What to Expect from Brian Bannister

Sunday evening I was visiting with my
younger brother about the Royals in 2009 and the subject of Brian
Bannister came up. My brother was telling me what Joe Posnanski’s Projecting the Best for the Royals in 2009
said about Bannister and as I listened I couldn’t believe there are
still people holding out hope for him to be a productive member of the
Royals rotation.

All
the projections expect Bannister to rebound somewhat after last year’s
rough, rough season (9-16, 5.76 ERA). Most expect him to have an ERA
somewhere around 5.00, and to win eight to 10 games. I tend to see it
like Bill James does; I see Bannister having a nice bounce-back season
and settle in as a solid third or fourth starter. But I’ll admit that I
see this one entirely with my heart; Banny is my favorite player in the game.


I will give Posnanski credit for being honest about why he sees the glass half full when discussing Bannister. I have already written
several times about Bannister and I am not going into all of the
statistical data again. But most knowledgeable analysts, including Bill
James, project Bannister to have a 2009 season that reflects his
mediocre ability.

Publication IP W L SO ERA WHIP
Baseball Prospectus 160 8 12 90 5.30 1.50
The Sporting News 183 9 16 113 5.76 1.49
Baseball HQ 145 7 13 86 5.03 1.43

There
is justification for Bannister being a part of the 2009 Royals
rotation. Occasionally things do break right for him and he ends up on
the winning end of the final score. Bannister can eat innings and rest
the bullpen. By all accounts, Brian Bannister is an intelligent young
man who handles himself with a high level of class. But Dayton Moore
and Trey Hillman are making a mistake if they look at Bannister as a
young prospect who still has the chance to develop into even an average
Major League starting pitcher.

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Willie Bloomquist-What is Dayton Moore Thinking?

According to the club’s official website,
the Royals have signed Willie Bloomquist. The Bloomquist signing is
another entry on the list of poor moves by Royals GM Dayton Moore. With
each free agent signing and trade, Dayton Moore is proving to Royals
fans that he is completely clueless on how to go about building a
playoff caliber team. Despite Moore’s “best” efforts the Royals are no
closer to being a contending team than when he assumed the position of
Royals GM.

In Dick Kaegel’s report
on the Royals website, Moore describes Bloomquist as “an on-base guy.”
Anyone that describes Willie Bloomquist as an “on-base guy” is not
qualified to hold the GM position of a Major League baseball team.
During the past three seasons the average American League OBP has been
in the neighborhood of .335. Bloomquist’s career OBP of .322 is well
below the American League average. Bloomquist did post an OBP of .377
in 2008 but, given his over all career performance, this was an
anomonoly.

Moore describes Bloomquist as “speed-type player and
a hustler….a Craig Counsell-type who really plays hard, hustles and
knows how to play.” This sounds good but the Royals need players that
can actually play the game at a Major League level. Willie Bloomquist
is not such a player.

Trade Billy Butler?

I was reading the online Kansas City Star this morning to find out what the Kansas City media’s reaction was to the Coco Crisp trade. At the end of his column Joe Posnanski writes this:

“Now, the trade opens up some interesting possibilities — it’s clear Moore is not finished dealing this offseason…There are continuing rumors that Moore is willing to trade 23-year-old Billy Butler.”

Before GM Dayton Moore trades Billy Butler he should reflect on the mistake the Minnesota Twins made in giving up on David Ortiz. Hopefully by looking at the career of Ortiz Moore will decide to not trade Billy Butler.

In 1999 I saw the majority of home games David Oritz played for the AAA Salt Lake Buzz. He had monster power and excellent plate discipline. The 23-year-old Ortiz hit 30 homeruns with 100 RBIs while putting up a .315/.413/.590 line. There was no doubt he had the skills to be a hitting force in the Major Leagues.

