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Monday morning, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa underwent hip surgery to repair damage suffered on Saturday against Mississippi State. By all reports, this procedure was a success. Team surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain has since released a statement and revealed that Tagovailoa should make a full recovery.

“Tua underwent successful surgery on his right hip Monday morning in Houston,” Dr. Cain said in a statement. “The procedure went as planned, and he is resting comfortably. Tua’s prognosis is excellent, and we expect him to make a full recovery. He will return to Tuscaloosa in the next several days to begin his rehab.”

There were concerns following the injury about Tagovailoa no longer being able to play football, much like former Raiders running back Bo Jackson after he suffered a dislocated hip in 1991. However, the Los Angeles Rams team surgeon, Dr. Michael Banffy, explained how these two situations are different.

“What can happen with the dislocation is that blood vessels will either tear or they’ll be placed on stretch for so long that the bone itself will lose its blood supply and that will cause death of the bone,” Banffy said, per “If you get it reduced right away, the idea is that will minimize the risk. But this is still something that you have to watch and it might not even present itself for a couple of months, similar to the way it did with Bo Jackson.”

For now, Tagovailoa’s future prospects seem positive, to the point that he could potentially prepare for the NFL Draft. However, the recovery timeline will play a role. Three months is one possibility, but Dr. Banffy believes that six months is more likely. This would mean that Tagovailoa would not be eligible to take part in the physical workouts during the NFL Scouting Combine, provided he skips his senior season at Alabama in pursuit of a pro career.

Still, Dr. Banffy does not believe that suffering this injury would drastically affect Tagovailoa’s prospects. He believes that the Alabama star will still be a first-round pick for a quarterback-needy team.

“I don’t think this will knock him out of the first round, for sure,” Banffy said. “It will probably knock him out of the top five, which is where people were predicting him in but I think that it all depends on how he progressively heals and how he looks at the combine.”

With teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears potentially searching for a new option at quarterback, there will be multiple potential destinations for Tagovailoa. However, he will first have to recover from Monday’s surgery and avoid any setbacks.

Hit play to listen to GroupChat’s new Episode 12! The Sexiest Man Alive John Legend has arrived! And Khloe Kardashian won a People’s Choice Awards and didn’t even know it? Tune in and tap subscribe for these deets and more on Sean Spicer getting the boot from ‘DWTS’ and some Royals Christmas Controversy!

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This post is part of a series concerning the 2020 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot, covering executives and long-retired players whose candidacies will be voted upon at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 8. It is adapted from a longer version included in The Cooperstown Casebook, published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books. For an introduction to JAWS, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2020 Modern Baseball Candidate: Ted Simmons
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Ted Simmons 50.3 34.8 42.6
Avg. HOF C 54.3 35.1 44.7
2472 248 .285/.348/.437 118
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Ted Simmons was one of baseball’s true iconoclasts. He denounced the Vietnam War, wore his hair long, nearly became a test case for the Reserve Clause, and was as conversant in 18th century fireplace utensils (yes, really) as he was the tools of ignorance and the curveballs of opposing pitchers. Oh, and he could switch-hit well enough to rank among the position’s best offensively. With eight All-Star appearances, he was hardly unheralded, but Simmons nonetheless tended to get lost among the bounty of great catchers from the 1970s. Seven of the top 16 in the JAWS rankings hail from that decade, including three of the top four, namely Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk. Simmons wasn’t quite their equal, but he ranks 10th, just ahead of Modern Baseball ballot-mate Thurman Munson (12th), with Gene Tenace (13th) and Bill Freehan (16th) not far behind.

Such a concentration of top-tier players at a single position in a given time period is hardly unprecedented, even among those already enshrined. Using the Hall’s own definition of activity — at least one game played in a given season — five enshrined catchers were active every year from 1929-37 except ’30. Every other position except third base (which like catcher, has just 15 enshrinees, the lowest at any position besides relievers) has stretches with six or seven active players, with the seven left fielders from 1975-76 the largest of the recent concentrations.

While BBWAA voters elected Johnny Bench on the first ballot in 1989, the electorate otherwise did a pretty lousy job of handling his contemporaries. Before they needed two ballots to elect Fisk (in 2000), or six to elect Carter (in 2003), they completely botched the job when it came to Simmons, who fell off the ballot after receiving just 3.7% in 1994. Not until 2009, after his BBWAA eligibility would have lapsed, was he eligible to be considered for an Era Committee ballot; he’s now appearing on his fourth one. While he didn’t escape the “less than” pack on the 2011 or ’14 Expansion Era ballots, he fell just one vote short of joining Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, both elected via the ’18 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot. If he can find that elusive 12th vote, he’ll either become the first player elected after going one-and-done via the writers or share the honor with Lou Whitaker, a 2001 victim of the same Five Percent Rule, who’s making his committee ballot debut this year.

Born in 1949 and raised in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Simmons was the son of a harness horse owner and trainer. He played basketball, hockey, and football as well as baseball as a youth, and was talented enough as a halfback to be offered a scholarship to the University of Michigan. He was even better at baseball, so good that the Cardinals drafted him with the 10th pick of the first round in 1967 (nine picks before Bobby Grich) and signed him for a $50,000 bonus. He hit exceptionally well in the minors given his age: .331/.415/.570 with 28 homers at A-level Modesto as an 18-year-old in 1968, then .317/.365/.495 with 16 homers at Triple-A Tulsa the following year. Both seasons ended with big league cameos; he was just 19 years and 43 days old when he debuted on September 21, 1968, going 1-for-2 with a walk against the Dodgers’ Claude Osteen.

In the offseason, Simmons attended the University of Michigan. Ineligible for intercollegiate athletics, he absorbed the surroundings of campus life amid a hotbed of anti-Vietnam sentiment. He was finally called up for good in late May ’70, after finishing his Army reserve duty. His arrival forced Joe Torre, the Cardinals’ regular catcher, to third base. While he didn’t hit much as a rookie, he batted .304/.347/.424 with seven homers and 3.3 WAR in 1971, earning him down-ballot MVP consideration; meanwhile, Torre survived the transition to the hot corner and won the NL batting title and MVP award. Simmons improved to .303/.336/.465 with 16 homers and 4.5 WAR in 1972, but his season was more notable for something else: he became the first playing holdout in major league history.

After making $17,500 in 1971, Simmons received a raise to $25,000 under the Cardinals’ unilateral right to renew his contract under the Reserve Clause — but he wanted $30,000, in part because at the request of management, he had bypassed winter ball and the extra money that would have entailed. Instead of sitting out the regular season, he continued to play. As Marvin Miller, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, later explained, “Simmons refused to be bluffed into signing a new unsatisfactory contract in order to be ‘allowed’ into uniform. The union advised [him] that once his contract was renewed, he was under contract and could not be barred from spring training or from the regular season, even if he refused to sign that contract.”⁠

Simmons suggested that he could take his case to court. His lack of a signed contract raised the question of what would happen if he made it through the entire season without one. Would he be a free agent, since the Reserve Clause, which allowed the team “to renew the contract for the period of one year”⁠ — a clause that the owners interpreted as “in perpetuity,” with each one-year period rolling over to the next — would no longer be in effect? Wary of allowing him to test a case that carried ramifications for the entire industry, the Cardinals signed him to a two-year, $75,000 deal on July 24.

