It's official...Affeldt stinks.


Royals outclass champs, take series...

Oh yeah!!!

RC had a feeling about this game. Curt Schilling just hasn't been himself all year, and we figured the Royals had a decent chance of laying a pretty good midwestern whoopin' on him. And sure enough, the boys in blue hung nine hits and six runs on him, forcing Schilling to live with the embarrassment of being outpitched by Jose Lima.

Hopefully the Royals can carry the momentum from two straight series wins with them as they head to New York this weekend to take on the hated Yankees. As much as we dislike the Red Sox, we hate the Yanks about seven times as much, and it would be a shame to see their victories over the Sox help propel New York back into the playoffs. If they can take a game or two off the Bronx Bombers, then we won't have to feel guilty in October if the Yanks manage to fight their way back into the postseason.

  • The Royals made a couple roster moves, calling up Aaron Guiel yesterday and J.P. Howell today to replace the injured Donnie Murphy and Runelvys Hernandez. Howell gets the start on Saturday, and the injury to Murphy means that the Royals will roll with a pretty depressing platoon at 2B of Joe McEwing and Denny Hocking for the foreseeable future. From now on, RC will simply refer to this albatross as "McHocking."

    Call us Dr. Frankenstein...

    Another roster move could be forthcoming, as Matt Stairs injured himself tonight when he lunged at a ball down the first base line and wound up doing the splits in a very painful-looking contortion. The smart money would be on either Justin Huber or Calvin Pickering getting the call up to KC, if Stairs winds up on the DL. We already know that Huber is scheduled for a September call-up, so he would probably be the guy, although Pick has been crushing the ball lately.

  • The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced today, and six Royals have been assigned to the Surprise Scorpions: Huber, Billy Butler, Matt Tupman, Jonah Bayliss, Chris Demaria, and Brian Bass. The Scorpions look to have perhaps the best offense in the league, as Huber and Butler will combine with Angels farmhands Brandon Wood, Kendry Morales, and Howie Kendrick to form a ridiculously good lineup.

    Butler (.348/.419/.636 - 25 HR) and Wood (.323/.385/.681 - 41 HR) were the California League's best hitters in 2005.

    In addition to the power those five provide, the team also promises to have great speed, as the Phillies' Michael Bourn (36 SB), the Astros' Josh Anderson (48 SB) and Charlton Jimerson (26 SB) will form perhaps the fastest outfield in the league.

    If there's any glaring weakness to the team, it is in the starting pitching. The staff really only has two quality starting pitchers: Jason Hirsh (159.1 IP, 153 K, 39 BB, 3.11 ERA) from the Astros and Jared Weaver (64.2 IP, 77 K, 22 BB, sub-4.00 ERA) of the Angels. Of course, starting pitchers in the AFL don't throw a whole lot of innings, and the team has a nice assortment of very good relievers. You can view the entire Scorpion roster here.

  • As we mentioned yesterday, RC was in Woodbridge, Virginia, tonight for a game between the Salem Avalanche (Astros) and the Potomac Nationals (Nationals). Lucky for us, tonight just happened to be "Hairiest Back at the Ballpark Night." No, RC didn't win, but we did receive an honorable mention for eyebrow growth. The "winner" of hairy back competition was none other than 47-year old Master Sergeant Jim Coffey (pictured at the top of this post), a resident of Fairfax, Virginia. For his trouble, Sgt. Coffey will receive a laser hair removal treatment valued at $2,500. Thank God.

    As for the game, we left early because unbeknownst to us beforehand, it was also "Dollar Night." And if you've never been to a Dollar Night in Woodbridge, you've missed what could have perhaps been the most frustrating experience of your life. That is, unless you like shuffling past the mass of cheap people who paid $1 for their tickets in order to wait four innings for a chance to buy a beer or a cold $1 hot dog.

    Of course, before our exit, we snapped a few photos of a couple top Astros prospects. The guy we originally went to see, Hunter Pence, is perhaps the oddest-looking prospect we've ever seen. The guy is clearly strong, but he's just so damned gangly that it's funny.

    Ugly swing, but the guy does hit the ball hard. He might be someone to watch. The other guy we looked at is a 24-year old shortstop who is currently sporting an OBP over .500, Ben Zobrist.

