The Royals 40 Man Roster - Pitchers

The Royals currently have 43 men on their 40 man roster.  Clearly, that will change because, well, it has to.

Some of those players are eligible for arbitration and will be non-tendered during the winter.  Gage checked in to discuss some of those options yesterdayBruce Chen is officially a free agent, so he’s included in that number because the Royals do have an exclusive window in which to negotiate an extension or new contract for him, but he’s unlikely to sign anything in the near future so that trims a spot.

Jason Kendall and David DeJesus are both currently on the 60 day disabled list and thus don’t count against the 40 man roster during the season, though they do have to be reinstated to the roster, so two spots will have to be cleared.

We’ll start breaking down the 40 man roster by first looking at the pitchers.

Pitchers currently under contract

These three are no-brainers.  They’ll be on the roster and look to be major contributors in 2011.

Pitchers under team control

This group is comprised of mostly minor league talent, some of whom played a chunk of time in Kansas City.  Hughes, Wood and Texeira pitched most of the year with Kansas City.  Chavez and O’Sullivan both came over at the trading deadline and spent the last two months as regular pitchers in the big leagues.  Marte and Holland saw a little bit of action, but neither were terribly effective.

Meanwhile Arguelles, Barrera, Crow and Pucetas have yet to glimpse the major leagues.  The Royals signed Arguelles out of Cuba in January as a key international free agent, though he missed all of 2010 with shoulder problems that are reportedly improving after surgery.  He should pitch next season.  Barrera made it to Northwest Arkansas after spending most of the season rehabbing.  Crow was the 2009 first round pick by the Royals and signed a major league contract but finished last season in High A Wilmington after struggling in Double A.  Pucetas was the player the Royals received from the Giants in return for Jose Guillen.

Pitchers who are arbitration eligible

In the case of Davies and Bannister, both are in their third years of arbitration.  Tejeda and Anderson are in their second arbitration years and Hochevar is in his first year of arbitration as a Super Two player.  The Royals have the option to non-tender any of these players who would then become free agents.  Otherwise they can sign contracts for the upcoming season or can go to an arbitration hearing.  Usually it doesn’t come to that and the team and player make an agreement.

Pitchers who were minor league free agents or claims during the season

Bullington and Humber were signed to minor league contracts last offseason and Hernandez was claimed after being waived by the Red Sox.  Technically, none of these have enough service time to be arbitration eligible yet.

Now, who to keep and who to cut.  Here’s my list:

Keep

These 14 are easiest to retain and have shown enough to stick around.  Some are no-brainers, like Greinke and Soria, of course, but my list also tenders contracts to Hochevar and Tejeda while Crow and Arguelles are long-term stashes who’ve signed major league contracts despite never being promoted.

The rest (Chavez, Holland, Hughes, O’Sullivan, Pucetas, Texeira, Wood) aren’t going to be big factors, but O’Sullivan, Wood and Texeira were effective enough in 2010 to be regulars.  Pucetas has a solid track record in the lower levels of the minors and should spend most of the season in Triple A.  Chavez, Holland and Hughes aren’t slam dunks, but they’ll have to stay on the roster for the time being to allow other relievers to continue to develop in the minors.

Another consideration in the construction of the 40 man roster is who does and doesn’t need to be protected from the Rule V draft.  Key relief prospects like Louis Coleman and Tim Collins as well as the majority of the big pitching prospects are all short of the time frame to be eligible for selection in the Rule V draft so there’s no reason to protect them by including them on the 40 man.  Hughes was alright as a rookie reliever and Chavez has some upside with his live arm at least.  Holland could be effective too, so there’s no reason to drop them.

Cut

The Royals signed Brian Anderson as an outfielder and he ended up in Triple A as a pitcher.  That’s among the weirder storylines from 2010.   Hernandez and Marte are easy cuts.  Neither was effective and Hernandez was little more than depth all season in Triple A.  The remaining group of Bullington, Humber and Barrera could all be outrighted off the roster and perhaps resigned again as minor league free agents so as not to count on the 40 man roster.  I don’t, however, think they should continue to take up a spot unless necessary.

Wait, you left off a couple of names

These two are both arbitration eligible.  I can only see one surviving the cut, though. The Royals will be thin in their starting rotation in 2011.  Greinke will lead the staff and Hochevar should be right behind him.  Gil Meche‘s shoulder problems have him relegated to the bullpen and unless he resigns for a one year deal, Bruce Chen won’t be back.  That leaves Sean O’Sullivan as the only other regular starter.  There’s a thin free agency pool of major league starters this offseason, to the Royals are better served keeping one of these two to maintain some balance.

Brian Bannister is the everyman’s baseball player, egghead or not.  He gets the maximum out of his abilities through careful preparation and thought and at times looks like he’s put it all together.  But while he gets a lot out of his skills, his skills are deteriorating and it’s questionable they were all that potent to begin with.

It pains me, too, because Bannister is one of my favorite Royals of the last five years.  But this is a results business, and I’d be absolutely shocked if he were offered a contract.

Davies, on the other hand, has the look of a big league pitcher and the stuff to match.  What he lacks is the heart and confidence to step on the mound, stare down a tense moment, and rise above it.  He improved his BB/9 rate and stayed in the same range of his career strikeout rate while compiling a career high in innings pitched, beating his previous high by nearly 50 innings.  He’ll get a slight raise from his 2010 salary of $1.8 million.  I’ve never been accused of being on the Kyle Davies bandwagon, but he’s two and a half years younger than Bannister and can still get better, or at least show less regression.  Between the two, Davies would be the only one I’d be certain would stick on the roster all season.

So that makes 15 pitchers remaining on the 40 man roster out of an original 22.  I’ll assume Bruce Chen signs elsewhere, though I’d accept him back for one more season if he and the team can agree to it.  For this exercise, let’s assume he plies his trade for another organization.  That 43 man roster has trimmed down to 35 (the six cuts listed above, Chen signing elsewhere, and Bannister being non-tendered in arbitration).

Later, we’ll take a look at the hitters and who sticks around there.

Then, the fun part, filling the holes left by the dearly departed (though I hold out hope Jeff Francoeur isn’t one of the fillers…sorry Gage).

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Brian Bannister Bruce Chen Gil Meche Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals KC Kyle Davies Luke Hochevar MLB Royals Zack Greinke

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