Photos by Minda Haas

The Royals Super Two: Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi

Wil Myers stood in the box on Thursday night with the bases loaded. On the mound, veteran Roy Oswalt looked in. The multiple time All-Star and Cy Young candidate delivered a pitch.

Myers ripped a line drive over the left field fence.

Wil Myers - looking to the future. Photo: Minda Haas

In 22 games and 89 plate appearances in Omaha, Myers has convinced many (including myself) that he’s ready for the big leagues. He has eight homers, 15 extra base hits. He’s carrying a .325/.371/.723 line in Omaha and .336/.398/.728 when you combine that with his time in Northwest Arkansas. He’s hit 40 extra base hits – and it’s June 9th.

After a stellar offseason that included a standout performance in the Arizona Fall League, the struggles of 2011 are behind him. He’s not fighting fluke injuries like last year, he’s a year older and he’s displaying power that scouts felt he was capable of, but weren’t sure when it would manifest.

Wil Myers is ready for the Kansas City Royals, but the Kansas City Royals may not be ready for him. Yet.

It’s frustrating to see a player roll over competition like Myers has done while the big league team struggles to get more than three runs many nights. Fans clamor for a call up of the new big name on the scene and get upset when it doesn’t happen. I get the frustration, but in the big picture, here are two factors in play that are keeping Myers in Omaha:

1. Where to play him?

While Myers has dabbled in center field a bit at both levels this year, he’s only been a professional outfielder for about 18 months after being drafted as a catcher. He’s by no means a budding everyday center fielder. He could hold his own I’m sure, but he’s much more suited for right field, which is currently patrolled by Jeff Francoeur and his offseason contract extension.

Francoeur is a Royal through next season unless they happen to trade him, which would be an option that likely won’t materialize until closer to the trade deadline in July. The Royals seem intent to keep trotting Jarrod Dyson out nearly every day, Alex Gordon isn’t going to sit and Francoeur’s not going to be a part-time player. When Myers gets up, it’ll be to play everyday. They could put him in center, but it might be an adventure. This isn’t as big an issue as:

2. Myers’s potential Super Two status:

Baseball’s arbitration system is part of the Royals considerations. Typically, a player becomes eligible for arbitration after three seasons. Until that point, they make around the league minimum, which is handy for teams who have solid young players but who don’t have to commit much of their payroll to them right away.

If a player plays 172 days in the big leagues, it’s considered a year of service time. There are usually around 183-186 days within a baseball season, so often, a team will keep a player in the minors before purchasing their contract and promoting them to the big leagues. That allows the team to have full control of their rights for a full six years plus the time they accrue in that first year. For instance, Eric Hosmer debuted on May 6 last season. He built up 146 days of service time, so the Royals have his rights for the rest of this year and for five more full years after.

That kind of clever timing really benefits a team, so to keep ownership from manipulating things too far in their advantage, baseball recognizes some players as Super Two players which is defined in the CBA as a player with between 2 years, 86 days of service time and three years of service time. The top 22% of players in service time within that group qualify for arbitration, meaning they have two years around the league minimum, but they usually get a good raise in their third year. Essentially, it gives that player four years of arbitration rather than three.

For a small market team, that could mean a lot. In the Royals case, they’ll have Eric Hosmer almost certainly as a Super Two player after next season and Mike Moustakas may be in there as well. If Wil Myers fell into that category, contracts start adding up quickly. Consider players like Hunter Pence, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. All three were Super Two players and Pence’s salary jump from $439K in his second season to $3.5 million was the smallest jump of the trio. Howard and Fielder saw their first year of arbitration pay out at $7 million and $10 million respectively. Once that first arbitration number is set, it usually doesn’t go down, so the Royals could be on the hook for millions more than if they’d waited.

For what it’s worth, Myers could be called up today and might sneak outside the top 22% and not qualify for Super Two status, but the only period that feels safe would be mid-to-late July to keep Myers under the two years, 86 days threshold. There’s never a firm date, since Super Two status is relative to other players within that class, so it’s a bit of guessing. July should be safe, though.

Fans are going to blame David Glass and hurl the typical vitriol at him as being cheap or doing things the Wal-Mart way, but it’s prudent for a team that simply won’t allow their payroll to balloon to the point where they have no flexibility. Would Wil Myers be enough to propel the Royals to the playoffs in 2012? It’s pretty likely that that wouldn’t be the case, so for the sake of perhaps five more wins this season, the Royals would sacrifice millions down the road – millions that could go towards signing a starting pitcher during free agency or which could be applied to a contract extension. That’s just not worth it in the big picture.

In that same game in which Myers hit the grand slam off Oswalt, Everett Teaford made two innings of a rehab start. That’s usually not big news, but on this night, the player who relieved him stood out.

Jake Odorizzi stepped in and threw 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and one run. He struck out ten.

Jake Odorizzi. Photo: Minda Haas

In 28.1 innings in Triple A, Odorizzi has great numbers. His ERA sits at a sparkling 2.22, his strikeout (8.6 K/9) and walkrate (2.9 BB/9) look good, and while he’s given up some base hits, they haven’t translated into runs. In 66.1 innings in the minors across Double and Triple A, Odorizzi has a 2.85 ERA and nearly a 4/1 K/BB ratio.

He’s vaulted ahead of Mike Montgomery as the team’s top pitching prospect, and just 22, he’s close to being ready for his debut.

