Random notes...

This has been a very good day for the Royals. It's amazing how much better a minor league system looks when you add the top collegiate player in the nation to its ranks. RC was the first major publication to break the news of Alex Gordon's signing this morning, and ever since, we've been salivating at the thought that there's a good chance that at some point in the coming spring training, we'll see a Royals lineup that includes David DeJesus, Mike Sweeney, Billy Butler, Justin Huber, and Gordon.

And just think about the infield we might see at High Desert to start next season: Gordon at third base, Jeff Bianchi at shortstop, and Gary Perez at second base. The future is quickly approaching, and we like what we see on the horizon.

  • Allard Baird also likes what he sees, and he gave an excellent interview today on 810 AM after the Gordon signing. The following is a list of Baird's key points, as compiled by RC correspondent Chris Ray:

    - Gordon will start as a third baseman, but has the athletic ability to play any position. Baird believes that Gordon would already be an above average defensive first baseman.

    - The Royals will again draft the best player available in the 2006 draft.

    - Baird feels that DeJesus is about a half season ahead of where they thought he'd be in his player development. Many teams were looking to acquire DeJesus at the trade deadline, but Baird just laughed. There is a very good chance that DeJesus will be offered a long term contract in the offseason.

    - Phase one of the youth movement is over. Phase two will include adding free agents. Baird is looking to add $20 million of payroll in the offseason. His targets will be a starting pitcher, a veteran relief pitcher, a veteran catcher and an offensive second baseman, in that order. The Royals will be very aggressive in the free agent market.

    - Baird is more confident now than ever that he can acquire a power-hitting corner outfielder through free agency or a trade, due to payroll flexibility.

    - Baird would like Butler to spend another full year in the outfield in the minor leagues before coming to the Major Leagues.

    - Chris Lubanski looks to play in AA in 2006, AAA in 2007 and reach Kansas City by 2008. Baird said he's the type of guy who must prove himself at every level to move up.

    - If Luis Cota improves his control, he could move quickly through the minor leagues.

    - Mitch Maier needs to establish his bat at Wichita before he can move up. Baird feels 2006 is VERY important for Maier, but he is surprised how well he has progressed defensively, to the point that Maier is already an above average CF.

    - Baird is pleased by the way John Buck and Mark Teahen are finishing the season.

    - Andres Blanco is already a gold glove caliber second baseman.

    - Baird said that he is willing to trade anyone on the roster.

    - Baird is disappointed with Angel Berroa's plate discipline, but believes Andre David can help him.

    - If Huber makes some strides defensively in the Arizona Fall League, then he could start 2006 in KC.

    - Baird believes Gobble's value will most likely be in the bullpen.

    - The only locks for the 2006 rotation are Zack Greinke and Runelvys Hernandez.

    - Contrary to media reports, the Royals were never close to trading Sweeney over the summer.

    - With the addition of a solid changeup, Jeremy Affeldt could be moved back to a starter in 2006.

  • In other news, Billy Butler was named by Baseball America as the California League's fifth-best prospect, and Chris Lubanski was number 20. On Butler, BA wrote the following:

    Other than below-average speed, which plays no role in his style of play, Butler has no offensive weaknesses. He controls the strike zone well, can hit for average and shows plus power to all fields

    “He’s Mike Sweeney Jr.,” a National League scout said. “He could be even better than Sweeney.”

    At first look, Lubanski appears to have been shafted by his ranking, but BA brings up several good points:

    Lubanski’s game has changed dramatically since he went fifth overall in the 2003 draft. He’s no longer the burner he was in high school, yet he's still a plus runner and his power has grown. He’s still overaggressive at the plate and needs to improve on working counts and closing the holes in his swing. His work ethic was universally praised.

    While his offense took a major step forward, Lubanski's play in center field has declined. A below-average arm, bad routes and his drop in speed has most projecting an eventual move to left, where some wonder if his bat will be enough to carry him.

    Kevin Goldstein of BA will conduct a live chat to discuss the list and the California League on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. CST. If you have any questions for him, be sure to chime in by clicking on this link. Perhaps you'll want to ask him how in the hell Ian Stewart is rated higher than Butler...Perhaps...

  • Alas, the Royals avoided their 105th loss of the year tonight with an impressive offensive effort vs. the Minnesota Twins. Mike Wood was spotted a quick 5-0 lead, but he blew it in the fourth inning, but the Royals bounced back with the help of homers from Teahen, Buck, and Sweeney in the sixth inning to take a 10-6 lead.

    Sweeney paced the offense with five RBIs, and the bullpen contributed five scoreless innings from D.J. Carrasco, Gobble, Affeldt, and Mike MacDougal to nail down the win and secure the series split.

    Up next for the Royals is a three game set vs. the Toronto Blue Jays to finish off the season. The Royals must win all three games to avoid the worst record in franchise history, and Zack Greinke gets the first crack at it tomorrow vs. Josh Towers.

  • Gordon signs for $4 million...

