At some point between the day of the trade and tonight (honestly it was quite a while ago) I came across the fact that Pizziconi was born in Anzio, Italy. That tidbit got me wondering if any other Italian-born players have spent time in the Royals organization.
Thanks to Baseball Almanac, I was able to find a list of six Italian-born players who reached the major leagues. I’m not sure how accurate that list is but that number seems to be consistent across several sources, so I’m going to accept it as fact for the purposes of this article. Of those six players identified, none of them were still active when they Royals played their first game on April 8th, 1969. So that was a pretty simple answer. However, one of the six was a part of Kansas City baseball. That player was Reno Bertoia who played 39 games for the Kansas City Athletics in 1961.
The minor league portion of the coin is a different matter entirely and one which will remain unanswered as I don’t have that kind of time, but thanks to the Pizziconi trade, we know they have at least one such player in their history.
His prospects of reaching the majors with the Royals, or any other organization, don’t look all that promising right now. In 2010 he pitched for the Missoula Osprey in the Pioneer League and the Yakima Bears in the short season Northwest League (A-). Pizziconi struggled in the former but got results in the latter. In fact, with the Bears he had a tidy 1.59 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 39.2 IP working as both a starter and reliever. Those numbers look good but the 3.4 BB/9, 5.0 SO/9 and 1.47 SO/BB take a lot of the luster off the shiny ERA and WHIP.
Since he was acquired prior to the start of the Rookie and Short-Season Leagues, he started his 2011 season as a part of the Royals farm system. Assigned to the Burlington Royals, he’s thrown 17.1 innings so far. In 2 starts and 5 relief appearances he has a 7.27 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 11-to-10 SO-to-BB ratio. If you’re looking for a silver lining, he’s allowed just 1 hit in his last two appearances (4.1 IP) while striking out 4 and walking just 1.
If you’re curious about the other end of the trade, Lucas May was hitting 0.176/.263/.329 through 25 games for the Omaha Storm Chasers at the time he was dealt. The Diamondbacks kept him in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) but assigning him to the Reno Aces. In 23 games since the trade he’s hit 0.321/.419/.615 nearly doubling the OPS he had in Omaha while also improving his BB to SO rate.
Regardless of the results going forward, I’m not going to say that trading away Lucas May was any big loss or any kind of mistake. Based on the stats and peripherals, Pizziconi doesn’t look like he has much of a chance to reach the majors but he is still just a teenager and has a lot of developmental time ahead of him to change my assessment. On the other hand, May, who will probably have a decent major league career as a backup catcher, is a replaceable commodity.
As Royals fans we’ve seen more than our share of backup catchers picked up off the scrap heap since the days of Mike Macfarlane so we know just how replaceable such a commodity is. As a result, it won’t take much for Pizziconi to justify the move.