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Signing off his live broadcast, Los Angeles Angels broadcaster Victor Rojas receives a phone call. A fresh order of prints — featuring Hank Aaron’s “755” — have just shipped.

The Overland Park native’s apparel startup, Big Fly Gear, has been growing steadily since its launch in February, Rojas said. The clothing line, fittingly, celebrates historical milestones in baseball. The company name: a callback to Rojas’ own career with the sport, he said.

“‘Big Fly’ has been my home run call for years,” Rojas said, describing the catchphrase that’s developed over 17 years in Major League Baseball games.

Rojas’ ties to baseball go even deeper, however. The announcer-turned-entrepreneur is the son of Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer Cookie Rojas, who served as the team’s second baseman and later manager.

The resurgence of baseball in Rojas’ hometown — and with his father’s former team — make a great fit for Big Fly, he said.

“The KC sports feel helps us tremendously, here in the Midwest,” said Rojas, who noted the majority of sales so far have been centered around Big Fly’s homebase in Dallas, as well as cities west of the Mississippi.

Focused on graphics, Big Fly’s brand tells a story, Rojas emphasized.

“If you like baseball, you will like the look and the vintage feel,” he said, acknowledging his early decision to avoid Angels-related merchandise in favor of highlighting milestones from different generations of baseball history — like Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs.

“Right now, we are going back in time,” Rojas continued, describing Big Fly’s first at bat. “There are a thousand ideas out there and a million stories for us to tell.”

Some of those tales might well come from Kansas City’s rich history with the sport, he said.

Kansas City baseball goes back further than the Royals and the Athletics, the latter of which left the city after the 1967 season. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is headquartered in KC, showcasing stories that led to the integration of baseball with opportunities for players of all races.

Working with the museum’s president, Bob Kendrick, Big Fly’s apparel could feature graphics tied of the era of Buck O’Neil, Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, Rojas said.

View this post on Instagram
Thank you to Victor Rojas and all my friends @bigflygear.

A post shared by Albert Pujols (@albertpujols) on May 10, 2019 at 8:49am PDT

Uniting with a timeless sport

A fan-designed logo gives Big Fly a classic look while still remaining trendy, he explained.

And while not everyone knows what “Big Fly” means right off the bat, photos of his family wearing the apparel help communicate the message of America’s pastime online and on various social media platforms, Rojas said.

Click here to check out Big Fly Gear’s selection.

One momentous shout-out came May 10 on Instagram, he added, from none other than Angels first baseman and designated hitter Albert Pujols — formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals — who that night homered for his 2,000th career RBI. (The Angels ultimately won 13-0 over the Detroit Tigers in the May 9 matchup.)

Pleased by Big Fly’s revenue so far, Rojas said there’s more to the brand’s story to come.

“In our Big Fly Brigade, we will give back,” he said.

The startup is planning donations each month to veterans groups, he said, ultimately aiming to pay for a military family to go to every Fourth of July baseball game at MLB ballparks.

“It’s not just about us making money,” he said.

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Another offseason, another Gold Glove nomination for Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who is vying for his seventh award.
From the department of “Have we been here before?” it was announced today that Alex Gordon is up for another Gold Glove nomination. If he were to win this season, this would add to his 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018 crownings as a member of the Kansas City Royals.

This will be his highest fielding percentage for a year since 2013, when he made one error in 341 chances for a .997 mark. He also only made one error in 2019 but with only 276 chances his percentage dropped to .996. His lone error was not fielding a baseball but on a throw way back on May 8th at the Los Angeles Angels.

His seven outfield assists are the lowest since 2016 but that is a combination of fewer chances hit his way and teams not being willing to run on Gordon despite his aging arm. Compared to other outfielders, he fielded his position 11 points higher than league average which is an amazing difference.

Congrats on being named a Rawlings #GoldGlove Award finalist, Gordo! #AlwaysRoyal

He also started two double plays for the Kansas City Royals and on all plays hit his direction that had a 40-60 percent chance of being fielding successfully, he closed the deal a ridiculous 88.9 percent of the time. If he were to win, Gordon would tie Frank White for most Gold Gloves in Kansas City Royals franchise history. Overall he would only be behind Ken Griffey Jr. for placing in the top three overall in outfield Gold Gloves won.

