Tag: Kansas City

Why Travis D’Arnaud Is Key to the Mets Hoisting the World Series Trophy

No New York Mets player will be more active during the 2015 World Series than Travis d’Arnaud

The catcher for the Mets has not yet missed a postseason game. D’Arnaud should, so long as he remains healthy, be behind the plate for every pitch made by the Mets against the Kansas City Royals. The task at hand will be that much more difficult for the Mets if d’Arnaud is not, for whatever reasons, at his best. 

His World Series got off to a rough start on Tuesday night. 

With d’Arnaud crouched behind the dish, Matt Harvey began the bottom of the first inning by tossing a fastball over the plate. Alcides Escobar, to the surprise of nobody who watched him in the American League Championship Series, came out swinging. Escobar smashed a ball deep into center field, and Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes failed to properly communicate on who would play the ball. 

Cespedes followed that up with a pair of miscues that allowed Escobar to complete his journey around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. 

Harvey and d’Arnaud not only needed to be on the same page before Harvey took the hill; both should have realized that tempting Escobar so early in the game was unwise. This point was not lost on ESPN analyst Buster Olney, who immediately questioned the pitch after Escobar scored.

What is particularly upsetting about that early mistake for fans of the Mets is that d’Arnaud has been terrific behind the plate for much of the playoffs. D’Arnaud is currently, per ESPN Stats and Info, the best catcher in Major League Baseball as it pertains to getting strike calls for pitchers. His ability to “frame” pitches during the National League Championship Series earned d’Arnaud praise from analysts and fans.

As Jonah Kari of Grantland pointed out in September, d’Arnaud has not always been known for his defensive skills:

Improvement has come behind the plate, too. As a rookie last season, d’Arnaud led the National League with 12 passed balls (in 105 games behind the plate); this year he’s allowed just one (in 53 games as a catcher). Last year, opposing base-stealers ran wild on d’Arnaud, swiping 58 bags in 72 attempts — marking a lousy 19 percent caught stealing rate. This year, they’ve stolen 26 times in 38 tries, good for a much improved 32 percent caught stealing rate. Amid that improvement, d’Arnaud has remained one of the better pitch-framers in the game, ranking 13th this year (and 14th last year) in that category per StatCorner.com.

The Royals will continue to be aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths during the World Series. It is what has gotten the club to within three wins of a championship. This was not lost on Kevin Kernan of the New York Post as he was previewing the World Series: 

The Royals steal bases, go first to third and even first to home as (Lorenzo) Cain did to send the Blue Jays packing in the ALCS.

The pressure will be on catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

“We just have to execute,’’ he said. “We’re definitely ready for this challenge. We all believe in each other and that’s all we can really do. Get your work in and get your routines down and just go out there and play the game. It’s tough to know what is going to happen. All I can do is be best prepared for it as I can.’’

ESPN’s Olney spotted something concerning while watching d’Arnaud during a Mets’ workout session on Monday:

The Royals tested d’Arnaud and his comfort in the bottom of the sixth of Game 1.

With Kendrys Morales at the plate and the Mets leading 3-2, Cain took a short lead from first. Cain broke for second when it could have been argued that d’Arnaud should have called for a pitchout. The New York catcher came up firing, but the throw from d’Arnaud was late and well off the mark.

Cain scored the tying run later in the inning.

It would, of course, be only a plus for the Mets is d’Arnaud were to catch fire as a hitter during the World Series. The same can be said about anybody in the New York lineup. D’Arnaud is currently batting just .200 in the playoffs, 68 points under what he averaged in the regular season (h/t ESPN). The Mets need better from his spot in the order.

What d’Arnaud will provide the Mets as a catcher, though, could make or break the team during the World Series. 

Calling smart games. Keeping pitchers from being overwhelmed by the moment. Earning strikes for starters and relievers. Preventing the Royals from taking extra bases. D’Arnaud must be spot-on in these aspects. He wasn’t in Game 1, and the Mets lost. 

He will hope to have at least four more nights to redeem himself. 

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Kansas City Royals: Trading Billy Butler for Pitching Makes Sense

Position players for the Kansas City Royals have a spring training report date of February 19. The current build of the Royals roster might not be intact when it’s time to report to Surprise, Arizona though. Slugger Billy Butler could be headed toward a new destination as Kansas City looks to beef up its pitching without overpaying in free agency.

It seems like it has been eons since Butler began carrying a big stick for the Royals. Since first attaining a full season’s worth of at bats, Butler has been nothing but a model of powerful consistency. He wards off injuries and has averaged 160 games played since 2009. 

