Monday, December 10, 2012
2013 Kansas City Royals Top 15 Pospects
1.) Wil Myers OF A
With his combination of eye-popping numbers and elite prospect status, Myers earned my Minor League Player of the Years honors. Myers was drafted as a catcher in the third-round of 2009. He was considered a top-tier high school talent, but his sky high asking price forced him to slide out of the first round. Myers really burst on to the scene when he hit .313 in his debut season. After struggling in 2011, he altered his approach at the plate and put up monster numbers in his 2012 campaign. While he made a lot less contact (he fanned 140 times) he put up off the charts power numbers. As a 21 year old he posted a gaudy .316/.389/.602 with 37 home runs slash line between AA and AAA. When Myers made a cameo in Kansas City for the Sirius XM Futures Game, he was nearly ready for the show. But the Royals were far from contention, so they left him in the minors to demolish Pacific Coast League pitching. However, their is still no guarantee that Royals will break camp with the Myers in the starting line up. At least, not with the Royals. According to numerous sources, Myers is being actively shopped in exchange for a frontline starter. The Royals are in desperate need for pitching, so the Athletics, Rays, and Red Sox all represent possible fits. While Myers has not found a permanent home in the field, with the bat he is the best pure hitter in all of the minor leagues. His light-tower power and great eye-hand coordination make him a likely future 3-4 hitter in almost any big league line up.
2.) Kyle Zimmer RHP B+
Zimmer came to San Francisco as a third baseman, where he played almost exclusively for the Dons in his freshman campaign. However he was converted to a pitcher in his sophomore season where he became a truly elite prospect. He still lay under the radar going into his Junior year, where a breakout season propelled him up draft boards and he was apparently even in the consideration to go 1-1 for the Astros. Zimmer is a tremendous athlete, has the stuff to be an ace, and considering his lack of experience, has pretty good command. He was paired with Mark Appel and Kevin Gausman to form the "Big Three" college arms in the 2012 draft. The Royals were ecstatic to land him at #5 where they finally got the elite pitcher that they had so long coveted in the draft. His stock took a hit after being drafted, where a physical revealed bone chips in his elbow. He made 9 starts before his surgery where he flashed a fastball that sits in the mid 90's and peaks at 98 mph. Zimmer also showed a curve and slider that have swing and miss potential. His change up needs the most work but has a lot of late movement.
3.) Derek "Bubba" Starling B+
Bubba Starling is about as gifted of a natural athlete that you will ever find. At Gardner-Edgertown High he starred in baseball, basketball, football, and track. He was one the mostly highly touted college football prospects and the nation and he committed to play quarterback for Nebraska. The Royals drafted him out of their own back yard and gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. Starling never found his way onto campus, instead signing a $7.5 million bonus with Kansas City. The Royals pumped the breaks on his 2011 season-he didn't debut until the middle of 2012 in the short-season Appalachian League. He had mixed results in his first year. While he slugged at an impressive .485 clip, Starling fanned in close to 35% of his at bats. Starling is such a raw talent that he is the near definition of a high risk, high reward prospect. While he is still only 20, time is not exactly on his side because he is old for his draft class and has yet to play full-season ball. He is definitely a player who will need a lot of minor league reps to add polish before reaching the show. If he does not improve his mechanics and pitch recognition he is a player who could be in danger of flaming out before he reaches AA. Despite all of the red flags, Starling has five-tool potential that could make him a super star. If he reaches his ceiling he could steal 20-25 bags a year with the potential to hit 30 homers annually. Starling shows a lot more polish in the outfield as he possesses the speed and instincts to play center field at an elite level. Starling also has a rocket for an arm so he could be a fit in right too.
4.) Yordano Ventura RHP B+
It seems like every organization has their own "Pedro". The Pedro Martinez comp is often given to every Latino pitcher with a small stature and an electric fastball. But in reality it is a terrible comparison, because how many Pedro's have we really scene in the last 15 years? In fact, according to baseball reference in the last 30 years their has not been a single starting pitcher under 6'0" and 175 lbs. to make over 100 appearances predominately as a stater. So where the odds appear to be stacked against the little guys, enter Yordano Ventura. The Dominican flamethrower is listed at just 5'11" and 140 lbs, and if there was ever a Pedro comparison that was justified, it would be with him. While he is slightly more than his listed weight, he is one of the smallest pitchers in professional baseball and he generates easy velocity that has been recorded as high 102 MPH. To go along with his triple-digit heat Ventura has a hammer curve and an effective change up offering. Ventura blew away hitters in the Carolina League before meriting a promotion to AA where he struggled to command his pitches in 6 outings. As a 22 year old next season, Ventura will likely return to AA to work on his location. Ventura's command will likely be the deciding factor on weather or not he will end up in the pen or not. Durability is not as much of a concern for him as it is with other undersized starters as he is usually able to maintain his velocity deep into games. If Ventura is able to stick as a starter, he has the ceiling of a top of the rotation starter.
