This Week In Royaltown

That’s more like it. After the horrific month of May, the Royals bounced back this week, going 5-1. They’re riding a five-game winning streak into a very important series against the division leading Detroit Tigers. This recent bout of success is marked by more offensive output and stellar bullpen play along with consistent starting pitching.

For the week, the Royals get an A-, which is pretty good. There are still issues to work out, which is bound to be the case when Jeff Francoeur, Chris Getz, and Elliot Johnson receive as much playing time as they do, but this series against Detroit is a fantastic opportunity to reassert themselves into the AL Central conversation.

Onto the themes:

Jun 7, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) hits a single in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Can/Did miss prospects?

I’d like to make this point extremely clear so I’m going to caps it all, which is a move that I think gets too much criticism: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CAN’T MISS PROSPECT. Every prospect can miss. I watched Mark Prior’s career fall apart as a Cub fan in the early 2000s, and at the time, he was a “can’t miss prospect.” That’s why there has never been a number one overall pick make it into the Hall of Fame (though that’s going to change soon). Because every prospect can miss.

ESPN.com’s Joe Werner in an article about the Royals “can’t miss prospects” of a couple years ago believes the Royals, in fact, have missed on a long list of players (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Chris Dwyer, Christian Colon). I have a hard time deciding on when to call someone a “miss.” Is Hosmer a miss? He’s only 23 and so far he’s been worth .9 fWAR in 57 games this year. That’s actually pretty decent, but it’s clearly not the superstar level people thought he would be. Is Moustakas a miss? He’s only 24 but mired in a hitting slump that makes Hosmer’s 2012 look desirable. I think Werner is probably premature in his assessment of all these players as misses, perhaps especially Duffy and Hosmer. I also think he’s misleading in his assessment of Dwyer and Colon as prospects of great note. They certainly weren’t in the same camp as Hosmer or Moustakas and nowhere near “can’t miss” status.

This is a theme for this week for two reasons: 1) Hosmer is hitting better lately and Moustakas continues to flail at the plate. I’m not sure when/if Hosmer’s power will develop. I think it will because we’ve seen it before and the bat speed is still there. I think eventually he’ll find his power stroke, but I can’t be sure of that; I suppose no one can. Lately, he’s been driving the ball for doubles but still not hitting it out of the park. I’m not sure why Moustakas can’t shake this slump. Maybe he needs to go down for a while. At this point, that seems like the only answer. 2) The Royals drafted a new crop of players this week. Many dogged the pick of Hunter Dozier in the first round and some wisely retracted that assessment (like Keith Law) when GMDM was able to land Sean Manaea with the 34th pick, making the gambit of draft-pool-money manipulation clear. I think Dozier will be better than people think, and I love the way he talks about his own personal fitness (reminds me of Alex Gordon). The criticism of him is confusing to me with some labeling him as the most likely bust. People say he’s a good hitter, athletic, and has power potential but he can’t play shortstop, and all I can think is who cares? He can play third base, second base, or right field (he also has a great arm). So, if he can hit and play a few different positions, works hard, and has a good sense for base running, what’s not to like?

This is all in the way of saying I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can say that most of the prospects listed are misses, and we need to try to temper expectations when it comes to players who “can’t miss” (Hosmer) or “will miss” (Dozier). And when thinking about the Royals specifically, it’s also important to see the players who to this point haven’t missed (Gordon, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez).

NERDS!

People made a big deal out of the lineup change Ned Yost decided to employ early this week. In part, the hubbub was over the fact that he sought the help of the statisticians in the front office. Not coincidently, the team has played better with the lineup the nerds came up with, moving Hosmer to second, Perez to third, and Alcides Escobar to ninth. While I think lineup construction is a little overrated in its importance, I’m glad to see the team consulting a group of people whose job it is to see the game in the macro, detached from player relationships and the Yostian, folksy wisdom that apparently believes Getz deserves playing time for his ability to sacrifice bunt (that’s a polemic statement but I really don’t like that he’s on the team and I really don’t like Yost for continuing to play him). Perez has thrived in the three-hole. Butler is hitting well and taking walks in the four-hole, and Hosmer is locked in as well. Maybe, and this is a wild concept I know, Yost should continue to seek the input of the nerds moving forward. Dayton Moore could stand to listen a little more too.

