Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trade breakdown Pt. II

With my analysis of the players Dayton Moore received from the Rays complete, it's time to take a look at those never to be seen again in royal blue: Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard.

This will be more difficult because only Odorizzi has even appeared in the Majors and no reliable metric exists to predict big league production based on minor league numbers with any accuracy. However, I'll do my best to, again, consider the best- and worst-case possibilities from the Royals' perspective.

Wil Myers, RF (Age 22 on Opening Day 2013)
4 seasons (AA-AAA in 2012), 388 AB at AAA, .378 OBP, .554 SLG, 24 HR, 44 XBH, 98 SO

What Myers becomes in the next 10-15 years will define whether this trade was a shrewd maneuver by Moore or a monumental misstep.

Most scouting reports are glowing. He wasn't Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year by accident. He ended the 2012 season as Kansas City's best prospect and he will begin 2013 as Tampa Bay's top prospect — assuming he isn't starting in right field. With 37 total home runs in the minors last season, Myers is projected anywhere from multiple All-Star to, at the very least, an everyday regular by scouts.

For Royals fans who suffered through a season in which Jeff Francoeur posted a robust .665 OPS in 2012, it was hard not to salivate at the thought of Myers taking over Francoeur's 603 plate appearances.

I've heard few concerns about Myers' abilities as a Major Leaguer. Only two really come to mind. The first being his swing-and-miss tendency and the second being a little more obscure. Let's tackle the first.

It's true, Myers did strike out a little more often than once every four at bats last season. In Double-A, he struck out once every 3.19 at bats. In Triple-A, he struck out once every 3.96 at bats. For his minor league career, his strikeout rate is once every 4.15 at bats. Sure you'd want to see that up closer to once every six, seven or even eight at bats so you're looking at one strikeout every two games rather than once every game or so, but it's not unbearably bad. By comparison, Pedro Alvarez struck out once every 3.02 at bats in the minors in 2011 (when he also spent time in the bigs). That translated to 180 strikeouts in a full Major League season in 2012 (once every 2.92 at bats), which ranked him fifth in all of baseball.

My feeling is, even if Myers does strike out more than 150 times a season, he's proven he has the power to make up for it, much like Alvarez did in 2012 with 30 home runs. However, I don't think Myers will struggle nearly as much making contact. For one, his strikeout rate went down as he moved up from Double-A to Triple-A last year. Furthermore, Baseball America ranked Myers the Royals' best hitter for average three times during his minor league career and twice recognized him as having the best strike zone discipline in the Royals' organization. I'll take their word over mine any day.

The only other argument I've heard from scouting circles against Myers is the fact he was drafted in the third round by the Royals and has since spent four seasons with the organization — one of which a down 2011 season. As a result, this theory states that the Royals still view Myers as a third round talent, rather than a top notch phenom. So, to them, a third round pick for a pitcher like James Shields isn't a potentially devastating swap to make.

This line of thinking makes sense in that the Royals should know Myers' potential better than anyone else. However, if you buy into that, you would also have to expect the Royals to have seen Eric Hosmer's horrendous 2012 campaign coming. They certainly didn't. They should have known Mike Montgomery was going to break down and traded him when his value was at it's peak. They obviously didn't. And so on and so on with all their failed pitching prospects. On the flip side of this argument, if the Royals think they're selling high on Myers, what makes them so sure the Rays aren't doing the same with Shields and Wade Davis?

I believe I've already made my point, but why not compare Myers' 2012 season to Francoeur's last full minor league season. Myers' numbers are posted above. Here are Francoeur's at age 21 in Double-A: 335 AB, .322 OBP, .487 SLG, 13 HR, 43 XBH, 76 SO. Somehow Moore saw those numbers while with the Braves and it was love at first sight, but Myers' superior numbers at Triple-A scared him off.

Best-case scenario: Concerns over Myers' strikeouts come to fruition while his power never develops at the Major League level. He assumes the status of an every day regular, but never an All-Star.

Worst-case scenario: Myers takes what few criticisms there are against him and he knocks them out of the park. Over and over and over again. He becomes a pillar of the Tampa Bay lineup and outfield. Not only does he appear in multiple All-Star Games, but he also tops the 36 home run plateau on a number of occasions while the Royals single season home run record remains at 36.