Despite his power numbers being down last year and playing half of his games in the pitcher-friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium, he has still averaged 20 home runs annually. During the same span, Butler has driven in an average of 92 runs batted in while tallying a cumulative batting average of .302. 

Needless to say, Butler is one hell of a ball player.

And just think, Butler will not turn 28 years old until after the start of the season.

Despite seeing a dip in his total HR, RBI and AVG last season, Butler is still a formidable weapon at the plate. Opposing teams see this, too.

The Royals aren’t necessarily souring on their designated hitter, though. They have more pressing needs and find it more efficient to move Butler to another club in order to advance their pitching situation.

Earlier this month, talk was abound via MLB Trade Rumors that suggested Kansas City was willing to move Butler in order to land a pitcher

According to MLB Depth Charts, the Royals have a projected rotation that consists of ace James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Bruce Chen and Danny Duffy. Elite prospect Yordano Ventura could be in the mix at some point in the summer as well.

On the flip side, nothing about leaning on Chen and Duffy makes the Royals ooze with confidence.

In 2011, the Royals and Butler agreed to a four-year, $30 million deal. With a significant option worth $12.5 million in 2015 (or a $1 million buyout), the Royals should be even more encouraged to move Butler.

He is set to earn a team-friendly $8 million this year, a figure which would be encouraging to any prospective club lacking legitimate power at first base or designated hitter.

Last season, Kansas City posted its first winning record since 2003. Since 1992, they have just three winning seasons. While the organization is clearly moving in the right direction, they also lack an adequate starting rotation to compete late into September with division rival Detroit.

Butler is the one piece the Royals could move to better round out their rotation. He comes with a friendly $8 million salary for 2014 and provides a great AVG to coincide with enough power to justify a deal. Finding the right match is what might derail Kansas City’s hopes of improving their rotation, though.

All statistics provided courtesy of Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

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Kansas City Royals Continue to Progress with Win of Defensive Awards

The Kansas City Royals took a step forward as a successful franchise in 2013.  They produced a winning season for the first time in 10 years.  They continued to be relevant late into the season.  They had people talking about the possibility of them in the postseason.  The season has come to an end and the baseball world continues to talk about the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals have spent the last few seasons changing the way they approached the game.  The minor leagues were developed with a winning approach and developing young athletes into major league men.  They traded away current stars to secure players with a big future.  They put a huge focus on developing players within their own organization to become the stars of tomorrow.  The first signs of that process working came in 2013.

Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, all homegrown talent for the Royals, were recognized by Rawlings for Gold Glove awards.  A short time later, Wilson made its announcements for defensive awards and proclaimed that Lorenzo Cain, who was also a finalist for a Gold Glove award, was the best defensive player on the Kansas City roster.  

Cain was acquired with Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt in the 2010 trade between the Royals and Milwaukee Brewers.  The Royals saw a raw talent in Milwaukee that they felt would benefit from time in their own system.  

Wilson then named the Kansas City Royals the co-Defensive Team of the Year, awarding both the Royals and the Baltimore Orioles for their stellar defensive play.

Cain shared his thoughts on being recognized and his continued development with MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel:

It just shows the hard work you put in and dedicating yourself to trying to perfect your craft each and every day.  To win this award is definitely another step in the right direction and I’m very excited.  I’ve just got to go out and keep proving what I can do on the defensive side of the ball.

The defensive accolades continued to roll in.  Meanwhile, the Royals will likely continue to search for the final piece of the puzzle.

Defensive awards and strong pitching staffs will win a lot of ballgames, but it will take an increased offensive output for the team to reach the elusive “next level.”  The team should continue to search for strong hitters in right field and at second base, the positions most feel are the team’s weakest spots.

Sam Mellinger of KansasCity.com recently shared his thoughts on the market, noting the Royals’ needs at second, right field and in the rotation:

(Carlos) Beltran and (Matt) Garza make the most sense of that group, but there are trade options, too. The Royals have looked into it before, but should make absolutely certain the Marlins won’t trade Giancarlo Stanton. The Rangers have too many middle infielders. The Dodgers have too many outfielders. Howie Kendrick has a no-trade clause that includes the Royals, but those can often be negotiated.

Any of those options would drastically improve the Royals immediately.  Stanton represents a young player with a bright future who could benefit from a change of scenery.  Beltran is an established slugger who started his career in Kansas City.  He would bring veteran leadership and proven production to Kansas City.  Kendrick could very well be the offensive producer the Royals have wanted at second base for a long time.

