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Bleeding Royal Blue

Inside the mind of a Kansas City Royals fan

Month

May 2014

I Would Rather Throw Like a Girl Than Throw Like 50 Cent

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Just yesterday rapper 50 Cent was asked to throw out the first pitch at the New York Mets game. No big deal; celebrities throw out the first pitch quite often. It’s a nice honor and probably cool for a lot of the players to get to hang out with Mr. Cent during the day. But something went horribly awry for 50. We found out his dirty little secret:

Yep, he can’t throw. It’s possible he has never thrown a baseball in his life. Mr. Cent was asked about his awful feat later on and he blamed it on…Curtis Jackson. Yes, he blamed it on his real name, who is apparently a different persona:

“50 Cent is the best,” he told SNY reporter Kevin Burkhardt during an interview in the fourth inning. “Curtis Jackson, I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”

Cent’s awful performance made me think of other awful first pitches…and there are quite a few.

Wait, Carl Lewis is in there? Man, can that guy do anything other than run? He sucks at singing too:

Yes, that was Los Angeles Dodgers TV announcer Charley Steiner almost dying from laughter at Lewis. Getting back to bad first pitches, those were some awful ones but what about Carly Rae Jepsen?

Yep, that’s bad. Singer’s in general seem to be bad. Like Tiffany Hwang of the South Korean pop group girls:

Even Hall of Famer Don Sutton had some issues:

Who has nailed it? This girl, that’s who:

Who else? Well, the Miz might be a jobber now, but he has some good accuracy:

And this was pretty awesome:

And let’s be honest, the bar was raised with this kid’s first pitch:

But this one is my favorite:

Not everyone can throw like a blonde girl from Los Angeles, or a former WWE Champion or a blind kid. But we can all throw better than 50 Cent.

 

 

What the Royals Managerial Candidates List Should Look Like

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It is a well known fact I dislike Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. I’ve been saying for years that the Royals will never reach the promised land as long as he is in charge, and so far he has proven me right. This isn’t an(other) article explaining why Yost should be vanquished. Ken Rosenthal appears to be doing that for me. And Craig Calcaterra. No, his time is getting closer every day. With the Royals continuing to struggle during a season where many feel they should be sniffing the playoffs, and no help in sight in the minors or in a trade, there is an outside chance(albeit it a very outside chance) that Yost could find himself in the unemployment line soon. So if that happens, here are five managerial candidates that the Royals should be considered, at least in my eyes.

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Mike Maddux

Sure, Maddux has the pedigree to help any team with their pitching. Being the older brother of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux helps, but Mike has done a great job on his own with Texas’ pitching staff and Milwaukee’s staff before that. Maddux has been mentioned in the past as a managerial candidate for the Red Sox, Cubs and Tigers, and it’s conceivable that in the right situation he would be a perfect fit. Mike is a smart baseball man who is hard working, dependable, well liked and respected by his players. He also seems to be a calming influence on the clubhouse, which could go either way for a team like the Royals. Some might say the Royals would be better off with a guy who has a bit more fire, but my gut tells me the Royals should go with the best candidate. Maddux appears to be in that upper echelon and should be at the top of most lists for managerial openings.

Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon

Dave Martinez 

There is something to be said for coaches that have worked for smaller market teams. A lot of times those coaches have had to do more with less to get their team to be contenders. One man who fits that criteria and is heavily underrated is Tampa Bay’s bench coach, Dave Martinez. It’s almost amazing at this point that Martinez has never managed in his career, especially while spending so much time under the tutelage of Joe Maddon. Martinez has an array of positives; he is willing to think out of the box(he is supposedly the mastermind behind the Rays defensive shifts), has worked as a translator before for the Rays young Latin players and has worked with many of the younger talent that has come through Tampa’s system. Add in that he thinks a lot like Maddon and you have a guy that could be very successful if given the chance. Martinez seems like a great fit for the young Royals team and would definitely bring a different vibe to the Royals clubhouse. I would not be surprised to see him get a managerial job sometime within the next year; I can only hope it will be with Kansas City.

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Dale Sveum

Look, the Royals like to hire from within. I like minor league manager Vance Wilson, but he is probably still a few years away from being ready to manage a major league club. From the minute Sveum was hired it was hard not to see that he could be a possible future Royals manager. Hell, he was the guy who took over for Yost when he was fired from Milwaukee! Sveum has the managerial experience the team likes, as he was the Cubs manager the last few years and was well liked by the players and staff. There has been some concerns about his helping player development, or more to the point, the development of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo for the Cubs. Sure, both regressed last year. But I tend to think part of Castro’s problems were that the team was trying to change his approach at the plate(take more pitches, work the count, not swing at so many pitches outside the zone,etc.), which was more of an edict of upper Chicago management, not Sveum. Castro has gone back to his old ways this year and has been vastly improved, which would seem to back up this point. Either way, he would be a solid candidate if Yost was yanked and would be a new voice in the clubhouse. When it comes to in house candidates, Sveum is a much better option than say, Jason Kendall. That thought frightens me.

