RC's look ahead at 2006 -- the pitchers...

Yesterday, RC listed the position players who could comprise the Royals’ 2006 roster. Today, we round out the roster with our look at the pitchers we expect to see in Kansas City next year.

Expected 2006 Pitching Staff:

Zack Greinke
Runelvys Hernandez
Denny Bautista
J.P. Howell
Free agent

Mike MacDougal
Ambirorix Burgos
Andy Sisco
Mike Wood
D.J. Carrasco
Jonah Bayliss/minor leaguer/free agent

Starting rotation:
The top two guys, Zack Greinke and Runelvys Hernandez, are locked into their spots. We have been encouraged by Hernandez’s progress this season, and though we don’t know if he’ll pitch again this season (because of back pain, shoulder tightness, and pending suspension), we’re pretty sure that we can count on him to deliver at least a league-average performance again next season.

In order to be a Royals fan, one must have faith, and we are simply not convinced that Zack won’t become a quality pitcher again. With a guy like Greinke – who has seemingly endless talent – the Royals must be patient. And while this season has been a tremendous disappointment, the long-term future of the Royals is largely dependent upon the performance of Greinke, perhaps more so than any other Royals player. KC needs to keep starting him, and we’re sure they will.

Behind the top two, things get a bit murkier. Denny Bautista has shown flashes of brilliance, but he’s had trouble staying healthy. His future may ultimately be in the bullpen, as Guy Hansen suggested earlier this year, but we don’t expect the Royals to give up on him as a starter just yet. If he’s healthy, he has to be slated for a rotation spot.

Hopefully Guy's guys do better next season.

We are also anticipating that J.P. Howell gets a rotation spot. Of course, much of this is dependent upon his performance for the remainder of the season. Howell is still green, so it wouldn’t hurt to have him spend a full season in Omaha. However, the Royals clearly believe Howell will develop faster at the Major League level, so they haven’t been afraid to push him. If he isn’t overwhelmed in his September starts, he’s nearly a lock for next season’s rotation.

For the final rotation spot, we want to see the Royals go outside the organization, either through free agent signing or through a trade. Sure, there are a few candidates in house, such as Mike Wood, D.J. Carrasco, and Andy Sisco. But we think both Wood and Carrasco would be more valuable as the bullpen’s long-relievers and occasional spot starters. And as much as we’d love to see Sisco get a shot at starting, we don’t think the Royals are terribly interested in removing him from the bullpen, where he has excelled.

If the Royals are going to improve their team in the offseason, this is precisely where it is most likely to happen. The number of available quality starting pitchers is far greater than the number of available quality outfielders.

Clearly, the free agent prize of the offseason is going to be A.J. Burnett. The Royals have no chance of signing him, because they simply won’t be able to outbid the larger market teams that will be throwing money at him. After Burnett, the next tier is occupied by guys like Matt Morris and Kevin Millwood. We’d be surprised if Morris actually leaves St. Louis, and we understand Millwood would prefer to stay with Cleveland, but the Royals, if interested, might be able to lure one away with a truckload of money.

Of course, we doubt any of those guys will be in Royal blue next season. Instead, we expect the Royals will probably sign someone like Esteban Loaiza or Paul Byrd – guys who can be expected to give around 200 innings of reasonably well pitched baseball. There are also a couple really old guys, like Jamie Moyer and Kenny Rogers, who might be looking for a final resting place, so to speak.

We don’t expect to see a major signing for the rotation, but if the Royals really want to make a splash, this is probably the position where they’ll do it.

Ahhh, the bullpen. As bad as this season’s been, the bullpen has truly been the lone bright spot. The triumvirate of Mike MacDougal, Ambiorix Burgos, and Sisco has been nothing short of tremendous. Saturday’s disaster aside, RC feels very comfortable when a lead is handed over to these guys, and we have no doubt that all three will headline next year’s bullpen.

As for the other spots, we already mentioned Wood and Carrasco, and both would be major improvements over the riff raff the Royals have run out at the back end of the bullpen for the past several years. No, they won’t be great, but their job will be to keep the games close, and they’re perfectly capable of doing that.

