Results tagged ‘ Joakim Soria ’
Happy Holland Days
The Texas Rangers are going all-out in their efforts to land free agent Zack Greinke.
In an effort to clear payroll and a spot in the starting rotation, they are fielding calls on left-hander Derek Holland.Only 26 years old, the Rangers signed him to a 5-year, $28 million extension this March, making him extremely valuable to both the Rangers and a potential trade partner. He wouldn’t command Wil Myers, but would have to bring top prospects like Jake Odorizzi or John Lamb back to Texas in return. In 2012, Holland went 12-7 in 27 starts with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with a 7:3 K:BB ratio – good for a WAR of 1.7. The Brewers and Twins are also calling Texas GM Jon Daniels about the lefty.
Super Trade in the Works?
The Rangers are also trying desperately add Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton in exchange for a starting shortstop, but Texas is unwilling to surrender either one of Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, leading them to explore a mulit-team deal, in which the Royals are said to be included in. The other team said to be included is the Cleveland Indians, who are shopping shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and could be dealt to Arizona in this scenario.
Of course, all of this is barring whther or not Josh Hamilton re-signs with the Rangers. If Hamilton goes back to Texas, this deal is likely off the table.
Here’s how it could shake down as of right now:
- Rangers get: OF Justin Upton + other(s)
- Dbacks get: SS Asdrubal Cabrera + other(s)
- Indians get: RHP Trevor Bauer/LHP Tyler Skaggs + other(s)
- Royals get: LHP Derek Holland + other(s)
Is this deal likely to happen? Probably not. Trades like this generally fall apart due to the number of teams involved. The Royals would have to give up a number of prospects if everything goes through, being as they aren’t currently open to dealing an everyday player or Wil Myers in almost any trade.
There are other reports that the Rays are in on the deal with the Rangers making their way out of it. In that scenario, the Royals could wind-up with either James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson.
Royals, among others are in on Shaun Marcum. He had a 3.70 ERA last season for the Brewers, but was only able to make 21 starts before missing the rest of the season due to an elbow issue.
Free agent pitchers with elbow issues are likely going to sign incentive laden one-year deals. Given the fact that Marcum will be 31 by the time the 2013 season rolls around, the Royals could get him on the cheap if he really wants to pitch in Kansas City – which is his hometown incase you haven’t heard that before from everyone who writes about the Royals for the past six months.
Teams are wary of Marcum because his fastball velocity, which usually sits anywhere between 86-89 mph, has dipped down to around 81-83 mph. He underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2008, and there is the fear that he may require undergoing the procedure for a second time.
Let’s Stay in Touch
Although they likely won’t be able to afford either one of them, the Royals are reportedly keeping in touch with free agent RHPs Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.
Both Sanchez and Loshe are seeking mulit-year deals in excess of $15 million per season. Until Zack Greinke decides where he wants to pitch for the next 5+ years, it’s unlikely that either Sanchez or Loshe sign a deal. Greinke is going to set the market for free agent starting pitchers this offseason and will likely drive up the price of many of the remaining available top starters.
The Royals are also keeping tabs on RHP Ryan Dempster. It’s been reported that they offered Dempster a two-year, $26 million contract last week, only to have Dempster turn it down because he’s looking for a three year deal. Right now, Dayton Moore is unwilling to give the extra year that Dempster is holding out for. The Brewers and Red Sox are also showing interest.
Not Even Close
That’s how former Royals closer Joakim Soria characterizes the Royals offer to him.
Incase you haven’t heard, Soria and the Texas Rangers have agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal.
Soria knows that the Royals have a great bullpen and acknowledges that the team has greater needs right now. He went on to thank the fans and organization for the six years he spent here.
Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, taking place this year in Nashville, is possibly the most exciting/frantic/nerve-racking four day period of the offseason. General managers, scouts, and agents alike will be calling, texting, and talking one another’s ear off in hopes of finding the right fit- to either make a trade or sign a free agent.
When it comes to the Royals and Dayton Moore, there are no questions as to what the Royals want, who they’re willing to part with, and how roughly how much money they have to make a deal happen. The Royals want relatively young, controllable, cost-effective starting pitching; are willing to listen to offers involving practically any player outside of Salvador Perez, and have a “soft cap” of around $70 million for 2013.
Starting pitching is going to set the price this winter, whether it be through the free agent or trade market. Zack Greinke is looking to become the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history, Anibal Sanchez is said to be looking for a multi-year contract worth roughly $15-20 million per year, Scott Feldman landed a one-year, $6 million deal, and two-years, $26 million wasn’t enough for the Royals to land Ryan Dempster (not yet, at least).
So who do the Royals deem worthy of pursuit?
So far, we’ve heard about the Royals interest in a few of the game’s better starting pitchers: James Shields (Rays), Jon Lester (Red Sox) and R.A. Dickey (Mets).
James Shields has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in baseball over the past three or so seasons, but he’s owed $11 million in 2013 and has a $12 million team option for 2014. So barring an extension, he’d be hitting the free agent market after 2014. He also turns 32 later this month. In return, the Rays are looking for immediate offensive production and have been asking about top prospect Wil Myers and DH Billy Butler. The Rays are also said to be open to dealing Jeremy Hellickson in a potential deal and would listen on lefties David Price and Matt Moore.
Jon Lester, who is coming off a down season (9-14, 4.82 ERA), is in the same boat as Shields: he’ll be making roughly $12 million in 2013 and has a team option of $13 million for 2014 (which can be voided by Lester if he finishes first or second in Cy Young voting). He’ll be 29 in January. The Red Sox are in a transition period, where they intend to compete while restructruring their roster. Of course, they too would like to add Wil Myers’ bat to their lineup, but could use help at nearly every position outside of second base and center field.
R.A. Dickey, who is 38 years young, is coming off a career year where he went 20-6 with a 3.73 ERA en route to winning the NL Cy Young award. While R.A. would immediately become the Royals’ ace, he won’t be had for next to nothing. The Mets are likely trying to command a significant haul for Dickey. Given his age, they’re going to have a hard time doing so. The Mets are said to be looking for a catcher, outfielders, and bullpen arms. The Royals won’t dangle Perez, nor would they Wil Myers. I could see them building a deal around Aaron Crow + prospect help however.
The team is still reportedly interested in right-hander Bud Norris of the Astros. He’s young (27), controllable (first-time arbitration this offseason), relatively inexpensive, would not cost the team much in terms of big league talent, nor would he command a top prospect like Myers.
Other rumored trade partners are the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. Both organizations are said to have serious interest in Billy Butler. The Mariners have the starting pitching depth (Jason Vargas, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, Brandon Maurer) along with secondary players (possibly 2B Dustin Ackley or SS/2B Nick Franklin) to spin a deal for the 26-year old slugger. Outside The Orioles on the other hand don’t really have enough pitching depth that they would be able to pull from in order to land Butler.
I’m not high on trading Butler for prospects unless the Royals are able to land another starting pitcher – either through trade
In contrast, with Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, and Jeff Francoeur all officially on board for next season, the Dayton Moore will be looking to ship one or all of them in order to free up payroll. Hochevar is on schedule for around $4 million through arbitration, Chen is due $4.5 million this season, while Frenchy is due $7.5 million.
Finding takers for Hoch and Chen, although difficult, would presumably be easier to do than finding a taker for Frenchy. But if the Royals were able to move any of said contracts, it could severely impact their ability to attain starting pitching, allowing them to potentially go after free agents like Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Loshe, Ryan Dempster, or Edwin Jackson.
Other free agents the Royals are considering that possibly fall within their price range: Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum, Jair Jurrjens, Brett Myers, Carlos Villanueva, and Jeff Karstens. None of the aforementioned pitchers would demand a large multi-year deal, which fits perfectly within the realm of what Dayton Moore is trying to do.
