I bet you thought you wouldn’t get your regular dose of Friday Notes, huh? Well you’re wrong. With BP Kansas City still up and running for at least a couple more weeks (we’re actually done at the end of the month), I’m going to make like the orchestra on the Titanic and continue to write Notes because I’ve done it literally every Friday since July of 2011. You can find my work on the main Baseball Prospectus site now and at the end of the year, but if anyone wants some serious series previews and Friday Notes every week, I’m your man and I’m open for business. Kind of weird to say that here, but what can you do? And hey, there’s some Royals news to talk about! So let’s get to that and save the goodbyes for another day.
- I wrote about the Billy Hamilton signing for the main site, but I wanted to bring some of my reasoning for disliking the trade here that includes a couple additional things I hadn’t even thought of until Clint Scoles brought them up the other day. From a pure dollars per win standpoint, Hamilton for $5.25 million is an absolute steal. With the value of a win nearing $10 million, he doesn’t have a big hill to climb to get to where he needs to be to be worth the money, but there’s an opportunity cost here that I believe makes this deal not worth the money or the roster spot. I mentioned some of this last week, so forgive me for repeating myself, but the Royals have plenty of outfielders already and they even have one who plays outstanding defense. And with all the lefty outfielders they currently have projected to at least fight for starting time, it’d be nice to have one who could hit lefties and Hamilton is worse against lefties than righties. This also theoretically limits the flexibility of Whit Merrifield, which isn’t a huge deal in itself, but could slow the Royals down in promoting Nicky Lopez. Again, it’s not a huge deal or anything, but if you want to know who Hamilton is likely blocking, there’s another answer in addition to Brett Phillips. It isn’t that both those guys couldn’t use more time in AAA or that Phillips couldn’t play right field and Lopez couldn’t play third base, but then you’re missing out on the opportunity to give Jorge Bonifacio and Hunter Dozier the requisite plate appearances to get to the magical 1,500 number that Dayton Moore preached so loudly with guys like Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. It’s a one-year deal, so it’s really not a big deal, but as much fun as Hamilton’s defense and stolen bases will be, I think it was a poor use of limited remaining funds.
- The Royals doubled down on their 2017 Rule 5 draft strategy and walked away with two pitchers, drafting Sam McWilliams from the Rays second overall and trading for Chris Ellis who was selected by the Rangers. Both are interesting picks. In McWilliams, I see a vaguely similar results profile to last year’s breakout, Brad Keller. Not that they’re the same pitcher, but McWilliams also reached Double-A in the season before the draft and had middling at best results. He was very good in high-A for the Diamondbacks in five starts, so that’s something to build on. He’s a tall righty with a decent fastball and solid slider, according to J.J. Cooper at Baseball America. He strikes out a fair amount of hitters and limits walks reasonably well, so that’s something that’d be nice to continue in the big leagues. Ellis reached Triple-A last year for the second time and had decent success, throwing 79 innings over 16 outings (14 starts) with solid control and enough strikeouts to be dangerous. His Triple-A debut in 2017 was pretty much a disaster, but he’ll be 26 in 2018 and seems like a decent bet to stick in middle relief for the big club, at least for awhile. As we’ve all learned from the Rule 5 draft, we just can’t know what he’s going to be. This time last year, I was super excited about Burch Smith and had very little interest in Brad Keller and we all saw how that worked out.
- I know that Ned Yost said he wasn’t going to talk about the lineup, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. With the addition of Hamilton, I think the lineup is in pretty good shape as far as us having an idea what it will be. I imagine they’ll at least stick with the top three from the end of the season after Alex Gordon hit .275/.359/.425 over his final 21 games hitting there. So a top three of Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Gordon seems likely to be followed by Salvador Perez and his .204 ISO. This is where it gets a little murky, but if I had to guess, I’d say Ryan O’Hearn gets first crack to hit fifth and will be followed by Jorge “if healthy” Soler. I could see Soler and O’Hearn flipped with the seven-eight spots being some combination of Jorge Bonifacio, Brett Phillips, Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier, whoever wins the right field and third base jobs. And at the end of the lineup will be Hamilton. One thing I noted in my BP write-up of the Hamilton deal is that there have been just seven teams in modern history to have three or more players steal 40 or more bases. The most recent was the 1988 Cardinals. These Royals could easily be the eighth if everyone stays healthy and hits enough to stay in the lineup. So if nothing else, that’s pretty cool.
- Speaking of third base, I don’t think the Royals will bring in any competition to their current group, especially with the signing of Owings, but it is a position where I could see it. They signed Cuthbert for the $800,000, but I think I mentioned before that if they cut him early enough, they only owe him about $133,000 and if they cut him in spring, they’d owe him $200,000, so they could move on. And Dozier does have options. I mentioned some non-tenders who they could look at either last week or the week before, but could they maybe look toward signing a veteran like they did last year with Mike Moustakas? I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s certainly possible. A Moose reunion would actually make some sense here, but it’s not just him. Yangervis Solarte is a player with some versatility who can play third, though he isn’t especially good. Josh Harrison is another and so is Tim Beckham. What’s appealing about Beckham would be his ability to play shortstop as well since Owings isn’t what you’d call good there. Again, I doubt it happens with that Owings already on board, but it’s something to watch for if one of these veterans gets to March in the same way Moustakas did last season.