Sunday

Weekend notes: The rotation is settled



As we learned on Saturday, the Royals have assigned the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation to Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista, respectively. Neither comes as a big surprise, although RC had figured that Bautista would begin the season as the fourth starter, and whoever won the fifth spot -- be it Affeldt or Mike Wood -- would contribute from the bullpen until the Royals needed a fifth starter on April 14. Instead, the Royals went a different route, and since they don't want Bautista working out of the bullpen for the next two weeks, he'll begin the season by making a start in Omaha.

Of course, this move carries with it a couple of ramifications. First, it assures that both Jimmy Gobble and Joel Peralta have made the team, while just a week ago it seemed certain that one of them would be cut (we figured Gobble would be let go). But even more interesting, the presence of both those pitchers on the roster still leaves the Royals with only 10 pitchers, since both Mark Redman and Mike MacDougal will begin the season on the DL. Therefore, there is now an additional bullpen slot open, which will undoubtably go to a player who is not currently on the 40-man roster.

Who might that pitcher be? We really have no solid idea, but the leading candidates are probably Luke Hudson and Steve Stemle, since they are the only two non-roster pitchers who haven't already been reassigned to a minor league club. Hudson figures to be a starter at Omaha this season, so if RC had to register an official guess at this point, we'd wager that Stemle breaks camp with the club, despite his lousy outing on Saturday (2.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 K). He's certainly not somebody we'd want to see with a game on the line, but he should be fine as a mop-up man for a month or so. Barring injury, whoever wins the spot should be the first player sent away once MacDougal returns.

As for the position player battles, nothing has yet been settled, and we still don't have any hints about whether the Royals will take an extra outfielder or an extra infielder with them when they head north next week. Buddy Bell further muddied the waters by announcing that Shane Costa is also a candidate for the fourth outfielder spot, so that leaves Costa, Aaron Guiel, Chip Ambres, Joe McEwing, and Esteban German battling for three spots on the roster (Chris Clapinski is also listed as a candidate, but come on...who really believes that?).


Might Shane Costa make the team? We doubt it.

Among those five, the only player we're confident in projecting a roster spot for is German, who still figures to serve as the primary backup infielder. Ambres is probably the safest bet for the fourth outfield spot, simply because he's the youngest and least likely to clear waivers if optioned to the minors. In our opinion, the real battle is between Guiel and McEwing, and while our preference between those two is definitely the former, we fear the Royals will probably opt to retain the infielder, particularly because Matt Stairs can still play outfield in a pinch. Regardless, the consequences of their decision will be short-lived, as Bautista's return to the team will signal the end of the five-man bench and the renewal of the 12-man pitching staff. In essence, the decisions not yet made are merely small fries. It will be interesting to see how everything unfolds. Moving on...

  • What's not to like about Dougie Fresh? RC is sold. Everything about Doug Mientkiewicz screams "BALLPLAYER," from the high socks and eye black to the pine tar covered helmet and refusal to wear batting gloves. He's got the coolest last name in the game, he picks errant throws off the ground like a dirt-covered Picasso, and much to the delight of RC, he once outraged millions of obnoxious Red Sox fans. And right now, nobody in baseball is swinging a hotter stick than our new favorite first baseman.


    Doug Mientkiewicz is just cool.

    After drawing an 0-fer on Saturday, Mientkiewicz is still sporting a cool .442 batting average in 44 at bats. No, spring training stats are nothing to get overly excited about (see McEwing), but there are far worse ways to begin a season. Mientkiewicz wanted to use this spring as an opportunity to get his confidence back after two sub-par seasons, and he seems likely to do just that.

    Does he have any more .850 OPS seasons left in his tank? Nobody knows, and even RC's optimism doesn't allow us to make such a prediction. But we do know that Mientkiewicz will offer the Royals the type of patient, professional at bats that were sorely lacking last season (the last several seasons, for that matter). And while skeptics point to a myriad of defensive metrics that supposedly show Minky has lost a step in the field, not one of them can foretell the value that his greatest defensive asset -- his ability to dig throws -- will bring to the Royals' infield. Indeed, the effect Mientkiewicz will have on Mark Teahen and Angel Berroa will be difficult to measure, but we can't wait to see what it's like to have a competent defensive first baseman again.