The Royals are also reportedly seeking a veteran infielder who can play shortstop. Apparently they don’t think current utility guys Tony Abreu and Irving Falu fit the bill defensively at short, going so far as to say that if Alcides Escobar were to miss significant playing time they’d likely promote either Christian Colon or Alex McClure from the minors to fill the position. Veterans free agents like Ronny Cedeno, Alex Gonzalez, and Ryan Theriot all profile for the role.
- Joakim Soria, who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, has agreed to a two-year deal reportedly worth $8-9 million with the Texas Rangers. He’ll still be rehabing when Opening Day 2013 comes around, but when he comes back he’ll serve as the set-up man for closer Joe Nathan. The Angels, Red Sox, and Reds were also reportedly in on Soria.
- Mitch Maier has officially agreed to a minor-league contract with the Boston Red Sox.
- The Dodgers, Angels, and Rangers are said to the top contenders for the services of one Donald Zackary Greinke. Zack is said to possibly command as much as 7-years and $185 million on the open market. The Braves have been rumored to have interest in him as well.
With a 7-6 victory over the Padres last night, the Royals wrapped up Spring Training at 16-15. Hey, take it for what it is. Yeah, it’s only Spring Training. But you have to start somewhere, right?
The Royals 2012 Spring Training was… interesting. We saw injuries (both significant and not), position battles/tinkering, rotation and bullpen shuffles, promotions, demotions, trades, off-the-chart performances, contract extensions, etc.
So here’s a quick recap of it all:
- Significant Injuries
- Manny Pina C: Feb. 22 - torn right meniscus (knee), 60 Day DL
- Salvador Perez C: Mar. 14 – torn left meniscus (knee), 60 Day DL
- Joakim Soria RHP: Mar. 19 – Tommy John surgery (right elbow), 15 Day DL – will miss 2012
- Slightly Less Significant Injuries
- Blake Wood RHP: Mar. 26 – sore right elbow (ulner nerve), 15 Day DL
- Felipe Paulino RHP: Mar. 26 – sore right elbow/forearm, 15 Day DL
Each one of the injuries required reactionary moves from the club. The injuries to Pina and Perez forced the Royals to look for a veteran, defense-first catcher; leading to the acquisition of Humberto Quintero. Soria’s injury opened up the closer role to one or all of Holland, Broxton, and Crow. It also opened up a full-time spot in the bullpen for a fresh face. Blake Wood’s spot became up for grabs, but he was a fringe bullpen guy to begin with. The loss of Felipe opened up two rotation spots for Mendoza and Duffy, as well as the long-relief spot for Everett Teaford.
- Position Battles
- Second base
- Injuries aside, the combo of Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt winning the 2B job over Johnny Giavotella was the biggest shock of the Spring. Virtually everyone, myself included, basically gave Gio the job before the Royals arrived in Surprise. But, to their credit, Getz and Yuni outperformed Gio and currently present better options defensively for KC.
- Fifth Starter
- The first three rotation spots were a given: Chen, Hochevar, and Sanchez. The last two spots were up for grabs, but Paulno and Duffy basically had dibs on the spots. But the performance of Luis Mendoza changed all of that. He was without a dout the best pitcher in Royals camp, forcing the Royals to give him a rotation spot. And once Paulino went to the DL, Duffy had the fifth spot locked up.
- Lefty Relievers
- No lefty had a bullpen spot given to them coming into Sporing Training, although Jose Mijares was close. Every bullpen should have at least one lefty, but two would be more ideal, and three would be perfect; and that’s what the Royals wound up with. Jose Mijares, Tim Collins, and Everett Teaford comprise the left-side of the bullpen – beating out other lefties Tommy Hottovy and Francisely Bueno. Mijares and Collins will serve as middle relief/situational lefties, while Teaford will be the swing-man/spot-starter
- Second base
- Eric Hosmer: Right Fielder
- Say what? That can’t be right, can it? Yep. It happened. A few times, actually. In order to maximize offense against NL teams, the Royals tinkered around with Eric Hosmer in RF (and Jeff Francoeur in CF) so they could have both Hoz and Billy Butler in the lineup. Hosmer is a good enough athlete that playing RF shouldn’t be difficult at all for him. He has a terrific arm and good enough speed that I thought he could have been an everyday right fielder in the minors (this was all before we had Frenchy, Wil Myers was still a catcher, and Kila Ka’aihue was mashing in Omaha).
- 12 Man Shuffle
- Rotation (5)
- Chen L, Hochevar R, Sanchez L, Mendoza R, Duffy L
- No, Montgomery won’t be opening the season in Kansas City. Neither will Felipe Paulino, but not for the same reasons. Monty didn’t perform well in his few outings, and Paulino was sent to the DL, which opened up spots for Mendoza and Duffy.
- Chen L, Hochevar R, Sanchez L, Mendoza R, Duffy L
- Bullpen (7)
- Holland R, Broxton R, Crow R, Herrera R, Mijares L, Collins L, Teaford L
- Without Soria, the roles in back-end of the bullpen are up in the air. Holland and Broxton are the clear front-runners for the closing position, with Aaron Crow not far behind.
- The most notable surprise here was Kelvin Herrera taking a spot away from Louis Coleman. Herrera had a great Spring, and Coleman scuffed a bit as roster cuts loomed. Herrera has the potential to be a closer someday. Luckily for him, someday may come soon.
- Holland R, Broxton R, Crow R, Herrera R, Mijares L, Collins L, Teaford L
- Rotation (5)
- Notable Promotions
- Kelvin Herrera RHP, Everett Teaford LHP
- See above.
- Kelvin Herrera RHP, Everett Teaford LHP
- Notable Demotions
- Johnny Giavotella 2B, Louis Coleman RHP, Jarrod Dyson OF, Sean O’Sullivan RHP
- If you’ve been reading, you already know why Gio and Sweet Lou were demoted to Omaha.
- Jarrod Dyson became expendable with the acquistion of OF/U Jason Bourgeois. Dyson has the speed and defensive tools down, but he really needs to learn how to keep his flyball rates down so he can appropriately use his speed (similar to Juan pierre). Afterall, you can’t hustle out a pop-up.
- The demotion of Sean O’Sullivan is no surprise. But in order to do so (since SOS was out of minor league options), the Royals had to place him on waivers – making him available to the rest of the league. Since nobody placed a claim on him, the Royals were able to send him to Triple A.
- Johnny Giavotella 2B, Louis Coleman RHP, Jarrod Dyson OF, Sean O’Sullivan RHP
- LHP Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL (KC) for C Humberto Quintero and OF/U Jason Bourgeois (HOU)
- Chapman is a solid C+ to B- lefty reliever who would have been a welcome addition to the Royals in the future, but he (along with an unknown) helped the Royals land two veterans who can help the team this season.
- Quintero is a career backup, but has seen enough playing time throughout his career that you pretty much know what you’llget out of him. Solid defense, below-average-but-acceptable offense. He’ll compliment Brayan Pena, as they’ll likely be splitting time at the catcher position until Sal Perez returns.
- Jason Bourgeois is capable of playing all three OF positions, as well as some 2B and 3B. So, needless to say, his versatility is his biggest tool. And although he isn’t as fast as Dyson, he provides extra speed off the bench.
- OF Greg Golson (KC) for cash considerations (CWS)
- The Royals made an inter-divisional trade by shipping Golson to the White Sox for cash. Golson is a quick OF capable of filling in at each spot, but his bat has never really been there. He was a non-roster invitee this Spring, so nothing was really lost. He never really had a shot to make the roster anyway.
- LHP Kevin Chapman and a PTBNL (KC) for C Humberto Quintero and OF/U Jason Bourgeois (HOU)
- Performance Reviews
- Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler each hit over .360 this Spring, with Hosmer leading the league in RBI. If they can carry their performances into the season, the Royals may have one of the best 1-4 hitters in baseball in 2012.
- Hopefully, since Mike Moustakas is a notorious “slow starter”, he got all of that out of the way this Spring. He only his .240, but came around a little bit as ST came to an end.