Get Lough, get Lough, get Lough, get Lough

To the window! To the wall! No? Nobody digging Lil John and the Eastside Boyz? Ok. Let me tell you a great fear of mine. Soon, Jarrod Dyson will be back, and Dayton Moore and Co. will have a decision to make between Lough and Francoeur. In fact, I think Dyson’s rehab assignment (and the desired length of it) is the result of wanting to put this decision off. I think if there were no decision to make, Dyson wouldn’t even have a rehab assignment and certainly not a lengthy one. But when he does come back, I have this great fear that the powers that be will find a way to keep Francoeur on the 25-man roster and send Lough back to AAA Omaha. Don’t ask me to understand why they would do this; I have no idea. But I can imagine how they would justify doing it. There are four justifications, three of which are completely ridiculous and one of which is still not good enough: 1) Francoeur is a solid defender in right field. He isn’t but this is what the team seems to believe as he’s been acting as a defensive replacement late in games. In fact, he is a below average right fielder with a great arm. 2) Francoeur is a good clubhouse leader. Hard to lead a team when you’re actively keeping that team from winning. 3) Lough has options and it’s about inventory and the long haul. No, it’s about winning. 4) Francoeur is right handed and hits left-handed pitching well. This is the only justification that isn’t completely untrue, though it’s also not as true as people believe either. Against lefties this year, Francoeur is hitting .255/.296/.333, not exactly Miguel Cabrera like, though good compared to how he’s hitting righties. His numbers against lefties in 2012 were even worse. I think his career numbers against lefties are inflated by good years early in his career, which is why it makes more sense to let Lough or Dyson bat against a lefty than Francoeur.

Over the last week, Lough has been vital to the Royals success. He’s played good defense in all the outfield spots. He’s taken extra bases and hit in the clutch. He’s hitting .293/.317/.431. I’d like to see him take more pitches and draw a few more walks, and I think that will happen when he’s comfortable in knowing that he has a spot on the roster. Keeping Francoeur on the roster when Dyson returns is a colossal mistake I hope they don’t make. I’m not sure what the process for getting rid of Francoeur would be but if they send him through waivers, no one will claim him and he’ll probably end up at AAA Omaha where he truly belongs.

That’s all for this week. I haven’t covered everything so if there’s something about this week you think is super important, leave a comment and I’ll respond by quoting lines from Real Genius.

Topics: Kansas City Royals

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  • Michael Engel

    I’d like the Royals to win. That is a nice dream.

    • Michael Engel

      (hoping for the right Real Genius quote)

      • Marcus Meade

        Chris Knight: Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?

        Mitch: No…

        Chris Knight: Why am I the only one who has that dream?

        • Michael Engel

          Nailed it!
          Love that movie.

  • jimfetterolf

    Good piece. I would add that the Royal Nerds are consulted constantly and I think Ned Yost used the story as a way to give them some strokes, as the hitting and pitching coaches get daily feeds from the Bat Cave and Ned’s eyes could tell him that Esky is struggling, part of the reason the previous hitting coaches were fired. Modern baseball is half nerd, half scout, being history weighted to the moment. The Nerds have Gordon hitting lead off, the Scout would put him back at 3rd because he’s been hitting lame for awhile and was productive hitting 3rd.

    As for Frenchy, the consensus was that if he didn’t perform a platoon would happen, then if he continued not to perform he’ld be released by the ASB. I still think that’s a likely scenario. I think one reason Dozier was drafted was because he projects as an RF with a quicker ETA than Bonifacio.

    As for Getz, nice game last night. Not like Gio could have stolen that base against the slide-step or scored from 2nd on Gordon’s single. Of course, Getz and Gio are why Dayton Moore reached for Chris Colon, just hasn’t worked yet.

    • Marcus Meade

      I’m not saying Gio is the answer. I think he’s probably a better answer than Getz. I think a piece of stale bread is the answer over Getz, but that’s neither here nor there. I hope you’re right about Frenchy, and I think it makes some sense anyway that part of Dozier’s value is that he might be a quicker right-field option than Bonifacio, but I kind of hope that the Royals don’t rely too heavily on drafting guys who might be close to major-league ready. That usually leads to bad things (Christian Colon). I really don’t see the front office statisticians being listened to much. If they were, so many decisions would have been made differently. Betancourt signing, Frenchy signing, playing Getz, tendering Hochevar a contract, choosing to play all these players. Those are just some examples. If this team significantly listens to its stats people either they see stats that no one else on Earth sees or that “listening” is token and doesn’t actually hold sway in decision making.

      • Michael Engel

        The only documented meshing between stats and scouts that I can recall is on Paulino where the scouts loved the arm and the stats guys saw his numbers as inflated by BABIP/Strand rate/HR/FB%. They’re a scout-first organization.

