Friday, July 30, 2010

Top 25 Prospects.

After much delay, and with the caveat that I’ve probably completely forgotten about a player somewhere along the way, here’s my snapshot list of the 25 best prospects in the organization. We begin with a surprise:

FIVE-STAR PROSPECTS

1) Wil Myers, C, A+, 19

2) Eric Hosmer, 1B, AA, 20

3) Mike Moustakas, 3B, AAA, 21

Let me start from the bottom up here. Moustakas has had a terrific season, but there are enough concerns with him that I can’t in good conscience rank him above the other two.

There are some small concerns – his plate discipline isn’t very good, and his defense is still rough. But the big concern can be distilled to these two lines:

.437/.485/.894. That’s Moustakas’ line at home for Northwest Arkansas this year.

.222/.318/.398. That’s his line on the road in Double-A.

There’s no reason why the home ballpark in Springdale should make Coors Field at its peak look like the Astrodome. But this year, at least, it has. It’s not just Moustakas. Clint Robinson is hitting .367/.475/.713 at home, .271/.324/.477 on the road. Paulo Orlando is .364/.429/.587 at home, .285/.343/.391 on the road. Johnny Giavotella is .322/.408/.452 at home, .290/.351/.391 on the road. And so on. The only Natural who’s hitting better on the road is Derrick Robinson, whose style – hit the ball on the ground and run like hell – isn’t going to be very park-dependent.

Maybe it’s just a half-season fluke from a stadium that otherwise plays as a slightly hitter-friendly ballpark. But until this mystery is solved, I can’t take Moustakas’ numbers in Double-A completely seriously. I should note that I had already decided to rank Moose behind Hosmer and Myers two weeks ago, before Moustakas reached Omaha. The fact that he’s hitting just .246/.254/.406 in Omaha, with a single walk in 17 games, only reinforces my point. He’s a great prospect, but he’s not as great as he looked in Double-A, and he’s going to need some more time to develop.

Regarding Hosmer vs. Myers…you can certainly make a case either way. Speaking of Northwest Arkansas, Hosmer has hit six home runs (four at home) in 14 games and slugged .736 since moving up to Double-A, which pretty much eliminates the one knock on his performance this season. He’s now up to 13 homers on the season, along with 33 doubles and 6 triples in just 101 games; he’s slugging .571. He has more walks than strikeouts. He’s stolen 13 bases in 14 attempts. There’s really nothing bad I can say about the guy.

But I ranked Myers above him anyway, because Myers offers the possibility of something Hosmer can’t: an elite bat at an up-the-middle-position. If I knew for a fact that Myers will eventually move off of catcher, I’d rank Hosmer #1. But I don’t. The Royals could have taken Yasmani Grandal in the draft and moved Myers to the outfield, but they didn’t. Myers still has a lot of work to do behind the plate, but the raw tools are there – he’s thrown out 33% of baserunners attempting to steal this year, which is very solid. In 59 games, he’s allowed 19 passed balls, which is a problem. Buster Posey, for instance, allowed just 10 passed balls in 64 games in A-ball. Of course, Posey was 22 at the time; Myers is 19.

Even if Myers has to move to the outfield, though, it’s not clear that he’s a worse hitter than Hosmer or Moustakas. For the season, he’s hitting .298/.417/.481; while he strikes out more than Hosmer, he also draws more walks – he has drawn 64 walks in just 92 games, which makes him probably the most patient hitter in the minors other than Kila Ka’aihue. Aside from home runs, he’s hitting better in Wilmington than he did in Burlington, and he’s just 19. His median projection is only slightly behind Hosmer’s – but his upside projection is something no other player in the system can match.

4) John Lamb, LHSP, A+, 20

5) Michael Montgomery, LHSP, AA/rehab, 21

In terms of pure talent, you could move Lamb a slot or two, but he’s a pitcher, and as the guy right below him has shown this year, there’s an inherent risk that doesn’t apply with hitters. Lamb is downgraded for actuarial reasons, not because of his talent. (Lamb, by the way, was just promoted to Double-A, his second promotion of the season.)

