Sherman: Beltran spurned larger offer from Royals to sign with Yanks

Via Joel Sherman: The Royals offered Carlos Beltran a larger contract than the three-year, $45M deal he took from the Yankees last offseason. The exact details of Kansas City’s offer are unknown, but Sherman says it did include an option for a fourth year. The Diamondbacks reportedly offered Beltran a three-year contract worth $48M last winter, so he turned down at least two larger offers to come to New York.

Beltran, 37, spent parts of seven seasons with the Royals and was named the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year while with the club. Kansas City is expected to decline Billy Butler’s option after the season and they’ll also need to replace Norichika Aoki in right, so hey, maybe they’ll be interested in trading for Beltran this winter, especially if they lose the World Series and feel they need another veteran bat. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

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9/5-9/7 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Believe it or not, this is the last series the Yankees will play against a non-AL East team this season. Well, at least until they make that huge September push to win the division and face the Angels in the ALDS. Anyway, the Royals are in town for a three-game set starting tonight. The two teams have split their first four games of the season, three back in June and one last week in the makeup game of a rainout.

What Have They Done Lately?
Prior to yesterday’s off-day, the Royals swept a three-game series from the lowly Rangers. They dropped five of seven before that. Kansas City sits atop the AL Central at 77-61 with a +27 run differential, though their one-game lead over the Tigers is hardly commanding even this late in the season.

Offense
Manager Ned Yost’s team averages 4.07 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, so the Royals are a bit below-average offensively. It’s worth noting they have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than any other team. They just don’t strike out. Their only injured position player is IF Christian Colon, who just broke a finger and is done for the season.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
Butler. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Kansas City’s lineup revolves around OF Alex Gordon (129 wRC+), who is getting a bunch of MVP love thanks to some recent clutch homers and his UZR-inflated 6.2 WAR. Both 1B Eric Hosmer (90 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (97 wRC+) are having down years, but both C Salvador Perez (101 wRC+) and OF Lorenzo Cain (106 wRC+) have been strong supporting players for Gordon. OF Josh Willingham (117 wRC+) plays based on matchups.

The rest of Yost’s regular lineup includes OF Norichika Aoki (90 wRC+), 2B Omar Infante (79 wRC+), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and 3B Mike Moustakas (78 wRC+). Ex-Yankees OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) and IF Jayson Nix (-1 wRC+ in limited) are on the bench alongside backup C Erik Kratz (78 wRC+) and the speedy OF Jarrod Dyson (96 wRC+). C Francisco Pena, IF Johnny Giavotella, OF Lane Adams, OF Terrance Gore, and OF Carlos Peguero are the September call-ups on the roster. Francisco is Yankees bench coach Tony Pena’s son.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Royals will technically play only two series this season, but New York is going to wind up facing Shields three times because of that stupid rainout. Just their luck, huh? Shields, 32, has a 3.38 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 29 starts and 192 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.03 K/9 and 18.7 K%) is the lowest it’s been in five years. His walk (1.88 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%), homer (0.98 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (45.3%) rates are right where they usually are. Both his home/road and platoon splits are small. A mid-80s changeup remains Shields’ go-to pitch, though he has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters instead. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees have faced ex-Rays righty twice this year, first scoring one unearned run in six innings, then scoring six runs in 6.2 innings.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (vs. NYY)
Duffy, 25, has a 2.42 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 141.1 innings across 22 starts and six relief appearances in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. His peripherals aren’t all that impressive outside of his homer rate (0.64 HR/9 and 5.4 HR/FB%) though: 6.88 K/9 (19.0 K%), 3.18 BB/9 (8.8 BB%), and 35.6% grounders. Duffy doesn’t have a home/road split but he is far better against lefties (.170 wOBA) than righties (.292 wOBA). He throws his mid-90s fastball more than two-thirds of the time, even as a starter, and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and a handful of mid-80 changeups per start. Duffy allowed three runs to the Yankees in 5.2 innings back in June.