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Tim Wallach

Wallach is another former player that has turned baseball into a lifetime career, albeit now coaching. Wallach is currently a coach for the Dodgers but has managed before, in the minors for the Dodgers AAA team. Wallach managed for two seasons in Albuquerque and was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009 as well as Baseball America’s “Best Manager Prospect” .  Wallach has also been interviewed by both the Tigers and Mariners this past year for their managerial openings. When Wallach interviewed for the Tigers job, their GM Dave Dombrowski(who was also Wallach’s GM in Montreal when he was a player) had nothing but positive things to say about him: “Quality person on and off the field, good family man, good work ethic, and a knowledgeable baseball person.” Wallach had been asked how he would describe his managing style and he said “Work at it, interact, communicate, and hopefully guys will take to what I’m saying. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. It’s about the players. You have to put them in the right spots to succeed. That’s probably my biggest job. Have them play hard every day and put them in the right spot so they can be successful.” It seems as if nothing but positives come out when people around baseball talk about Wallach. He has been on countless managerial lists, so it’s only a matter of time until someone gives him a chance. I could easily see him in Royal blue, managing the Royals.

MLB:  Greenville Drive

Gabe Kapler 

Kapler is my dark horse candidate and one that I think will have a successful career managing if he ever decides to do just that. He managed one season in the minors, for the Boston Red Sox as manager of their Single-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, for one season in 2007. He didn’t have a successful campaign(58-81) but he learned a lot that one season and used that to return to the big leagues in 2008. Since he retired in 2011 he has worked around baseball, whether it be as a television analyst or as a coach for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. What intrigues me about Kapler is his solid baseball mind. Kapler penned a column last year where he discussed how many current and former players would be wise to smarten up to advanced metrics. It is that forward thinking that I like and is of a guy who doesn’t seem to be trapped into a box with his way of thinking. Kapler might not have much experience, and might very well need a few more years managing in the minors, but with managers getting hired today with no experience whatsoever, it’s not completely foolish to keep Kapler in the conversation. To add to that, I have to feel that him being retired from the game for only a few years makes him more likely to understand the current player and his plight. If Kapler decides he wants to manage, I’m pretty convinced he will be one of the good ones.

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That is my top five list. You can play at home and add yours as well. I know guys like Joey Cora and Manny Acta came to mind for me as well. If you noticed I picked a few guys with no big league experience and I did that for a reason; I just don’t think it is that important. There is a bunch of former big league managers that get cycled in and out of jobs only for the reason that they have experience, even if it is not a good one. The game is evolving and even the guy in the dugout needs to evolve. Managers like Mike Matheny of St. Louis and Brad Ausmus(who I’ve always liked, even back when he was a player) have shown that you don’t need managerial experience to succeed in the big leagues. In no way am I saying this entire fiasco in Kansas City is Yost’s fault, either. The hitters aren’t hitting and at some point they have to take the blame for it and GM Dayton Moore should shoulder part of the blame. But the Royals appear to be going nowhere fast with Yost in charge and if things don’t get better I can see a change happening. If that happens, I would like to see a fresh young face take over the ballclub. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it will be someone like Yost who doesn’t challenge the status quo. That is unfortunate, because the option is there; you just have go out on a limb and take it.

 

Royals Lose Game, Focus on Ace’s Elbow

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The Kansas City Royals went out tonight and got their proverbial ass handed to them by the Houston Astros, 9-2…or at least that is what I heard. Because focus went off of the game for most of us earlier in the game when rookie phenom Yordano Ventura was taken out after pitching 2.2 innings and looking less than stellar. Even more concerning was that Ventura left the mound with the Royals trainer, which is never a good sign. Things went from bad to worse when it was announced that Ventura had “lateral elbow discomfort”. All in all it was not a good night to be a Royals fan. There is a lot of worry right now in RoyalsNation, which is understandable. Here is the facts and what we know right now.

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There is some optimism, for one being that it was his lateral part of the elbow, not the ulnar, which is synonymous with Tommy John Surgery(which obviously is why everyone is freaking out). But pain in the lateral part of the elbow guarantees nothing, as Jeff Passan passed along:

Normally lateral elbow pain is a sign of tennis elbow and more commonly seen in little leaguers. But as Passan also pointed out later on that if his bones have been banging together than “it speaks to a far greater mechanical problem.” Either way, there is a good chance Ventura will be on the shelf for awhile, even if it isn’t Tommy John.

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Obviously this was discussed post-game with manager Ned Yost, who came away with this nugget of information: he doesn’t think it is a ligament injury and the training staff agrees. In theory, that is great news. But…last I checked, Ned Yost isn’t a doctor. So the best thing at this point is to just wait for the MRI, which will be done on Tuesday. It’s not as comforting as the smooth words of Yost, but I feel better hearing it from a physician at this point.

