Previous profiles: Catchers
Since 2003, the likes of Ken Harvey, Matt Stairs and Doug Mientkiewicz have all spent time chasing down Angel Berroa's errant throws and subbing for Mike Sweeney. Who will be the lucky contenders for that role this year?
Any discussion about the Royals 1B/DH situation begins and ends with Mike Sweeney.
When healthy, he has easily been the most productive hitter on the team over the last eight years. Of course, even the casual observer can tell you that Sweeney has hardly been healthy since he became the highest-paid player in team history.
Just to recap: While Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran found riches elsewhere, Sweeney signed what many agreed was a good deal for the Royals in 2002.
His numbers since the signing:
Year Games OPS+
2003 108 115
2004 106 123
2005 122 127
2006 60 97
Sweeney will be 33 this season. His offensive numbers should rebound from last year, but he is definitely entering the decline phase of his career. He will be the designated hitter whenever his back is up to it; when it isn’t, the remaining names on this list will be vying for his time in the lineup.
Shealy came to the Royals last year as part of a mid-season trade that sent pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista to Colorado to breathe the mountain air and search for their lost potential.
A strong performer in the Rockies farm system, Shealy was stuck waiting for Todd Helton to catch Mike Sweeney’s back virus so he could have a shot at playing time in the major leagues.
After a short adjustment period, Shealy really started raking for the Royals in the final months of the season.
Dates AVG OBP SLG OPS
8/01–15 255 328 309 637
8/15-31 339 371 525 896
9/01-15 333 393 686 1.079
9/15-24 107 194 143 337
His last week was marred by illness and he was benched permanently with a case of hives to end the season.
Assuming the mystery hives don't come back with a vengeance, Shealy should have a lock on the first base job coming out of spring training.
Another off season pick up for the Royals, Gload gives the franchise four of the top-eight finishers for Rookie of the Year voting in 2004.
I haven’t decided yet whether this is a good or a bad thing.
In the minors, Gload has always hit for average and power. In two full seasons in the major leagues, he lost a little power, but still managed to keep his batting average up.
As a role-player backing up first base and the outfield, there is really nothing wrong with Gload. However...
Gload Player X
Age Lev OPS Lev OPS
19 N/A RK 943
20 N/A A 878
21 A 712 A/AA 830
22 A 865 AA 901
23 A 793 AA/AAA 953
24 AA 827 AAA 838
25 AAA 845
26 AAA 852
27 AAA 873
28 MLB 854
29 AAA 1073
30 MLB 816
Wow! Who’s that wonderful Player X that showed he could handle professional baseball at such a scorching pace? I sure wish my team would give him a shot at a big league job!
By age 22, Justin Huber looked like he was capable of taking Mike Piazza’s place as the best-hitting catcher in all of baseball. (He's Player X, by the way.)
A trade to the Royals, a knee injury and two years later, Huber has become another player lost in the logjam at 1B/DH.
If he can bounce back from a disappointing season with Omaha last year, then the Aussie may become a valuable trading chip later in the season.
As it stands now, he is probably going to be manning first base in Omaha come April. The team has moved Huber from catcher to first base to occasional stints in the outfield since acquiring him in 2004. Most likely, he’ll be called up ahead of Billy Butler in order to save some time on that young man’s service clock.