The final spot is a wild card. Jonah Bayliss has pitched well, and if he continues doing so in September, he’s the odds on favorite for the final bullpen spot next season. Several other candidates from within the organization also exist, such as Chris Demaria and Leo Nunez, and any of them also has a chance.

Of course, you’ll notice the absence of one pitcher from our list: Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt is eligible for arbitration again in the offseason, and we’d be willing to bet a keg of Murphy’s Home Run Ale that if he isn’t traded after the season, Affeldt will be non-tendered. And good riddance.

Goodbye, Jeremy.

Well, that concludes our look at the 2006 roster. As you can see, we do not expect many major moves, nor do we anticipate a significant move toward competing next season. The onus for an improvement in the standings rests mainly upon the shoulders of our youth, and the Royals will go no further than their young core can take them. If the Royals fail to improve next season, and it becomes obvious that competing in 2007 is nothing more than a pipe dream, then the Royals will face some very tough decisions about the direction of the ball club.

As for us, we’ll continue watching with great interest, because we still believe the pieces are there.

  • So, the Royals went to Yankee Stadium, and they got swept. Affeldt blew a huge lead on Saturday, and Greinke got lit up today. But forget about all that junk…

    Did you see that catch by David DeJesus? Holy crap, that was absolutely unbelievable, easily one of the finest plays we’ve ever seen a Royal make. On the catch, DDJ landed on and sprained his shoulder, so he’ll be out for at least a few days. That sucks, but several years from now, nobody is going to remember that he missed a few games...they'll remember that catch! If you haven’t yet seen the play, then forget about the rest of this column and go straight to the Royals homepage, where you can see the video. Here’s the link. Amazing!

  • Finally, RC was in Frederick today for a doubleheader between the Frederick Keys (Orioles) and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Braves). We took note of two players, pictured below.

    The first is Nolan Reimold, a freakishly strong and very Swedish-looking player who was drafted in June and has already advanced to high-A Frederick. RC has seen him play in three games now, and he’s homered in two of them, including the first game today. He’ll definitely be listed as one of the Orioles’ top prospects next season, so take note.

    Reimold pictured immediately before hitting a home run.

    Reimold pictured immediately after hitting a home run. Look at that monster...

    The other is the first true catching prospect we’ve seen this year, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. We actually saw Salty hit a homer in a game back in July, but we didn’t pay much attention to him then (sorry, we have no excuse).

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Funny name, serious catcher.

    He’s a big, athletic-looking catcher who throws well and bats from both sides of the plate. He struggled mightily in the second game vs. a lefty, but his swing from the left side looks very smooth. This guy is going to be really good. As if the Braves didn’t already have enough prospects…

    Saltalamacchia looks much more comfortable batting from the left side of the plate.

    Saltalamacchia has a very good arm, and he'll be catching for Atlanta someday.

    At 8/29/2005 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I agree with your assesments for the most part, but two things:

    1. There is no way the Royals non-tender Jeremy Affeldt.

    2. Jonah Bayliss = Brad Voyles. No future here.

    At 8/29/2005 10:03 AM, Blogger Dave said...

    I think Affeldt is far more likely to be traded, but I honestly don't see how the Royals could go to arbitration again with Affeldt. Knowing Affeldt, he's not going to take a pay cut, but the Royals would be crazy to pay him anything near $1 million again. They may offer him a contract with a significant pay cut, but if he doesn't take it, then I still think they'll let him go, rather than go to arbitration again.

    As for Bayliss, you're probably right...It's going to be a crapshoot for the final roster spot, and all I'm saying is that if Bayliss pitches well, he's the favorite for the spot...not that he should be the favorite, or even that he'll succeed. It would be nice if he did, but if he doesn't, then there are plenty of other guys ready to step in.

    At 8/29/2005 11:11 AM, Anonymous tfn said...

    Affeldt will be a Royal in 2006.

    At 8/29/2005 1:30 PM, Blogger DL said...

    Bayliss would be a solid contender for a bullpen spot if Burgos and Sisco were converted back to starters as they should be.

    At 8/29/2005 6:12 PM, Blogger royalsbeliever said...

    I don't like your assessment of the Royals. Some fans actually want to contend in 2006, NOT WAIT UNTIL 2056. We don't need a youth movement another year. This year was a youth movement, next year should be contending. Don't go to games until we are good.

