Buddy Bell wasn't kidding: Costa in, Guiel out

810 WHB this morning reported that Aaron Guiel has been told he will not head north with the Royals when they break camp later this week. Barring a trade we don't know about, this means that 24-year-old Shane Costa has won a spot on the roster, and he will serve as the fourth outfielder.

RC definitely didn't see this coming. Buddy Bell said that Costa was a serious candidate, but we dismissed that notion, figuring he was merely playing media games. It should be clear by now that Bell doesn't do that. We liked what we saw from Costa when we were in Arizona, but we never expected him to actually make the club.

Of course, if Costa has in fact made the team, it doesn't necessarily mean that the Royals tagged him to be their fourth outfielder for long. As we mentioned yesterday, the Royals are still going to have clear space on the 25-man roster for Runelvys Hernandez when he returns to the rotation in mid-April, and the best bet right now is that Costa will be the man sent to Omaha when that happens. Of course, that would leave Esteban German as the primary backup outfielder, with Matt Stairs the only remaining emergency option. And there's always the possibility that something else is in the works, as Allard Baird may be looking to add another outfielder to the roster via trade.

RC wishes Aaron Guiel the best of luck, wherever he winds up.

Regardless, this is a tough break for Guiel, who had seemingly done everything the Royals asked of him. RC isn't going to rush to judgement on this move, since we don't know if anything else is in the works. As always, it will be interesting to see how things unfold from here.


Graffanino added, Ambres designated for assignment...

The Royals today took a giant step toward finalizing their roster for the season, claiming Tony Graffanino from the Red Sox and Rule 5 pick Steve Andrade from the Padres. To make room, they designated Chip Ambres for assignment, which means he must now clear waivers in order to be sent to the minor leagues. There's a chance another club could lay claim to Ambres, so the Royals might lose him.

So long, Chip.

As a Rule 5 selection, Andrade cannot be sent to the minor leagues, so it's almost certain that he'll now break camp as the Royals' final relief pitcher. The 28-year-old righty has a solid track record of success in the minor leagues, but we don't have much information on him other than his stats. Andrade was listed as the Angels' 30th-best prospect in the 2004 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which said he was very deceptive due to a "funky delivery and arm action with a head jerk," and that he "catapults himself toward the plate, a la Robb Nen." He could be an interesting guy to watch, and if nothing else, his acquisition helps to ensure that we won't see Steve Stemle make the club.

The Ambres decision is likely to cause some heartburn among statheads, who have always been entralled with his plate discipline. RC was starting to come around on the idea of Ambres making the club over Aaron Guiel, so we were a little surprised when we saw it was Ambres, not Guiel, who was booted from the 40-man roster. Nevertheless, we still maintain that Guiel is a better player right now, and Ambres isn't the type of player the Royals are ever likely to miss. Furthermore, Guiel gives the Royals another decent left-handed bat off the bench, and there's a better-than-even chance that Ambres won't even be claimed.

The other key implication of today's events is that it gives us our best idea yet of what the 25-man roster will look like when the Royals head north later this week. Barring trades, this is our best guess:

C: Buck, Bako
1B: Mientkiewicz, Stairs, Sweeney
2B: Grudzielanek
3B: Teahen
SS: Berroa
UT: Graffanino, German
OF: DeJesus, Brown, Sanders, Guiel
SP: Elarton, Mays, Affeldt, Bautista
RP: Burgos, Sisco, Dessens, Wood, Peralta, Gobble, Andrade

Our biggest concern now is about what happens when Runelvys Hernandez joins the rotation in mid-April. Before the acquisition of Graffanino, Esteban German figured to have a lock on a roster spot. Now, he seems to be the most likely player to be discarded on April 14. Of course, that assumes everything three weeks from now looks exactly like it does now, and we all know that trades, injuries, and circumstance have a funny way of changing things.

Editor's Note (Tuesday evening): As expected, we've learned that the Royals tonight also released Joe McEwing. RC wishes the best of luck to Joe, who by all accounts is one of the finest teammates and classiest players in baseball.


Not so fast, Chubby...

Well, that didn't take long, did it? A mere two days after awarding the final two spots in the starting rotation to Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista, the Royals today shook up their rotation...again. Runelvys Hernandez this morning was informed that the Royals are not comfortable with his current stamina level, so he will occupy the fifth spot in the rotation to start the season, instead of Bautista. Of course, this new assignment carries with it a minor league start in Omaha, so Bautista is now assured of breaking camp with the Major League club.

RC applauds the decision, as it should serve as a wake-up call to Hernandez. Nobody likes to be demoted, so hopefully Hernandez will realize the Royals aren't going to ignore his refusal to take his conditioning seriously during the offseason. This probably could have been handled a little better, but results are more important than hurt feelings. It is interesting that the Royals decided to put Hernandez on the DL, since a player with Hernandez's service time cannot be optioned to the minors without being placed on waivers. The official reason listed: lack of stamina. That might be the first time we've ever seen that on a transaction report.

As for the implications of this on the rest of the roster, we don't see this having any effect on the scenarios we laid out over the weekend. The bullpen picture remains unchanged, as this is merely a flip of Bautista and Hernandez in the rotation. When Hernandez rejoins the club, the extra outfielder or infielder on the roster for the first two weeks of the season, whoever it is, will be sent back to the minors or released. If the pitching staff picture is going to change in the next week, that change will be sparked by a trade. There are ample rumors floating around that Allard Baird is working on something, so we'll just have to sit back and see what unfolds. As always, you can trust us to relay any information regarding trades as soon as we hear anything.

  • Today brought two more pieces of great news. First, RC awoke this morning with the realization that we are merely one week away from Opening Day! RC will be at the opener, and we can't wait. We caught last year's season opening disaster in Detroit, so we're dying to get some payback. Hopefully Scott Elarton puts up a better fight than Jose Lima did last season.

    The other piece of good news is that the Royals' win today assured them of a winning record in the Cactus League. Pretty meaningless, we know, but for some reason RC still likes to see a winning record in the spring. In fact, most people probably don't realize (or care) that the Royals are only half a game out in the race for the Cactus League "title." It's a three-way race right now, with the Angels out in front and the Diamondbacks on our tail. Anyone else up for rings and a banner if the Royals pull it off? We believe!
  • 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!