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So at this point we just play the waiting game. It’s going to be a rough twenty four hours, but the best we can do is be hopeful and pray for the best. The Royals have been teetering on .500 all season and the offense doesn’t seem like it wants to wake up anytime soon. Losing Ventura for any significant amount of time could be a death knell for this team. It seems odd to say that about one player, but the Royals at this stage of the game don’t have the depth to replace “Ace”. This is pretty critical, folks. Sure, the Royals play another game tomorrow against the Astros, but all the focus will be on the results from Ventura’s MRI. A poor result and this is what most of us will be:

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Time to be positive, Royals fans. I know that’s not our first instinct, but it’s all we got right now. Pray for Yordano’s elbow. We could use all the luck in the world right now.

 

Moose’s Struggles, Part Deux

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Early on in the movie “Groundhog Day”, Bill Murray starts to realize that he is living the same day over and over again. Murray goes through different stages of realization, everything from anger, sadness and depression to hope and glee. Right now myself and most other Royals fans feel like we are living the same day over and over again; in this day, instead of a little furry creature popping out of the ground and telling us how much winter we have left, we get Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas continuing his struggling ways. His stats pretty much speak for themselves:

Year                      Age            Tm            Lg   G   PA   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+  TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2011                       22           KCR            AL  89  365  338  26  89 18  1  5  30  2  0  22  51 .263 .309 .367 .675   86 124   5   1  2  2   0          5
2012                       23           KCR            AL 149  614  563  69 136 34  1 20  73  5  2  39 124 .242 .296 .412 .708   91 232   4   7  0  5   4         *5
2013                       24           KCR            AL 136  514  472  42 110 26  0 12  42  2  4  32  83 .233 .287 .364 .651   77 172  13   5  1  4   1         *5
2014                       25           KCR            AL  40  139  125   9  19  7  1  4  17  0  0  12  26 .152 .223 .320 .543   47  40   3

How did one of the Royals top prospects go from a sure thing to questioning whether or not he is even a true major leaguer?

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In 2012 Moustakas looked like a future All-Star. During the first half of that season Moose had put everything together. His hitting was solid, his defense was surprisingly above average and he looked like a player who had put everything together. There was very serious discussion that he could make the All-Star team that season. Then Moustakas came down with a knee injury in the second half of the year and his numbers went in the tank. Going into 2013 it seemed that all of his struggles late in 2012 were purely from the injury and that he would be back as a key part of the Royals offense. Except that didn’t happen. Moustakas struggled pretty much the entire 2013 campaign and never looked like a guy who was locked in or confident. There were little spurts where he seemed to be coming out of his slump, but there never seemed to be a sustained stretch where Moose looked like the player he was in 2012.

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Earlier this spring it appeared as if we would see a different Mike Moustakas this season. Moustakas had gone to the Venezuelan Winter League with Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol, working on restructuring his swing. The early reports from Surprise, AZ were very positive. Even I was almost convinced that Moustakas’ approach at the plate had improved. The truth was it had changed this spring; his stance had changed at the plate and his swing was much shorter and more compact. It seemed that if he brought that approach with him into the season he would bounce back.

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That approach was brought into the season, but a hitless first 21 at bats led him to falling back into old habits and straying from his short and compact swing. The one item that has stayed consistent is his new-found ability to work the count and see more pitches. Moustakas’ walk rate is up, 8.6% from a steady number around 6% the last couple seasons. The rest of the numbers are down and quite ugly. Whatever confidence Moose had coming into this season has evaporated and he looks just as lost as he did last year. It has gotten to a point to where the Royals have floated the idea of sending Moustakas down to AAA Omaha and have started giving backup third baseman Danny Valencia a few starts this week. It’s obvious the leash on Moose has gotten shorter and to be honest it should be. No matter how good his defense is(right now his dWar  is at 0.2, just a shade over average) it isn’t enough to compensate for how bad his bat has been. So the question needs to be asked: should Mike Moustakas be sent down to the minors?

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In my opinion, yes. I am rooting for Moustakas to come out of this slump as much as anyone, but the honest truth is he is hurting the team more right now than helping. It’s one thing to say it’s early in the season and a small sample size. It’s another when he is over 100 at bat’s and it’s creeping up on June. Moose has been in the bigs now for close to three years now and can’t be coddled forever. We’ve heard a lot the last few years that we need to be patient with the youngsters on Kansas City’s roster, but they aren’t youngsters anymore. His confidence is shot, his swing is a mess and nothing is really changing. It’s time to make a move.