  • We apologize for the shortage of posts in the last week. RC has been busy with some other boring junk (like studying for the GRE Exam), but we can promise that the diligence to which you've grown accustomed will return this week. We did manage to catch a ballgame on Friday night between Miami and the University of Maryland, and we'll have a report when we publish our draft update on Monday evening (we also plan to attend Sunday's game). In addition, a quick perusal of the weekend's collegiate box scores foretells some more movement on our list, along with a widening of the gap between the top player(s) on our list and the rest of the field. You'll have to check in with us over the next couple days to see what we're talking about. Stay tuned!
  • 20 Comments:

    At 3/26/2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    The picture of Mientkiewicz says so much:

    - Pine tar on helmet
    - Pine tar on bat
    - Eye black
    - Long hair
    - Sideburns
    - Cool goatee
    - No batting gloves
    - Tape around fingers

    If this dude accidentally cuts himself with a knife at home, he probably rubs some dirt in the wound. He has it all. BALLPLAYER.

     
    At 3/26/2006 1:13 PM, Blogger Pat Andriola said...

    Doug Mientkiewicz is terrible. I cant believe i spent time learning how to spell his last name

     
    At 3/26/2006 2:00 PM, Blogger XXX said...

    I'm a Phillies fan first and foremost, but a love of the minor leagues and prospects have led me to root hard for the Royals in recent years. I just found this site yesterday when doing a google search for Daniel Bard and I couldn't be more pleased; this is without a doubt the best team blog I've ever read on the web and the coverage of college baseball (something I've searched long and hard for) is top notch. Keep up the great work.

     
    At 3/26/2006 3:19 PM, Blogger Max said...

    I agree with how they settled the rotation. I also concur that Stemle and Ambres are your most likely candidates for the last spots on the team. I think McEwing also makes it. Bob Dutton reported they are more likely to carry two IF to start the year because they will only carry 11 pitchers.

    I like Minky, but he's the kind of player that becomes a fan favorite and the perception of how good he is severely overshadows how good he actually is according to the stats. I fear he will take at bats from a young Justin Huber down the line. But I do like his defense and his moxie, whatever that's worth.

    Hope the GRE went well!

     
    At 3/26/2006 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    So we have Mientkiewicz as some big bat stud (uh huh, yeah), and Gobble should have been cut.

    What the hell do people have against Gobble. We haven't had a pitching prospect that well-regarded coming up since the Golden Boy who quit the team. But then Pena crushes his confidence and now people say, "He ain't worth a darn." Same with Affeldt. That's two lefties with great arms/stuff.

    Why don't we just work hard to develop our once-well regarded pitching prospect instead of wanting to cut bait all the time with them? They're hard to get to begin with.

     
    At 3/26/2006 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    6 weeks from nowyou will be saying Minks is a dog, which is a lot closer to the truth. His hot spring has seemingly made him a fan favorite...He is a waste, and hopefully just a timekeeper while Huber, Butler, Gordon log a few ab's on the farm. The only way KC is EVER going to rise again is to acquire some pitching(Elarton, Mays, Redman is a joke), and to hope that their trio of young bats is as advertised. Retreads like Mink and the rotation and wannabes like Teahan arent going to cut it. Any ideas otherwise are foolish

     
    At 3/26/2006 10:51 PM, Blogger Your Majesty said...

    I'm sorry, skippy, but I really disagree with the Mientkiewicz portion of this article.
    He may "look" like a ballplayer, but the A's have almost a decade's worth of evidence that proves the relative unimportance of this assertion.

    His defense is probably better than a lot of metrics give him credit for. I did see him drop a rather routine throw from Grudzielanek on Saturday, however.