- Bruce Chen and Jonathan Sanchez had rough Springs, as did Danny Duffy (even though he did show flashes of dominance).
- Luke Hochevar showed that he may have gotten his career on the right track, and Luis Mendoza made Royals fans, scouts, and coaches a believer.
The season begins tomorrow night in Anaheim against Prince Albert and the Angels at 9:05 CT. It’ll be Bruce Chen vs. Jered Weaver.
Here’s to hoping the Royals can make this a fun, interesting, and competitive season! Do your part and get out to The K!
It’s set. That’s it. No take backs, do overs, quitsies, or anti-quitsies. Triple stamped it, no erasies, touch blue make it true. (Dumb & Dumber, for the layperson)
The Royals have officially set their 2012 Opening Day 25-man roster. And aside from maybe one or two guys, it’s pretty much what we all should have expected it to be. So they’ll break camp with 13 hitters and 12 pitchers.
Catchers (2): Brayan Pena, Humberto Quintero
- C’mon… Did you really expect Cody Clark to make the team? Quintero is a proven catch and throw guy, who will give the Royals solid defense when he’s behind the plate 3-4 days a week.
Infielders (6): Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas
- The demotion of Johnny Giavotella (and thus the presence of Chris Getz) was the only real surprise here. Yuni and Getz will share the 2B/Utility role until Gio earns another look. Other than that, after the Yuni signing, you could have pegged everyone else from the get go.
Outfielders (5): Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bourgeois, Mitch Maier
- The addition of the speedy and versatile Bourgeois made light-hitting Jarrod Dyson expendable. Bourgeois mashed lefties in 2011 (.395 AVG), and spent significant time at all 3 OF positions, as well as a few games at 2B. He also can play at 3B if needed.
- Lorenzo Cain has been off the charts this Spring, leading the league in what seems to be almost every offensive category. I don’t think we’ll see any loss of production from Melky to Zo in CF.
Starters (5): Bruce Chen-L, Luke Hochevar-R, Jonathan Sanchez-L, Luis Mendoza-R, Danny Duffy-L
- Flip Paulino going to the DL really set up the rotation. If it weren’t for his injury, Duffy would have most likely been reassigned to Triple A.
- Luis Mendoza has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball this Spring, essentially forcing the Royals to give him a spot in the rotation.
Bullpen (7): Greg Holland-R, Jonathan Broxton-R, Jose Mijares-L, Aaron Crow-R, Tim Collins- L, Everett Teaford-L, Kelvin Herrera-R
- Once again, Paulino’s injury helped someone else make the roster: Everett Teaford. By all accounts, Teaford earned his spot on the team, but without Paulino or Mendoza in the bullpen, Teaford becomes the long reliever / spot-starter.
- Kelvin Herrera was the true dark horse here. Louis Coleman had the job locked down until he allowed runs in 5 of his last 6 appearances, basically handing the job over to Herrera. Kelvin has been dominant so far, even earning himself 2 Saves this Spring.
Disabled List (5): Salvador Perez (60 day), Manny Pina (60 day), Joakim Soria (IR), Felipe Paulino (15 day), Blake Wood (15 day)
- How disappointing… The loss of Sal Perez stings the most. Given the severity of his injury, he most likely won’t be able to return to the team until after the All-Star break.
- Losing Soria, although it may appear huge on the surface, doesn’t really affect the Royals as much as people may think. Yes, he is a proven performer, but he plays a position that is way overvalued. He got knocked around in ST, looking an awful lot like he did at the beginning of 2011.
And incase you’re wondering where everyone else who was left in camp went, here you go:
Reassigned to Triple A Omaha (2): Louis Coleman-R, Jeremy Jeffress-R
Reassigned to Minor League Camp (4): Tommy Hottovy-L, Francisely Bueno-L, Max Ramirez-C, Kevin Kouzmanoff-3B
This flurry of moves leaves the Royals with 26 healthy players in camp. But you can only break Spring Training with 25 players on your active roster, so one guy has to go. And that man is…
SOS is out of minor league options. So in order for the Royals to rid him for good, they’ll have to place him on waivers, meaning any other team can claim him for themselves. O’Sullivan will be the starter for tonight’s game against the White Sox, basically auditioning for any team who might think about claiming him.
Surprises from Surprise
- Chris Getz/Yuni combo over Johnny Giavotella
- Kelvin Herrera over Louis Coleman
Johnny Be Gone
I think it’s safe to say “Um…. what?”
Even though the 2B job has been up for grabs this entire Spring, I’m sure we all assumed that this was going to be Johnny Giavotella’s job come Opening Day. Well, not so fast.
After hitting just .250/.267/.318 through Sunday (11-44), Ned Yost decided that it was time to make a bold decision and send Gio to Triple A Omaha to get everyday work. He cited Gio’s defense as the main reason he was optioned to Omaha, stating in a Royals.com article, “Johnny was three days away from hitting .350. That wasn’t the issue. It was the defense. Johnny is a much better defender than he was at this time last year, but we had two better defensive options in Betancourt and Getz.”
Although I am not the biggest fan of sending Giavotella down, both Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt have been outperforming him this Spring, albeit not by a landslide. But offensive production isn’t the key here. It’s defense. Both Getz and Yuni are superior defenders to Gio, and both give the Royals versatility, as they can both play 2B, SS, and 3B.
Getz possesses better speed, is a terrific situational hitter/bunter, and adds another bat from the left side. Yuni has pop from the right side of the plate and is earning a nice paycheck, so the option of him not landing on the roster was never there.
Yost figures not to “platoon” Yuni and Getz and 2B, but to play them in a situational basis, albeit Getz will most likey play against RHPs, and Yuni against LHPs. When either one is not playing, they will serve as the backup/situational infielder.
The great thing I see about Gio being sent to Omaha is that the Royals now are in a position to play who has been truly the best at a given position. If you want to play, you have to earn it – which is a far cry from the organization’s former ways.
Though if Johnny gets off to a hot start in Triple A, I have no doubt that he’ll be back in Kansas City before long.
Also optioned to Triple A were OF Jarrod Dyson (due to the arrival of Jason Bourgeois), and RHP Vin Mazzaro. RHP Zach Miner, C Cody Clark, and IFs Tony Abreu and Irving Falu were all reassigned to Minor League camp.
So Long, Soria?
With Joakim Soria opting to undergo his second Tommy John surgery in the coming week, has he thrown his last pitch as a Royal?
The typical recovery time from TJ surgery is anywhere between 10-14 months, give or take. So if all goes according to plan, Soria won’t begin throwing again until around this time next year, meaning he may not even pitch at all next season (2013).The Royals hold two club options for Soria: one for 2013, and one for 2014. If the Royals decide to pick up said options, they would owe him $8 million in 2013, and $8.75 million in 2014. If the Royals decide not to pick up Soria’s options, they can choose to buy them out for $700K. If they do in fact buyout his options, Soria will become a Free Agent.
With the emergence of Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, and the presence of Jonathan Broxton, the Royals have a very difficult decision to make in the coming year. Do you keep Soria and pay him $8 million+, or do you buyout his options and hope you can re-sign him to a friendlier deal? It all depends on how Soria’s elbow takes to it’s second Tommy John surgery in 10 years.
Two for One
As we all know, the first 3 spots in the Royals starting rotation have been locked down since before the first ball was thrown this Spring: Chen, Hochevar, and Sanchez. And given his recent spurts of domination, Danny Duffy appears to have solidified his spot in the rotation as well, giving the Royals 3 lefties in the rotation.
And so it has all come down to two pitchers for one spot: incumbent Felipe Paulino vs. Luis Mendoza (both RHPs).
Paulino came to the Royals last season from Colorado and didn’t disappoint, becoming one of the teams’ more reliable staters. But Felipe has been knocked around a bit in 2012, to the tune of a 7.71 ERA in 11.2 IP, with 9 Ks to 5 BBs and a .348 AVG against.
