Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Minor League Update, Part 2.

Let’s dispense with formalities and just pick up where we left off last week:

6) Danny Duffy, LHP, 20. The consensus opinion is that Duffy is having a terrific season for Wilmington and is one of the brightest lights in the organization. I don’t entirely disagree with that, but I think it’s important to sound a note of caution. Just as we have to make allowances for Moustakas because Wilmington is such a tough hitter’s park, we have to discount Duffy’s numbers for being the product of the same ballpark. Those numbers are good – 3.51 ERA, 95 K and 31 BB in 100 IP – but not great, even for a 20-year-old.

Look at this line from a former Wilmington left-hander: 10-6, 2.55 ERA, 134 H in 162 IP, 154 K, 33 BB, 8 HR. Looks like a pretty good pitcher, huh? What if I told you this pitcher didn’t turn 20 until late in the season? You’d think he was a stud prospect. And once upon a time, Jimmy Gobble was a stud prospect.

Let’s try another left-hander, and this one spent his entire season at Wilmington at age 19: 9-7, 3.60 ERA, 145 IP, 142 H, 53 BB, 142 K, 8 HR. This line once belonged to Chris George. George and Gobble had eerily similar careers; both were supplemental first-round picks, both had great seasons for Wilmington the year they turned 20, both were in the Royals’ rotation two years later (George at age 21, Gobble a few weeks after he turned 22)…and both turned out to be massive busts.

I’m not saying that Duffy is destined to follow their career paths – at one time both George and Gobble projected as #3 starters in the major leagues, so obviously something went wrong. But Duffy’s repertoire is just similar enough to give me pause. His fastball is just average, maybe a tick above average; even with the makings of a good curveball, the potential is there for him to be just good enough to get bombed in the major leagues. He hasn’t done anything wrong this year, but he hasn’t taken a big step forward either, and at some point he needs to take a big step forward out of the shadow of the guys who came before him. Grade: B.

7) Danny Gutierrez, RHP, 22. If I had written this piece a few weeks ago, my evaluation of Gutierrez would be very different. Gutierrez broke out last season as one of the most intriguing arms in the organization; the former 33rd-round draft-and-follow showed an improved fastball and dynamite curveball on his way to striking out 104 batters in 90 innings for Burlington last season. But his debut this season was delayed by an arm injury – continuing a trend, as he missed a month last season with a fracture in his pitching elbow – and then had a fight with the organization over his rehab process.

I confess to not having a handle on all the details; if I understand things correctly, he also took on Scott Boras as his agent during this time frame, and Boras has already picked a fight with the Royals over their rehab process (the Carlos Beltran affair of 2000). One way to look at this is that Gutierrez has some growing up to do. Then again, given my opinion of the Royals’ training staff, it’s hard to be too upset with the kid.

In any case, Gutierrez finally regained his health and was assigned to Wilmington two weeks ago. Working out of the bullpen, he allowed just three hits and one walk in eight innings, striking out 10…and then earlier today he made his first start for the Blue Rocks and threw four hitless innings, with a walk and 3 Ks. We’re only talking about 12 innings, but those are 12 damn impressive innings. He seems healthy again if nothing else, and his upside rivals anyone in the organization. I’ll give him a Grade B- for now, though I’m tempted to just give him an incomplete.

8) Carlos Rosa, RHP, 24. Rosa has long been one of the most well-regarded arms in the organization, but his perpetually fragile elbow – he had Tommy John surgery in 2005, and his forearm strain last season spooked the Marlins into refusing to take him instead of Leo Nunez in the Mike Jacobs deal – finally forced the Royals to give up on him as a starter and move him to the bullpen full-time. Given his stuff, this was expected to be an easy transition; back in March I imagine the Royals thought he’d be firing his bullets as Soria’s setup man by now.

Things haven’t gone according to plan. He had a terrible May (22 hits, 11 walks, 20 runs in 15 innings), and after working his way back into dominant form in July, he’s struggling again, having allowed 13 hits in just six innings this month. For the year he’s struck out 64 batters in 59 innings, but he’s also allowed 58 hits, 29 walks, and six homers, for an ERA of 5.19. It’s possible he’s not completely healthy yet; it’s also possible that all the repeated injuries have sapped away some of his stuff. He’s still a good bet to be a part of the Royals’ bullpen at some point next year, but the dream of Rosa as a shutdown reliever is fading fast. Grade: D+.

