Elmer, Esteban, Fabio, and Paul...What's up with these names?

The Royals finished up the Winter Meetings today having accomplished most of what they had intended. They added a veteran starter to their rotation yesterday, and today they traded their first overall Rule 5 selection -- Fabio Castro -- to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Esteban German (more on him in a moment). They also signed the much anticipated two-year contract with relief pitcher Elmer Dessens, and they secured their new backup catcher -- Paul Bako -- after Todd Pratt fell through.

Among today's events, RC is most excited about the acquisition of German. Honestly, before today, we had never even heard of him, and we briefly scoffed when we heard the news this morning that he would be the frontrunner to fill our hole at 2B.

And then we checked out his statistics. We're pleased to report that RC is now going to bed tonight convinced that Allard Baird may have found his latest diamond in the rough -- his new Raul Ibanez, so to speak. Throughout his minor league career, German has done nothing but hit, steal bases, and get on base at a ridiculously good rate. And if there's anything that transfers well from the minor leagues to the Majors, it's plate discipline and speed.

Take a look at German's AAA stats over the last four seasons:


So, in light of these great stats at AAA for the last four seasons, why hasn't German received more than 103 at bats in the Majors? Because when he was in Oakland's system, he was stuck behind Mark Ellis, and when he wound up in the Rangers' organization, he was behind Alfonso Soriano. German has never received regular duty in the Majors, and that very well may be all he needs to bust out into a productive Major League player. The only legitimate concern we've heard about German is that his glovework is somewhat suspect. We have no idea what his problems might be, but we're confident that at the very least, his range is probably pretty good. We have considerably less concern about his bat, and we understand that he is presently among the Dominican Winter League league leaders in BA, OBP, and walks, and he's leading the league in stolen bases and CARRERAS ANOTADAS, whatever the hell that is (Any Spanish-speaking RC readers feel free to chime in on that one -- we think it's probably runs).

Anyway, the point of all this is that RC believes the Royals may have found their second baseman, and he just may turn out to be a very good player. We are already as impressed with this trade -- turning a Rule 5 pick they didn't want into a fast on-base machine -- as almost any other Baird has made during his tenure. Good show!

The day's other news was considerably less exciting. Dessens isn't exactly someone you can get too pumped about, but he'll take some pressure off of the young guys like Leo Nunez, who need more time in the minors, so that does have value. Bako will never be confused with anybody who's worth getting excited about, but he's a veteran catcher, and we imagine there are at the very least a few things he can help teach John Buck about calling a game.

Also today, the "Player To Be Named Later" in the Redman trade was announced, and as we reported late last night, it was indeed Chad Blackwell. As you know, Royals Corner was the FIRST media outlet to break the news, and we're proud that RC continues to be the NUMBER ONE source for Royals news you won't hear anywhere else. As for the inclusion of Blackwell in the trade, we're absolutely fine with it. Blackwell has put up some good numbers in the minors, but he has a funky sidearm delivery that has already caused him some arm problems (remember, RC also broke the news of Blackwell's MRI in our Top 25 prospect feature -- although the MRI was ultimately negative), and it's hard to imagine him ever becoming the type of pitcher the Royals might someday miss. It's a small price to pay for a quality veteran starter at $3.5 million per year.

All told, the Winter Meetings probably couldn't have gone much better for the Royals. There's still work to be done filling a couple holes, but there's plenty of time for that.

Provided we don't get snowed in tomorrow morning, RC will be off for a couple days tending to some family business in Chicago. We'll be back on Sunday evening, and we'll be sure to continue providing the best Royals coverage you'll find anywhere on the Web.

Rule 5 update: Royals select Castro, Mitch Maier staying put...

Minutes ago, the Royals selected Fabio Castro -- as expected -- with the first pick of the 2005 Rule 5 draft. They are now expected to trade him to either Texas or Philadelphia. The draft went quickly, with we believe 12 players selected, and RC was pleased to learn that Royals outfield prospect Mitch Maier was not one of the players taken. This clears the path for the Royals to send Maier back to AA Wichita in 2006, where he can hopefully get his career back on track.

Mitch Maier is still a Royal.

The Royals did lose two players, however. Victor Santos and Seth Etherton -- both of whom the Royals signed as minor league free agents earlier this offseason -- were taken in the Major League portion of the draft. RC was hopeful Etherton would be given a shot at making the club in Spring Training, but this still isn't exactly a great loss.