Simmons went against the grain in other ways. A 1978 Sports Illustrated profile by Ron Fimrite introduced him as the St. Louis Art Museum’s newest trustee, described his and wife Maryanne’s collection of early 18th century furniture, and summarized his early-career rebelliousness:

[H]e was unyielding even when it became evident that his views did not sit well in a community as conservative as St. Louis. He denounced the Vietnam war and was outspoken in his contempt for the Nixon Administration. He allowed his hair to grow to his shoulders; that gave him a leonine look and earned him the nickname Simba… At that time, he was a lion roaring his defiance.

Simmons’ iconoclasm was hardly a detriment to consistent performance. Even with a mediocre 1976 season (five homers and a .394 slugging percentage), he averaged 17 homers a year from 1971-80 while hitting a combined .301/.367/.466 for a 131 OPS+ (16th in the majors). Aided by occasional appearances at first base or left field, he averaged a hefty 148 games for that stretch, and topped a .300 batting average six times, cracking the league’s top 10 five times, including a second-place finish in 1975 (.332). Meanwhile, he made the top 10 in on-base and slugging percentages four times apiece.

His defense was a bit rougher. Though Simmons led the league in passed balls three times, he was basically average according to Total Zone (-2 runs behind the plate for the decade, and -9 in limited infield and outfield duty), and average or better when it came to throwing out would-be base thieves in seven out of those 10 seasons. When combined with the value of his bat, he ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR five times, and either first or second in WAR among NL catchers eight times. His 44.7 WAR for the stretch ranked 11th in the majors, and second among catchers behind Bench (54.7).

Simmons made six All-Star teams across that decade, and in 1978, replaced an injured Bench as the NL starter, thereby breaking his nine-year stranglehold on the honor. Alas, he remained stuck on a team that hadn’t been to the postseason since 1968, in part because they traded away Steve Carlton, heir apparent to Bob Gibson as the staff ace. The Cardinals finished second in the NL East three times with Simmons, winning as many as 90 games, but slipping below .500 three times, including in 1978 and ’80.

In mid-1980, Whitey Herzog joined the Cardinals, first as manager and then adding general manager duties. He and Simmons didn’t click, to say the least, but his main beef wasn’t the catcher’s hair length or taste in antique furniture — it was his defense. In a league where stolen base attempts were about 70% more common than today, and where the 116 steals allowed by Simmons ranked as the second-highest total (albeit with a league-average 31% caught rate), Herzog viewed Simmons’ throwing as a liability. In his 1999 memoir, You’re Missing a Great Game, the White Rat expounded:

Ted Simmons, God bless him, was a fine person who cared about winning. But he had one major weakness as a ballplayer: poor arm strength. Unfortunately for the Cardinals organization, that one flaw was a bigger disaster than anybody around me seemed to realize. Ted’s fluttery throws to second were enough to scuttle the Cards and keep the fans away… Because Ted threw poorly to second, every team in the world knew they could swipe that base in the late innings.

To a degree, Herzog may have had a point; the numbers back up his assertion that the Cardinals were weak in defending the stolen base in the late innings. Per, from 1971-80, they ranked sixth out of 26 teams in terms of both stolen base rate from the seventh to ninth innings (prorated to 0.61 per nine) and success rate (68%). Even so, the cost was minimal. Using a typical era-appropriate linear weights value of 0.2 runs for a successful steal and −0.4 runs for an unsuccessful one,⁠ Cardinals’ opponents gained a net 4.6 runs via late-inning steals, where the average team’s opponents cost themselves 2.8 runs — a difference of 8.4 runs for the decade, or 0.84 runs per year. For 1980, the team allowed the second-highest stolen base total of any NL team in innings 7-9 (46, at a 74% success rate); the difference via linear weights between the Cardinals and the average team amounts to 2.0 runs, with Simmons catching 76% of the team’s innings — so perhaps 1.5 runs, in a year when his offense was 24 runs better than the average hitter (not average catcher). Herzog’s suggestion that the combination not only had a significantly deleterious effect on the Cardinals’ chances of winning but on their attendance, which rose and fell with their record but was generally in the middle third of the league, is a gross exaggeration.

Herzog considered moving Simmons to first base and 1979 NL co-MVP Keith Hernandez to left field, a plan that was received lukewarmly, and rightly so. Instead, in a busy week in December 1980, he signed free agent Darrell Porter, a nominally superior defender who had caught for his Royals teams, and in the third in a series of three blockbusters traded Simmons to the Brewers, the only team truly interested in keeping him at catcher, no small consideration for a player who could use 10-and-5 rights (10 years of major league service time, five with the same team ) to block any deal. Also heading to Milwaukee were Rollie Fingers (whom Herzog had just acquired from the Padres) and Pete Vuckovich, for the much younger David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen.

In his 1983 Baseball Abstract, Bill James depicted the Herzog-Simmons breakup as a matter of exerting managerial authority (“If I had to trade that man for five cents on the dollar, I’d trade him… If Whitey Herzog didn’t have the guts to run Ted Simmons out of St. Louis, he might as well have quit on the spot”). Dan Okrent gave a more nuanced depiction in his classic Nine Innings, where he caught up with Simmons as a Brewer in 1982. Per Okrent, Simmons’ reluctance to move had everything to do with fear that he would embarrass himself attempting to replace Hernandez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner who’s second all-time in fielding runs among first basemen. The dropoff would have stood out, to say the least.

While Herzog’s multiple deals laid the groundwork for the Cardinals’ 1982 championship, the Simmons trade actually helped Milwaukee more than St. Louis. Fingers won AL Cy Young and MVP honors in the strike-torn 1981, Vuckovich won the Cy Young in ’82 (thanks to strong run support), and the Brewers made the postseason for the first and second times in franchise history. Simmons scuffled in the strike year (.216/.262/.376, 0.3 WAR), but rebounded (.269/.309/.451 with 23 homers and 3.4 WAR) to help the Brewers win the 1982 AL pennant. Facing Herzog’s Cardinals in the World Series, he received a warm welcome from St. Louis fans and homered in each of the first two games there, but finished just 4-for-23 in a losing cause.

Simmons earned the AL starting catcher nod for the 1983 All-Star Game and accumulated 4.0 WAR even while DHing in 66 games; his performance crashed through the floor in 1984, his age-34 season. With the much more defensively adept Jim Sundberg joining Milwaukee via trade, Simmons couldn’t find a comfort zone at first base, third base, or DH and wound up hitting a woeful .221/.269/.300 (61 OPS+) with just four homers in 132 games. His -2.6 WAR was not only the worst in the league, it remains tied for the 15th-lowest in the post-1960 expansion era. While he recovered somewhat the next year (104 OPS+, 1.0 WAR), he spent his final three seasons with the Braves, pinch-hitting and spotting at catcher and first base. He retired following the 1988 season and remained in baseball, working as a coach, scout, and executive (including as general manager of the Pirates from early 1992 to mid-1993, when a heart attack forced him to step down) but never landing a managerial job.

