Friday, February 22, 2013

Five For Friday: 2/22/13.

So after years of avoiding the temptation of easy content – the regular mailbag – I have finally surrendered to temptation. Let’s face it: I need content of any kind, easy or not. So here’s the plan – every Wednesday, I will send out a call on Twitter for questions about the Royals. You will respond with questions. I will select my five favorite questions and answer them on Friday. I will call it “Five For Friday”. I will not pay royalties to Sam Mellinger or Bob Dutton, even though they may deserve it.

I can’t guarantee this will play every week, but I’ll do my best. Here’s the first installment. Questions may have been slightly altered for grammar or to escape Twitter’s oppressive 140-character limits:

CWDIG (@ChrisDiggins): What kind of season would Wade Davis have to have to get moved back to the pen?

A pretty bad one, I think, not simply because the Royals have a lot invested in him as a starter, but because they really don’t have a need for another reliever at this point. I’ll have more to say about this when I get to Aaron Crow, but as much as I would like to see Crow get a chance to start, keeping him in the bullpen means the Royals have four relievers – Holland, Herrera, Crow, and Collins – who have the ability to serve as closers in their career. (Collins might not get the opportunity, simply because left-handers rarely get moved to the 9th inning, but he has the ability). This thankfully limits the temptation to limit yet another pitcher’s upside by shuttling him to the bullpen, whether that pitcher is an established major-leaguer like Wade Davis or a prospect like Yordano Ventura.

We saw what Davis could do as a reliever last year, and it was pretty spectacular – he was Aaron Crow with more swing-and-miss stuff. And if Davis is struggling to get his ERA under 5 in June and one of those four guys gets hurt, I could see a move being made. But even as a #4 starter, he has more value than as a middle reliever.

Also keep in mind – if he moves to the pen, then the Royals are probably going to decline his option after 2014, because they’re in no position to spend $7 million on a middle reliever. (Which is why they didn’t pick up Joakim Soria’s option this winter.) That would leave the Royals with nothing to show from their big trade after just two seasons. So I think they’ll give Davis every opportunity to establish himself as a mid-rotation starter, making his three club options very appealing.

Tom Lee (@tompl81): Who is your most unlikely candidate in the minors to see time with the big club this year?

The only likely candidates in the minors to get a big-league callup would be the Big Three starters (Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura, and John Lamb), along with Donnie Joseph if there’s an opening in the bullpen, Christian Colon if there’s an opening in the middle infield, and David Lough if someone goes down in the outfield.

If you’re looking for a darkhorse…I guess I would go with Orlando Calixte. He hit well (.281/.326/.426) in Wilmington last year, and people still underrate just how tough it is to hit in that ballpark, particularly for right-handed hitters. I could see him going off in Double-A, in which case an injury on the left side of the infield could get him a shot, or – if the second base situation remains unsettled into August and the Royals are in contention – he might be asked to stop the leaking there.

The other darkhorse would be Chris Dwyer, who has been all but written off by most people, but if gets moved to the bullpen – where he really belongs at this point – he could come on quick and give the relief corps a second-half jolt.

Bart Parry (@Bart41CPA): If Vegas’s over/under of 78.5 wins is close, that’s the end of the Ned/DM era, right? We’re rooting for either under 78 or over 86 wins, right?

I’m glad you brought up the Vegas line, not because I partake – I have religious objections against gambling – but because for all the grief I’ve gotten from Royals fans for crapping all over the Shields trade, it’s important for people to realize that I’m actually considerably more optimistic about the Royals than most observers. I’ve been predicting 86 wins for 2013, which would put the Royals on the fringes of the wild-card race at least. But most people don’t see it that way.

Dayton Moore is already declaring Mission Accomplished and patting himself on the back for only taking seven years to build a competitive team. (Royals Review has a good takedown of his comments here. Frankly, I think they went too easy on him.) Of all the criticisms I have about what Moore said, the biggest one is this: you haven’t won anything yet. Not to go all Winston Wolf here, but maybe you should at least wait until you have a winning season before getting too pleased with yourself. According to the industry consensus, that won’t happen in 2013.

In Moore’s defense, 78.5 wins seems curiously low. The Royals won 72 games last year, with a Pythagorean record of 74-88. They had the youngest offense in baseball, and young offenses usually – but not always, as we saw from 2011 to 2012 – improve. They added a lot of starting pitching, not all of it great, but all of it better than the back of their rotation last year. They have a number of hitters who could be significantly better and almost can’t be worse. They don’t have a lot of candidates for regression.