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Is a trade a possibility? Personally, I don’t think it is. The Royals seem to believe that Moustakas can bounce back from this and prove his worth. That tells me that at least for the rest of the season they won’t part ways with him. There is a very outside chance it could happen, if the right player came along. Guys like Matt Dominguez, Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval come to mind as third baseman that they could trade Moose for. The only issue is that Moustakas’ value is so low that it would probably take more than just him to get any of those players. There is a greater chance that the team sends him down to Omaha for part of the summer and call him back up if he gets on a hot streak.

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It seems pretty apparent that the Royals are going to have to make a decision and make it soon. Moustakas’ continuing struggles are hurting a team that is already having offensive issues, even if you take him out of the picture. We are to a point in his career where you either pull your weight or the team finds someone that can produce. Loyalty is a great thing to have of your employees but it can also be a character flaw. The Royals have been loyal to Moose and have given him every opportunity to show what he can do. Unfortunately what he has shown the last few seasons is a guy who loses confidence easily and struggles with major league pitching. He might not be a AAAA player, but he is playing like one. At this point trying anything new(anything at all) would be an improvement. Maybe he should take note from “Groundhog Day”:

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It’s time Moose. It’s time to let Punxsutawney Phil take the wheel. Can’t be any worse than what you are doing now.

The Early Success of Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas

 

There is nothing quite like making a guess on a player’s production based off of his past numbers…and then that player going out and proving all those stats null and void. That is exactly what Kansas City Royals pitcher Jason Vargas is doing. Vargas has gone out there this first six weeks of the season and not pitched like, well, Jason Vargas. Before the season, he seemed to be a great number four or five starter, someone to knock out some innings and keep the team moderately in the game. Instead the Royals were going to use him as their number two starter, which was my real complaint. I didn’t hate the Vargas signing; I thought he was misplaced at the two slot-and I felt like a four year deal was a bit much. But I didn’t hate Jason Vargas. He was a solid pitcher who despite pitching in parks that were very pitcher friendly in the past, his numbers didn’t show the success that maybe he should of. So how is a guy who has been a very average pitcher over the years now looking like a steal this off-season for the Royals? It feels like it’s time to do some diggin’.

Jason Vargas

 

The first thing I was curious about was Vargas’ ground ball to fly ball ratio. My thinking was maybe he was inducing more ground balls (as he has been hurt in the past by the long ball) and that was helping his success. Nope. Vargas is showing about the same ratio(0.67) as he has the last few years, which has hovered around the 0.7 mark. Percentage of fly balls that were home runs? Not that either, as he is sitting at 7.1 %, the same as last year. Balls in play? Not a drastic change, as last year was 72% and this year is at 75%. I did find his line drive percentage was up a tad, 29% from last year’s 23%. To be honest, I don’t know how to take that. Part of me is glad that means more line drives mean less fly outs. But in Kauffman Stadium, line drives can be the death of you  with the large gaps in the outfield. Even his double play percentage is down from last year, so safe to say that isn’t it.

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I started noticing some differences when looking at strikeout and walk ratio’s. Vargas’ strikeout ratio looks about the same(16.5% to 16.9 last year) but the walk ratio is down. The last couple years Vargas has had a walk ratio of 6.2% and 7.1%. This year he is sitting at a cozy 4.6 %. It’s conceivable to me that he is throwing more strikes and it’s leading to less walks. Except…his strike ratio is at 64.4%, very consistent with the percentage he has had over his career. It also appears as if he is not getting himself into a hole in the count as often either, as his 3-0 count percentage is down to 2.5%, where it has been in the 3’s and 4’s the last few years. On the other side of that coin, the percentage of 0-2 counts he has had is up, 26.6% to 21.1%. Allowing himself to work ahead in the count and have the advantage is probably helping Vargas quite a bit and leading to more favorably counts.

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The amount of favorable counts has to be a big part of his success this year and why he has a 78% quality start ratio, 20% higher than last year and 11% higher than 2012. Pitching ahead in the count gives the pitcher the advantage and leads the hitter to reach out of their comfort zone and maybe swing at something they normally wouldn’t. I should probably note here that I also think the Royals defense is helping Vargas out a lot. The Royals are third in the league in defensive runs saved and first in total zone total fielding runs above average(the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made). The Royals are also fourth in defensive efficiency. We are all pretty aware of how good the Royals defense is and how much they help their pitchers. The Royals defense played a big part in Ervin Santana’s success last year and I think it is helping Vargas here as well.

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There is one more thing that I found interesting and could be a factor into Vargas’ great pitching this year. Back in Spring Training there was a lot of talk about his consistency and how much the Royals pitchers appreciated that about Vargas. In reading the article I linked I saw something in there as I was looking to see if Dave Eiland, the Royals pitching coach, had worked with him on anything this spring. What I found was this paragraph from the article:

Vargas operates with a simple stockpile of pitches. He throws an 87-mph fastball, a change-up and a curveball. Last year he ditched a cutter he had utilized in years past. He relies on guile, location and adjustments.