Simmons figured to have a legitimate shot at election to the Hall of Fame when he reached the BBWAA ballot in 1994 given his standings on the hits leaderboards for catchers (second at the time) and switch-hitters (sixth), as well as his eight All-Star appearances. His score of 124 on James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, based on common statistical benchmarks and accomplishments for old-school stats, is near “virtual cinch” territory (130), between contemporaries Fisk (120) and Carter (135). Yet with 300-win pitchers Carlton and Don Sutton making their ballot debuts, Phil Niekro a holdover, and Orlando Cepeda in his final year of eligibility, Simmons got lost in the shuffle, receiving just 3.7% of the vote. Not only was that not enough to return for the 1995 ballot, it eliminated him from consideration in front of the Veterans Committee through 2008; with the Hall of Famer-engorged Veterans Committee in flux, he didn’t get onto another ballot until the smaller ’11 Expansion Era committee.

What happened? On the BBWAA front, one has to wonder if Simmons’ early-career contract rebellion, long hair, and his not being cut from the typical major league cloth hurt his standing among an older generation of writers who saw him as too radical. That’s pure speculation on my part, as I found no mention of such factors in the election coverage. His missing the cut by just four votes (receiving 17, when 21 were needed) took many by surprise, including the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Bob Broeg, who covered Simmons during his career, voted for him, and called his shortfall “a shame” while noting that had the Five Percent Rule been in place earlier (it was adopted in 1979), players such as Bob Lemon and Red Ruffing wouldn’t have been elected by the writers.

His sinking without a trace didn’t entirely escape notice. In 1996, writers within the BBWAA mounted an effort to petition the Hall of Fame’s board of directors to restore the eligibility of Simmons, ’91 candidates Larry Bowa and Al Oliver, and ’93 candidate Bill Madlock, all of whom had fallen short of 5% in their first year on the ballot. As had been done with Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Ron Santo and eight others for the 1985 ballot, the plan was for them to get another chance to clear 5%. While the Hall board was receptive to the idea, the proposal was never formalized, and Simmons et al never got a second chance.

When Simmons finally got his chance for reconsideration in 2011, as fate would have it, Herzog was among the eight Hall of Famers sitting on the 16-man panel appointed by the Hall’s board of directors, which elected executive Pat Gillick and came within one vote of electing Miller, the former union head. The group gave eight votes to one former player, Davey Concepcion, whose former teammates Bench and Tony Perez were on the committee. The eight other candidates (including Simmons) all received fewer than eight votes, though the Hall didn’t announce their actual totals.

Herzog was still on the committee when Simmons came up on the 2014 Expansion Era ballot. Bench and Perez were gone, but fellow catcher Fisk and Simmons’ former Brewers teammate Paul Molitor were both on the committee. It made no difference. The committee unanimously elected managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Torre; none of the six players (including Concepcion and Simmons) or three non-players (Miller, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner) received more than six votes. While it’s not hard to imagine Herzog’s view of Simmons carrying considerable weight among those undecided, two other Post-Dispatch writers have reported that it was Simmons’ short stay on the BBWAA ballot that hurt him. Said Rick Hummel, who has served on the Historical Overview Committee that puts together the ballot, “The first question these Hall of Famers ask you is, ‘How many ballots was he on for the writers’ election? One? They must not have liked him very much.”

Wrote Derrick Goold, “[The voters] have a chance to prove the writers wrong —and they should… and instead they choose to use that vote to legitimize theirs. It’s maddening.”

Viewed today, Simmons’ merits are clear. He ranked among his league’s top 10 in WAR five times, and in one of the three slash stats (average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) a combined 15 times. Among his contemporaries, Bench ranked among the top 10 in WAR eight times, Carter six times, and Fisk four; in terms of slash stats it’s Bench six times, Carter four times, and Fisk nine times. Simmons’ 118 OPS+ ranks “only” 13th among catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances, but his ranking climbs significantly when playing time is considered: 10th at the 6,000 PA cutoff, seventh at the 7,000 PA cutoff. In terms of batting runs (i.e., runs above average), which accounts for his offensive excellence and playing time in one fell swoop, he’s 10th among catchers at 172, just ahead of Fisk (168) and Carter (160).

Simmons’ defense, so maligned at times during his playing days, wasn’t nearly as costly as it was made out to be. Among catchers in the post-1960 expansion era, his 182 passed balls rank second, and his 0.11 per nine innings third; meanwhile, his 1,188 stolen bases allowed is sixth, but his stolen base rate of 0.71 per nine is 16th. Carter (0.78 per nine) is eighth in that category, and just below Simmons is Tony Pena (0.69), widely considered among the best defenders of his day; Simmons’ 34.0% caught stealing rate is less than a point behind Pena’s 34.8%. While not as complete as more modern metrics — we don’t have any estimates of his pitch framing — his blocking and stolen base prevention is captured in Total Zone. While he was 34 runs below average for all of his defensive work, he was just eight below average for his time behind the plate; he was much worse in small samples at first base, left field, and third base. That’s not insignificant, but neither is it grounds for eliminating him from consideration, particularly with Piazza (-63 runs overall, offset by particularly strong framing), Mickey Cochrane (-40), and Ernie Lombardi (-12) enshrined.

Though Simmons is short of all three WAR standards, he’s nonetheless 10th in both career WAR and JAWS, and a respectable 15th in peak. At a position that both BBWAA and committee voters have given short shrift, that’s more than good enough. He faces a ballot crunch, competing for votes with the likes of Whitaker and Dwight Evans, both of whom are getting their long-awaited first chances; Miller, who like Simmons previously missed by one vote, and four other players (Munson, Dale Murphy, Steve Garvey, and Dave Parker) who each won MVP awards. That’s fierce competition, but if Simmons can sustain momentum from last time around – and I have no evidence that’s a thing in this format – he’ll make history and get his rightful spot in Cooperstown.

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Ahead of Kansas City Royals free agency, let’s take a look at the Colorado Rockies’ upcoming free agents and decide whether the team should pursue any.
Welcome to the continuation of our “Kansas City Royals: Making the case” series for free agency. After qualifying for a playoff spot in back-to-back seasons, the Colorado Rockies came back down to earth in 2019. Winning just 71 games, it was a humbling season for manager Bud Black and company. Luckily for them, they won’t have too many questions to answer in regards to who to retain or let go this winter.

Per Spotrac’s official list, there are just four pieces within the Rockies organization that are set to hit the open market within the next couple of weeks. Are any of the names worth taking a flyer on? Let’s find out.

Chris Rusin, P

Rusin pitched a total of one (1) major league inning in 2019. He gave up four runs. A 6.58 ERA in Triple-A is a cause for concern. Rusin tossed 54.2 innings in 2018 but was far below replacement level. At 33, he offers no upside.