    In a thread on the Royals message board, I think you expressed your disdain for Pena and Choi. Here's what I don't understand... How could you possibly prefer Mientkiewicz over Pena and Choi (especially Choi)? Choi is 27 years old, has demonstrated great power and plate discipline, and an ability to play a competent 1B at the very least.
    His age alone makes him more appealing. Add in the facts that he's also light-years ahead of Doug in power and that he's cheaper... and I really don't understand how you can praise Mientkiewicz and berate Choi on the same day.
    I don't mean to gripe all over you blog, but it's just been kind of bothering me that you could arrive at those two semi-related conclusions.

     
    At 3/26/2006 11:10 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    I guess I missed the part of my post that annointed Mientkiewicz as the savior of our offense. I also must have missed the part where I said anything about Gobble other than that I hadn't expected him to make the team before MacDougal got hurt. And also the part where I somehow suggested Minky isn't ultimately a placeholder until Huber, Butler, and Gordon arrive.

    Which post were you reading? I know Mientkiewicz is a short term solution, but he's a solution that has a lot to offer the ballclub while he's here.

    As for Gobble, I do think he's got good stuff. However, what he doesn't have are options, and the number crunch present when MacDougal was healthy seemed poised to knock him off the team. I like Gobble, but I don't like him more than the pitchers ahead of him in the pen.

     
    At 3/26/2006 11:20 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Your Majesty, I didn't express disdain for Choi or Pena, although the brevity of my comment may have left that impression. Rather, I expressed disdain for the belief that the Royals should put in a claim for either of them.

    How exactly would that work? They've already got millions tied up in guaranteed contracts to Minky, Stairs, and Sweeney, and they've got Huber on the way and Butler looking like a strong possibility at DH in the coming seasons.

    Choi is younger. Who cares? This is a one-year assignment anyway. There's no use bellyaching about not picking up either player, because clearly it was never an option to do so.

    Besides, when he's going right, Dougie Fresh not only brings leadership and defense to the club that neither Pena or Choi can match, he also brings a higher OBP.

     
    At 3/26/2006 11:35 PM, Blogger Your Majesty said...

    "he also brings a higher OBP"

    hmm. I don't know if I agree with that, either. All three players that we're talking about are in the top of the league as far as plate discipline is concerned. Mientkiewicz is actually probably the worst of the three.

    I'm probably more radical than most, but I wouldn't mind adding Choi and trading Sweeney.

     
    At 3/26/2006 11:56 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Note that I predicated my statement with a "when he's going right," meaning that if he finds whatever he had two years ago, we're dealing with a player who could put up a very nice OBP in the .370 range while walking more than he strikes out.

    When Pena is going right (or as "right" as he's ever been), he'll give you a .330 OBP while striking out twice as often as he walks.

    When Choi is going right, he'll build a decent slugging percentage by hitting eight home runs in one week while slumping the rest of the season, giving you an OBP around .350 while striking out 60-70 percent more often than he walks.

    Minky is only two seasons removed from a .393 OBP, which he put up when he was 29 years old. He'll still only be 32 in June, so there's a good chance that his sub par seasons weren't the result of rapid physical decline. He'll get his chance to prove his skeptics wrong, and that's all I want to see.

     
    At 3/27/2006 1:41 AM, Blogger Your Majesty said...

    I guess I feel like you're investing too much in the hope that Mientkiewicz can regain a form of a younger, less injury-form version of himself. It would be like hoping Sweeney could hit .340/.417/.563 over 500 ABs in 2006, do you see what I mean? Sweeney is never going to duplicate those numbers again. Both because he is past his prime and because he's injury-prone.

     
    At 3/27/2006 6:24 PM, Anonymous Garth said...

    I remember back in the good ol' days when 32 year old ballplayers used to be past their prime and injury-prone.

    However, ever since Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds, Kenny Rogers, Jim Thome, Jim Edmunds, Reggie Sanders, Gary Sheffield, Bernie Williams and others have played very well into their mid 30s, and some even into their early 40s, that type of statement just holds no more weight.

