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Picking Through the Wreckage of Black Sunday

In the last 24 hours the Royals have been hit with bad news regarding three injuries: an elbow injury for infield prospect Jeff Bianchi, a broken thumb for Alex Gordon, and elbow stuffness for minor league pitcher Danny Duffy.

Bianchi: The worst injury, of the three, at the moment at least, is Bianchi's. The Royals are still very thin when it comes to position player prospects, and Bianchi was one of their more advanced guys of note. Bianchi has hit .288/.339/.434 across five minor league seasons, and will now miss all of his age-23 campaign. Bianchi, a Baird-era holdover, doesn't profile as a future star, but he's a nice player that a number of system watchers like quite a bit. Darren rated him as the 8th best prospect in the system and Keith at the Royal Tower has him at 12th. He'll return in 2011, looking to establish himself as a 24 year old, with both shoulder and elbow surgeries under his belt. On the whole, this is a real blow.

Gordon: Gordon's injury is less severe, but involves a much more important player. Gordon will reportedly miss three to four weeks with a broken thumb. And hey, the Royals only found out about a few hours after it happened. In the old days, that'd be a few weeks (we kid, kinda). In the short term, we'll get to see more Callaspo at third, part of a sub-optimization plan the Royals have been daring themselves to implement for months now anyway. Four weeks is essentially right at Opening Day, so if everything was a little bit different, this really wouldn't be a big deal. Even if we extend to a solid 6 weeks, we're really only looking at Gordon missing something like 10 real games, and he would have sat in one or two of those anyway. But, this is Alex Gordon, who is coming off of a lost 2009. And despite what everybody literally says, there's just a huge amount of lingering suspicion that nobody's totally "down" with one another. Just look at that Hillman quote in the story linked above. I'm not sure Gordon truly needed this Spring Training from a baseball sense (working out his swing, getting into a rhythmn and all that) any more than anyone else. But from a "returning to normalcy" perspective, he likely certainly did. And that's not going to happen now.

The fact is, the Royals under Hillman/Moore don't have a great track record of managing injuries. Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus touched on those problems just last week, and now we'll really get to see if things have changed. Carroll characterized the Royals' approach last year as "deny and hope". Ouch.

Duffy: Which brings us to Danny Duffy's injury. Duffy has elbow stiffness, and as a precaution, the Royals are shutting him down for the time being. Right now, that seems to be about that. At first glance that seems like an improvement, but we'll just have to wait and see. Duffy is one of the more intriguing young pitchers in the system, rated by Darren here as the #6 prospect. Duffy wasn't expected to contribute to the big league club this year, however, this isn't a great start to his 2010. At this point, we must simply hope that this isn't a major deal.