Not bad for a player who did not begin playing the outfield full-time until his fifth year in the majors converting from third base. He was 27 years old when that happened and the next season he won his first Gold Glove. On top of all the Gold Gloves won, in 2014 Gordon received the American League Platinum Glove which is an award from the fans who vote on the best defensive player from that season’s Gold Glove winners.

Imagine if Gordon came up with the Kansas City Royals playing left field the entire time and his bat was producing to keep him in the lineup. He could easily be challenging for the all-time lead in this award for outfielders.

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The Rule 5 draft will take place at the Winter Meetings in December, but the deadline to add eligible players to the 40-man roster to protect them from being drafted is Wednesday, November 20. The Royals currently have a full 40-man roster, so they will have to do some roster shuffling to add players in anticipation of the draft.

What is the Rule 5 draft exactly? It is a way of making sure organizations don’t hoard talent by stashing minor leaguers without giving them a chance. Players eligible to be protected are those players not on the 40-man roster that were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming. Basically, if you were a high school draftee or international signee who began their pro career in 2015 or before, or a college draftee who began in 2016 or before, you are eligible.*

*-there are weird exceptions to this, like the one that Blue Jays exploited to steal Elvis Luciano from the Royals last year

Let’s take a look at who might get added and who may get exposed to the Rule 5 draft

Locks to get protected
Nick Heath is almost certainly going to be added to the 40-man roster and is a dark horse to make the roster out of spring training. The speedy outfielder hit .255/.345/.387 across Double-A and Triple-A last year and led all minor leaguers with 60 steals. He performed well in the Arizona Fall League in 2018 and is holding his own in winter ball and having a blast doing it.

Carlos Hernandez is the kind of player teams covet in the Rule 5 draft, a high-upside power arm in the low minors who has been held back by injuries. The 22-year old right-hander posted a 3.50 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 36 innings for low-A Lexington last year, but teams will be enticed by his 95 mph fastball. With the state of the pitching in the organization, the Royals will almost certainly protect the young Venezuelan who is ranked the #13 prospect in the system by MLB Pipeline.

Could get protected
Gabriel Cancel has pretty good pop for a second baseman, slamming 18 home runs for Double-A Northwest Arkansas and batting .246/.308/.735 overall. The 22-year old has experience in the upper minors and is still young enough to have some upside. He was overwhelmed in the Arizona Fall League this year, but his ability to play all over the infield may make him enticing to teams.

Gerson Garabito has been good, not great, posting a 3.77 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 141 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 23-year old right-hander features a fastball in the low-90s and has always had average to below-average strikeout rates, so the upside seems limited, but a team may gamble on him hoping to unlock more.

Grant Gavin is a Kansas City native who attended Central Missouri University and has posted strong numbers as a reliever at each level. He had a 3.61 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year, and had a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. The 24-year old right-hander has struggled with walks a bit, but he could be able to make the jump into a big league bullpen soon.

Ofreidy Gomez is a 24-year old right-hander that has flown under the radar, but features a mid-90s fastball that teams could covet. He had a 4.05 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Seuly Matias was considered one of the top prospects in the system a year ago, but a disastrous season and a hand injury have diminished his value. Matias hit 31 home runs in 2018 for Low-A Lexington, but hit just .148 with a 45 percent strikeout rate for High-A Wilmington in 57 games this year, missing the last two months. He still has great power potential at age 21, but teams typically don’t select raw power hitters with high strikeout rates, so Matias could very well be unprotected.

Blake Perkins was acquired from the Nationals in 2018 in the Kelvin Herrera. The 23-year old centerfielder hit .224/.330/.347 in 122 games across High-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He has good speed and has shown an ability to get on base with a 12.8 percent walk rate in his career, but his failure to hit much in his career may keep teams away.

