The Royals faced off against the Angels today in their fifth Spring Training game. They got down early due to Gil Meche's disappointing first inning, and tied it up in the top of the 5th just to relinquish the lead once again in the bottom of the 5th to complete a topsy-turvy game. Today was also the day the Royals lost all of their WBC players: Jose Guillen and Miguel Olivo to the Dominican Republic, Mark Teahen to Canada, Lenny DiNardo to Italy, Joakim Soria to Mexico, Dylan Lindsay to South Africa, Mike Aviles to Puerto Rico, and the Royals newest addition, Bruce Chen, to Panama. Which urges the question, can you lose a player to the WBC if you never had him before the report date anyway?
There's been a lot of post-game reporting that Gil Meche's back isn't/doesn't hurt. Gil better do whatever he can to make sure that this truly is the case, because our season will rely heavily on him. And so much chatter about a non-injury scares me. Gil pitched one inning today, as scheduled, giving up 3 earned runs on 4 hits and a walk. The lone bright spot was his two strikeouts.
Duckworth, Hamulack and Peralta each gave up a run in their relief appearances as well, further reducing their chances of making the big league squad. Barrera, Osoria, and Rosa had one scoreless inning each, giving up 0 hits and striking out one, with only Barrera walking one. Both Barrera and Rosa have yet to give up runs this spring. Altogether the pitchers issued 6 walks against 7 strikeouts. Easily the worst numbers yet this spring.
Crisp had as many hits as yesterday, zero, but drew three fewer walks. Hopefully Coco can keep from having too many games like today, because his value is essentially measured in his OBP and his defense. (Unless he gets back to hitting 15+ home runs). Royals hitters altogether drew just two walks against 7 strikeouts, and were held to their first home run-less game this spring.
Hitter of the Game
David DeJesus shone brightly in the three hole, going 2-2 with a walk. David knocked in 1 RBI and came around to score once himself. Other Notables were Ka'aihue who went 1-1 and John Buck who was 1-2 with a walk and a leadoff double. (If you haven't noticed yet, anytime John Buck leads off he is a doubles machine. Next time he is leading off pay close attention because there is something like a 65% chance he will hit a double).
Pitcher of the Game
I don't really like ties, (see yesterday's post), but today Franquelis Osoria and Carlos Rosa will share the pitcher of the game award since they had the exact same outing, numbers-wise. They each pitched a perfect inning with one strikeout. The further we get into spring, the more I think Rosa might develop into our surprise in the bullpen this season, if he even gets a chance to make the team because of the numbers crunch.
Bruce Chen and His Impact
You may or may not remember back to 2005 when Bruce Chen was posting the best year of his career for the Baltimore Orioles. Bruce was 13-10 in 32 starts with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.267 WHIP. Fast forward to 2008 and Bruce was missing the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Bruce is just 31 and while he may not see an inning in the big leagues this year, his just being present as an option shows the drastic improvement the Royals have made since 2005.
The Bruce Chen signing is more important than Bruce Chen himself
In 2005, the Royals as a team posted a 5.56 ERA, including a rotation of Jose Lima and his 6.99 ERA, JP Howell and his 6.19 ERA, Zack Greinke and his 5.80 ERA (and 5-17 record, ouch), Runelvys Hernandez and his 5.52 ERA, and pre-Japan DJ Carrasco and his 4.79 ERA. In 2005, the Royals would have brought in a pitcher like Bruce Chen to be their ace. Jose Lima was their opening day starter that year after all. Bruce would have been seen as the big FA acquisition that would carry the Royals to a .500 record. Even more than the Juan Cruz signing that says that DM is ready to compete in 2009, the Bruce Chen signing says that the Royals have finally arrived in the MLB. Sure, they are not a lock to even be .500, let alone make the playoffs or win the Central. And they sure as hell don't get much media attention (though ESPN has sure been blogging about them lately). But the Royals are finally a legit major league team who brings in a high upside option like Bruce Chen to work his butt off to maybe make our AAA squad to provide depth in case of injury. And Ahh it feels so good.
Johnny Giavotella, your 2012 AL MVP?
Due to both their size and position, no one has draws more comparisons by Royals fans to Dustin Pedroia than Johnny Giavotella. Sure they are both 5'8" (ish) and they are both scrappy, hard-nosed "ball players" and they were even drafted in the same round (2nd), but how similar are they actually?