The problem for Ortiz in the Twins organization was that manager Tom Kelly didn’t want him on the Major League club because he couldn’t play a defensive position. Kelly wouldn’t accept any DH-only players on the Twins roster. Choosing instead to keep Doug Mientkiewicz, the Twins released Ortiz in 2002. All baseball fans know the rest of the Ortiz story. He has been a league leader in homeruns, RBIs, OBP, total bases, and walks. The four time all star has been one of the key players in both of the Red Sox World Series championships. Trading Billy Butler could be a repeat of the mistake the Twins made when they gave up on David Ortiz.

In his brief time in AAA Billy Butler put up very similar numbers to David Ortiz.

AAA Stats AB H HR AVG OBP SLG
Ortiz 476 150 30 .315 .413 .590
Butler 203 59 13 .291 .412 .542


The similarity is even more striking when Butler’s numbers are projected to the same number of at bats that Ortiz had.

AAA Stats AB H HR AVG OBP SLG
Ortiz 476 150 30 .315 .413 .590
Butler (projected) 476 139 30 .291 .412 .542


I am not maintaining that Billy Butler will turn out to be the second-coming of David Ortiz but his AAA numbers are very similar to Ortiz. Scouts and other baseball people still like Butler’s potential and believe he can develop into a very good Major League hitter. Like Ortiz, Billy Butler is not very accomplished at any defensive position and it is likely his best position will be DH. But it is important to remember that Butler is still a young player and the biggest problem of his development has been hindered because the Royals rushed him to the Major Leagues before he was ready.

Hopefully Dayton Moore will take a step back from the notion of trading Butler and give him the chance to develop. The Royals potentially have a special hitter and it would be foolish to trade him away now.

The Current Royals Lineup

The
big news today is the Royals have traded relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez
to the Red Sox for center fielder Coco Crisp. There is speculation this
is only first trade several trades Moore will make this off season.
Rumor is Mark Teahen will soon be moved to the north side of Chicago
and will be playing for Lou Piniella and the Cubs in 2009. But as a
result of the trades for Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp the Royals 2009
lineup is better than the one the club fielded in 2008.

POS 2009 STARTER 2008 STARTER
C Miguel Olivo John Buck
1B Mike Jacobs Ross Gload
2B Alberto Callaspo Mark Grudzielanek
3B Alex Gordon Alex Gordon
SS Mike Aviles Mike Aviles
LF David DeJesus Mark Teahen
CF Coco Crisp David DeJesus
RF Jose Guillen Jose Guillen
DH Billy Bulter Billy Butler

I
don’t believe Miguel Olivo will be any better at the plate than John
Buck but Mike Jacobs will be a huge improvement over Ross Gload.
Replacing Mark Teahen with Coco Crisp will also improve the Royals
offensive production. It is going to be interesting to see what
transpires the next few weeks but the Royals are set up to be a better
offensive team in 2009 than they were in 2008.

Honest Answers to the Royals Mailbag Questions

Beat writer Dick Kaegal’s mailbag column on the KCRoyals.com website is nothing more than a forum for Kaegal to attempt to put a positive spin on what is going on with the Royals. So, in the interest of not glossing over what the Royals are doing, Rounding Third and Heading Home presents honest answers to the recent mailbag questions.

Why is there so much negative talk about Kansas City acquiring Mike Jacobs? The move makes sense. Fine, Jacobs’ on-base percentage is low, but against right-handers (where KC’s record was below-average) his numbers are not terrible (.315 OBP with 25 homers). Where are you going to find that type of production for $3 million? — Steven A., Toms River, N.J.

Steven, even the harshest critics of the trade admit that Jacobs will add homerun power to the Royals lineup. But homeruns alone do not win games. In your email you mention the Royals poor performance against right-handed pitching. In 2008 the Royals .260 average was 13 out of 14 American League teams. But as poor as the Royals were against right-handed pitching in 2008 Jacobs was worse. He hit .257 against righties. You also mention Jacobs .315 OBP against right-handers as “not terrible.” You are wrong Steven, a .315 OBP is terrible. In 2008 the Oakland A’s had an OBP of .318 which was last in the American League.

