Didn’t think the week would get any more exciting? Well, you were wrong! The Royals upped the ante by acquiring another middle infield type in Lance Zawadzki on Friday. I’m going to call him Lance so I don’t have to write that last name (and misspell it) any more than I have to.
Lance was picked in the 48th round of the 2003 draft by the Expos. He was taken right out of high school in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Instead, he decided to be a smart guy and go to college. So, after one semester at LSU and three seasons at San Diego State*, he was drafted again – 15th round by the Cardinals. Yet again, Lance said no and played another year at Lee University before being drafted by the Padres in the 4th round of the 2007 draft. Finally, Lance had a home. He stayed with the Padres until being placed on waivers and subsequently claimed by our beloved Royals on Friday. On a side note, this means that Jai Miller will no longer be with the club.
*Trivia fact: Lance is responsible for the first-ever hit at Petco Park when he doubled off the wall for SDSU in the first game ever played in the stadium. Also, he knocked a home run off of our own Aaron Crow in Crow’s professional debut (hat tip to Royals Authority on Twitter).
Lance’s history in the pros goes something like this:
See any numbers that you like? Well, that rookie-level line looks great! I want to point out a couple things about those numbers. In AAA, Lance’s entire line was below .300. This is bad. If you missed the discussion of Joaquin Arias, suffice it to say that Arias looks really solid in comparison to Lance’s AAA stats. Since he doesn’t have much time in the majors for me to analyze, I can only speculate about his minor league stats (and MinorLeagueSplits.com is offline right now).
Lance has ripped an extra-base hit in 7.23% of his minor league plate appearances. He hit 30 home runs in 1631 PAs across the minor league levels (just one at AAA) and has stolen 58 bases in those four seasons. It’s safe to say he’s not a speed or power threat, though he seems to have more inherent power potential than Arias. However, that’s not the highest of complements. He’s walked in almost exactly 10% of his minor league PAs and struck out in almost exactly 20%. If the Royals’ immediate offseason goal was to acquire younger, cheaper Willie Bloomquists, they have succeeded.
Defensively, Lance has played all around the field. In the minors, he’s been a second baseman (50 games), shortstop (261) and third baseman (26) while also spending one game in right field. His brief time with San Diego involved 7 games at second, 3 at shortstop, and 1 at third. The addition-oriented among you might note that this totals 11 games whereas I said above that he’s played in 20. That tells you why Baseball-Reference lists his first position as pinch hitter. I don’t have much information to truly evaluate his defensive ability, but I found these tidbits from a Padres blog site (that ranked him the seventh-best Padres prospect in 2010). They said “his defense picked up quite a bit from last year” and that “he has a terrific arm”. However, they note that his footwork and balance need improvement and that he has trouble maintaining a consistent weight over a season.
John Sickels at Minor League Ball ranked Lance as the 11th-best prospect with San Diego, grading him a C+. Sickels also provided his vision for Lance’s potential: “At worst he could be a very good utility guy, but will need to improve his plate discipline.” That was before the season. It’s worth noting that Sickels still thought he could be an interesting player after Lance’s sub-par AAA campaign.
Again, if the Royals were keen on getting a current or future Bloomquist replacement, they’ve done it. There is a chance that Lance could become a regular major leaguer, but it’s more likely he remains a utility player. I would expect him to start in Omaha in 2011, but he could see action later on. Arias seems to be the true immediate heir to Bloomquist’s throne with a possible swing to starting shortstop or second baseman if no other players can fill those spots. Given a couple years, we’ll know better what to think of Mr. Lance Zawadzki, but that’s the core information for now.
*Data from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.