Rod Barajas: RC's Enemy Number One...

Stop pitching to this man.

RC watched tonight's game, which was spoiled by two more homers off the bat of Rod Barajas, and there's not a whole lot to say. Zack Greinke pitched well, and the combo of Andy Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos didn't. The Royals staged a miracle comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning, capped by Mark Teahen's fourth hit of the game -- a three-run double -- but Barajas came up in the tenth inning and promptly dispatched a low Mike MacDougal slider into the left field seats.

  • In the minors, a few interesting things happened tonight. Billy Butler hit his 30th homer of the season for Wichita (five for the Wranglers, 25 for the Mavericks). High Desert's Adam Keim also drilled his 30th long ball in the Mavericks' game tonight, but at this point the Mavs have some catching up to do if they want to clinch their division title tonight. At press time, they trail 12-8.

    Luis Cota finished his season with a mediocre performance. Cota got a no-decision in Burlington's loss today, with a line of: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. He finished the season with a 4.01 ERA in 148 IP. He surrendered 143 hits while walking 63 and striking out 137. It's definitely a season he can build on.

  • RC is going to make some rounds through the Eastern and Carolina Leagues this weekend. We'll be sure to post a report if anything interesting happens, but we anticipate this weekend's Royals posting may be a little light.
  • Thursday

    Royals shut out Twins...

    RC missed the game today, because we had to work, but we understand that it was quite a nail biter. The Royals actually managed to shut out the Twinkies despite surrendering 13 hits, with the help of four double plays. Mike Wood pitched six scoreless innings, working out of trouble all day.

    Emil Brown was the hero today in the ninth inning.

    Emil Brown drove in Denny Hocking with the winning run on a single to left, and the Royals will hopefully be able to carry some momentum into this weekend's series vs. the Rangers. J.P. Howell gets the start tomorrow vs. Kenny Rogers, and RC's correspondent has promised photos from the game.

  • If you haven't yet signed up for Royals Corner's Daily Prospect Update, you're running out of time this season. We'll continue sending out a daily report through the end of the minor league season, which ends for everyone except High Desert this Labor Day weekend. Of course, our reports won't end at that point...they just won't be daily. There's plenty to cover in the offseason, including the Arizona Fall League, the Winter meetings, the Rule 5 draft, postseason awards, etc., so you'll want to make sure you sign up to receive our e-mail updates if you haven't done so already.

    Tonight in the minors, several Royals had noteworthy performances:

    - Denny Bautista had a successful rehab outing for the Omaha Royals. Bautista threw 2.2 perfect innings while striking out two and inducing five ground outs vs. one fly out. A very encouraging outing for Denny...

    - Justin Huber hopefully finished off his minor league career with a 1-for-3 night. Huber should be in KC for tonight's game vs. the Rangers, hopefully to stay for good.

    - Chris Lubanski has officially gone red hot. He went 4-for-4 tonight with two HR (27) and seven RBIs. Over the last two games, Lubes is 8-for-9 with two doubles, two homers, and nine RBIs. He now has 113 RBIs on the season, which places him within striking distance of Brandon Wood (114) for the league lead. He also pushed his batting average up to .300 for the first time this season.

    - Leo Nunez should be called up to KC today.

    - Chris Nicoll had his second straight mediocre outing for Idaho Falls. He surrendered five runs (three earned) in four innings of work. With the season ending this weekend, that should wrap up Nicoll's 2005 campaign. His first taste of the professional ranks can only be viewed as a success, as he finished his season with a 3.47 ERA in 23.1 IP, allowing 21 hits while walking nine and striking out 24.

    - Calvin Pickering raised his BA to .265 by going 3-for-4 for the O-Royals.

    - In High Desert, SS Angel Sanchez went 3-for-5 with his fourth homer of the season. Over the last two games, Sanchez is 6-for-11 with 5 RBIs, and his BA is up to .307.

    If you'd like to receive daily e-mail updates like the report above, simply a blank e-mail to and follow the instructions, which will require you to send a confirmation e-mail (Editor's note: you do NOT have to sign up for a yahoo ID).
  • Wednesday

    Royals drop fifth straight with makeshift lineup...