Sebastian Rivero gets lost in the catching depth the Royals have, but Rivero was considered the best defensive backstop in the system by Baseball America in 2018. The Royals already have four catchers on the 40-man roster with Salvador Perez, Cam Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria, and Nick Dini. Rivero has only played three games above High-A ball and has never hit much, so teams may not want him to make the jump to the big leagues.

Have been passed over before
D.J. Burt has some speed and positional versatility as a second baseman and outfielder, but hit just .226/.303/.304 in 80 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 24-year old has virtually no power, but could still have some use as a utility player and pinch-runner.

Foster Griffin was exposed to the draft last year and went unselected. The former first-round pick had seemingly ugly numbers in Triple-A this season, posting a 5.23 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings, but that was actually a league-average ERA in the offensive-crazy Pacific Coast League. The left-hander has always been a bit underwhelming in his minor league career, but he is still just 24 and has pitched very well in winter ball this year.

Jake Kalish has been a serviceable left-hander in Omaha’s rotation the past two seasons, but at age 28, lacks the upside teams are looking for in the Rule 5 draft. He posted a 5.16 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 118 2⁄3 innings for Omaha this year. Kalish has generally posted underwhelming strikeout rates in his career, but very low walk rates, so he could be attractive to a team looking for a strike-thrower.

Yunior Marte seems like the kind of pitcher teams should like in the Rule 5 draft, but he went unselected in last year’s draft. Marte has a loose arm that can hit 96 mph on the radar gun and can fill any role on a staff. The 24-year old right-hander had a 3.58 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings across Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Rudy Martin is a speedster who can draw some walks, but fails to hit much otherwise. He hit .185/.260/.283 across three levels this year, swiping 26 bases in 100 games. He had a 32 percent strikeout rate, far too high for a non-power hitter, so unless a team sees him as an asset on the bases only, he seems unlikely to get selected.

Emilio Ogando improved his strikeout rate moving to the bullpen this year, although his overall numbers were still underwhelming. The 26-year old left-hander had a 5.20 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings mostly in Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Ogando has generally posted decent numbers in the minors, but with lower strikeout rates, and at his age, there isn’t much upside.

Chase Vallot has had trouble staying healthy and making contact, but he does flash some great power when he connects. The former first-round pick hit just .190/.303/.401 with 14 home runs in 83 games for Low-A Lexington this past season. The 23-year is a patient hitter, but has pretty much no defensive value and a 38 percent career strikeout rate, so he will not be selected.

Nolan Watson has a 6.46 ERA in his career since the Royals made him a first-round pick in 2015 and missed most of this season due to Tommy John surgery. The 22-year old right-hander has a “fringe-average fastball” and seems unlikely to be selected.

Long shots to be added
Jeison Guzman was given a $1.5 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic, but his bat has failed to develop since then. The 21-year old hit .253/.296/.373 with seven home runs in 121 games for Low-A Lexington this past season. He has a left-handed bat and some good tools, so he may still have a future, but he seems unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5.

Janser Lara has a live arm and an ability to miss bats, but he was out the entire 2019 season with an undisclosed injury. The 23-year old has a 4.02 ERA in his career with 10.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings, but 4.7 walks-per-nine innings, and has never pitched above low-A ball, making him very unlikely to be chosen.

Emmanuel Rivera is ranked as the #19 prospect in the system by MLB Pipeline due to offensive potential, but he has not developed much power yet. The 23-year old had a down year for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, hitting .258/.297/.345, and there usually isn’t much use for third basemen who struggle with the bat in the Rule 5 draft.

Ashe Russell has been an enigma since the Royals selected him 21st overall in the 2015 draft, tossing just 38 1⁄3 professional innings in his career. Russell had psychological issues that prevented him from throwing a baseball correctly and walked away from baseball at one point. Jeffrey Flanagan reported last winter that he had made progress and could return to the mound, but the 23-year old never appeared in a game this year.

Andres Sotillet has a thick frame and a low-90s fastball, but hasn’t translated that into a high strikeout rate. The 22-year old right-hander did perform adequately for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season with a 3.35 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. His walk rate took a big spike this year, but he has generally been a solid strike-thrower.

