RC's 2003 Draft Update...Royals drop 100th...

After reviewing the 2005 and 2004 drafts, RC correspondent Craig Weddle is back with analysis on the performance of the Royals' 2003 draftees.

The Royals’ draft of 2003 did not net the immediate results that the 2004 and 2005 drafts brought. Patience is needed for this class. However, even with the most optimistic projections, this class will likely rank below the two subsequent drafts. In each baseball draft teams hope to land a star, a few solid major leaguers, and enough decent players to fill their minor league system with organizational guys.

The best players of the 2005 draft appear to be a pair of 20-year-olds.

Chris Lubanski (1st round) finally had his breakout year in 2005. After producing mediocre results in Burlington last year and the beginning of this season, Chris exploded the last few months of 2005, finishing the season with a line of .301/.349/.554. Although he needs to cut down on his strikeouts (131), he did hit 38 doubles and 28 homers while leading the California League in RBIs. His performance in the Mavericks post season was Barry Bonds-esque (13-for-15). If he can continue to hit in Wichita next season, he will become a legitimate top prospect.

Luis Cota (10th round draft-and-follow) had a solid year at Burlington. At times he was unhittable, and others he was just plain average. Named the organization’s pitcher of the year, Luis had a K/BB ratio of better than 2/1, a K/IP ~1/1 and gave up fewer hits than innings pitched. Luis has a lot of upside and will try his hand in the hitter friendly California League next year.

Three guys who spent a lot of time in Wichita head the best of the rest department. Shane Costa (2nd round) and Mitch Maier (late 1st round) are guys who don’t appear to have star potential, but could fit in as the Royals’ future 3rd and 4th outfielders. Maier had 47 doubles this year between High Desert and Wichita, while Costa had a decent .797 OPS. Mike Aviles (7th round) figures to be a Royals’ utility guy in the near future. Some utility guys are all glove and no bat, but Mike doesn’t quite fit that mold. Aviles committed 41 errors this year while compiling a decent .765 OPS.

Others to watch include Ryan Braun (6th round), Miguel Vega (4th round), and Steve Bray (14th round). Braun is a 25-year old closer who spent most of the season injured. Drafted as a college senior, the clock was already ticking for him, and this year didn’t help. Vega is 20-year old infielder with a lot of potential, but is very raw. Miguel also spent a lot of time injured this year, but hit a respectable .743 OPS in Burlington when he did play. Hopefully a move to High Desert in 2006 will jump start his career. Bray, a 24-year old middle reliever, is an under-the-radar kind of guy with limited upside. However, he was an effective reliever for Wichita, with a K/BB ratio of better than 3/1.

The rest of the draft features organizational guys who will likely never see a Royals game without buying a ticket. The best of these guys include Dustin Hughes, John Gragg, Brandon Powell, Irving Falu, Eddie Solis and Brian McFall.

In summary, the Royals didn’t have a terrible draft in 2003, but didn’t land a star either. The final verdict will rest entirely with the progress of Lubanski and Cota. -CW

  • As you may have noticed, RC this past week hasn't been providing the frequent updates you've no doubt grown dependent upon. We apologize for the lag in updates, and we're sorry to report that it will last at least through this coming Monday. We are heading to Connecticut tomorrow for the wedding of RC's official sister, and we'll be cut off from the civilized baseball world until our return on Monday. Part of us is dreading our upcoming trek into Yankee country to see our kin wed a damned Yankees fan, but beyond that one obvious flaw, Dexter is a pretty great guy and we're extremely happy for both him and Kimberly.

    The Yankee fan and his bride-to-be...

    In addition to making preparations for this event, RC this week has been battling with a nasty bout of stomach flu, which we suspect was passed on to us by our official roommate (a damned Cardinals fan) as retribution for 1985. But his ill-conceived plot to kill off RC failed, and we'll return even stronger, albeit slightly more delirious.

    Anyway, we promise to be back at full strength by Tuesday, September 27, so be sure to check back in with us then.

  • Speaking of "full strength," it would be completely ridiculous if we failed to mention Mark Teahen's majestic grand slam in tonight's game. As Kip Dynamite might say, "THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!" Teahen absolutely crushed a Cliff Lee fastball, sending it an estimated 441 feet high into the right-center field water display for his first career grand slam. In case you haven't noticed, Teahen has been playing great this month, compiling a September line of .303/.365/.500 with two homers, seven doubles, and 17 RBIs. It's good to see him finally putting things together, and he should be able to carry this momentum into next season.

    Unfortunately, the Royals lost the game 11-6, pushing their season loss total past the arbitrary 100-loss threshold. Oh well. As least the loss screwed over the White Sox, who also lost tonight.
  • Monday

    Three Royals prospects listed in the Arizona League's top 20...

    RC was pleased to learn today that three Royals prospects, all 2005 draftees fresh out of high school, were listed today in Baseball America's Top 20 list of Arizona League prospects. Shortstop Jeff Bianchi, KC's second round pick out of Pennsylvania, was listed as the league's top position player and fourth overall. Oufielder Joe Dickerson was rated as the league's second-best outfielder and ninth best prospect overall, and pitcher Brent Fisher was named the league's second-best lefty and 18th-best prospect.