RC exclusive: Chad Blackwell reportedly the PTBNL in the Redman trade

Folks, RC cannot confirm our source, but we have somewhat credible information that Chad Blackwell is the "Player To Be Named Later" in yesterday's Mark Redman trade. Blackwell, RC's #20 prospect, was drafted in the 6th round of the 2004 amateur draft, and he has a 2.78 ERA in 70 games between Idaho Falls, Burlington, and High Desert.

It's possible this information is completely wrong, but RC decided to go ahead and post this rumor with a disclaimer that we've never used this source before, and we cannot be 100 percent certain of its accuracy. Take it with a grain of salt, but don't be surprised if Blackwell's involvement in this trade is announced soon.

Report: Royals to trade first pick in Rule 5

Sorry about the crappy photo, folks, but hey, who else has an original photo of Fabio Castro?

Jonathan Mayo of is reporting that the Royals are set to trade their first overall pick in tomorrow's Rule 5 draft to an undisclosed team, which will then select LHP Fabio Castro. There has reportedly been much interest in the 5'-8" White Sox farmhand, although there is as of yet no news about who or what the Royals might receive in return. This blasts a hole in our Kevin Howard theory, but oh well. We'll be interested in hearing what the Royals get in return, and we suspect it very well may be something we can really use.

In other news from tonight, the expected signing of backup catcher Todd Pratt has reportedly hit a "snag." KC Royals beat writer Dick Kaegel failed to elaborate, but RC suspects it likely has something to do with the Atlanta Braves, who earlier today traded Johnny Estrada to the Diamondbacks and are now in search of a backup catcher.

Kaegel also reports that Allard Baird expects to sign a middle reliever as early as Thursday (presumably Elmer Dessens, who was not offered arbitration today by the Dodgers), and he may complete a trade for an unknown 2B. Stay tuned, as RC promises to continue providing the best coverage you'll find anywhere of the Royals' activity at the Winter Meetings.


Royals acquire Mark Redman for Jonah Bayliss and PTBNL...

As you surely know by now, the Royals today took their first step toward building a new starting rotation by shipping young reliever Jonah Bayliss (RC's #19 prospect) and a player to be named later (PTBNL) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for veteran starter Mark Redman.

Redman, who turns 32 next month, exercised his $4.5 million option in November, but according to Cot's Baseball Contracts Page, $1 million of that is being picked up by the Oakland A's. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed, but even if the Royals receive no cash from the Pirates, $3.5 million is very palatable.

So what does RC think about this trade? We like it quite a bit. The Royals will not miss Bayliss, and the PTBNL is merely a formality (although we'll be curious to see who the Royals ultimately send to complete the trade). Redman is a fierce competitor who promises to eat some innings at a roughly league average clip.

Make no mistake...Redman is NOT a great pitcher. You might be pushing it to even call him a good pitcher, but the fact is that right now, the Royals needed someone they can count on to deliver some decent innings. And over the last four years, Redman has averaged 30 starts and about 190 innings per season, while keeping his career ERA at a perfectly average 4.47. If Redman gets off to a good start -- as he did last season -- the Royals may even be able to turn him into a prospect who is considerably more valuable than Bayliss before the trade deadline.

If not, then they've spent only $3.5 million (or less) on a roughly league average pitcher during a time in which the market is fully willing to pay a pitcher of similar ability over twice that. Indeed, this was a quality trade, and we're looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. We have a feeling Allard isn't done dealing.


Report: Benson headed to KC for MacDougal and Affeldt

Peter Gammons of ESPN is reporting the Royals are set to trade closer Mike MacDougal and reliever Jeremy Affeldt to the Mets for Kris Benson. He said the deal could be finalized tonight. There is no word on how much of Benson's salary -- which is roughly $15.5 million over the next two seasons -- would be picked up by the Mets. There is also some speculation that Gammons' initial report was incorrect, and that the Royals were trading Affeldt and a prospect, rather than MacDougal. As of 11:48 pm EST, we have heard nothing further.