Jake Odorizzi, SP (Age 23 Opening Day 2013)

5 seasons (AA-MLB in 2012), 107.1 IP at AAA, 2.93 ERA, 7.38 K/9, 1.01 HR/9, 1.34 WHIP

I'm not crazy about Odorizzi. I expect him to be a No. 3 starter at best in the bigs. He probably won't strike out a ton of hitters. In short, he may be the next Wade Davis.

However, if we are to accept Odorizzi isn't a top-of-the-rotation arm, then how can we not view Moore's trade of Zack Greinke to the Brewers after the 2010 season with a more critical eye?

In exchange for Greinke, Moore acquired Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress was a shot in the dark and is no longer with the organization. Escobar is a magnificent defensive shortstop and has been a pleasant surprise at the plate. Cain has proven nothing at the Major League level (to the extent I would have made the Angels include Peter Bourjos in the Ervin Santana trade if I were the Royals — at worst, it would have allowed them to move Cain to right field and give them an excuse to shop Myers). And Odorizzi pitched two games for the Royals before they decided he didn't have a future in their rotation.

Meanwhile, the Mets snatched up two of the Blue Jays' top prospects for an aging Cy Young winner — who throws a knuckleball. But now I'm getting off topic.

Best-case scenario: Unable to strike batters out consistently, Odorizzi struggles as a starter and is demoted to a relief role, proving to be nothing more than a younger Wade Davis for the Rays.

Worst-case scenario: Odorizzi finds a consistent out pitch under the Rays' guidance and fills out the bottom of a loaded rotation for years to come.

Mike Montgomery, SP (Age 23 Opening Day 2013)
5 seasons (AA-AAA in 2012), 91.2 IP at AAA, 5.69 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 1.2 HR/9, 1.67 WHIP

I won't dig too deep into the numbers on Montgomery. The last two years have made it clear he isn't the same pitcher he was before suffering an arm injury and, as a result, he isn't the prospect he once was.

I had a gut feeling he would be dealt this offseason, ideally netting the Royals a player of value in return while giving him a chance at a fresh start. Well, Montgomery will get his fresh start with an organization that churns out pitchers. However, I'm not impressed with the pitchers he helped the Royals acquire.

During an offseason in which the Miami Marlins are practically giving players away, did Moore even consider a Montgomery for Ricky Nolasco swap? Don't get me wrong, I don't view Nolasco as a cure-all for the Royals rotation, but I trust him more than Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana at this point. He'd only have one year left on his contract and the Royals would at least have a shot at re-signing him. Maybe it would take another lesser prospect, but I don't know why the Marlins would decline such a deal after the fire sale they held with the Blue Jays.

Best-case scenario: Not even the Rays can get Montgomery back on track and he gets a cup of coffee with the big league club before disappearing.

Worst-case scenario: The Rays strike oil with Montgomery, helping him recover his old form as he ascends into a role as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter and the Royals trade more valuable assets to bring him back to Kansas City.

Patrick Leonard, 3B (Age 20 Opening Day 2013)
1 season (Rookie in 2012), 235 AB, .340 OBP, .494 SLG, 14 HR, 26 XBH, 6 SB, 55 SO

I'll spend even less time on Leonard, who could turn out to be anything. He's got great size at 6-4, 225 pounds and he's from Katy, Texas, which I like. I wouldn't be shocked if his season in rookie ball is his best as a professional, but maybe he could have one day replaced Mike Moustakas once Moose inevitably moved on from Kansas City.

Seeing how the Rays actually wanted him and Moore probably didn't think twice about throwing him in (again, no apparent price was too high for Moore to acquire Shields), I suspect Leonard will go on to a sustained Major League career.

Best-case scenario: This trade is the first and last time baseball fans hear of Patrick Leonard as he proves to be nothing more than an organizational player for Tampa Bay.

Worst-case scenario: Rather than filling in for Moustakas, Leonard becomes the eventual replacement for Evan Longoria. He grows into his body and becomes a formidable slugger in the American League East.

Fire Dayton Moore

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