RC Q&A: Roster Questions Answered

With the minor league season underway, RC this week solicited questions from our devoted message board participants about the minor league rosters. They came through admirably, firing a barrage of questions to us about who was and wasn't assigned where, and why. RC asked many of the same questions of Farm Director J.J. Picollo last week, and we relay some of his answers in today's Q&A.

Why aren't Fisher, Duffy, Van Stratten, and Mozingo assigned anywhere?

Harold Mozingo is rehabbing a stiff shoulder in Arizona. He's throwing well on flat ground and will soon start throwing to batters. He told me he should be ready sometime in May. Where he is ultimately sent depends on a few factors, such as his readiness and the performance and movement of the pitchers currently assigned, but the best bet right now is probably Burlington.

Same story for Brent Fisher, who had minor surgery to clean out his shoulder. He too should be ready by May 15 or so.

Danny Duffy had a great debut, but the Royals feel his delivery needs to become more consistent, so he'll stay behind in Arizona to work on it in a more controlled atmosphere. Farm Director JJ Picollo told me that both he and Sam Runion have made excellent strides since instructs, and both could have been assigned to Burlington.

Duffy could see action in Burlington sometime this season

Picollo said Nick Van Stratten is ready for Burlington, but he fell victim to the roster crunch, because the outfielders ahead of him are a little more advanced. The Royals toyed with the idea of sending five outfielders to Burlington, but they didn't feel that would allow everyone to get enough at bats. Van Stratten and Nick Francis should be two of the first outfielders sent to full season ball if a spot opens up, either due to movement in the system or injury.

Which guys are rehabbing in AZ & are there plans to assign them to a team during this season?

I mentioned Mozingo and Fisher, but here are some others I know about.

Catcher Sean McCauley has a sore shoulder and will be out of action until May. The Royals did an MRI, and thankfully there was no damage. Even when he gets healthy, however, I'd expect him to remain in Arizona until the short season clubs get underway.

Ray Liotta, the pitcher the Royals acquired in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, is in Arizona and is looking toward a mid to late summer return. I spoke briefly with Liotta, and he seemed happy to be in the organization.

Relief pitcher Bryan Casey is also rehabbing an injury and should be ready for action sometime in June.

Journeyman southpaw Tim Hamulack should be healthy by the end of April, and seems likely to be sent to Omaha. I got the sense the Royals like him quite a bit.

The first day I was in camp, I saw Luis Cota throw a 30-pitch live batting practice session. There was no radar gun on him, but it looked like the ball was coming out of his hand pretty well.

Cota's always had excellent potential

A few days later, Cota made his first competitive appearance in over a year, a two-inning stint, in the low-A game vs. the Rangers. In the first inning, Cota was feeling things out, topping out at 86 mph. But in the second, his fastball velocity topped out at 92 mph, which was an encouraging sign. If all goes well, he'll make a few more appearances in extended spring training before being sent to an affiliate – most likely Wilmington – around May 1.

Is the only reason Aviles was sent back to AAA the logjam of infielders (Grudz, Callaspo, German, Pena, etc.)? He batted over .400 in Spring Training, and cut his errors to 1 all spring.

Yes, but that's a valid reason, don't you think? Given all the infielders who were locks for the roster, Aviles really didn't have any kind of realistic chance of making the club out of spring training. It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that his day will come at some point. He squares up on the ball consistently and has proven himself offensively at every level he's played. The only thing holding him back, of course, is his defense.

Aviles popped a career best 17 homers last year for the O-Royals

His glovework has improved, and he's always had a strong arm, but his lack of range doesn't bode well for his chances of winning a starting job at a middle infield position. Nevertheless, his bat is a tool that should land him a Major League utility job someday, either in Kansas City or elsewhere.

Why was Brady Everett let go? Why was David Wood promoted all the way to Wilmington over Clinton Robinson?

Did they consider Clint Robinson for High A at all? Seems like he'd be a good fit there considering he put up better numbers than anyone else in the minors and his college background.

These two questions were similar, so I hope you don't mind me grouping them together. I didn't ask Picollo specifically about Everett, but I imagine he was released because he simply didn't project anywhere on the diamond. He had one of the Bees' better bats the last two years, but he was a man without a position, and his bat didn't figure to carry him through the system. The Royals are trying to get more athletic throughout the organization, and Everett didn't figure to get many at bats this year in either Burlington or Wilmington.

The good news for Brady Everett fans is that he signed quickly with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League, so you can get a look at him when he's in KC playing the T-Bones.