Verdict: Pass

D.J. Johnson, P

Johnson is 30 years old, yet has appeared at the MLB level in just the last two seasons. After picking up his lone career win in 6.2 innings with Colorado a year ago, the right-handed reliever saw his ERA jump to 5.04 this past season. He wouldn’t be the worst option available on the market but if Dayton Moore can refrain from making Johnson a Royal, no one would object.

Verdict: Pass

Drew Butera, C

Many fans will remember Butera for his work with the Royals from 2015-2018. A stellar defensive backup for Salvador Perez, Butera was a part of the 2015 World Series team. Aside from 2016, he’s never been even remotely close to an average hitter and at 36 years old, his defense could soon lose a ton of value. A Butera signing would make for a great rush of memories and a couple of hair flips, but that’s it.

Alonso had a terrible 2019. Posting a .199/.296/.346 line and seeing his home run total decrease by more than 50 percent from the year before, Alonso’s play has worsened since he made the All-Star team in 2017. He could be a candidate for a bounceback season in 2020 but the last thing the Royals need is an inconsistent first baseman.

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Birthdays are always exciting, but some can be more special than others. Nationals outfielder Juan Soto will celebrate his 21st in one of the most epic fashions imaginable on Friday — when he plays in World Series Game 3 against the Astros, the first World Series game in Washington since 1933.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 22 WSH 5, HOU 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 23 WSH 12, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 25 HOU 4, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 26 HOU 8, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 27 HOU 7, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 29 WSH 7, HOU 2 Watch
Gm 7 Oct. 30 WSH 6, HOU 2 Watch
shop Shop for postseason gear: Nationals | Astros
Postseason schedule and bracket
If Soto homers, he’ll be just the fourth player to hit a birthday home run in a postseason game, and the second to do that in the World Series. Kolten Wong hit a homer on his 25th birthday in Game 2 of the 2015 National League Division Series for the Cardinals, and Evan Longoria hit one on his 28th in Game 3 of the 2013 American League Division Series for the Rays. The only player to do it in the World Series was the Royals’ Willie Aikens in Game 1 in 1980 — when he hit two homers on his 26th birthday.

Soto made his Major League debut on May 20, 2018, and he’s been wowing us ever since. To celebrate his birthday, here are 21 facts and figures.

World Series
1) Soto homered in his World Series debut in Game 1, when he was still 20 years old. He became the fourth-youngest player in postseason history to homer in the World Series, trailing only Miguel Cabrera, Andruw Jones and Mickey Mantle. He also became the second-youngest player to homer in his World Series debut, trailing only Jones.

2) Soto also had a stolen base in Game 1, becoming the youngest player in postseason history to homer and steal a base in the same game. The youngest had been Derek Jeter, at 22 years and 105 days old in Game 1 of the 1996 AL Championship Series.

Soto swipes second in 8th
Soto swipes second in 8th
Oct. 22nd, 2019
3) Overall in Game 1, Soto had three hits, including two extra-base hits. He became the second-youngest player in World Series history with multiple extra-base hits in a game, trailing only 19-year-old Jones in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series — two years before Soto was born.

Must C: Soto shines in WS debut
Must C: Soto shines in WS debut
Oct. 23rd, 2019
4) Soto’s three hits made him the fifth-youngest player in World Series history with three or more in a game. The 18-year-old Freddie Lindstrom had two such games in 1924, Jones had two in 1996, and Joe Garagiola had one in 1946 and Mickey Mantle one in 1952 — both as younger 20-year-olds than Soto.

5) In Game 2, Soto hit a double, notching the sixth extra-base hit of his postseason career — all of which have come this year. With six extra-base hits before turning 21, he tied Cabrera for most in a postseason career at 20 years old or younger.

Soto’s double to right
Soto’s double to right
Oct. 24th, 2019
6) In the seventh inning of Game 2, with the Nationals leading, 3-2, and runners on second and third with two outs, Ryan Pressly issued an intentional walk to Soto. The walk was notable for a few reasons. First of all, it was the first intentional walk by an Astros pitcher in 2019, including the regular season and postseason, certainly some measure of respect for the youngster. Second, it made Soto the second-youngest player to be intentionally walked in a World Series game. The only player younger was a 20-year, 46-day-old Claudell Washington for the A’s in Game 4 of the 1974 World Series.

Martinez on Soto being walked
Martinez on Soto being walked
Oct. 24th, 2019
7) Soto has hit cleanup in each of the first two games of the World Series — something he has done through the entire postseason. He’s the third-youngest player to start at cleanup in a World Series, behind only Cabrera, who did so six times in 2003, and Ty Cobb, who did so five times in 1907. That’s a pretty short list.

Rest of the postseason
8) Including his World Series homer, Soto has three home runs this postseason — all of which he hit before his birthday. The only player with more homers in the postseason before turning 21 is Cabrera, who hit four in 2003.

9) In the Nationals’ winner-take-all Game 5 in the NLDS at Dodger Stadium, Soto delivered with a game-tying solo homer off Clayton Kershaw in the top of the eighth, right after Anthony Rendon had gone yard. And it wasn’t just any home run — it was a Statcast-projected 449-foot homer. That’s the longest of Soto’s career, and it also helped the Nationals pull off a road win to clinch the series.

Statcast: Soto’s clutch 449-ft. HR
Statcast: Soto’s clutch 449-ft. HR
Oct. 10th, 2019
10) The fact that the home run came off Kershaw was notable, too. At 20 years and 349 days old that day, Soto was the youngest player to hit a home run off Kershaw in Kershaw’s career, including the regular season and postseason.

11) That wasn’t Soto’s only clutch moment this postseason. In the NL Wild Card Game, which the Nats trailed, 3-0, after two innings, it was Soto’s hit off Milwaukee’s Josh Hader in the bottom of the eighth that put the team ahead, in part due to Trent Grisham’s error in right field. At 20 years and 341 days old that night, Soto became the youngest player with a go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later of a winner-take-all playoff game, according to Elias. The youngest was 21-year-old Edgar Renteria on his walk-off single for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

Soto’s hit clears bases for lead
Soto’s hit clears bases for lead
Oct. 1st, 2019
Regular-season career
12) Soto finished the 2019 regular season with 56 career home runs. That’s tied with Tony Conigliaro for second most in Major League history before turning 21. The only player with more was Mel Ott, with 61.

13) Part of how Soto got to 56 career homers? His 34 this season certainly helped. Soto’s regular-season homers as a 20-year-old in 2019 were tied with Frank Robinson in 1956 for second most by a player in a season before turning 21. The only player with more was Ott, with 42 in 1929.

Soto’s 30th homer of season
Soto’s 30th homer of season
Aug. 31st, 2019
14) And of course, the other component to Soto’s 56 home runs was his 22 in 2018. Soto tied Bryce Harper in 2012 for second most by a player in a single season as a teenager. The only teen with more was Conigliaro, with 24 in 1964.