All you need to know about the Royals’ system is that Montgomery, who was the #1 prospect in the system before the season, is a slightly better prospect today than he was in March…and he’s been passed by four other guys.

As for whether Lamb or Montgomery is better…it’s really almost a tie at this point. Tie goes to the healthy pitcher.

FOUR-STAR PROSPECTS

6) Chris Dwyer, LHSP, AA, 22

While the first five guys established themselves ahead of the rest of the pack a while ago, it wasn’t entirely clear until recently who was the #6 prospect in the system. But after pitching lights-out in his last month in Wilmington, Dwyer was dominant in his first three starts in Double-A before he lost control of the strike zone in his last start and got knocked out in the first. It’s telling that after the draft, someone in the front office (Moore or J.J. Picollo, can’t remember who) was asked about Dwyer and said, in effect, that if he had been in the draft this year, the Royals would have taken him with the #4 overall pick. That tidily sums up why Dwyer ranks ahead of…

7) Christian Colon, SS, A+, 21

Give the Royals credit: not only did they make the right pick in the end by taking Colon, but by working out a pre-draft deal with him, they got him playing – Colon is the only guy among the first 12 picks to sign. After starting just 4-for-31 as he adjusted to pro ball, Colon is 24-for-78 (.308) since. His overall line of .257/.311/.349 is perfectly acceptable for a shortstop who just walked off of a college campus and into a tough high A-ball stadium. If I was sure he could stay at shortstop, he might rank higher.

THREE-STAR PROSPECTS

7A) Kila Ka’aihue, 1B, AAA, 26

I list Ka’aihue as “7A” because, unlike every other prospect on this list, I expect him to lose his rookie eligibility by year’s end. (If Ka’aihue isn’t in the starting lineup this Sunday, something’s gone wrong.)

The Royals had an inherent advantage over most of the farm systems that were ranked ahead of them going into the season: virtually all of their best prospects were still far enough away from the majors that they would all be eligible next year. For the second straight season, the Royals have no impact rookies on the roster. Last year, you might recall, the Royals didn’t have a single player make his major league debut until September, when Victor Marte and Dusty Hughes got token call-ups. This year, Blake Wood is the only player to have debuted with the Royals. Wood, Marte, and Hughes are joined by Kanekoa Texeira (who debuted with the Mariners first) in the bullpen; the only other rookies to wear a Royals uniform have been non-entities Anthony Lerew and Brian Bullington.

By the tme you read this, 2007 10th-round pick Greg Holland may have made his debut, which would make him the surprise answer to the question, “who was the first player drafted by Dayton Moore to reach the majors?” Holland, like everyone else who’s debuted in the last two years, is a reliever.

(You know who is the last Royals’ hitter to make his major-league debut? That’s right – Kila.)

So the Royals’ farm system almost had to take a step forward. To its credit, it has. Expect the invasion of new talent to begin next year.

8) Danny Duffy, LHSP, A+/Rehab, 21

After a couple of rehab starts in rookie ball, Duffy returned to Wilmington. After a rough first start, he threw 5 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts his second time out, and last night he once again allowed just two hits in 5 innings, this time with 7 strikeouts. After the game, he was promoted to Double-A along with Lamb. As if we didn’t have enough left-handed pitchers in the minors.

When Montgomery returns to Northwest Arkansas in the next week or two, the Naturals will have the following rotation:

John Lamb

Michael Montgomery

Chris Dwyer

Danny Duffy

Aaron Crow

As Greg Schaum asks, “I challenge anyone to show me a better minor league rotation in the past several years.” I’m not taking him up on that challenge.

9) Aaron Crow, RHSP, AA, 23

In Crow’s defense, he’s been pitching much better of late. In his last 6 starts, he’s thrown 36 innings, allowed 31 hits and 13 walks, struck out 32, and surrendered 3 homers. Also, the same park effects that have made guys like Moustakas and Clint Robinson the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the Texas League this year have been working against Crow. While his ERA is virtually the same at home and on the road, Crow’s peripherals are much better away from Springdale: 54 strikeouts vs. 29 walks, and just 5 homers in 69 innings. I argued at the time of the draft that the Royals should have taken college shortstop Grant Green. Even though Green is hitting .327/.374/.499 in the California League, he’s also made 27 errors in 77 games; it’s far from certain that the Royals made the wrong decision.