With the White Sox considering trading Jermaine Dye, do you see the Royals making a trade for him? — Anthony, Kansas City

To be honest, Anthony, I have no idea why Kaegal devoted space to your question. Former GM Allard Baird made one of the worst trades in baseball history when he traded Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez. But that is water under the bridge and Jermaine Dye is not coming back to the Royals.

With Zack Greinke and Gil Meche at the top of the rotation, who will the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 guys be? — Ryan V., Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Bad news Ryan, the back end of the Royals pitching rotation is horrible. Greinke and Meche give the Royals a respectable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. But after Greinke and Meche it becomes scary for Kansas City. It is now obvious Brian Bannister’s 2007 season was a fluke. The Royals are courting disaster by continuing to believe Bannister has a chance to be even a serviceable Major League pitcher. Davies had some bright spots in 2008 but I don’t have a lot of faith he is ever going to be a starting pitcher to be counted on. Luke Hochevar is still young and and has shown enough positives that I believe he could still develop into a Major League pitcher. As things stand now the Royals should pencil him into the #3 spot in 2009 rotation. But if the Royals are going to improve in 2009 they are going to have to find replacements for Bannister and Davies.

Despite his excellent hitting numbers this past year, everything I’m reading says Alberto Callaspo has no chance at being an everyday player. What’s your take on his future? — Drew E., Albany, N.Y.

Drew, I am concerned about what I am reading about Callaspo’s role with the Royals in 2009. Alberto Callaspo is exactly the type of player the Royals should be playing everyday. He is not a superstar hitter or a Gold Glove infielder but he is solid in all areas of the game. Callaspo is young and inexpensive and it would be to the Royals advantage to use the 2009 season to see if he could be their everyday second baseman. But Dayton Moore seems intent on finding a veteran middle infielder for 2009. Doesn’t make any sense for Moore to do that with a guy like Callaspo already in the organization. But Moore did trade for Mike Jacobs even though Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka’aihue were already part of the Royals organization so I’m not holding out much hope Callaspo will be anymore than a utility player for the Royals in 2009.

What the Royals Should Learn from the Phillies

It is now the hot-stove season for
Major League Baseball clubs. During the next several weeks teams will
sign free agents and make trades in an effort to improve. It is also
the time of year for Royals fans to begin singing the small market
blues, whining to anyone that will listen that because of their small
market limitations there is no way they can compete with teams like the
Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. These folks need to stop crying because
the 2008 Phillies proved that a team can build a World Series
championship team without throwing big money at free agents.

The following table shows how the 2008 World Series championship team was assembled:

PLAYER POS ACQUIRED YEAR
Carlos Ruiz C Signed by Phillies as a non drafted free agent 1998
Ryan Howard 1B Drafted by the Phillies-5th round 2001
Chase Utley 2B Drafted by the Phillies-1st round 2000
Pedro Feliz 3B Signed as a free agent 2008
Jimmy Rollins SS Drafted by the Phillies-2nd round 1996
Pat Burrell LF Drafted by the Phillies-1st round 1998
Shane Victorino CF Rule 5 draft selection-from the Dodgers 2004
Jayson Werth RF Signed as free agent-non tendered by Dodgers 2006
Cole Hamels SP Drafted by the Phillies-1st round 2002
Jamie Moyer SP Trade from Seattle 2006
Joe Blanton SP Trade from Oakland 2008
Brad Lidge RP Trade from Houston 2008

The
Phillies have drafted well, made smart trades, signed reasonably priced
free agents, and found a good player in the Rule 5 draft. It should
also be noted the Phillies payroll to start the 2008 was only 13th in
the Major Leagues.

The Kansas City Royals should be following a
path similar to the Phillies. Instead of wasting money on free agents
like Jose Guillen and trading for below average players like Mike
Jacobs, the Royals need to refocus their efforts and financial
resources on the draft, scouting, and player development. This process
will require a financial committment from owner David Glass and
intelligent decisions by GM Dayton Moore. But with patience and a
willingness to stick to the plan the Royals can indeed build a
contending team.