Luis Mendoza was the PCL Pitcher of the Year in 2011, which earned him a stint in KC last September. Up to this point, Luis has been arguably the best pitcher in Royals camp this Spring, going 4-0 in 16.2 IP, with a 0.54 ERA (!), 16:3 K:BB ratio, while managing to keep opposing hitters below the infamous Mendoza Line (.180).
Right now, it appears that the job is Mendoza’s to lose, with Paulino heading to the bullpen to serve as a long reliever/spot starter for the time being. Neither Paulino nor Mendoza have any options remaining, so neither can be sent to Triple A without clearing waivers first, which in all likelihood would not happen.
All along, Yost has said that he wanted to have Gordon at the top of the order, with Johnny Giavotella hitting in the 2 slot. But with the recent demotion of Gio to Omaha, who will Ned slide into the no.2 slot? Here are a few looks:
1. LF Gordon – L
2. CF Cain – R
3. 1B Hosmer – L
4. DH Butler – R
5. RF Francoeur – R
6. 3B Moustakas – L
7. 2B Betancourt – R
8. C Pena – S / Quintero – R
9. SS Escobar – R
Versus LHPs, Lorenzo Cain to me is the obvious choice here. He’s been tearing up opposing pitchers this spring, leading the team in AVG, OBP, SLG%, OPS, RS, H, 2B, HR, TB, and XBH. And right behind him in a lot of those categories is leadoff hitter Alex Gordon. So with Gordon’s high OBP, that means that he has a good chance to be on base with a competent Cain hitting right behind him. Cain also has above-average speed, so teaming him up at the top of the order with Gordon potentially creates a matchup nightmare.
1. LF Gordon – L
2. 2B Getz – L
3. 1B Hosmer – L
4. DH Butler – R
5. 3B Moustakas – L
6. RF Francoeur – R
7. CF Cain – R
8. C Pena S / Quintero R
9. SS Escobar – R
Versus RHPs, Chris Getz fits into the 2 slot perfectly, giving the Royals three left-handed hitters at the top of the order against righties. Plus, as I said earlier, Getz is a great situational hitter, which could allow the Royals offense to get off to a quick start if Gordon gets on ahead of him, i.e. hit-and-runs, sacrifice/slap bunts.
As if Salvador Perez’s injury wasn’t enough, now we get news that Joakim Soria may miss some significant time, and quite possibly the entire 2012 season.
Soria was throwing in the 5th inning of Sunday’s win over the Indians when he started to feel some pain in his right elbow. He proceeded to throw another pitch before signaling to Ned Yost and trainer Nick Kenney to come out to the mound, where they all mutually agreed that his elbow was of more concern than the next pitch.
Yost and Soria both stated after the game that the pain was of great concern. Yost said, “”When guys start to have problems, the first thing that goes is their command a lot of times, and Jack was throwing the ball with good velocity, but he just wasn’t the Jack that we’ve known — where he’s been able to get out and extend on his pitches.”
Joakim definitely hasn’t been pitching like the All-Star he once was. We all know about his struggles at the beginning of last season, and now they have seemed to carry over into Spring Training. In just 3.1 IP, Soria’s been knocked around to the tune of 10 hits (.556 AVG against), 7 runs (all earned), and a whopping 3.30 WHIP.
An MRI on Monday revealed a potentially serious issue: damage to Soria’s ulnar collateral ligament. The very same ligament that forced him to have Tommy John surgery back in 2003.
So if Soria has to undergo his second Tommy John surgery, he will most definitely be out for the season.
But unlike with the Salvador Perez injury, the Royals have other options who could fill in for Soria and possibly not miss a beat. Actually… They have 3 potential replacements.
Greg Holland, Jonathan Broxton, and Aaron Crow, with Holland and Broxton serving as two obvious front-runners for the position.
Holland had a stellar 2011 season, and was possibly the best pitcher on the roster last year. He had a 1.80 ERA in 60 IP while recording 74 K’s, a .175 AVG against, a 0.933 WHIP, 18 Holds, 4 Saves, and a 2.6 WAR. He has all of the intangibles of a big league closer.
Broxton has the track record on his side. He’s a 2-time All-Star closer, who recorded 58 Saves in 2009-10 and has a career 11.5 K/9 rate for his career. He’s an intimidating figure on the mound, given his 6’4″ 300 lbs. frame and the fact that he has the ability to dial up his fastball to 100 MPH. But he’s coming off an injury that sidelined him for pretty much all of 2011 and has to prove that he’s ready to take the reigns once again.
Crow was “technically” the closer for about a week in 2011 after Soria was briefly demoted from the position. But Crow never saw a save opportunity before Soria was reinstated to his rightful position. Even though he was a rookie who had never pitched above Double A up until last season, Crow earned a spot on the AL All-Star roster. His season tailed off after the All-Star break a bit, but he still had an overall exceptional season. In 57 games (62 IP), Crow had a 2.76 ERA with 65 K to 31 BB and a 2.1 WAR.
So, IF Soria is out for the season, who would you like to see assume the closer’s role? Greg Holland, Jonathan Broxton, or Aaron Crow?
1. Alex Gordon will have a 20/20 season.
After putting up 23/17 in 2011, I think 20/20 is fully within Gordo’s reach. Especially if he spends most of 2012 at the top of the order.
2. Jonathan Broxton will not finish the season in a Royals uniform.
A one-year free agent deal, coming off an injury riddled season, and pitching in the 7th/8th inning… All recipes for a former closer looking to re-establish his value. Title contenders with closer needs will be all over Broxton come the trade deadline. Now I’m not saying the Royals won’t be in contention though. This will be a crowded bullpen coming out of ST, and this trade will alleviate the roster a bit to give a chance to someone like Kelvin Herrera.
3. Mike Montgomery will make his big league debut before June.
This is probably the biggest guarantee of the predictions. Monty is the Royals’ top pitching prospect, going into his second season at Triple-A Omaha. The Royals rotation stayed remarkably healthy last season, so Mike never really got a shot to move up. Early season injuries or struggles by Paulino or Duffy will undoubtedly lead to his call-up.
4. Billy Butler will finally realize his power potential, hitting at least 25 HRs and driving in at least 100 runs.
Billy Butler and the enigma of the homerun… When a guy is deemed the full-time DH, you expect him to hit along the lines of .275/25/100. Billy will easily hit well over .275, just as he does every season. But he will finally eclipse the 25 HR/100 RBI mark. His power came to life in the second half of 2011, hitting 13 HR an driving in 57 RBI. He’ll continue that hotstreak in 2012.
5. Wil Myers will be a September call-up.
Wil Myers will be 2012′s Lorenzo Cain. He’ll perform very well in Omaha, as will the rest of the team. But the Royals major league OFers will keep him there until September where he’ll get a few AB’s here and there, priming questions of whether or not he’ll replace Frenchy in RF in 2013.
6. Joakim Soria will return to his old self.
He’s ditched the cutter, which he claims he tried to use way too much. Without that cutter, Jack should and will return to his old form as one of the top closers in the league.
7. Salvador Perez will contend for a Gold Glove.
Fresh off his new contract, Sal Perez will have an inspiring season. He’s always been known for his defense, and in his first full season in KC, he’ll show everyone why the Royals locked him up.
8. Lorenzo Cain will move into the leadoff spot at some point during the season.
Cain will start the season somewhere in the 7-8-9 slots in the lineup. But at some point in 2012, Ned Yost will decide that Gordon’s bat truly belongs in the middle of his order. Lorenzo, to me, is the only other logical option for that spot. He’s prototypical: hits for average and occasional power, can work a walk, and will steal 20 or so bases.
9. Ned Yost will be the AL Manager of the Year.
Just like he twice in Milwaukee (2005 and 2007), Ned Yost will win the AL Manager of the Year award. The Royals will be markedly better than they were in previous seasons, thus earning Ned the distinction.
10. The Royals will be in the Wild Card race through September.
Call me crazy, but I really do believe this one is going to happen. The Royals have a top 10 offense, defense, running game, and bullpen. All that’s missing from that list is the starting pitching. If the rotation can come through, there aren’t any reasons to believe KC can’t compete all the way through the season.
