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5 Things: Kansas City Royals

The 5 Things Series continues (after a brief hiatus) with the Kansas City Royals.

2005 Suspects    Grade
Mike Sweeney       B
Zack Greinke       D
Ken Harvey         F
David DeJesus      B+
Jose Lima          F

Considering how well I did with previewing Chicago last year, I had to take my hits somewhere.  I took them with Kansas City.  Grienke didn't just have a sophomore slump, he was flat out bad.  Jose Lima sucked, big time.  Ken Harvey probably ruined his last good chance at earning himself a shot at The Show.  Sweeney's season was decent but not great, and David DeJesus did better than I expected but it didn't help the Royals.  Kansas City was the one team in the AL Central in 2005 that didn't scare you at all.  Coming into 2006 they've made some interesting moves, some of which I've already elaborated on.  How will the no-really-we're-trying-to-do-something-here-I-promise-just-don't-think-about-what-these-moves-really -mean approach to free agency work out?

It's been a long and winding and hard road for the Royals, who haven't finished higher than 3rd in the division since 1995.  This was done with a 33-year old Wally Joyner, a 35-skyjacking 36-year old Gary Gaetti, and a 15-10 old school Kevin Appier...they still finished under .500.  This rough streak will continue through this coming year as Royal management made a couple of second and third-tier free agency moves.  Acquisitions like Mark Grudzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Redman and Scott Elarton aren't the acquistions of a team looking to contend.  They're acquisitions of a team trying to not get worse and not lose games due to inexperience.

Sisco's just a kid.  2005 was his rookie campaign, and it's easy to say he made the best of it.  He combined with Amboirix Burgos and Mike MacDougal to create a servicable but not imposing back of the bullpen.  Coming into the season Sisco had a track record of high K-rates, but absolutely zero track record of facing competition above A-ball.  That's right--Sisco skipped AA and AAA and went right to the majors in 2005.

Year  Lvl  Age    IP   ERA   k/9  WHIP
2002    A   19  77.2  2.43 11.70  1.16
2003    A   20  94.0  3.54  9.48  1.14
2004    A   21 126.0  4.21  9.57  1.45

2005  MLB   22  75.1  3.11  9.08  1.46

Apparently the only issue with the big southpaw is his mental toughness.  If you get into his head you've beaten him.  If he gets into his own head, he's beaten himself.  It's a double-edged sword with Sisco because he wants the big-game situations, but if you have the chance to get back in the game and you take advantage of it, he won't stop you.  On the other hand if he's on top of his game, you'll take his bait hook, line and sinker, and he'll wipe you out.

Sweeney was one of the top three commodities to be traded before the deadline last season, and it didn't happen in large part to his massive $11,000,000 salary.  He's only 32 in 2006, not 33 until after the All Star break, but it's essential he remains in the DH role to ensure his health and elongate his career.  He's still one of the game's best pure hitters, but his ability to play full time has come into question since 2002.

Year  Games   OPS
1999   150   .907
2000   159   .930
2001   147   .916
2002   126   .980
2003   108   .858
2004   106   .851
2005   122   .864

You can see here that since his playing time has decreased due to injury, his numbers have come down.  Keep in mind it's all relative, as these numbers state he's gone from unstoppable to merely fantastic, but the spread is there all the same.  As he gets older, and should the health concerns linger, these trends will take more drastic turns.

What happens to Sweeney this year?  How long until the trade rumors begin to swirl?  How many times can he read the sports pages predicting his inevitable departure before the uncertainty ends?  I wish you the best, Mike Sweeney, but I don't envy your position.

Here's the deal: I like Reggie Sanders.  I think he's been a good player for most of his career.  He's probably not going to the Hall of Fame, but the fact is that he's been playing since 1991 and he's found a spot in the lineup every single season since 1992.  He's never really had a great season but he's had a couple of really good years (1995, 1999, 2003).  Now he's 38.  What will the Royals get from him?

Projections are across the board.  Here's the zips projection that I find to be the most likely scenario.

