Monday was all about spring training caps, spring training schedules and some Rule 5 draft news.
God help us all.
As Major League Baseball is trying to get their house in order with regards to the Shohei Ohtani posting/free agency situation, it’s created something of a mid-November malaise. Nothing is happening, other than the self-imposed negotiating deadline between the leagues getting extended 24 hours. So where does that leave us in the days before Thanksgiving?
Let’s start with the prospect news from Monday. The Royals added Eric Stout and Tim Hill to the 40-man roster, along with Meibrys Viloria. Stout and Hill are left-handed pitchers. The moves were made to protect the players from exposing them in the Rule 5 draft, to be held at the end of the Winter Meetings next month.
Stout is a 24-year old who pitched all of last summer in Omaha. He appeared in 45 games, threw 69.1 innings and posted a 7.3 SO/9 with a 3.8 BB/9 and 2.99 ERA. Hill will turn 28 just ahead of spring training and toiled most of last year with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He appeared in 36 games and threw 69 innings. He finished with a 4.70 ERA and a 9.8 SO/9 to go along with a 2.5 BB/9.
On the surface, it seems a bit odd to place those two on the 40-man roster. But there are a couple of things to remember going forward. First, pitching remains the currency of baseball. I’m only writing that half in jest. The way teams are constructed these days with just three or four bench players, teams don’t seem so anxious to add a bat in the Rule 5, taking a valuable place on the roster. A left-handed reliever? Well, there’s always plenty of room for one (or two) of those. Especially when they are used as lefty specialists.
Hill held lefties to .175/.211/.214 last year. Stout limited same-siders to .193/264/.301.
Let’s be perfectly clear. This doesn’t mean one or both will appear in Kansas City at any point this summer. Nor am I advocating for either to make any kind of 25-man roster. I’m merely trying to understand the Royals angle in protecting both. It seems the club feels both would fall into a “high risk” bucket of players who could be selected. The Royals see something in them where they could perhaps contribute at some point to the big league club. Hence, the move to place them on the 40-man roster.
So what about Viloria? Our Clint Scoles had him was the 12th best prospect in the Royals system at the start of 2017, and dropped him to 16th in his midseason rankings. He’s a catcher, who turns 21 at the start of spring training, and just finished his first full season of A-ball at Lexington. Not many teams would take a flier on a player with that position and those credentials, but the Royals clearly see a ton of value in their young backstop and believe there’s at least one team out there that would take a chance and stash him on their major league roster for a year.
Left unprotected are names you are probably familiar with like Frank Schwindel, Ryan O’Hearn, Elier Hernandez, Sam Selman and Yunior Marte. I’m trying to figure out why the Royals would protect the pair of left-handed relievers they did and not have Selman as one of their choices. Maybe it’s his walk rate. He posted a 4.3 BB/9 at Northwest Arkansas and a whopping 6.0 BB/9 after he was promoted to Omaha. Or maybe it was the reverse platoon split where left-handed batters had a .323 OBP against him. That’s actually a good number for him given his prior track record. It seems he finds it a little more difficult to throw strikes to same-side hitters.
The 40-man roster stands at 38, which gives the Royals a little flexibility over the next month.
There was also the aforementioned spring training news. Pitchers and catchers report on February 13 with the full squad scheduled to arrive on February 18.
After about a week of stretching and light calisthenics, the games start on February 24 against the Dodgers in Surprise. They play 33 games total (counting a handful of split squad games) and close out the exhibition schedule against the Storm Chasers in Omaha.
This gives me plenty of time to prepare my “spring training is too damn long” rant.
Finally, in a crime against good design, the Major League Baseball unveiled their spring training caps for all teams. They have apparently run out of ideas on how to handle the Royals.
I’m struck by the design for both the Royals and the Dodgers. It’s no secret that when the Royals came into existence 50 years ago, the Dodgers were their design inspiration. From their uniforms to the stadium, it’s easy to see the LA influence in KC. Both teams feature interlocking letters on their normal caps. So for spring training in 2018, it looks like MLB just decided to keep everything pretty much the same. They’re barely even trying.
Obviously, the big difference is the crown on the Royals cap. That’s probably in some kind of focus group or something.
When I’m writing about baseball caps, you know it was a slow news day. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get this Ohtani situation resolved. Before we all sink into a winter of insanity.