What say you, Royals Nation?
I’m not going to claim that there is any science behind my rankings here. I based them off of last year’s performance, their age, injury history, and whether their career is on an upward trend (+), a downward trend (-), or maintaining (=). So with no further ado…
1. Alex Avila – Tigers +
Alex Avila is also on the rise after a breakout year in 2011 which saw him make the All-Star roster. He’s always had great hands behind the plate, but his bat came around in a big way last year.
2. Carlos Santana – Indians +
Carlos Santana is young switch-hitting catcher who hits for power and plays well enough to stick behind the plate. He’ll continue split time at 1B/DH a la Victor Matinex (his idle and mentor), but will start behind the plate most days. Guys with talent along his lines will always be highly coveted.
3. Joe Mauer – Twins =
Joe Mauer has really seen his career take a wrong turn, due to both injury and a power-sapping ballpark. His bat will always be there, but his power seems to be fading along with his ability to stay behind the plate.
4. Salvador Perez – Royals +
Salvador Perez is young, defensively sound, and already has the trust of the Royals’ pitching staff. Even if he hits .250, he’ll be a top 10 catcher for years.
5. A.J. Pierzynski – White Sox -
A.J. is getting old, his arm is deteriorating, and Tyler Flowers will soon replace him in the White Sox lineup.
1. Prine Fielder – Tigers +
Prince is clearly the best 1B in the division. His weight and defense will move him to DH permanently in the somewhat-near future, but his bat is what separates him from the rest of the pack.
2. Paul Konerko – White Sox =
Paul Konerko seems to get better with age, but his time will soon be up. His age will soon push him from the field, though his bat will hold value for at least 2 more years. Until then, Pauly will continue to serve as the White Sox captain.
3. Eric Hosmer – Royals +
Hosmer could the second best 1B on this list right now. He’s already proven that he can compete at the highest level despite only being 22 years old. He hits for power and average and will win a Gold Glove one day.
4. Justin Morneau – Twins -
Justin Morneau might not ever fully recover from his concussion a few years ago. That said, barring a huge 2012, his career appears to be closer to over than in it’s prime.
5. Casey Kotchman – Indians =
Casey Kotchman had a great season with Tampa Bay in 2011, but it only earned him another 1-year deal. He’s known for his premium defense and lack of power for a 1B. He’s destined to platoon 1B this year with either Matt LaPorta or Russ Canzler.
1. Gordon Beckham – White Sox =
Second Base is easily the weakest position within the division. So as the only guy at the position to receive full playing time over the past few seasons with the division is Gordon Beckham. He basically wins by default. He has seen his production dip in each of his three big league seasons so far though since he moved from 3B to 2B.
2. Jason Kipnis – Indians +
Kipnis is a plus hitter and a fairly good defender which he showed all throughout his time in the minors. He got a taste of the bigs last season and should win the starting job in Spring Training.
3. Johnny Giavotella – Royals +
Gio technically hasn’t earned the starting job in Kansas City. But all he has to do is out-hit Chris Getz this spring, which shouldn’t be too daunting of a task considering that’s what Gio does. His defense will be good enough as long as he hits like he did in Triple A in 2011.
4. Ramon Santiago – Tigers =
Ramon Santiago has been a serviceable career switch-hitting backup infielder who will battle Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge this spring for the starting spot in Detroit.
5. Alexi Casilla – Twins =
Alexi Casilla is yet another 2B within the division who enters ST as the starter, but will have to battle Luke Hughes and Tsuyoshi Nishioka for playing time. He’s a switch-hitter with good speed, but has yet to start or even play for an entire season.
1. Asdrubal Cabrera – Indians +
Asdrubal had a career year in 2011, earning his first All-Star appearance and placing 20th in the AL MVP voting. Known more for his speed and flashy defense, Cabrera showed legitimate power for the first time in his career.
2. Jhonny Peralta – Tigers +
Jhonny Peralta is having a career renaissance since coming to Detroit and being moved over to 3B. But with the signing of Prince Fielder shifting Miggy back to 3B, Peralta is forced to move back to SS. He’s definitely good enough offensively to stick, but his range at short has to improve if the Tigers want to be even average defensively.
3. Alexei Ramirez – White Sox =
At 30 years old, the Cuban Missile keeps on producing. He hits for a respectable average, flashes power, plays solid defense, and has never missed any significant time. Aside from Pual Konerko, he’s the most stable and consistent guy on the White Sox roster.
4. Alcides Escobar – Royals +
Alcides Escobar may be the best defensive SS in the division. He may also be the worst offensive SS in the division, but that’s easy to say when he’s matched up against the likes of Asdrubal, Jhonny, and Alexei. He stepped up his offensive game big time after the All-Star break in 2011. His glove is good enough to be Gold and he’s quick between the bases. If he can hit .265 consistently, he’s a prototypical SS.
5. Jamey Carroll – Twins -
Jamey Carroll has never been “the man” at a position at any time in his career. But the Twins are giving him a chance this year, a year in which he turned 38 years old, to win the everyday job at short. He’ll battle Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe for playing time. He’s always had a good eye at the plate and still shows the ability at 38 years old to swipe a base or two when needed. Given his Utility background, his defense is average at best.
1. Miguel Cabrera – Tigers +
Miggy is the best hitter in the division, and arguably in all of baseball. At his current pace, he’s well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. In 2012, he’ll switch back to 3B, the position he played back when he was traded to Detroit. He was moved over to 1B two weeks later for obvious reasons. The question is: Will he be able to effecitvely make the transition back to third without letting it impact his offense?
2. Mike Moustakas – Royals +
Moose has the highest potential of any 3B in the AL Central apart from Miguel Cabrera. He struggled for most of 2011 in KC, but found his stroke in the last few months of the season. As he gets more acclimated to big league pitching, his power will really begin to show.
3. Danny Valencia – Twins +
Danny is a solid everyday major league 3B. His offense won’t wow you and neither will his defense. He’ll always be a middle of the pack guy in my opinion. 2011 was his first full season in Minnesota, so it’s reasonable to expect his performance to improve.
4. Brent Morel – White Sox +
Like Valenica, 2011 was Morel’s first full big league season. His offense hasn’t been anything to brag about, as he is known more for his defense. He’ll continue to hit in the bottom third for the White Sox in 2012 barring a miracle offensive breakthrough.
5. Jack Hannahan – Indians =
Jack Hannahan is a prototypical bench guy. He’s a light-hitting, solid defensive 3B/1B who should be a late-inning defensive replacement. He got significant playing time with the Tribe in 2011. But 2012 should be different. Although he’s listed as the starter on the current depth chart, he’ll be battling top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall. I fully expect Chisenhall to win that battle this spring and Hannahan to return to the bench.
1. Alex Gordon – Royals +
Gordon has always had the potential to be great, and in 2011 he finally proved that he could be. Alex was arguably the most valuable guy on the royals roster last season. He set career highs in almost every category, lead the league in OF Assists, and won his first Gold Glove. So it’s safe to say that the position switch went well for him.
2. Delmon Young – Tigers =
For a while, it seemed like Delmon Young was finally realizing his true potential in Minnesota before being trade to the Tigers last season. He seems to have lost his way at the plate, seeing his power numbers take a big dip. He also seems to have lost a step or two in the field, as he appears to be visibly slower in the field and on the bases. But he’s only 26, so he has plenty of time and talent to right the ship.
3. Dayan Viciedo – White Sox +
Viciedo is a legitimate power hitter in the mold of Miguel Cabrera. He’s a short, stocky hitter who will mash the ball at the big league level. His defense will probably never come around, but his bat will be good enough to find him a position. He’s played both LF and RF as well as 1B and 3B. His future may be as a full-time DH.