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The Texas Rangers and veteran pitcher, Edinson Volquez, are reportedly working on a minor-league deal, bringing Volquez back with a shot at the MLB roster.
With much of the Texas Rangers brass in the Dominican Republic for the opening of the organization’s new baseball complex, TR Sullivan tweeted out Friday morning that the club and veteran Edinson Volquez are working on a minor-league deal.

Volquez, a 14-year veteran, spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Rangers organization, missing all of 2018 and the majority of 2019 due to injury. The hopes for his initial deal in Texas is that he could help bolster the rotation. With injuries considered, Volquez made 11 appearances for the Rangers last year, four as a starter. He posted a 6.75 ERA throwing 16 innings.

During the season, Volquez made his plan known to retire at the end of the season but it appears that plan could be put on hold. The Rangers are looking to bring Volquez back on a minor-league contract with a Spring Training invitation. This would give Volquez the opportunity to compete for a spot in the Rangers bullpen as his days as a regular starter are probably behind him.

The 36-year old has bounced around a bit in his career, not because of ineffectiveness but rather a consistency with his pitching. Volquez started his career with the Rangers back in 2005 and was the main piece of the deal with the Reds that brought Josh Hamilton to the Rangers. He would go on to be an All-Star with the Reds in 2008 and then later, won a World Series in 2015 as a part of the Kansas City Royals.

If the two sides do come to an agreement, I wouldn’t expect to see Volquez change the Rangers offseason plans at all. They still will be in the market for starting pitching. If Volquez makes the roster out of Spring Training, his veteran presence would be a plus. If he doesn’t, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him move forward with his retirement and maybe join the Rangers in another capacity.

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Will the Kansas City Royals put a new(ish) glove at second base, sending a fan favorite out to patrol the fields of Kauffman Stadium?
The Kansas City Royals had a disappointing 2019. For the second year in a row, they racked up 100 losses, and it was pretty clear early in the season that the team was nowhere near ready to contend for the postseason. The season did have some good moments, though, to instill some confidence for the future.

Along with some top moments and broken records, the 2019 season did something else important. It made the areas where the Royals lack painfully obvious. Pitching took the top spot on the weakness list, obviously. First base was also an area where the team struggled.

Second base was never really an issue. There may have been some movement throughout the position, but at the end of the day, Whit Merrifield was still around. Come spring training, though, the Royals may have to answer some questions about who will be in the spot full time.

As was said, fans saw some movement through second in 2019, just like most positions for the Royals throughout the season. Merrifield saw himself playing other spots on the field and some have to wonder if this won’t turn into a more permanent gig for him.

On top of that, Merrifield’s likely replacement, Nicky Lopez saw 76 games at second in 2019. There is no telling what the Royals will do in 2020 under a new manager and new ownership. Once spring training arrives, though, some big decisions will have to be made. Let’s break this position down a little further and see who might make an appearance at second in 2020.

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Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza are the only players in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame who wear a New York Mets cap on their plaque. This may soon change when Carlos Beltran is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2023.
When most New York Mets fans hear the name Carlos Beltran they immediately picture him striking out looking with the bases loaded on an Adam Wainwright curveball in the ninth inning of Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS. The strikeout sent the St. Louis Cardinals to the Word Series, where they defeated the Detroit Tigers in five games. Unfortunately for Beltran, his greatness in a Mets uniform is over shadowed by this one infamous moment.

Throughout his Mets career, which spanned seven seasons, Beltran was one of the most productive players in franchise history both offensively and defensively. He is sixth in franchise history in home runs and runs batted in with 149 and 559 respectively. He took home two Silver Slugger Awards and was named an All-Star five times as a member of the Mets. Until this past season when rookie phenom Pete Alonso took the league by storm, hitting a league-leading 53 home runs, Beltran and Todd Hundley owned the franchise’s single-season record with 41.

Not only did Beltran have a very respectable offensive career as a Met, he was also a force with the glove. In his seven seasons in Flushing, Beltran won the Gold Glove in center field three times. He was moved to right field in 2011 due to consistent knee problems and even there he played above average defense.