9) Kila Ka’aihue, 1B, 24. If you want to be charitable, you can say that the Royals were right: he’s not as good as he was last year, when he hit .314/.456/.628 and smacked 37 homers between Double-A and Triple-A.

The most remarkable part of his success last season was that he hit all those homers while striking out just 67 times. This year, his K rate is up (from 17% of his at-bats to 21%), and as a result his batting average has dropped over 50 points, to .261. The other weird thing about his performance last year is that he hit 37 homers but just 15 doubles, which is an unsustainable distribution; even the best power hitters hit nearly as many doubles as homers. This year, Ka’aihue is getting extra-base hits at nearly the same pace (11% of his at-bats this year, 13% of his AB last year), but the distribution is totally different: 26 doubles, 1 triple, 14 homers. As a result, his slugging average is just .450.

But if the Royals were right that he’s not as good as he was last year, I’m still right that the Royals would have been better off playing him at first base than trading for Mike Jacobs. His average may have dropped, his power may be off, but if there’s one thing Ka’aihue can do consistently, it’s work the strike zone. He has 85 walks and a .398 OBP. Using Clay Davenport’s work, we can translate Ka’aihue’s numbers into what he would have hit at the major league level: .245/.373/.426. Jacobs is hitting .236/.309/.432. I have absolutely no faith that the Royals will ever give Ka’aihue a shot, but if they don’t have a use for a minimum-wage 1B/DH that hits .245/.373/.426, I’m sure there are a lot of teams that would be willing to give him that opportunity. Ka’aihue has been a little disappointing this year – I figured his power numbers would drop, but not quite this much – but just as we all knew he wasn’t as good as he looked last year, I think he’s a little better than he’s looked this year. And he hasn’t looked bad this year. Grade: C+.

10) Blake Wood, RHP, 23. Another disappointment. Wood shook off back issues that slowed him down in 2007 last season, and was dominant for Wilmington before a promotion to Double-A, where he struggled (5.30 ERA) but had a healthy strikeout-to-walk ratio of 76 to 32 in 86 innings. Expected to take a big step forward this season with the Naturals, Wood stagnated instead; he had a 5.27 ERA in 13 starts, and struck out just 46 batters in 72 innings. He’s been out since June 21st with “inflammation in his right elbow”. The combination of disappointing performance record and arm issues is a tough one to overcome. Grade: D.

11) Johnny Giavotella, 2B, 21. The square peg in the round hole that was the Royals’ 2008 draft, Giavotella was the rare college hitter selected in a draft that was typically heavy in high schoolers and pitchers. You had to figure the Royals saw something special in Giavotella to draft him in the second round, and he hit the ground running, getting assigned to a full-season league in Burlington last season and hitting .299/.355/.421. He’s spent this season in Wilmington, and is hitting .259/.367/.376.

Giavotella is the rare draftee who was young for his grade level – he didn’t turn 21 until a month after he signed, and just turned 22 last month. Away from Frawley Stadium he’s hit .270/.382/.425, and he has terrific command of the strike zone, with 62 walks against just 47 strikeouts. He doesn’t have much power, and his defense is still a little rough at second base, but he might be my favorite sleeper prospect in the organization.

I think the comparison I made when he was drafted last year was that he could develop into “Chuck Knoblauch without the speed”, and I still think that holds. He’s not that fast (although he does have 19 steals this year) and he doesn’t hit for power, but he does everything else well. I have a feeling that he’s going to have a breakout year for Northwest Arkansas next season, and this time next year we’ll be wondering why the Royals won’t make room for their new second baseman. Grade: B.

12) Kelvin Herrera, RHP, 19. Signed out of the Dominican when he was 16, Herrera was called up from short-season ball to Burlington late last season, and at age 18 held his own in the Bees’ rotation. There was a lot of hope that Herrera would be the star Hispanic pitching prospect the Royals haven’t had in, well, ever. Quick question: can you name every above-average starting pitcher the Royals have ever signed and developed out of Latin America? No? Congratulations – you’re correct! In forty years, the best Latin American starter the Royals have ever developed is probably Hipolito Pichardo. Hipolito Pichardo. If you disqualify Pichardo because he was mostly a reliever, you’re left with Runelvys Hernandez. Runelvys Hernandez. (Actually, the answer is probably Melido Perez, who won 78 games in the majors – but only one for the Royals before he was ill-advisedly included in the trade for Brian Bannister’s dad.)