Vargas ditched his cutter. That speaks volumes, as a number of pitchers over the years have tried incorporating a cutter into their repertoire with very small success. The problem is if you can’t get the cutter to gain movement it will just appear to the batter as a regular fastball, just 2-5 MPH slower. In other words, if you can’t get proper movement the hitter is going to probably hit the ball hard. If Vargas wasn’t getting good movement on the cutter, that would explain why he would have incurred trouble in the past. A few years ago former Royals closer Joakim Soria started to use a cutter…and went through a spell where he was shelled quite frequently. Most pitchers aren’t able to get the movement on it that Mariano Rivera perfected, but it’s so easy to throw that they try. Vargas dropping the cutter might explain a big chunk of his success this year and could be the smartest thing he has done for his career.

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So after looking at all the numbers and looking into any changes Vargas did in the spring, it looks like we have a better idea of how he has turned into an above average starter. Between staying ahead of the count and keeping his walks down he is able to be a more proficient pitcher. Add in the Royals defense and ditching the cutter out of his arsenal of pitches and it has made the Vargas signing much better than initially thought. If he continues to pitch like this over the next few years, I can easily sit here and tell you that any concerns I had about this signing will be long gone. Jason Vargas is just fine where he is at. Let’s hope this is just the first act.

 

Questions with Getzie: The Canadian Version

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He might be across the border, but it’s time once again for ‘Questions with Getzie’, where former Kansas City Royals second baseman Chris Getz answers you, the fans, questions. Getz is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, who recently made a trip to Kansas City to play the Royals, but still has a few fans in the city of fountains. Getz was also designated for assignment by Toronto over the weekend, so he is still a part of the organization, even if he isn’t on the big league roster. With Getz’s future in limbo, we figured we would take the time today and let him answer some questions Royals fans have had since he left Kansas City (or how I think he would answer them). So with a passport in our hand and a Labatt Blue in the other, it’s time now for Questions with Getzie!

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So how do you like Toronto, Getzie?-David, Lawrence, KS

Golly gee, it’s great! There is so much in Toronto to take in and be a part of. I’ve gotten to check out the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Canada’s Wonderland! Actually, I spent one whole day in the water park at Wonderland and couldn’t get enough of the slip-n-slide! More than anything though I love the people. I’ve made a really special friend in Toronto, and he just happens to be their mayor! Rob is a great guy and I never have a dull time when we are cruising around town, searching for his friends. All in all I really hope I am able to make it back to the big club so I can enjoy the great city.

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How did it feel to come back and play against the Royals?-Clint, Lexington, MO

Shucks, it was a blast getting to see everyone. It was a little weird at first, but when Neddy saw me and ran toward me to give me a big hug, it felt like I had almost won the World Series! We talked about bunting and he told me not to listen to anything that Seitzer instructed me on. We went out for root beer floats before each of the games and he told me they left my locker empty in the clubhouse. The only weird thing was how long Lee held me in his embrace when he saw me. Mr. Judge is a really nice guy, but I sometimes think he would do good drawing more cartoons and not try to snapchat with me so much. I felt really comfortable playing at the K, which is probably why that was the only place I’ve gotten a hit at this year. I hope I get to make a return trip back soon. Dayton said he is still trying to get me back “home” but we’ll see.

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Chris, it was great to see you a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been burying Gio every chance I get in my columns, hoping that everyone else starts wanting you back. Next time you are in town let me know and you can crash at my place. PS-if only I could have held you a bit longer…-Lee, Kansas City, MO

Um, Lee, I think I’ll just stay at the hotel. The shrine you have set up at your house is creepy. And quit teasing Gio; he’s a good kid!

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Since you’ve been with both teams, how would you compare offenses of Toronto and Kansas City?-Michael, Excelsior Springs, MO 

Darn, that is a hard one! I think the two offenses focus on different things. Toronto likes to get these things called “extra base hits”, especially home runs. Neddy always used to say those are rally killers. I keep trying to convince everyone to bunt more and play for one run, but Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion just chuckle and walk away. I think I fit in better with Kansas City’s offense, but I seem to cross home plate more in Toronto. I can easily say both offenses are juggernauts, just in different ways!

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees

 

I would just like to point out here that I have a big league job right now and you don’t! Plus, I hit another home run. You do remember what those are, right? Suck it, Getzie!-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Golly, you finally made it to the big show! Congrats, champ! I know I don’t hit a lot of homers, but I occasionally flash my warning track power. In a month get a hold of me and we can discuss the differences between Omaha and Buffalo. Keep those dreams alive, kid!

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What are your thoughts on the new Royals second baseman, Omar Infante?-Sam, Olathe, KS

Shucks, I have nothing but respect for Omar! He’s a great second baseman and a great guy in general. If I had to choose someone to replace me, Infante is about as good as they could have done. He needs a little work on his bunting, but with some help from Neddy he can get there. I wish Omar nothing but the best of luck.