While Beltran enjoyed the most successful seasons of his career as a member of the Mets, he also had some very productive years elsewhere. In 1999, Beltran took home American League Rookie of the Year honors as a member of the Kansas City Royals. In his rookie campaign, Beltran hit .293 with 22 home runs and 108 RBI while also stealing 27 bases.

To go along with his five All-Star appearances as a Met, he was also chosen to be an All Star four other times during his career. The only other team he made multiple All-Star appearances for was the St. Louis Cardinals where he was an All-Star in 2012 and 2013. He made his final All-Star appearance in 2016 at the age of 39 as a member of the New York Yankees.

It’s safe to say the Beltran is one of the best switch hitters of all time. Throughout his career, he accumulated 2,725 hits, 435 home runs, 1,587 RBI, to go along with 312 stolen bases and a career batting average of .279. He was an all-around player who could hit for power and average, and was the best defensive center fielder in baseball during the prime of his career.

Although many Mets fans are bitter over Beltran because one at bat in the 2006 NLCS, it’s clear that he was one of the most productive players not only in franchise history, but in Major League Baseball as well.

It should be remembered that in that same NLCS, Beltran hit .296 with a .387 on base percentage to go along with 3 home runs. If Beltran had come through in the infamous at bat, theres every chance he would have been named MVP of that series.

Unfortunately for Beltran and the Mets, the 2006 NLCS didn’t transpire how they would have hoped but that shouldn’t take away from the excellence Beltran displayed over his seven seasons in Queens and his 20 years as a major leaguer. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Beltran will end up in Cooperstown and it should come with a blue and orange NY across his cap.

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The Royals have activated shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, catcher Cam Gallagher, and pitcher Danny Duffy from the injured list as Major League rosters are allowed to expand to include anyone on the 40-man roster. The Royals have also recalled pitcher Heath Fillmyer.

Mondesi went on the Injured List back on July 17 with a left shoulder subluxation after diving for a foul ball. He spent ten days on rehab assignment with Omaha, smacking a home run in his last game on Friday.

Mondesi exits stage right with a 2-run BLAST to up our lead to 4-0 in the 5th! (and yeah, we think he knew)

Mondesi will be limited in his activities. He can play the field, but is under orders not to dive for any balls or slide head-first into bases. Mondesi is in his first full season in the big leagues and is hitting .266/.294/.433 with seven home runs, 31 steals and a league-high nine triples.

Danny Duffy suffered a hamstring injury while jogging on the field before a game back on August 5. He rejoined the club this week after making a rehab start last weekend with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Duffy has a 4.93 ERA in 18 starts this year with 90 strikeouts and 36 walks in 100 1/3 innings, after missing the first month of the season with a shoulder injury. Duffy will start Sunday afternoon against the Royals. The Royals have talked about ending the year with a six-man rotation, with Jakob Junis, Glenn Sparkman, Mike Montgomery, Jorge Lopez, and Eric Skoglund getting starts this week. Brad Keller has been shut down for the year to limit his innings.

Cam Gallagher went on the Injured List back on August 8 with an oblique injury. He was hitting .238/.312/.365 with three home runs in 45 games. All three catchers on the Royals’ roster – Gallagher, Nick Dini, and Meibrys Viloria – are rookies.

Heath Fillmyer returns after posting a 5.11 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings for Triple-A Omaha. He had been pitching much better out of the bullpen after returning from a shoulder injury, giving up just six runs over his last 17 innings. The 25-year old right-hander gave up 15 runs in 15 innings in a stint with the Royals back in April.

Newly acquired first baseman Ryan McBroom is also expected to be added to the Major League roster, and more callups could happen after minor league seasons end on Monday. Dayton Moore told Bob Fescoe on 610 Sports that he expected some pitchers on the 40-man roster to be promoted, but no surprises, so that likely means Kansas City fans won’t see top pitching prospects Jackson Kowar or Brady Singer get a cup of coffee in September.