    Zobrist has an odd stance, but a nice swing. He doesn't have much power, but he's done nothing but hit since he was drafted.

    Up next for RC is another Carolina League game on Saturday between the Frederick Keys (Orioles) and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Braves). The Pelicans have a catcher that we really like, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, so we'll try to snap a few photos of him at the game.

  • Thursday

    DeJesus shows Damon what a real center fielder looks like...Royals beat champs!

    We hope Johnny Damon was taking notes tonight

    Well, that was certainly one hell of a game. It had it all...frustration, redemption, great pitching, Angel Berroa stinking, a rain delay, and more frustration, but somehow the Royals pulled out a 4-3 victory in 11 innings.

    David DeJesus, of course, was the hero. DDJ went 3-for-4, walked twice, and blasted a two-run HR in the fifth inning to tie the game. He also scored the game-winning run in the 11th inning on a short pop-up to left field off the bat of Chip Ambres. DeJesus beat the throw by a few inches, sparing Ambres the embarrassment of twice failing to get the winning run home with a runner on third and less than two outs (he struck out in the 8th with the bases loaded).

    The bullpen tonight was also incredible, throwing 5 1/3 shutout innings. Ambiorix Burgos relieved starter D.J. Carrasco and threw 1 1/3 heart-stopping innings, which climaxed with a full count strikeout of Jason Varitek on a nasty splitter.

    Burgos is the man! RC has ever-growing confidence in the awesomeness of Amby.

    Jeremy Affeldt then pitched an effective eighth (finally lasting an entire inning), and Mike MacDougal tossed a brilliant ninth. Of course, Andy Sisco probably turned in the best performance of all, blowing away the middle of the Sox order with two perfect innings. It was fitting that Sisco got the win.

    All told, it was a satisfying victory for the Royals, and they'll go for their second straight series win tomorrow in the rubber match. The Royals go up against Curt Schilling, who is making his return to the Boston rotation after mixed results as their closer. This one could go either way, as nobody is sure what to expect from Schilling.

    RC will be at a minor league game in Woodbridge, Virginia (checking out a couple Astros prospects -- Hunter Pence and Ben Zobrist), but we'll listen to the game on our official XM portable radio, and we've already set our DVR, so we should have our usual analysis for you tomorrow night.


    2005 Draft Update...

    RC correspondent Craig Weddle has chimed in with a review of the Royals' 2005 draft picks. Here's an updated look at the players selected this summer, most of whom have passed the two month mark of their young baseball careers.

    Going into the draft, a lot of people viewed the Royals draft strategy as "Alex Gordon and a bunch of signability picks." Considering the speed with which most of their picks (Gordon excluded) signed, money did seem to have been a factor in the Royals' decision making. The Royals signed 13 of their top 15 picks very quickly, then added #3 pick Chris Nicoll a few weeks later. Once Gordon signs next month, the Royals will have signed all the players they planned to sign, while still having some intriguing draft-and-follow guys to watch.

    It's still very early, but the performances of the "signability guys" have been very encouraging. To keep this from becoming too long, we’ll limit our review to the Royals’ top 10 picks (plus one).

    First we’ll look at the high school guys:

    Jeff Bianchi (#2) was the MVP (1.241 OPS) of the Arizona League until he had back problems. Described as a five-tool guy when drafted, he certainly hasn’t disappointed. If his health clears up, it's possible he could start the 2006 campaign at High Desert. Not bad for a pick that had some people scratching their heads.

    Joe Dickerson (#4) was another pick that had people complaining about the Royals going cheap. On draft day we heard that he was “toolsy”, didn't hit with much power, but had plus defensive ability. His performance in the Arizona League has been very good (.903 OPS) and he could start 2006 in Burlington.

    Brent Fisher (#7) has a respectable ERA of 3.38, but an eye popping K/BB ratio of 60/11. High school kids are young enough, but Brent just turned 18 this month. He has an average/above average fastball with an above average breaking ball. I think he could join Dickerson in Burlington come April.

    Nick Doscher (#8) has struggled and will do some work in the instructional league before starting out in rookie ball next year. He has plus defensive skills, with good power potential.