5.) Jake Odorizzi RHP B
Odorizzi does not have anything left to prove in the minors as he now mastered every level. The Illinois native began the season in AA but earned a promotion to Omaha early in the season. In 18 starts he posted a 2.93 ERA, which is especially impressive for the Pacific Coast League. He even earned a cup of coffee with the Royals in September. Depending on the moves Dayton Moore makes this off season, Odorizzi may get a chance to crack the rotation with the club out of Spring Training. If not he will wait for an opening in AAA. Odorozzi throws an average fastball that tops out at 94 with some movement, but he has a tendency to leave it up. His off speed pitches include a change up, curveball, and a slider that are all average to slightly above average. One red flag that stands out in his game is his increasing fly ball rates. If he continues to throw so many fastballs up in the zone, don't be shocked if a lot of his pitches leave the park-especially in his first few seasons. Odorozzi was the blue chip prospect in the Zack Grienke deal so the Royals are really counting on to fill a slot in their rotation for several years to come. He has the upside of a 3 starter, with a floor of being a back of the rotation guy if he allows too many home runs.
6.) Adalberto Mondesi B
With Mondesi's bloodlines, tool set, and premium position if you were to tell me that he would rank among the top prospects in the game a few years down the road, I would be hardly surprised. However, Mondesi is so young that everything is mostly projection at this point. At age of just a high school sophomore Mondesi more than held his own in an advanced rookie league. As a 16 year old he hit .290 against pitchers more than 5 years his senior. If Mondesi continues to develop at a similar trajectory, his career path could be similar to that of Rangers' shortstop Jurickson Profar. Mondesi is a near lock to stay at shortstop. He has phenomenal range, good speed, and a solid arm to go along with strong instincts. Offensively the Royals hope that he could develop into the same kind of player as his father Raul Mondesi, the former NL Rookie of the Year. Mondesi isn't very tall, but if he fills out his wiry frame he should be bigger than his dad. When signed Mondesi didn't show much pop, but his bat speed is quicker than expected. According to Baseball America, one opposing coach said that "He might have the highest ceiling in the league because of his youth. This guy may show up in three years hitting 30 bombs in the big leagues." Mondesi also possesses plus speed and he managed to steel 11 bags in 13 attempts for Idaho Falls. Like most players his age he really needs to work on his plate discipline. Improving his ability to recognize pitches could be an invaluable skill for him and help him unlock some power.
7.) Jorge Bonifacio OF B-
The polar opposite of his light-hitting brother, Emilio, Jorge is a pure-hitting outfielder who's true value lies in his bat. Bonifacio is not a speedster like his brother, but with his plus arm and the potential to hit for both power and average and should profile well as a right fielder. As a teenager in the Midwest League, Bonifacio performed well hitting .282. He has a lot of raw power, but he has not really tapped into it yet. Scouts have also been impressed with his approach and power will come if he continues to wait for his pitch to drive. Bonifacio has all the tools to become an offensive threat at the plate.
8.) Orlando Calixte SS B-
As an elite defender at a premium position with solid pop, Calixte has a highly desirable profile. The Royals scouted Calixte from his boyhood and after handing him a seven-figure bonus, he is developing into exactly the kind of player they had wished for. Calixte's range at short really stands out and he possesses a pretty good arm there too. Calixte is far from a "glove only" prospect-he could easily develop into an above average hitter for both contact and power. Calixte hit 15 home runs in 2012 despite playing a good portion of his games at Wilmington's pitcher-friendly ball park. Calixte desperately needs to improve his eye at the plate and draw more walks. He should have a lot of time to figure things out as the Royal's appear to have the slick-fielding Alcides Escobar penciled in at short for the foreseeable future.
9.) Sam Selman LHP B-
Injuries derailed Selman's collegiate career at Vanderbelt, and even when he did manage to stay on the field his performance was inconsistent. Selman bounced around from the rotation to the pen but the Royals intend to let him start. Selman finally performed up to level that scouts had been expecting in his pro debut. Selman posted a ridiculous 13.28 K/9 rate and topped the circuit in almost every other major category. A second round pick in 2012, Selman's fastball opertates in the 91-95 range. Pioneer league batters struggled to make contact with his slider too, which is also an above average offering. Of all of his pitches his change up needs the most work. Selman could reach the majors quickly as a reliever, but he will probably require more development if he sticks in the rotation.