Ventura. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Duckface Ventura. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (vs. NYY)
The Yankees did not see the 23-year-old Ventura when these two clubs met in June because he was nursing an elbow injury. The hard-throwing rookie has a 3.38 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance) and 152 innings in 2014 with very good homerun (0.77 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%) and ground ball (48.0%) rates. His strikeout (7.82 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.38 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) numbers aren’t as strong, plus he has uncannily similar home/road (.295/.314 wOBA) and left/right (.295/.316 wOBA) splits. Freaky. Ventura is one of the hardest throwers in baseball, sitting in the upper-90s with both his two and four-seamer — his average four-seam fastball velocity (96.1 mph) is the second highest among qualified starters, behind only the injured Garrett Richards (96.4) — while also offering mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. Like I said, the Yankees did not see Ventura the last time(s) these clubs met.

Bullpen Status
Yost has the best seventh/eighth/ninth inning trio in baseball in his bullpen. RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.69 FIP) is the seventh inning guy, RHP Wade Davis (1.38 FIP) is the eighth inning guy, and RHP Greg Holland (1.94 FIP) is the ninth inning guy. They’re all dominant and effectively make it a six-inning game. It is worth noting Holland has shown some signs of fatigue recently and been less effective the last week or so.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, Yost has LHP Scott Downs (4.16 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.36 FIP), RHP Jason Frasor (3.47 FIP), and LHP Francisley Bueno (3.85 FIP). The crop of September call-ups includes RHP Casey Coleman, RHP Louis Coleman, RHP Liam Hendriks, and LHP Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan was the 17th overall pick in June’s draft. He’s the first 2014 draftee to reach MLB. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.

8/25 Makeup Game Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Getty)
(Getty)

Today was supposed to be an off-day. Instead, the Yankees are in Kansas City for a quick little one-game series against the Royals. The two teams are making up their June 9th rainout game. The Royals took two of three during the rained-shortened four-game series back in June.

What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ned Yost’s squad lost to the Rangers yesterday, but they won two of three games in the series and have won a ridiculous 24 of their last 31 games. That surge has them sitting atop the AL Central at 72-57 with a +35 run differential, the fourth best record and fifth best run differential in the American League.

Offense
The Royals average 4.15 runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they are a below-average offense overall. It’s worth noting they have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than the next lowest team (Athletics at 17.5%). The Yankees have the sixth lowest at 18.5%. Anyway, 1B Eric Hosmer (91 wRC+) is out with a hand problem and is the team’s only injured position player.

Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Yost’s lineup is built around OF Alex Gordon (126 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the game these last few years. He’s every bit as good as Brett Gardner in left field defensively. Probably better, really. DH Billy Butler (99 wRC+) is having a very poor year by his standards. C Salvador Perez (96 wRC+) is a budding star and the duo of OF Josh Willingham (121 wRC+) and OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) give the all-important veteran presents.

OF Norichika Aoki (89 wRC+) and 2B Omar Infante (80 wRC+) set the table from the one-two spots in the lineup — good thing the Yankees didn’t give Infante four years, huh? — while OF Lorenzo Cain (108 wRC), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and OF Jarrod Dyson (97 wRC+) provide speed. All three have stolen at least 20 bases. (The Royals lead the AL with 112 steals, 20 more than the second place Yankees.) 3B Mike Moustakas (80 wRC+), IF Christian Colon (182 wRC+ in very limited time), and C Erick Kratz (78 wRC+) fill out the rest of the position player crop.

Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Figures. The Yankees are in town for one night only, and they still get stuck facing Kansas City’s best pitcher. The 32-year-old Shields has a 3.28 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 27 starts and 178.1 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.22 K/9 and 19.2 K%) is his lowest in five years. He still limits walks (1.82 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) and does a decent job of keeping the ball in the park (0.96 HR/9 and 10.1 HR/FB%) and getting grounders (45.1%). Lefties (.327 wOBA) have a bit more success against Shields than righties (.311 wOBA). A mid-80s changeup remains his go-to pitch, but Shields has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees scored one unearned run in six innings against the ex-Rays righty back in June.

Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The reason David Robertson and Dellin Betances are only “arguably” the best closer/setup man tandem in baseball is because RHP Greg Holland (2.14 FIP) and RHP Wade Davis (1.30 FIP) exist. They’re both outstanding. Throw in the super-hard-throwing RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.87 FIP) and you’ve got the best late-game trio in the game. None of the three pitched yesterday either.

The rest of Yost’s bullpen includes LHP Bruce Chen (1.59 FIP), LHP Francisley Bueno (3.06 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.45 FIP), and RHP Jason Frasor (3.52 FIP). Both Frasor and Crow threw an inning yesterday. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess after this weekend’s series with the White Sox. Robertson has pitched in three straight games and surely won’t be available tonight. I guess that makes Betances the closer du jour. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.

6/6-6/9 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Despite yesterday’s win, the Yankees just wrapped up a pretty terrible homestand in which they went 2-5 and were outscored 37-16. So far this season they are 13-16 with a -39 run differential at home compared to 17-13 with a +11 run differential on the road. So I guess this ten-game road trip came at a good time? The Yankees are in Kansas City this weekend for a four-game wrap around series with the Royals.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals just took three of four from the Cardinals in one of those newfangled home-and-home series, but before that they’d lost eleven of 17. Overall, Kansas City is 29-31 with a -18 run differential. They are tied for last place in the AL Central.

Offense
The Royals are one of the worst hitting teams in baseball this season. They rank dead last with a team 81 wRC+, and their average of 3.87 runs per game is third worst in the AL. They’ve only hit 26 homers in 60 games, or five more than Nelson Cruz has hit in 57 games. Kansas City replaced their hitting coach less than two weeks ago and have averaged 4.38 runs per game since. Their only injured position player is 3B Danny Valencia (80 wRC+).

Hosmer. (Denis Poroy/Getty)
Hosmer. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

Manager Ned Yost’s lineup is supposed to revolve around OF Alex Gordon (124 wRC+), 1B Eric Hosmer (81 wRC+), and DH Billy Butler (68 wRC+), but only Gordon is pulling his weight. Between Hosmer and 3B Mike Moustakas (41 wRC+), Kansas City is quickly replacing Seattle as the place young hitters go to have their careers stall out entirely. Those two were the third and second overall picks in their draft classes, respectively. OF Lorenzo Cain (113 wRC+) has been good and C Salvador Perez (99 wRC+) average.

OF Norichika Aoki (79 wRC+) has been something of a disappointment while 2B Omar Infante (76 wRC+) has dealt with a few injuries this year. SS Alcides Escobar (95 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (80 wRC+ in limited time) lead the team with 16 and ten steals, respectively. C Brett Hayes (-44 wRC+ in very limited time) is the backup catcher and IF Pedro Ciriaco (46 wRC+ in limited time) is the backup infielder. Yes, the same Pedro Ciriaco who tormented the Yankees a few seasons ago with the Red Sox. That was a long time ago though. He stinks now.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (vs. NYY)
Guthrie is 35 already. Am I the only one surprised by that? I thought he was still 32 or 33. Anyway, Guthrie has a 4.00 ERA (5.17 FIP) in a dozen starts and 78.2 innings so far this year. He throws strikes (2.17 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%) but doesn’t miss bats (4.46 K/9 and 11.8 K%), doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.49 HR/9 and 12.4 HR/FB%), and doesn’t really get grounders (42.6%). That’s nothing new though. Guthrie has been doing that for nearly a decade now. He’s always outperformed his peripherals and after nearly 1,500 innings, it’s not a fluke. Lefties, by the way, have it him pretty hard (.358 wOBA). Righties (.289 wOBA) have not been as lucky. Guthrie still sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seamers, and he will throw a handful of cutters per start as well. A mid-70s curveball and mid-80s sliders and changeups are his three offspeed pitches. Guthrie is a bit of a kitchen sink guy despite still having good velocity.