    As for the college guys:

    Chris Nicoll (#3) signed later than most of the picks and has only made four brief starts for Idaho Falls (IF). Chris logged a lot of innings this year at UC-Irvine and the Royals don’t want to overwork him. Chris is described as a 3-pitch starter with good command of the strike zone. His ERA (1.84) is solid, and High Desert appears to be his likely destination in 2006.

    Shawn Hayes (#5) has struggled and will likely start 2006 back in IF. He’s got good size with above average tools. Like Brian McFall a couple years back, he played in a wooden bat league.

    Ryan DiPietro (#6) has logged the most innings for IF. While going winless, his K/BB ratio is a respectable 41/14. Ryan has a “fringe” fastball with an above average breaking ball. He will probably begin 2006 in Burlington.

    In addition to drafting a high school catcher (Doscher), the Royals then drafted college catchers with picks 9, 10, 15. All three started out at IF.

    Kiel Thibault (#9) is a year older than the other two and hits with more power. His OPS (1.058) is very good, and he could start out at High Desert next year.

    Jeff Howell (#10) has hit well (.890 OPS), but without much power. Burlington is likely his starting point in 2006.

    Brady Everett (#15) has done so well (1.050 OPS) that he has already been moved up to High Desert. Brady has very good plate discipline and doesn’t strike out much. High Desert is probably where he will start out 2006. Defensively he is the weakest of the three. - CW

  • Well, the Royals miniature winning streak ended tonight with a loss at the hands of the mighty Red Sox. However, RC did take a few positives out of the game.

    Zack Greinke did not deserve to give up five runs. We've been watching him all season, and he had some of his best stuff and command of any start this year. He rarely missed his target, his breaking balls were crisp, and his fastball was still reaching the mid-90s in the sixth and seventh innings.

    Greinke actually looked really good tonight, but still lost his 15th decision

    He simply ran into a lineup tonight that doesn't miss mistakes, but if he pitched like this all the time, Greinke is going to win far more games than he loses.

    We were also somewhat pleased to see Donnie Murphy bounce back in the ninth inning -- after striking out in his previous three at bats -- to deliver a two-run single to right field. Folks, it's no secret that Murphy has struggled in KC, but RC is absolutely convinced, after watching Murphy extensively in the minors, that he has what it takes to be a quality second baseman in the Major Leagues. Believe it or not, the kid can pull the ball with power, and he really is an excellent defensive second baseman.

    In another organization, he would spend at least another year (probably even two) in the minor leagues, but the Royals have nothing to lose by letting him play in KC now. We just hope that both the fans and the organization will remain patient with him, because he's still in over his head right now. However, we're confident he will start to figure things out. Call it a leap of faith if you must, but we're confident he will become a valuable player.

  • Royals Nation woke up to some great news today, as it was reported by the KC Star and the Omaha World-Herald that 2005 first round pick Alex Gordon has no intention of going to class this fall. In fact, the World-Herald reported the following:

    [Gordon] said Monday he never intended to attend class. The enrollment was completed last spring as a precautionary measure at the advice of his academic adviser in Lincoln.

    "I think they've already dropped my classes," he said.

    See, all that worrying for nothing. It was merely a negotiating tactic, and it appears to have worked. Gordon will visit Kansas City on September 3-4, and both he and the Royals believe a deal will be completed soon, maybe even early enough to send Gordon to the Arizona Fall League later this year.
  • Monday

    Off-day notes on our trip to Richmond...

    As many of you know, RC was in Richmond this past weekend for a couple triple-A games between the Tigers' and Braves' International League affiliates. The main draw was on Saturday evening, which was a game that featured two of the minor leagues' hottest pitchers, the Tigers' Joel Zumaya, and the Braves' Chuck James.

    Zumaya is known as a power guy, and James is more of a soft-tossing, crafty lefty. Both pitchers certainly lived up to that reputation when we saw them.

    Zumaya was bringing heat in excess of 96 mph, and doing it quite easily. The scouting report we read prior to the game said that he didn't have a changeup, but by God, we saw him whip out a pretty nasty change on several occasions. In fact, we later learned that Zumaya added a change to his repertoire this season, and that's a big reason he's been so effective.

