Kansas City Royals II: After The Vets Are Gone

This isn't a new feature, but if you haven't been read Bronx Banter with any regularity over the last six seasons, it might be new to you. I started writing these previews of each of the Yankees' regular-season series when I joined Bronx Banter in 2005, and they've proven to be one of my most popular features. The general idea is to familiarize you with the series opponent via a quick analysis and some vital stats, including the complete 25-man roster. Most of this should be pretty self-explanatory. When the Yankees play an opponent for the first time in a season, I tend to take a broad look at the team or franchise and include a "Who's replacing whom" section comparing the current roster to the previous year's. In subsequent series against that opponent, I focus more on what that team's been up to in the interim and "Who has replaced whom" compares the then-current roster to the 25-man roster from the previous series against the Yankees. Also, as a new addition, since we don't do individual game previews here at the Pinstriped Bible, I'll preview the pitching matchups for each series explicitly within the format of these series previews.

We start somewhere in the middle here with the Yankees' second, and final, series against the Kansas City Royals this season. It's a bit of an underwhelming way to start, you don't need me to tell you the Royals are a bad team, but a fitting one given that one of my very first posts on my very first blog previewed a Yankee-Royals series almost exactly seven years ago.

The Royals showed a bit of life after manager Trey Hillman was fired on May 13 and replaced with Ned Yost, who has since been extended through 2012, but that didn't last. Since July 9, Yost's Royals have gone 8-21 (.276), with half of those eight wins coming against the Orioles and Mariners, the two teams in the American League with worse overall records than Kansas City. That stretch also saw the Royals drop three of four to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium three weeks ago. That series was additionally damaging to the Royals because it saw David DeJesus, the team's top trade chip, suffer a season-ending thumb injury with just a week left before the non-waiver trading deadline.

Despite DeJesus being violently pulled off the market, the Royals did manage to cash in some of their veterans. They sent left fielder Scott Podsednik to the Dodgers for catching prospect Lucas May and 21-year-old A-ball right-hander Elisaul Pimentel. Our man and Dodger fan Jay Jaffe doesn't think much of May, who will be 26 in October and has yet to make his major league debut, allows too many passed balls, and doesn't walk all that often, and though he has hit pretty well in the upper minors over the last two seasons, he's done it in hitting-friendly environments. Maybe Jay's right, and Pimentel may not be anything either, but the 34-year-old Podsednik wasn't going to play an important part in Royals history, so the Royals at the very least get an A for effort.

I was more impressed by the trade that sent veterans Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves for outfielder Gregor Blanco and relievers Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins. Despite the Braves' need for a center fielder, Blanco had been buried by the Braves, perhaps with good reason. He has absolutely no power, isn't a superlative defender, gets thrown out too often on the bases, and will be 27 in December, but he'll take his walks and is still shy of his arbitration years, and has the added advantage over Ankiel of generally staying healthy.

The real take here are the relievers. A Pirate a year ago, Chavez was first traded to the Rays for Akinroi Iwamura, then to the Braves for Rafael Soriano this past offseason. Chavez turns 27 a week from Saturday and is a bit homer prone, but he's also shy of arbitration and, with a solid mid-90s fastball/changeup combo, stands a good chance of replacing Farnsworth's surprisingly solid set-up work for Kansas City with some projection and team control added on.

Collins, meanwhile, is a freak. A 5-foot-7 lefty who went to the Braves in the Yuniel Escobar/Alex Gonzalez shortstop swap, Collins has struck out 13.4 men per nine innings in his four-year minor league career despite his diminutive size and his unexceptional stuff (low-90s fastball, good-not-great curve). The Royals sent him straight to Triple-A, his first exposure to that level, and it will be interesting to see how his numbers translate up there.

Kansas City also got a pair of mildly compelling young arms by dealing arbitration-eligible infielder Alberto Callaspo to the Angels. Sean O'Sullivan, who will start against Phil Hughes on Saturday, is likely a mid-rotation starter at best, but he won't be 23 until September 1 and is already in the majors, which is a positive indicator on its own. Will Smith, meanwhile, is a tall, 21-year-old lefty who made his Triple-A debut this summer, but has since been bumped down to High-A Wilmington by the Royals.