Saturday: RHP David Phelps (vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (vs. NYY)
Duffy, 25, returned from Tommy John surgery late last season and has spent the better part of this year bouncing between the rotation, the bullpen, and Triple-A. He has a 3.05 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 41.1 innings spanning six starts and and six relief appearances. The strikeout rate is a little low (6.31 K/9 and 17.0 K%), the walk rate a little high (3.92 BB/9 and 10.5 BB%), and the ground ball rate very low (30.5%). Duffy’s homer rate is fine (0.87 HR/9 and 7.4 HR/FB%) and righties have hit him a kinda hard (.315 wOBA), but man, he’s demolished lefties (.077 wOBA!) in a small sample. He throws his mid-90s fastball more than 70% of the time, even as a starter, and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and a handful of mid-80 changeups per start. Duffy has not yet thrown more than 97 pitches in a start and only once has he thrown more than 88 pitches.

Shields. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Shields. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Here’s a very familiar face. Shields, 33, has a 3.68 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 13 starts and 85.2 innings in his second season with the Royals, and he’s on pace to top 200 innings for the eighth straight season. Only once in that time did he throw fewer than 215 innings. Crazy. Shields is giving up a few more homers than usual (1.26 HR/9 and 14.1 HR/FB%), but otherwise his strikeout (7.35 K/9 and 19.3 K%), walk (2.00 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%), and ground ball (47.1%) numbers are in line with previous years. He has a tiny platoon split. The mid-80s changeup remains his go-to pitch, but Shields has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cuttera. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees and Shields have had many, many battles over the years, but this is a new lineup and he’s in a different uniform.

Monday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. KC) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (vs. NYY)
The Royals gave the 31-year-old Vargas a four-year contract over the winter, and so far this season he has a 3.28 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 13 starts and 85 innings. There’s a lot of value in eating innings at a league average-ish rate, which Vargas has done for about five years now. He keeps walks down (2.44 BB/9 and 6.5 BB%) but otherwise does not have great strikeout (6.56 K/9 and 17.5 K%), ground ball (38.9%), or homer (1.16 HR/9 and 10.6 HR/FB%) numbers. His platoon split is pretty small as well. Vargas is definitely a finesse southpaw, sitting in the mid-to-upper-80s with his two and four-seamer. A changeup right around 80 mph is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw some mid-70s curveballs. These two came right out of the generic lefty factory.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Royals have one of the very best setup man/closer combinations in baseball in RHP Wade Davis (1.17 FIP) and RHP Greg Holland (1.25 FIP). They have 41.5% and 40.2% strikeout rates, respectively. The good news for the Yankees is that Holland has pitched in each of the last three games and Davis has pitched in three of the last four. Seems unlikely Holland will pitch tonight, and if Davis does, he probably won’t be available tomorrow.

RHP Aaron Crow (4.53 FIP), RHP Kelvin Herrera (3.00 FIP), and LHP Tim Collins (4.83 FIP) figure to pick up the high-leverage slack these next few days. Herrera throws very, very hard. Regularly hits triple digits. LHP Francisley Bueno (2.07 FIP in limited time), RHP Michael Mariot (2.76 FIP), and RHP Wilking Rodriguez (3.07 FIP in limited time) round out the rest of the eight-man bullpen. They’ve been carrying an eight relievers almost all year. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the team’s opponent these next four days.

7/8-7/11 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

Gordon, Yost, and Perez. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Gordon, Yost, and Perez. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

The schedule could not be any more favorable leading up to the All-Star break. The ten-game homestand continues this week with four against the Royals, who are improved but continue to spin their wheels in the middle of the AL Central. The Yankees swept a three-game series in Kansas City back in May, as you surely remember.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals lost yesterday and lost two of three to the Athletics at home over the weekend. They’ve dropped ten of their last 17 games overall. At 41-44 with a +4 run differential, Kansas City is mediocrity defined in the middle of the division, not good enough to contend and not bad enough to sell.

