Prophecy in Pitching

 

 

August 10, 2011; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Personally, I think Crow starts the year in AAA, but ends it pitching in the Royals starting rotation. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

When you watch Royals games, do you have a friend who predicts a home run before an at bat, and then it happens?

That friend jumps, dances, and duck-walks right along with the home run trot, and pronounces him/herself the prognosticator of prognosticators? Maybe, you even mention that the friend predicts a homerun on virtually every at bat and was bound to be right eventually despite his/her 0-1,567 streak?

I’m that guy.

I celebrate my correct predictions as if the thing I predicted was so unheard of I must have some special connection with the forces of fate, like how Al Gore knew the Internet would be a hit before he invented it.

Now, I’m going to make another fairly obvious prediction and examine the possible ramifications of this occurrence.

Prediction: The Royals will trade Jonathan Sanchez before the 2012 trade deadline … if they aren’t in serious contention.

I know it’s obvious. In fact, it seems bound to happen. Sanchez is a free agent after this season, and I’m sure the Royals want to get some value for him. No surprise if this happens.

But before I start looking at the ramifications of trading Sanchez midseason, I’d like to pose an interesting question to readers and myself. Would/should the Royals consider trading Sanchez even if they are in contention?

Tough question. If Sanchez isn’t pitching well, and a starter in Omaha is lighting it up (Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow—who I think is going down to season as a starter, Everett Teaford—same as Crow), maybe they ship him off and make a call to Omaha. That doesn’t seem out of the question, especially if one of the AAA starters is really grooving to the tune of a sub 3 ERA, 7-8 K/9, 3.5 or under BB/9.

The really, really tough question: what if Sanchez is pitching well, not Cy Young well, but sub 4 ERA well? The fact is that if Sanchez is pitching like he did in 2010, not only is his value playing for the Royals at its peak, his trade value is at its peak as well. I haven’t read anyone who thinks Sanchez is staying past 2012. For a small market team, like the Royals, will it be prudent to trade Sanchez nearing the deadline, to get some value for him even if he’s pitching well and they’re in contention?

The demand for him, if he’s pitching well, will probably be pretty high. Starting pitchers with his stuff, and a World Series ring don’t come around too often for a playoff push. They demand pretty high return. Sanchez is no CC Sabathia, but could Sanchez warrant a Matt LaPorta type prospect, minus the three others, the Brewers gave up for a Sabathia rental?

These are interesting questions to consider. Personally, I think the Royals have to look seriously at the prospect of trading Sanchez midseason unless they’re leading in the division and he’s pitching lights out. To get no value for him at all would be terrible unless the value they get is a playoff run.

Now, let’s assume Sanchez is traded this season. If you’re like me, which I hope for the sake of your mental health you aren’t, you believe that Crow, Teaford, and Montgomery will start the year in AAA. If you’re like me, you believe that Montgomery will get his call up in May or June, when someone either gets hurt or is ineffective (This is, of course, predicated on Montgomery pitching well, which I believe he will). That means either Crow or Teaford gets the call up when Sanchez is traded, assuming they haven’t already been called up to take someone else’s spot.

The potential is there for the starting pitching rotation to look very different by midseason than it will when the season begins. It will probably begin like this:

  1. Hochevar
  2. Sanchez
  3. Chen
  4. Paulino
  5. Duffy

It may be this after the trade deadline:

  1. Hochevar
  2. Crow (not necessarily the #2 just taking Sanchez’s spot)
  3. Montgomery (Chen has an injury and ineffectiveness history, despite his last two seasons)
  4. Teaford (Paulino is by no means a sure thing in terms of effectiveness)
  5. Duffy

The possibility exists that Duffy may struggle as well. Perhaps Crow or Teaford will be asked to take his place at some point. Will all these things happen (Paulino ineffective, Chen hurt/ineffective, Sanchez traded)? Probably not. But the potential for them to happen is there, and it is reasonable to see how each could happen.

Starting pitching presents a pretty unusual situation for the Royals in that theirs is pretty terrible, but pretty deep. It’s like a 20 piece chicken mcnuggets meal. They’re made with God knows what, but you get 20 J. Who can turn that down? Each of the Royals starters is barely major league worthy (based on past performance), but they are at least major league worthy, all five of them. So, what do they do when someone from AAA is ready to be called up?

I would like to mention the dark horse rotation candidate very few people are talking about as well—Luis Mendoza. I like Mendoza, though I understand that he’s a long shot for good reason. He’s 28; he’ll be 29 in October. He had an incredible year in 2011 in Omaha, but still, his secondary stats don’t jump out at anyone (5.05 K/9, 3.37 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP, 3.80 FIP). The WHIP is pretty good, and his walk rate is decent (and often lower). He’s a groundball pitcher who doesn’t strike out a lot of guys and doesn’t walk a lot of guys.

