Game 137, Mariners at Royals
King Felix vs. Danny Duffy, 11:10am
I hope you’re all enjoying a good Labor Day. I enjoy that I can hang out and relax, but it’s always a bittersweet day. Today’s the last day of the Minor League Season – all of the promise, the breakouts, the solid progress, the out-of-nowheres…it all comes to an end today. Get out to Tacoma or Everett or wherever your closest team is and check out a game.
Speaking of bittersweet, Danny Duffy’s return from Tommy John surgery a few weeks ago has helped take some of the sting out of the Royals up and down season, and helps recover some of the value from their 2011 top prospect list, the oft-mocked best system in the history of baseball and/or systems. That system featured Mike Moustakas (who’s followed the Dustin Ackley career path so far), John Lamb (struggles in upper minors, retired for a bit, stuff hasn’t quite come back), Mike Montgomery (struggles in upper minors, total loss of command, part of some trade you may have heard about) and Duffy (made the majors, shredded elbow).
Duffy has a plus fastball, averaging 94+, a curve and a solid change-up. Thanks to his well above-average vertical movement, he’s a fairly extreme fly-ball pitcher, but he hasn’t had major problems with HRs thanks in part to an above-average pop-up rate. He struggled with walks in his brief MLB career, but he’s been much better this year (over the course of three starts, remember); if he maintains a good walk rate, he should be OK despite some natural regression in his HR rate. He’s an excellent talent, and the Royals have to like the look of their rotation in future years if they can keep Duffy healthy. At the same time, Duffy’s return does focus attention on the big offseason trade of Wil Myers for James Shields and Wade Davis. The trade was always going to be the biggest storyline of the year, but Duffy’s return to the rotation pushed Davis back to the bullpen. The Royals made a big deal out of the fact that they saw Davis as a starter, and that seeing the trade purely as Myers for Shields was short-sighted. Davis posted an RA over 6, and while his FIP was excellent, the Royals apparently got tired of waiting for his RA to fall back towards his fielding-independent stats. The Royals’ rotation moved up from the 20th most valuable in 2012 to 10th in 2013, and from 26th to 13th by ERA. The trade inarguably improved a weak spot. In some sense, both clubs got exactly what they needed out of it, but the larger context is troubling for the Royals. If Davis isn’t a starter, then they add a very good set-up man to Shields. The Rays meanwhile got a cost-controlled OF who’s already a better-than-league-average hitter as well as additional pieces like Jake Odorizzi.
It probably says something about the Royals and about analysts like me that we can’t even talk about Duffy without rehashing the trade, but I’ve been thinking more about the “just fix your weak spot” method of roster construction recently. Seriously, good luck with Baltimore, Mr. Morse.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Saunders, RF
7: Zunino, C
8: Ackley, LF
9: Almonte, CF
SP: King Felix
Welcome back, Mike Zunino. The C was activated from the DL this morning. I’m glad to see him back, but I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to push a guy who suffered a hand injury back into the line-up so soon. He must be feeling pretty good, and I’m probably just paranoid, but Zunino’s obviously critical to the M’s future in 2014 and beyond.
King Felix has scuffled recently, and if he wants to avoid a repeat of 2012′s awful close to what had looked like a Cy Young season, today’s game’s a good place to get back on track.
Danny Hultzen pitched two perfect innings yesterday for Tacoma, showing great command and the ability to mix his pitches in his first start since returning from a shoulder injury. Following him was James Paxton, who was also impressive in two innings, mixing an over-the-top fastball that sat at 94 and touched 96 with a good looking cutter at around 89. He made a mistake which Michael Taylor deposited in the bullpen (one of 9 HRs in the game), but showed why the M’s have been patient with him. When he’s on, his pure stuff far exceeds Hultzen’s. Meanwhile, Hultzen can hit spots and disguise his fastball with his off-center stride. Neither guy’s perfect, but they both showed why they’re top prospects yesterday. As we discussed earlier, Hultzen’s scheduled to head to Peoria for the Arizona Fall League in November. Today we learned that Paxton’s on the move too: he’s coming up to Seattle. Paxton’s strong finish to the season earned him the call-up, though I suppose his mixed results in the season as a whole haven’t definitively settled his future role: starter or reliever. Not sure on the 40-man move at this point.
Hultzen’s return yesterday was somewhat overshadowed by the performance of the newest member of the M’s system, OF Xavier Avery. Avery led off the game with a long HR and ended up 5-5. It was a great game for someone who’s shown so little in-game power, as the HR was not a cheap one. He added a bloop double as well, and showed pretty good speed on the basepaths (though his day was marred a bit by a weird, half-hearted attempt to tag up and score on a fly ball to right; he ended up in a rundown).
Sounds like Tai Walker will get one home start before the end of the year; possibly on Monday (as reported by Ryan Divish).
Andrew Carraway starts the Rainiers final game at 1:35. The Aquasox finale’s at 7:05 in Everett. Victor Sanchez is the big prospect name on the hill today, as he’ll close out Clinton’s season.