During the 2000s, no major league team lost more games than the Kansas City Royals. It was a decade where the negatives far outweighed the positives. This is the seventh installment of the 11 part Royals Rotten Decade series. I will briefly examine each season in the last decade before wrapping up the decade in the 11th and final part.
Part 7, the 2006 Royals (62-100) 757 RS / 971 RA
Payroll: $47.3 million (26th) / Attendance: 1,372,638
Draft: RHP-Luke Hochevar (1st), SS-Jason Taylor (2nd), RHP-Blake Wood (3rd), OF-Derrick Robinson (4th)
*Luke Hochevar is the only member of the 2006 Royals draft class to reach the major leagues thus far, but there are several names that still have a decent chance of making it to the show. Blake Wood, Derrick Robinson, OF-Nick Van Stratten (10th), RHP-Aaron Hartsock (23rd), and OF-Jarrod Dyson (50th) are a few of the guys still making a run at the dream.
Top Prospect: 3B-Alex Gordon
Major league debuts:
MI-Angel Sanchez (22)
OF-Mitch Maier (24)
RHP-Bobby Keppel (24)
RHP-Ryan Z. Braun (25)
RHP-Jose Diaz (26)
RHP-Steve Andrade (28)
Above 110 OPS+ (Minimum 50 AB)
128 UT-Esteban German (28): 0.326/.422/.459 in 279 AB
122 3B-Mark Teahen (24): 0.290/.357/.517 in 393 AB
Above 110 ERA+ (Minimum 50.0 IP)*
129 RHP-Todd Wellemeyer (27): 3.63 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 5.8 SO/9 in 57.0 IP
*Eliminating the minimum requirement would add just two names to the list. RHP-Adam Bernero (29) had an ERA+ of 340 in 13.0 IP and RHP-Zack Greinke (22) returned at the end of the season to throw 6.1 IP with an ERA+ of 110.
From 2005 to 2006, the payroll went up $10.4 million, the team won 6 more games, and just over 1,000 more fans came out to the ballpark. The Allard Baird era came to a close and the Dayton Moore era began.
During the GM transition the 2006 draft was held with the Royals in possession of the 1st overall pick. In the days leading up to the draft, the names that came up most often were LHP-Andrew Miller, RHP-Brad Lincoln, RHP-Tim Lincecum, and RHP-Max Scherzer. For some reason, the morning of the draft, Luke Hochevar’s name started popping up and he was the one the team eventually selected. Each player still has plenty of major league innings in their future but as of right now, Hochevar and Miller have disappointed. Scherzer has an ERA+ of 119 in 226.1 ML innings, while Tim Lincecum has become one of the best pitchers in all of baseball winning back to back NL CYAs. Brad Lincoln’s career was slowed due to injury, but looks to be back on the track and still has a bright future ahead of him. For what it is worth, Lincoln was the guy I was hoping the Royals would select with Max Scherzer a close second. Moore won’t publicly claim the draft as his own, but it seems likely that he had some say in the selection. If he didn’t, there was no reason for Kansas City to deviate so far from the group of the players they had been linked to in the weeks leading up to the draft. It certainly wasn’t a matter of signability. Hochevar received a $3.5 million bonus which was just $50,000 less than $3.55 million Andrew Miller received to sign with the Tigers. Scherzer received $3 million, Lincoln received $2.75 million, and Lincecum received $2.025 million.
As a team the 2006 Royals scored 56 more runs than the 2005 team, but finished with the same 91 OPS+ as they had the previous year. Only 2 players cracked the 110 OPS+ barrier, but six other players; Emil Brown, Mike Sweeney, David DeJesus, Matt Stairs, Ryan Shealy, and Aaron Guiel finished with an OPS+ over 100. Mark Teahen hit 18 HR to lead the team with Emil Brown’s 15 HR finishing second. John Buck and Reggie Sanders, who finished with 11, were the only other two players to break double digits. Mark Teahen and Joey Gathright led the team in SB with 10. After swiping 53 bases in 2005, the team did bump that number up slightly to finish with 65 in 2006. Emil Brown again led the team in RBI, this time with 86, while Mark Grudzielanek led the team in runs scored with 85.
If the pitching staff was horrible in 2005, it defied words in 2006. They improved upon their 2005 ERA+ of 79 to finish with a mark of 83 in 2006, but that didn’t stop them from allowing a franchise record 971 runs.
The pitching staff was dealt a major blow before the season ever began when Zack Greinke left the team and returned to Florida to work things out in his personal life. As a result, for the second consecutive season, the starting rotation was without a pitcher that was able to finish the year with an ERA+ over 100. RHP-Luke Hudson and LHP-Jorge de la Rosa who came the closest with an ERA+ of 92 an 91 respectively. They combined for just 25 starts on the year. The rest of the rotation consisted of; Mark Redman, Scott Elarton, Runelvys Hernandez, and Odalis Perez. The 11 other pitchers to make starts for the 2006 Royals included; Jeremy Affeldt, Jimmy Gobble, Mike Wood, Brandon Duckworth, Denny Bautista, Bobby Keppel, Joe Mays, Adam Bernero, Seth Etherton, and Kyle Snyder. Even Ambiorix Burgos, who spent the majority of the season as the team’s closer, started one game.
There was not a “lightning an a bottle” emergence from anyone in the 2006 bullpen. Joel Peralta, Elmer Dessens, and Joe Neslon were slightly above league average but there was very little to get excited about. The lone bright spot came when Zack Greinke returned to the team toward the end of the season. On September 22nd, he made his first appearance and threw a hitless inning. Zack was back.
Kansas City finished the season 34.0 games back of the 1st place Minnesota Twins (96-66). Their at record was just 1 game behind the New York Yankees (97-65) for best record in the AL. The Cleveland Indians finished 4th in the division with a 78-84 record which was good enough to be 16 games ahead of the cellar dwelling Royals.
The 2006 roster was completely devoid of an elite player but there was reason to hope a turnaround was on its way. At the ML level, those hopes hinged on the steady presence of 26-year old David DeJesus, 24-year old Mark Teahen’s second half surge and 22-year old Zack Greinke’s late season return.
To ease their pain, fans looked to the minor leagues, and more specifically to Double-A Wichita. It was there that 22-year old 3B-Alex Gordon captured the distinction of Minor League Player of the Year by hitting 0.325/.427/.588 with 39 2B, 29 HR, 22 SB, 72 BB, and 113 SO in 486 Double-A at bats. 20-year old “OF” Billy Butler also turned in an impressive season for Wichita hitting 0.331/.388/.499 in 477 at bats.
Thanks to those five players, and the presence of Dayton Moore as GM, Royals fans everywhere hoped that the string of 100 loss seasons would finally come to an end in 2007.