Prospects, prospects, prospects! That’s the news of the day for the Royals.
Keith Law with his top 20 Royals prospects:
Mozzicato #6: Mozzicato was a surprise pick at No. 7 overall in 2021, as the Royals had a plan to sign two other high school pitchers to over-slot deals after him, thus going under with the Connecticut left-hander who threw four straight no-hitters for his high school this past spring. Mozzicato was anywhere from 86-94 in the spring, working more 90-92 in instructs, with a plus curveball right now. He has a great delivery and a very projectable body, so I’d expect to see his velocity consistently in the 92-94 range within two years. He’s working on a changeup, never really needing one against Connecticut high school hitters, and although his control is solid he will have to develop his command. He’s a throwback pick, the sort of high school pitcher who doesn’t go in the first round very often now because he doesn’t throw hard, but before everybody and their brother threw 95, this is what top high school pitching prospects looked like
Baseball America has version 1.0 of their 2022 Mock Draft (FYI: paywall). Who do they have the Royals picking? There’s some fun spice in this answer beyond the usual.
9. Royals — Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech Scout’s take: This is probably the toughest one for me so far. I have two college bats at different positions here, and either guy would fit. I think Robert Moore is the best infielder available after Jung, Berry and Lee. I think he is currently ahead of Cole Young, Carter Young and Jordan Sprinkle. I had to shuffle after your DeLauter pick. Well, does Dayton Moore take his son here? I’m going with the next guy on my board. Gavin Cross is a future above-average hitter with plus power, and Kansas City needs outfield depth in its system. Cross has a chance to play center with an above-average run tool. He also performed well with the College National Team.
Carlos’ take: The fact that Moore fits solidly in this range on talent is going to be an intriguing storyline to follow throughout the year. How does a president handle that decision? Is it awkward at the dinner table if he was there on the board and the Royals pass him up? Would Robert even want to be taken by the team his dad runs? Are these all foolish questions to ask? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to see how it plays out. We just miss a great scenario here with the pivot to Cross.
How about the first of two Bobby Witt Jr. stories? This one from Michael Avallone at MLB Pipeline:
But what of the pressure of following in the footsteps of his father, Bobby Witt? Does trying to live up to a name that produced 142 wins across 16 Major League seasons cause sleepless nights? Not at all.
“I think it’s more motivation than anything. He played 16 years in the big leagues and I haven’t played any yet,” Witt said. “He’s another little cheat sheet that I’ve always had growing up. He’s pushed me each and every day of my life. The pressure was never really there from having a dad as a big leaguer, it’s more motivation and ... more a blessing to have.”
Another is from Bernie Pleskoff at Forbes:
Following last spring’s observations of Witt, this scout made the following scouting notes regarding his performances and abilities: “Quick hands through the ball, but has to improve pitch recognition and improve his approach on breaking balls. Uses lower-body very well. Can generate power. Has work to do on his swing. Inconsistent contact and strikeouts can be an issue. Very athletic with speed, good hands, and very solid baseball instincts. Fluid movements on defense. For now, he can stick at shortstop.”
Some personal news?
Some awesome news: Royals righty Carlos Hernández and his wife, Fransaidys, are parents of a new baby girl, Camila. Hernández's progression in 2021 was one of the most fun stories around the club.— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) February 10, 2022
Alex Duvall continues his road trip series with “Best places to catch the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) in 2022”. Frisco, Corpus, and Springdale top the list.
We mentioned Myrtle Beach in our article about the Columbia Fireflies road trip opportunities this summer, and Corpus Christi is really the only other good beach option left unless you’re hitting up the Great Lakes while in Wisconsin. Between Corpus Christi and Dallas, the Naturals legitimately have two of the best road trip options among the entire farm system.
Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter asks if the Royals should “bring back Greg Holland (albeit in a lesser role)”.
As evidenced from the chart above, hitters found success last season when it came to barreling the ball as well as making hard and productive contact. Additionally, Holland struggled to limit walks last year, as his BB rate ranked in the bottom 20th percentile. Giving batters that many free passes isn’t good for a reliever who also ranks in the bottom first percentile in barrel rate allowed. As a result, Holland paid dearly for struggling in those two areas, which is reflected in his 2021 ERA.
However, it was interesting to see that Holland’s chase and whiff rate ranked in the 69th and 63rd percentiles, respectively, last season. Those two encouraging marks showed that Holland found success occasionally in terms of getting hitters to swing and miss. He just struggled in terms of putting away batters (36th percentile K rate) and leaving hittable pitches up in the zone.
Craig Brown hits a ton of topics from the labor negotiations to Whit to ZIPS projections to prospects to Jeremy Giambi. It’s a real mixed bag. Also, this: “The Salvador Perez home run countdown will resume tomorrow.”