15) One aspect of the game Soto has been quite good at is maintaining plate discipline. As a 19-year-old rookie in 2018, he had a 18.3 percent chase rate, which was ninth lowest of 143 Major Leaguers to see at least 1,000 out-of-zone pitches. It went slightly up in 2019 with increased exposure — to 20.3 percent — but Soto’s rank among his peers was still outstanding. He had the 14th-lowest chase rate this year out of 146 batters to see at least 1,000 out-of-zone pitches. As a 20-year-old.

16) More evidence of that plate discipline? All of the walks he draws. Soto has 12 career regular-season games with three or more walks. That’s three more such games than any other player before turning 21 on record (since 1908).

Soto’s bases-loaded walk
Soto’s bases-loaded walk
Sep. 23rd, 2019
17) Soto walked 108 times in 2019, the second most in a season by a player 20 or younger. The only player that young with more walks in a season was Ott, with 113 in 1929. No other 20-year-old or younger had even 90 walks in a season.

18) Soto’s first start in the cleanup spot last year came on June 21, at 19 years and 239 days old. He was the youngest player to start at cleanup in a game since César Cedeño in 1970.

19) He ended up starting eight games in that spot in 2018, third most by any teenager in a single season on record. Rusty Staub started 35 games at cleanup in 1963, and Ott started 24 at that spot in 1928.

20) Soto hit two home runs at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 2018, at 19 years and 231 days old. He was the youngest player with a regular-season homer at any iteration of Yankee Stadium since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989. If we include the postseason, he was the youngest since Jones in the 1996 World Series. Either way, quite a feat.

Statcast: Soto’s 2 HRs vs. Yanks
Statcast: Soto’s 2 HRs vs. Yanks
Jun. 13th, 2018
21) The circumstances around Soto’s Major League debut on May 20, 2018, and a game he played on June 18 will pretty much always be worth recounting. Soto debuted on May 20 at Nationals Park against the Dodgers, going 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter. Pretty standard debut, not much worth talking about two years later. But five days earlier on May 15, the Nationals had been playing a game at Nationals Park against the Yankees when it began to rain. The game was suspended and set to be made up on June 18. Simultaneously on May 15, the Double-A Harrisburg Senators — Soto’s team at the time — were dealing with rain on the eastern seaboard as well. The Senators’ game at the Bowie Baysox originally scheduled for May 14 was suspended to the 15th, so they completed that game — but were unable to complete the regularly scheduled game for the 15th, which was suspended and completed on the 16th.

When a game is suspended, stats for that game count for the date of the original scheduling — in both the Minors and Majors. That’s important here.

Must C: Soto homers before debut
Must C: Soto homers before debut
Jun. 18th, 2018
Soto, still in Double-A, played in those games. In the game on the 16th — technically the second time the Senators took the field on the 16th, for the regularly scheduled game — he homered. On the same day, his team finished a game that had counted for the 15th, in which he went 3-for-4.

By the time the Nats and Yanks resumed their game in June, Soto was up with the team. Naturally, he played in the game — and, of course, he homered. If you look at any record book, he’s listed as both going 3-for-4 for Harrisburg and 1-for-2 with a homer for the Nationals on May 15 — a day when in reality, his team played only one game … and it was a resumption of a game from May 14.

Confused? It isn’t exactly simple. But the fact is this: Soto managed to hit a home run in a Major League game that counts for May 15, five days before his Major League debut of May 20. Quite the claim to fame.

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Weekend Rumblings – News for September 21, 2019

Danny Duffy talks to Jeffrey Flanagan about an adjustment to his delivery.

“Moving over on the rubber has given the changeup more real estate now and hitters just can’t give up on it,” Duffy said. “A lot of dudes weren’t offering at it before. But now I can use it more. It’s in my back pocket now.

“It has the same action as it always has but it has more room to work.”

In his Friday notes, David Lesky looks at who could be cleared from the 40-man roster this winter.

The tier of guys most likely to get DFAed includes Jacob Barnes, Kevin McCarthy, newly acquired Randy Rosario, Humberto Arteaga, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Bonifacio. That clears six spots which probably isn’t enough. If you go down to tier two, I see some players who might surprise, but also haven’t really done much to justify their roster spot. I think Conner Greene, Arnaldo Hernandez, Kyle Zimmer (yes, it’s possible) and Ryan O’Hearn all could go. Add in that I expect Cam Gallagher to get traded and there’s a decent chance Richard Lovelady gets dealt and that definitely clears the spots the Royals need.

Adalberto Mondesi made history.

Adalberto Mondesi will become the first player in modern MLB history with 40+ stolen bases & 10+ triples in fewer than 475 plate appearances in a season.

Shawn Bauman looks at the worst strikeout performance by Royals hitters.

One way the Dodgers are better equipped for the post-season than the Astros.

Andrew Friedman is nearing the end of his deal with the Dodgers, but seems likely to stay put.

The Marlins extend manager Don Mattingly.

The Braves clinch a second straight division title.

Peter Alonso becomes just the second rookie to hit 50 home runs in a season.

Padres skipper Andy Green is on the hot seat.

Remembering Global Life Park in its last week as the home of the Texas Rangers.

Yankees pitcher Domingo German won’t pitch the rest of the season following domestic violence allegations.

Former Rays Aubrey Huff and Seth McClung are feuding on Twitter.

The Twins seem to be cursed against the Yankees.

Which hitter is most 2019?

What’s the best weird baseball video game ever?

The Greenland soccer league has the shortest season.

The NBA tries to clamp down on tampering.

North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970.

A spooky black spot on Jupiter is just a shadow.

A complete list of Emmy nominations.

Your song of the day is John Coltrane with Bass Blues.

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Former KC Royals outfielder Raul Ibanez has officially been placed on the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot. The results of the voting will be announced on January 22nd.
Raul Ibanez had a career that spanned 19 seasons with four seasons being with the Kansas City Royals. The ballots has 18 players who will appear on the ballot for the first time as well as 14 others who have previously been on the ballot.

Out of those who are appearing on the ballot for the first time, it appears only Derek Jeter will be the only lock to be giving a speech in Cooperstown.

Of those who are appearing on the ballot for at least the second time, it can be debated who deserves to be enshrined with the greatest to every play the game. Controversy still looms over several of those on it due to the steroid era of baseball.

The 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, as announced by @baseballhall moments ago.

— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) November 18, 2019

For arguments sake, why not take a deeper look into Raul Ibanez’s career and see how he stacks up against other players who are in the HoF and see if he could possibly be inducted some day into the Hall of Fame?

It’s worth immediately looking at the career statistics and trying to compare them to the other players during his time as well as historically for his position. Ibanez played nearly 92% of his 1767 games in the outfield.

Ibanez posted the following career statistics with his current place among the others who have played the game in parenthesis:

305 Home Runs (143rd)
2034 Hits (268th)
1207 RBI (152nd)
career .272 BA
He also appeared in 44 total playoff games with six of them in the 2009 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ibanez played in exactly one All-Star Game in 2009.

Larry Walker is another outfielder one the same ballot who put up the following numbers:

383 Home Runs
2160 Hits
1311 RBI
Walker played in five All-Star Games and won the NL MVP in 1997. He also won seven Gold Gloves while playing 28 playoff games to include four in the 2004 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

When looking at both of their numbers against both Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett, there is a strong argument that Larry Walker should get in, but also Raul Ibanez should have some (although a small amount) consideration on future ballots.