Instead of the rotation, I’d like to see him get a chance as a swing man in the Royals bullpen (does long relief, gets spot starts). Perhaps he could move into the rotation when Sanchez is traded if none of the guys in Omaha look ready. In two starts for the Royals in September last season, he won both games, gave up 11 hits in 14.2 innings, 5 walks, and 2 earned runs. That’s pretty good, especially when looked at in comparison with his AAA season numbers (12-5, 2.18 ERA, 144 innings, .31 HR/9). Some of those will come back to earth against major league hitting and as a result of a regression to the mean, but the Royals need a swing man. I think he might be a perfect fit.

Note: If my prediction that Sanchez will be traded comes true, AND Montgomery gets called up in May or June, AND Crow/Teaford gets called up for Sanchez, AND Louis Mendoza becomes the Royals’ swing man, I reserve the right to jump, dance, and duck-walk all I want.

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Topics: Crow, Montgomery, Pitching, Royals, Sanchez

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  • NorthMoRoyal

    @KingsofKauffman @MarcusMeade and followed

  • KingsofKauffman

    @NorthMoRoyal @MarcusMeade that’s why you’re our #1 fan, Lance!

  • NorthMoRoyal

    @KingsofKauffman @MarcusMeade and followed

  • KingsofKauffman

    @NorthMoRoyal @MarcusMeade that’s why you’re our #1 fan, Lance!

  • the5allens

    great article.

    since the Nats signed Edwin Jackson today, the Royals should try to acquire John Lannan from the Nats. Last year’s Lannan would be the best pitcher on the Royals…

  • the5allens

    great article.

    since the Nats signed Edwin Jackson today, the Royals should try to acquire John Lannan from the Nats. Last year’s Lannan would be the best pitcher on the Royals…

  • mmeade17

    @the5allens That’s an interesting idea, but the issue I have with trying to get Lannan is the Royals seem to have a lot of guys like Lannan already. He’s into arbitration and will make $5 million this season after losing his arbitration hearing so he’s not Paulino cheap, but he may not even be Paulino good, which isn’t really that good. He had a decent 3.70 ERA last year but a more pedestrian 4.28 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). He’s never been better than a 1.4 WAR pitcher. The Royals have a lot of those types of guys right now. I’m thinking Lannan would just block the way for guys like Crow and Montgomery who at least have the potential to be a little better than that. Though, I can certainly see the appeal of trying to bring in some sort of one-year upgrade to contend in 2012.

  • the5allens

    @mmeade17 wait, did you really say “paulino good” ? is that some kind of reverse-psychology jedi mind trick ? I think “paulino good” is an oxymoron. Lannan has turned in 3 different seasons with ERA under 4 (pitching over 180 innings each time), while Paulino has never been under 4.00 even in part time duty. and Lannan is a year younger, while Paulino has never been able to catch on, through 3 organizations now. I follow the Royals from afar, and admit that I have not seen Paulino pitch, but I am striking out as to why the organization seems to like him.

    Lannan is more expensive, and arbitration eligible, but that might even be fixed before the trade with a contract extension as part of the deal.

    I don’t think KC has a lot of guys like Lannan. I think Duffy will be great, but he isn’t there yet. Chen is surprisingly good, but for how much longer. Hoch is on the verge of being a bust in my mind, given his draft position. I like Sanchez, have had him in fantasy baseball 2 of last 3 years. Even if Montgomery comes up at some point this season, what can we really expect in his rookie year ?

    i love the makeup of this year’s squad, except I fear that the starting pitching has the potential to be awful. the stud pitchers coming through the system are in a line, not in a wave (unlike last year’s wave of position players)- unlikely that we add 2 rookie starters at any one time during the next couple of seasons ( and would we even want to). Thus, when the guys at the end of the line arrive, they are not adds but replacements at that point. in other words, by the time Lamb or Odorizzi come up, Chen – Sanchez are likely to be gone, maybe the great Paulino too. we are running on a treadmill, not improving – and its years down the line.

    all that being said, I do love this site and I really loved your article. especially the chicken mcnugget reference – at least we have 20 of them…lol. brilliant

  • michael.allen.engel

    @the5allens @mmeade17 Take out Davies/SOS/Mazzaro from last year, and the rotation was right at the AL average. No, that’s not “good” but it’s not awful either, and with any kind of progress from Duffy, Hochevar (THIS is the year) and yes, Paulino (led the team in K/9, which is a start), they could end up doing a little bit better than we all expect.

