Friday, March 1, 2013

Five For Friday: 03/01/13.

Ca$h-Money. Maddog (@MadDogKiller): How bad of a spring does Hochevar have to have to get cut?

A really bad, no-good, awful, terrible spring. Mind you, it could happen. The Royals really don’t have a significant financial commitment with Hochevar – his salary isn’t guaranteed, and if he’s released before March 15th, he’s owed just one-sixth of his salary, less than $800,000. If he’s released after March 15th but before Opening Day, he’s owed a quarter of his salary, less than $1.2 million.

But the psychological commitment…that’s different. Contrary to how it seems sometimes, the Royals are quite aware of what people think about Hochevar. They are also aware that almost everyone thinks they’ve made a big mistake by retaining him at such a high salary – and by “everyone”, I don’t just mean fans, I mean most front offices. They know they’re bucking conventional wisdom here.

And if they cut bait with him now, they’d be admitting they made a mistake without even giving him the chance to prove it. The embarrassment that would cause makes it highly unlikely that they would do such a thing. The only scenario I could see that would earn him his release is if Hochevar’s stuff is qualitatively down this year – his velocity is gone, or he can’t throw strikes, something like that. Basically, the Royals would need an excuse – an excuse above and beyond the fact that he’s been a lousy pitcher for five years.

Once the season starts, things change. A bad first six weeks in the rotation might be enough to move him to the bullpen, if not off the team. The problem, of course, is that by that point his entire salary is guaranteed.


Sparksjay (@sparksjay): Anything about the Royals’ Spring Training start that has you adjusting the 86+/72- hopes for the season?

Is anyone seriously hurt? No? Then we’re still on course.

Seriously, there is very little that can happen in spring training that should adjust your expectations for an entire team, and most of what can happen is bad. Last year the Royals lost Joakim Soria for the entire season, and Salvador Perez for half the season, so we’re already ahead of the game there.

Every now and then a young player will show up to camp and impress the living daylights out of everyone. The problem is that for every Albert Pujols, there are ten Gary Scotts. Last year Danny Duffy showed some of the best stuff of any left-hander in baseball in March – and got me unduly excited – but that didn’t prevent him from blowing out his arm in May. (Although I still think it bodes well for him upon his return.)

So far, the only blip on this year’s radar screen is left-handed reliever Donnie Joseph, who has faced six batters and struck them all out. He has a chance to be an impact guy in the pen, but probably not until mid-season, and anyway you’re not going to change your projection for the team based on a middle reliever.

And as for the Royals’ 6-0-1 start…two years ago the Royals led all of baseball with a 20-11 record in spring training. They lost 91 games. In 1999 they led all of baseball with a 22-9 record in March. They lost 97 games.


Michael Buchanan (@ExtremeSquirrel): Does Adalberto Mondesi have the potential to become a top 10 MLB prospect?

Man, I could answer Adalberto Mondesi questions all day.

The short answer is: yes. Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks, who is admittedly Mondesi’s biggest fan among the prospect guru ranks, already has Mondesi ranked #58 overall. Remember: Mondesi 1) has played in 50 professional games and 2) is 17 years old. (He was the youngest player on BP’s Top 100 list.)

You might recall that when I wrote about Mondesi, I compared him to where Jurickson Profar was two years ago…and then had J.J. Picollo basically do the same thing. Well, on Twitter recently, Parks was asked what minor league player had the best chance of being the next Profar, and his answer was – Mondesi. So by those standards, Mondesi doesn’t have Top 10 potential – he has Top 1 potential.

He probably won’t get there, but he’s still a magnificent prospect, really unlike any prospect I’ve ever seen in the Royals’ system. He will probably open this season in Lexington, which would make him (to the best of my knowledge) the youngest Royal ever to play in a full-season league. If he makes it to Wilmington before the season ends, he will be the youngest Royal ever to reach that level. If he gets to Double-A before July of 2014, he would be the first 18-year-old Royal ever to reach that level. And so on.