Jim Rice was an eight-time AL All-Star and won the 1978 AL MVP. He was inducted in 2009 in his final chance on the ballot with the following numbers:

382 HRs
2452 Hits
1451 RBI
career .289 BA
Kirby Puckett was inducted in 2001 and went to ten All-Star Games, won six Gold Gloves and was the MVP of the 1991 World Series with the Minnesota Twins. He had the following numbers:

207 HRs
2304 Hits
1085 RBI
career .318 BA
Larry Walker clearly has a legitimate chance this year to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based on comparison to both Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett. Raul Ibanez, on the other hand, will hopefully see some recognition by a few on the BBWAA. Ultimately he will fall short of the 75% of votes needed.

Although he won’t make the Hall of Fame, Raul Ibanez is still one of the fan favorites in Kansas City. He will always be remembered for the closed door speech he gave the 2014 Royals team before they went on an 8-0 run in the postseason. That also helped pave the way for a World Series title one year later.

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After being out with an injury for the entire 2019 season, the Kansas City Royals have designated pitcher Trevor Oaks for assignment.
With the World Series wrapping up and the offseason upon us, the Kansas City Royals can be expected to start making moves. A new manager will hopefully be announced soon, some trades could occur, or contracts could be extended or released.

As of October 29, 2019, the Royals have started their offseason moves, by designating Trevor Oaks for assignment. Oaks spent the entire 2019 season on the injured list, recovering from hip surgery.

We have reinstated RHP Trevor Oaks from the 60-day IL and designated him for assignment. #Royals

— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) October 29, 2019

Oaks came to the Royals during January of 2018 through a three-team trade between Kansas City, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Chicago White Sox. The Royals received Oaks and Erick Mejia from Los Angeles and in return sent Scott Alexander to LA and Joakim Soria to Chicago.

Since coming to Kansas City, Oaks has been underwhelming in the short time he has actually spent in the majors. In 2018, Oaks appeared in 4 games and started 2 of them holding an ERA of 7.24. Over 13.2 innings, he allowed 21 hits, 11 runs, walked 6 batters, and recorded 10 strikeouts.

Oaks faired much better at the minor league level. Working his way through the Dodgers minor league system, Oaks worked his way up from 2014 to 2017. In 2014 his ERA was a high 6.31, but he was able to work it out, posting ERAs under 3.00 in both 2015 and 2016, and a 3.83 in 2017.

RELATED STORY: Looking back on the 2015 World Series, Game 2
At AAA Omaha in 2018, Oaks continued his minor league success posting a 3.23 ERA over 128.1 innings. Unfortunately for Oaks, he just wasn’t able to maintain this level of production at Kauffman.

Though he wasn’t able to play a game during the 2019 regular season, Oaks was able to get some innings in for the Arizona Fall League. In 7 games, Oaks posted an ERA of 4.50, 12 innings, 6 earned runs, and 11 strikeouts. While it’s again not a huge sample size, the numbers aren’t bad for a player coming off of a year-long injury.

In his only major league time in 2018, Oaks ERA was 7.24, but his FIP was a low 3.96. There is some hope that he may be able to turn his numbers around. To see if this will happen, though, Oaks will need a much larger sample size as his current sample is basically non-existent.

It is no surprise that the Royals are starting to make roster moves and Oaks could also find his way back to the organization on a minor league contract. While he could become a nice arm for the rotation in the future, there are other players that are Rule 5 eligible that the Royals apparently see as better options that they will want to protect.

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In 1982, Dwight Clark launched the 49er’s football dynasty with “The Catch”. The baseball season got off to a cold start when an April 6th blizzard dumped up to 24 inches of snow on most of the Northeast, delaying Opening Day for several teams. The music scene didn’t improve much in 1982, but John Cougar had a couple of decent hits. He wisely went back to his birth name, Mellencamp. Journey released a little ditty called “Don’t Stop Believing” which is still sung at karaoke parties, weddings and bar closings across this great nation. The song only peaked at #73, as American listeners were enthralled by classic hits like Physical, Centerfold and Don’t you want me. Looking at the Billboard Top 100 for 1982 makes me question the musical taste of my brothers and sisters. Things were a little brighter at the theater with hits like ET, Diner, Porky’s, 48 Hours and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The Dow Jones Average closed the year at 1,046.54, the first time it ended a year above 1,000.

In baseball, Gaylord Perry won his 300th game, Rickey Henderson stole a record 130 bases and Hank Aaron was elected to the Hall of Fame. To this day I’m still astounded that nine writers did not vote for the then all-time home run king. Who are those guys? Carl “bleeping” Yastrzemski finally retired, and Satchel Paige passed away. Whitey Herzog won a World Series…with St. Louis, which defeated Milwaukee in a fine seven game series. Former Royal Darrel Porter was the MVP of the Series.

After their strange playoff appearance of 1981, the Royals made several off-season moves in an attempt to take advantage of their window. General Manager Joe Burke made seven trades in the off-season, of which only one paid off. That was the first trade he made in October of 1981 when he sent Manny Castillo to the Mariners for a player to be named later, which ended up being pitcher Bud Black. Black had a nice seven-year Royal career, winning 56 games while throwing 977 innings, good for almost 13 WAR and an ERA+ of 111.

The other trades? Not so hot. In three separate trades, Burke gave away talented youngsters Rance Mulliniks, Atlee Hammaker and Ken Phelps in return for aging pitchers Grant Jackson and Vida Blue and some spare parts.

Burke fared better in the June amateur draft. Their first-round pick, outfielder John Morris, was later traded to St. Louis in May of 1985 for Lonnie Smith, who played an integral role on the 1985 Championship team. They blew their second and third round picks before selecting a high school first baseman named Will Clark in the fourth round. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sign Clark and he went to Mississippi State and became a first-round pick with the Giants.

Burke scored big in the 19th round, when the Royals selected a high school shortstop out of Reseda, California named Bret Saberhagen. The 1982 draft wasn’t loaded with future stars, but it did produce many serviceable players. The lowest drafted player to make the majors was a young outfielder chosen by Cincinnati in the 42nd round with the 823rd pick named Jeff Montgomery. Yes, that Jeff Montgomery, who made his debut with the Reds in 1987 as a pitcher and was traded to the Royals in February of 1988. Monty as you well know, went on to save 304 games in his Kansas City career which earned him induction in the Royals Hall of Fame. The Montgomery trade remains one of the greatest heists in Royals history. Monty accumulated almost 21 WAR in his 12 year Royals career while garnering an ERA+ of 138. The player traded for Montgomery, Van Snider played in 19 games over parts of the 1988 and 1989 seasons for Cincinnati, picking up 7 hits in 35 at-bats.