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Almost a year ago, the Kansas City Royals added a former 7th-round draft pick to the organization. Can he overcome control problems and help the club’s beleaguered pitching staff?
On November 26, 2018, the Kansas City Royals claimed right-hander Conner Greene off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals, a move consistent with their well-earned reputation for plucking once-promising pitchers away from teams that don’t want or need them. The Royals hoped Greene, talented but plagued with troubling control problems, could steady himself and climb from the minors to the big leagues in short order. But can the Royals’ hopes be realized?

Greene’s talent is a given; as pointed out in this space earlier this year, he has a menacing fastball and decent curveball. But if these pitches are his blessing, control is his nemesis, a flaw that likely drove the Cardinals’ decision to DFA him and make him available to other clubs.

Greene’s control problems have not been isolated. He may have given Toronto a slight hint of control difficulties to come soon after the Blue Jays made him the 6th pick in the 7th round of the 2013 Amateur Draft. Assigned to the rookie leagues that summer, he issued 15 walks in 30.2 innings for a less than stellar 4.4 BB9. The fact he posted identical 2.7 BB’s in the next two seasons as he advanced from rookie leagues to AA, suggested his first season performance reflected an insufficient sample size or arose from the sudden adjustment to pro ball.

But his control suffered and his walk rate increased steadily over the next three seasons. Pitching at High A and AA in 2016, his BB9 was 4.4; in a season spent entirely at AA in 2017, it rose to 5.6; and it ballooned to an unsightly 6.4 in a 2018 campaign split between AA and AAA. The Cardinals decided not to protect Greene in the Rule 5 draft and DFA’d him. Nevertheless, the Royals saw potential and claimed him.

How to attack his control problems wasn’t the only decision Kansas City had to make when Greene arrived. The Royals, beset at the big league level with holes in their rotation and an inferior bullpen, needed to determine whether Greene was a starter or reliever. Toronto used him in both roles before making him a starter to begin his third season in their minor league system. During 2015 and 2016, he appeared in 53 games exclusively as a starter and went 22-16; then, in 2017, he started all but one of the 26 games he appeared in.

Greene began 2018 starting for the Cardinals’ Springfield AA team and went 11-10 with a 4.44 ERA; despite walking 32 batters in 48.2 innings (5.9 BB9), he was promoted to AAA, where he became a reliever. The role change didn’t help his control, however, as he issued 31 walks in 39.1 innings for a 7.1 BB9, his worst for any minor league team.

The Royals brought Greene out of the bullpen for his first stop with the organization — he started 16 of 21 games at Northwest Arkansas in 2019 and cut his BB9 in half (3.5). But control issues revisited Greene after an August promotion to AAA Omaha. Back in the bullpen, he appeared in eight games and walked 16 batters in 15.1 innings for an ugly 9.4 BB9. He struck out six fewer batters than he walked; the walks contributed significantly to his 1.957 Omaha WHIP.

Although Greene’s experience as a reliever is primarily limited to 2018 and 2019, his control problems do not appear conclusively linked to whether he starts or relieves. His overall effectiveness may be another question: although opposing hitters slashed .237/.357/.312 against him as a starter, and .248/.402/.333 against him as a reliever in 2018, in 2019 they slashed .252/.332/.407 when he started and an alarming .304/.416/.426 when he relieved.

It is Greene’s underlying talent, and the potential the Royals believe he has, that presently secure his spot on the club’s 40-man roster; that new Kansas City manager Mike Matheny is undoubtedly aware of that talent and potential from his Cardinal days may help Greene keep that spot.

The price to get Greene wasn’t steep. To make room for him, the Royals DFA’d Burch Smith after his unremarkable single Royals season in 2018 (1-6, 6.92 ERA). But the November 20 deadline to set 40-man rosters for Rule 5 Draft purposes is rapidly approaching, and the Kansas City Royals may be forced to decide whether the price to protect Greene — dropping someone from the 40-man or blocking another from it — may be too high.

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Royals prospect Kris Bubic wins fan vote (#VoteOmar) for the Starting Pitcher of the Year MiLBY (MiLBY?):

Kris Bubic, the sixth-ranked Royals prospect, brought electric stuff in only his second year as a pro, posting a 11-5 record and 2.23 ERA across both Class A levels. Over 149 1/3 innings, he recorded a Minor League-leading 185 strikeouts while walking 42. The 22-year-old, who spent last summer in the Pioneer League, was so good to start the season in the South Atlantic League that he was promoted after nine starts.