(Update: Crow started last night, on the road, and allowed 5 runs and 6 walks in just 4 innings. It seems he still has a lot of work to do.)

I’ve compared Crow to Luke Hochevar from the moment he was drafted, and that comparison grows stronger and stronger. Both were drafted out of independent leagues after failing to sign the previous year, and both have struggled in their first full season of pro ball. I suspect that Crow, like Hochevar, will eventually turn into a useful member of the starting rotation, while continuing to frustrate fans and the team alike for not being as good as his stuff suggests he should be.

10) Tyler Sample, RHSP, A-, 21

11) Tim Melville, RHSP, A+, 20

Sample has surpassed Melville in the eyes of many, even though he’s a year older and a level lower. I think Melville has become very underrated because of his high ERA, when in fact his peripherals are excellent for a 20-year-old in high-A ball. Melville went on the DL a few weeks ago, and until he returns I’d have to favor Sample. Both guys might rank in the top 5 of a weaker system.

12) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, R+, 17

The Nicaraguan bonus baby just keeps opening up eyes. Last night he batted six times, walked twice, doubled twice, and tripled. He’s hitting .286/.355/.482 overall and .318/.375/.591 since moving to Idaho Falls, which is a league dominated by college draftees.

Billy Butler went to Idaho Falls the year he was drafted, and at the age of 18 hit .373/.488/.596. That’s the only performance I can think of that comes close.

There’s a chance Cuthbert could make a cameo for Burlington before season’s end, at the age of 17, which might be unprecedented. Even if he doesn’t, he’s likely to start next season on a full-season team at the age of 18 years, 5 months. The only 18-year-old I can find to play for a full-season team was Andres Blanco, who got into 5 games for Wilmington in 2002. If anyone else knows of any examples, leave them in the comments.

This is a very conservative ranking for Cuthbert, based on the fact that he’s still in short-season ball. I would have no argument with ranking him as high as #9 overall.

13) Derrick Robinson, CF, AA, 22

He’s taken a big step forward; now he has to take another one. Right now he’s hitting .294/.355/.385, which is to say he projects as a switch-hitting Juan Pierre. That’s a useful player at the league minimum, but not an above-average player. Keep in mind, he’s still 22, and he’s still loaded with tools. He needs a full-year in Triple-A next year, and he needs to rediscover the strike zone; he drew 27 walks in April and May, but just 10 since.

TWO-STAR PROSPECTS

14) Johnny Giavotella, 2B, AA, 23

After an insane four-game stretch last week where he went 11-for-15 with 2 homers (he had hit one all season), and another 4-for-5 night with a double and a homer on Wednesday, my favorite sleeper is up to .305/.378/.419. For the second straight season, he’s hitting much better in the second half of the season than the first. There’s no margin for error here; he’s either an everyday second baseman or a Quadruple-A player.

15) Buddy Baumann, LHSP, A+, 21

Baumann’s just the latest example of a pitcher who fell in the draft because of his height; he was a second-rounder on talent, but he’s listed at 5’10”, and the Royals got him in the seventh. He has better numbers since moving into the rotation than he had in relief.

16) Noel Arguelles, LHSP, injured, 20

At this point I’m not even sure he exists. If he does, the scouting reports we had on him pre-injury mandate that he be listed this high. Healthy, he’s a Top 10 guy.

17) Salvador Perez, C, A+, 20

18) Manny Pina, C, AAA, 23

Pina is the safe bet, a guy who’s almost certain to have a major-league career as a backup. Pina’s thrown out exactly 50% of attempted base thieves this year, and has a combined line of .242/.313/.402 this year. As long as the Royals’ backup catcher gets to start about 9 games a year, Pina might as well stay in Omaha and see if his bat can develop a little more.

Perez, on the other hand, is a much riskier bet to succeed – before a 7-for-13 stretch the last three nights, he was hitting .225/.245/.268 since June 1st. On the other hand, he’s barely 20, and his defensive skills are also highly advanced (he’s thrown out 44% of basestealers himself).

