Kansas City Royals: Signs Of Life
It is a process, isn't it?
This whole "spend your money in the draft in order to rebuild" theory would be a lot easier to stomach with a major league team already in place.
That said, we are beginning to see the fruit of our labors.
One year ago, the Kansas City Royals had zero options for an ailing bullpen. They had to ride the same beat up horses day in and day out. The only direction for the team to turn was toward retreads like Bruce Chen and Lenny DiNardo.
This season has been a bit different. When Roman Colon, Juan Cruz and Luis Mendoza forgot how to pitch, a barrage of backups were ready for deployment: Brian Bullington, Victor Marte, Josh Rupe, Brad Thompson, Bruce Chen, and current set-up man Blake Wood.
The club recently called up newly acquired Kanekoa Texeira on Thursday.
While this may not seem like much, it is a sign of things to come.
Eventually the farm system will be talented enough to force players at the top level to perform or risk losing their position. That is the recipe that has worked for fellow small-market teams like the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays; the Rays actually moved 2009 second base standout Ben Zobrist to the outfield this season to make room for prospect Reid Brignac who is currently batting just under .300.
Additionally, the Rays have been in a position to trade talented Major League proven pitchers due to better talent maturing through their system. Edwin Jackson and Scott Kazmir were recently moved to make room for the younger, cheaper and more talented Jeff Neimann and David Price.
The bounty received for Jackson and Kazmir consisted of Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez, players that better their franchise. In fact, Rodriguez and his warming bat may be in line to receive a lot more playing time at second base as Reid Brignac has been shifted to shortstop to fill in for the injured and struggling Jason Bartlett.
That is a great example of organizational depth built through the draft.
Options. Options. Options.
That is one area in which a small market team can create an advantage over a large market club. Drafting high in the draft (and hitting with your selections) can create a great depth of talent at a more affordable price.
The addition of these marginal to good bullpen replacements has turned Robinson Tejeda's season around. Better performing peers has allowed for the establishment of more stable roles and led to Tejeda elevating his game; in his last 19.1 innings he has given up a mere one earned run while accumulating three holds and a win.
He is establishing himself as a bullpen cornerstone.
While having options is very important, managing those options is crucial. Trey Hillman's baseball philosophy was an excellent one; he preached fundamentals and small ball - two aspects of the game the average fan hates to see bungled.
The problem with Hillman is he could not manage his talent.
He was indecisive about Soria pitching more than one inning, he spoke of Gil Meche's health then ran him out there for 132 pitches and he drastically altered the lineup card daily.
Ned Yost—for all his pros and cons—appears to be a better manager of talent. He does have experience with this role as he managed the young Milwaukee Brewers club when many of their stars came up.
Though his in game decision making has often been questioned, Yost was able to successfully usher Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart among others into full time productive roles.
Some may say that any fool could have brought these young talents along, but when I look at how Yost has handled Luke Hochevar thus far I remain optimistic.
Yost has publicly stated that he is not going to bail Hochevar out. Hochevar must learn how to pitch and the team needs to see if he can do it.
I love this mentality. Prove your worth, or move along.
It's a philosophy that will help the Royals better evaluate what they have and what they need.
Best of all, Hochevar appears to be responding.
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