    On Bianchi, BA wrote:

    A short, compact middle infielder, Bianchi is what he is: a blue-collar player with limited projection. He’s an advanced hitter—already one of the best in the Royals system—with an excellent approach and the potential for 15-20 homers annually. He made an easy transition to wood bats and makes consistent contact to all fields with a short, line-drive swing.

    Bianchi's stats on the season, which was cut short due to injury, were stellar: .408/.484/.745 with 6 HR in 98 at bats. Had he not been plagued by a pulled back muscle, Bianchi almost certainly would have carried home the league's triple crown.

    On Dickerson, BA wrote:

    Dickerson's bat is his best tool. He has good bat speed with a line-drive swing, but he needs to be more selective because he chases too many breaking balls out of the strike zone. A dead pull hitter, Dickerson has limited raw power but more than Lubanski at a similar stage. He led the league with nine triples.

    Dickerson led the Arizona League in RBIs, and BA says that some folks compare him to Mark Kotsay. He gets good reads and takes good routes on fly balls, and he's not afraid to play a shallow center field.

    On Fisher, BA wrote:

    Fisher has an easy, deliberate delivery that enabled him to get good deception and late movement on a sinking, fringe-average fastball, which he kept down in the zone consistently. He should add velocity with maturity and minor tinkering with his mechanics. His 12-to-6 curveball and changeup already are solid secondary pitches.

    On the season, Fisher put up an excellent line of: 50.1 IP, 48 H, 2 HR, 13 BB, and 69 K with a 3.04 ERA.


    RC officially changes our position on second base

    We have made no secret about our fondness of Donnie Murphy. We've liked Murphy ever since we watched him for a season in the Carolina League, and we're convinced that despite looking overwhelmed at the plate in the Major Leagues, Murphy will eventually come around and be a plus-offensive player at second base. And as such, we've labeled him as our "second baseman of the future," and we repeatedly stated our preference in seeing him as the starter in KC in 2006.

    We still like Murphy, but we'd now prefer him to go to Omaha to start next season. RC wants Andres Blanco instead. Every night we watch Blanco make defensive plays that leave us awestruck. Tonight, for example, Blanco was responsible for creating at least three outs on defense that no other second baseman in the Royals organization could have made, and we have doubts that ANY other second baseman in baseball could have made two of them.

    In the first inning of tonight's 5-4 loss, he dove and snared a grounder off the bat of Ben Broussard at the edge of the grass, then spun around and from his butt threw him out at first. For a player like Murphy, this would go in the highlight file, but for Blanco, it is merely routine. He later turned another miraculous double play with Angel Berroa. The speed with which Blanco turns the double play is astounding -- the best in all of baseball -- but what is truly impressive is how hard Blanco's relay throws to first are. Of course, this is also becoming routine for Blanco.

    But in the third inning, he made RC leap to our feet with amazement as he dove at and caught -- while parallel with the ground -- an outfield-bound soft liner that almost certainly would have plated a run. We've seen Blanco make some great plays, but this one may have finally been the straw that broke RC's backing of Murphy.

    Blanco does everything well defensively -- his range is superlative, his plus-shortstop arm makes second base look like a joke, and his double play turns are flawless and lightning-quick. His instincts are excellent, and he's young enough that he still hustles after everything. Allard Baird is absolutely correct when he says that Blanco is a Gold Glove caliber second baseman right now. There truly is nobody who is better defensively, at least not in the American League.

    True, Blanco's bat still leaves much to be desired. Even though he's handled himself pretty well at the Major League level thus far, his minor league performance shows that Blanco would be lucky to be a lifetime .250/.315/.335 hitter. However, we are starting to convince ourselves that Blanco's defense would pick up all the slack and then some for his below average offense. Indeed, we think Blanco's presence on the roster could have a very positive effect on the Royals' vital runs created/runs allowed ratio.

    Can we quantify it? No. Most quality defensive statistics are still in their infancy, and even though the better statistics like zone rating and defensive win shares will both reflect Blanco's superior defense, they'll still be unable to accurately measure Blanco's contribution to the team. For instance, there is no way to quantify that Blanco's diving catch today saved an actual run because there was a man on second base. And there's no way to predict with any certainty how many other second basemen would have been able to make that play, or any others in which Blanco's arm strength or range played the central role in nailing a baserunner by half a step.

    Of course, all of this may be for naught. We understand Baird prior to the game today said on the radio that he's targeting a veteran free agent second baseman in the offseason. With Blanco, Murphy, and Ruben Gotay all in the organization, the only way Baird could justify that to us would be by moving Blanco back to shortstop (which would raise his defensive value even higher) and showing Berroa the door. But if that doesn't happen, RC is convinced that we have a quality second baseman right now, and we hope the Royals realize it.

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