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How do you feel about the continuing struggles of Mike Moustakas and how Kansas City is sticking with him?-Andy, Warrensburg, MO

That is a tough situation to be in. Moose is a good guy and I am rooting for him. Luckily for him, Neddy is good about giving people second chances. Sometimes even five or six chances! All he needs to do is listen to Neddy and he’ll be fine. He might also want to bunt a bit more. It will help raise that average!

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Getzie, sorry to hear about you getting designated for assignment. I hoped you would get to stay in Toronto for a long time. A very looooong time. Sorry to kick you while you are down. I just worried I wouldn’t get a chance to do this again.-Sean, Emporia, KS

No problems, we are good. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Next time I bunt, it will be just for you!

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Golly, that was a lot of fun! It was great to hear from all of you and I hope we get to do this again real soon! I’m hoping to get back to Toronto so I can play some ball and to catch up on Canadian expressions. I still haven’t figured out what a hoser, loonie,or a two-four is. Until next time remember to bunt like it is the last day on earth…and no Sean, I haven’t been to Moose Knuckle. Although I think it is next to Cabbagetown.

 

Five Future Royals to Keep an Eye On

Kansas City Royals Photo DayMost of us Kansas City Royals fans have gotten used to a new prospect being called up over the last few years and bring excitement to the team(at least at first). Just within the last three years we’ve seen the debuts of Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. The Royals are a small market franchise, so one of the things they will constantly have to do is develop homegrown talent and keep a steady stream of them running through their farm system. With that in mind, I thought I would give you a glimpse of a few of those prospects. Now, I won’t mention Kyle Zimmer(pictured above) and Adalberto Mondesi, Jr., probably the two top prospects in the organization. Both are discussed fairly often and look to be major cogs in the Royals machines in the near future. Instead, let’s look at some of the other prospects that haven’t been hyped nearly as much.

Sugar Ray Marimon

Sugar Ray Marimon

Sugar Ray Marimon isn’t just a guy with a cool name(although I will fess up to loving the name). Marimon isn’t rated as a top level prospect, as he is 26 years old(27 in September) and has been very average with most of his pitches. A full scouting report can be found here, and most of it reads that Marimon is questionable as to if we will even see him in a Royals uniform. Marimon has an average fastball(88-93 mph), a curve that has a sharp break(but he hasn’t been able to command it) and a change-up that could be pretty good but he seems to prefer the curve being his out pitch. To this point Marimon has been a starter, so one wonders if is moved to the bullpen he will add a few ticks to the fastball, improve on the curve and change and he could be a steady arm in the pen. There is quite a difference in velocity between his fastball and his two other pitches, so if he can show some improvement he could bump up to a bullpen job in the ‘bigs’.  Right now Sugar Ray is in AAA Omaha for Kansas City so there is only more step to take to the big leagues. He also is one of the few prospects at AAA right now which shows that most of the Royals prospects are still a few years away. Marimon might be a long shot, but I think he could improve on a few things and make a shift to the pen he would be a valued arm. He could be nothing of note or a surprise for the Royals; either way, time is running out for the man they call Sugar Ray.

 

Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game

Jorge Bonifacio

If the name Jorge Bonifacio sounds familiar, it might be because he is the younger brother of former Royal Emilio Bonifacio. Or it could be because he is rated as one of the top prospects in the Royals farm system. Bonifacio is thought so highly of that it was said around the time of the Wil Myers trade that the organization had Bonifacio “rated higher” long-term than Myers. I’m still wrapping my head around that one. Here is what John Sickels of SB Nation had to say about Jorge:

Hit combined .298/.372/.429 at three levels with a good finish in Double-A. Hasn’t developed his power yet but hits for average, makes decent contact, has a good arm, and is just 20 years old. I think he’s a year away.

Obviously he has dealt with issues as well early in his career, including a broken bone in his hand last year, which can sap your power. His numbers were encouraging enough for Kansas City to bump him up to AA Northwest Arkansas late in the year, where he held his own. His body frame is an issue(or more bluntly, his weight) to at least keep an eye, but scouts don’t seem too worried about and continue to say that he should develop power as he goes along. The hope is that Jorge is ready to man RF for the Royals no later than 2016. At the least he looks like he would be a solid corner outfielder who can handle the bat quite well. Who knows if he will rival Myers, but the Royals don’t need him to. They will just need him to be a solid major league outfielder. That would be an improvement over the last few men who have roamed right field at Kauffman Stadium.

 

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Christian Binford

Christian Binford is another young arm in Kansas City’s system that is currently pitching for the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League(A Ball). Binford was drafted in 2011 by the Royals has slowly been moving his way up the ladder in the lower portions of the minors. Binford has a very average fastball(sitting in the low 90’s) but that wasn’t what Paden Bennett at Royal Revival liked about Binford:

The thing that stands out to me about Binford is his exceptional command.  Command for a young pitcher is a very valuable skill to have and Binford has it.  He also keeps the ball in the ballpark with a career HR/9 of just 0.41.  You put his command and keeping the ball in the ballpark together and you have something to be excited about.  

