Royals’ Minor League Signees May Bring Major League Value

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Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals haven’t made many major moves so far this offseason, with the most significant transaction being the re-signing of a middle reliever. That doesn’t mean they haven’t tweaked their roster, and I do like most of the minor deals they have gotten done in the last month. Guys like Reymond Fuentes and Brian Flynn may not make an enormous impact in Kansas City this year, but they provide very important depth, and could be somewhat valuable if needed.

There were a couple of other signings the Royals made a few weeks ago that brought some more potential value to the organization. However, these signings went mostly unnoticed, because the players were signed to minor league contracts. Joe Paterson and Ryan Roberts were brought into the organization recently, and even though they’re not currently on the 40-man roster, they could provide some value to the big league club at some point.

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Paterson was a 2007 draft pick of the Giants, but has spent the last 4 seasons as a member of the Diamondbacks organization. He’s a 28-year old left-handed reliever with 40.1 major league innings under his belt. In that small sample, he has an unsightly 6.25 ERA, although his 4.52 FIP indicates he’s been slightly better.

He hasn’t struck out many batters in the majors, but he does have 9 strikeouts per 9 innings in his minor league career. Despite being an extreme fly ball pitcher, Paterson has only allowed 21 home runs in nearly 400 professional innings. That’s made even more impressive when you remember he’s been pitching roughly half of those innings in the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League.

The lack of whiffs in the bigs likely stems from Paterson’s repertoire, which consists of a sinker in the low to mid 80s, and a slider that comes in around 72 MPH. It’s not an impressive set of pitches, although it’s effective enough for Paterson to do the one thing he does best: dominate left-handed batters.

While pitching in Triple-A and the major leagues in 2014, Paterson faced 105 left-handed batters, held them to a .553 OPS, and struck out 25% of them. In 2013, Paterson faced 109 lefty batters across those same levels, and he held them to a .400 OPS, while striking out 37% of them. In 2012, he faced 111 lefties, struck out 30% of them, and held them to a .688 OPS.

Paterson isn’t a guy you want to face right-handed batters very often – he’s allowed an OPS of over 1.000 to righties in 2 of the last 3 seasons – but he could be a useful piece of the bullpen when deployed properly. Having a strict LOOGY on the 25-man isn’t always the best way to use a roster spot, although with the Royals’ bullpen already having so much talent, Paterson wouldn’t need to be relied upon too heavily.

Roberts is a 34-year old utility man, with the bulk of his work coming as a third baseman and a second baseman. He’s spent time in 5 different organizations, most recently with the Red Sox in 2014. In almost 1,700 career big league plate appearances, Roberts has hit .243/.320/.388, though his best season came in 2011 with Arizona, when he hit .249/.341/.427, with 19 home runs. He’s typically shown good plate discipline with a 9.8% career walk rate, and strikeouts in 18.9% of his plate appearances.

As mostly a part-time player, Roberts has also provided value with his glove. He rates above average at second and third base according to UZR, while DRS puts him squarely average at third base and above average at second. Since he’s getting up there in age, I wouldn’t expect to see Gold Glove defense at either position, but his history suggests Roberts would do just fine.

The Royals have enough defense at second and third right now, but what they could really use is a right-handed portion of a platoon at third base for Mike Moustakas. Roberts has a 107 wRC+ against left-handed pitching in his career. Obviously those aren’t world-beating numbers, but compared to Moose’s 63 wRC+, Roberts looks like Brooks Robinson.

Granted, the Royals also have Christian Colon to fill that role at third, but Roberts is a veteran, and we all know this organization likes to have some kind of veteran presence in the clubhouse. Having a veteran isn’t a bad thing, and it’s far less bad if the veteran is kind of good at baseball. Roberts seems to fit that description, for the most part.

Both of these players received non-roster invites to Spring Training, meaning they will get an opportunity to win a roster spot before the regular season starts. I’m guessing that they both miss out on breaking camp with the big league squad, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they get an opportunity to contribute. Paterson and Roberts have skills that the Royals could use, even if they lack elite skills in other areas of the game. Then again, if they had other elite skills, they likely wouldn’t have been available to sign minor league contracts in the first place.

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