This week began with big news adjacent to the prospect realm: Kansas City fired its major league hitting coach, Terry Bradshaw, and replaced him with Senior director for player development and hitting performance, Alec Zumwalt, whose role will be bigger than that of a typical major league hitting coach. The Royals have seen big gains in the minor league hitters that haven’t carried over to the big league side, so this move makes a lot of sense from the outside looking in.
Reading between the lines, the goal here includes creating synthesis throughout the system from the bottom up. One way the Giants and Dodgers have gotten ahead the past few seasons is having multiple voices saying similar things all the way up the development chain, so that when a young Dodger makes the majors, he’s not suddenly learning a new way to talk about the game at the same time as he’s adapting to the extreme leap in skill from AAA to MLB pitching.
In short, this feels like good news for all Kansas City prospects but especially those with solid plate skills. In his press conference, team President Dayton Moore said, “We need to see nine players in our lineup that are committed to get on base any way possible. That means we cannot chase pitches out of the strike zone. When we do have pitches to hit in the strike zone, we can’t miss them.” Pretty good summation of baseball 101 there, but manager Mike Matheny seems due for a refresher every now and then, as he continues to run Ryan O’Hearn out there in the cleanup role for reasons that no human on the planet except Matheny can comprehend.
The Royals were becoming scary in sort of a Rockie-ish way for prospectors, blocking guys like Edward Olivares and Kyle Isbel in confusing ways. This issue was compounded by the ballpark there in KC, which allows little margin for error in the batter’s box or on the warning track. It’s regularly the lowest number you’ll find on statcast when asking the how-many-homers–in-various-ballparks question. This team needs to be better at the plate and on the mound than their competitors to win ball games. They don’t need more power, necessarily, as proven by their most recent success runs. What they need is tough at bats strung together and dominant pitching to put the clamps down on small leads when they can get them.
Was nice to see Brady Singer come out slinging yesterday, throwing seven shutout innings to earn a 2-to-1 win against the White Sox. Was less nice to see him optioned back to Triple-A after the game. Someone (other than Dayton Moore) is apparently responsible for anything that goes wrong on the field, but this front office needs some mirror time to face a variety of difficult truths and think through why they’re doing things the way they’re doing things from top to bottom. Nobody wants to be on the shuttle between the minors and majors. If your top pitching prospect gets you a difficult win with a great performance, he better understand why he’s being sent back down because it obviously has nothing to do with baseball. Singer is the one on the bus, as Olivares was last season, but the whole organization sees this stuff. Sends all the wrong messages to everyone involved.
I traded for MJ Melendez yesterday, for what it’s Weurtz. Sent Colorado SS Ezequiel Tovar and St. Louis C Ivan Herrera in a 15-team dynasty where I need help due to Yasmani Grandal’s annual atrophy period. I will be trying to acquire young Royals here and there wherever they fit into my build.
OF Edward Olivares makes for a great target now, especially if he’s clogging up an IL spot on a contender in your league.
I like 3B Emmanuel Rivera as a $1 flier. He reached a new level of zone-control at AAA this season (13.2% BB, 17.1% K) and has carried some of that success over so far.
1B Vinnie Pasquantino seems like a natural beneficiary here. His time is nigh.
SS/OF Nick Loftin is putting in good work this year, especially in the shadow zone.
2B Michael Massey just hits and hits and hits and is slashing .326/.368/.543 in 31 games at AA. He’s one of my favorite guys to gain ground if the organization develops synthesis in its thinking.
2B/3B Rubendy Jaquez is old for his level at 23 just cracking into High-A, but the pandemic has goofed the math in this regard. Jaquez swiped 30 bases back in 2019 and only got caught five times. He’s slashing .317/.379/.433 with one home run and five steals in 17 games across Low and High A. Physicality comes late sometimes, and Jaquez is listed at 5’11” 174 lbs, so he’s got some man-strength upside in the frame. I’ll be zeroing in over the next few weeks to see if the plus plate skills carry over from Low to High A.
OF Junior Marin isn’t playing yet this year but makes for a smart trade target at the moment.
OF Erick Peña is striking out 43.7 percent of the time at Low-A. Don’t give up on him though. This development team has turned around high-strikeout hitters before.
C Carter Jensen has five home runs and two stolen bases as an 18-year-old in Low A. He’s hitting just .192 but has a 108 wRC+ because that league is tough on hitters early in the year, and because Jensen has an impressive 16.7 percent walk rate.
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