    Of course, the pitch that impressed us the most wasn't his change, nor was it his fastball. It was a hard slurve he whipped out on only a few occasions that looked absolutely unhittable. It comes in looking like a fastball, but then, about 20 feet in front of the plate, it has a late but significant 12-to-6 breaking action. RC couldn't figure out if it was a slider (because of the speed) or a curve (because of the break). But alas, we were informed that it was a slurve, an explanation that satisfied us. Call it whatever you want, but it's nasty, and RC fears future Royal encounters with that crazy pitch.

    However, if anything encouraged us at all about Zumaya, it's that his control still needs a lot of work. We saw him throw 99 pitches, only 57 for strikes. Zumaya only walked two, but he was clearly missing his catcher's target all night. His stuff got him out of trouble, as he surrendered only two runs and five hits in six innings, but when you see his delivery, it's pretty easy to hypothesize why he has trouble with his control.

    There's just an awful lot going on there. Zumaya's delivery is awfully exertive, and we can see how it would be difficult to repeatedly replicate his mechanics to the point of generating effective control. Nevertheless, Zumaya clearly has the stuff to be a very successful pitcher, and if he can hit his target just a bit more often, he's going to be a star.

    Chuck James, on the other hand, probably isn't going anywhere. Oh, we were incredibly impressed with his control, but he also benefitted quite a bit from a very generous strike zone by the home plate umpire. His fastball was in the low 90s/upper 80s, and his curveball, while effective against lefties, wasn't anything to get us terribly excited. He changed speeds well, and his changeup was probably his only above-average pitch, which he throws with nice tailing movement. On the night, James threw 95 pitches, 65 for strikes, and he also went six innings, striking out eight and walking two while surrendering three earned runs, all coming on a three-run double by former Royal Gookie Dawkins.

    A couple interesting notes on James. Although we saw no evidence of any attitude problems, he apparently has quite a reputation. Baseball America reports that he was drafted significantly later in the 2002 draft than he otherwise would have been, due to injuries suffered just days before the draft in a stupid stunt. Apparently, James tried to jump off a roof into a swimming pool, only he missed. Baseball Prospectus says that James "is to a good attitude what Marion Barry is to ascetic restraint," and that "there's a good chance that he'll one day be on the business end of a highly publicized clubhouse ass-beating." Funny stuff.

    A few other notes from Richmond:

  • Braves 3B prospect Andy Marte is going to be a fine (and maybe even great) Major League player. About that there is little doubt. But after watching him this weekend, RC has concluded that it would be silly to include him baseball's top five prospects, let alone label him "the best prospect in baseball," as Baseball Prospectus did prior to this season.

    Marte is going to be a good Major Leaguer.

    On the year, the 21-year-old is batting .268/.368/.486 with 17 HR in 354 at bats. Those are very solid stats, especially for someone who is among the youngest players in triple-A. And of course, he still has loads of time to get better.

    Now, we're not going to say we weren't impressed with Marte. We were, and we even saw him go 4-for-4 on Sunday. But it's just that when we saw him, we didn't see someone who was so far ahead of everyone else on the diamond that he easily stood out as the best player.

    We saw a grounder bounce off of Marte's glove, but the scorekeeper generously awarded a hit, rather than an error.

    Yes, it probably takes more than two games watching from box seats to determine such a thing, but we've been to a heck of a lot of minor league games, and it's usually quite obvious when someone is simply ahead of the game. As for Marte, he's just never dominated any level, and he's certainly not dominating in Richmond. Chalk it up to youth if you want -- Marte has been among the youngest players at every level he's played -- but RC wants to see some domination before we're willing to call someone the best prospect in baseball.

    Left: Marte flies out to left. Right: Marte strokes a single to right field.

    Of course, as we mentioned yesterday, this was our first triple-A experience, so it's quite possible that the players at such a high level are closer to each other in skill level than they are in the low minor leagues we are accustomed to watching. It's also quite possible that if you stuck Marte in a league filled with other 21-year-olds, we'd see the dominating performance that we require. So perhaps we're completely full of it. Hey, that's certainly an equally valid possibility.

  • For those of you who bemoan the Royals farm system, just remember that the Tigers are far worse off than KC. Oh sure, the Tigers have a couple top notch pitching prospects in Zumaya and Justin Verlander, but position-wise, the upper levels of their minors are nearly barren of talent. In fact, there are really only two guys worth mentioning, and neither projects as much of a player. The two prospects are Tony Giarratano (SS - Erie) and Ryan Raburn (2B - Toledo). We don't expect to ever hear much out of either.