Those aren't franchise-changing moves, but at least there was some effort there to get controllable, major league-ready talent by unloading an unimpressive quartet of flawed veterans. Blanco is now the Royals' starting center fielder. Chavez is setting up Joakim Soria. O'Sullivan is in the rotation. However, Jason Kendall continues to catch and hit second in the Royal lineup. I assume he's there as a reciever for the sake of the Royals' young pitchers, as he's hit just .247/.321/.311 over the past four seasons. I find it difficult to believe May would be much worse, or that the Royals lineup, which has averaged 2.2 runs per game thus far in August, could possibly suffer from his presence.

The Royals had less success trying to find a taker for Jose Guillen, who was designated for assignment on August 5 to clear playing time for Kila Ka'aihue, a big Hawaiian first baseman who was hitting .319/.463/.598 with 24 homers for Triple-A Omaha. Ka'aihue is 26 himself, but those numbers are hard to deny, especially for a team in as much need of both offense and productive, young, team-controlled players as the Royals. Unfortunately, Ka'aihue has just two singles and a walk in 26 plate appearances since being recalled. With DeJesus hurt, Guillen off the roster, Podsednik traded, and Ka'aihue and Alex Gordon (still) not hitting (.226/.279/.452 since being recalled during the last Yankee series), the Royals offense boils down to Billy Butler and Wilson Betemit, of all people, and Betemit has stopped hitting for power since taking over third base in the wake of the Callaspo trade (.292/.378/.354 in 18 games).

So, yeah, the Royals are a bad team that can't score, and the Yankees magically miss Zack Greinke in this four-game series. It's fair to say that anything short of taking another three out of four should be a disappointment to the Bombers.

CC Sabathia v. Bruce Chen (Thursday, August 12, 8:10 YES)

Lefties Sabathia and Chen hooked up on in the Bronx on July 22 for a game that produced a 10-4 Yankee win. Sabathia wasn't at his best, giving up 11 hits and walking four (one intentionally) in just 6 1/3 innings, though he also struck out nine, and one of the four runs he allowed was unearned. Chen worked six innings and allowed fewer baserunners, but coughed up five runs.

Since then, Sabathia has twice been a hard-luck loser, receiving just one run of support in his next two starts before pitching an eight-inning gem against Boston his last time out. Chen was rocked his next time out by the Twins, but has shown improvement in his last two starts, though those came against the lowly Orioles and Mariners. Since joining the Royals rotation at the end of May, Chen has gone 6-5 with a 4.65 ERA. He has just three quality starts in 13 turns, though his failure to register quality starts has as often been a result of a lack of innings as an excess of runs.

Dustin Moseley v. Kyle Davies (Friday, August 13, 8:10 YES)

Moseley had his "Yankee moment" by stepping in for an injured A.J. Burnett on Sunday and hurling 6 1/3 strong innings to pick up an unexpected win against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. In three starts since replacing the injured Andy Pettitte in the Yankee rotation, he has gone 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA and twice turned in quality starts. In the exception, he threw 7 1/3 efficient innings, holding the Blue Jays to four runs until being bounced by a solo homer in the eighth. Moseley's not that good, and his home runs allowed could prove to be a problem, but for now he's doing a nice little Darrell Rasner impression. (Incidentally, Pettitte was scratched from a simulated start today due to a tight hip flexor but is expected to make the simulated start on Friday instead with a rehab start to follow, hopefully getting Pettitte back in the rotation before the end of the month.)

Speaking of home runs, Davies gave up three when he faced the Yankees on July 24 (a 7-4 Yankee win), but avoided adding Alex Rodriguez's 600th to his 500th, served up three years prior. Over his last seven starts, Davies has posted a 3.59 ERA, and he hasn't allowed more than four runs in a start since June, though, like Chen, he's not often in the game long enough to do so.