Then again, Baseball Prospectus projects them to win 76 games. If that happens – particularly if the Royals play poorly in the first half of the season, as opposed to collapsing in September – then I think Yost is gone. Moore’s fate may be decided by the details of the Shields trade. If Shields and Davis are pitching well and Myers isn’t running away with Rookie of the Year honors, he’ll probably hold his job. But if the Royals are under .500 and the trade goes sour, the entire front office might get fumigated.

As for your second question – yes, that’s pretty much what I’m rooting for. 86+ wins, and Moore can take a bow, and I’ll happily eat my crow while watching a pennant race. 76 or fewer wins, and maybe the next Royals’ GM will be able to build on the foundation that Moore has created. But 82-80 does nothing for us, in the short or long term.

StillLovesZack (@ZackCanDeal): Are we selling Moose short? Am I wrong in remembering that at ST two years ago, Moose was considered a better prospect than Hos?

We might be. The dramatic improvement in Moustakas’ defense last season raises his ultimate ceiling, and his offense, while slightly disappointing, didn’t lower his ceiling much if at all. A .242/.296/.412 line doesn’t look that great, but he was just 23 years old. Compare that to Dean Palmer at 23 (.229/.311/.420) or Gary Gaetti at 23 (.230/.280/.443) or Matt Williams at 23 (.202/.242/.455), and you realize that Moustakas probably has a long and occasionally illustrious career ahead of him.

Palmer had only 10.5 career bWAR, while Gaetti had 38.0 and Williams 43.5, which you can mostly attribute to the fact that Palmer was a butcher in the field and the other two were Gold Glovers. By flipping his defense from a negative into a positive, Moustakas is likely to wind up somewhere in the range of the latter two – not a Hall of Famer, but a damn fine ballplayer.

Two years ago, Hosmer ranked #8 on Baseball America’s Top 100 list, Moustakas #9, and Wil Myers #10. You could make a case then for any of the three, and you can make a case today for any of the three.

Shawn Walker (@shawnywalk): Will Salvy’s large frame cause him to have more knee problems than the average catcher?

That’s the 6’5” elephant in the room. Perez is listed at 6’3”, but I’m 6’3”, and I’ve been close enough to him in the clubhouse to say that he’s at least 6’4” and might be 6’5”. And he’s listed at 245 pounds.

Bill James speculated a quarter-century ago that the constant squatting and unsquatting required of catchers put much more stress on the knees of the really tall ones, which is why many great and durable catchers in history (most famously 5’7” Yogi Berra and 5’9” Ivan Rodriguez) were short. Shortly thereafter, Sandy Alomar came along, who is probably the player Perez has been comped to the most, and is listed at 6’5” and 205 pounds. Alomar’s career was ravaged by knee problems. Joe Mauer, the only other 6’5” catcher who has caught 1000 games, has also had extensive knee problems which have forced the Twins to play him at first base and DH a lot.

In the live-ball era, they are the only two catchers 6’5” or taller with more than 512 games. So we don’t really have a huge data set to compare Perez to. Matt Wieters, listed at 6’5” and 240 pounds, is at 509 games already, and has been very durable. Players are simply bigger than they used to be, and it’s possible their bodies can take the pounding better than players in the past, who were just as tall but perhaps more spindly.

On the other hand, Perez already missed half a season with a knee injury, and it wasn’t even traumatic – he simply lunged for a pitch wrong. As much as the Royals acknowledge how vital Perez is to the entire organization for the rest of the decade, you have to hope that they take an active – and proactive – approach to keeping his knees healthy. 


Unknown said...

If the Q/A format means more insight from Rany. I'm Excited.

Unknown said...

If the Q/A format means more insight from Rany. I'm Excited.

twm said...

Rany, you might think this was a cheap way to push content, but I love it. Already looking forward to next week!

John said...

Ditto the other comments on the positives of the new format and the advantages of more Rany.

On Baseball Prospectus's projections, they seem systemmatically low, with only one team (Dodgers)projected as high as 93 wins. Surely someone will win more than that. And the pitching-rich Nationals are projected at only 88. At the same time, only 4 teams are projected as losing 90+ games (Astros 99, Twins 96). Looks like BP's projections are skewed toward the mean.

Justin said...

Seems like you're comparing Perez's actual height to other players' listed height. Do we have reason to believe the Royals would stretch the truth here in a way that other teams wouldn't?

Justin said...

@John, BP's projections aren't skewed toward the mean, the end-of-season results are skewed away from it.

A team will win over 93 games, yes, but which one? We don't know, and no given team is expected to do it.

If we do four sets of coin flips we'll see one hit at least 6 or 7+ heads, but we'll still project each of them at 5.