bautista post has been growing as I type this.
  • ...And Jason Kendall has Craig Brown at Royals Authority (and everyone else, really) scared. Goddamn him (Kendall, not Brown).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Breaking promises

I know I have tried to have something up for y'all to read on Mondays for this offseason. The reason Mondays are the target date is because I usually have Sundays off and write then. Well, after enjoying a Sunday afternoon lounging about and shooting up hoops, I found a text message asking if I could work a bar shift. I decided this was something I had to do, as it actually pays me money.

On Wednesday I fully intend to have something up. Until then, I promise you that I will fall asleep just like I do every night, weeping silently into my pillow wondering why God hath forsaken me so and made me into a Royals fan.

Damn them Royals...

Here's a gift anyway.

(I was at this show)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Royalscentricity Linkdown

Readers of the blog know that I don't often do a link throwdown, but there are a couple of pieces out there that seem to be notable.
Searching for angels in the outfield
  • Chris Jaffe wrote the second part of his piece on the Worst World Series winners. While we may root for the worst team of the 2000s, the World Series winner of 1985 only ranks as the third-worst winner of the Series since the advent of the League Championship Series. The worst winner? The second worst? Well, many Royals fans can take solace in each of them.
  • I'd imagine almost everyone who has made their way here has already read it, but when I stated in the Pedro Feliz post on Monday that Will McDonald (at Royals Review) might just be the best pure writer of any of the Royals bloggers, he justified the statement with this dialogue between Gil Meche and Cliff Lee.
  • I got a nice shout-out from Corey Ettinger over at AL Central In Focus. Corey is covering the entire AL Central and seems to be getting as much content up as Rob Neyer has been since he moved over to SBNation. I don't know how Corey covers so much ground (22 posts in February already), but there is a lot of good prospect profiling being done over there. Given that he is also writing about the guys we'll be seeing on the field opposing the Royals, his blog covers a lot of what the future holds in the division.
  • John Sickels does a Prospect Smackdown on Craig Kimbrel and Jeremy Jeffress (pictured) over at Minor League Ball.
  • Project Prospect's Top 100 Prospects list came out on Monday. Royals finding their way onto the list: 5. Eric Hosmer; 6. Wil Myers; 16. Mike Moustakas; 20. John Lamb; 54. Mike Montgomery; 71. Jake Odorizzi; 78. Christian Colon; 90. Johnny Giavotella. The complete list can be found here. Eight prospects in all. Suspiciously present: Johnny Giavotella.
  • The Project Prospect list comes two weeks after another fairly controversial list, Keith Law's list at ESPN (subscription required). The Royals who made his list are as follows: 5. Eric Hosmer; 8. Wil Myers; 23. Mike Moustakas; 28. Mike Montgomery; 41. John Lamb; 98. Danny Duffy. Apparently, Chris Dwyer would have been 102. Despite being much less bowled over by the Royals farm system than most prospect experts, Law does rank the Royals farm system as the best in baseball, but not much ahead of Tampa. He has a reputation for hating the Royals amongst Royals fans, and he simply adds fuel to the fire here. 
  • This article is a few weeks old now, but I assumed it was ESPN Insider only and therefore did not read it. Jerry Crasnick writes about how Dayton Moore has built up the farm system so well. The thing that struck me as particularly interesting is the graphic on the side where it shows that the Royals have only had 12 draft picks in the first three rounds of the draft since 2007. Only the Indians and Orioles have had fewer. If you knock that down to first-round draft picks, the Royals have had only five, with the Indians, Orioles, and Marlins being the only teams with fewer. When you think about it this way, it makes the turnaround even more impressive. This is also why I'm glad I'm not an Astros fan. They aren't likely to start getting help from supplemental draft picks as a result of Type A or B Free Agents leaving town.
I know I lost a good chunk of readership in the second half of last season. My output was inconsistent and extremely sporadic. Mostly, this is the result of a lack of time. I moved, was without cable for over a month, and was working about 65 hours a week. Time should hopefully be something I have a little more of in the near future, as I have excised my third job from my life. I still have a few shifts left at the Crown & Anchor (don't worry, Scott), but it should open up my life a bit more for the other endeavors I want to pursue. Royalscentricity is one of them, so I want you all to know that I am at least attempting to rededicate myself to this blog.