    At 8/29/2005 6:51 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Well, some fans are idiots. Especially the ones who think there's some way that a 110-loss team can somehow magically improve to playoff contention with the help of one expensive offseason.

    And if they (or you) can't handle that, then they (or you) don't have to go the games. That's fine by me, because it will mean being surrounded by fewer idiots at the games I do go to.

    At 8/29/2005 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    No way Affeldt is non-tendered. His arm, age, size, experience... there's too much there to just walk away from without any compensation. I agree that he'll be dealt, though Baird prolly thinks his value is higher than anyone else does, so maybe not. If he went to arbitration against us again (I doubt he'll try that one again), he isn't winning. Your dog could beat his case this time.

    I like Bayliss... and think there's a lot going for him. He's got a strong fastball that sinks, he really competes like you want your late-innings relievers, and once he sharpens up his slider (decent now, but will get better with experience), he'll be a solid late guy.

    At 8/30/2005 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    No worries about the idiot supply, skippy. If you think Allard Baird will ever have the Royals back in contention, you'll always be guarranteed the seat closest to the second-biggest idiot in the stadium.

    At 8/30/2005 12:50 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    So, does that mean you're offering to sit next to me at the games?

    I know Allard's plan might not work. I'm ready for that possibility. The same is true of any radical plan.

    But the fact is that it doesn't take a radical imagination to envision what this team could look like in 2007. The Royals could by that time add three impact bats (Butler, Huber, Gordon) to their lineup without losing anyone of value. The young pitchers will be more mature, and the resources will be available to sign help to fill in the remaining holes.

    I view this season and next season as an opportunity to develop the young players while figuring out where those holes are that need filling.

    At 8/30/2005 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Sure, that would work as long as Allard is willing to come down and sit between the two of us.

    I don't think there's anything radical about AB's "The Plan", except the one apparent component of it which guarrantees its failure to produce a contending ball club: underplaying the importance of producing your own good starting pitching. I will agree that it doesn't take a radical imagination to envision 2007. Just look back to about 1999 or so. Allard will have used 8 years to bring us full circle, with only the fluke year of 2003 bringing us anywhere close to sniffing contention.

    At 8/30/2005 3:19 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    I feel sorry for you if you can't see a difference between the pitching staff of 2007 and the staff of 1999, or in the payroll flexibility that the Royals will have available to address their remaining weaknesses.

    Hell, just put the current bullpen threesome of MacDougal, Burgos, and Sisco on that 1999 team and see what happens. You could probably add 10 or more wins with that move alone.

    At 8/30/2005 3:45 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

    Or better yet, Dave, just put Sisco and Burgos into the 2003 bullpen, and watch the Royals not lose the division -- or, at least, be a lot closer.

    Folks, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. It's not only a marathon during the season, but it's a marathon over the course of many seasons -- it isn't like the NFL or NBA where the rookies are thrown in the professional fire right away and are counted on to perform within their first two or three years.

    This is baseball. Your impatience is better suited to those sports -- baseball is a game where the planning needs to stretch, in detail, over the course of 5-7 years rather than 2 or 3.

    Dave is right. 2007. Say it like a mantra to give yourself peace. Because being impatient and wanting all these changes isn't going to make a difference anyway -- it still won't happen.

    At 8/30/2005 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    In 2007 the Royals should have at least a league average offense, an above average bullpen...and crappy starting pitching. Enough for 75 to 80 wins and a faint whiff of contention. That's how I see it playing out, unfortunately. AB has pillaged the starting pitching stock to build his power bullpen, and with the Royals' two best starting pitching hopes (Greinke and Bautista) suffering through lost seasons, and in Greinke's case a major regression, I can't fathom how this team is going to have enough starting pitching from within. Even if they draft a #1 stud starting pitcher in next year's draft, he's not going to help the Royals win in 2007.

    Let's assume that Glass gives AB the go ahead to sign two starting pitchers before the 2007 season within the parameters of the Royals' budget. Who will be available?

    Jon Garland
    Mark Mulder
    Barry Zito
    Kelvim Escobar
    Wade Miller
    Adam Eaton

    Mulder, Zito and Miller (assuming he's healthy) will probably be out of the Royals' range. If Garland matches his 2005 performance in 2006, he'll be in the same league. Escobar is injury prone but someone will take a risk with his ability. Eaton would be a great target.