- Batoul Hammoud at Kings of Kauffman: “How Justin Maxwell helped turn the KC Royals around”
- Lucas Murphy at KC Kingdom: “MLB Commissioner Spoke on CBA, Does It Affect the Royals?”
It looks like the MLB and MLBPA found some common ground.
Rob Manfred: "We have agreed to a universal designated hitter." One of items he is listing in making case current MLB proposal is better than previous CBA.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 10, 2022
Well, let’s try to make this fun, with something from Jake Eisenberg of the Storm Chasers:
The final pitcher hit in the non-DH MLB era comes from Zack Greinke (Omaha ‘04) off Jesse Chavez (Omaha ‘11).pic.twitter.com/t1EtQq7s0W— Jake Eisenberg (@JakeEisenberg_) February 10, 2022
It seems fitting that Zack would collect the last pitcher hit.
Also, here’s some lols from pitcher Trevor Williams, lamenting the loss of the DH. He posted a video montage of his hitting prowess, complete with bad swings and bunts.
I was perusing AP’s feed and saw the headline “Kendrick, Stanton join MLB executive council, Reinsdorf off”. I wondered “hm... why was that in my Royals feed”. Apparently John Sherman, even though he’s one of the newest owners, is on the executive council through 2025.
Fine, after dancing around it long enough - time to dig into the labor negotiations. Next week would typically see pitchers and catchers reporting, the unofficial start to Spring Training. Officially it is not delayed yet (somehow):
Rob Manfred says “the status of spring training is no change right now. … We understand where that calendar is.” Manfred is saying the league needs to speak with the MLBPA on Saturday. So it would seem he is not announcing an official delay to spring training today.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
This was announced at an owners meeting Thursday that was basically a big Manfred PR conference where he was negotiating through the media.
Manfred said that missing games would be “a disastrous outcome for this industry”. Of course, that’s in direct contrast to what MLB said a couple of weeks ago at the last bargaining session:
According to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem informed the MLBPA the league is willing to lose regular season games over several key outstanding items during Monday’s meeting.
He also tried to sound upbeat and said nothing is delayed at this point, not even Spring Training (lol @ Bob Nightengale - he couldn’t even get this one right):
“I am an optimist,” Manfred said during a news conference at the conclusion of the Owners Meeting on Thursday. “I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule. … We’re doing everything we can to get a deal done for our fans.
“You’re always one breakthrough away from making an agreement. That’s the art of this process. Somebody makes a move, and that’s why we’ll make additional moves on Saturday that creates flexibility on the other side and what seemed like a big gap on this topic or that topic isn’t such a big gap anymore.”
Here’s some other tidbits from today’s meeting (Evan Drellich is a great Twitter follow for labor negotiation developments along with the usual suspects like Jeff Passan):
Rob Manfred says the clubs do not intend to play what would typically be major league spring training games with minor league players. I.e., he doesn’t intend to use replacement players in spring training.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
Rob Manfred says he expects once a CBA is reached (whenever that is), it would take less than a week to get spring training underway— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
Which will lead to...
New column with @Ken_Rosenthal:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 10, 2022
Coming someday: Offseason 2.0 collides with the wildest spring training ever!
*600 free agents?
*Trades in the midst of cutoff/relay drills?
*Arbitration for weeks?
*Rule 5/visa drama?
Oh, and Manfred completely blew an important point in the presser and had to clarify through a spokesperson:
MLB spokesperson Glen Caplin said Rob Manfred misspoke on MLB’s CBT penalties largely being status quo in the league’s proposal. That’s not the case. The penalties increased. Details on the CBT proposals thus far, if you’re curious: https://t.co/E7toM2CTef— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
This is my best stab at the timeline so far (with help from wiki):
- 11.30 MLBPA proposal #1
- 12.01 Negotiation Session #0 (it lasts 7 minutes)
- 12.02 Owners lock out players
- 01.13 Negotiation Session #1; MLB proposal #1 which barely touched economic issues but did introduce some dumb gimmicks to give everyone stuff to talk about
- 01.24 Negotiation Session #2; MLBPA rejects proposal but agrees to stop going for free agency before 6 years and reduces demands on revenue sharing
- 01.25 Negotiation Session #3; MLB dropped some of the gimmicks from their own original proposal and increased minimum salary from $570K to $615K
- 02.01 Negotiation Session #4; MLBPA proposal #2 where the codified some of the changes from 01.24 and also lessened their demands for new Super 2s
- 02.03 MLB asks for a federal mediator to
delay the negotiations further
Look, I know I interjected some editorializing into there, but it’s difficult to not see this as a flawed negotiation if you get past the usual pro-owner rhetoric of “I’d play baseball for free” (for the record, I’d own a baseball team for free) and “owners as free market entrepreneur champions who have (somehow) earned the right to name all terms”.
