Friday, July 23, 2010

A.C. to the O.C.

“Double-A will be a good test for O’Sullivan in 2009. If his secondary stuff comes around, he could be a No. 4 starter on a big league contender.”

- Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2009

“A hamstring pull and a lower back injury limited [Smith] to 19 starts last year, but if he comes to camp in shape he should advance to high Class A. His ceiling is as a No. 4 starter.”

- Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2010

Well, it’s a trade. That’s something.

I’ll admit: my initial reaction to this trade is that I was underwhelmed. This put me in an unfamiliar position: given that the general reaction (both from Royals fans and Angels fans) is that the Royals won the trade, I find myself being more pessimistic than most about this move. We’ll get to why that is later.

First off, let’s talk about who the Royals acquired. Sean O’Sullivan, in addition to having the most Irish-sounding name in the history of the Royals, is an essentially major-league ready starting pitcher. Shades of Kyle Davies, who was probably the best pitcher in the country at his age level when he was 14 and 15, O’Sullivan was perhaps the best high school junior in America in 2004. But his velocity dropped as a senior, and he dropped to the third round. The velocity has never returned – he throws in the 90-92 range – but he has made up for it with command and the ability to throw three average pitches.

He was the Angels’ #5 prospect going into last season per Baseball America, and despite an unimpressive 5.48 ERA for Salt Lake City, he made 10 starts for the playoff-bound Angels. His 5.92 ERA aside, it says something that the Angels turned to a 21-year-old pitcher in a pennant race.

He returned to Salt Lake this year, and while his ERA dropped to 4.76, his peripherals were basically the same: a little more than a hit an inning, about 6 Ks and 3 BBs per 9 innings. Those aren’t good numbers, but there’s an important caveat here: the Angels’ top three affiliates all play in good hitters’ parks. The same park effects that have made Brandon Wood such a bust* make their pitchers look worse than they are.

*: In 2005, at the age of 20, Brandon Wood had ONE HUNDRED AND ONE extra-base hits in a minor-league season. Three years later, he hit .200/.224/.327 in the majors. Two years after that – this year – he’s hitting .168/.185/.225. Which is why the Angels wanted Callaspo in the first place.

If you wanted to compare O’Sullivan to Brian Bannister, you wouldn’t be far off. Statistically, Bannister’s minor league numbers were a tick better; in terms of scouting reports, O’Sullivan is slightly better, but that doesn’t give Banny any credit for his cerebral approach on the mound. Bannister, at his best, is a #4 starter, and he’s not always at his best. That may describe O’Sullivan as well.

The biggest difference is that O’Sullivan is still just 22, while Bannister was already 26 when he first pitched for the Royals. But the aging curve doesn’t apply to pitchers the way it does for hitters. If O’Sullivan was a 22-year-old hitter, you could almost guarantee that he’d be a better player in four years than he is now. But for pitchers, sometimes they’re as good in their early 20s as they’ll ever be. Pitchers tend to improve their command as they age, but they also tend to lose velocity on their fastball. Many pitchers – like O’Sullivan – throw harder in high school than they ever will as a professional. If O’Sullivan were a power arm that needed to be tamed, I’d say he might get better with time. But he’s already got the polish – what he needs is a few more mph on his fastball, and the odds of that happening are slim.

Still, he’s a serviceable starter, who has the cache of just beating the Yankees in Yankee Stadium in his last start. If he starts on Sunday, as I expect he will, he’ll have a chance to win consecutive starts at Yankee Stadium pitching for the opposing team, which if nothing else should lead to a paragraph or two from Jayson Stark.

When the rumor of a Callaspo trade to the Angels first surfaced a few days ago, it was reported as O’Sullivan and “a fringe prospect”, and as I said on radio on Wednesday, that wasn’t nearly enough. Fortunately, it appears that the Angels upped their offer, as I wouldn’t describe Will Smith as a fringe guy.

Smith, in addition to having the most Fresh Prince-sounding name in the history of the Royals, is a very big left-handed pitcher whose stuff doesn’t match his mound presence. He’s sort of a left-handed O’Sullivan, as his fastball is nothing special (usually 88-90, which is comparable to 90-92 from a right-hander), but he has a good curveball and changes speeds with it, and he has fantastic control. In his first pro season, he walked 6 batters in 73 innings, then walked just 24 batters in 115 innings last year.