    RC doesn't have much commentary on tonight's game. We had some network issues, so our ability to actually watch the game was very limited. We understand that AAAAaron Guiel continued to justify his long stay in Omaha, and we heard that Buddy Bell went off on Emil Brown after the game because of a couple baserunning blunders.

    Perhaps the most interesting news out of KC came in the form of an exclusive report from an RC correspondent who was actually at the game. After the loss, our source noticed that Zack Greinke, Guy Hansen, and Mike Mason all walked out to the bullpen together. Sensing potentially breaking news, our source whipped out his camera and documented the proceedings.

    Greinke was working on shoulder mechanics and drive after the game.

    Apparently, Hansen had Greinke work on some mechanical issues out of the stretch. There was no ball involved in the session, but rather Hansen had Greinke throwing airballs out of the stretch while continually concentrating on his shoulder positioning and drive. Hopefully we'll see this pay some dividends in Greinke's next start, which should be on Friday vs. the Rangers.

  • The Arizona Royals concluded their season on Monday night, and we're pleased to report that several Royals prospects registered among the league leaders in several categories:

    -Joe Dickerson finished the season with a very encouraging line of .294/.371/.491. He hit four home runs, and he led the league triples (9) RBIs (40) -- which was a bit of a surprise -- at bats (214), and caught stealing (12). He was second in total bases (105), fifth in SLG pct., and sixth in walks (27) as of press time.

    -Jeff Bianchi, if not for his injuries, would have almost definitely won the league's triple crown. He put up a ridiculous line of .408/.484/.745, and his six homers were still good for second in the league. He finished 11th in RBIs (30), despite playing in exactly half as many games as the league's leader, Dickerson.

    -Shortstop Valentino Arce had a very nice season, .335/.405/.412. His OBP was good for ninth in the league.

    -Outfielder Jose Duarte also came out of nowhere for a very good season, posting a line of .309/.388/.466. His 36 RBIs were good for third in the league, and his SLG pct. was the 7th-best.

    -Brent Fisher was third in the league in strikeouts while putting up a great season. His numbers were: 50.1 IP, 48 H, 17 ER, 2 HR, 13 BB, 69 K and an ERA of 3.04. His record was 5-2.

    -Rayner Oliveros tied for the league lead with seven victories (7-1), and he was second in the league in innings pitched. His line for the season was stellar: 75.1 IP, 73 H, 20 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 48 K, and an ERA of 2.39. Gotta love that control!

    -Gilbert De la vara was excellent in relief, posting a line of: 38.2 IP, 31 H, 10 ER, 2 HR, 13 BB, 43 K, and a 2.33 ERA. De la vara will pitch for the U.S. in the World Cup tournament after the season.
  • Monday

    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.
  • Sunday

    RC's look ahead at 2006...

    Last week, we promised to take a look at next season's Royals roster. This is a difficult task, because despite what that Royals ultimately do, RC does not expect to see any significant move toward contending in 2006. Rather, the focus must remain on development and evaluation, and our 2006 roster reflects that. Everything the Royals do must be geared toward competing in 2007, regardless of how much pressure there is to make a splash in the free agent or trade market.

    Today, RC takes a look at the position players and our expectations for this offseason. We will cover the pitchers tomorrow.

    Expected 2006 roster (position players):

    John Buck
    Paul Phillips/Matt Tupman
    Mike Sweeney
    Justin Huber
    Matt Stairs
    Donnie Murphy
    Angel Berroa
    Andres Blanco
    Mike Aviles
    Mark Teahen
    David DeJesus
    Emil Brown
    Chip Ambres
    Shane Costa

    John Buck remains the starting catcher, but if the Royals don’t see improvement in 2006, then they need to start looking for an alternative. Looking through the organization, the only possible future starting catchers still reside in low-A ball and below, so they will not be ready by 2007. Therefore, the Royals should spend next season figuring out if Buck is a long-term answer, and if they conclude that he isn’t, then they need to begin looking for a catching upgrade via trade in 2006 or free agency after the season.

    Will Buck ever develop into the player the Royals hope? We sure hope so.

    The backup catcher position can be filled easily from within the organization. Paul Phillips is currently getting a shot to show that he belongs, but don’t be surprised if Matt Tupman also gets a crack, either in September or in spring training.

