Friday, February 27, 2009

The Forgotten Catcher: Bobby Wilson

Bobby Wilson is an "odd man out" for the Angels. Currently, Wilson is blocked by the Angels Major League catching tandem of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis and approaching from behind is #1 ranked prospect Hank Conger. Baring an unforeseen trade or injury, Wilson will return to Salt Lake for a third straight season and it appears circumstances will prevent Wilson from ever being a part of the Angels Major League roster. This is unfortunate because Bobby Wilson is a better player than Jeff Mathis and he would do a good job as the Angels #2 catcher in 2009.

Bobby Wilson's strength is his defense and I rate his defensive skills as Major League ready. Behind the plate he displays excellent footwork and does a good job of blocking balls in the dirt. He has a strong, accurate throwing arm. For the Bees in 2008 he threw out 43% of runners attempting to steal. He handles the pitching staff well and the Salt Lake pitchers seem to have a great deal of confidence in him. I have seen the majority of home games that both Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson have caught in AAA and I would give the edge to Wilson as a defensive catcher.

Wilson is not a spectacular hitting prospect. He is a line drive type of hitter with little power. But he does make solid contact and he hits the ball with authority. Wilson's 2008 hitting line of .312/.386/.435 was better than any season Jeff Mathis had for Salt Lake. In my observation, Wilson has more hitting potential than Mathis.

It is highly unlikely Bobby Wilson has much of a chance to make the 2009 Angels squad in 2009. Jeff Mathis is familiar with the current Angels pitching staff and Mike Scioscia has a lot of faith in him. This entry is not a knock on Jeff Mathis and I believe he will have a nice rebound season in 2009. But in terms of baseball ability, Bobby Wilson is a better player than Mathis. It will be nice to have Wilson back in Salt Lake this year but I hope he is soon able to move to another organization. There are several teams who could use Bobby Wilson to fill their #2 catching slot.

This entry is also posted on the blog. is the best site on the 'net for fans of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Opening Day 25 Man Roster

I promise everyone this is my last entry lamenting that Willie Bloomquist and Ross Gload are members of the Kansas City Royals. The battle is lost and I surrender. After reading Dick Kaegel's latest column on, I am convinced that both Bloomquist and Gload, at the expense of better players with more potential, are going to play "significant" roles for the Royals in 2009.

Frequent visitors to are aware that Dick Kaegel is an unofficial member of the Kansas City Royals PR department masquerading as a journalist. Fans seeking in depth reporting and unbiased analysis of the Kansas City Royals will waste their time reading much of what is posted at But Kaegel's work has value because he provides clues to what Hillman and Moore are thinking. In his latest column, Kaegel reports how the Royals roster might look when the team breaks camp. Unfortunately for Royals fans, it appears that the team is going to begin the regular season will not be the best possible team the Royals could field.

In theory, the biggest question mark for the Royals in 2009 is second base. The Royals are giving the perception that Mark Teahen, Alberto Callaspo, and Willie Bloomquist are all candidates for the job and each has a chance to win the position. But after reading Kaegel's column I am convinced the competition is an illusion and the decision has already been made.

"Willie Bloomquist, Alberto Callaspo and Mark Teahen are in a rumble around second base...Bloomquist might have an edge. He's got more experience than Teahen at second base and more range than Callaspo...Bloomquist was signed to a two-year contract which also might work in his favor."

Unless something has changed since the website went online, Kaegel would not post this if he didn't have the scoop from Hillman or Moore. So even though Callaspo has the potential to be an above average Major League hitter and Mark Teahen is athletic enough to possibly play the position, the Royals are going to compound a horrible free agent signing by handing him a starting job. Bloomquist might have a little more range than Callaspo and more experience than Teahen. But he is still the same player that isn't strong enough to hit the ball in the air to the outfield and isn't good enough to start for the AAA Salt Lake Bees.

Kaegel also commented on Ross Gload and Ryan Shealy's chances of making the team.

"Ross Gload, probably the best-fielding first baseman, can also play the outfield. His glove offers nice late-inning protection at first."

"Ryan Shealy logged a lot of time at first base in September and cranked seven homers, putting himself back in the mix. He's facing a numbers crunch although he has a good glove, too, and could be a big bat off the bench."

Gload is presented as a good glove who can play multiple positions while Shealy is facing a numbers crunch. Kaegel does point out that Shealy has a good glove, but there is no doubt Gload has the edge. This is another red flag for Royals fans. Ross Gload is a good defensive first baseman and he can play the outfield. But the Royals have a surplus of outfielders and Shealy blindfolded can hit better than Gload. There is no reason for Ross Gload to be anywhere on the Royals 25 man roster but I have no doubt he will be.

As spring training moves forward, I will post no more entries about whether Bloomquist and Gload should make the club. They are going to make it and it is time to move on to other issues. But if Willie Bloomquist is in the lineup and Ross Gload is on the 25 man roster on opening day, it is more proof that Dayton Moore is not the general manager that is going to assemble a contending team in Kansas City.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The First "Game" of the Spring

It was great to read the reports from Royals spring training this morning. After an active winter, there is finally on the field action to discuss. It was only an intrasquad game but Dick Kaegel's report that is posted on and Bob Dutton's piece for the KC Star offer Royals fans first hand accounts of the action. Although both Kaegel and Dutton's reports accurately detail the happenings of the scrimmage neither offer any analysis. So, in the interest of fans that like to look below the surface, I will offer some random thoughts on the Royals first "game" of the spring.

Ryan Shealy and Ross Gload, players competing against each other for one of the final roster slots, hit homeruns. But, while Ross Gload was allowed to circle the bases after his ball left the yard, Ryan Shealy was held at first base to set up a runner on first-no out situation. According to Kaegel, "

"You don't see that every day," Shealy said....Normally you get to circle the bases. Instead, I had to try to break up a double play...." Sure enough, when Alex Gordon followed by rapping into a double play, Shealy had to slide into second base.

