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Captain Caveman v2.0

When the Royals traded Carlos Beltran to Houston as part of a three-way blockbuster deal also involving Oakland, the club grabbed three prospects – John Buck, Mark Teahen, and Mike Wood – who all have the ability to be everyday players at the major league level. With Beltran’s centerfield position vacated, however, the deal also gave 24-year-old David DeJesus the chance to play on an everyday basis. And despite getting off to a rough 1-23 start with the team in late April (a subsequent demotion followed), DeJesus has played the position well since The Trade, giving the Royals another slight hope for a better future.

DeJesus has never been a scout’s kind of player, which is to say he doesn’t “Wow” anybody with obvious raw talent. In fact, I can’t think of one thing he does exceptionally well, although his best skill is an important one that helps offenses go: Solid on-base ability. DeJesus showed off an ability to drive pitchers crazy by working the count and slashing line drives at Triple-A in 2004, hitting .315/.400/.518 in 197 at-bats.

That success didn’t translate over to the majors immediately. Not only was he completely overmatched in that 23 at-bat debut, he was overmatched in general before the All-Star break, hitting a Donnie Sadler-like .164/.253/.179 in 67 at-bats. Given his pre-2004 success in the minors – albeit in limited at bats due to his undergoing Tommy John surgery after he was drafted in 2000 – expecting such a horrible run to continue would’ve been foolish. At least that’s what DeJesus thought, because since Ken “The Big Contact” Harvey returned from Houston, the young man’s done this at home plate, all while playing a solid centerfield:

.324/.394/.445

Remember that .432 OPS he had before the break? DeJesus’ really freaking awesome second half has his overall numbers up to a very respectable .282/.360/.385, which sadly makes him the best leadoff man the Royals have had since Captain Caveman was traded to Oakland three seasons ago. Ironically, I find Johnny Damon to be David’s best comp. DeJesus hasn’t played long enough to justify such a statement with Bill James’ similarity scores, but they’re similar players, being patient left-handed slashing-type hitters, and Johnny’s .781 career OPS seems to reachable for KC’s newest hotshot centerfielder.

None of this is to say DeJesus doesn’t have aspects of his game that need work. Whereas Beltran is currently the best basestealer in baseball, DeJesus might be the worst, getting caught on nine out of 14 attempts for a 35 percent success rate. How horrible is that? As a general rule, a player needs to succeed on at least 75 percent of his steal attempts to be an asset to his team in the category. He’s also had a difficult time against left-handed pitching (.231/.306/.246), although that shouldn’t be considered unusual for a player his age and batting side.

In all, the Royals have another Damon or Mark Kotsay under their control for the next six seasons, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Dave DeJesus is a better player than most people think, and he’ll prove that as he matures. He’s already willing to take a walk, and Lord knows the Royals need as many of those guys as they can get.
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