    First base:
    Justin Huber will finally arrive, and he will most likely split DH/1B responsibilities with Mike Sweeney. Also in the mix will be Matt Stairs, who will, God willing, see only extremely limited playing time in the field.

    KC needs another good season out of Mike Sweeney.

    Second base:
    RC does not believe the Royals will give up on both Donnie Murphy and Ruben Gotay by signing a free agent second baseman this offseason. As you know, RC is a big fan of Murphy, and we believe that in time, he will be a perfectly capable second baseman. However, we have heard some grumblings in the media that the Royals view Murphy’s upside as little more than a utility player, and that they are in fact serious about signing a second baseman.

    If that happens, then Murphy becomes the organization’s primary utility man, but for the time being, we’re still penciling in Murphy’s name as the second baseman in 2006. We want to see the Royals give him a full season to see what he can accomplish. If he still hasn't shown improvement by late July, the Royals should pursue other options via trade and/or free agency in the offseason.

    Third base:
    Next season is more pivotal for Mark Teahen than anyone else on the roster. We’d hesitate before calling 2005 a failure for Teahen, because he has played better defense and improved his plate discipline throughout the year. But the fact is that his line of .230/.297/.340 makes him the most unproductive third baseman in all of baseball, a smidge behind even Mike Lowell and David Bell, according to Baseball Prospectus. RC wasn’t expecting much out of Teahen this season, but we never imagined he’d have only 27 extra base hits at the end of August.

    Third base is an offensive position, and Teahen simply MUST hit better than that. For 2006, he remains our third baseman of choice, but he must start pulling the ball more often. It simply doesn’t make any sense how a guy built like Teahen can hit with so little power. That power is in there somewhere, and Teahen has to find it, or he’s going to be replaced, defense be damned.

    Since even before Alex Gordon was drafted, RC has penciled him in as KC’s starting right fielder in 2007. We’re not doing that anymore. Rather, we now want the Royals to leave Gordon at third base for the time being, as a backup plan in case Teahen fails. If Teahen starts hitting next season, the Royals can begin getting Gordon work in the outfield in preparation for 2007. If Teahen doesn’t start hitting, then Gordon needs to be the man to step in at third.

    If it were up to us, Angel Berroa would not be KC’s shortstop in 2006. We would trade him for luggage if offered. However, Berroa’s contract pretty much ensures that he’ll continue making stupid blunders on the Royals’ behalf for at least another season. Therefore, we have penciled him in as the starter in 2006.

    If we had our druthers, Andres Blanco would be the man at the six, because while we know he wouldn’t hit, at least he’d make the plays on defense. Such an arrangement would also mean that we wouldn’t have to constantly ask ourselves how such a physically gifted athlete could be such a lousy, dumb baseball player. But oh well. Sooner or later the Royals are going to come to the conclusion that the $10 million they have committed to Berroa through 2008 is a sunk cost regardless of whether or not he’s in the lineup, and that being the case, there’s no reason to continue putting up with his stupid play.

    Of course, there’s also some good news here. The Royals have built a good deal of depth at shortstop in the low minors, and there is help on the way. Just not yet.

    Utility infield:
    If the Royals sign a second baseman, then either Murphy and/or Blanco becomes the primary utility man. If Murphy stays at second, then RC believes you could see Mike Aviles on the Royals roster in 2006. Aviles can play SS, 2B, and 3B, and Blanco plays 2B and SS. In this arrangement, Blanco could start at 2B vs. tough righties, while Murphy would be the primary second baseman at all other times.

    Aviles' bat could be a plus in a utility role.

    Aviles was rated as the best defensive shortstop in the Arizona Summer League in 2003, but he’s been dreadful with the glove this year (40 errors). He boasts a strong arm, but his range is limited and his footwork around the bag at second base is pretty ugly. However, his bat could be an asset off the bench in a utility role, and RC wouldn’t mind seeing him get a shot. In addition, Ruben Gotay could find himself back in the mix, as a backup to Murphy and a left handed bat off the bench. More likely, however, Gotay will start 2006 in Omaha.

    Center Field:
    We separate CF from the other outfield positions because it’s not even really worth writing about. David DeJesus will patrol center for the Royals until he no longer wants to be a Royal. Hopefully Allard Baird this offseason can get DDJ to agree to extend the length of time between that point and now by signing him to a long-term contract. DeJesus is quite simply “the man,” and he is RC’s Official Favorite Player.