Of course, he might struggle this year and get sent back down to short-season ball. He might have to repeat low-A ball next year, and not reach Wilmington until 2015.

In which case, he’ll still be 19 years old. Holy crap.


Nate Freiberg (@NateFreiberg): With the Royals thin at the corners, any chance Nady makes the team with that in mind? And does Endy have any shot over Dyson for 4th OF?

Barring injury, I would be shocked if either player makes the Opening Day roster. Nady is probably finished as a hitter, and Chavez is basically Jarrod Dyson in seven years. But I imagine that the Royals are hoping both players (and Willy Taveras, probably) are willing to accept a minor-league assignment when the season starts. Because as I mentioned in my last column, if any of the Royals’ corner players get hurt, they’re really down to Elliot Johnson as a replacement. If Nady goes to Omaha and rakes, he would actually be a viable call-up option if, say, Billy Butler goes on the DL and the Royals are desperate for DH at-bats.

This should terrify you, by the way.


David Hovey (@davidmhovey): I am a big Will Smith fan. Based on your past age discussions, would the Royals be wise to give him the #5 spot based on potential for improvement?

No. There is a very important distinction to be made here, which is that while age is an extremely important variable to consider for hitters, it is much less important for pitchers. A 20-year-old position player who is capable of being a league-average player in the major leagues is almost certain to improve significantly over time, and will probably become a star. For pitchers, that’s not the case. Just look at Rick Porcello.

Porcello is actually a good example of what is the most important variable for a pitcher’s longevity, which is his strikeout rate. As a rookie, Porcello had a very solid 3.96 ERA. But he struck out just 89 batters in 171 innings (or, if you prefer, a 12.4% strikeout rate), which is terrible. His strikeout rate has veeeerrrry slowly crept up – it was all the way to 13.7% last year – and he has yet to have a season as good as his first one.

Bill James put it this way many years ago (I’m paraphrasing): if you have to choose between a 37-year-old pitcher striking out 10 batters per nine innings, or a 27-year-old pitcher striking out 7 batters per nine innings, the 37-year-old will probably still be pitching in the majors when the 27-year-old has been forced into retirement. (The 37-year-old he was referring to was Nolan Ryan, so James was right.)

Compare Porcello to Ruben Tejada, who came up the year after and was mostly overmatched as a hitter – Tejada hit .213/.305/.282 as a 20-year-old middle infielder. Tejada wasn’t a dominant hitter in the minor leagues, mostly because he was so young for his level, and never made Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect List (Porcello was #21 twice, the first time before he ever threw a professional pitch). Few people thought Tejada was going to amount to much (my Stratomatic opponents will vouch for the fact that I was one of the few). But as a 21-year-old sophomore, Tejada hit .284/.360/.335; last year he took over for Jose Reyes and hit .289/.333/.351 as the Mets’ starting shortstop. If he doesn’t improve any further, he’s a league-average shortstop, and at 23 he’s probably going to improve further.

All of this is my typically long-winded way of saying: no, Will Smith’s age doesn’t make me think that he’s going to improve significantly. If he starts striking out a batter an inning in Omaha this year, then we’ll talk.


Brent Saindon (@basaindon): Just curious: any plans to resume “The Baseball Show”?

I included this bonus question just because it’s an easy way for me to announce: The Baseball Show With Rany & Joe should make its triumphant return next week. With the unfortunate demise of Up And In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast with Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks, and ESPN’s Baseball Today with Eric Karabell, Keith Law, David Schoenfield, et al, we know many hard-core baseball fans are looking for their fix of sophisticated baseball discussion. So if you haven’t listened to what Will Leitch calls “my personal favorite baseball podcast”, I hope you give us a try next week.

24 comments:

Unknown said...

They are also aware that almost everyone thinks they’ve made a big mistake by retaining him at such a high salary – and by “everyone”, I don’t just mean fans, I mean most front offices.

Because those front offices want to pick him up on the cheap. Of course, by making this statement, Rany wants to let you know that he has an “in” to most front offices, of course.