4. Michael Brantley – Indians +
Michael Brantley is an interesting player. He’s a guy who has been called upon mostly to replace the oft-injured Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo until last season, where he proved he was capable of taking over the everyday job in left. He possesses good speed and a little bit of pop and is good enough defensively to be an everyday CF, which is where he’ll begin 2012 due to Grady Sizemore’s back issues.
5. Ben Revere – Twins +
Ben Revere is another young guy who earned his initial playing time due to an injury (Denard Span). Although he’s primarily a center fielder, a healthy Span means Revere will get most of his playing time in left. He should be a great leadoff hitter for the Twins in the years to come and he’ll always be one of the quickest guys on the field.
1. Austin Jackson – Tigers +
Austin Jackson may be the best overall athlete in the division. He can hit for average and a little bit of power, which should come with experience. He strikes out a ton, which right now puts a hamper on his ability to be a leadoff hitter, which is where he belongs. He’s a great defensive center fielder and will probably earn a Gold Glove or two before his career is over.
2. Grady Sizemore – Indians -
If he could stay healthy, Grady Sizemore could be one of the best players in baseball. He has it all: a good eye, power, speed, a Gold Glove, and iron guts. But if his body keeps him from displaying his skills, he may never get to show off his full potential.
3. Denard Span – Twins +
Despite an injury-riddled 2011, Span is still a solid outfielder. He and Ben Revere are essentially the same player, although Span’s bat has a little more pop. Great defense, good speed. He’s a quality leadoff guy. If he can stay healthy, he should be a key player for the Twins.
4. Lorenzo Cain – Royals +
If it weren’t for the career years by Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur, Lorenzo Cain would have been in the lineup everyday for the Royals in 2011. He’s a great athlete who plays terrific defense and has shown he can be solid at the dish. Right now, he’s the biggest question mark in the KC lineup.
5. Alejandro de Aza – White Sox =
Alejandro de Aza is relatively unknown at this point in his career. He’s been around the league a while, serving primarily as a backup OFer capable of playing all three positions well. He is capable of hitting well and has a good eye at the plate, but lacks average power. He could wind up as either their starting CF or LF, depending on who wins the battle between him and super-sub Brent Lillibridge.
1. Jeff Francoeur – Royals +
Like the other two Royals outfielders in 2011, Jeff Francoeur revitalized his career. He’ll always be a hacker at the plate and will never take as many walks as he should, but Frenchy seemed to figure out how to be successful in spite of those parts of his game last season. He has one hell of an arm (just ask Michael Taylor of the A’s) and plays surprisingly good defense (just ask Dustin Ackley of the Mariners). Here’s to hoping Frenchy’s 20/20 season was no fluke.
2. Shin Soo Choo – Indians =
You may argue that Choo should be at the top of the RF rankings, and you’d probably be right and completely justified. Choo missed almost half of the 2011 season due to multiple injuries, but before those injuries his season was a far cry from his 20/20 season in 2010. He has 30/30 potential and possesses one of the better outfield arms in baseball.
3. Josh Willingham – Twins =
Josh Willingham should be the equivalent to Jason Kubel in Minnesota. His average will hover around .250-.260 and his defense could use some improvement, but he’s the thumper that you want in the top half of your lineup. And given the losses of Kubel and Cuddyer and the injuries to Morneau and Mauer, he may be the only Twinkie who hits 20+ HR in 2012.
4. Alex Rios – White Sox -
Rios had a terrific season for the Pale Hose in 2010, but a forgettable 2011. Alex used to be one of the premier up-and-comers in baseball before coming to Chicago. He saw his plate prowess take an enormous hit and his power numbers dwindle. At 31 years old, Rios appears to be on the wrong side of his career arc.
5. Brennan Boesch – Tigers +
Brennan Boesch is one of the better unknown or un-thought of hitters in the AL. He has shown he can hit for average and power (of both gap and HR variety) while maintaining the ability to get on base. His defense and speed are average at best, but his bat is his key. I can see him as Nelson Cruz-type hitter in the coming years.
1. Billy Butler – Royals +
Country Breakfast is arguably the best DH in baseball today. Most people forget that he’s only 25 since he’s been in KC for the better part of four years. He’s always been a solid gap-hitter (evidence by three stright 40+ doubles campaigns), but fans and coaches alike are waiting for his power to really surface. He’s shown up to ST in better shape, hoping to earn some reps during the season at 1B. But no matter the outcome of that, his bat will be a mainstay in the Royals’ lineup.
2. Travis Hafner – Indians -
Pronk hasn’t been able to play a full season since 2007, back when he was one of the most feared hitters in the league. But when healthy, Pronk can still deliver the long ball, especially against righties. But his key, especially at 34, is to stay healthy. He holds no defensive value, so he has to hit to keep his job.
3. Adam Dunn – White Sox -
The Big Donkey had the worst year of his career in 2011, and possibly one of the worst offensive seasons in MLB history. Now we all know about Adam Dunn. He is a “Three True Outcomes” kind of hitter, meaning he’ll mostly either hit a home run, strikeout, or take a walk. At his size, and given Paul Konerko, Dunn will probably serve as a DH for the rest of his career. But in order to do so, he has to be able to stay way above the fabled Mendoza line.
4. Ryan Doumit – Twins =
Ryan Doumit has always been an offense-first catcher, a quality that typically doesn’t last too long in the majors. But as a backup catcher, 1B, RF, DH, Doumit has real value. He could be one of the more interesting players in the Twins’ lineup this season.
5. Ryan Raburn – Tigers =
The DH position is going to be a revolving door for Detroit for the foreseeable future, given the presence of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fiedler, and Victor Martinez. But with V-Mart out for the season, the job may fall mostly into the hands of Ryan Raburn, who will also be battling for the 2B job. Raburn has power, but not much plate discipline. So the DH spot in their lineup may just go to whoever has the hot hand at the time.
*Seriously, I love that the big 3 DH’s in this division have some of the best nicknames in the league. That’s just awesome.*
1. Justin Verlander – Tigers +
Two no-hitters. An AL MVP award. Need I say more?
2. Ubaldo Jimenez – Indians =
Ubaldo Jimenez has all the tools to be a truly dominant pitcher, including a fastball that sits in the upper 90′s. He managed to out it all together back in 2009 and 2010, but seemed to struggle for both the Rockies and Indians last season. He’s still young, projectable, and has ace upside.
3. John Danks – White Sox +
Danks, too, had a rough go of it in 2011, especially at the beginning of the season through the end of May, where he went 0-8 in 11 starts. He rebounded to finish the season respectfully, however. The White Sox gave Danks a large extension this offseason, showing that they believe in his upside. He is easily the best left-handed starter in the division.
4. Carl Pavano – Twins -
Carl Pavano has enjoyed late-career success with the Twins, and is truly the leader of their pitching staff. He hasn’t missed a single start over the past two seasons, showing that his Yankee injuries are behind him. At 36, Carl likely only has a few years of pitching left in him. But his mustache seems to have brought some virility to the veteran.
5. Luke Hochevar – Royals =
As a former number one overall pick, Luke should be higher on this list. He’s struggled mightily up until after the All-Star break last season, where he posted a winning record, a decent ERA, and one of the best ground ball rates in the league thanks to a quality sinker. Luke needs to keep up what he started last year if he wants to keep his place in the Royals’ rotation though.
1. Jose Valverde – Tigers +
Papa Grande was the best closer in baseball in 2011, converting 100% of his save opportunities on his way to winning the MLB Delivery Man of the Year award. So with Verlander starting games and Valverde finishing them, the Tigers have the perhaps best starter-closer combo in the MLB.
2. Joakim Soria – Royals +
Joakim the Dream had his worst season to date last year due to a cutter that just wouldn’t cut. He set career worsts in blown saves and ERA, and even lost his closing role for a week in June. Soria rebounded to finish the year in typical fashion, however, leaving little doubt to his role with the team in 2012. He still has the potential to be the best closer in Royals history and could be even better than that.