The Angels started him in high Class A this season, at the age of 20, and after six decent starts was promoted all the way to Triple-A, where his ERA was 5.60 but he still managed a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2-to-1. He was then demoted to Double-A and got his clock cleaned in four starts before the trade. I’m not entirely sure what the Angels were doing with him, and given his age (he just turned 21 two weeks ago), it seems silly to be pushing him aggressively. The Royals agree, as they’ve announced he’ll be joining Wilmington’s rotation.

Going from Rancho Cucamonga and Salt Lake City to Wilmington, Smith’s going to feel a lot like Royals’ hitters feel when they get to Double-A. He could put up some nice numbers over the next six weeks. Mind you, he’ll be just the third-best left-handed pitcher in Wilmington’s rotation, behind John Lamb and the resurgent Danny Duffy. But that says more about the Royals than about Smith.

Like O’Sullivan, he projects as just a #4 starter, but given his age and size, there’s more upside here. An AL source I trust likes him a fair amount, and likes the trade for the Royals overall. One of the knocks on Smith coming into the season was that he had no feel for his changeup, but my source says they have better reports on his changeup this year.

Still, I don’t think anyone would argue that Smith ranks among the 15 best prospects in the system, nor would O’Sullivan if he still had his rookie status. Again, that’s a reflection of the system – there are a lot of farm systems where Smith would crack the top 10. Both pitchers have value; I just feel like, given the wealth of pitching options the Royals will have in a year or two, they have less value to the Royals than to most teams.

Dayton Moore loves to talk about how pitching is the currency of baseball, and it’s a hoary cliché that you can never have too much pitching. You can never have too much of anything, but when you have needs elsewhere, too much pitching is a luxury the Royals can’t afford.

Rather than insisting on pitching in every deal, the Royals might insist on outfielders instead. Even if they believe in Alex Gordon in left field, that still leaves two positions to fill long-term. Derrick Robinson might fill one; he might not. Wil Myers might move to the outfield; he might not. Another outfielder, preferably one that can start next year, would be nice.

The Angels have a guy like that. Peter Bourjos, a 23-year-old in Triple-A, is hitting .301/.351/.455. He’s a plus-plus runner – he has 27 steals in 31 attempts, and already has 12 triples this year. He’s basically Scott Podsednik with upside and a center fielder’s glove, and with Torii Hunter entrenched in Anaheim, you’d think he’d be available. Maybe the Royals asked and were rebuffed. But I’d rather have Bourjos than both pitchers the Royals got.

Having said all of that, the general consensus is that the Royals did well here, and it’s not because other people think O’Sullivan or Smith are going to be stars. It’s because most people think that Callaspo simply isn’t worthy of a bigger haul than this. And I’m not sure I agree.

Callaspo has had a strange career, to be sure. Just in his three seasons with the Royals, he’s been three different players.

In 2008, he was a .300 hitter with absolutely no power, but made terrific contact (14 strikeouts in 234 at-bats), and played all over the infield, including – this is hard to believe now – 9 starts at shortstop.

In 2009, he still hit .300 and made excellent contact, but had a sudden power surge. After not hitting a single homer in his first three seasons in the majors, he hit 11 in 2009, along with 41 doubles and 8 triples. Frank White is the only middle-infielder in franchise history to have as many extra-base hits in a season. Callaspo also played second base every day, and his defense was a nightmare.

In 2010, he moved to third base, and his defense was almost shockingly good – by the eye test he was at least average, and most defensive metrics actually show him as slightly above-average this year. But while the power has stayed, he’s not hitting .300; he’s hitting .275, and his walk rate has dropped, leading to an unacceptable .308 OBP.

Given the Three Alberto Callaspos, what you think of him is more of a philosophical question than a baseball one. I’m an optimist by nature, so I see a guy who has finally moved to the position he was meant to play. And batting average is a notoriously schizophrenic stat – Callaspo has hit .300 the last two years, he’s a career .331 hitter in Triple-A, he’s striking out even less than last year, he’s 27 years old, so to me, the fact that he’s hitting .275 is more bad luck than anything else.