10.) Cheslor Cuthbert 3B B-
After hitting well as the youngest player in the Midwest League, their was a lot of hype surrounding Cuthbert entering 2012. The bonus baby from Nicaragua signed for $1.35 million in 2009- shattering the record for his homeland. Cuthbert took a step back, at least offensively, in 2012. He his just .240 with out much power for Wilmington. However, keep in mind that he was facing pitching that is superior to that of which most prospects his age were seeing. Wilmington's home field isn't exactly a great environment to hit home runs in either. Cuthbert will probably take a second stab at High-A next year. It is certainly far too early to give up on Cuthbert. He drives pitches to all parts of the field and has plus raw power. There are some questions about his ability to remain at third though, as many scouts wonder if he has enough foot speed to remain at the hot corner. He is a very steady defender when balls are hit right at him, but he doesn't nearly have enough range to make some of the bigger plays. Worst case scenario would be that he would have to slide across the diamond to play first base.
11.) John Lamb LHP B-
Lamb was ranked the top pitching prospect in the Royals loaded 2010 system, but injuries have slowed down his progress. Lamb was on the fast track to the majors in 2011 before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. The injury led to Tommy John surgery which sidelined him for nearly all of 2012. Lamb's stuff has not been as crisp and his velocity has been way down since his surgery, but people in the Royals organization seem to believe it will improve with more time away from the surgery. Prior to the injury Lamb was noted for having pinpoint command, a plus fastball, and an even better change up. He also mixes in an average to above average curveball. The southpaws frame is also ideal for a starting pitcher. If he is able to return to his form prior to the injury, he has the ceiling of a # 3 starter or better.
12.) Kyle Smith RHP B-
Despite Smith's undersized frame, the Royals went over slot to sign him to highest bonus in the 4th round of 2012. Smith rewarded Kansas City with a season nothing short of dominant. Many scouts were impressed with his control but he also showed the potential to miss bats by averaging 12.19 K's per 9 innings. Smith's fastball is only average, it sits between 89-91 MPH, but his curve is his best offering and projects as a true out pitch for him. Smith's change up needs the most work as he struggled to command it at times during the season. Smith has plus athleticism which helps compensate for his lack of size. Because of his frame their will always be concerns about his durability, but if he remains a starting pitcher he could develop in a solid 3-4 starter for the Royals.
13.) Jason Adam LHP B-
Adam doesn't really generate enough punch outs to profile as a frontline starter, but he has a good feel for pitching and could be a workhorse in the big leagues. Before signing, Adam was noted as a guy who lit up radar guns with a high 90's fastball, but so far in his professional career he has sat more in the 90-92 range. Recovering his velocity is key to Adam's success because his change up and curve are still developing. Despite his lack of flash Adam has been fairly successful so far. In a 158 innings of work for Wilmington, he recorded just a 3.53 ERA while allowing only 35 free passes. Adam should begin the year in AA next year and could be able to help the Royals rotation in the not so distant future.
14.) Christian Colon 2B C+
When the Royals took Colon with the 4th overall pick in 2011 after Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon, and Manny Machado, he was considered a "safe pick" because his only plus tool was his bat. When Colon failed to hit well in 2012, he posted just a .257 average in AA, his prospect stock took a major hit. He also moved off short stop to second base. Despite his struggles, he was still ranked the #11 prospect in the Royals organization by Baseball America. After this season, Colon has failed to make the cut in many of the top prospects lists at all. This is puzzling to me because Colon actually hit a lot more than he did in 2011. He raised his average to .301 and slugged at a .413 clip. Reports also suggested that Colon was developing into a plus defender at his new position. Colon has great plate discipline and I could see him hitting in the #2 slot if he continues to get on base. By the end of 2013 he could be battling Johnny Giavotella for the starting spot in Kansas City.
15.) Elier Hernandez OF C+
Hernandez was considered the consensus top Latin American player in the 2012 class, and maybe the best hitting prospect from the Dominican Republic since Miguel Sano. He is a quick-twitch athlete with tremendous power projection. He looks the part getting of the bus too, his 6' 4" 210 Lb. frame is already major league ready. But all other aspects of Hernandez's game need serious work. He looked helpless in his major league debut in the Pioneer League. Despite his plus raw power, he did not connect for a single home run in 250 at bats. He did not make much contact either, and needs to work on his pitch recognition. However, Hernandez has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the Royals system. He was only 17 last year, as far as we know, and there is a lot of time for him to refine his approach and tap into his raw power.
Next 5: Bryan Brickhouse RHP, Cam Gallagher C, Mike Montgomery LHP, Pat Leonard 3B, JC Sulbaran RHP