Herrera started the year in extended spring training, then made his debut with five scoreless innings for Burlington on May 6th. He hasn’t pitched since. I’m having trouble finding out the reason, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s not a good one. Grade: D pending more information.

More to come…


Anonymous said...

Besides Kila, you haven't really seen any of these guys play even one game have you?

What kind of writer did you think Hemmingway would become just based on he 5th grade penmenship marks?

Darin K. said...

Get back to work, Mr. Moore.

When the defenders of the most incompetent organization in professional sports are left with, "But you haven't seen them plaaaaaaaaay!", you're pretty much right.

Chance said...

The whole point of this list is to evaluate the players BASED ON STATISTICAL ANALYSIS, which Rany is a professional at. He has already stated that he thinks the Royals rely too heavily on "scouting" and not enough on statistical analysis.

I hope that first post, Anonymous, was in jest.

It sure looks bleak though.

Anonymous said...

"STATISTICAL ANALYSIS" wouldn't even make the top ten list of ways to project the potential of baseball prospects

There is a reason scouting is a profession and "STATISTICAL ANALYSIS" "is just something a pimple doctor writes about on his little blog

Understanding stats is a lot eaiser than understanding baseball.

And from reading the posts and comments here hardly anyone reading this is capable of doing both. And a lot can't do either.

But hell, maybe Rany will start doing movie reviews of films he's never seen. That's about all he's capable of now.

That and bitch-fits he throws when he feels like the men on the team aren't "loving him back".

Ryan Shuck said...

Rany, please block anonymous posters from posting. If they are too back woods to understand statistical analysis and too chicken shit to put their names out there then they have no right to post.

My guess is if the Royals did hardly any scouting and only used stats they would be in a FAR better place than they are today.

I personally think you need both methods to work in harmony but so far the "scouts only" approach has achieved nary a playoff appearance since 1985. Going to full stat analysis couldnt do any worse and I'm betting would do a whole lot better.

BPinKC said...

If "Anonymous" hates Rany so much, why in the hell is he here reading his blog?

Kevin said...

Dear Anonymous,

Could you give us the top ten list of way to project the potential of baseball prospects BEFORE you would use statistical analysis.

Please we need your knowledge. We thirst for your learned counsel.

You, obviously, know more about baseball than we can ever know. YOU need to lead us out of the wilderness to sanity.

Please illuminate.

Anonymous said...

Duffy may be 10x better than Gobble or George, but I would be fine with trading him for major league talent... as long suffering Royals fans I think we are too quick to fall in love with prospects and potential, wishing and hoping they become stars and save us all from this despair... but I sure wish we'd traded George and Gobble when we (probably) had the chance!

Unknown said...

After watching a lot of minor league baseball, I do think that statistical analysis is less effective here than it is in evaluating performance at the major league level. The difference is that the minors are not merely about gaining immediate results, but about development. This is especially true in the low minors, of course.

This bears out in Rany's criticism of Moore, that he's better at identifying quality prospects than he is at identifying quality major league players.

That being said, it has been a pretty bad year for Royals farm clubs. Moustakas is having another strong finish and Montgomery has been very promising. The breakout years by Parraz, Lough, and Bianchi are nice--but it's doubtful any of them will be much improved over Teahen, DeJesus, and Callaspo.

Brian Chae said...

commented on this with the last post, but the Royals training staff struck again - Juan Cruz sidelined with shoulder injuries

pjbronco said...

"Understanding stats is a lot eaiser than understanding baseball."

And the Royals organization is doing a bang-up job at...?

I assume by eaiser, you mean easier?

Wabbitkiller said...

Anonymous said...
"STATISTICAL ANALYSIS" wouldn't even make the top ten list of ways to project the potential of baseball prospects

There is a reason scouting is a profession and "STATISTICAL ANALYSIS" "is just something a pimple doctor writes about on his little blog

Understanding stats is a lot eaiser than understanding baseball.

And from reading the posts and comments here hardly anyone reading this is capable of doing both. And a lot can't do either.

But hell, maybe Rany will start doing movie reviews of films he's never seen. That's about all he's capable of now.

That and bitch-fits he throws when he feels like the men on the team aren't "loving him back".

August 13, 2009 8:41 AM

STFU Dayton Mooreon. We know it's you. By the way, you're f**king INCOMPETENT, and I can only hope that David Glass comes to his senses and FIRES your worthless incompetent ass SOONER rather than later.

Colin said...