Offense
Believe it or not, manager Ned Yost’s team has scored fewer runs (345) than the Yankees (348) this year. Of course, they’ve also played three fewer games, so don’t get too excited. Kansas City averages 3.92 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+, so they’re comfortably below average. They don’t have any position players on the DL but OF Alex Gordon (118 wRC+) is dealing with a substantial butt bruise (not joking) and might need a day or two to heal up.

Hosmer. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
Hosmer. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

The top four … well, three of the top four spots of Yost’s regular lineup are really good. Gordon typically leads off and DH Billy Butler (111 wRC+) cleans up, and these days 1B Eric Hosmer (107 wRC+) bats third. He’s got a 156 wRC+ with eight homers over the last 30 days, so it looks like he’s starting to live up to all that promise. SS Alcides Escobar (63 wRC+) bats second and is Yost’s way of sabotaging things. C Salvador Perez (104 wRC+) and OF David Lough (100 wRC+) have had nice years. Lough essentially led to Jeff Francoeur being released.

3B Mike Moustakas (65 wRC+) has been awful, as has IF Chris Getz (49 wRC+). 2B Johnny Giavotella (41 wRC+ in limited time) was just called up and plays everyday. OF Lorenzo Cain (91 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (118 wRC+ in limited) work the revolving outfield door with Lough. IF Elliot Johnson (42 wRC+) kinda stinks, but otherwise the Royals have a solid bench with IF Miguel Tejada (94 wRC+) and backup C George Kottaras (121 wRC+ in limited time). Kansas City has hit the fewest homers (55) in the league by a lot — the Twins have hit the second fewest at 78 — and have compensated by stealing the fourth most bases in the game (66).

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
The Royals have loaded up on former AL East pitchers over the last 12 months or so, and that crop of pitchers includes the 34-year-old Guthrie. He’s posted a 4.29 ERA (5.76 FIP) in 17 starts with very bad peripherals: 4.37 K/9 (11.3 K%), 3.28 BB/9 (8.5 BB%), 1.68 HR/9 (14.7% HR/FB), and 42.6% grounders. He was always a guy who outperformed his peripherals, but not to this extent. Guthrie still runs his four-seamer and sinker in the 92-94 mph range, and he backs them up mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and mid-70s curves. Despite that deep repertoire, lefties have tattooed him this year (.380 wOBA) and he’s got a huge platoon split (.309 wOBA vs. RHB). Although the Yankees saw Guthrie plenty during his time with the Orioles, they haven’t faced him since July 2011. Been a while.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jamie Shields
Shields, 31, is in the middle of yet another marvelous season (3.23 ERA and 3.55 FIP) but is somehow getting even less recognition after moving from Tampa to Kansas City. His strikeout (7.85 K/9 and 21.3 K%) and walk (2.57 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) numbers are both pretty damn good and his worst rates in several years. The same goes for his ground ball rate (43.0%), though he is giving up fewer homers (0.88 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) than he has in recent years. Shields remains a master at pitching backwards, especially with his world-class mid-80s changeup. His two- and four-seamer sit in the low-90s while his cutter is a touch below that in the upper-80s. An upper-70s curveball and an infrequently used upper-80s slider round out his repertoire. Shields held to the Yankees to three runs in eight innings earlier this year, and of course they saw him plenty during his time with the Rays.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Wade Davis
Unsurprisingly, the 27-year-old Davis has reverted back to his 2009-2011 performance after spending 2012 in the bullpen. He was nasty last season, with a 2.43 ERA (2.78 FIP), but this year he’s sitting on a 5.42 ERA (4.20 FIP) with okay peripherals: 8.13 K/9 (19.6 K%), 3.81 BB/9 (9.2 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (12.4% HR/FB), and 38.8% grounders. As a starter, Davis sits in the upper-80s/low-90s with his three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) while using a low-80s slider as his primary offspeed pitch. A mid-80s changeup is his fifth offering. The Yankees pummeled Davis for seven runs in five innings back in May and saw him more than a few times during his years with Tampa.

