After a disappointing first half at the plate for Tony Pena Jr, the Royals appear to be in talks with several other clubs about a viable offensive replacement for Pena. Options have included giving rookie Mike Aviles more regular duty at SS, or dealing someone like the ultra-dependable reliever Ron Mahay for some middle-infield help.
As the first half draws to a close, Pena's numbers have left many fans searching for better production. Pena is batting .159, a number which only scratches the surface of his below-average production. His OPS+ is...four. (via baseball-reference) It's probably safe to say that Pena is not producing at anywhere near acceptable levels for a Major Leaguer.
Those numbers have rendered the club willing to deal Pena away, and fill his position from within the organization. One prospect that has been discussed is an undersized, often-overlooked, and a very outside-of-the box solution that General Manager Dayton Moore has kept hush-hush in the Royals' closet for a few seasons.
"I'm a little worried about his baserunning abilities; he's a little stiff out there on the basepaths," said JJ Piccolo, assistant GM and director of player development. "But there is a good chance he can still be an offensive upgrade over Pena."
"Oh yeah, he's pretty short, too," said Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz. "I've seen him before a few times, he's maybe 4 foot 6 in shoes. I'm still excited for the increased production, that little spark that we've needed in the bottom of the lineup."
Moore, a respected baseball thinker who came to the Royals from the Braves' front office, is open to many out-of-the-ordinary solutions to jumpstart his often lackluster offense. "This new kid needs to work on a few things, and bat speed is probably chief among them. But the pitchers in the league can't miss his bat forever."
Moore goes on to describe this new prospect as part of the team's ever-evolving vision for future contention. "We just need to clean things up in a few areas, and really confront some of our problems rather than sweeping them under the rug. The fans deserve a more honest and creative approach."
Some scouts who worked with Royals manager Trey Hillman during his time in Japan were the first to tip Moore and Hillman to this prospect. His signing was a quiet affair, and was quickly buried by bigger stories such as Kansas City signing free agent outfielder Jose Guillen. Pictured below is the prospect receiving his powder blue Royals jersey after finalizing his contract in a memorbilia archive room.
The astute scout who spotted Sweepy McBroomerton observes that his batting stance is a bit shaky, but pitchers might just hit his bat more often than Pena makes contact.
The broom has no Major League experience, but grew up in a baseball-rich Japanese city. It won the MVP at every level of amateur baseball in which it played, and is fondly described as a fearless, gutty presence in the batter's box. "He doesn't back down from any pitcher," says a former youth-league coach.
Though its career batting average is fairly low, McBroomerton continues to find professional baseball work with its ability to bunt and advance baserunners, both fundamental characteristics of Moore and Hillman's current vision for the Royals. Sweepy also holds several records in its native Japan for walks.Contributing to the broom's success is its diminutive stature and lack of defined body parts to help umpires create a strike zone for it.
"We're really excited to see if we can get this guy some playing time, " Moore said. "It might seem a little unusual to be putting a household cleaning item in the batter's box instead of our regular shortstop, but we have to try something to keep this team out of the basement."