In the secondary phase of the draft, the Royals used their fourth round pick on a young man named Cecil Fielder. Unfortunately, they gave up on Fielder before he matured into a home run mashing star. They traded him to Toronto for outfielder Leon Roberts. Fielder played parts of four seasons in Toronto then spent a season in Japan before turning into a star in Detroit as a 26-year-old, leading the league in home runs twice and in RBI three times. Roberts, meanwhile, hit eight home runs and 27 RBI in 112 games as a Royal.

The Royals finished the 1982 season at 90-72, which in some years would be good enough for a playoff berth, but not in 1982. They finished second to a 93-win California team.

From 1976 to 1985, The Royals won at least 90 games in six seasons. They made the playoffs in each of those seasons…except for 1982. They spent 53 days in first place, the last of which was September 19. They had a two-game lead on September 17 but lost 11 of their final 17 games to kill any hopes of a Western Division championship. There’s nothing that really stands out about their record or why they couldn’t win the division. They played well in close games, winning 26 of 43 contests decided by one run. In the end California was just a bit better. The Angels were legit. They had Bob Boone, Fred Lynn, Bobby Grich, Rod Carew, Doug DeCinces, Brian Downing, Reggie Jackson and Don Baylor. That’s eight solid bats. Their staff ERA was 3.82 and they got career years from a few pitchers, most notably Geoff Zahn, who went 18-8. The Angels picked up Tommy John from the Yankees at the trade deadline and John delivered, beating Kansas City twice in the last 11 games of the season.

The Royals had some hot bats of their own. Hal McRae had a monster year for the Royals, slashing .308/.369/.542 with 27 home runs, a league leading 46 doubles and a league best and club record 133 RBI’s. Mac had a career best 332 total bases which was good for 4.1 WAR, a 4th place finish in the league MVP race and a Sliver Slugger award.

George Brett had a down year by his standards, but still put up a .301/.378/.505 line with 21 home runs, 82 RBI, and 101 runs scored. Willie Wilson blossomed into a full-fledged superstar by racking up 194 hits while winning the A.L. batting title with a .332/.365/.431 slash line. Wilson led the league with 15 triples and stole 37 bases while winning a Silver Slugger. Frank White also had an excellent year, with a .298/.318/.469 line which included 45 doubles. The batting average and doubles were career highs for Frank. He also led American League second basemen with 361 putouts and won his sixth consecutive Gold Glove. John Wathan set a major league record with most steals by a catcher by swiping 36 bags.

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees
The pitching staff was led by Larry Gura, who won a career best 18 games. Injuries limited Dennis Leonard to 130 innings and a 10-6 record. Dan Quisenberry led the league with 35 saves and posted a 9-7 record. Quiz appeared in 72 games and threw 136 innings all of which helped him finish third in the Cy Young voting and ninth in the MVP tally.

The Royals had some interesting games in 1982:

McRae and Willie Mays Aikens both had five hit games, McRae’s coming on May 29th at Texas and Aiken’s on June 6 versus the Yankees.
Frank White hit for the cycle against the Tigers on August 3 and did it in dramatic fashion, delivering a two-out triple in the bottom of the ninth to score Onix Concepcion to give the Royals a 6-5 victory.
Aikens tied a club record with seven RBI in an 11-4 Royal victory over Oakland on September 30th.
The highlight of the pitching staff was a one-hitter thrown by Vida Blue on September 13 in a game at Royals Stadium against the Seattle Mariners. He only blemish on Blue’s night was a two-out single by former Yankee Bobby Brown in the sixth inning. Blue struck out six and only walked two in a game that scored an 89.

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees
On the Royals roster that summer was a young first baseman named Dennis Werth, whose stepson, Jayson Werth, would later go on to star for the Phillies. The community supported the Royals with almost 2.3 million fans going through the turnstiles. George Brett was the highest paid Royal, at a salary of $1 million, which seems quaint by today’s inflated standards. It’s almost laughable when compared on a salary/production basis to what some of the floating turds on the 2019 roster are making.

Five Royals made the All-Star team in 1982: Brett, McRae, White, Wilson and Quisenberry.

As for the Angels, they lost a five game Championship Series to the Brewers, who were also loaded with talent. The Brew Crew had mashers Ted Simmons, Cecil Cooper, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas. Their pitching staff was led by Pete Vuckovich and Mike Caldwell, who won 18 and 17 games respectively. Rollie Fingers had 29 saves. Vuckovich deserves special mention as he played one of the all-time great baseball movie characters, the arch villain Haywood, in Major League. Has there ever been a better line than “How’s your wife and my kids?” Also, on that 1982 Brewer team was a 27-year-old backup catcher who hit a career high .276/.324/.429 in 98 at-bats. His name? Ned Yost.

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The Royals go into this off-season coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons, perhaps not unsurprising for a rebuilding team but undoubtedly a frustrating experience for General Manager Dayton Moore. More help seems to be on the way with a group of young pitchers from the 2018 draft class likely ready to make their Major League debuts within the next year, but in the meantime, the Royals may have to rely largely on a pitching staff that ranked third-worst in the American League in ERA.

This will be a year of transition for the Royals, with a new manager in Mike Matheny, Alex Gordon possibly retiring, and a new owner in John Sherman. Sherman has been pretty mum about his plans for the club so we really don’t know if the club plans on spending more money this offseason, or if they’ll cut costs as the team continues their rebuild.

Royals payrolls
Year Payroll
2012 $62,621,725
2013 $80,991,725
2014 $92,034,345
2015 $112,292,000
2016 $137,318,477
2017 $145,900,000
2018 $123,139,792
2019 $100,089,967
The Royals have saddled themselves with some expensive long-term contracts for Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy, and Salvador Perez, but most of Alex Gordon’s contract will come off the books this year, save for a $4 million buyout. With the Gordon obligation lessened, and Whit Merrifield’s ridiculously below market rate deal, the Royals could have some financial flexibility.

Adding a wrinkle to matters is Jorge Soler’s unique deal. Soler is under contract through 2020 with a salary of $4.67 million. However, his contract allows him to opt-out of his deal. Since Soler is not yet eligible for free agency based on service time, he would go into the arbitration system, where he would stand to make around $8-10 million. After that season, he would still be under club control through 2021, and would have to go through the arbitraiton system again unless the Royals work out a contract with him.

The Royals also have three arbitration-eligible players this year. They will certainly tender a contract to Mike Montgomery, and Cheslor Cuthbert seems likely to be non-tendered. The Royals may decide to tender a contract to Jesse Hahn if they feel confident about his health situation.

Let’s look at the projected 2020 Royals’ payroll if we assume Jorge Soler opts out his deal, and the Royals tender all their arbitration-eligible players a contract, using the MLB Trade Rumors estimated salaries as a guide.

