Eric Loes (@loeseric): How would you rank those in competition for the 5th spot as of right now? (Chen, Mendoza, Smith, Ventura)
I still think it’s a two-man race for the fifth starter’s spot, with Chen perhaps having a slight advantage. On the one hand, I think Mendoza is better suited for the long relief role; on the other hand, if Chen starts, Tim Collins might be the only left-hander in the pen. On a third hand, even if Chen relieves, that would leave the Royals without a left-handed pitcher who actually gets left-handed hitters out – both Chen and Collins have been more effective against right-handers in their careers.
I know Ned Yost mentioned Ventura’s name as one of the candidates for the job, but I have to think this is just a case of positive reinforcement for the kid, telling him that if he keeps doing his job that he’s on the fast track to the majors. I love Ventura, but he’s made six starts above A-ball in his career, and Allard Baird isn’t the GM anymore. He doesn’t even turn 22 until June. To start his service time clock would be foolish even in a case of extreme need, and the Royals don’t have an extreme need.
That leaves Will Smith, and let’s be frank…giving Will Smith the job because of a terrific spring training would be a thoroughly Royals move. He’s been fantastic in Arizona this year – in a grand total of seven innings. Smith has allowed more than a hit an inning at every stop since he got out of A-ball. Giving him the #5 spot would mean that the Royals would enter the year with Chen, Mendoza, and Hochevar all in their bullpen. That would be weird.
So barring a trade or an injury, my guess is that Chen’s the fifth starter, Mendoza’s the long man, Hochevar will be the short man in the middle innings (with a chance to move into a later role if he pitches well), and the seventh reliever is J.C. Gutierrez, who’s out of options. But I wouldn’t sleep on Donnie Joseph, who’s been fantastic this spring and would be the perfect compliment to Collins, as Joseph is death on left-handed hitters.
I give the Royals a lot of crap, but that’s actually a pretty damn nice pitching staff.
Jeff Crawford (@jdcraw82): Hosmer looks awful in the WBC. Please tell me not to be concerned.
I’m not going to tell you not to be concerned, because you have plenty of reason to be concerned. But the reason to be concerned is because Eric Hosmer hit .232/.304/.359 last year. Hosmer was below replacement-level last year – THAT’S why you should be concerned.
But concerned because he’s 4-for-21 in the WBC? Nah. Not any more than I’d be excited that he was 9-for-23 in spring training before he got an emergency phone call to report to Team USA the next morning.
Marshall Miller (@iammarshall913): If Royals are in contention near the trade deadline, do you think GMDM completely leverages the farm in another “win now” trade?
Not only do I think that Dayton Moore might completely leverage the farm at the trading deadline, I think that in the right circumstances, and for the right player, he absolutely should make another win-now trade.
I don’t have anything against trading prospects for established major league players. I had a very serious problem with the specifics of the James Shields trade, but the concept is sound, in the right situation.
As to what that situation is, well, I have some ideas that I may explore once the season gets underway. Let’s just say that if the Royals are in contention, and their right fielder isn’t hitting very well, there’s a player down in Miami that I’d be willing to move the sun and moon for. You know that Dave Dombrowski would love to get his hands on Giancarlo Stanton, and the Tigers and Marlins have a long history of making trades together. This is where the Royals could leverage their superior farm system to hand the Tigers the first of what we hope will be many defeats.
LM (@LDMalm): Is the front office allowing Kyle Zimmer to long toss?
Two years ago the Royals had developed a very strong reputation as one of the teams most resistant to the growing trend of extreme long-tossing (300 feet and up) among high school and college pitchers. This reputation had a lot to do with Mike Montgomery, who chafed at the restrictions the Royals had placed on his throwing.
But since then, a couple things have happened:
1) The Royals, from what I’ve been told and what has been reported publicly, have become much less resistant to the concept of long-tossing.
There’s a story of the Royals meeting with high school sensation Dylan Bundy a month before the draft in 2011. Here’s Albert Chen reporting in Sports Illustrated:
"They did not like Dylan throwing long toss," says Denver. "They were discussing the way he throws, how he shouldn't throw on a long arc. Dylan and I were sitting there, just listening. And then, at some point, Dylan just took over. He took over the whole conversation, talking about specific muscle groups, why he does what he does. Before the session was over, he was teaching them about how the shoulder really works. They were in awe."
The story makes it appear that the Royals are these unfrozen caveman lawyers who are frightened and confused by our modern pitching methods. But here’s the thing: the Royals were planning – hoping – to draft Bundy, to the point where they had a financial deal in place had he slipped to #5. That wouldn’t be the case if they hadn’t agreed to accommodate Bundy’s pitching regimen.
2) The Royals let Montgomery have his way and allowed him considerably more autonomy on his throwing program after he got off to a poor start in 2011. This did not, unfortunately, fix whatever it was that was ailing Montgomery.
The night before Chen’s column ran, I spoke for over two hours with Alan Jaeger, a pitching coach in California who is widely considered to be the guru and driving force of the long-toss movement. While criticizing the Royals for not agreeing with his methods in the past, he was also complimentary of the fact that the organization had become more open minded over the past year.
So while I haven’t heard anything specific about Kyle Zimmer this spring, I believe that the Royals are as accommodating of long-toss programs as any other team. They want to make sure their pitchers aren’t overdoing it, obviously. But I no longer have concerns that the Royals are behind the curve on this subject.
Greg Brokaw (@gregbrokaw): If no major injuries surface and the team is in contention in September, how worried are you that Ned will hold us back?
It’s a good question, because Yost’s tactical errors were a big part of his undoing in Milwaukee, and it takes a special kind of panic to fire your manager in September when you’re in a pennant race. Joe Sheehan has been riding me on this point all winter, telling me that even if the Royals are a contender this year that their manager is going to cost them wins with his tactical moves.
It’s certainly a concern of mine, but I do think Yost won’t hurt the Royals too much if only because the team he’s being handed is kind of a push-button roster. The Royals have four closer-caliber relievers in their bullpen, so even if Yost screws up by bring in the right-hander when he should bring in the left-hander, at least he’s bringing in a quality pitcher.
The biggest potential mistakes are these:
- Failing to recognize that Collins gets right-handers out better than left-handers, and using him as a LOOGY.
- Failing to recognize that Crow is quite vulnerable to left-handers, and leaving him in to pitch against them in crucial spots.
- Letting Hochevar pitch in important situations and/or with men on base before he’s proven he can be effective in relief.
- Riding Salvador Perez’s knees into the ground by starting him 145+ times behind the plate.
Beyond that…I mean, sure, he’ll probably let Francoeur bat when he shouldn’t, and he might bunt too much with Alcides Escobar, and he’ll pinch-run for Billy Butler and then lose Butler’s bat in extra innings. But those are the kinds of moves that every manager in baseball makes. If Yost can just avoid the big mistakes and be a perfectly mediocre game manager, the Royals can win with him.
It remains to be seen whether he can rise to the level of mediocrity.