At Royals Farm Report, Drew Osborne profiles potential stud reliever Tyler Zuber.

I expect another solid season out of Zuber. He will probably end up in Omaha sooner rather than later and will have to adjust to the MLB ball which will bare watching. Zuber will be Rule 5 eligible after the 2020 season so the Royals will have to decide whether or not to protect him next year. After this season, and if health stays on his side, the easy answer will be yes.

Jeffrey Flanagan talks about the friendship of Mike Matheny and Cal Eldred.

Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred has been close friends with new manager Mike Matheny for close to 25 years. Eldred and Matheny go on hunting trips together, as they have done on treks to Wyoming and Colorado in the past. Their families, with four children each, take vacations together. Eldred and Matheny first met when Matheny broke in with the Brewers in 1994 and Eldred already was established on the Brewers staff. Their careers later crossed again for two years in St. Louis from 2003-04, and then again for three years there when Matheny was manager and Eldred was a special advisor to the general manager. In other words, the friendship runs deep.

Speaking of managers, it looks like Pedro Grifol is out of the running for manager of the Giants

The finalists are former Phillies manager and Dodgers farm director Gabe Kapler, Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro. Royals quality-control coach Pedro Grifol, one of the first to interview, is no longer under consideration.

Sean Thornton at Bleeding Royal Blue would have preferred Grifol to Matheny.

KC Kingdom has gone mostly quiet in the last week. But KOK is still cranking out articles (lists):

David Scharff slideshows “Pitchers that could start 30 games in 2020”
Michael Huckins continues their team-by-team series with “Making the case for free agents, Pittsburgh Pirates”
As does Shawn Bauman: “Making the case for free agency, Marlins”
The Best of Royals Review (TM) is now ready to get into the meat of the offseason with some fun new (old) articles. Coming off this week’s 2019 SBNation Off-Season Sim, let’s look back at the very first one back in 2012: SB Nation Winter Meeting Simulation Thread*

It was a wild success with almost all teams being active and money being splashed around like crazy. The signing of Zack Greinke at 6/$175M caused much consternation. He would sign for 6/$147M in real life. The Yankees signed Josh Hamilton for 6/$152M versus the 5/$125M he got from Anaheim. “Internet darling” (Max’s words) Shaun Marcum was hilariously signed for 5/$52M. In real life he went for 1/$7.7M. He would only throw 103 IP the rest of his career.

This was also the beginning of OMD’s always entertaining tenure as the Shadow Royals. He tried really hard to trade Wil Myers but didn’t get any deals to his liking. He signed Ryan Dempster. He picked up Rickie Weeks and Jake Westbrook in cheap trades for Aaron Crow and Christian Colon. He made his crown jewel trade of Moose for Trevor Bauer. And he made an even more controversial one: Lamb, Montgomery, Eiler Hernandez, and Yordano Ventura for Bud Norris and the Astros eating much of Frenchy’s contract.

*(I still contend that picture “looks like a young Ed O’Neill after smelling a fart”.)

Following Max’s story in yesterday’s Rumblings about automated strike zones coming “when the time is right”, Manfred also confirmed it’s going to be used in some minor league parks next year.

The Cubs lowered ticket prices after a disappointing season. Though it has been suggested that this is only because they have a disproportionate number of games in the chilly first month of the season.

More Cubs news. At Fangraphs, Craig Edwards asks “Are the Cubs Really Going to Ignore Their Window for Contention?”

He also posits “The Yankees Don’t Spend Like They Used to”.

The Yankees haven’t been saving money over the last decade. Individuals and families save money; MLB franchises increase profits. The Yankees have spent this time increasing profits and looking for a way to win like they used to without spending like it. The past two seasons have proved successful in that regard. The resulting profits also serve to decrease the club’s chances of winning a World Series. It’s a choice the Yankees have made that differs considerably from the previous decade. The Yankees are trying hard to achieve massive profits and winning baseball, and those two goals often compete against each other. They did so last offseason and at the trade deadline, and it will happen again this winter. We will see what choice they make.