You might recall that when I wrote about Mondesi, I compared him to where Jurickson Profar was two years ago

“You might also recall that the only thing I know about prospects is what other people tell me.”

If Nady goes to Omaha and rakes, he would actually be a viable call-up option if, say, Billy Butler goes on the DL and the Royals are desperate for DH at-bats.

This should terrify you, by the way.


Because every other team has an MLB DH waiting in the wings in AAA. Where’d I put my Ka'aihue jersey btw?

Bill James put it this way many years ago (I’m paraphrasing): if you have to choose between a 37-year-old pitcher striking out 10 batters per nine innings, or a 27-year-old pitcher striking out 7 batters per nine innings, the 37-year-old will probably still be pitching in the majors when the 27-year-old has been forced into retirement. (The 37-year-old he was referring to was Nolan Ryan, so James was right.)

“Hey guys, I know Bill James! By the way, he says if you have to choose between a pitcher doing better in the major leagues, and a pitcher doing worse, you should bet on the pitcher doing better to be better!” It’s still not rocket science..

All of this is my typically long-winded way of saying: no, Will Smith’s age doesn’t make me think that he’s going to improve significantly. If he starts striking out a batter an inning in Omaha this year, then we’ll talk.

“If he starts doing better, I’ll predict he’ll be better! Since that’s all I know how to do.”

KHAZAD said...

The Royal front office does not seem to have an arrogant reputation, but in reality, the refusal to admit mistakes, whether stemming from arrogance or insecurity, is one of the Royals biggest problems.

Keeping Hochevar longer just exacerbates the problem they have already had. First they tender him, (unnecessary and foolish) and now we assume that they won't have the guts to release him and move forward. Why? Because history has shown us that they will ride it out to the bitter end.

Jeff Francouer is not the first Royal to compete for the title of worst full time regular player in a season, and other teams have had such players as well. The difference is that other teams jettison those players or force them into a reduced role, and the Royals always seem to run them out there again the next season.

If a person runs into a tree, they get up and take a path around it. Moore and the Royals repeatedly walk into the tree, then wonder why their head is bloody and they haven't moved.

KHAZAD said...

Unknown- You are a sad, bitter, jealous little person who adds nothing to these comments and probably nothing to anyone's life, including your own.

I would pity you, but I can tell that you pity yourself enough for all of us.

Unknown said...

On the other hand, I would say that most Royals commenters are sad, bitter people that add absolutely nothing to the discourse. They just parrot what they're told to parrot. Rany bumps it to you, and you volley it up. God forbid someone can see the other side getting ready to spike it at you..

Bryan said...

Unknown

What are you adding to the conversation.

Let me answer that rhetorical question.

Nothing.

You add nothing at all.

If you have a counter argument or another idea, by all means please let us know what it is.

As it is all you can do is be critical.

Where is your blog entry? Where are your projections? Where are your ideas?

Oh, that's right you don't have any.

At least Rany, right or wrong, is out there. At least he is putting a marker down. All you can do is chirp about the fact that Rany hasn't been 100% correct on what he has said in the past. No one is 100% correct.

Except for you. It is easy to bat 1,000 when you don't make any attempts.

steak said...

Rany, can we turn off "Unknown" commenting? It seems the same guy keeps trolling the comments sections of your blogs.

nmstar said...

Looking forward to the Baseball Show!

Chris Esch said...

Rany, you said that the problem with Hochevar making the team and getting cut 6 weeks in is that he will be owed all his money. Why do I care about DG's money? The bigger problem will be that a team with a slim margifor error like the Royals will have thrown away 20% of their starts to begin the season.

Gordon4MVP said...

"Wow, unknown really makes a good point" - nobody ever

Bryan said...

Rany

As always, very good writing. Can't wait for the podcast.

I have three questions. This isn't twitter, but I hope you might consider them.

What would it take to get Stanton?

This seems so obvious to me that I don't understand why more people aren't discussing it. The Royals have a hole in right field. The Royals have "currency" in several prospects they could offer up. Stanton is cost controlled for several years. And Detroit needs to be prevented from having him.