Our initial reaction to this news is positive. We have no problem whatsoever with getting rid of Affeldt (we even suggested the Royals ought to non-tender him a few months ago), and we are perfectly happy with trading MacDougal while his value is relatively high. If the MacDougal part of the trade is false, we wonder who the alleged "prospect" might be, but we're not worried that it would be anyone we'll miss. Stay tuned, as RC promises to provide commentary as soon as any trade is completed.

Update: No deal yet! Baird remains interested in Benson, but doesn't plan to package both Affeldt and MacDougal unless the Royals are "blown away." Baird also says he expects to have a 2B on Thursday, " at least, someone to compete for a job." RC takes that as the strongest sign yet that the Royals are going to select Kevin Howard from the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 draft.

RC ponders some offensive Rule 5 possibilities...

RC really has no idea what the Royals are planning to do with the first overall pick in the upcoming Rule 5 draft, but if we had to guess, we'd bet they'll probably select a pitcher. We know very little about the pitching prospects available, and outside of the Indians' Nick Pesco and the Red Sox knuckleballer Charlie Zink (neither of whom figures to be a logical selection), we've seen very little of the pitchers who have been left exposed. That being said, there are a few offensive players we would consider, and RC is pleased to provide you with a short list, in no particular order:

Ryan Mulhern (1B/OF) - Height: 6-1 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right Age: 25

On sheer offensive ability alone, Mulhern figures to be the cream of the Rule 5 crop. Due to playing through his senior year in college, Mulhern was a tad bit old for the Carolina League, but that was tempered a bit by the fact that 2005 was also his first look at advanced-A pitching. And in that short exposure, Mulhern dominated the pitcher-friendly Carolina League to the tune of .321/.395/.711 with 17 HR in just 159 at bats. RC saw him play three games for Kinston, and he homered in all three, showing power to all fields. When the Indians jumped him a level to AA, he didn't slow down one bit, wrecking Eastern League pitching (another pitcher's league) at a clip of .311/.386/.594 with 15 HR in 244 AB. Mulhern's bat is his ticket, as his defense is questionable, but if the Royals truly want Justin Huber to get more time in Omaha, then Mulhern may be a feasible option, and a good right handed bat off the bench.

Brandon Sing (1B) - Height: 6-4 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right Age: 24

Sing is another guy the Royals might want to take a look at in the same role as Mulhern. RC only saw a little of Sing in Arizona (where he went 0-for-2), and we are embarrassed to admit we really weren't paying any attention to him. However, Sing, when healthy, has unquestionable power (58 HR the last two seasons between A and AA), and he displays an excellent eye at the plate, posting OBPs of .399 and .404 the last two seasons, respectively. A high school draftee, Sing has been in the minors since 1999, but his last two seasons have reignited his prospect status.

Kevin Howard (2B/3B) - Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right Age: 24

After a strong AFL season in which he hit .409/.475/.557, Howard was identified by Baseball America as having the "biggest buzz" heading into this year's Rule 5 draft. Throughout his three-year minor league career, Howard has been a model of consistency, logging On-base Plus Slugging percentages (OPS) of .756, .774, and .774 as he advanced through each level of the minors. He's a line drive hitter with occasional power, and since he plays both 2B and 3B well, BA labeled him as the best overall position player available in the draft. RC saw Howard throughout the 2004 season, when he played for the Potomac Cannons of the Carolina League, but shamefully, we didn't pay any attention to him. However, since the Royals are looking for both a 2B and a utility infielder, Howard is as safe a bet as any to be selected by the Royals.

Dan Uggla (2B/SS/3B) - Height: 5-11 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right Age: 24

Uggla may be another option for the Royals in the middle infield/utility spots. While he doesn't carry the same reputation for glovework as Howard, Uggla does possess some nice power from the right side of the plate. In his second shot at AA last season, Uggla hit .297/.378/.502 with 21 HR, and he continued that pace in the AFL, where he hit seven more dingers. Uggla figures to be a long-shot for selection by KC, but if the Royals traded their first overall pick, perhaps Uggla would be worth a flier in the second round (although RC isn't clear on the rules about whether or not a team who trades their first pick can still select later in the draft). Nevertheless, here's a photo we took of Uggla in the AFL:

Uggla is a strong kid.