3. Chris Perez – Indians +
Chris Perez has become a filthy closer for Cleveland after solidifying the role in mid-2010. He earned himself his first All-Star invite in 2011 and handled left-handed hitters even better than righties. The Tribe has formed a formidable bullpen, and Perez is right at the hear of it all.
4. Matt Capps – Twins -
As a set-up man, Capps has been solid. He even had a good season as a closer when he split a season between the Nationals and the Twins, earning him a spot on the All-Star team. He filled in for an injured Joe Nathan upon becoming a Twin, but never could win the job away from him, converting only 15 of 24 save opportunities in 2011. He enters 2012 as the de facto closer for Minnesota, but will have to be better than he was last season.
5. Addison Reed – White Sox +
Addison Reed made his major league debut last season, appearing in six games and finishing two of them. He’s been rated as one of the top 100 prospects by Baseball America and projects to be the White Sox’ closer of the future. Given they have no other real formidable options at the position, Reed has the best shot of earning the job this spring.
In order to make this process a little easier on me (which didn’t really help at all), my reliever rankings are based on who I project could be potential 8th and/or 9th inning guys.
10. Tyler Sample RHP (Wilmington) age 22
As of right now, Tyler Sample is trying to work his way through the Royals’ system as a starter. After a good showing in 2009, he’s been dipping ever since; and 2011 was his worst season yet. He went 7-12 in 27 games (22 starts), averaging less than 6 innings per start, serving up a 5.25 ERA and 10.1 H/9.
Once a top 20 organizational prospect, control issues have caused Sample’s stock to fall a bit. His career 1.42 K:BB ratio (289:204 incase you were wondering) as a starter has lead me, along with fellow Royals blogger Landon Keefer at Royal Revival, to believe that Tyler would greatly benefit from a shift to the bullpen.
Sample has a huge frame, standing tall at 6’7″ and weighs in at a cool 245-250. Not many guys with similar frames find long-term success as a starter simply due to the fact that the size of a starter’s workload takes a bigger tole on bigger pitchers. So with Sample coming out of the bullpen, he’ll be able to hone in on just a few batters and really let his arm do the talking.
Grade: C+. Tyler is still young and learning how to pitch, so I’m sure he’ll get more reps as a starter. But if he begins to struggle early on this season, I fully expect the Royals to make the switch. He should start the season in Kane County.
9. Jeremy Jeffress RHP (Kansas City/Omaha/Northwest Arkansas) age 24
I’ll admit that I was pretty excited to see Jeremy Jeffress’ name included in the Royals’ haul of the Zack Greinke trade. After all, the guy was a Top 50 prospect who could throw upwards of 100 mph and had the capabilities of one day being a part of the KC rotation. He had been racking up K after K in the Brewers system and had all the potential in the world.
But Jeffress came to the Royals with some baggage.
Back in 2007, he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana. But that wasn’t his first failed test. Apparently he had failed before, but the MLB doesn’t suspend first-time failures if they tested positive for marijuana. In June of 2009, Jeremy again failed a drug test, technically his third offense, and was served with a 100 game suspension. If he fails one more test, he will be banned for life, no questions asked.
Jeremy also suffers from another problem: control. Although he does have a career 10 K/9 in the minors, he also averages 5.7 BB/9. The ability to be consistent has been his kryptonite. He made the Royals bullpen out of Spring Training last season. But in 15.1 IP for the Royals, he gave up 11 BBs to 13 Ks, which averages out to 7.6 K/9 to 6.5 BB/9. He was then demoted to Omaha, and it didn’t get any prettier from there. He was sent to Omaha to be transitioned back into a starter, but only managed to get in 3 starts before being shifted back to the bullpen. His 7.12 ERA and 6.8 BB/9 in only 24 IP earned him another demotion; this time to NW Arkansas.
He was inserted into the Natural’s rotation, going 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in 31 IP (9 games 8 starts). Yet he still could not figure out the strike zone, and his BB numbers finally eclipsed his Ks (22 BB, 20 K). No doubt, a discouraging sign.
Grade: C-. Jeffress has the potential to grade as high as a B+ reliever in my opinion. He just has to somehow figure out what the hell is going on out there. Right now, he’s just a thrower. He wants to go to the mound and throw every single pitch at 99-100 mph, hoping he’ll gas every batter he faces. He needs to learn how to pitch, bottom line (very similar in stuff and inconsistencies to Edwin Jackson). Once he does that, he has the stuff of a potential closer. But until then, he’s just a guy moving in the wrong direction.
8. Brandon Sisk LHP (Northwest Arkansas/Omaha) age 25
Despite all of the famed lefties in the Royals’ glowing farm system, Brandon Sisk is the lone lefty on this list. Sisk split last season between AA NW Arkansas and AAA Omaha and put up fairly good numbers at both levels. In Arkansas, he had a 3.77 ERA in 28.2 IP with a 4:1 K:BB ratio and a 1.047 WHIP (BB+H/IP) (which is exactly what you would want out of any pitcher). He earned a promotion to Omaha and threw even better. In 32 IP, he had a 1.41 ERA, a WHIP of 1.0, and 2 Saves. His K:BB ratio struggled, as he had 30K’s to 16 BB’s (1.88:1 ratio). But other than that, he had a solid season.
That solid season earned Sisk a non-roster invite to Spring Training 2012. He has an outside shot of making the Opening Day roster this season. I expect him to start the year in Omaha and could make his big league debut this summer.
Grade: C. He reminds me a lot of Jeremy Affeldt. He’ll never have a “true” role in the bullpen, meaning he could serve as sort of a Utility reliever.
7. Patrick Keating RHP (Northwest Arkansas) age 24
At 6’0″, 220 lbs., Patrick Keating is built like a stocky-power reliever a la Greg Holland. His fastball consistently sits in the mid-90′s and possesses an above-average slider- a great complimentary pitch that every reliever needs.
After being drafted by the Royals out of the U of Florida in 2009, Patrick has been used exclusively as a reliever. Keating had a solid 2010 campaign in Wilmington and NW Arkansas with 101 Ks in 71 IP and a 2.28 ERA, and has a minor league career average of 12.2 K/9 to 3.2 BB/9.
2011 was a rough season for Pat, as he got knocked around a bit in his first full season at the Double A level. In 38 IP, he had an ERA of 6.16 and a WHIP of 1.421. His strikeout numbers fell a bit to 10.4 K/9, but he was able to lower his number of free passes to 2.8 BB/9. He suffered a shoulder injury in mid-June which consequently lead to a stint on the DL. The injury no doubt had a role to play in Keating’s numbers last season.
Grade: C+. I think Keating, barring anymore injuries, could open up the season in Omaha. He looks the part of a serviceable major league reliever who could possibly come in late/close games (31 career saves). He’s been a K machine this far, so he has that going for him.
6. Louis Coleman RHP (Omaha/Kansas City) age 25
Out off all of the rookies that made their Royals debut last season, Louis Coleman’s rookie season appears to be the one that is most commonly overlooked. In 59 2/3 innings in 48 appearances in 2011, he struck out 64 while walking 26, had an ERA of 2.87, and had the 5th best Inherited Runners Scored% in the MLB at 12.8%.
Coleman doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball. But given his sidearm angle, his slider is just vicious. His Swinging Strike rate was 22%, compared to the league average of 15%. Most of that can be contributed to Coleman’s extreme release point, as he’s able to hide the ball longer more than most pitchers and seems way too far in on right-handed hitters and way too far outside on left-handed hitters.
Grade: C+. Although I doubt Sweet Lou will ever become a closer, he has the ability to shutdown opposing hitters. Down the road he may be more of a specialist pitcher, entering the game in situations that call for a righty-righty matchup. But he shows a great ability to make hitters miss, and that can never be overlooked.
5. Yordano Ventura RHP (Kane County) age 20
Yordano Ventura is a 5’11″, 150 lbs. (when wet) starter right now in the Royals system. In his first full season as a starter in 2011, he made 19 starts, went 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA, giving up 82 hits in 84.1 innings pitched, with 88Ks and 24BBs. While this was no make or break season, given it was his first one as a full-time starter, I think Ventura is destined for a future in the bullpen.