Even though it worked out and Shealy was able to work on breaking up a double play, the question remains why did manager Trey Hillman do this with Alex Gordon at the plate? This would have been the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the abilities of Willie Bloomquist. In order to practice breaking up a double play the hitter must hit a weak ground ball or two-hopper to an infielder. Willie Bloomquist is one of the best in the Major Leagues at hitting these types of balls and yet Hillman chose to use Gordon. Not the wisest use of personnel.

Former Salt Lake player Alberto Callaspo had two hits. Hillman described Callaspo's performance this way:

"He [Callaspo] had a couple of nice ABs," manager Trey Hillman said of Callaspo. "Bert can hit. I think he's one of those guys who can just hit getting out of bed."

The 2008 Royals finished 12th in the American League in runs scored and 12th in on-base-percentage. Heading into 2009 they have a player in Callaspo that is under contract for near the Major League minimum and the manager of the team says he can "hit getting out of bed." Yet Dayton Moore felt the need to sign Willie Bloomquist to a two-year contract to battle him for the position. I'm still waiting for an intelligent reason for the Bloomquist signing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Royals Rotation - Luke Hochevar

Last spring, the Royals were deciding whether former #1 draft draft choice Luke Hochevar was ready to be a part of the Royals rotation or needed more time in the minor leagues. A year later, Hochevar's future with the Royals is not much clearer. Hochevar is more of an enigma than Major League pitcher. 2009 is a make or break year for Hochevar and the Royals need to give him every opportunity to establish himself.

The first time I saw Luke Hochevar pitch was in a AAA game in 2007. The Omaha Royals were playing the Salt Lake Bees and Hochevar did not demonstrate any of the talent or skill that a Major League pitcher should possess. In a previous blog entry I described Hochevar's performance this way:

Even though he [Hochevar] was the winning pitcher I was unimpressed. His box score line was okay, 6 IP, 2 earned runs, 8 hits, 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. Even though his numbers were average, Hochevar was very lucky. The Bees hit line drive after line drive that were either hit directly at an infielder or ran down in the outfield. Salt Lake stole four bases and all of them were the result of Hochevar doing a lousy job holding the runners. The 4th inning of the game raised a big red flag to me. With two outs the runner on second base steals third, arriving at the bag before Hochevar's pitch was in the catcher's mitt. The Omaha pitching coach visits the mound in what I assume was an effort to get Hochevar to do a better job of holding runners. On the next pitch, Hochevar drills the Salt Lake hitter in the middle of the back. I viewed this as immature and bush league. Perhaps Hochevar has grown up since last July [2007], but the Royals need to be completely sure before entrusting him with a Major League job.

Hochevar made 22 starts for the Royals in 2008 and over all he looked nothing like a #1 draft choice. Most knowledgeable baseball fans know that ERA is usually not a true measure of a pitcher's ability and performance. But Hochevar's 5.51 ERA, along with a 1.54 K/BB ratio, paint an accurate picture of how mediocre he was. Most disappointing is Hochevar displayed little to give Royals fans hope that he will be able to improve and be a productive member of the rotation. Unless there is a drastic change, the Hochevar I saw pitch in Salt Lake in 2007 will be a true picture of him as a Major Leaguer.

The Royals have no choice but to put Hochevar in the rotation and hope he can establish himself as a Major League pitcher. If Hochevar does develop into a serviceable Major League pitcher the Royals will have another piece in their effort to build a contending team. If Hochevar continues to struggle, the Royals are going to have to bite the bullet and add Hochevar's name to the list of #1 draft choice busts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Royals Rotation - Kyle Davies

Spring training is here and every Major League team can make a case this is their year to compete for a division title. Optimism among Royals fans is running high as most believe Dayton Moore is building a contending team in Kansas City. Even a skeptic like me sees the progress the team is making. The farm system is strong, locking up Zack Greinke to a long term deal was the best move the Royals have made in years, and 2009 could be the year that Alex Gordon and Billy Butler establish themselves as quality Major League hitters. But if the Royals are going to finish above .500 in 2009, the pitchers that follow Meche and Greinke in the rotation are going to have to be at least Major League average. According to the depth chart on the Royals website, Brian Bannister is listed as the #3 starter, Luke Hochevar is slotted in the #4 sport, and Kyle Davies is penciled in at #5. This post is going to take a look at Kyle Davies and how he will help the Royals in 2009.

Kyle Davies could turn out to be one of Dayton Moore's moves as Royals GM. Davies will not turn 26 until September and one scouting report describes Davies in the following way:

His [Davies] fastball sits in the low-90's but he can spot it anywhere. It is supplemented by a great change-up and strong curve.

Davies established himself as above average Major League pitcher in the second half of the 2008 season.


Davies' walk rate was a little higher than desired but in the second half of 2008 he demonstrated the ability to strike hitters out and keep the ball in the ball park. Another telling stat is Davies' 40/29 ground ball/fly ball ratio for the entire 2008 season. A pitcher with three quality pitches that makes hitters hit the ball on the ground has the make up to be good Major League starting pitcher.
After the 2008 All-Star break, Royals fans witnessed the real Kyle Davies and he is going to be a valuable member of the 2009 Royals rotation.

Hopefully Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman will realize what the Royals have in Kyle Davies. He is a far better pitcher than Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar still has some growing to do. If the season began today it is Davies who should be the #3 man in the Royals rotation.

Next up, Rounding Third will take a look at former #1 draft choice Luke Hochevar.

Monday, February 16, 2009

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.
Baseball Prospectus
The Sporting News
Baseball HQ

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.