How much of Danny Duffy's breakout season can be traced to James Shields?
On July 21st, the Royals dropped to eight games below the Tigers, following a fourth consecutive loss. The negativity that so often envelopes Kansas City baseball returned. Fans checked prospect lists rather than the standings in preparation for the trade deadline, and some even rationalized that a fruitful haul would be preferable to a spot in the Wild Card game. That and other beliefs about this year's team have since been challenged, as the Royals have claimed first place after winning 17 of their past 21 games.
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The highlights from Art Stewart's and Sam Mellinger's new book.
The Art of Scouting, a new book written by Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger, was released last week. The title belies the content to some degree, since what follows is not a scouting manual (though there is a chapter that covers the basics, like the 20-80 scale). Instead the Art in question refers to long-time scout Art Stewart, whose seven decades in the game are covered in memoir form.
Has the Royals' new hitting coach fixed what ails their offense?
The Royals have had a roller-coaster season. No team has seemed more alternately doomed and formidable while playing to a near .500 record. Because they came into the season poised for a playoff run, with the Shields/Myers trade looming large, the stakes for the team are high. Yet, depending on the day, the team appears to be either ready to make a deep playoff run on the back of fireballing phenom Yordano Ventura or poised on the precipice of failure and an impending teardown.
Much of the anxiety imparted by the Royals stems from the performance of the so-far anemic offense, which generated higher expectations in the spring. Seemingly skilled hitters like Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas have not met their relatively optimistic projections. Without an obvious explanation (such as injury) for their underperformance, hitting coach Pedro Grifol got the axe in late May, replaced by Dale Sveum, the former Cubs skipper.
The Royals score 11 runs off a defending Cy Young winner for the second straight day, the A's continue to trouble Yu Darvish, and much more action from Tuesday.
The Tuesday Takeaway
For much of Angels starter Matt Shoemaker’s career, the odds have been stacked against him. Shoemaker went undrafted out of Eastern Michigan—where he had a 4.83 ERA and 1.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in three seasons—and spent parts of the next seven years in the Angels’ minor league system before making his major league debut last September. On Tuesday night, Shoemaker toed the rubber against the Indians for what turned out to be the best outing of his short big league career, and he was well on his way to a complete game before a short rain delay in the ninth inning brought a premature end to his night.
Thick and meaty reports on two high-profile minor-league teams.
Jason Knapp RHP, Texas Rangers
Got the back story on Knapp from Chi Chi Gonzalez and Cody Buckel. Knapp was originally in the Cliff Lee trade going to Cleveland, had two shoulder surgeries the next year and was cut by Cleveland. Has been out of pro ball since 2010, I believe. He met up with his old pitching coach at UPenn and started a throwing program. Paid for his own third surgery and started working hard. Since last surgery, Knapp said it took him roughly 16-18 months to feel healthy. Threw at UPenn for a full year and got noticed by a Rockies scout; explored his options and signed with Texas. He’s on a strict throwing program; every outing is 25 pitches or less, no throwing the next day after an outing, extreme running the next two days. He threw Wednesday during the day and I asked Chi Chi how he felt yesterday and everything was good. Knapp threw flat grounds from 45-60-75 feet yesterday; marked the first time throwing the day after an outing. The plan is to build arm strength until he feels 100 percent, then keep him in relief.
Looks at Mark Appel, Miguel Almonte, and others on Jason's getaway day.
RHP Miguel Almonte: Limby righty with a very fast arm; from 3/4 slot, slings the ball, achieving above-average movement to his pitches; delivery requires a lot of coordination and balance, and is torque-heavy with a power generating letter-high frontside and hip rotation; struggles with opening up early and missing everything to the arm-side; started to lose his delivery later in the start and couldn’t find his release point; excellent extension when he finishes and stays over the ball.
Fastball is easy plus offering in the 92-94 range; can show both hard boring action into righties and heavy dive lower in the zone; command could eventually push this pitch above the plus distinction; changeup is money offering; solid-average to plus at present; 83-85 with excellent arm speed and heavy vertical action; pitch has both deception and movement and can be deployed in any count against any stick; slider is below-average at present; could get to average with more command and a sharper break; pitch in the upper 70s with some tilt, but its more slurvy and loose than tight, and it often starts to break too early on the arm-side and sweeps across the zone; low-70s curveball is actually tighter pitch with more bite but wasn’t utilized in the start.