    Hats off to DeJesus, who has just been named RC's Official Favorite Player!

    Corner outfield:
    Looking at the potential free agent list, we just don’t know who is a good fit. We are hesitant to want to sign anyone to anything longer than a one-year contract, because there are several potentially good outfielders in the pipeline (Billy Butler, Chris Lubanski, and Alex Gordon) who should be ready soon. Much also hinges on whether or not the Royals believe in Teahen, or if they feel that Gordon is going to be the third baseman of the future.

    The key thing to remember is that the Royals are not going to compete for anything in 2006. Next season is one in which you hope to see significant improvement, but 2007 must remain the focus. Therefore, expensive contracts are a waste, particularly in the outfield, unless they secure a player who will be productive for several years. And when you see the free agent list below, you’ll see that there really isn’t any outfielder available who can fit that description.

    We expect the Royals to roll with Emil Brown in 2006 because he’s cheap, and we don’t know if the Royals will be able to entice a free agent outfielder to come to KC. Emil has no future in KC beyond 2006, but in the meantime he can at least give them some professional at bats, and he’s completely benchable if a potential replacement emerges, either from the minor leagues or through a trade. We also wouldn’t mind seeing Matt Diaz get an extended look, in lieu of Brown if need be. And of course, Aaron Guiel could get a shot in a platoon role.

    RC wants to see left field serve as the rotating proving ground for our marginal outfield prospects, Chip Ambres and Shane Costa. We don’t expect either to become overly productive players, but their platoon should be an audition of sorts for the role of fourth outfielder of the future. If Butler continues knocking the cover off the ball in the minors, he’ll become the everyday left fielder sometime during the season, and the Royals can move Ambres and/or Costa to right field.

    RC expects Butler to take over in left field at some point in 2006.

    Potential free agents – offense:
    RC has identified a few players who might be able to help the Royals next season. However, none are ideal fits, and we would not be surprised, or terribly disappointed, if none are signed.

    On the infield, we like Bill Mueller, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mark Grudzielanek. If last year’s free agent market is any barometer, Furcal will demand the highest ransom, in the form of multiple years at over $5 million per season. The chances of the Royals signing him are almost nothing, as they don’t seem terribly interested in supplanting Berroa as the shortstop quite yet. Furcal will attract significant interest from a number of clubs, so a bidding war in which the Royals cannot compete is likely to occur.

    If the Royals are serious about signing a free agent second baseman, Grudzielanek is likely to be their first and most serious target. Grudz is making $1 million this season for the Cards, and he’s putting up numbers (.303/.342/.419) in line with his career averages. He’s probably due for a slight raise, but he’s definitely someone the Royals should be able to sign.

    Mueller is primarily a third baseman, but he has played second base. He’d be a defensive liability there, but his bat might make up the difference, provided he’s actually willing to sign up to play second. Again not likely, but Mueller is an intriguing player.

    Of course, if you’re interested in intrigue, you could do worse than to target Garciaparra. Ravaged by injuries the past couple years, Nomar again this offseason probably won’t get any multi-year offers, so he’ll be looking for a one-year contract. If the Royals want to take a risk, they could throw some money at Garciaparra and move Berroa to second. Don’t count on it though.

    In the outfield, the pickings are slim. The only potential outfielder worthy of a multi-year deal is Brian Giles, but he’ll be 35 next year, and there should be a number of teams willing to overpay for him for a span stretching into his late 30s or early 40s. He could help the Royals next year, but we’d be leery of offering him a big bag of money for multiple years. Rather, we think the Royals ought to wait until the 2006 offseason to break the bank on a free agent outfielder, if the need still exists.

    The cheaper outfielders available are also very limited. Among the list, only Jacque Jones, Preston Wilson and Rondell White figure to be affordable upgrades. Of course, "upgrade" is a relative term, as RC really doesn't long to see any of the above in Royal blue next season.

    Rondell White's season ended in KC earlier this month. Will his next game be played as a Royal?

    That's it for the position players. Be sure to check in with us tomorrow, as we take a look at the 2006 pitching staff. While we don't expect major moves to happen with regard to position players, we do think there are some things the Royals can do to significantly upgrade the pitching staff.