I actually got to watch some movies this past couple of weeks so we’ll do some movie reviews. Heck, 3 of the movies are even from 2019!

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – Narrative-wise, it comes after Endgame and, in a lot of ways, it’s freed from the burdern of the MCU. We can’t pretend the snap never happened and, in fact, they integrate it nicely into the plot. However, the stakes can’t be dialed back entirely and we get nods to the Sinister Six and multiverse. With Spidey partially freed from Stark’s shadow and Nick Fury adrift in time, they latch onto Mysterio in their own interesting ways. There’s a lot of misdirection and Gyllenhaal sells almost all of it well. It also has a ton of the necessary light-hearted fun that the franchise requires with Peter’s classmates getting more entertaining by the movie. It’s the best Spider-Man since Spider-Man 2.

Detective Pikachu (2019) – Going in, I had a mixed bag of expectations. It looked bigger budget than most video game adaptations and brought in A-lister Ryan Reynolds. The preview tried to sell a main character with daddy issues, a noir mystery, and some more depth to a science fiction world that blends the modern idealized version of the 50s space age with “Blade Runner” futurism. It ultimately comes off as a budget version of the plot/characters noir buddy mystery of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” meet the setting of everyday magic “Harry Potter” with the high level of polish you expect from a franchise that has a GDP higher than a number of small countries. It’s safe and limited but entertaining.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) – The first Lego movie was amazing. It hit the Pixar balance of being for both adults and kids, both in comedy and in emotion. However, a sequel was always an impossible task. It’s just not as good as the original – it couldn’t be. Then that’s combined with some development hell and the usual perils of sequilitis and you get a jumble where the world building is even more haphazard, the characters are a bit more caricature, and it just can’t be as creative. It’s still pretty good, but the first movie isn’t fair to any sequel: it was so good and so clever that it raised the bar while burning the narrative bridges behind it so it couldn’t be followed. If there was no Lego Movie 1 (the plot doesn’t quite allow for that but let’s whistle past that), Lego Movie 2 would have been viewed as “good”. However, if this was the first Lego Movie, there wouldn’t have been a second.

If you want a “bonus”, I also watched The Tuxedo (2002) for some reason. I was hoping for generic Jackie Chan fish-out-of-water action comedy paired with a wacky sidekick. Instead, it was even cheesier than that, had generally bad acting, even for an action movie, and had too many special effects, taking away from the Jackie Chan stunts. It really did feel like an adolescent Disney movie. It was bad enough to be MST3K’d, which makes me feel sad as I love Jackie Chan.

Did you know there have been 69 (and counting) Lego video games?!? They’re split pretty evenly between “original games” and “licensed games”. For the former, I only recall a couple of those games. Most were just released on PC and a number of the console ones could accurately fall under the category of “shovelware”. Lego City Undercover got a pretty good push with decent reviews. I remember the box art for a couple of other games like the Bionicle ones. And, after reading the description of Lego Racers, a creative studio could make that work in modern gaming, especially on handhelds. Or, god forbid, monetize it with microtransactions.

But today we’re going to talk about the first real licensed game of the Lego series: Lego Star Wars: The Video Game. Star Wars video games have been around almost as long as the movies. But this particular game combined two popular licenses: Star Wars and Lego and created a game that sold extremely well (over 6 million copies) and earned a lot of reviews that mostly boiled down to a reaction of “surprisingly fun”.

It was a fairly simple multiplayer game meant for players of all ages. For the youngest, there were no deaths, simple puzzles, and cartoon violence. For fans of the franchise, it played through highlights of all three prequel movies, not unlike the SNES series of games, with the characters, settings, and John Williams score fans had come to know. And, for gamers, it was a pretty decent hack-and-slash with adorable cartoon graphics and tons of unlockables and replayability.

The direct sequel, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, sold even better and their success would lead developer Traveller’s Tales to create games for Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Batman, Marvel, and more. In fact, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has already been announced for next year.

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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.