    The Royals will always have to overpay; is 3 years, $24 million in order for Eaton or Escobar? Will the Royals pay it? And even if they do, are pitchers of this caliber enough to get them over the hump?

    At 8/30/2005 9:37 PM, Anonymous Brian S. said...

    The playoffs will be heaven in 2007

    There's the slogan for 2006 right there. LOL

    Love the site Dave. Here is another reason why Affeldt won't be non tendered. Try the bullpen you already mentioned, with Affeldt back in the rotation. I'd rather see Sisco in the rotation, but Baird loves him in the pen.

    At 8/31/2005 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The bullpen of 2005 is way overrated anyway. You can go around the league and find tons of guys... tons, who have better ERAs, and many of them were picked up off the scrapheap. Many of those Baird had the chance to claim before the team who has the player right now!

    Jenks, Wise (10 fewer hits allowed, in 11 more IP than Burgos with the same ERA), Turnbow, Seanez (Baird dealt him for Abe Nunez, and he has a 70 K to 48 IP ratio), Wheeler, Shackelford (Baird dealt him for Alan Moye), Duchscherer, what did Hermansen cost? Look at Huston Street's numbers, and remember that we preferred Matt Campbell over him! Hector Carrasco! Can you believe THAT one? Roberto Hernandez, for crying out loud would have cost nothing, and his ERA is 2.72! Jay Witasick has a 60/20 K:BB and allowed 39 H in 51 IP w/a 2.79 ERA. Heck, Jamie Walker, a guy we dumped a long time ago, is a better situational lefty than anyone we've had all year besides Sisco, who is nice. We gave Miguel Batista away for nothing.

    I mean, the list goes on and on. Relievers can be had for ALMOST NOTHING.

    At 8/31/2005 9:13 AM, Blogger Dave said...

    Completely pointless post. First off, which of those guys you listed are 22 and 21, and feature the same type of stuff that Sisco and Burgos have? None. Jenks has similar stuff, but he's three years older, and he's the only guy you mentioned who even comes close.

    Street's a great pitcher. So what? Give credit to the A's. It happens. Just because other teams have good relievers doesn't take anything away from the fact the Royals have a few as well.

    But are you kidding me with those other guys you mentioned? Hernandez? Carrasco? Seanez? Which of those do you think is going to be productive in 2007?

    Shackelford? He's going to be 30 next year, and Moye is 21 and tearing the cover off the ball.

    Wheeler is a fine pitcher, but he's almost 28.

    Witasick, Walker, Batista...blah blah blah... Not ONE pitcher you listed (aside from Street, who is more of a control guy anyway) even compares to either Sisco or Burgos, both of whom will remain cheap, young, and effective for years to come.

    At 9/01/2005 1:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    A) Seriously, who cares what their ages are? I care that pitchers on my club get OUTS. Do you prefer age over their performance? Geez, maybe you ARE Baird! And who's saying that acquiring some of those guys for nothing means you can't have Burgos, Nunez, et al? They still stay in the system, developing.

    B) If you draft a college pitcher in the first round, he cannot stink from Day One until today. You especially cannot when another college pitcher has arguably the best season of A-N-Y reliever in the game less than a year after that draft. How you can even muster the thought to defend that one is well... amazing. The goal is to procure usable major league talent. Reconcile that.

    This is a recurring problem with Baird. He continues to "define" what he wants instead of going for quality. "I told all the clubs that I had to have a catcher and a 3rd baseman for Beltran." How about just getting the best possible players -- regardless of position -- and filling in with other players through FA, trades, your own farm system, waiver wire, Rule V draft, etc? It is indefensible.

    C) The point is, a smart GM will use his scouting staff -- IF they are good at what they do -- to acquire some (not all, of course, I'm just asking for a few of that reliever list) of those relievers, and be able to keep guys like Nunez and Burgos in the minors until they are more ready. He can then spin any of them in trades, or extend them. They are all cheap, they all could have been had by Baird.

    See, the place where you get stuck is this: Baird could have had any of those guys, but instead, he preferred hacks like Shawn Camp and Jensen. How you defend that is also amazing.

