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What the DeJesus Trade Means for the Pitching Staff

Yesterday we looked at the trade of David DeJesus to the A’s from an offensive standpoint, and today we look from a pitching standpoint. There’s more to pitching than just the guy standing on the mound, and the DeJesus trade made an impact from more than just netting a couple of pitchers in return. Since the trade went down, I’ve had a little time to recoup and think about things a little more clearly. My reaction has gone from anger that the Royals traded DeJesus and more to acceptance that it was an inevitability.

After reaching that point, though, I’m starting to reach the point that all fans reach. I call it the “maybe it won’t be so bad” point. That’s where I start to wonder if Mazzaro could figure it all out and become a legitimate number three starter. He does have a hard fastball, good secondary pitches and a track record of pitching well in AAA. Let’s start by focusing solely on Mazzaro rather than the impact of the entire trade.

The fan in me sees a guy who is just looking to break out while the analyst in me sees a guy with average at best peripherals who benefitted from a fantastic Oakland defense. We can be just about certain that unless he’s flipped in another deal that he will be a part of the rotation in 2011, so the question becomes who does he replace? Greinke’s a lock if he’s here, so is Hochevar and so is Davies. The other two guys who were in the rotation at the end of 2010 were Bruce Chen and Sean O’Sullivan. Personally, I think Mazzaro is an upgrade over either one, though O’Sullivan might be a better fit for the Royals with his flyball tendencies.

If Bruce Chen is not resigned, and it’s looking more and more like he’s looking for a multi-year deal, Mazzaro can slide in and replace him in the rotation. I think DM really wants a lefty in the rotation and I think there’s still a shot that a guy like Teaford gets the nod in the Opening Day rotation, but it’ll be at the expense of SOS. Bruce Chen’s 2010 was actually pretty similar to Vin Mazzaro. Mazzaro’s strikeout rate was a little lower, walk rate was identical and the hit rate was a little higher. The difference was that Chen, as a flyball pitcher, was pretty darn lucky in HR/9 innings while Mazzaro, a groundballer, was not so lucky. Put it all together and they both had a fluky season. The difference is that Mazzaro has upside. Chen simply does not.

O’Sullivan just doesn’t miss enough bats to be a good Major League pitcher. I do think that he has a chance to be a difference maker in the bullpen, though. I’d actually love to see him in a long relief role. He throws hard enough that his stuff will play up a little bit in the bullpen and may turn him into a hell of a reliever. There’s another former husky Angel who wasn’t cutting it as a starter and then shifted to the pen and now look at Bobby Jenks. Regardless, Mazzaro is an upgrade in the rotation no matter who he’s replacing.

Now, from a defensive standpoint, what does the departure of David DeJesus mean for the defense? We all know that DeJesus was a plus defender in either corner and about average in center. Luckily for the Royals, I think this trade will actually give the team better defense in the outfield. The team looks to be set on Alex Gordon in left field unless they receive a trade offer for him. Defensive metrics showed that he was actually pretty good out there. As an athletic player, I expect improvement on pretty good. He doesn’t have the speed of DeJesus, but his arm is better and he might be able to play at a DeJesusian level at some point soon. Center field is almost certain to be manned by a good defender whether it’s Dyson, Blanco or a trade candidate*. Right field is where there’s a bit of uncertainty because we don’t know who is going to be there yet. If it’s Blanco, it’s essentially a defensive wash. If it’s Maier, it’s pretty close, but a bit of a downgrade. But, if the Royals go with my preference of Lough and a guy like Francouer, I think they’ve improved defensively in right field.

*Over the weekend you may have noticed some rumors that the Royals were in pursuit of Cameron Maybin of the Florida Marlins. Rumors were that the Royals had offered Alex Gordon in return for him. Presumably Gordon would have played third for the Marlins. If anyone is wondering, I was all for that trade. Maybin is a plus plus defensive center fielder with offensive upside to hit 20-25 homers and draw some walks. He hasn’t performed well in the majors yet, but I still believe he can be a semi-star.

Ultimately, I think the pitching as a whole will be better in 2011 than it was in 2010. Greinke should improve, Hochevar was looking much better before his injury, the bullpen looks like it could be a strength and the young guys are starting to make their way up. As far as the DeJesus trade fallout, it should improve the pitching if Mazzaro continues to develop. I’d like to see him strikeout an extra batter per nine and walk about half a batter less. If he can accomplish that, he’ll be a fantastic mid-rotation starter.

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