You combine Callaspo’s bat from last year with his glove from this year, and you have a heck of a player – a slightly above-average everyday third baseman. Who is making the league minimum. And who is under contract for three more seasons. That seems like a nice commodity.

Not everyone agrees. At Royals Review, Will McDonald says Callaspo “at best really, is average, and about to get more expensive.” At Fangraphs, Jeff Zimmerman writes that he’s “an average to below average major league hitter over his career.” You can make a case for that, certainly – it really depends on how strongly you weigh Callaspo’s last four months relative to his last two seasons. If I’m overrating Callaspo, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve overrated a Royals’ player.

I just feel like the Royals didn’t have to make this trade right now, and they could have waited to see how Callaspo played in the second half. If he hit over .300 the rest of the way – and I suspect that he’ll hit over .300 for the Angels this season – they could go into the off-season with a much more marketable commodity, and could probably get more than a pair of potential #4 starters for him.

But my disappointment is muted by the fact that the Royals already tried to move Callaspo last winter, and the best offer we heard about was a joke – A.J. Ellis, a backup catcher in Triple-A. It’s clear that I hold Callaspo in higher regard than 29 – well, 30 – major league teams. I don’t think that the Royals got fair value for Callaspo, but I think that the Royals got fair market value. This was about the best the Royals were going to get for Callaspo. Tactically, it’s a mistake, but strategically, it’s a winner.

Obviously, this move was made in preparation for opening the door for Mike Moustakas to take over, if not next April, then by next June. Wilson Betemit is a more-than-capable stopgap with a little bit of upside, and if I understand his service time correctly, the Royals have him under contract for next season. Once Moustakas is ready, Betemit can go back to his utility role with no harm done.

I just hope that this is the first of many trades to come. It’s great that the Royals traded a player to make room for a prospect who might be ready next June. But it won’t mean much if the Royals don’t trade guys like Jose Guillen and Scott Podsednik to make room for prospects who were ready this June. (Or in Kila Ka’aihue’s case, two Junes ago.)

Addendum: So David DeJesus is out, at least for 2 weeks, all but killing his trade prospects. (If his exam today goes well and he’s expected back in the minimum, the possibility is still there that a team would trade for him knowing he won’t be able to play until August 10th or so.) This is bad news, obviously, but as someone who was ambivalent about the decision to trade DeJesus in the first place, I don’t feel it’s the nightmare some are making it out to be. I’m assuming the Royals are smart enough to pick up his option for next season, and it’s not like DeJesus is blocking anyone who’s ready in the minors. If the Royals have a magical season in 2011, they’ll be happy they kept DeJesus around. If not, well, we can have this same discussion again next July.

In the meantime, Alex Gordon is back. Of course, so is Rick Ankiel. Which of the two gets more playing time in the coming weeks will be telling.


Anonymous said...

Most Irish-sounding name in the history of the Royals? It has to at least be a tie with Pat Kelly.

Phil said...

Knowing the Royals' penchant for making super awesome trades, I'm going to say Dejesus' injury is a blessing in disguise. Everything I've read says no team is all that interested in trading for what he's worth (given his likely type A status).

Additionally, Dejesus isn't the problem, Ankiel and Podsednik are.

Lets just hope Rick Ankiel does what he does best; get hurt.

Anonymous said...

Rany, until they recalled Gordon, Mitch Maier may have been the best OF left on the roster (with DDJ out).

Sadly, we know they will play Pods and Ankiel over him, regardless.

(Not saying Maier is more than a 4th OF - just that he is at least the equal (to Pods) and superior (to Ankiel), and the Royals can't see it.

Anonymous said...

Chaim - ironically, Pat Kelly was anything but Irish, if you ever saw a picture of him.

A definite member of Bill Simmon's Reggie Cleveland all-stars

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Of course I've seen a picture of him. There's one on the page I linked to in my post. And check out the caption of that picture.

But Rany didn't say "most ethnically Irish," he said "most Irish-sounding name."

Chris H said...

Since Gordon got called up, I'm assuming this means Podsednik, Ankiel, Bloomquist as our everyday outfield. Maier and Gordon will be coming off the bench. I'm joking of course, but actually, I wouldn't be surprised. And if Gordon and Maier don't play, you can't put that on DM. All the Ned Yost lovers will have to swallow that. For the record, I think Ned Yost is incompetent with our team. I don't care what he did in Milwaukee. He has no clue of how to run the Royals.