 Avg   Hr  RBI   OBP   SLG   OPS
.245   19   62  .308  .462  .770

Overall it doesn't look too horrible, but you shouldn't let the SLG fool you into thinking this is the kind of season the Royals have paid for.  Unless Sanders at least matches career averages in most of his offensive categories, you'll be able to consider his contributions to the Royals just that:  offensive.

IF, however, something happens where the Royals become competetive in 2006, you can be sure that Sanders is having a solid season.  He's one of the Royals more dangerous bats in this meager order, and if he succeeds then the boys in blue will become just a bit more dangerous.  Does this mean the Royals will score more runs than the Twins in 2006?  Whatever anyone else says...that's not bloody likely.

Teahen is on this list for a different reason than everyone else.  He was picked up in the three-team trade that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston.  Mark Teahen came with Mike Wood from Oakland, and was named the immediate heir apparent to the KC third base throne.  2005 was his first stint at The Show and he showed flashes of promise, but it's not what the Royals were hoping for.  His offensive line was mediocre at best.

Looking at his minor league and collegiate past, there's really never been much promise for him offensively.  He put on solid performances, but was much more of an OBP man than a power hitter, or even pure hitter.  Teahen found a way to reach base, and that's where he got his name.  

I'm including him in this group for one reason:  Alex Gordon.  Gordon is an amazing, young talent whose only job over the next two seasons is not get called up to The Show.  His final season at the University of Nebraska was 2004, and at age 22 in 2006 hasn't had the necessary time to properly develop himself.  Maybe in 2007, but more likely in 2008, Gordon is going to make a splash in the major leagues.  Teahen's duty is to play well enough to keep Gordon in the minors, and keep him on his developmental curve.  By bombing out this season, Teahen's ineffectiveness may force Kansas City's hand, and in bringing Gordon in too soon they may stunt his development.  See:  Zach Grienke.  I'm sure I sound protective and a little conservative, but over the last few seasons the Royals have brought in a number of farm players who simply weren't prepared.  They shouldn't make the same mistake with a player who actually could be a cornerstone for them in years to come.

DeJesus had his best season to date last year at the age of 25, offensively and defensively.  His numbers weren't outstanding by any means, but he was solid, and that OPS would stand out against any full time Twin last season.  There are very few positions solidified in a positive manner over the next few seasons for the Royals, but center field is one of them.  With DeJesus eventually joined by Gordon and OF Billy Butler, there will be a young core for the Royals to build around.  Right now, DeJesus just needs to build off a solid season.

A great thing about DeJesus, especially for the Royals, is that he isn't truly outstanding at anything; he's just good at almost everything.  He doesn't have much power, but he can shoot balls to the gaps, has good speed, had good range, and can control where he puts the ball at the plate in many situations.  This is good for Kansas City because they won't need to pay an amazing amount of cash to continue to keep him around.  For small-market clubs, this can be a positive.

With DeJesus at the top of the order the Royals have a legitimate offensive threat to be dealt with in the first inning.  It may not seem like much, but it's a start, and if he can build on the year he had in 2005, there's no reason he can't be instrumental in helping the Royals score more runs in 2006.  A setback, however, would be extrememly detrimental to whatever offensive pop Kansas City could muster.

Kansas City didn't scare anyone last year, and 2006 is going to be no different.  On the plus side, there are better things to come, and they won't be worse.  Sure, they scored more runs than the Twins last year.  For those who think this team will outscore the Twins again in 2006, there are only two things you need to think about.  One, with the maturation of players like Mauer and Morneau, with the additions of players like Kubel and Castillo, there's nowhere to go but up for last year's impotent offense.  Two, exactly what do you expect players like Sanders, Grudzielanek and Stairs to do?  There's optimistic, and then there's delusional.  If the Twins are outscored again by the Royals, I'll not only sing the praises of Kansas City but I'll tear the Twins to shreds.  Right here.  It won't be a pretty site.  Or a pretty sight.

SP Scott Elarton
2B Mark Grudzielanek
CL Mike MacDougal
SP Runelvys Hernandez

2005 Suspects       Grade
Runelvys Hernandez    D
Angel Berroa          C
Jeremy Affeldt        D-
Denny Hocking         D-