General manager Dayton Moore has the opportunity to make a splash this season by being willing to spend money.  He could also delve into the most coveted currency in the game today: prospects.  

He has the resources to improve the team.  If he uses those resources, 2014 could look really good for Royals fans.

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Young MLB Players Could Learn a Lot from George Brett

As I awaited the beginning of St. Louis Cardinals‘ pitching prospect Michael Wacha’s MLB debut Thursday afternoon, the Kansas City Royals announced that they had hired Hall of Famer George Brett as assistant hitting coach to help aid their faltering offense.

I went down to gather some quotes from the press conference where they announced the move and was pleasantly surprised to listen to Brett field questions from a combination of St. Louis and Kansas City media.

Brett pulled no punches on the field, and he is treating his new job just the same.

So, why is a man who loves his golf, spending time with his family and is making the most of retirement coming back to work?

“Out of frustration,” he said. That simple sentence fragment likely echoes the sentiments of every Royals fan right now.

Brett said that just like everyone else, he was frustrated watching a team that he believes is filled with potential struggle to score runs.

There was no sugar-coating or concerns about political correctness—simply put, their offense was playing horribly.

Fortunately for them, George Brett is going to try to help and he’s brought his usual fire back with him.

That fire is something he plans to share, and they should welcome it with open arms.

As a player, Brett was known for his hustle. He ran out ground balls and always spoke up when he should.

There were no Bull Durham-style generic answers. If George Brett had a bad night, he’d say he screwed up.

There was no complaining about nagging injuries or pain, because in professional sports everyone plays through pain. It’s in the nature of all sports.

That’s exactly how he plans to handle his new role. With grit, blunt honesty and persistence.

“I know how hard this game is to play,” Brett said. “Every day I got to the ballpark I was scared to death. I didn’t know if I was going to go 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. I didn’t know if I would have two balls go through my legs or make an amazing play.”

Brett learned firsthand what it was like to be a young player with a bright future who simply couldn’t get things working. His goal is to do for the young players on the Royals team what Charlie Lau did for him.

He went so far as to say that he was going to be “Charlie Lau’s ghost.”

“I think we have young kids on our team that are having problems coping with the situation they are in right now,” Brett said. “I just want to come and share my life with them—how I got through things like this, how I became a more consistent player, how I became a leader of a ballclub and instill in them the passion that I played with. I think I can help them learn that.”

When a whole team goes south, he explained, everybody starts pressing a little bit trying to do more than they are capable of doing. They try to stretch the strike zone and get out of whack.

The key for Brett’s philosophy is to get them in their comfort range where they can have fun, be selective and drive the ball.

There is so much young players today could stand to learn from Brett about the value of hard work and the importance of being honest to others as well as yourself.

That is true for young players throughout MLB, not just in Kansas City.

Brett has never been one to sugarcoat things. If he had a great day, he took credit like all players should. If he has a bad day, he owned up to his mistakes.

He might not have been in the best mood, but he never passed the buck.

With the youth movement we’re seeing throughout baseball, specifically along the I-70 corridor in Missouri, players need to take notice of George Brett again.

Can he turn this franchise around? Who knows. But, if there’s anyone capable of energizing a group of exciting young players, it’s George Brett.

If it doesn’t work out, he’ll hit the road. He made that abundantly clear during the press conference.

“I don’t want Dayton [Moore] to have to fire me from the Kansas City Royals,” Brett said. “Hopefully, I’ll be here for awhile. I’m planning to be here for at least a month—hopefully more.”

He was quick to acknowledge that he believes today’s athletes are superior to him in several ways—size, athleticism and speed.  

“They need somebody they can trust,” Brett said in a way only he can. I like to call it compassionate grit.

He may have been speaking about the Royals players, but there is a lot to learn from not just Brett’s words but from how he handles himself and his team. He expects a lot, but what he teaches will come from the heart.

Young players could learn a lot from watching George Brett.

“I’ve never backed down from a challenge,” he said.

That’s a mentality baseball could use a little more of today.

All quotes obtained firsthand by the author.

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Bryce Harper and 10 of the Youngest MLB All-Stars of All Time

The 2012 MLB All-Star Game received another dose of youth on Saturday afternoon when Bryce Harper was tapped to replace Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton was removed following a Friday injury and is slated for knee surgery on Sunday, July 8.