The players have already dropped a couple of major demands. Meanwhile, MLB let the MLBPA proposal sit on their desk for six weeks with no negotiations or counter-proposals, hoping to apply pressure. Their only concessions so far have been to dismiss their own stupid gimmicks they themselves introduced into the negotiations. See? we’re negotiating by getting rid of our own obstacles we put in the way. It’s like the bicycle meme where the guy jams a bar into his own wheels and blames someone else. I guess they offered the minimum salary a COLA that’s in line with the national inflation report yesterday. Then they tried to involve a federal mediator to try and draw the process out further.
I guess we’ll see on Saturday how serious they are about trying to move the needle. But it still feels like MLB is trying to break the union again. So, until I see they are serious about actually negotiating, Manfred’s talk about missing games being “a disastrous outcome” sounds like bluster and not much else. He went out of his way to say the proposal is a “good faith” proposal - when you have to try and sell people on that, it’s not a good sign.
I’m more prone to cynicism. Based on the track record so far, I’d guess the owners will put forth a proposal with more gimmicks: universal DH, draft lottery, 14-team playoffs (as opposed to the 12 wanted by MLBPA, which is already more than the current 10), and a handful of other things that don’t move the economic needle but give writers something to write about. The MLBPA will look at it, sees it’s the same stupid proposal the MLB keeps throwing out there, basically the same proposal that has had them getting a smaller and smaller cut of the pie the last 20 years. They’ll reject it. And then MLB will (regretfully, of course), delay Spring Training and proceed to say it’s all the players’ fault.
Dammit, I told you I didn’t want to talk about this.
Let’s turn out attention to yesterday’s Nintendo Direct. For those unfamiliar, Nintendo does a promotional web show a couple times a year where they showcase upcoming games. The first Nintendo Direct of 2022 was Wednesday (more announcements).
- Nintendo Sports Switch (April 29) looks like Wii Sports but uses the Joycons rather than the Wiimotes of the original. I think a lot of Wii Sports appeal was being a pack-in game and one of the best tech demos of all time.
- Speaking of the Wii, Mario Strikers is back! After 15 years, we get a return of Nintendo’s arcade soccer game.
- Splatoon 3 is still on track for a summer release. Yay! It’s Nintendo’s first party take on first person shooters, only instead of bullets, you use paint and squids and, well, it’s very Nintendo. Also on track (April 8) is Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp. I know we discussed this game at one point and have featured music from the original. As is Kirby and the Forgotten Land (March 25).
- Mario Kart 8 is getting DLC with six waves of eight new courses for a total of 48. Once released, it will have 96 tracks today, more than half the tracks ever for the franchise. This feels a lot like how Super Smash Bros Ultimate was the opus for that series. Also, there’s basically a Lego Smash Bros (Lego Brawls) and Disney/Pixar Mario Kart (Disney Speedstorm) coming out this summer.
- A number of ported or re-made third party games are coming to the Switch or are already out. No Man’s Sky, Portal/Portal 2, Front Mission 1st/2, Klonoa 1/2, Earthbound/Earthbound Beginnings (no word on Mother 3), MLB The Show 22 (yay but lol@labor situation), Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection, and more.
- Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a third person action game (musou) with characters from Fire Emblem: Three Houses is due out in June. For those looking for Fire Emblem’s usual turn-based-strat gameplay, Triangle Strategy, from Squeenix might be more up your alley.
- Speaking of Square, three of their remakes/ports are of note. A Chrono Cross remaster is coming out in April. I love the original but have never played the indirect sequel. Maybe now is the time. Live a Live, an SNES RPG that has never been released outside of Japan, is being remade in the style of Octopath Traveler. Thirdly, Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece is now out. All of the Kingdom Hearts games on the Switch! Yay! It’s $72 for the entire series - that’s a pretty good deal. Time to go out and get that right now— oh, wait, what’s this? The full title is Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud. What’s that mean? Apparently, it’s cloud only, which means you’re getting the game streamed to you. No release on a game card or native hardware. From early reviews, it stumbles a bit even with fast internet. Never mind it negates one of the huge features of the Switch, the whole gaming-on-the-go idea.
- Finally, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is coming in September. I’ve written at length about the original Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii) and featured music from the game a number of times here. I didn’t play the not-really-a-sequel Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) and only got a little into Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch). The story and characters just didn’t get me as much as the original. I’m a bit worried this, too, lacks the subtlety or elegance of the original. But it appears to boast the awesomely imaginative environments, good soundtracks, and grand story ideas the series is known for. I’ll likely give it a shot.