Fast Eddie said...

On top of that, I saw a rumor today that Dayton Moore is interested in acquiring Jeff Francoeur. Why not? He has a .297 OBP and is a former Brave.

kw said...

OK, I don't want to be the grammar nag, but I've seen this in your columns (which I love, by the way) before, so now I'm pointing it out. The word you want is "cachet," as in "the cachet of just beating the Yankees in Yankee Stadium...." Not "cache," which is typically something hidden, but "cachet," which is a seal of approval that is clearly on display. (And, yes, that was a sentence fragment I just used.) Again, I love your work.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction was trade farns for francouer, but even if they trade guillen, kila would still be blocked

Anonymous said...

Getting Francoeur would make me sick.

If Guillen, Ankiel, Pods and Farnsworth are not moved by the deadline they need to be released. Really, do them a favor and just move on and give the time to Kila, Maier, Gordon and one of the many pitchers doing well.

I would like to see the Royals go aggressively after Jesus Montero, with either DeJesus or Soria, but short of that, I agree with Rany that an outfielder would be the correct target.

If the Royals are asking us as fans to let the system work, let's see the results of the system, rather than these other fill-ins.

Jacko said...

This stinks. Not only do we lose Callaspo, who is a .300 hitter. But now we are bringing up the stinkbomb known as Alex Gord-O. A sad day in Royals history.

Logan said...

DeJesus is done for the year, per the KC Star. Sucks for him, he's had such a solid year. And that's one less trade to be made.

GregN said...

Well, as a Sox fan I can make 2 comments:
1. I'm happy he's out of the division. He seemed to always come up with the timely hit or great defensive play against us.
2. You'll be singing a different tune about Wilson very soon. He'll make you pine for the return of Teahen. Betemit played the worst 3B I've seen in decades in Chicago.
Are you sure you don't want Teahen back? Please?

CL_on_the_DL said...

Regarding the outfield next year, how would everyone feel about making a run at Werth? IF Gordon pans out as a legit defensive out fielder and makes some strides on his 2008 batting line, then Gordon, DeJesus, Werth would be a legit outfield, with Maier as the 4th outfielder.

We'd have to pay extra years/$ to get him, but that's part of being the Royals, and it's offset somewhat by Guillen coming off the books.


CL_on_the_DL said...

KW -

I think Rany is thinking of "cache", in the terms that O'Sullivan has good mojo stored away (i.e. a cache of mojo) from his last outing against the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

I actually like the idea of going after Werth.

We are going to have money coming off of the books, (Guillen, Farns, Callaspo, Ankiel, Pods), and I think it is a legitimate idea. The free agent market is pretty slim this winter and Werth would be a great addition. He could help to protect Gordon and Moustakas and other youngsters in the lineup next year.

DeJesus will be in the starting lineup next year based upon the injury. Not necessarily the worst thing in the world, although I kind of wanted to see what he might bring.

So, if you got DDJ, Gordon and Werth in the outfield, with Moustakas, Betancourt, Aviles and Butler on the infield with Kendall catching for the opening day lineup.

You have on the way, Hosmer, Colon, Myers, D Rob and possibly a few others.

Pitching is a strength.

Based upon the strength of the pitching, not only starters, but relievers, I say Moore should pull the trigger on the Soria deal and bring over Jesus Montero. Catcher is the big hole that is not filled right now. I hate to lose Soria, but I think Montero would be a great addition. I would like to bring over Montero and Gardner, but I don't think they want to part with Gardner too bad.

Add Werth. Add Montero. Make it happen Moore.

Anonymous said...

I know, I know, I should get a life, but I can't quit thinking about this.

Philly is offering Werth for prospects so that they can use those prospects to try and get either Oswalt or Haren.

Give something like Kila, Davies, Hughes and Dyson or Parraz for Werth.

I think that is probably too many players and not enough in caliber. They are going to want one of the stud pitching prospects, but hopefully we could get away with something like that.

Then do Soria straight up for Montero.