    It is now official. The Royals held a press conference at noon (CST) today to announce the signing, which will pay Gordon a $4 million bonus.

    Apparently, Gordon was presented with a #4 jersey at the press conference. Could the Royals be sending us a message about Angel Berroa's future? Hmmmmm.

    This could not have worked out much better for the Royals, as they got Gordon to agree to drop his demand for a Major League contract while upping their ante by only $200K. An outside force must have spooked his agent Casey Close, whether it be Gordon himself demanding to end the holdout, or the rumored looming renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, in which draft pick bonuses may be slotted as early as next year.

    Whatever the case, RC is going to celebrate tonight.


    RC returns with some optimism as Royals drop number 103...

    Fresh off our journey to Yankees country, in which we saw what we assume was a sizeable chunk of RC's official inheritance spent on a six-hour party (but a beautiful party at that) for the sake of our sister and her Yankee fan husband, we return to action with a fresh perspective on life. We got back to town in time to watch the Chiefs' miserable performance on Monday Night Football, and until some miserable dude on the Broncos forgot how to tackle with a minute or so left in the game, we were planning to write a column lauding the fact that the Royals had actually outscored the Chiefs on Monday. Of course, that didn't materialize, but RC still went to bed last night with a sly grin on our face.

    Anyway, we also were able to watch a good deal of the Royals game, and several things we saw reinforced our tremendous optimism about the future of the Royals.

    We watched as J.P. Howell threw five no-hit innings, working both sides of the plate while mixing in a great curveball and nasty change up. We saw John Buck continue his outstanding September (.329/.351/.543) by lacing a key two-run double down the right field line. And we laughed as Andy Sisco, Ambiorix Burgos, and Jeremy Affeldt combined for four innings of scoreless three-hit ball to close out the game.

    Of course, with us being who we are, it was two completely unnoticed and unheralded events that got us most excited.

    Although Mark Teahen only went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, we saw him absolutely smash a foul ball down the right field line. He put a beautiful swing on a belt high fastball, and had he not been a smidge early on the pitch, he would have added a Metrodome upper deck homerun to his resume. It was the type of foul ball that we, in the 120 games or so we've watched this season, had never seen Teahen hit. Now, before you jump all over us for getting excited about a foul ball, allow us to explain.

    It is no secret that Teahen's biggest weakness thus far in his Major League career has been his inability to pull pitches that a big league third baseman needs to be able to turn on. Throughout the season, we've heard everyone from Allard Baird to George Brett lamenting the fact that Teahen hadn't yet started using his natural power and size to his advantage by hitting the ball to right field more often.

    Folks, that is no longer the case. It is no coincidence that Teahen's great September (.293/.352/.500) has come at precisely the same time that he started pulling the ball. We've seen a gradual improvement in this respect throughout the season, but it looks as though Teahen has finally put it all together. RC saw it with the 441-foot grand slam he hit at Kauffman last week, and we saw it with that foul ball he smashed last night. It's taken longer than anyone expected, but Teahen is finally hitting the ball the way a guy of his size ought to be hitting it.

    The other thing we saw that impressed the hell out of us was one of the most athletic defensive plays we've ever seen. Why haven't you heard about it? Because the people who pick out which highlights to show don't know anything about baseball.

    In the seventh inning, Michael Cuddyer led off the inning with a single off of Sisco. Justin Morneau stepped to the plate and hit a soft line drive one-hopper to Teahen, who backed up, fielded the ball, and fired off-line to the first base side of second base. What happened next can best be displayed with an RC original pictoral:

    It was amazing enough that Blanco was able to catch Teahen's throw while keeping his left foot on the bag long enough to retire Cuddyer, who was quickly bearing down on him to break up the double play. Most second basemen in this position would have no choice but to put the ball in their pocket...but not Blanco. In one smooth motion, Blanco made the acrobatic catch, somehow leaped OVER Cuddyer, and threw a hard strike to Matt Stairs in an attempt to complete the twin-killing. Morneau beat out the throw by a half step, but if he had been a tad slower, this play would have gone down as the double play of the year.

    Blanco's athletic ability is astounding. When searching for comparisons, RC can only look to guys like Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel. In today's game, RC is already able to confidently say that Blanco has no defensive peer at second base. Yes, his talents could be better used at shortstop, and he may wind up there eventually. But in the meantime, we just want to sit back and enjoy the highlight-reel plays, even the ones that don't wind up in any highlight reels.

  • As for tonight's game, it was pretty much a stinker. Runelvys Hernandez battled with his control again but registered his first quality start in quite some time (6.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 K), but there was little else to celebrate, sans another great play by Blanco. The series is now even, but that figures to probably change in the Twins' favor tomorrow as Jose Lima takes the mound vs. Kyle Lohse. Of course, there is some good news...this will be Lima's last appearance in a Royals uniform. Maybe he can go out with a bang.

    Let's hope he does well, but not well enough to give the Royals any funny ideas about next season.