    That's Giarratano on the left, Raburn on the right.

  • Finally, RC saw some old friends at the games this weekend, both playing for Toledo. Yes, former Royals Gookie Dawkins and Alexis Gomez have found homes in the upper levels of the Tigers' minor league system, joining Byron Gettis for a triumverate of "what could have been."

    What happens when you wash out of the Royals organization? You become a Tigers farmhand. That's excellent news for Ken Harvey.
  • Royals off and running again...WINNING streak stands at two.

    Wow, what a weekend! Due to our travels, RC hasn't seen much of the two wins, but boy, it sure feels nice not having to write some variation of "Royals lose again." The bullpen these last two days has been excellent, and while the offense is still sputtering, it's nice to be able to win two out of three from a team that can run out starting pitchers Rich Harden, Barry Zito, and Joe Blanton in consecutive games.

    If the weekend had any negatives, they came in the form of a couple minor injuries to David DeJesus (rib cage muscle pull) and Runelvys Hernandez (lower back strain). However, DDJ pinch ran today and should be back in the lineup on Tuesday, and Hernandez said after the game that his early exit (after two innings) was merely precautionary.

    After a day off, the Royals return to action on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium vs. the Boston Red Sox. Zack Greinke will try to make it three in a row, matching up with Sox starter David Wells.

  • Dick Kaegel today reported that the Royals are in talks with Matt Stairs, who is eligible for free agency following this season.

    "[Allard Baird] wants me back so we're negotiating a contract," Stairs said.

    "We do have some interest," Baird said. "He's done a quality job. We've used him more than we anticipated when we originally signed him. He's done a solid job on the field as well as in the clubhouse."

    We really like having Stairs around, so we're pleased to hear this. However, we hope to see a dramatic decrease in the big guy's playing time next season. With Justin Huber and Mike Sweeney splitting time at 1B, there shouldn't be too many at bats available for a 38-year-old with a beer league softball swing. With luck, the Royals will finally use Stairs as they intended to when they first signed him in 2003 -- as a left-handed bat off the bench.

  • Reports out of Kansas City are that first round draft pick Alex Gordon will not go to class tomorrow at the University of Nebraska. No big surprise there. It's an aggressive negotiation, but Gordon is simply not going to walk away from a guaranteed $4 million this early. If he doesn't ultimately get what he wants, he may go back into the draft (although we HIGHLY doubt the Royals will let that happen), but that breaking point is still over nine months away. August threats are meaningless.

  • A special thanks goes out RC friend Chris Ray, who at our direction made his first RC post yesterday in our absence. And a big congratulations is also in order. Ray, you will remember, saw his first son delivered on July 27, approximately 30 minutes after Emil Brown stroked a walk-off single in a 6-5 victory over the White Sox.

    If God has a sense of humor, it just might be a sick, twisted one at that. Chris is, as we stated before, undisputedly the world's biggest Royals fan. And until Saturday night, his son, Brett -- who he named after the greatest Royal of all -- sported an unfathomable 0-19 lifetime record. During the streak, RC demanded that Brett's body be searched for any anti-Royal birthmarks, and we suggested that it might not be a bad idea to sprinkle some Kauffman Stadium fountain water over his crib, "just to see what happens." However, our repeated requests were summarily dismissed, and quite rudely at that.

    Well, it turns out our fears were all for nothing. Congratulations again to Brett Ray, for the first two of what we're now sure will be many victories!

    The little guy finally saw his first wins!

  • As we mentioned on Friday, RC was in Richmond over the weekend to check out some prospects and watch a great pitching matchup between Joel Zumaya and Chuck James. The focus of our attention was on two players: Zumaya and Braves 3B prospect Andy Marte. We'll have a detailed report for you tomorrow, but for now, please enjoy a couple photos we took:

    Joel Zumaya is a beast with a great fastball, a great slurve, and little control.

    Baseball Prospectus this year labeled Andy Marte as the best prospect in baseball. We'll tell you why that was stupid.

    Be sure to check in with us tomorrow.
  • Sunday

    Royals Win!!!!!

    Mike MacDougal is RC's Official Honorary Hero.

    RC will be back tomorrow.