    In fact, for the past three years, ever since the apparent twilight of Sweeney's prime (29), Sweeney posted his highest average, highest slugging percentage, second highest HR count, highest number of doubles (by almost twice that of the next number), tied for highest RBI (for what it's worth) -- all in 2005.

    Sweeney, while 32, is still in his baseball prime.

    Mientkiewicz can still return to his numbers from a few years ago. Heck, Sweeney surpassed his.

    What else can you ask from the man who's holding the beloved Justin Huber's spot in line?

     
    At 3/27/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

    On Mientkiewicz, I think everyone's missing Dave's point.

    In no way is he suggesting that Doug is going to be a well above-average first baseman in 2006. He could very well struggle through the season, but Dave's point is simply that he likes what Mientkiewicz brings to the table in professionalism, thereby setting a good example for the players who're going to be here past 2006.

    Ultimately, I can't say I disagree. Having players with character and a willingness to hold their teammates accountable has quite a bit of value on a young team.

     
    At 3/27/2006 8:00 PM, Blogger Max said...

    Perhaps its worth it. I just tend to think intangibles like "professionalism" and "hustle" tend to be wildly overrated by bad clubs like the Royals.

     
    At 3/27/2006 8:12 PM, Blogger Dave said...

    Fair enough, Max, but I think that after last year's clubhouse debacle (remember the stories about the Latin/American clubhouse divide?) and a 19-game losing streak, it's tough to overrate professionalism on this ballclub.

     
    At 3/27/2006 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "When Choi is going right, he'll build a decent slugging percentage by hitting eight home runs in one week while slumping the rest of the season, giving you an OBP around .350 while striking out 60-70 percent more often than he walks."

    Come on, man, please stop trying to convince us in numerous posts that Minky is the better player offensively. So, defensively and with leadership he is... great. That isn't useful if he hits a weak .230, is it? And if that was because he didn't get regular time last year, then you have to acknowledge the same about Choi.

    Pena is a dog to me. he's had his chances. He has too many holes, and can't make adjustments. Choi simply has NEVER had a full chance, AND his power is unmistakable. The fact that he ALSO walks a lot says that he will be able to connect frequently (not this going into a 3 week slump stuff) IF he settles into a regular role on a team of anonymity.

    It wouldn't have hurt us at all to have claimed Choi. He could play at AAA this year, or until Minky is traded (if he's good) or benched (because he isn't) -- whatever happens. There's a decent chance Sweeney is finally dealt this pennant drive because we all know how Baird likes to "accomodate" players and we might be to the point then where we have fans looking to the Buck, Teahen, DeJesus, Berroa future. So, we go into next year with a helluva platoon at 1B, or Choi at DH, or a platoon there with Butler breaking him in.

    You just don't turn a blind eye to 35-40 HR power with walks for FREE. Not when you're a 100-loss club. NO FREAKING WAY!

     
    At 3/27/2006 10:56 PM, Anonymous Garth said...

    But, we already have Mientkiewicz. Would it really be worth it signing Choi, when we're log-jammed at 1B? Sweeney/Mientkiewicz/Stairs will all see time at DH/1B. Not to mention Huber's nearing jump up to the MLB level. We just don't have that much money, especially on a position which we're already loaded at.

    And, if the Royals are going to be as bad as everyone says, then it can't hurt to play Mientkiewicz -- even if it is only for his "professionalism." I mean, Choi gaining us one or two extra wins won't matter if we lose 95. However, if Mink can put Huber (and other youngsters) in the right frame of mind, then those one or two losses are well worth it.

     
    At 3/28/2006 12:33 AM, Blogger ME said...

    I think its likely Mink hits .300 this year, he seems really relaxed and loose.

     
    At 3/28/2006 12:36 AM, Blogger ME said...

    I heard on 810 that Hernandez got bumped to the fifth spot and will start the season in Omaha.

     

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