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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Pickering Picks'em Up

I was scoring the Royals game on Sunday for when Calvin Pickering, fresh from Omaha hit two homeruns including a grand slam against the Ranger in a 10-2 win. His second homerun went 440 feet, the longest I've seen hit to centerfield this year. He also showed his plate discipline picking up a walk and battling a tough lefty before lining out to second. Last night he went 1 for 4 with a homerun off of Bartolo Colon in a 9-4 Royals loss. I didn't see the game.

I've long been advocating bringing up Pickering because of his monster season at AAA and because he's a better hitter right now than Ken Harvey and because at least it would give Royals fans something to watch for the remainder of the season. Hate to sound like a told-you-so but if the shoe fits...

Seriously, Pickering seems to have decided to apply himself a bit more since returning from an injury that cost him all of 2002:

"I've always put up numbers my whole career but, being young, you have a tendency to waste an at-bat. What I mean is you get two hits in your first two at-bats and you end up giving up your last two," he said.

"I finally came to the conclusion that I have four at-bats and I'm not going to give one away. If I get four home runs, I'm going to try to get them -- put a good swing on them and see what happens."

Pickering has actually had only had 137 plate appearances in the major leagues. His body type and his primary non-traditional skill (plate discipline) have both conspired to keep him on the farm. On the downside he's almost 28 so this may be as good as it gets (although Harvey turned 26 in spring training) and he is really big (6'5" 280 pounds) which increases his odds of injury and makes him useful only on the far left side of the defensive spectrum (DH- 1 B - LF - RF - 3B - CF - 2B - SS - C). You never know though with a guy who has talent and who is mature enough to use it. At the very least Allard Baird needs to explore what he can get for either Pickering or Harvey since they both won't be playing first base and DH for the Royals in 2005 unless by some miracle he's able to unload Mike Sweeney. Pickering's value should be increasing in the post-Moneyball era as his skills have become more valued and so he might be able to bring something the Royals could use in a trade with a contender that needs a lefty bat off the bench. To Baird's credit he did sign Pickering when other clubs didn't saying that "if you look back we signed him because he has the ability to walk and the ability to hit the ball out of ballpark." Now might be the time to cache that chip in.

As far as Harvey is concerned I think Baird needs to make a determination as to whether he'll ever develop power with that ugly inside out swing that allows pitchers to throw hard stuff down and in repeatedly to get him out. If so, they should keep him, if not trade him yesterday since his All-Star appearance gives him some perceived value he might quickly lose. Contrary to some opinions he's not a good defensive first baseman and only looks decent because Royals fans have seen Sweeney man the position. I don't have any allusions that Pickering would be better defensively but he's not really going to be much worse.

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