Also, Facebook users, don't forget to become a fan of Royalscentricity (the widget is on the right side of the page), where updates are posted.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Pedro Feliz Signing: A Non-Story

Earlier I found myself compelled to write a FanPost over at Royals Review after a conversation about Brian Cashman died off. If you feel so compelled and haven't already read it, it is here. Seeing as though I've already written one 1,300+ word baseball piece today (I've been writing all of these on Sunday night), I don't anticipate this entry being especially long.

On Thursday afternoon, the Royals signed Pedro Feliz to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training with the big league club. Since it is a minor-league deal, the $800,000 that the deal was for is only good if he makes the Major League roster. He isn't on the 40-man roster.

Now some are down on this deal. Will McDonald seems to have taken the most extreme defeatist approach* to the signing, specifically in the comments section here. Some of the other commenters seemed to be of the same frame of mind. There were also the reactionary fans at the mostly laughable Facebook page and the Terez A. Paylor Kansas City Star article who started predictably started spouting off about losing Jermaine Dye and Zach [sic] Greinke.

*I want to be clear about this: Will McDonald is on the very short list of the best writers on the Royals. As far as pure writers are concerned, he might well be the best. It does, however, seem like he has been increasingly negative over the past few months. I totally understand how frustrating being a Royals fan is. Things really have been so bad at the Major League level for so long that it is hard not to feel utterly beaten down by the years and years of mismanagement. In terms of free agent acquisitions, Dayton Moore has been terrible, at least judging from the our outside perspective. The only active player with an OBP lower than Yuniesky Betancourt since 2007? You guessed it, Pedro Feliz. This is so funny it hurts. Taken at is face value, though, this signing is simply not one to get worked up over. There just does not seem to be any factual basis to make the assumption that Feliz will get meaningful playing time unless an emergency dictates this. For whatever reason, Will seems to be of a different belief--operating under a worst possible outcome scenario again. Maybe I'm being exceptionally naive with this signing, but Moore seems to be saying all the right things, as Clark Fosler noted at Royals Authority.  

Tough. Bearded. Gritty.
These reactions seem to have gone far past what they reasonably should. Feliz is simply injury insurance. The Royals lost Alex Gordon in Spring Training two seasons ago. Neither Chris Getz nor Mike Aviles are invincible. Wilson Betemit has no business playing third base. I do not see the harm in signing a fairly recent Fielding Bible Award Winner at third base. Up until this past season, he was well above average defensively.

Yes, he is horrible at the plate. Since 2005, he has triple-slashed a mind-numbingly terrible .248/.288/.396. His career OPS+ is 80. Simply put, his offense is offensive.

This is not where his value lies.

Maybe at this point, he cannot play defensively. Last year, he posted a -3.1 UZR in 804.2 IP. It could be that his days of utility with the glove are fully behind him, but this was the first time that he had posted a UZR at third below 7.5 since 2002. His lowest UZR/150 at third before 2010? 8.9. Even with the negative UZR/150 in 2010, his career UZR/150 is still a very good 14.9. For the sake of comparison, Scott Rolen's career UZR/150 is 14.7.

Even if he is done defensively, he isn't guaranteed a roster spot. The $800K is only due to him if he makes the 25-man roster. The $200K he can make in incentives are simply that--incentives. I cannot imagine a scenario in which they aren't based on playing time. After all, in the aforelinked Star article, Dayton Moore is quoted as follows:
When Mike Moustakas is ready to play in the majors, he’s going to be our third baseman. We already feel like we’re covered there if he’s not ready, but this covers us if there’s an injury.
This signing blocks no one. He makes minor league money as long as he's not on the Major League roster. The only way that happens is if there are no other options at third because of injury fallout. If Feliz is playing past June, I'll be shocked. Hell, if he plays at Kauffman at all, I will be pretty surprised.

Inspired by the mention of Face Value...