Thursday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Ervin Santana
A year ago, the 30-year-old Santana was one of the very worst starters in baseball. This year, he has a 2.90 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 17 starts. His strikeout (7.17 K/9 and 20.0 K%), walk (1.83 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%), homer (1.22 HR/9 and 13.6% HR/FB), and ground ball rate (47.6%) have all improved, substantially in some cases. Santana is basically a two-pitch pitcher, sitting in the low-90s with his four-seam fastball and the low-to-mid-80s with his slider. He throws that slider almost 40% of the time. A mid-80s changeup is his rarely used third offering. The Yankees scored four runs off Santana in 6.1 innings earlier this season, and they have faced him plenty of times over the years, mostly hitting him very hard. No real surprises here.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
Holland. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen is the strongest and deepest part of the Royals roster. Closer RHP Greg Holland (1.47 FIP) is the best reliever no one talks about, and these days he’s being setup by RHP Aaron Crow (3.69 FIP) and RHP Luke Hochevar (3.43 FIP). Hochevar seems to have found a niche in relief. LHP Tim Collins (3.80 FIP) is the matchup guy while LHP Bruce Chen (4.14 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (3.99 FIP in limited time) are multi-inning guys. RHP J.C. Gutierrez (3.66 FIP) rounds out the pen. Chen and Smith each had to throw 3+ innings and 50+ pitches yesterday because Luis Mendoza got clobbered, so their either going to make a roster move today or Yost will be short two arms for at least one day and probably more like two or three days.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a pretty big bullpen mess on their hands. At least in the late innings. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have pitched in two straight and five of the last seven games, meaning both are likely to be unavailable tonight. I’m guessing Joe Girardi would love to get then both two days off if possible. The various middle relievers are in good shape and long man Adam Warren is probably nice and rusty after throwing a total of five pitches in the last 18 days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage and Royals Review for the latest on this week’s opponent.

5/10-5/12 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Kauffman Stadium hasn’t been very kind to the Yankees over the last 12 months or so. Mariano Rivera suffered his season-ending knee injury in Kansas City last May, then Robinson Cano was booed basically off the field during the Homerun Derby in July. New York is 6-5 at Kauffman Stadium over the last three years.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals made some significant moves this past winter, and so far they are paying some very real dividends. Kansas City is 18-13 with a +18 run differential, landing them right behind the Tigers in the AL Central standings. They won last night to halt a three-game losing streak, and they’re just 5-5 in their last ten games.

Offense
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, the Royals are above-average in terms of runs per game but below average in terms of results at the plate. That means they’ve either been good or lucky (or both) with their timing and sequencing. Manager Ned Yost’s team is perfectly healthy, at least on the position player side.

The Yankees have no chance if the Royals have a ninja in their lineup. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
The Yankees have no chance if the Royals have a ninja in their lineup. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

LF Alex Gordon (134 wRC+) has batted leadoff every game this year except for one, yesterday’s win over the Orioles. He batted third in that game, and I don’t know if that will be a regular thing going forward. Either way, he is their best hitter and all-around player. DH Billy Butler (109 wRC+) provides plenty of support, as has the surprisingly productive CF Lorenzo Cain (125 wRC+). 1B Eric Hosmer (95 wRC+) and 3B Mike Moustakas (81 wRC+) continue to be various levels of disappointing.