Dustin Pedroia played mostly shortstop for the Arizona State Sun devils, starting every game during his college career. Like Johnny, Dustin played 3 seasons of college, let's look at those seasons now:
.347/.417/.432 - 13 doubles - 1 home run - 19 Ks 24 BBs
.404/.472/.579 - 34 doubles - 4 home runs - 13 Ks 36 BBs
.393/.502/.611 - 24 doubles -9 home runs - 15 Ks 48 BBs
Looking solely at these numbers, you can see the progression that led to Dustin's 2nd round selection by the Red Sox. Pedroia improved his numbers every year. His freshman year his best attribute was his average, and his ability to not be struck out. As his experience progressed he hit for an even higher average with fewer strikeouts, but he also added power to his repertoire, and with that addition, he also began drawing more walks. By his senior season, Dustin was a hitting machine, drawing over 3 times more walks than strikeouts and converting many of his doubles into home runs. Looking at these numbers it is easy to see why Dustin has become such an excellent hitter, he's like a present day Ty Cobb. (exaggeration)
Johnny Giavotella was a 3 year 2nd baseman at the University of New Orleans. Taking a look at his numbers we see:
Freshman year: .348/.436/.529 - 11 doubles - 5 home runs - 28 Ks 36 BBs
Sophomore year: .385/.497/.676 - 19 doubles - 15 home runs - 25 Ks 54 BBs
Junior year: .354/.470/.591 - 16 doubles - 12 home runs - 25 Ks 53 BBs
At first glance, their numbers look fairly similar, they obviously both are high contact hitters who were very good in college. But upon inspection, it becomes obvious that Johnny G was the more advanced hitter in college. While Pedroia hit for a higher average in every year except his freshman year, and Johnny struck out more, Johnny also hit for much more power and drew far more walks. Drawing walks and hitting for power are two of the most valuable things a hitter can do. While having a high average is also a good attribute, recent players like Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell have shown that you can hit for a low average and still be a top hitter in the league as long as you supplement that low average with hitting for power and drawing walks. But Johnny Giavotella doesn't hit for a low average, he hits for almost as high of an average as Pedroia. So, looking strictly at college numbers, Johnny Giavotella looks like the more promising young player, at least in my opinion.
But college isn't everything, and while Dustin Pedroia has completed his time in the minors and has a few years in the majors under his belt, all we have for Johnny G is 278 minor league at bats. We'll take a look at them anyway.
2008: .299/.355/.421 - 18 doubles - 4 home runs - 34 Ks 25 BBs in 278 at bats in A ball
The League Factor
Your first reaction might be "where did the power go?" Which is a valid criticism, the thing to keep in mind, however, is these numbers came from the Midwest league, a notoriously pitcher friendly environment. The league leader in home runs for the 2008 season was none other than fellow Burlington Bee, Mike Moustakas, with 22. Moustakas was one of the best hitters in the Midwest league last year and he finished with a line that looked like this:
2008: .272/.337/.468 - 25 doubles - 22 home runs - 86 Ks 43 BBs
Oh, and Moustakas had 218 more at bats to produce these numbers than Johnny. And he hadn't just finished his junior year of college where Johnny logged 237 at bats, and gone through the draft, and gone through being signed, etc. When taken in context, Johnny's power numbers were actually pretty good, very good, even, when taken into consideration the fact that he is an undersized second baseman.
But how does that stack up against Pedroia?
Dustin Pedroia's first pro season was split between the South Atlantic and the Florida State league. Both of which produced league leaders with 32 home runs in his first year, 10 more than the 22 that Moustakas slugged. Keeping that in mind, Pedroia's first season broke down like this:
2004: .400/.474/.560 - 5 doubles - 1 home run - 3 Ks 6 BBs - 50 at bats in A ball
.336/.417/.523 - 8 doubles - 2 home runs - 4Ks 13 BBs - 107 at bats in High A ball
Pedroia obviously performed well in his first season, drawing a BB for nearly every 8 at bats and only striking out 7 times. While he showed that he was still a high average high OBP player, he also still hit for good power. Pedroia's numbers did noticeably drop when moving up a level, and both leagues had similar offensive effects. Pedroia would go on to shoot up through the minor leagues, reaching the majors as early as 2006 when he had 89 at bats. Putting Johnny on a similar time scale would have him reaching the majors in 2010, right along with Moustakas (hopefully) and Hosmer (maybe).
Once you factor in the league factors, Dustin Pedroia and Johnny Giavotella both had remarkably similar debuts, with the slight edge going to Johnny G, in my opinion. Johnny earns that edge because of his ability to still hit for decent power in a league where hitting for power is a very difficult thing to do.
Johnny Giavotella might regress into nothing and never make it above AA, but in an organization where middle infield prospects come to die (see Bianchi, Jeffrey) Johnny G has me more excited than any other Royals position player prospect except for Jose Duarte.
Thanks again for reading.