The same Super Two considerations apply to Odorizzi as to Myers and pitchers can get pricey in a hurry as well. Last year, he rolled through Wilmington and was promoted mid-season to Northwest Arkansas and struggled. There were concerns he’d run into similar issues this year with another mid-season promotion, but that hasn’t happened yet (and hopefully won’t), but another jump to the big leagues may be getting too quick with him. The Royals are a franchise that has said they’d rather be too late on a prospect than too early, so they’ll exercise caution with Odorizzi.

That’s not to say that Odorizzi won’t see Kansas City this year. If nothing else, he’s a great candidate for a September callup if he’s not up sooner. It’s also possible that Odorizzi could be the next pitcher to get called up. The Royals weren’t shy about bringing Danny Duffy to the majors last year when he looked ready.

Now, with all of that in consideration, my hunch is that the Royals feel alright about their odds in the Super Two gamble. I tweeted a few days ago that I think Myers makes it up after this round of interleague play. At a certain point, they just can’t fight it. Only Josh Hamilton has more home runs in professional baseball than Myers right now.

Odorizzi is a different story. I think Kansas City wants to see a couple more starts from him before moving him to the big leagues. Jonathan Sanchez is close to returning, which clogs up the rotation and Teaford will be back soon. Maybe Teaford is optioned back to Omaha right after being activated, but if Felipe Paulino ends up on the DL, the Royals may want both arms up. It’s just more complicated, and the Royals won’t help themselves by calling up Odorizzi for one start then shuttling him back down. When he’s up, he should be here to stay.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Dayton Moore Eric Hosmer Jake Odorizzi Jeff Francoeur Kansas City Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals MLB Royals Wil Myers

  • jim fetterolf

    Good piece. If Myers comes up soon it will be CF, since Dyson isn’t hitting much and also has been fighting fielding. Frenchy is pretty much a non-issue in the discussion. A case could be made for 1st base, I guess, or LF. Myers has a nice swing, but I prefer to get him another month, at least, in CF and a chance to see a couple of more major league quality arms. The homer against a veteran with disc disease and in the equivalent of spring training yields warm fuzzies, but a little more experience won’t hurt.
    On the flip side, Lorenzo Cain’s rehab isn’t coming along well, so it could be Myers or could be David Lough for awhile. Lough has earned a paycheck and is a decent defender, so might fill the spot for a month or two to see what he has.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf He can’t learn to hit  big league pitching in Triple A. I say that all the time about minor leaguers. All they can do is demonstrate that they’re ready for the opportunity and he’s clearly ahead of the class in that regard. I saw this same thread on Pine Tar Press and agree with Dave Lesky’s question – who exactly is he supposed to face down there? It’s Triple A. There’s no other option except Triple A pitchers. Can’t always dismiss a guy just because it’s the minor leagues – now if it’s Kila Ka’aihue, sure. He’s shown enough at the big league level to bring skepticism against minor league pitching, but that’s different.
    Anyway, yeah, Cain’s rehab had another setback and I’m wondering if we’ll even see him this year. Lough could be an option and he’s more than earned a look at least if they aren’t ready to bring up Myers and want to see someone new. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel  My point on Myers is that his gaudy numbers are against minor-league pitchers, so anointing him as the second coming of Kila or Giavotella might be a little premature, especially as his likely spot in KC is CF and a little more experience there might help him. As I’ve said elsewhere, Irving Falu is hitting .340 and Tony Seratelli has 11 homers and Chris Getz is hitting .500. And Myers is hitting about a hundred points less than Hosmer was in AAA last year. Very large step from Omaha to KC for most players.
    Then there are the financial considerations, Prince Fielder, as an example got around $10 mil in his first arbitration as a Super Two. Is that risk worth an extra month in KC? At the moment I’ld bring Lough up, then consider Myers and JaKKKe after the ASB when they have at least a couple of months to draw on. Ballplayers are a streaky bunch.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf I say he’d be able to hold his own in the big leagues. I don’t think the Royals bring him up yet, and don’t think they should just yet due to Super Two considerations, but yeah, he doesn’t have anything else to show me at Triple A that makes me think he needs more seasoning.
    If it were me, I’d be fine waiting another month but that’s really just for the Super Two deadline – I don’t know that one month more is going to help or hinder either way.
    Dunno where I anointed him as any form of Kila or Gio, though. You can clarify that for me. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Another month would help him in CF, since he has maybe six weeks playing there.
    As for “anointed” that’s the new fad, Free Wil. Been dealing with that elsewhere, always the same points, but most add that “Frenchy is blocking Wil”, so at least you have avoided that. Last year it was Gio, the year before Kila, hope springs eternal in the minor leagues. The next prospect, job, wife, or president will always be better.
    Me, I’m heading up the Free Irving movement. He’s hitting .340 and can play six positions. Yuni is blocking him.

  • colinchristopher

    I don’t think the Super Two considerations are a legitimate concern as of now. According to Ben Nicholson-Smith over at MLBTR, “If a player gets called up tomorrow and never returns to the minor leagues, he’ll have two years and 110 days of service following the 2014 season (110 days remain in the 2012 championship season). Chances are that won’t be enough to qualify for super two status; the cutoff has been at least two years and 122 days in each of the past six seasons.”
    So, really, the only reason the Royals are keeping Myers at Omaha has to do with the lineup in KC. How do they create room for him? They’re either going to have to trade someone or suck it up and live with having a mediocre defensive CF.

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