19) Paulo Orlando, OF, AA, 24

The longer this goes on, the harder it is to ignore his performance. Orlando is hitting .323/.386/.486, and he still has track-star speed in the outfield. He’s still probably a fourth outfielder in the end, but given his Brazilian background and undeniable tools, he may not have established his ceiling yet.

Dayton Moore acquired him for Horacio Ramirez. Yes, Moore was foolish enough to re-sign Ramirez afterwards, but still: he was able to turn Ramirez into a useful ballplayer. That has to count for something.

ONE-STAR PROSPECTS

19A) Will Smith, LHSP, A+, 21

This ranking is just a wild guess. He’s been moved around so much this year that it’s hard to get a handle on him. If you’re a raging optimist, you can compare him to a poor man’s Chris Dwyer – average-plus fastball, good curveball – and point to what the Royals have done with Dwyer in the last year. He allowed just one run in seven innings in his first start for Wilmington.

20) David Lough, OF, AAA, 24

The Royals have long loved Lough, perhaps more than he deserves, but something has happened this month to make me take notice. Lough has always been a free-swinger; he walked just 24 times all last season, and in the first three months of this season he drew just 10 walks in 66 games. In June, Lough walked just once, and struck out 17 times.

In July, he’s walked NINETEEN times, and struck out just 12 times. Despite hitting just .207 this month, he has a .352 OBP.

I don’t know what it means yet. But when a player combines athleticism with plate discipline, good things usually happen. Which is why I’m starting to take Lough a tiny bit seriously as a prospect again.

21) Michael Antonio, SS, R-, 18

It’s still very early, and he’s still very raw, but I’m impressed with his .508 slugging average in rookie ball. He sort of reminds me of another Mike A. the Royals drafted out of New York City a few years ago.

22) Yowill Espinal, SS/2B, R+, 19

He’s 19, got a quarter-million to sign, and is hitting .302/.367/.365 in a college player’s league. He also has an .888 fielding percentage at second base.

23) Jeff Bianchi, SS, injured, 23

He hit .308/.358/.435 between A-ball and Double-A last year, and he’ll still be just 24 when he returns from Tommy John surgery next year. Probably a utility player in the end.

23A) Elisaul Pimental, A-, 22

Just a guess at this point.

24) Clint Robinson, 1B, AA, 25

He really is a poor man’s Kila Ka’aihue at this point. Robinson’s hitting .312/.393/.579, which is great and all, but Ka’aihue hit .314/.463/.624 for the same team when he was 24, and look what good that’s done him.

25) Louis Coleman, RHRP, AAA, 24

You could make a case for a lot of relievers here, from Coleman to Blaine Hardy to Patrick Keating to the newly-promoted Greg Holland, who has control issues but in his last 10 outings for Omaha, struck out a fairly ridiculous 30 men in 16 innings. I think Coleman’s the best of the lot; in 69 innings he’s allowed just 44 walks and 17 hits, while striking out 74. But the Royals have to remember – he throws low three-quarters, and he has shown an enormous platoon split throughout his minor league tenure. If the Royals use him as a tactical right-hander, he could be a nice weapon. If they just him to pitch the seventh inning without regard to the fact that the next three batters bat left-handed, bad things may result.

HM: Kevin Chapman, Jarrod Dyson, Blaine Hardy, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Patrick Keating, Ed Lucas, Rey Navarro, Bryan Paukovits, Jamie Romak, Edgar Osuna, Jordan Parraz, Crawford Simmons, Brandon Sisk, Tim Smith

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rany, I'm sure you know that the Royals just recently release the 1985 World Series DVD Box Set... in honor of that, I'd love to see you compare our probable 2012 roster with the '85 roster... see who compares with whom.

ilroyalfan said...

Great post Rany. The last several day's posts have coalesced into a picture of what the Royals can be should some of the minor league talent prove major league ability, and the true ability Moore has as a GM.

Although it is too early to say whether these prospects will add any value to the major league roster or DM will be able to make better decisions once he has a team that others around the bigs want to come to, there is definitely reason for hope. Count me among the giddy.