    The could also be awful, too. Paulino might be masquerading as a serviceable pitcher. Hoch might go back to his old form, and Duffy could stay as raw as he was last year. I hate to hedge but it’s probably somewhere between those two scenarios.

  • mmeade17

    @the5allens That’s an interesting idea, but the issue I have with trying to get Lannan is the Royals seem to have a lot of guys like Lannan already. He’s into arbitration and will make $5 million this season after losing his arbitration hearing so he’s not Paulino cheap, but he may not even be Paulino good, which isn’t really that good. He had a decent 3.70 ERA last year but a more pedestrian 4.28 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). He’s never been better than a 1.4 WAR pitcher. The Royals have a lot of those types of guys right now. I’m thinking Lannan would just block the way for guys like Crow and Montgomery who at least have the potential to be a little better than that. Though, I can certainly see the appeal of trying to bring in some sort of one-year upgrade to contend in 2012.

  • mmeade17

    @the5allens Oh, no I agree. Paulino is not good. I think I even said he’s really not that good (I used “Paulino good” as a comparison not a reference to his “goodness,” like Hinder is Nickleback good meaning they aren’t good at all). I see what you’re saying, and perhaps Lannan is slightly better than Paulino, but to me their virtually the same pitcher in terms of effectiveness, and it does very little to stock the rotation with guys who are virtually the same. Hoch, Paulino, Chen, Lannan, these are back end guys, not front end guys. I’d hate to see the road blocked by pitchers like that when potential like Monty, Crow, Lamb, Odorizzi is waiting. We know what Lannan and Paulino bring to the table 3-5 starter ability. At some point, we will need to find out if those other guys can make it to the 1-2 range.

    Good comments, sparking great discourse.

  • the5allens

    @mmeade17 wait, did you really say “paulino good” ? is that some kind of reverse-psychology jedi mind trick ? I think “paulino good” is an oxymoron. Lannan has turned in 3 different seasons with ERA under 4 (pitching over 180 innings each time), while Paulino has never been under 4.00 even in part time duty. and Lannan is a year younger, while Paulino has never been able to catch on, through 3 organizations now. I follow the Royals from afar, and admit that I have not seen Paulino pitch, but I am striking out as to why the organization seems to like him.

    Lannan is more expensive, and arbitration eligible, but that might even be fixed before the trade with a contract extension as part of the deal.

    I don’t think KC has a lot of guys like Lannan. I think Duffy will be great, but he isn’t there yet. Chen is surprisingly good, but for how much longer. Hoch is on the verge of being a bust in my mind, given his draft position. I like Sanchez, have had him in fantasy baseball 2 of last 3 years. Even if Montgomery comes up at some point this season, what can we really expect in his rookie year ?

    i love the makeup of this year’s squad, except I fear that the starting pitching has the potential to be awful. the stud pitchers coming through the system are in a line, not in a wave (unlike last year’s wave of position players)- unlikely that we add 2 rookie starters at any one time during the next couple of seasons ( and would we even want to). Thus, when the guys at the end of the line arrive, they are not adds but replacements at that point. in other words, by the time Lamb or Odorizzi come up, Chen – Sanchez are likely to be gone, maybe the great Paulino too. we are running on a treadmill, not improving – and its years down the line.

    all that being said, I do love this site and I really loved your article. especially the chicken mcnugget reference – at least we have 20 of them…lol. brilliant

  • michael.allen.engel

    @the5allens @mmeade17 Take out Davies/SOS/Mazzaro from last year, and the rotation was right at the AL average. No, that’s not “good” but it’s not awful either, and with any kind of progress from Duffy, Hochevar (THIS is the year) and yes, Paulino (led the team in K/9, which is a start), they could end up doing a little bit better than we all expect.

    The could also be awful, too. Paulino might be masquerading as a serviceable pitcher. Hoch might go back to his old form, and Duffy could stay as raw as he was last year. I hate to hedge but it’s probably somewhere between those two scenarios.

  • mmeade17

    @the5allens Oh, no I agree. Paulino is not good. I think I even said he’s really not that good (I used “Paulino good” as a comparison not a reference to his “goodness,” like Hinder is Nickleback good meaning they aren’t good at all). I see what you’re saying, and perhaps Lannan is slightly better than Paulino, but to me their virtually the same pitcher in terms of effectiveness, and it does very little to stock the rotation with guys who are virtually the same. Hoch, Paulino, Chen, Lannan, these are back end guys, not front end guys. I’d hate to see the road blocked by pitchers like that when potential like Monty, Crow, Lamb, Odorizzi is waiting. We know what Lannan and Paulino bring to the table 3-5 starter ability. At some point, we will need to find out if those other guys can make it to the 1-2 range.

    Good comments, sparking great discourse.