    At 9/01/2005 9:43 AM, Blogger Dave said...

    A) Who cares about their ages??? You have got to be kidding me. When you're putting together a team that aims to be competitive in 2007 and beyond, you want YOUNG, projectible players. The reason age is important here is because 1) young pitchers aren't going to get expensive anytime soon, as we own their rights for six years, and 2) young pitchers still have tons of time to get better.

    The sheer fact that you're bellyaching that we don't have Roberto Hernandez, Rudy Seanez, and Hector Carrasco makes me wonder if I should even spend any more time discussing this with you.

    B) Oakland gets tremendous credit for drafting Huston Street, but nobody -- not even Oakland -- could have guessed he'd be this good this fast. Street lasted until the 40th overall pick because 1) teams generally don't like to spend high draft picks on career relievers, and 2) he's undersized when compared to most other first round pitchers.

    Would I rather have Street than Campbell? Yup. But if I blame Baird for passing on Street, I also must blame every other team in baseball for making the exact same mistake. Like I said before, it happens. And with the A's, it happens a lot.

    C) Baird is actually quite good at finding cheap talent, even for the bullpen. Remember Jason Grimsley? D.J. Carrasco (rule 5)? Scott Mullen had a fine year in 2002 out of nowhere. Last year, both Jaime Cerda and "that hack" Shawn Camp had good seasons.

    The fact is, it's a complete crapshoot when you're talking about career relief pitchers. Take your boy Dan Wheeler, who you blame Baird for not acquiring. Last season, Wheeler had a 4.80 ERA. This season, 1.74. Which is the real Wheeler? I'd be willing to bet that he's far closer to that 4.80 ERA next season than the 1.74 he's got this year.

    Roberto Hernandez? 4.76 ERA in 2004, which came after a 2003 campaign in which it was 4.35.

    Hector Carrasco? 4.93 ERA in 2004.

    Now, as for guys like Ryan Jensen and Shawn Camp...They're merely space fillers. They are insignificant. They are there to eat innings in a lost season. Neither will be here in 2007. It's useless to bitch about them, because neither is as significant as a pimple on your ass.

    At 9/01/2005 11:43 AM, Anonymous anonymous idiot said...

    Bullpen, pimple, blah, blah, blah. You guys are just looking for an argument. IMO, the important point was and is about starting pitching. If you can convince yourself that
    (1) the Royals are likely to have even an adequate rotation by 2007 using players currently in their system or drafted in 2006, and/or
    (2) the Royals are likely to use their "financial flexibility" to acquire proven good starting pitching in the FA market,
    then you may really be a True Believer and there may be little point in further discussion.

    Teams with limited financial resources contend regularly by developing some or all of their own quality starting pitchers; the Royals have given me no reason to think they are capable of that, either now or in the future with current management and coaching staff.

    I'm also not sure how Dave defines "compete" and "contend", perhaps that would help narrow things down a bit.

    Dave, despite the fact that I disagree with your assessment of Baird and his plan, I appreciate the work you do on this blog. The rest of us are lucky that you're sharing it with us.

    At 9/06/2005 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I never said "Baird should have signed Wheeler", I said there was another guy whom Baird could have had for nothing instead of watching Camp go out there as "filler" for 2-3 years. Why would you prefer that for your major league club -- even if you are building for the future? Don't you still want to be competitive at the MLB level?

    Same goes for the other guys you kept babbling about: they would have been more useful "filler" than the filler guys we have used.

    "The sheer fact that you're bellyaching that we don't have Roberto Hernandez, Rudy Seanez, and Hector Carrasco makes me wonder if I should even spend any more time discussing this with you."

    Just keep ignoring the Turnbow, Wise and Jenks group. Three relatively young, definitely cheap, and probably much more useful for 2007 as any of the guys we've trotted out there this year. All 3 were high-profile guys from the same organization. Defending that is nuts.

    At 10/19/2005 6:18 PM, Anonymous Pi said...

    The thing with relievers is that alot can have good years with specific pitching coaches, and they leave that area, and they're crap again.

    Don't forget that parks have a bigger effect on RP too - a few bombs can ruin a guy's ERA, while starters have the luxury of evening it out over more innings.


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