Also, I liked the fact that you have reevaluated the talent based on what they have done so far this season. It may be unpopular, but I believe everyone has been rating Montgomery too high. It seems, based upon the fact that he has done little (as compared to Hos, Moose, Lamb, et al) this year due to his injury, it would be safe to rate him lower. Arguelles is another one that puzzles me. He really has done nothing, and may never play for the Royals at all. Players like Patrick Keating deserve more press for what they have actually done this year. Their stock should be higher. Montgomery looks like the real deal (and a potential 1-2) but it is hard to know because of the year he hasn't been able to have.

Anonymous said...

I like this and it seems to have brought together your earlier posts into something a neat summary. The one problem I have is how exactly to assess the skill level of the relievers throughout the system. It seems to me that a guy that will be of value in a big league bullpen will be ultimately more valuable to the team than a fourth OF, utility IF or backup C, or at the very least far more valuable than any Quad A player.

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct to leave Ed Lucas as just an honorable mention. That said, if a sad old veteran gets a chance ahead of him as the utility/Bloomquist man next year, Dayton Moore deserves yet another kick in the junk for hating young ballplayers. The kid (I say "kid" kindly given that he is 28) hs numbers that are strikingly similar to 27 year old Mike Aviles. A little less pop to the alley, but better plate discipline, too. I am not recommending him to be a big part of the future, but if a Bloomquist gets signed in the off-season ahead of Lucas, I will vomit all over. I think Lucas will be my measure of Dayton's ability to actually believe in someone he hasn't drafted/signed--and if he has learned. Lord knows he hates Kila, and hasn't learned by this year.

DosCarlos said...

Thanks for all the minor league posts, Rany. I live in Springfield and went to last night's game with the Naturals, and I plan going to the rest of the series as well. After seeing them in person, I can say I had no idea how fast Orlando was. He scored from first on a shallow hit that was only a double because the outfielder misplayed it. I got my first look at Hosmer, and he came up with two big late-inning singles and hit the ball hard a couple other times.

Jason Dixon said...

Very complete picture. Bad teams force you to look at what's coming down the pipe, and at least the Royals have been fun in this regard this year (the first time I really got into the minors and got my Baseball America subscription was when the Royals drafted Tucker, Damon, and Pittsley and I hated what the team was doing at the ML level). In fact, I don't think the farm has ever looked this deep.

The 2008 draft in retro-spect could be (hopefully, anyway) the best in franchise history; Hosmer, Montgomery, Lamb, Sample, Melville, Giovatella, Hardy. 2009 was pretty good and might have been better than '08 had they also had the 2nd round selection they gave up for Juan Cruz (ouch).

Not mentioned were a couple of guys not yet signed in Brett Eibner and Jason Adam. I think both would end up in the top 25, Eibner maybe the top 10-15, so this system could be even better than it already looks.

Nice stuff, though. Tip of the cap to Dayton Moore, Mike Arbuckle and their staffs to what is looking like quite a job well done.

Anonymous said...

To only have Tim Smith on the extras and leave off Henry Buerra (?) and Ben Swagerty is a little brutal.

MHBob said...

I would suggest for your consideration a player named Jorge Bonifacio who plays for the Dominican Royals. I understand this team is a long, long way from KC and many of their players will never get to the US minor league system, but he has some interesting attributes. He usually hits 3rd and plays center field. So I assume they consider him their best hitter and outfielder. I believe I saw somewhere that made the league All Star team. At 6-1-192 he already has good size. He has an OBP of .422 SLG of .478 for an OPS of .900.
He has 24 BB and 25 SO with 13 SB and 5 CS. He will turn 17 June 4th next year.
Just a name you might want to keep in mind.

Keith Odell said...

Paulo Orlando is my sleeper prospect to watch. As you mention he got a late start in baseball and surely did not receive much in the way of development in Brasil. He has undeniable skills, with the right work ethic and development staff he could be a great late bloomer.