Good Review. When you get done with the prospects I was wondering what guys you thought might be september call-ups. I'd like to see Rosa, Ka'aihue, Jordon Parraz, and David Lough. The other guy I'd like to see at least is Chris Lubanski. That may suprise some people, but he hit well in spring training and early in the season before getting hurt. I know he's struggled badly since returning from his injury, but if he gets going again I think he's at least worth looking at.

Kyle Richardson (Fargo) said...

Rany, a quick note on your comment in Herrera's review regarding the Royals' development of Latin pitchers...

I'd say the Jose Rosado was the best Latin pitcher we've developed--he got hurt AFTER he was in the big leagues...

I guess it depends on whether you look at talent upon arrival or performance after arrival...

BTW, I wanted to use my name, lest I be accused of being Art Stewart or anything... LOL

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, Rosado was born in New Jersey and drafted in the 12th round in 1994.

bfos said...

"Understanding stats is a lot eaiser than understanding baseball. "

This is ABSOLUTELY correct! It just makes it that much more amazing that the Royals fail to understand the stats.

Rany has never said that he's bringing some amazing insight to the Royals organization. It's not rocket science. But, it does deserve to be discussed since the organization so flippantly ignores it.

Roy in Omaha said...

Rany -

Don't agree with your overly pessimistic assessment about Ka'aihue at all and I have seen him many times this summer and last summer as well. Word has it is that he's not exactly happy with being in Omaha after what he did last season. What did he really have to prove last year after the kind of season he had and his September call-up to the big club? And, what kind of message does it send a guy when they trade for somebody to take the job you thought you were gonna get, and deserved to get, instead of giving it to you? I mean, all he does is get on base, field his position well, and hit with power. He barely even got to play in spring training (17 whole at-bats). If what I've heard is true (and Omaha is a pretty small large town), I can't say I blame him in the least. I'd have a bad attitude, too. Wouldn't you, if you know that you're working for idiots and you're not appreciated? This guy will have a future.....somewhere. Haven't seen anything not to like in any way, shape, or form of him as yet. He's one of the biggest symptoms of what's wrong with the organization that there is right now. There is no earthly reason why he (or Ryan Shealy--another story) was not the opening day first baseman this year. One of them would have been if it were up to me.

Anonymous said...

I am disapointed you didn't mention the great 2nd half Johnny Gia is having. He seems to have really turned a corner.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous guys, grow some balls and tag a name to your crap. Rany is just giving his opinion, if you don't agree with it, that's fine, but you are in the minority here. So just leave already.

-AxDxMx (posted as Anonymous so you hopefully read this)

Fast Eddie said...

That first post was Dayton Moore. And, he's going to trade Duffy to the Reds for Willy Taveras, bat Taveras first, and Bloomquist 2nd.

Ryan said...

The Royals don't seem to be very good at STATISTICAL ANALYSIS or scouting either. I guess anyone could run the team.

Kyle Farnsworth & Mike Jacobs

Fast Eddie said...

Never thought I'd say this...."Hurry back, Kyle Farnsworth".

Anonymous said...

Nice to be on the other side of a game like today for once.

Cody said...

Its amazing - - now that the games don't mean much how many times Soria has went 6 outs!!

Anonymous said...

Luis Aquino gets no respect...

Anonymous said...

Rany, would love to hear your thoughts on the resurgence of Bianchi this season. Also think that David Lough out of Mercyhurst rates as a really good sleeper. Coparable to DDJ (small East Coast non-baseball power school, just keeps producing at every level,etc.)?

Jared said...

interested on your thoughts on both the Mauer-Teixeira MVP debate and Greinke's Cy Young chances/what you think he would need to do from here on out to win the award.

love the blog!

Anonymous said...

From Bob Dutton/KC Star:

The genesis of Monday’s lineup — the 107th different one in 118 games — was David DeJesus’ sore legs and career-long struggles (10 for 63) against Chicago starter Mark Buehrle.

This is worse than Bob Boone, right?

Anonymous said...

Can we get Alex Gordon added to this minor league update?

Ryan said...

Seriously, sending Gordon down to make room for think you've hit all the low points.

A perfect encapsulation of the season.

Anonymous said...

Unreal how you start your post about the leak. I bet you cannot name 1000 fans that attended last year's games knew there was a leak. You are still a bitter hack that you got thrown out and banned by the Royals.

Sometimes you let your passion of the Royals show in your posts.

And I have told you that before--in person.

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