Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2008

The eephus pitch

June 5, 2008

The ship could be righted today.

The Kansas City Royals, although they're out of their funk that marred the better part of the first two months of the season, still aren't producing runs. And they show no sign of doing so any time soon.

But today, at least for a few hours, hope springs eternal and Royals fans can focus on something that could impact the team before the Beltrans of the world fall into millions of dollars in free agency.

With players like Alex Gordon, we're talking two more years, counting 2008, before he's eligible for arbitration. Then the organization will either have to pay him what he's worth, as deemed by an arbitrator, or let him go elsewhere - a bigger market team.

Using history as a guide, some of this year's players won't be here in four years, and that puts even more importance on today's MLB draft. The Royals need hitting, that's well-known.

But the organization can't completely neglect pitching. Before Tuesday's game, the Royals had a 4.49 earned run average, good for 11th out of 14 American League teams.

And offensively, they were last in the major leagues in runs scored, at 207. The next-to-last team out there in the Bigs are the Padres, having plated 216 runs. In the hitter friendly American league, the team above the Royals, the Mariners, have scored 26 more runs than the Royals, through 57 games. That means the worst team in the AL, record-wise, offensively manages about a half of a run more than the Royals.

That's unacceptable.

The Royals need to take a hitter with their third overall pick today, given their offensive woes early this season.

Most projections show the following players going somewhere in the top-five:

-Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin, Ga. (hs)

-Buster Posey, C, Florida State

-Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt

-Brian Matusz, LHP, San Diego

-Justin Smoak, 1B, South Carolina

Drafting in front of the Royals are the Rays and Pirates, and most predict the Pirates will take Alvarez.

Beckham is thought of by draft analysts as a Jose Reyes-type of player; grease speed with great baseball instincts, a five-tool player. He's also the most raw of the five projected picks, having not attended college.

If he doesn't go in the top two, I say the Royals have to take him. You score runs by not only extra base hits but having a leadoff guy who plays the style Reyes or Rafael Furcal plays. Get on base, get moved over or steal a base, and find a way to cross the plate. You can't count on getting three hits to score every single run. You need extra base hits and stolen bases, too. Billy Butler is a base hit machine, but he's riding the bus in triple-A until he can produce some extra bases.

The Royals may be last in the AL in homeruns, but they don't have to have a power hitter in this spot. And taking this shortstop ensures production at a position that has been terrible, at least at the plate, for the Royals since Angel Berroa's flash-in-the-pan of 2003. It also gives the Royals a pure leadoff, something that has also been lacking.

The team took a shortstop with its top pick a year ago, but Mike Moustakas seems better-equipped to play a corner outfield position. He's bigger than the typical shortstop, and his speed and range are below average. I don't think he's the long term answer.

If Beckham is not there, Posey should be. Posey has hit for average and power in the past, and with our current catching situation, the Royals could draft a guy who is above average behind the plate and standing beside it. Catchers who can hit, looking around the league, are few and far between.

Either selection would be encouraging for the franchise, given what has transpired in 2008.

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