If you’re using Friday Notes to count down days until there’s real baseball again, you’ll find that it seems much closer than the reality. Just 14 to go before spring training games start. Yeesh. Anyway, at least there’ll be some baseball news soon as free agents will likely begin to sign. I still stand by what I said a couple weeks ago where I think there’ll be more early signings than last year as players jump on offers in the hopes of not getting stuck in limbo until February or March like last year. It’s still crazy for me to think that JD Martinez was just out there for the taking until basically the start of spring training. Seems like that’s something to learn from. If there’s a legitimate elite level player, give him a competitive offer early and hope he bites. Don’t worry about the fact that you can maybe get him for a little bit less in four months. That obviously doesn’t make sense for every team, but if you’re looking to add that final piece, go get your man, teams.
- I probably should have put this out prior to the awards being announced, but if I had a vote on all the major ones, it would gone like this:
AL ROY: Ohtani, Andujar, Torres
NL ROY: Acuna, Soto, Buehler
AL MOY: Cora, Cash, Melvin
NL MOY: Counsell, Snitker, Maddon
AL Cy Young: Verlander, Snell, Bauer, Sale, Kluber
NL Cy Young: deGrom, Scherzer, Nola, Corbin, Freeland
AL MVP: Betts, Trout, Martinez, Chapman, Bregman, Ramirez, Lindor, Khris Davis, Verlander, Merrifield (because 10th place votes are for fun or something)
NL MVP: Yelich, deGrom, Story, Arenado, Baez, Cain, Freeman, Muncy, Rendon, Realmuto
Obviously my votes align pretty well with what we saw over the last few days, but not entirely. I’m a little bit surprised that Brad Keller didn’t get any love, but not a lot surprised since voters only list their top three and the three finalists were clearly the best three rookies. I don’t think Ryan Yarbrough deserved the vote he got at all, so that’s where I’m surprised Keller didn’t fit in, but oh well. Whether they mean something or nothing, I still think awards season is fun, and I enjoy going through and see who voted for whom and all that good stuff. Next up is Hall of Fame season, which is less fun. Here’s hoping for Edgar Martinez to get that final push to get to where he belongs.
- Craig wrote about the Royals bullpen roles yesterday and the KC Baseball Vault team talked about them on the podcast that you can click the links to read and listen to respectively, but I wanted to weigh in as well. Some of my thoughts will likely overlap, but that’s okay. I think the Royals do have an opportunity to find a way to build a really effective pitching staff with the talent they have, which is something we’ve talked about a little bit over the last few months. In guys like Jorge Lopez, Heath Fillmyer, Eric Skoglund and even Jakob Junis and Danny Duffy, the Royals have pitchers who I think you can count on for at least six outs in a big moment in games. I know that’s weird to include a couple of those guys in there, but even Skoglund flashed a really good curve at times and if he can figure out how to get some consistency out of that, his long arms can make him a big weapon with that pitch. They’ll still need starters. I don’t think it’s sustainable to not have anyone shooting for 175-200 innings in a rotation, but I do believe the Royals talent on hand puts them in a great position to take advantage of some unorthodox thoughts. Think about opening a game with someone like Duffy and stacking with righties and letting him go three or four and then moving on to Junis to finish things out against all these righties with his nasty slider. That’s just one example, but I do think the Royals would do well to find a different approach as they’re rebuilding looking toward their next contender. And for those who say Ned Yost is too rigid, I do agree that it might be a factor, but I always go back to him being the one to put Alex Gordon in the leadoff spot, which made all sorts of sense, but was seemingly out of character for Ned. That’s not to say it proves he’s forward thinking, but it does prove that he can be, so we’ll see, I guess.
- The 40-man roster is now sitting at 37 players, which is actually still sort of high for this point in the offseason because they haven’t yet added the minor leaguers who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft otherwise. I would imagine there are at least three players the Royals will protect. Scott Blewett, Arnaldo Hernandez and Josh Staumont come to mind. And if they do that, they’d be back full at 40, which leaves them no room for any additions to the roster, and that includes the Rule 5 draft, which I imagine they’ll participate in again. I feel like this is almost a weekly feature of Friday Notes, but with Ramon Torres out, there are now some obvious removals left. I know it’s hard, but Bubba Starling has likely got to go. Beyond that, it’s not so easy to find the next removals, but Jason Adam, Burch Smith, Glenn Sparkman (even though I think he has a chance to be very useful) and Rosell Herrera all seem like candidates to go. I was going to say Samir Duenez, who I mentioned awhile ago as being on borrowed 40-man roster time, but I still think they give Ryan O’Hearn a shot to prove what we saw at the end of the season wasn’t a fluke before they look for something to do with Duenez. Even though it’ll be a boring offseason, I imagine there’ll be some roster maneuvering going on right up to the last minute.
- Remember early in the season when it seemed like the Royals hit into a double play even when there was nobody on base? Well that happened, but then it also seemed to sort of shift as the season went on. One thing is that Salvador Perez stopped hitting into quite so many with eight over 36 games between his return and the end of May, but another thing is that the personnel is much better equipped to not do that. One Baseball Prospectus stat that I think is fun to look at in the offseason is NETDP, which basically shows how many more (or fewer) double plays a player hits into than the average player based on opportunities. The worst on the team was Hunter Dozer at 5.22 and Perez at 5.20, so that’ll continue to be a problem in 2019, but then it was Abraham Almonte, Cheslor Cuthbert, Alcides Escobar and Drew Butera. The best on the team was a lot of guys we’ll see on Opening Day with Adalberto Mondesi at -3.61, Alex Gordon at -3.29, Ryan O’Hearn at -2.81 and Jorge Bonifacio at -2.61. Really outside of Dozier and Perez, everybody likely to be on the 2019 roster was below 1, which means maybe there’ll be a little less frustration any time a runner is on first with less than two out for the Royals. And for what it’s worth, after being at the top of the league early, the Royals finished with just the eighth most double plays in baseball at 123. So, hey, it could have been worse.