C Salvador Perez (81 wRC+) is off to a slow start, ditto SS Alcides Escobar (80 wRC+) and RF Jeff Francoeur (61 wRC+). 2B Chris Getz (42 wRC+) gets most of the playing time at second, though IF Miguel Tejada (128 wRC+ in limited time) and IF Elliott Johnson (91 wRC+) will see time at the position as well. The backup catcher is C George Kottaras (153 wRC+ in limited time), the backup outfielder OF Jarrod Dyson (84 wRC+). The Royals have hit the second fewest homers (22) but stolen the sixth most bases (24) in baseball this year, so they’re a speed team.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Wade Davis
The Yankees are going to face three pitchers they are pretty familiar with this series. Davis, 27, spent the last four years with the division rival Rays, but he was sent to Kansas City in this winter’s blockbuster trade. They moved him back to the rotation, and he’s pitching almost exactly like he did as a starter from 2010-2011 (4.75 ERA and 4.43 FIP) rather than as a reliever last year. The peripheral stats — 7.42 K/9 (17.9 K%), 3.86 BB/9 (9.3 BB%), and 39.8% grounders — are solid but not spectacular. Davis is a different animal as a starter, sitting in the upper-80s/low-90s with his three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) rather than the mid-90s he averaged out of the bullpen. A mid-80s changeup and low-80s curveballs are his top offspeed offerings. The Yankees have seen Davis a few times over the years, and for the most part they’ve handled him well when he’s been in the rotation.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Saturday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Jamie Shields
After spending parts of seven years in Tampa Bay, the 31-year-old Shields took his workhorse act to the Royals in an offseason trade. He’s pitched very well so far (2.52 ERA and 2.62 FIP), with excellent strikeout (8.64 K/9 and 24.9 K%), walk (2.16 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%), and ground ball (47.3%) numbers. Shields remains a master at pitching backwards, using a low-80s curveball and upper-70s slider to set up three upper-80s/low-90s fastballs: two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter. His put away pitch is that all-world changeup, which sits in the mid-80s and both drops off the table and fades away from lefties. The Yankees and Shields have plenty of history, so there are no surprises here. It’ll be just like old times.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Ervin Santana
Santana, 30, went from leading the league in homers in 2012 to pitching like an ace in 2013. He owns a 2.36 ERA (3.06 FIP) with career-best walk (1.29 BB/9 and 3.6 BB%) and ground ball (44.8%) rates. His strikeout (7.50 K/9 and 20.8 K%) rate is his best in about five years as well. Santana hasn’t changed his pitch selection or added velocity, so he still sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer while relying on a low-80s slider much more than a mid-80s changeup. He has made some minor adjustments to his delivery though, which has supposedly boosted his command. We’ll get a look at it this weekend. Santana and the Yankees certainly know each other from those Yankees-Angels battles, so again, no surprise here.

You're killin' me, Kelvin. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
You’re killin’ me, Kelvin. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen was expected to be the strength of Yost’s club, and sure enough they rank fifth in the game with a 3.33 reliever ERA (3.68 FIP). Closer RHP Greg Holland (1.57 FIP) has been awesome despite one or two rather spectacular meltdowns. Setup man RHP Kelvin Herrera (6.31 FIP) is killing my fantasy team by giving up homers left and right, so RHP Luke Hochevar (2.66 FIP) has been seeing some eight inning time.

Kansas City has two southpaws in specialist LHP Tim Collins (2.08 FIP) and multi-inning guy LHP Bruce Chen (1.61 FIP). Given how much the Yankees struggle against southpaws, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chen comes in and dominates for three or four innings at some point this series. RHP Aaron Crow (3.84 FIP) and RHP J.C. Gutierrez (4.48 FIP) fill the final two bullpen spots. The common theme here is power — outside of Chen, all of these guys live in the mid-to-high-90s with their fastballs. They all should be fresh for today, they haven’t work much recently.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are in a bit of a bullpen bind. Joe Girardi acknowledged yesterday that Mariano Rivera and David Robertson and both unlikely to be available today after throwing back-to-back days, and I assume the same is true for Preston Claiborne. That leaves Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan for the late innings tonight. Yikes. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details. As for a Royals blog worth your time, check out Royals Review.