It appears that Brian Bannister‘s “mechanical problems” are being blamed on right rotator cuff tendinitis. His last appearance was on August 2, so he could come back as early as, well, now, which is telling. This smells a bit like the Chris Hayes shuffle the Royals did in Omaha numerous times when a roster spot needed to be freed up.
In 124 innings, Bannister had a 5.95 ERA, striking out 5.4 batters per nine innings and walking 3.4 per nine. He was also surrendering 1.7 homers per nine innings pitched as well. That’s not a good combo by any measure.
With the success of Bryan Bullington as a replacement starter, the Royals are potentially better off and at least no worse off than with Bannister in the rotation. Bannister is a fan favorite, a media darling, and a good person. But even with the success of his rookie campaign in 2007 and sporadic success in 2008 and 2009, over a long enough period, it’s clear that the league has figured Bannister out. There’s still a chance he makes it back fine and serves as a swingman the rest of the way, but Luke Hochevar is getting healthier, Bruce Chen has been respectable, and Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan aren’t going anywhere.
The next time we hear about Bannister may be this winter if the Royals choose not to tender him a contract. They do have two options on him, so he may agree to work on his command in Omaha and serve as organizational depth.
To take his place on the roster, the Royals called up outfielder Jai Miller from Omaha. Miller was claimed off waivers from in April after floundering in the Marlins system. Before 2010, he was the #28 prospect in Florida’s system, and at the time of the pickup, I praised the Royals for taking a shot at Miller.
|AAA (3 seasons)||1275||169||302||70||9||53||165||31||128||371||.269||.345||.489||.834|
|A (2 seasons)||912||120||166||29||5||25||83||27||89||302||.206||.290||.348||.638|
|AA (1 season)||473||54||106||26||2||14||58||12||55||127||.261||.354||.438||.792|
|Rk (1 season)||166||17||29||4||1||1||15||9||15||45||.199||.279||.260||.539|
|A- (1 season)||48||5||10||3||0||0||6||1||3||15||.233||.292||.302||.594|
|A+ (1 season)||401||40||72||16||2||0||24||24||45||115||.209||.308||.267||.576|
So far he’s rewarded them. With Omaha, he’s shown solid power in his time there, hitting 18 homers and slugging .532. His contact hasn’t been very good, as he’s struck out in a third of his plate appearances, but he’s made enough contact at the Triple A level (and he has 1275 appearances to show for it) that could translate into extra base hits. He’s right-handed too, so with the lefty heavy outfield on the roster now, that adds flexibility. Baseball America’s scouting report in the 2010 Prospect Handbook suggests if he gets the contact in order, he could be a Mike Cameron clone. Tall and athletic, Miller has a strong arm, good speed and raw power and will now get an extended tryout for 2011.
Most of his damage has been done in August, as he’s put up a .345/.446/.745/1.191 line in 55 appearances this month. Prior to August, Miller had hit .250 in Omaha after struggling mightily for Oakland’s Triple A affiliate. On the plus side, he hasn’t had a huge platoon split this season, according to minorleaguesplits.com. His biggest demon will be the strikeout and while he’ll likely never make enough contact to be a long-term big leaguer, in those cases when he does, he makes it count.
Knowing how the Royals operate, he’ll probably platoon with Mitch Maier rather than Gregor Blanco. Still, in a lineup that has been power-starved (Yuniesky Betancourt has a share of the team lead in homers among rostered players – come on, now), Miller could provide that big play bat the Royals have needed.