Ventura is a max effort pitcher, often able to get his fastball in the 95-99 mph range. Given his body and delivery type, he would have an extremely hard time making it to the bigs as a starter. Being in the bullpen would allow him to pitch to his true style, dialing up fastballs for one inning 3-4 times a week, thus allowing his arm to last as long as it possibly can. He needs to develop a quality second pitch if he wants to move up quickly though.
Grade: C+. Ventura has drawn many comparisons to Pedro Martinez, given their similar size and arm strength. But odds are he’ll be a bullpen fixture sometime soon. If that does happen, he could be this year’s Kelvin Herrera.
4. Kelvin Herrera RHP (Wilmington/Northwest Arkansas/Omaha/Kansas City) age 22
Up until 2011, Herrera had been used exclusively as a starter and spent 3 straight seasons in Single A (2008-10). He was shifted to the bullpen this past season, and what a difference it made. He skyrocketed through the entire system, making stops at all of the Royals’ upper-level minor league teams, and eventually made it all the way to Kauffman for a few cups of coffee at the big league level.
Given his time as a starter, he has the ability to throw 3 pitches that are at or around the major league level, including a fastball that consistently flirts with 100 mph, an above average change-up, and a curveball that could one day be another plus-pitch.
Herrera will get a shot to make the Royals 25-man roster out of Spring Training as a middle-relief/set-up reliever.
Grade: B. It’s extremely hard to judge any reliever’s potential. But given how fast he rose through the Royals’ system, I have little doubt that he’ll be successful. He definitely has the stuff of a future closer.
3. Jonathan Broxton RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers/Albuquerque) age 27
Even though he’s only 27, it seems like Broxton has been around forever. The 6’4″, nearly 300 lbs. hurler had a rough 2011 season as a member of the Dodgers. He began the season as the closer for LA, but was placed on the DL due to pain in his right elbow. Before being placed on the DL in May, Brox racked up a 5.68 ERA and only 7 Saves. He made a few rehab starts in Triple-A before being shut down again. Hopeful to return to the team in September, Broxton tested his elbow by throwing from a mound. When it was clear his arm wasn’t ready, he was shutdown again for the remainder of the season and became a free agent after the season ended.
Brox has pretty decent career numbers thus far, compiling 84 Saves in 117 official chances (roughly 72% Saves converted) in 2+ seasons as the Dodgers full-time closer. Not a great conversion rate by any means. Just decent. But his career ERA of 3.19 is a plus, and along with that comes 503 K’s in 392 innings and the fact that he’s only given up 25 HRs in 7 pro seasons. Before 2011, it seemed like Broxton was in line for a big payday as he was heading into free agency for the first time, but his elbow derailed that dream for at least another season.
After a hunting trip with Ned Yost, Jeff Francoeur, and Jeff Foxworthy in his native Georgia, Broxton was convinced to sign a one-year, $4 mil. deal with the Royals. He’s in line to be a 7th/8th inning guy, along with Greg Holland, setting the table for Joakim Soria.
Grade: B. Broxton is a 2-time All-Star and a pure-power pitcher. His fastball has consistently sat in the upper-90′s throughout his career, but also possesses a power slider to complement it. This, to me, looks like a show-case season for Broxton, who’s looking to prove he can still effectively close games. If the Royals are out of contention by the trade deadline, expect to see him in a different uniform to end the season.
2. Greg Holland RHP (Omaha/Kansas City) age 26
Greg Holland was one of the most effective relievers in all of baseball last season. Over 60 innings, Greg had an ERA of 1.80, 74 K’s to 19 BB’s, and had an MLB best 6.1 Inherited Runners Scored % in his first full season in Kansas City.
Holland has been a K’s machine throughout his baseball career, so that number never caught anyone off guard. But the fact that he allowed just 37 hits in 60 innings (.175 AVG) and only 2 of 33 inherited runners to score leads many to believe, myself included, that the Royals could shift him into the Closer role if something were to happen to Soria (converted 4 of 6 save opportunities and recorded 18 holds in 2011).
Grade: B. Holland definitely has closer potential, given his ability to locate his high-90′s fastball, an 11.1 K/9 ratio, and the ice water that apparently runs through his veins.
1. Joakim Soria RHP (Kansas City) age 27
Joakim Soria has been arguably one of the best Royals relievers of the last 20 years outside of Jeff Montgomery and the late Dan Quisenberry. Over his 5 year career, Soria has compiled a 13-15 record, 160 Saves, a 2.40 ERA, and 341 K’s (3.92:1 K:BB ratio) in 315 Innings Pitched.
Although he has been a top-tier, lights out closer thus far in his career, 2011 was undoubtedly his worst season to date. He blew 5 of his first 12 save opportunities, and was eventually replaced by Aaron Crow as the team’s closer for a few games. During that stretch however, the Royals didn’t play a single game that required a closer, and Soria resumed his familiar role about a week later.
There have been rumors and talk about the Royals shifting Soria to the rotation ever since he came to KC. Soria definitely has the skill-set to be a quality starter, as he possess 3 plus-picthes (FB, Curve, Change) and the cool, calm, and collected demeanor necessary to be a starter. Just after he was selected by the Royals in the Rule V draft in 2006, he threw a perfect game in the Winter League. So it goes without saying, he’s more than capable of making the switch.
But for now, Joakim is the team’s closer for 2012 and beyond.
Grade: B+. If he didn’t basically implode last season, I would have given him at least an A-. Given the shelf life of closers anymore and how they’re not as big of a commodity as they once were, Soria needs to come back in a big way in 2012 and re-prove himself to the Royals Faithful.
Other names to watch: Tim Collins, Ryan Verdugo, Kendal Volz, Blaine Hardy, Buddy Baumann, Michel Mariot, Bryan Paukovitz
Every year Baseball America releases it’s list of the top 10 prospects for each franchise, and today was the Royals’ turn to be revealed. For the first time in a few years though, the list won’t feature the names of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, or Aaron Crow, which is a terrific sign that the franchise is moving closer to where it wants to be. Another positive sign is that it includes the names of a few international players whom the Royals scouted and signed (afterall, this is a World game now). But enough banter.. Here you go:
1. Mike Montgomery LHP
2. Bubba Starling CF
3. Wil Myers RF
4. Jake Odorizzi RHP
5. Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
6. John Lamb LHP
7. Kelvin Herrera RHP
8. Jason Adam RHP
9. Chris Dwyer LHP
10. Yordano Ventura RHP
A solid list overall that I cannot argue against. The only question I have: Why Mike Montgomery at #1? I mean I get it.. His upside is high (most say #2 starter potential), he’s left-handed, and throws a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90′s and a changeup that’s rated (by Baseball America, no less) as the best in the Royals’ minor league system. Wil Myers had a down year at Double-A and Bubba Starling has yet to play in a professional inning yet, so I guess it makes sense logically. Just from the way Myers has been hyped up for his pure-hitting ability over the last few years, I would have thought he’d be at the top of the list. But if Wil Myers is your 3rd best prospect, then you must have a pocket full of gold.
Baseball America also shelled out what it believes could be the Royals starters at each position in 2015. Yeah, it’s a little far-sighted, prospects bust, free agency and trades happen and all that jazz.. But it’s fun to think about, right? Check this out:
C- Salvador Perez
1B- Eric Hosmer
2B- Johnny Giavotella
3B- Mike Moustakas
SS- Alcides Escobar
LF- Wil Myers
CF- Bubba Starling
Rf- Alex Gordon
DH- Billy Butler
1. Mike Montgomery LHP
2. Danny Duffy LHP
3. Jake Odorizzi RHP
4. John Lamb LHP
5. Luke Hochevar RHP
Joakim Soria RHP
From here folks, the future looks looks like a bowl of cherries. Enjoy.