Royals projected 2020 payroll
Player 2020 2021 2022 2023
Ian Kennedy $16,500,000 Free agent
Danny Duffy $15,250,000 $15,500,000 Free agent
Salvador Perez $14,200,000 $14,200,000 Free agent
Whit Merrifield $5,000,000 $6,750,000 $2,750,000 $6,500,000
Alex Gordon (buyout) $4,000,000
Subtotal $54,950,000 $36,450,000 $2,750,000 $6,500,000
Arbitration-eligible 2020 est. 2021 2022 2023
Jorge Soler $10,500,000 Arbitration Free agent
Mike Montgomery $2,900,000 Arbitration Free agent
Cheslor Cuthbert $1,800,000 Arbitration Arbitration Free agent
Jesse Hahn $900,000 Arbitration Free agent
Subtotal $16,100,000
Remaining 17 players at $600,000 $10,200,000
Total payroll $81,250,000 $36,450,000 $2,750,000 $6,500,000
Source: Cot’s Contracts

Keep in mind, teams also have about $15 million in player benefit costs, and millions throughout the year in salaries to players on the 40-man roster, but not on the active roster.

Based on player salaries, the Royals project to have a payroll nearly $20 million below last year’s Opening Day figure. That would give them some room to pursue some lower-level free agents, perhaps some pitching depth or an outfielder to replace Alex Gordon if he retires.

But considering how well the Royals have fared in free agency the last few seasons, they may just lay low this winter. Adding free agents may also block younger players the Royals will want to get a look at as they build their team back up. We also don’t what Sherman intends with payroll. If his ownership group took on debt to purchase the club, they may have to cut costs for a few seasons.

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Highly touted pitching prospect Brady Singer impressed in his first full season of professional baseball, surpassing many expectations the Royals set for his first season in the minors.

Kansas City’s first-round draft pick from 2018 has lived up to his reputation as a polished pitcher and intense competitor with dynamic stuff, but he also did his share of learning and even hit a few minor bumps in the road on his fast track to the majors.

His first season in the minors added to the intrigue surrounding the former national college pitcher of the year and provided a clearer picture of the strides he still needs to make before he’s ready to become a mainstay in the Royals’ major-league rotation.

“When you reflect on the year he had, he met all expectations and probably exceeded expectations,” Royals assistant general manager/player personnel JJ Picollo said. “He didn’t get the chance to compete in 2018 just because of that groin issue he had going. We decided to go slow with that. He didn’t have the benefit that some of the other guys had in ‘18 of getting his feet wet.”

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Baseball America and each rank Singer, who turned 23 in August, among the top 100 prospects in baseball. MLBPipeline ranks him the top pitching prospect in the Royals’ farm system.

This season, between High-A and Double-A, Singer posted a 12-5 record with a 2.85 ERA in 26 starts (148 1/3 innings). He struck out 138, walked 39 and posted a 1.19 WHIP and an opponent’s batting average of .247.

He earned Carolina League midseason All-Star honors and finished the season by garnering the Royals’ Double-A Pitcher of the Year award.

“One of the things that has been emphasized to Brady — and he’s done a good job embracing it and trying to get better with it — is the development of his changeup,” Picollo said. “His usage (of the changeup) went up as the year went on, which is a great sign that he was gaining confidence in using that pitch.”

Singer’s fastball and slider have been viewed as major-league-caliber pitches since he was coming out of the University of Florida.

While Singer has shown ability to dominate in the minors with those two pitches (though left-handed hitters batted 100 points higher against him in his 10 starts in High-A), the third pitch will be crucial as he faces more advanced and experienced hitters.

By the end of the season, Singer felt like he’d gained a consistent feel for the changeup.

“I could throw it in the zone and out of the zone when I wanted to, just kind of like my slider,” Singer said while in Kansas City at the end of September. “I could get ahead with my slider and then I could throw it out of the zone. I feel like I could do that with my changeup as well.”

Singer credited both Wilmington pitching coach Steve Luebber and Northwest Arkansas pitching coach Doug Henry for working through Singer’s growing pains with the changeup as he tried different ways of throwing it.

“We made a little bit of adjustments, grip-wise and where to put some pressure on. I think a lot of it is just the way I’m thinking of throwing it — throw it just like a fastball,” Singer said.

Henry described Singer’s changeup as “a little firm” at times, meaning it’s harder than ideal to create the desired separation between it and the fastball to a hitter (he’s thrown a low- to mid-90s fastball and a changeup in the upper 80s at times). But Henry contends that Singer just needs to trust it down in the strike zone.

“It’s a plus pitch,” Henry said. “It’s not something he’s going to have to take a whole lot of time working with again. It’s a big-league pitch. It’s definitely not just a show pitch. He can use it to get outs, and he realized that by the end of the year.”

Henry, who spent 11 seasons as a pitcher in the majors, served as the Royals’ bullpen coach for five years prior to 2018. That included the AL pennant run in 2014 and the World Series championship run in 2015.

The pitching coach in Wilmington in 2018, Henry hadn’t worked with Singer until this summer. Singer quickly confirmed everything Henry had heard about his character, off-the-charts work ethic and competitive fire.

“He’s an incredible competitor. As a coach, he’s fun to work with,” Henry said.

When Singer arrived after his promotion from Wilmington, Henry sat him down in front of a computer video system. At the time, Singer didn’t know much, if anything, about all the video and information available to him.

While that could’ve been overwhelming or daunting, Singer deciphered what he needed and didn’t to prepare effectively and efficiently inside of his first two weeks. To Henry’s surprise, he simplified things in a way his old-school pitching coach appreciated.

“He just goes, ‘I’m here to get people out,’” Henry said. “I just thought: ‘I think I like this guy.’”

Henry noticed while working with Singer and his former Florida teammate and right-hander Jackson Kowar that they’d been wired the same way from their college days. Their approach simply centered around getting outs.

If that meant they threw their best stuff repeatedly, the results mattered infinitely more than the route taken to get there.

“Singer’s competitive edge puts him at an elite level,” Henry said. “That’s the key for me.”

Of course, being that fiery can lead to some interesting interactions.

One day about four innings into a start at Double-A in which Singer hadn’t thrown his changeup more than twice, Henry pulled aside Singer and catcher Meibrys Viloria and implored them to work the changeup into the sequencing.

The next inning started off with about 12 changeups in a row from Singer. Henry fumed, because that was not the intent of his advice — nor would using the changeup that way help Singer.

Henry “aired out” both pitcher and catcher when they got to the dugout to make his point crystal clear.

Henry chuckled in conveying the story and admitted, “The thing is, he went out there and threw those changeups and I don’t think he gave up a hit on them.”

The Royals believed Singer could’ve probably began this season at Double-A and handled the transition, but the organization decided not to rush his development and thus started him at High-A Wilmington.

Picollo indicated there will likely be spirited discussion about whether Singer begins next season back in Double-A or at Triple-A Omaha and the scoring-heavy Pacific Coast League.

Part of the decision will depend on the need for Singer to strengthen certain areas of his game, such as holding runners on base and fielding his position — as well as the continued progress of his changeup.

Other factors taken into account will include maturity, building confidence, dealing with adversity and learning against higher-level hitters, the environment he’ll be in just two years into his professional career.

“The goal of this isn’t how quickly he gets to the major leagues, it’s how prepared he is when he does get to the majors leagues,” Picollo said. “Whether or not he starts the year in Double-A or Triple-A really shouldn’t impact how quickly he get to the major leagues.

“He’ll put it together when he puts it together. We’ll know when he’s ready.”