Adam Boeve (OF) - Height: 6-1 Weight: 216 Bats: Right Throws: Right Age: 25
Boeve might be the most attractive option available in the outfield, as he has decent speed and plays a fine right field. Boeve burst onto the scene with 28 HR at Hickory in 2004, and in 2005, he was selected as a Carolina League All-Star with a line of .313/.419/.538 before his promotion to AA. As much as we've seen Boeve play, it's embarrassing that RC doesn't have a photo for you, and we apologize. RC figures Boeve is a pretty good bet to be picked up by someone, although we doubt it will be the Royals. And frankly, we dispute that 216 lbs...he looks much smaller than that in person.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B) - Height: 6-1 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right Age: 24

Kouzmanoff is not very athletic, and since his position and size limits him to 1B if he does switch positions, the Royals will most certainly not select him. However, RC finds him very intriguing, as he swings hard and possesses very nice power. Reports are that he works extremely hard evaluating his at bats, and even though he's been older than most of the competition he's faced at each level, he's also put up consistently good numbers. Injuries derailed Kouzmanoff during the early part of the season, but he returned to put up a line of .339/.401/.591 in 254 Carolina League at bats. He might be someone to watch on draft day, but most likely, he'll stick with the Indians. Here's a photo:

Kouzmanoff sports a great beard...but that's probably not a good enough reason to select him.

Thomas Collaro (OF) - Height: 6-4 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right Age: 22

Collaro is the Preston Wilson of the minor leagues. The kid has absolutely ridiculous power -- slamming 29 HRs last season in the Carolina League as a 22-year old -- but he's also got the type of strike zone commmand that makes you sick to see so much talent get wasted (153/25 K:BB ratio in 2005). However, he's one of the younger players in the draft who actually has talent, and if he can learn to take a few more pitches and strike out a little less (which is admittedly a tall order), he's the type of guy who can hit oodles of homers in the big leagues someday. Defensively, he's nothing to get excited about, and he's played a little first base in addition to the OF. Here's a photo:

RC has always liked this photo we took back in September.

Brett Harper (1B) - Height: 6-4 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right Age: 24

Harper is another potentially intriguing option at 1B. In his five professional seasons, he's taken the grand tour of the Mets' minor league system, and despite some injuries, he's always hit, albeit with little power. However, at a stop in the Florida State League in 2004, Harper finally began driving the ball with authority, and he carried that over into 2005, when he slammed 36 HR between A and AA. Yes, he had already logged significant time at both stops prior to last season, but 36 homers is still pretty impressive, although he did also strike out over 140 times. Odds are that Harper is staying put, but just to give you as complete a list as possible, we decided to include him. Here's a crappy photo of him we took with our old camera. And oh yeah, we also dispute that 180 lbs...He looks much bigger than that.

If Harper hadn't been standing next to Lastings Milledge,
we wouldn't even have a photo of him.

That concludes our report. We figure a few of these guys will probably be selected, even though we doubt the Royals will take any of them. Among those listed, Howard probably has the best shot at getting taken by the Royals, followed by Mulhern, but that's nothing but pure speculation. As for us? We'd roll the dice on Mulhern, but that's likely because we're biased after seeing him go 6-for-9 with three dingers and four walks.


Rule 5 report: Why was Maier excluded from the 40-man?

The Rule 5 draft, which takes place on Thursday, is proving to be interesting, although somewhat disappointing. There's no Andy Sisco this year, as most teams have been careful to protect their high-ceiling, top flight talent. In fact, Allard Baird the other day told the KC Star that he wasn't sure if the Royals would select anyone, but they were keeping their options open.

As you should know by now, Baird set off yet another firestorm of disapproval from many corners of Royals Nation when he set the Royals' 40-man roster. Baird angered many people when he added shortstop Angel Sanchez to the Major League roster, leaving 2003 first round pick Mitch Maier exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Maier, 23, had a tremendously disappointing season offensively after his promotion to Wichita, but the Royals did tout his defensive improvement, and Baird even went as far as to label Maier the organization's best defensive outfielder. Meanwhile Sanchez, who has never had an overly positive scouting report (at least not one that RC has seen), hit .313/.356/.409 in the hitter's paradise of High Desert last season as a 21-year old.

Mitch Maier's star has officially fallen.

Though Baird has made it clear in the past how much he likes Sanchez (which was primarily responsible for Sanchez's placement on RC's Top 25 Prospect List), it truly is hard to imagine that any team would have selected him in the Rule 5, while Maier's defense, good speed, and pretty swing figure to put him at risk of being selected. At first glance, this move simply doesn't seem to make any sense.