A full scouting report on Binford can be found here and almost universally the thought is that Binford is on the rise and could see his velocity increase, as he is just a little over a year removed from the famed Tommy John Surgery. Binford seems like he is learning the art of pitching at an early age, which is a great sign for the Royals. Between his BB rate, his precision location and still a chance at more upside, it’s easy to see how Binford has moved into Baseball America’s top ten prospects for Kansas City. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Binford in Northwest Arkansas before the year is out.

 

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Lane Adams

Lane Adams is the 2013 George Brett Hitter of the Year, which goes to Kansas City’s top hitter in their farm system. Adams is an intriguing case, as you can tell from what mlbprospectwatch.com had to say at the end of this past season:

Adams is a man without a place.  He’s played more center field than on the corners in his career, but he’s been spending more time in left and right as he gets older and moves up.  He doesn’t have the power to be a productive corner outfielder, and while he has good speed, he doesn’t get on base quite enough to use it effectively, although his walk rate did jump up this season.  He has the makings of a tweener, but he can do enough things right that he could carve out a niche for himself.

The thing that kept popping up to me while reading that was “wow, that reads a lot like David Lough…who was a lot like David DeJesus…who turned out to be a really solid major leaguer”. No idea if that will ever happen for Adams, especially since reviews are quite split on his chances, especially since he would be considered an older prospect at 24 years old. There are concerns about his ability to make contact, as mentioned here by Joe Cox of Royal Revival:

The caveat in all his skills has been his inability to make contact at each and every level, which will not work for his skills at higher levels.  In 2014, it is likely Adams will get a good chunk of his at bats in AA.  I realize I have made this comment about quite a few of the prospects on this list, but this outfielder needs to make more contact to have a legitimate chance to make it as a role player in the big leagues

Although Nichoals Ian Allen did throw some positive Adams way:

There is less overall upside to Lane Adams than some of the younger outfielders in the system. The thing that excited me most about Adams is his ability to steal bases. Adams has 73 stolen bases as a professional, and is successful 82% of the time. He was 15-of-15 with Northwest Arkansas. The Royals like him and he will continue to be given opportunities to improve his stock – beginning with big league Spring Training in 2014. From there, it is likely he will spend the season in NW Arkansas and Omaha.

Adams won’t be a prospect at the level of Bonifacio or Myers, but there is always something to be said for guys who does a lot of things good and one thing(speed) great. We will probably start seeing the winds of change in the Royals outfield starting next year, and it’s possible we could see Adams name pop up as a guy getting playing time.

 

Miguel Almonte

Miguel Almonte

There is no prospect in the Royals system that has me more excited than Miguel Almonte. Almonte has jumped up most prospects lists and looks to have a higher ceiling than originally thought, as prospect361.com discussed at the end of last year:

When Almonte signed with the Royals out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 for $25,000, I doubt the Royals projected him to be one of their top prospects three years later.  At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Almonte is not your prototypical physical pitcher but has an arsenal that features a 92-94 MPH fastball that can touch the mid-90’s, two breaking pitches (with the curve ball starting to flash well above average), and his money pitch – a plus change-up that he commands with ease.

Add a few MPH’s on his fastball and that reads a lot like Yordano Ventura. He also doesn’t seem to be someone who looks like an injury waiting to happen:

His arm action is very clean as he throws with ease.  He has very good momentum to the plate which gives his fastball that much more life.  The balance and posture could be improved but overall the mechanics are matching the performance numbers he is posting.

Almonte has gone from a guy who would be a good major league reliever to possibly as high as a number two starter. Landon Adams at Royal Revival agrees on the Almonte love:

When it comes to Almonte the Royals have a seriously advanced pitcher considering the fact that he has logged just 130 innings in full season baseball. Almonte has shown excellent command. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and his changeup was called the best in the system by Baseball America. At this point he feels like a safe bet to reach his mid-rotation potential (by pitching prospect standards) and could feature even higher if he can develop a quality third offering. 

Sentiments are pretty much agreed by Dan Ware:

Almonte has flourished through the system, and won’t turn 21 until April.  He has a fastball that stays in the 91-93 mph range, but can hit 96 mph.  His changeup, ranked the best in the Royals’ system, sits around 82-86 mph, which is a solid difference in velocity compared to the heater.  What impresses scouts is the repition of his mechanics and his ability to keep his pitches low in the zone, which shows in his solid groundball rate of 45% and BB rate of 6.3%.

We Royals fans have seen very few top pitching prospects over the past twenty years develop into top arms, but with Ventura, Zimmer and now possibly Almonte, there is reason for optimism in the Royals pitching prospects in the not-so-faraway future.