What excites me the most is the progress it appears he has made this year, most notably getting on base at a 387 clip. Even if you take out the home park factor, on the road he is at 340 which is better than he has ever done. He is on pace to set a career mark in walks while striking out less. His k/bb rate still isn't ideal but it is trending in the right direction.

Fast Eddie said...

"3:19pm: The deal is confirmed by a Royals press release, which notes that they sent cash to the Braves too.

3:10pm: The Braves acquired Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth from the Royals, reports CBS' Danny Knobler. The Braves are sending Jesse Chavez, Gregor Blanco, and Tim Collins to Kansas City, tweets Ed Price of AOL FanHouse. Collins went to the Braves in the Yunel Escobar deal, so his stay was short."

Chavez is lousy. Does anyone know if Blanco is a good center fielder?

Kyle said...

The minor leagues look very nice. But do not overlook Monty, he had a great start to the season. He started in A+ and got the promotion to AA, so that's something to think about. He has only got to throw about 65 innings this year.

I saw that trade, and got really excited to see Ankiel and Farnsworth gone, but then I saw that Blanco and Chavez will take their place. I was hoping for 3 prospects, so we could see Kila and Coleman/Hardy take their place. I think the Collins kid could be something though.

Any thing to get rid of Ankiel and Farnsworth is good to me. Now Guillen and Bloomquist need to go.

Anonymous said...

I love the Ankiel/Farnsworth trade. Blanco can take over for Podsednik as a leadoff man. I love the stats on Tim Collins. My first thought was why did the Braves trade him. Then I saw the line 5-07, 155 pounds. Roughly half the size of Farnsworth. But a 20 year old pitcher already in AA who strikes out nearly 14 per 9 innings and doesn't walk people. And we give up 2 guys who we were getting rid of at the end of the year anyway. Now if we can get Kila up here.....

Fast Eddie said...

More observations....

Blanco walks a lot. I assume he'll be the leadoff hitter.

Manny Pina has been sent back to AA - another mistake.

Anonymous said...

More news. Royals give Yost a 2 year contract extension. A lot to comment on, Rany.

Ryan Patrick Dolan said...

Aaron Crow got sent to A ball today, and Danny Duffy was sent to AA NW Arkansas to take his place. Manny Pina got sent back down to AA to clear space for the catcher we got from the Dodgers.

Anonymous said...

I made my own list without looking at Rany's, just to see how we matched up. If you count all of his Honorable Mentions, I had two guys on my top 25 that he didn't.

The one I'd like to bring up is Avinazar pitching for Burlington. The guy is a strike out machine. I was surprised to not see him somewhere in Rany's post.

2012 said...

Rany your description beneath sample and melville sums up the state of the royals future so simply. "on a lesser team Melville/Sample would be top 5. Those two are just a breakout season (Lamb) from becoming a top 50 pitching prospect. our 3 star prospects are as good as most teams 3rd and 4th prospects. :)

I think every team needs a leadoff hitter and i love D Rob in tat spot. He is Juan Pierre except is a much better outfielder. I agree with pretty much everything on this list

Anonymous said...

6'3 205lbs. RF Nick Francis of Wilminton is the best hitter in the minors that nobody talks about. His off the field issues are taken care of and now we can look forward to watching this 5 tool outfielder blossom. He was player of the month for the Blue Rocks in July while blasting 6 hrs in a horrible hitters park and hitting 340. He is the the odds on favorite to repeat the award in August as he continues to crush the ball. With a beautiful long power swing he generates the most bat speed in the carolina league. Francis has 11 hrs and 20 2bs while hitting 285 thus far in 210 abs. His ops is only a few points behind Hosmers when they were teamates in Wilmington. He pocesses great speed 6.59 60 yard dash and is 8 of 10 on sb this year. Is learning to cut down on the k's but I would trade a few strikeouts for the way he rips. Also a huge arm in right field and has been clocked at 94 of the mound in high school. Sounds like a first rounder huh? He lost his father his senior year of high school and made a few poor decisions but now is focused and matured at age 24. Has 1st round talent. Cant wait to see what he could do in a hitters ballpark. On pace to set a single season record for homers in Wilmington. Give this guy a look unbelievable ability!