Mitch Maier was drafted in the first round of the 2003 rule IV draft. He will most likely start the season in the AAA outfield again this year. To most people, this makes Mitch a disappointment. While it is underwhelming that Mitch has not broken into the Royals lineup as the defensive centerfielder and top of the order hitter that most had hoped he would turned into, I feel like the sheer fact that he made it through the Allard Baird era and still has a chance at becoming a major leaguer is a positive in itself. Mitch, like Mark Teahen, has been jerked around from position to position, in an attempt to create equal depth amongst our hitting prospects in the minors. Unlike Teahen, he was at least allowed to learn new positions at the minor league level.
Mitch was drafted out of the University of Toledo after a junior year that saw him post a line of .448/.525/.691, all while stealing 29 bases (and being caught just 5 times) and drawing 31 walks against 9 strikeouts in 194 at bats. Mitch did all this while playing catcher.
After Mitch was drafted in 2003, he played catcher for the first year of his pro career, hitting .350/.403/.507 in 51 games for the AZ Royals. In 2004, Mitch would be converted to a 3rd baseman. He spent the next season splitting time between Burlington and Wilmington. 2004 saw the Royals trade Carlos Beltran for Mark Teahen, John Buck, and Mike Wood. Because Allard Baird was stupid, he immediately converted Maier to an outfielder because Teahen was a third baseman. Luckily, Maier's work ethic and athleticism has allowed him to excel there, being ranked as the Royals best defensive outfielder in 2007 by Baseball America.
Like Shane Costa, Maier has gone on to show that he has mastered AAA, including hitting .316/.366/.470 for the O Royals in 85 games last season. Maier also saw some time in KC hitting .286/.316/.319 for the Royals. While Maier is not a power hitter by any means, he will probably end up with enough muscle to hit around 10 home runs in a full season. He doesn't draw many walks, but can keep his OBP above .350 as long as he is able to hit at least .290. Maier's main asset is his superb defense. He is a capable centerfielder with a good arm and great instincts. Maier also has plenty of experience in both of the corner of positions, making him as a perfect candidate as a 4th outfielder.
Maier's upside is probably that of a 4th outfielder who sticks around for a season or two and is able to work his way into the lineup as a starter. Ryan Spilborghs comes to mind as a comparison as far as career path. Maier will most likely break spring training once again as an O Royal, but come a midseason trade, an injury, or a poor performance, he would be a wonderful replacement stashed in AAA.
Kyle Davies got off to a great start, including striking out Josh Hamilton on three pitches. He loaded the bases in the 2nd but managed to get out of it unscathed. Coco Crisp and John Buck both hit home runs, and Ross Gload hit a 3 run triple. The Royals pitchers struck out ten and walked just there as their batters walked four times and struck out 8 times. Josh Hamilton had the only Rangers home run, his second in as many games, with a solo shot off of Joel Peralta in the 5th inning. The full box score can be found here.
While neither Jose Duarte nor Kila Ka'aihue started, they managed a hit each. Duarte picked up a run and Kila picked up an RBI. Julio Pimental and Carlos Rosa both had scoreless outings. Pimental went two innings, allowing one hit and striking out two. Rosa went one inning, giving up two hits and also striking out two.
Hitter of the Game
Coco Crisp earns hitter of the game honors today. Coco had a solid game, notching two hits in three at bats, including a long solo shot to centerfield off of Derek Holland.
Pitcher of the Game
Pitcher of the game honors go to Julio Pimental today. Julio was throwing fire during his two innings, striking out two and allowing just one hit.
Tomorrow the Royals take on the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale Stadium at 2:05 p.m. central time. Randy Johnson will take the mound for the Giants. Zack Greinke gets the nod for the Royals. He will be followed by Robinson Tejada, Devon Lowery, Joakim Soria, and Jamey Wright.