What is the projected opening day starting five for next year? This is looking ahead, and I know that I should just let things play out and enjoy the moment, but looking at the possibilities for future rotations is pretty cool. Injuries, regression and other problems are sure to happen, but having Lamb, Ventura and Zimmer pushing on the door with Adam, Yambati and others right behind is pretty cool.

What free agents could be targeted next offseason?

Again, I should just relax and enjoy the moment, but no less than $30MM comes off the payroll after this year. I know some will go to raises for some of the guys, but that is a lot of cash in addition to the fact that the tv money starts coming in. I dare to say it, because it will never happen with the Dodgers having a never-ending pile of money, but could Cano be in play?

Kenneth said...

I guess Unknown is why we were having to submit our comments for awhile rather than just posting. eh, no matter.

I enjoy the twitter Q&A post. Real questions by real fans and you can cherry pick the spots that are interesting and/or where you are knowledgeable. Thank you for another column.

Michael said...

New theory, Unknown is really Dayton Moore himself trying to defend even his worst moves! (Yuni twice, and he found a way to make a two year contract for Francouer an albatross)

Unknown said...

Why do Rany and likeminded Royals fans have a vendetta against Luke Hochevar? I know there was a post about this a little while ago, where Rany repeated Hochevar's meaningless ERA over and over, does anyone have a link?

Dayton Moore does EVERYTHING wrong, yet at this point, most of Rany's criticism centers on how the royals are keeping one of the few half-decent pitchers they have.


Hope yall enjoy another immensely disappointing season.

Kenneth said...

Is your podcast currently available on Android ? or only itunes ?

William Petunia said...

In a recent article about the yankees, you used the word "gravitas." Please refrain from doing this in the future.

Unknown said...

I am also curious what the Royals would have to give up for Stanton. He would immediately make them a real contender.

John said...

Well, the Marlins would have to express a willingness to trade him first. And as long as he costs just $500,000 for the year and is the only thing standing between them and the '62 Mets, they probably won't do it.

Unknown said...

Fans are mad about how much it "cost" to get Shields/Davis from the Rays, then immediately start pining for Giancarlo Stanton.

Do you realize how much it would cost to get a player like that? Of course, this is the exact type of thing Rany would suggest, and he would say something stupid like, "If the Royals don't trade Nate Adcock and Paulo Orlando for him right now, they're officially the stupidest team in the league."

Then he would castigate them relentlessly when they traded better players than what he suggested in order to obtain Giancarlo Stanton. He'd also write a really negative post if the Royals weren't able to complete his crappy trade, and use that as a way to try to make Dayton Moore look worse as well (so, basically, what he usually does).

His happy blog readers would echo his sentiments, and immediately attack anybody that dare suggest Rany's suggestions were both ridiculous and unrealistic.

As usual.

Michael said...

Troll

J35J said...

It's funny how much "UNKNOWN" hates Rany but he's in the comments of every blog post...you'd think he'd just leave and not read the blogs any further(this is the definition of a Troll btw). Maybe you need to go find that Royals blog that pimps Hochevar up or gushes over the "ridiculous" things you want to gush over...let me know when you find that blog by the way, I'll wait.

Steve N said...

Was that Rany I just heard cheering? Hochevar to the pen.

J35J said...

UNKNOWN said...
"Why do Rany and likeminded Royals fans have a vendetta against Luke Hochevar? I know there was a post about this a little while ago, where Rany repeated Hochevar's meaningless ERA over and over, does anyone have a link?

Dayton Moore does EVERYTHING wrong, yet at this point, most of Rany's criticism centers on how the royals are keeping one of the few half-decent pitchers they have. "



LOL

The Professor said...

I'm glad you turned on moderation Rany, "Unknown" had gotten tiresome.

Kenneth said...

No that was Royals fans crying. $5mil for a bullpen pitcher. I understand the Royals are loathe to give up on a guy they feel can be an ace someday. At some point business sense has to over ride emotional attachment. Trade him to STL. Can only increase Hoch's chance of sucess.