 

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That is just a taste of some Royals that are coming down the pipeline. There is still a chance that none of these guys could be factors, or all of them. What we do know is that the Royals have talent in the farm system and that is without me even mentioning guys like Jason Adam, Cheslor Cuthbert or Hunter Dozier. These are always fun to write, so there is always a chance a look to the future will happen again down the road. Now is as good a time to dream as any.

 

 

The Royals Rollercoaster Continues

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Four days into the second month of the baseball season and I still feel like I don’t fully have a grasp on this Kansas City Royals team. Is it the team that is in the bottom portion of almost all offensive stats? Probably not. Is it the team that is in the top layer of most pitching stats? Possibly. Is it the same stellar defensive team we saw last year? Yes, yes it is. After twenty nine games, the Royals have one of the oddest stats I ever remember seeing in baseball history. When they score four or more runs, they are undefeated(14-0); meanwhile, they have yet to win a ballgame while scoring three or less runs(0-15). There is no way this holds up all season, but the fact it has over a month of play is just peculiar. With that in mind, let’s look at some other notes of interest rolling around my dome(get out of my dome!), starting with the offense.

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Looking at the Royals offensive stats two things come to mind: one, these are sad, sad numbers and two, there is no way this holds up all season–right? The worst are the power numbers: last in homers, last in slugging percentage and next to last in total bases. The young group of Royals bats have been living off of potential for close to three years now, so we are to a point where either they start producing or someone else is given the chance to take their spot. I have to believe at the least that guys like Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will raise their power numbers and at least get the Royals to a halfway respectable level. The problem lies in the fact that the Royals offense has been fairly anemic for a few years now and no matter how much faith is thrown their way, the runs just aren’t there. I wish the answer is just to wait and the batters will come around, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe the ceiling given to a few of these hitters are just unattainable at this point.

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Last night Danny Duffy made his first start of the season and he pitched a very Danny Duffy like game. I was actually pleased by that since earlier in the week against Toronto it looked to me like he was lost out on the mound. That night Duffy was called on in relief and hit Jose Bautista then turned around and walked the next guy on five pitches before being lifted after only two batters. Just a few days before that he had an awful outing in relief in Baltimore that cost the Royals the game. So after those two outings it felt good to know I was wrong and that Duffy was the same pitcher. Unfortunately that also means that he still is a pitcher with great stuff who doesn’t pitch efficiently. Outside of a great relief outing in Houston that saw him throw strikes and keep batters off-balance, Duffy still looks like a pitcher who has never learned how to let his defense help him out. There was hope that a move to the bullpen would help some of that and it still might. But if last night was any indication, Duffy hasn’t changed his colors. He was already on a75-85 pitch count and threw over 20 pitches in just the first inning. There is still time for Duffy to be a vital cog in the bullpen for Kansas City, but I’m really starting to believe that he just isn’t suited to be a starter, no matter how badly the Royals need him there. Royals officials have often referred to Duffy as being a “bull in a china shop” when out on the mound, but his ferocity and competitiveness will all be for naught if he can’t pitch more efficient. It’s still early to give up on him, but he isn’t quieting any critics with his pitch counts so far this season.

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If I learned anything last year, it was proper perspective on a full baseball season. I know many of us, myself included, thought the Royals were done after the horrid May they had. In fact, I think I counted 3-4 times during the season where I thought they were completely out of it and an afterthought. Instead, this team made it interesting all the way to the final week of the season. It’s been nice this season to keep that in the back of my head and realize just how much baseball is left to be played. We are just about 18% through the season and despite some major concerns, there is no reason to think they can’t be in a wild card spot come September. At the moment Kansas City is only four games behind Detroit in the American League Central, which is obviously more than reachable. I was listening to the Royals postgame show on Friday night driving back from the game and I thought the host, Josh Vernier, made some great thoughts that those of us who are diehard baseball fans would be wise to keep in the back of our minds. Vernier talked about how baseball is a game where one game can turn your luck around and as long as there are still games being played then you have a chance. He also pointed out(wisely, I must say) that baseball makes even the smartest of us look dumb by it’s ever changing results. A guy can be hitting .156(like let’s say Mike Moustakas) but can be the hero on any given day. Or his luck could turn around and within a few weeks could be hitting one hundred points higher. The point being in all of this that what might look dark and gloomy now could be a giant ray of sunshine in a short amount of time. A losing team can be winning in no time and that struggling player could be your best player in very short order. I think it would be smart if we as fans remembered that more often rather than just pointing out what is wrong, myself included.

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So buckle in folks. I have a feeling this rollercoaster isn’t ready to get off of the tracks. There are things for the Royals to work on but by no means is this year a wash already. My best advice is to sit back, relax and try to enjoy the ride as much as you can. Hopefully when June rolls around we are in a tug-of-war with Detroit for top spot in the Central. Hey, it could happen. At this point, anything can happen.

 

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