Harper joins a colorful list of rookie All-Stars. While he will be the youngest position player of all time, he is not the youngest All-Star.

But he’s close.

Following is a list of 10 of the youngest players to make the MLB All-Star roster.

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Cardinals Trade Rumors: 5 Potential Deals to Shore Up St. Louis Bullpen

Last night against the Miami Marlins the Cardinals came back to win a game in which they trailed in the eighth inning for the first time this season. They were 0-26 in those situations until Monday night.

However, the Redbirds’ bullpen tried their best to punt the game to the Marlins in the seventh as Fernando Salas got just one out while allowing runners to reach second and third. Scatter-armed Eduardo Sanchez followed and walked three men in a row—the first intentionally with the other two coming Rick Ankiel-style.

The Cardinal relievers walked eight batters on the night in 10 innings.

Fortunately for St. Louis, Heath Bell and the Marlins’ bullpen have had continuing struggles of their own and blew a four-run lead in the ninth (but at least they forced the Cards to, you know—hit the ball).

Jason Motte was fortunate that Jose Reyes’ scorching liner to center was right at outfielder Shane Robinson to end a strange night of baseball.

While we give manager Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak a moment to wipe their brows, let’s look at five trades that would immediately help the Cardinals’ stressed bullpen.

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MLB All-Star Game 2012: Who Deserves to Start?

Fans vote for the starters in the MLB All-Star game which means one thing: it’s a popularity contest. Year after year we see the American League starters as a Yankees and Red Sox All-Star team featuring Ichiro or Josh Hamilton. There are usually a few guys who get a deserving start, but it’s rare that the fans get it right all the way through. The 2012 All-Star game in Kansas City is under a month away, so here are the players who, as of now, deserve to be starting.

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Major League Baseball 2012 and Beyond: 5 Young Teams on the Rise

It’s that time of year again in Major League Baseball.

Division leaders and Wild Card hopefuls dominate the headlines as fans across the nation begin to anticipate the excitement of October pennant chases. 

September is where legends cement their place, managers justify their contracts, role players previously shrouded in obscurity make their names known, MVPs and Cy Young winners bring home their hardware, headlines are stolen and franchise-crippling collapses are immortalized. 

The most exciting month of baseball’s regular season is where the pretenders and the contenders are finally separated as W’s, X’s, Y’s and Z’s begin to finalize the standings, granting a select few ball clubs the ever-so-elusive invitation to the sport’s most exclusive dance.

Lost in the hype, however, as disgruntled fans of hopeless teams begin to switch the channel over to football are their first glances at a brighter future. 

For those of us not lucky enough to construct our hopes around the boys in New York, Milwaukee, Texas, Arizona, Detroit or Philadelphia, September call-ups are all we’ve got left to give the tail end of the schedule some measure of relevance.

This is where the old Brooklyn Dodgers mantra of “wait till next year” becomes a battle cry, because unless your favored club is within a few games of a postseason berth, the future is your last resort.

Now, that’s not to say that next year’s prospects are looking too bright in every corner of Bud Selig’s empire.

In remote ball-playing wastelands, such as Houston, Texas and Baltimore, it’s going to take years of patience and good faith before the home team can even begin to see itself on the same page as the rest of its competition.

For these five clubs, however, grim outlooks need not be applied.

With the savvy dealing, creativity and patience of their front offices alongside the steady development of their promising talent on the farm, brighter days appear to be just on the horizon, merely awaiting a fresh 162 or two.

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Kansas City Royals: Young Talent Has Future Looking Bright in KC

For the past few decades, the Kansas City Royals have been little more than an afterthought in the world of baseball, but behind names such as Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow and now Alex Gordon things are on the verge of turning around for the once forgotten franchise.

The Royals haven’t enjoyed a great amount of success in recent memory, finishing in last place of the AL Central six of the last seven season. Despite the lack of on-field success however, the team has enjoyed a fair amount of early round picks in the past few MLB drafts.

With these early round picks, the team’s management has chosen some quality players over the years, three of which made their debuts in Aaron Crow, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

Crow has been everything the Royals could have asked for in a set-up man, posting a 1.43 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 37.2 innings of work in his first major league season. Hosmer was the talk of Kansas City upon his call up back in April of this season, and has been producing quality numbers for the team through the first few months of his career.

Moustakas, or “Moose” as he’s known by his fan base, has been the only struggling member of this group, posting a disappointing .250 average in 44 major league at-bats. To be fair to Moose, not every highly touted prospect lives up to expectations right out of the gate, just ask Anthony Rizzo.