      • jimfetterolf

        I would note that the Royal Nerds have stats that fangraphs can only dream of and that Yuni is still drawing a paycheck. I would also note that Hoch, like the previous guy, Davies?, name slips me, looks much better in so-called advanced metrics than he does in the real world.

        Getz is played because he is productive in ways yet to be quantified and no one has taken the job from him, next year maybe Colon, maybe not.

        Frenchy is the best argument and the Nerds did have his ’11 season after he had adjusted swing, approach, and conditioning. Mendoza is another one that the historians wrote off because they couldn’t weight his reinvention in Omaha, same with Melky who also changed approach, swing, and conditioning while Alex Gordon only changed approach and swing and exploded. Small-case nerds didn’t think Perez could hit and thought Gio could. It’s still a crapshoot, even paying some geeks a bunch of money and with an army of scouts and coaches.

        • Michael Engel

          Yuni drawing a paycheck from an organization that willingly traded for Michael Young and signed Delmon Young isn’t really a strong case, and besides, he’s hitting about .210.

          And really, is Getz’s “unquantified” value enough to overwhelm the evidence that he can’t hit, can’t get on base, and has no power? Is it really? Be honest with me here because I cannot see it at all. He does nothing a typical replacement level second baseman couldn’t do so it’s not like his defense is exceptional. It’s plainly average. His speed isn’t exceptional, it’s good enough to be an asset in the 27% of the time he does get on base. Didn’t he pop up a bunt into foul territory yesterday? How much value does THAT add? It’s not about Gio right now. I’ve conceded that he’s not going to do much in this organization. If he’ll see success it’s with a club that’s willing to give him more than 2/3 of a season to decide if he can be a player. It’s solely about Getz and Getz offers no added value you couldn’t get out of Irving Falu or Anthony Seratelli (both of whom can either get on base decently or have some pop).

          Frenchy hasn’t changed his approach. He’s never changed his approach. If the pitcher throws it, he swings at it. It’s like clockwork. He was in better shape and that’s it. You make it out like he stopped chasing the slider in the LH batter’s box.

        • Kevin Scobee

          Chris Getz has made 104 outs in 141 plate appearances. There is nothing he can do on a baseball field that can make up for that amount of ineptness.

          And, from a simple scouting perspective, he’s a limited range fielder with no arm, no positional flexibility, no power, a weak, bad swing, and an inability to barrel the ball. He is however a very, very good base runner. And he’s making $1.05 million.

          He is exactly the type of player that should be replaced every off season. And there’s no one good enough in the organization to replace that is an indictment on Dayton Moore. But in reality, there’s probably three guys in Triple A right now that would be better, because for all the things he does or may bring to the table, you’re glossing over just how bad a .266 on-base percentage is, and how completely detrimental that is to a team.

          I want Irving Falu, but that’s just because I played against him, probably.

          • jimfetterolf

            I wanted to keep Falu, so no argument there, and I like Tony Seratelli. Gio is a pathetic loser at this point, can’t even replace Getz for cryin’ out loud.

            As for OBP, think it was Mike who gave a factor for OBP=Xruns. Getz’ OBP is ahead of Escobar, Moose, and Frenchy and he has scored three less runs than Billy in 100 less PAs and the same RBIs as Moose and Frenchy in fifty less PA. Not all OBP is created equal, last night an example, beat out an infield single, steal second, score on a single to dead center, got the winning run.

          • Michael Engel

            Yeah *TEAM* OBP and *TEAM* runs per game.

            I’d imagine Getz has been driven in by Gordon or Butler 90% of the time. If Billy could hit behind himself, he’d probably be scoring a lot more runs too, but he can’t.

            On base means not out. This isn’t complicated. If you’re a batter who gets on base at a .330 clip, 67% of your plate appearances are outs. Outs are the time clock of the game. You can take your lineup of Getzes and I’ll take a lineup of Butlers and we’ll see who actually scores more. Hint, it’s probably the team that doesn’t make more outs.

          • Kevin Scobee

            Your response gave me an email prompt that came in right as I was getting an email from ESPN Insider telling me about Tim Tebow getting signed. Of course I read “Jim Fetterolf responded to you…” and then unknowingly clicked open the email that read “Tim Tebow has signed with the Patriots…”

            I was thoroughly confused. I’m relieved to see I’m just the boob that clicked on the wrong email, and you’re not actually including Tim Tebow in this discussion.

            Chris Getz is probably a better second baseman than Tim Tebow. I’d still argue with you about it though, because work sucks today and I’m bored.

          • Kevin Scobee

            The top 4 Royals in walks are the top 4 Royals in runs scored.

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