Monday, September 01, 2008

Roster expansion musings

It is now September, the time of year when the Royals call up players from the Minors and then have them sit on the bench for a month! (OK, hopefully that practice is no longer in place, and was just a Buddy Bell thing. As much as I love to see guys rot in the dugout instead of being evaluated meaningfully at the ML level, I hope Hillman has a different plan for his callups this month.) As far as I know, the only roster moves the Royals have made so far are to activate Jimmy Gobble and John Bale from their rehab assignments with Omaha. According to the KC Star, those two and Ron Mahay could be ready to go in time for tomorrow's game against Oakland.

The only other move that seems certain is that Ryan Shealy will be called up, and it's likely that Neal Musser will get his obligatory turn, since he's already on the 40-man; ditto for Josh Newman and Matt Tupman.

Then what?

A lot of people desperately want to give Kila Ka'aihue a roster spot for the month, but it's uncertain whether the club will do that. I don't think they can, not at all. Shealy is out of options; they need to see if he can (still*) hit Major League pitching.

*there's certainly some debate as to whether he could really hit in the Majors in the first place. His 2006 second-half was very nice, but not astounding. A line of .280/.338/.451 in his 51 games with KC was good for an OPS+ of 102. So what has been described as a "great" 2nd half with the team was really just "a little bit above ML average." Then again, the Royals are historically bad at finding 1st basemen who can hit, so maybe those numbers appear greater compared to the team's historical hitting disappointments at that position.

Yes, we'll eventually need to know the same thing about Ka'aihue: is he for real? Can he hit big league pitching? We do need to figure that out at some point, but not right now; September doesn't have enough ABs to solve both Shealy and Ka'aihue. Shealy will need as many chances as possible for the club to decide if his "nightmare" 2007 was actually a product of all the injuries*, or if his bat just can't catch up with big league pitches. In the 2.5 seasons since he became a Royal, Shealy has improved as a hitter in some ways. In 2006, he only walked 13 times in 172 AB. In 396 AB this season, he was walked 55 times, which is 25 more than his 2006 numbers would suggest. Would that apparent improvement in plate discipline translate from Omaha to KC? I guess we'll find out.

*I've long thought that Shealy is a heck of a role model for kids because of how hard he works and how friendly he is to fans and teammates. Talking to him about last season only serves to confirm that theory; I'll dig up the exact quotes at some point, but basically he talked about how he can't become bitter about the things that happen to him, and he just has to keep working his hardest no matter what things - good or bad - happen to him. Hearing that made me feel better about steering a lot of young Omaha fans toward choosing Shealy as their favorite ORoyal.

If Shealy does well this month, that solves a lot for next season. Maybe he could start the year as the everyday 1B while Kila proves he is pretty much the man in AAA. If Kila keeps hitting for power while sustaining his fabulous BB:K ratio, then he gets the job at midseason and Shealy gets traded or something. That's a long time from now, and a lot will happen between now and then. But even if I wouldn't call up Ka'aihue right now, if someone let me be GM for a day I absolutely would add him to my 40-man by November 20 so he's protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

As for other moves...who knows? I'd love to see Omaha Pitcher of the Year Devon Lowery get a shot. If Jose Capellan and Carlos Rosa were not hurt, I'd want to call them up too, but they're both on the DL. I know Tupman is already on the 40-man, but in a lot of ways I'd much rather see the surprisingly-versatile Brayan Pena. While his teammates have been dropping like flies, Pena has played all over the field, including both corners of the outfield and of the infield.

One last move I want to see more than anything: Josh Labandeira. Yeah, I think he should be moved to a different roster...a Little League one.

One last note: I know that Mike Aviles' X-rays were negative yesterday, but I can't get too excited yet, not until I see him actually back out on the field. Recall that Mike Stodolka also didn't have any fractures in his hand, but he also hasn't played since August 5 and has since been placed on the DL.

The ORoyals start their final game in 20 minutes, and I still have not eaten lunch. I should probably get on that.

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