The Royals certainly don’t look as if they’re making a playoff run this season, but don’t count them out over the next few seasons. As Moustakas and Hosmer further develop and current team staples like Billy Butler and Joakim Soria continue playing as they’ve proven they can there’s reason to believe in this Royals team.

The only foreseeable problem in Kansas City’s playoff goals is the starting pitching. Crow and Soria are a nice one-two punch to close out games, but they can only do their job if the Royals are in the lead. This problem could easily be fixed by the longtime trade deadline sellers turning the script and actually try to acquire quality pitching from other clubs.

I’ll start this off by stating this is all clear speculation by me, but if I were in the Royals front office I would target pitchers such as the San Fransisco Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong or Barry Zito or even the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey.

Vogelsong has been extremely impressive this season and the Giants have to chose whether him or Zito is going to fill out this rotation at some point. Either would prove to be great additions for the Royals organization. Pelfrey is what he is, but the Mets need to move contracts and he’s still a pitcher who could easily replace one of the Royals current starters.

As much as the casual MLB fan might not believe this, but the Kansas City Royals are on their way to climbing the ranks in the AL Central and have a strong chance at making a playoff run in the years to come.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Waiver-Wire Gems: American League

Derrek Lee, 1B Baltimore Orioles (26 percent owned in Yahoo, 28.8 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .247 AVG/26 R/5 HR/19 RBI/2 SB

Lee has certainly not lived up to expectations so far in 2011, but his bat seems to be coming alive. In the past seven games, Lee has hit .438 with five XBH and six runs.

He has been shuffled between the fourth and sixth spot in the lineup, so if he can stay healthy, he should help your team in AVG and RBI.

Projection (rest of season): .283 AVG/39 R/11 HR/44 RBI/2 SB


Alexi Casilla, 2B/SS Minnesota Twins (28 percent owned in Yahoo, 55.6 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .260 AVG/32 R/2 HR/15 RBI/11 SB

Casilla has been on fire for the past month. Since May 24th he has hit .327 AVG/9 R/2 HR/11 RBI/8 SB. Casilla is currently batting second for the Twins and he should stay there. I don’t expect him to hit .327 for the rest of the year, but he should be a solid contributor in AVG, R, SB. 

Projection (rest of season): .280 AVG/36 R/4 HR/23 RBI/11 SB


Jemile Weeks, 2B Oakland Athletics (20 percent owned in Yahoo, 35 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .305 AVG/11 R/0 HR/6 RBI/6 SB

Weeks started out with a .400 BABIP and one walk in 44 AB. Since then he has shown more patience at the plate with four walks in 19 at bats and he is batting leadoff for the Athletics.

The stolen bases is a huge plus, but it will only be a matter of time before pitchers start adjusting to him. Pick him up while he is hot but don’t expect a long-term fix.

Projection (rest of season): .260 AVG/26 R/2 HR/19 RBI/10 SB


Alcides Escobar, SS Kansas City Royals (29 percent owned in Yahoo, 73.5 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .246 AVG/34 R/1 HR/21 RBI/12 SB

In the minors, Escobar was an annual three category producer in AVG, R and SB. When called up by the Brewers, he was planted in the eight hole where he was unable to showcase his true potential.

Now that he is batting ninth for an AL team, he will have more opportunity to steal bases and score runs. Since June 7th he has hit, .411 AVG/13 R/8 RBI/6 SB. I would rather roster Escobar than Chone Figgins, Gordon Beckham, Darwin Barney and Omar Infante.

Projection (rest of season): .265 AVG/40 R/2 HR/27 RBI/15 SB

Carlos Carrasco, SP Cleveland Indians (39 percent owned in Yahoo, 47.1 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: 7 W/4 L/53 K/3.62 ERA/1.21 WHIP

Carlos Carrasco, a regular on “Spot Starting,” has been untouchable on the mound in his last four starts. During that time he has thrown 29.2 IP/2 ER/21 K/5 BB. His current K/9 sits at 5.48, but last year it was at 7.66 even though his current SwStr% of 8.4 is nearly identical to his 8.7 mark in 2010.

Expect a slight uptick in strikeouts. 

Projection (rest of season): 6 W/4 L/78 K/3.5 ERA/1.20 WHIP


For other entries in our waiver-wire gems series, click here!

Brian “Killboy” Kilpatrick is a Senior Writer for 4thandHome.com, where this, and other work, can be found. Additionally, he is co-host of The 4th and Home Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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