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Kansas City Royals News: Ryan Shealy Wins the 2007 Mark Quinn Award

During the previous off-season RR reader "daveyork" came up with the concept of the Mark Quinn/Andy Sisco award, which was defined as such:

One player who fans have hope for in the upcoming season will horribly regress and live on only potential for the next season - The Mark Quinn/Andy Sisco award. Zack Greinke would also be a good candidate for 2006 award. Early odds on 2007 include Ryan Shealy and Esteban German.
While the Royals have had more than their share of disappointments over the years, it takes a special combination of circumstances to truly be a Quinn candidate. Essentially, you need to quickly rise to glory, then almost immediately fall off the face of the planet. Remember, here's the Mark Quinn career path:

Mark Quinn Through the Years:

1999: .333/.385/.733, 6 HRs (64 PAs)
2000: .294/.342/.488, 20 HRs (535 PAs)
2001: .269/.298/.459, 17 HRs (465 PAs)
2002: .237/.301/.368, 2 HRs (81 PAs)

Quinn peaked at age 26 and played his last Major League game (to date) at age 28.

Quinn was certainly haunting the Royals again this season, as Tony Pena Jr. destroyed Mark's team record for consecutive plate appearances without a walk. But that wasn't all, every preseason nominee - DeJesus, German, Shealy - for the award played poorly enough to win the coveted honor. Of course, even in Quinn's downturn season of 2001, he would have been one of the better hitters on the 2007 Royals. Back in a cold January, I broke down the odds as such:

The Quinn Award is fairly subjective, because you have to take into account what the preseason buzz/hype/hope for the player is. This perception should be based in reality: remember, Quinn showed up and started hitting right away. He was young, he was cheap, and life was good. With that in mind, German has clearly had his peak year, but everyone seems to understand that. I'm not so sure that understanding exists for Shealy and DeJesus, from whom the world expects greater things (and David is one of my favorite players personally). To this end, German could win the award, but he's have to really hit poorly to do so, whereas DeJesus might have an OPS 120 points higher than German, but run away with the award.

Still, they aren't the favorites. At the moment, Shealy is really a centerpiece of the Dayton Moore regime, right there along with the Meche-for-55 million moment and the Gathright "I'm old school, you win with defense" trade. In the post-Minky, post-Sweeney era, Shealy seems a refreshing return to a good, old-fashioned gigantic first baseman who can HIT... except I'm still not sure he's actually that good. Unlike German and DeJesus, Shealy doesn't contribute much defensively, hurts roster flexibility and is slow as hell.

But, he ain't Jeremy Affeldt.

2007 Mark Quinn Award Preseason Odds

Shealy: 40%
German: 25%
DeJesus: 20%
No One, Everyone Plays Well: 15%

I don't mean to gloat, but that seems to be just about what happened. German was certainly a disappointment, hitting .264/.351/.376, down from .326/.422/.459 the previous season. German is a utility player who went from being a true asset and someone who could have played a key role on a championship level team in 2006, to just an OK utility guy who showed he could play many defensive positions poorly. A downer, yes, but not a pure Quinn candidate, somewhat like how some voters feel about international players winning the Rookie of the Year.

This brings us to David DeJesus. DeJesus - at age 27 mind you - simply had his worst season as a major leaguer, bottoming out with a .260/.351/.372 season. Despite playing nearly every day (or was it because of it?) DeJesus hit an incredibly bad .223/.331/.307 in the second half. Nine seasons out of ten, that's a dominant Quinn winning season and a major lineup millstone to boot. For whatever reason, fans didn't turn on DeJesus this season, even here in the sometimes dark seas of RR. While you can already glean that DeJesus isn't the winner of the Quinn Award, I think we do need to pause and reflect on how bad he was in 2007 and how right PECOTA was to predict that he'd stagnate as a player, at least for now. Actually, he fell short of that projection. Needless to say, DeJesus is potentially a key cog in the next winning KC outfit, an inexpensive, reliable player with an impressively broad skill-set. At least that was an idea. Going forward? Who knows. Still, compared to you-know-who, DeJesus was Grady Sizemore in 2007. Which brings us to the moment we've all been waiting for.