Of course, while it might not make any sense to us, it's quite probable we don't have all the information that Baird does. Sure, after reading what we have about Sanchez from sources other than the Royals, it APPEARS that there was almost no chance that Sanchez would have been selected in the Rule 5.

BUT ALL IT TAKES IS ONE TEAM! If ONE team saw Sanchez in the same way that the Royals do, then he was at risk. We have no idea if that's the case, but perhaps another team or two had expressed interest to Baird about Sanchez. Sensing he might be vulnerable, Baird chose to protect the player he views as having the best long-range chance of helping the Royals. Clearly Baird and company think more of Sanchez than Maier, and that makes fine sense to us.

Frankly, we don't even believe the issue comes down to a debate between Sanchez and Maier. What we find most surprising and potentially disappointing is that Baird chose to leave Shawn Camp on the roster over Maier. While that tells us all we need to know about how the Royals view Maier's future, it's still not something we would have done. Pitchers like Camp are a dime a dozen, and even if Camp had been snatched up on waivers (which seems VERY unlikely), the effect on the Royals' bullpen would have been negligible. That being said, Maier's exclusion from the 40-man roster clearly indicates one of two things:

1) The Royals are confident that Maier isn't thought of highly enough for any team to select him; or
2) The Royals don't care one way or the other if Maier is selected.

If the Royals are betting on #1, and Maier is ultimately selected, then Baird's gambit was clearly an error. If it's #2, then we won't know if the Royals made an error until Maier sinks or swims with his new team. Chances are that we'll never know the true reasoning behind Maier's exclusion, but perhaps this helps make more sense of it.

Now, how likely is Maier to be selected? The opinions are mixed. In his Rule 5 preview, Chris Kline of Baseball America identified Maier as one of the best players available in the draft. However, RC's source at Baseball America -- someone we trust far more than Kline -- scoffed at the notion of Maier being selected. In fact, our source even dismissed the idea of Maier being an above-average outfielder (and Klein listed him as being merely "average"), which would seriously diminish the odds of Maier being selected. The fact is that 23-year-olds who play average defense and hit .255/.289/.416 in the Texas League don't find their way onto a Major League roster very often.

Anyhow, we'll all know the answer on December 8. RC hopes and expects that Maier will continue his development in the Royals organization, even though we really don't expect him to ever amount to much. But if he is selected by another team, then we still won't lose much sleep at night -- odds are he'll be offered back to KC for $25K at some point during the season anyway. Of course, not many people know the Royals also have the option of selecting Maier with their own first pick, which actually could happen now that it's clear the talent available in the draft is so weak. It has been done before, and if the Royals decide they'd rather keep Maier than take anyone else, they very well may. Whatever unfolds, it promises to be interesting.

  • After boning up on a Dreamweaver guide and learning all about "image maps", RC spent almost half the day today redesigning the navigational bar on the right sidebar. We hope you like the new look, and we promise further improvements to the page will be forthcoming.

    Also, in the next day or so, RC will provide some further analysis on the upcoming Rule 5 draft, as we plan to have for you scouting reports (and in many cases, original RC photos) on the top hitters available in the draft. Stay tuned...

  • RC awoke on Saturday in an agitated mood. We believe no man should ever have to wake up before 10 AM on a Saturday morning, but RC was forced to roll out of bed at 7 AM so we could take the dreaded Law School Admission Test (LSAT). After reading the morning's baseball news, we downed a flask of Red Bull (the official non-beer beverage of RC) and arrived at the test center a mere three minutes before the 8:30 deadline. Once there, we announced to the proctor and our 31 overmatched peers that we were going to kick the test's ass, and over the next five hours, we proceeded to do just that. Although RC was disappointed that nothing relevant to the Royals or baseball appeared on the exam, we believe we represented ourselves quite nicely, and we are confident we did well enough to gain acceptance into the only law school we remain interested in -- UMKC.

    Thanks again to everyone who wished RC well on the exam. Anyway, with all that crap out of the way, we are rededicating ourselves to providing you with more excellent content throughout the offseason, and like Rush Limbaugh, we won't rest until every single Royals fan agrees with us.