Phil Hughes v. Sean O'Sullivan (Saturday, August 14, 7:10 YES)

O'Sullivan pulled the odd trick of facing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in consecutive starts despite being traded in between. The first was a quality start victory for the Angels, the second was a disaster start (five runs in five innings) loss for the Royals. In his five starts this season, four of which have come with Kansas City, he has gone 1-3 with a 5.97 ERA. Phil Hughes beat Sullivan that last time in the Bronx, though he only lasted 5 1/3 innings himself and gave up two home runs in that time. For more on Hughes, see Jay's post from earlier today.

A.J. Burnett v. Brian Bannister (Sunday, August 15, 2:10 YES)

After starting the season 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first seven starts, Burnett hasn't gone more than two turns without a disaster start. Fortunately, it has only been one start since his last disaster (4 2/3 IP, 8 R vs. Toronto on August 2). Burnett threw five shutout innings against the Royals on July 23 only to have a thunderstorm bounce him from the game after just 58 pitches. His last time out, he threw seven strong frames at the first-place Rangers and, despite being delayed a few days by back spasms, didn't report any subsequent discomfort.

Bryan Bullington, the former 2002 top overall pick by the Pirates, took Bannister's last turn in the rotation while Bannister worked something out in the bullpen. Bannister had gone 1-8 with a 7.96 ERA and just one quality start in his previous ten turns before the Royals took that action, and there's no telling if whatever he and pitching coach Bob McClure worked on will result in any real improvement. Among those last ten starts was a 4 1/3-inning, four-run outing against the Yankees in the Bronx in a 7-1 Royals loss. Prior to that bad stretch, Bannister was 6-3 with a 4.50 ERA in a dozen starts.

Kansas City Royals

2010 Record: 47-67 (.412)
2010 Pythagorean Record: 45-69 (.395)

Manager: Ned Yost
General Manager: Dayton Moore

Home Ballpark: Kauffman Stadium

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-108, LH HR-73
RH Avg-104, RH HR-87

Who has replaced whom:

• Alex Gordon (mL) has replaced David DeJesus (DL)
• Gregor Blanco (ATL) has replaced Scott Podsednik (LAD)
• Kila Ka'aihue (mL) has replaced Jose Guillen (DFA)
• Wilson Betemit has replaced Alberto Callaspo (LAA) at third base; Castillo's roster spot has been taken by Bryan Bullington (mL)
• Sean O'Sullivan (LAA) has replaced Anthony Lerew (mL)
• Jesse Chavez (ATL) has replaced Kyle Farnsworth (ATL)
• Phil Humber (mL) and Greg Holland (mL) have replaced Robinson Tejada (DL) and Victor Marte (mL)

25-man roster:

1B - Billy Butler (R)
2B - Chris Getz (L)
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt (R)
3B - Wilson Betemit (S)
C - Jason Kendall (R)
RF - Mitch Maier (L)
CF - Gregor Blanco (L)
LF - Alex Gordon (L)
DH - Kila Ka'aihue (L)

Bench:

R - Willie Bloomquist (UT)
R - Mike Aviles (IF)
S - Brayan Peña (C)

Rotation:

R - Zack Greinke
L - Bruce Chen
R - Kyle Davies
R - Sean O'Sullivan
R - Brian Bannister

Bullpen:

R - Joakim Soria
R - Jesse Chavez
L - Dusty Hughes
R - Blake Wood
R - Kanekoa Texeira
R - Phil Humber
R - Greg Holland
R - Bryan Bullington

15-day DL:

CF - David DeJesus (right thumb surgery)
RHP - Luke Hochevar (right elbow strain)
RHP - Robinson Tejada (right biceps strain)

60-day DL:

RHP - Gil Meche (shoulder bursitis)
3B/OF - Josh Fields (right hip labrum surgery)

Typical Lineup:

L - Gregor Blanco (CF)
R - Jason Kendall (C)
R - Billy Butler (1B)
L - Kila Ka'aihue (DH)
S - Wilson Betemit (3B)
L - Alex Gordon (LF)
L - Mitch Maier (RF)
R - Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)
L - Chris Getz (2B)

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