***The Winner of the 2007 Mark Quinn Award is Ryan Shealy!! ***

It all looked so promising. Shealy was the centerpiece of Moore's first trading deadline as the Royals GM, acquired from Colorado for Jeremy Affeldt and Scott Dohmann. Shealy was long rumored to be the next Jack Cust - well, Cust hadn't broken out yet - and had seemingly been buried behind Todd Helton for a decade in the mountains. In retrospect Shealy's .280/.338/.451 line with the Royals in the second-half shouldn't have generated the level of excitement it did, but this was essentially Shealy's first extended run of big league playing time and, as we know, the Royals have been starved for a generic 1B/DH slugger since, well, John Mayberry, more or less. In this era of good feeling, a certain Royals blogger even told USA Today that the Shealy trade was Moore's best move and that Shealy was "a guaranteed 25 homer guy".

Instead, Shealy hit .221/.286/.308 and laid claim to being the slowest man in organized baseball at any level. Like DeJesus, Shealy was 27, but played like he was 37, and many whispered that his bat had always been slow, which was exactly what many suggested was the case in April, when Ryan hit .113/.186/.208 in 59 plate appearances. Along with Gordo's frozen start, this absolutely destroyed the Royals' lineup, contributing to a dismal start. On April 30th, Shealy went to the DL for a sabbatical.

To his credit, Shealy rebounded with a refreshed .362/.412/.468 line in May, including multi-hit efforts in three of his first four games back. While this was certainly productive, it was obvious that Shealy still wasn't showing much other than an ability to hit singles in bunches, as he had only one homer and two doubles that month. Bell continued to play Shealy nearly everyday until June 25th, although he gradually moved him from sixth to eighth in the batting order. In June Shealy cratered again, although not to the level of terribleness he'd seen in April, hitting .208/.278/.278. On the 30th, Shealy went to the DL, and Ross Gload - Gload will explode! - reclaimed his rightful spot as the 1B/DH of preference. Somewhat healthy again, Shealy was sent to Omaha, hitting a solid .262/.345/.492 in 137 plate appearances in Nebraska, before being shut down for the year due to injury again.

While Shealy is the strongest 2007 candidate for the Quinn, he's far from a perfect one. His "good" performance in 2006 wasn't as sustained as what Quinn did in 2000 and his flop year was somewhat mitigated by injuries, which wasn't fully part of the Quinn story. Back at the beginning of the 2002 season few would have suspected that Quinn's days as a Major League player were coming to an end, but in fact they were. While I don't want to suggest the same fate will befall Shealy, it certainly seems more likely than it did a year ago, when he looked like a modest Rising Star.

While I am not a scout, Shealy's limited athleticism tinted his slow start with a certain tinge of gloom. Its one thing to watch a guy struggle, but when one looks so, sluggish, we tend to be perhaps overly negative. The fundamental question is this: does Shealy deserve a spot at 1B/DH over Ross Gload? Gload doesn't really fit the narrative of the young and up-and-coming Royals and, at 31, he isn't likely to get better. Still, he hit .288/.318/.441 last season and is a career .294/.333/.439 hitter. Not great - inadequate actually, to be quite honest - but not the end of the world. Can Shealy do better than that? He's managed just a .267/.332/.402 line in 500+ PAs, with probably worse defense and certainly worse baserunning. Nevertheless, there remains some chance that he might get better, which we can pretty much eliminate with Ross the Boss. It comes down to Gload v. Shealy, because I'm assuming that Butler is here to stay at 1B/DH, although I may be discounting the possibility Billy stays in the outfield. We should also note that Craig Brazell hit .307.337/.605 in Omaha, and blasted 39 homers between AA and AAA. Lastly, not that I think he'll get a shot, but Huber slugged .517 in Omaha last season, and has hit .289/.369/.495 in seven Minor League seasons.

In all honesty, there is no reason to believe Shealy has anymore upside than Huber or Lubanski, though I sincerely doubt the Royals feel the same way. We'll see, they are the professionals, and I'm the blogger.