Give Guillen, Farnsworth, Ankiel and Pods as throwaways in either of those deals or get a bag of balls for them, but move them.

I believe, if the pitching on the way is legit, and it looks to be, that lineup would compete for the playoffs next year. Not 2012. Next year. Why wait? We have waited for 25 years. We are that close. Pull the trigger Moore.

Anonymous said...

Ankiel is a dismal player. I like the Callaspo trade.

D. Moore get to frickin' work, you have created a disaster of a roster, now dammit, fix it, or you will be fired by the fans for your trust the process bullshit.

Anonymous said...

KW- about your grammar comments.......

Shut the fuck up and quit being such a pussy.

rey rey said...

trade Zack for an OF, SP C propsects. Its now or within the next 1.5 years

Anonymous said...

Trade Ankiel for a bucket of used baseballs and a glove with a hole in it.

Kansas City said...

This is a good thread and likely to get better. I have a hard time trading players on my fantasy teams. I can't imagine how hard it must be in real life.

I had that thought because of the logical suggestions to consider trading trade Zach and Soria. Both suggestions are entirely logical, but they would be heartbreaking trades. Both are good guys who fit very well in KC and and are loved by fans. So, unless the trade is a certified steal, I would not trade either one of them. The idea of trading either one for market value does not make sense. And I even think that any smart GM ought to be able to find a guy to be a serviceable closer.

Anonymous said...

ankiel starts today while Gordon is at DH.

Answer your question Rany?

Kansas City said...

Well, the thread apparently slowed to a crawl instead of getting better.

I liked Bert, but it really appears he is about an average 3b and the Royals got two legitimate starting rotation prospects. That sounds pretty good, especially since Bert would have minimal use at about $2.5 Million once Moose arrives next year.

By the way, this whole deal of rating starting pitchers 1 through 5 seems of marginal value to me. If they are in the rotation, number 5 starts as much as number 1. And certainly in terms of potential, it is unlikely to be accurate.

Now, the Royals need to get smart and not lose the last two months of the season. Get ML at bats for Kia, Gordon, Maier, Getz and even Moose in September. Let's find out what we got and develop those guys.

Davis looks good today. Royals lead 2 - 0 after one inning.

Paul said...

no need to trade for Werth. He is a free agent after the year.
I've always kinda liked him, but he is older than I thought he was. (32)
I wouldn't give him more than 3/24and I doubt that would be enough.

Anonymous said...

He's more worth the 3/36 that Guillen got than Guillen is! :) Not saying we should pay him that much, just saying he's better than Guillen, and we paid that schlub that much!

Anonymous said...

Paul- Thanks, I wasn't sure if Werth was an FA or not.

I don't like his age either, but I am not sure who is out there who could make a difference. Maybe the Royals just hold on to the money that comes off of the books.

An impact bat in the outfield and a catcher would really help.

Please no more stop gap people. Either get a guy who can really help or go with a young guy for the minimum.

Jason Dixon said...

As for Werth, Minnesota has a $10.5 million option on Cuddyer. If they don't pick it up, he's someone I think might be a more affordable option. Both Werth and Cuddyer are 31. Werth has a .833 lifetime OPS, Cuddyer has a .799. And it's always nice to make your addition a rival's subtraction. My guess, though, is the Twins take the option. Just a thought. At any rate, I wouldn't sign anyone for more than two years.

Anonymous said...

Sellout- your boy Dayton is onto Francouer now. Really? How awful is Dayton Moore at being a GM?

GO WHALE! said...

In essence, GMDM turned Buckner into O'Sullivan and Smith. Neither Buckner nor Callaspo were in it for the long term, so I like the deal.

Fast Eddie said...

New rumor -- Royals interested in getting Francoeur and OLIVER PEREZ from the Mets! May trade Meche for Perez. What is Dayton Moore thinking of?

Anonymous said...

Dayton Moore is a fucking idiot. No way this team wins with his disasters at the major league level, regardless of the minor leagues.

Anonymous said...

Meche for Ollie is horrendous. If true, the Royals must know something about Meche's it's going to fall off any day now. Otherwise, that would be the worst trade ever.

Chance said...

Slow your roll,trade buffs.

