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February 26, 2009
Team Health Reports
Kansas City Royals
Head Trainer: Nick Swartz
Trend: Positive. In an "other than that, how was the play" kind of way, the Royals had an average season after two previous years during which they had lost over a quarter of their payroll to the DL. They did it by playing with a short roster more often than they had in the past to avoid making DL moves, but it's unclear whether it was a matter of some good luck and a bit of management by Trey Hillman, or if they had made real changes in the way they handle injuries. The potluck look to last year's injury report shows no real trend; no one position, and no time- or injury-related patterns. Charlie Eppes says "there's no such thing as too random," but I like to find reasons for what I see. In the past, there has been great deal of discussion about Swartz and his staff as being too standoffish, especially to young players who felt that they couldn't be proactive with their concerns. That's a major issue for any staff, especially one that's shown poor results. Anyone can be lucky for one year, but this season will reveal whether or not the Royals have a good medical staff, or if they're going to be satisfied with being merely average.
The Shape of the Season:
The Big Question: Rany Jazayerli asks: "The Royals are serious about the Mark Teahen-to-second base experiment. From a health standpoint, how risky is it for an established major leaguer to learn a new position-particularly second base-on the fly?"
Even assuming that Teahen has the basic physical skills to play second base, there is still a risk in shifting to any new position. While there's no definitive reason, it's assumed that this risk is a result of the learning curve. In the outfield, it's learning the walls and where the warning track is, and it's exacerbated by things like the quirky bullpens of Wrigley or odd wall angles. Second base is further up on the injury curve, which is nearly the same as the defensive spectrum, so Teahen not only has the switch risk, but he also has different baseline risk. If Teahen can learn the basics of the position and he's lucky enough to avoid being hurt for the first few months, it's certainly worth a shot if it makes him more valuable. It's a positive that a non-contending team like the Royals are willing to take this kind of educated, calculated risk to try to make their team better.
Fantasy Tip: Some fantasy managers avoid picking pitchers from bad teams, knowing that the ace of the Royals is going to have a harder time matching the win totals from someone on the back end of the Yankees rotation. Then again, we'll occasionally get a Cliff Lee season, or, more predictably, a Gil Meche '07-'08 run of consistency. This type of pitcher won't win you many championships, but they're probably somewhat underrated. If you'd rather take on the risk of a Luke Hochevar or Zack Greinke, you may get more or less than you hope for. Given that the ADP and auction price points are divergent for these three pitchers in direct proportion to their consistency, it actually make more sense to go for Hochevar. I'd need charts and graphs to explain why, but it's mostly about upside gain being maximized in proportion to possible loss. By the way, Joakim Soria is probably still undervalued as well.
RF Jose Guillen: The dude took out his ingrown toenail with tweezers. That's hardcore, like a scene out of The Wrestler. It's also stupid, and it tells us a few things. First, that Guillen is the type of guy that will take risks with his health, the kind that can lead to missed days. He's tough enough that it ends up only being a day here or a day there, but as he ages, it will be tougher to avoid the DL. Secondly, and more important, there seems to be a lack of communication or trust between the players and the medical staff. Over and over, there are reports of injuries being hidden or downplayed, and then coming to light only when it's past the stage where the injury could have been minimized. Players like Guillen don't make things easy, but as I said in the "Trend" segment, this is a major issue that hasn't been addressed by Dayton Moore's front office.
2B Alberto Callaspo: OK, we know his DL stint wasn't the typical stay on the 15-day, but I also can't just take it out. Aside from that, he's never played enough to establish his durability, though his injury history is very short. He's more of an unknown than a defined risk.
3B Alex Gordon: Just before Gordon missed a month with a strained hip flexor, he complained of lower back soreness. While he rates only a yellow here, that soreness waves a big red flag. Back and upper leg injuries are often interrelated, to the point where the treatment for a sore back might entail stretching and stimulation of the hamstrings. As players seem to gain power when they mature, a loss of flexibility can often become an issue. Gordon is showing some early warning signs, ones that should have him walking gingerly to a stretching program.
C Miguel Olivo: He's not young, he's proven he can handle the majority of a team's catching duties, and he has adequate backup. All that plus his talent make him the very definition of journeyman catcher. The downside for Royals fans is that he's hardly as memorable as most of his comparables.
LF David DeJesus: DeJesus played the game more slowly over the last two years, running a bit less, bouncing off of fewer walls, and taking the occasional day off. It's kept him healthier and more productive, and he now tends to wear down rather than breaking down.
SP Zack Greinke: Let's face it-Greinke is just weird. Not him per se, but trying to understand him from an injury standpoint. As a stat line rather than as a pitcher, Greinke is a mess, but knowing that he's never had serious arm problems, that his missed time really had nothing to do with baseball, and how good he has looked at times, even this low yellow seems a little high to me. I'm also no psychiatrist, but I don't know how someone with social anxiety disorder dates this girl.
SP Luke Hochevar: Hochevar is almost as difficult to read as Greinke. The intracostal problem he had last year was never adequately explained, but sources tell me that it was cartilage, not muscle, which in a strange way is a positive. The most worrisome thing to me is that the tinkering with his delivery after the 2006 season never seemed to take, and he's adjusting not just from start to start, but from inning to inning.
1B Mike Jacobs
SS Mike Aviles
CF Coco Crisp: There always seems to be something wrong with Crisp, but never enough to keep him out for long. It's an odd profile; while it doesn't see him as risky, it sees the risk that is there as being geared toward a major injury.
DH Billy Butler
SP Gil Meche: Remember when he was an injury case-study, part of the lost generation of Mariners pitchers? Yeah, neither does the system. It sees the recent pair of 200-inning seasons with a low under age-25 workload, and it thinks he's a positive case-study. I keep thinking that all of that damage can't just be gone. I don't mean to sound negative here, but if Meche suddenly pulled up lame a few years down the line, it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
SP Kyle Davies
CL Joakim Soria: Soria is at the very top of the green, almost a yellow. I don't think that's a bad thing, and I love watching this kid pitch and seeing his aggressive-but-consistent mechanics. It almost makes me wonder what he might do as a starter.