I spoke with Picollo at length about his decision to send Wood to Wilmington over Robinson. Picollo had high praise for Robinson, acknowledging that he has impressive power and is coming off a great season in Idaho Falls. In fact, Picollo even said Robinson "probably should have been a higher [draft] pick than he was," and that he is a fine defensive first baseman despite his size.

Robinson was last year's Pioneer League MVP

In essence, Picollo said the decision was a toss-up between Wood and Robinson, but there were a few factors that weighed into the final decision.

First, and perhaps most important, Picollo said Wood is very consistent with his swing, while Robinson is still learning to hit the ball the other way. The Royals felt this made Wood better prepared for the tough Carolina League at this point.

Beyond that, Picollo praised Wood's maturity, and said he's a true clubhouse leader. He has an excellent presence of the field – for instance, he instinctively knows when to go talk to a struggling pitcher – and he really impressed the Royals last year after signing as a non-drafted free agent out of Texas State.

Wood has clearly surpassed expectations thus far

And finally, because Robinson spent last season with the Chukars, the organization thought it would be advantageous to promote him to Burlington this season with the rest of his 2007 teammates who have been assigned there. The Royals seem to prefer to keep players moving through the system together whenever prudent and possible.

Do we still have Paul Raglione? Is he still hurt?

Raglione, as you know, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2007 season. He is, however, still in the organization and was hoping to be assigned to Burlington. I didn't speak with Picollo about him, but I did see Raglione throw two innings on March 26 in a low-A spring training game.

Raglione is healthy again

He looked pretty good. I was taking photos for part of his outing, so I wasn't behind the plate the whole time, but it looked like he was topping out in the upper-80s with his fastball. The Royals may feel he just needs a little more time in Arizona before heading out to an affiliate. Either way, it's good to see him back on the mound, because he has a lot of potential.

Why is Jamar Walton repeating at Burlington? Michael Thompson was a Midwest League all-star and hit 20 HR's---why was he released? Why are players skipping IF/Burlington and going straight to Wilmington from low-rookie clubs? Just see some inequality in the opportunities given to certain players--any comment on that?

Walton only has a half a season at the Midwest League level, so it wasn't shocking to see him reassigned there. Keep in mind, the 54 games he played in Burlington last year represented his first regular game action since 2005. He would figure to be a safe bet for a midseason promotion if he does well in the first half for the Bees.

Walton's looking for a big season this year

Michael Thompson's release also doesn't come as a big surprise. Jason Taylor is a legitimate prospect who needed a place to play (at Burlington), and third base in Wilmington will be occupied by Kurt Mertins and Josh Johnson, two middle infielders by trade who are being pushed there by the bevy of middle infielders at that level in the system.

As for players skipping Burlington, it's still pretty rare, and it's only done when the organization feels that a player can handle the jump. In the case of David Wood, his assignment in Wilmington was likely due to the lack of any significant first base prospect at Burlington last season. Jase Turner was released, but the Blue Rocks still needed a first baseman, and Wood won the job in spring training.

Why did they decide to start Wood at Wilmington, and does he anticipate promoting him to AA quickly? Also, are they planning on moving Moose off SS anytime soon?

I assume you're talking about Blake Wood, the Royals' third round draft pick in 2006. If so, his assignment to Wilmington seemed like a given even before spring training, because that's where he finished the season last year. Keep in mind, Wood has still only pitched 45 innings above the rookie level. Therefore, the Royals will likely keep him stationed at Wilmington for the majority of the season before even considering a promotion, unless Wood forces the club's hand early by thoroughly dominating the Carolina League.

As for Moustakas, if the organization has any plans to move him, they're keeping it under wraps. Moose took all his reps at shortstop while I was in Arizona, and the Royals seem perfectly comfortable letting him play there for now. I'm personally with the majority of folks outside the organization who don't expect Moose to stick there, but he's going to get his shot to prove us all wrong this season.

Will Moose stay at short? He's getting his chance

Since Matt Mitchell made the Burlington staff, where does that put him in regards to Duffy, Runion and Hodge out of the 2007 draft?

Mitchell made the Burlington staff over his fellow 2007 draftees primarily because he's got the most consistent delivery of the bunch, and the organization therefore felt he had the best chance of succeeding there and staying healthy. Picollo was quick to say that he felt both Runion and Duffy were essentially ready as well, but Mitchell's simply a little further along with his mechanics.

Mitchell is looking like an excellent late round draft pick

As for Mitchell's prospect status with respect to those other guys, I don't think this changes very much. Duffy and Runion still figure to have higher upsides, which is why they got the attention they did this offseason, but Mitchell is also a very good prospect. He's the type of player who seems to have the knack for getting the most out of the ability he has.

One thing's for sure…It's nice to have all these young arms in our system, isn't it? Thanks for all the questions.

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