First, Werth is not going to be traded this year, he is on a contending (barely) team and is a FA this off season. As for the off-season, I think he can be had for about 10 million a year, but the Royals won't sign him for that, even if they should. And I don't think they should.

They are not going to trade Pods, either. And no one wants Ankiel. So, my guess is they keep Pods and dump Ankiel and Guillen after the season, and the outfield next year is Gordon, Pods and DDJ.

I have an idea, though. We need some power. First base is a position where we most teams have some power, but we don't. The best hitter available is Adam Dunn. Trade Billy and some spare parts/prospects for Dunn, and let Dunn and Kila split the 1b/ DH positions next year after you sign Dunn to a long-term extension for Guillen money, or more.

kcghost said...

I can't get too worked up by this trade, but don't think the Royals got anything of real value. Don't know that Callaspo was blocking anybody. As soon as the Royals think Moose is ready they would have tossed aside Callaspo.

Francoeur isn't worth a warm bucket of spit, but you have to be terrified about GMDM's weakness for former Braves.

As expected, Yost sits Maier and plays Ankiel. As as is consistent with our luck Ankiel has a couple good games. Maier will be lucky if they let him go out onto the field to warm up before games now.

We really need to unload Ankiel and Guillen to get plenty of playing time for Gordon and Maier. I don't thinmk either will really pan, but we need to find out.

Michael said...

Mitch Maier is not an every day player, period. He's never even showed flashes. He's not even worthy of the "trial period" that you seem to want for him.

Yes, he's a good defensive outfielder, and he has some speed. But that's it. He doesn't hit for average, he doesn't hit for power. He's a fourth outfielder. Him sitting on the bench and not playing everyday is a GOOD THING.

Michael said...

"A source tells's Jayson Stark that the Royals have "no interest" in Francoeur or Perez"


Step down from the ledge Dayton haters.

Anonymous said...

Have i missed something noticeable that makes A. Gordon a player worth debating the amount of playing time he receives?

Jim M said...

who's having fun tonight? as they say in Minnesota, "Ufda!"

slick johnny said...


Dayton, Ned, WTF are you thinking keeping this trash around? Do they need to have 10+ ERAs before you pull your heads out of your as$e$?

This team is disgusting.

John Nickels said...

Tons of Twins fans with posters last night was embarrassing for quiet Royals fans...but more embarrassing was a team that just rolled over and played dead last night...the only guys on the field who showed the slightest effort or emotion were Getz, Bloomquist, and Podsednik, all of whom at least dived for balls on defense or hustled on offense...if any Royals players have a hair on their bodies, they should come out fighting mad next game (IF they have any pride left)

Fast Eddie said...

Meche out for the season, shoulder surgery. We'll never get anything out of him again.

Jayboid said...

If the Royals can rip off a 15-20 wins over the next 3 weeks I can see post season. I for one will not sell the farm on this team until Sept. Are they selling series playoff tickets yet?

I feel faint, ma.... hand me my heart pills, just kidding.

Personally never felt this low over any post Mr. K teams. WOWZER!! 19-1 with the Heisman Trophy, oh Cy Young winner on the mound. At home. Twinks losing lately. Team full of players needing to do something for next year's contract. New manager.

A little bird tells the old Boid clubhouse climate el-chango. I can't imagine that with multi multi millionaire Rick Ankle's warm fuzzy presence. What rhymes with Callaspo? Toldyou-so? who was well liked. BTW...........Rick may go down as a player making the most money with the least service time (MLB games played) of any MLB player. EVER. Rick is signed through next year as well.

Royals seem to set records like this often. I challenge anybody to give the name of another player whom has made more money, and played less. Hint.......Royals contract was his 4th, counting his huge signing bonus.

Well, on the other hand we have a 700K 30ish player a former outfielder learning to pitch in single A. Of course, if he shows promise he will sign next year with the Spoils. Think again. Hahahhahahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

Jayboid, you're wrong on Ankiel. His contract is up after this year, but does have a $6 million mutual option, which I highly doubt will be picked up.

With your other incoherent ramblings, I couldn't make much sense out of, so I'll leave them alone...

dennis said...

Have been out of town for a week--didn't realize that Fox Sports KC was now a PBS station. Poor planning on their part to hold their telethon with that distracting baseball game going on in the background.