Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 Royals Top Prospects, Part 3.

#6: Miguel Almonte

Pos-T: SP-R
H-W: 6’2”, 180 lbs
DOB: 4/4/1993 (20 years old)
Signed: NDFA ($25,000 signing bonus), Dominican Republic, 2010

2013: 131 IP, 115 H, 36 BB, 132 K, 6 HR, 3.10 ERA in Low-A
2012: 77 IP, 56 H, 13 BB, 74 K, 2 HR, 1.75 ERA in Dominican (50 IP) and Complex (27 IP)

Almonte had pitched all of 27 innings on the mainland at the end of the 2012 season, but that was enough for Jason Parks, the lead prospect analyst at Baseball Prospectus, to rave about Almonte after seeing him pitch in instructional league – naming him a Top 10 prospect in the system right then and there and even comparing him to a poor man’s Julio Teheran.

While the consensus opinion on Almonte is not quite as optimistic as Parks – who actually ranked Almonte the #46 prospect in all of baseball on his Top 100 list this year – Parks clearly was on to something. Almonte jumped to full-season ball last year and was quietly excellent. He had a 5.40 ERA in April, but from May 1st on he had a 2.69 ERA and had nearly as many strikeouts (119) as hits and walks combined (123). He pairs a low-90s fastball with a changeup that’s already above-average and has the potential to be an out pitch. He needs to settle on a breaking ball and get consistent with it, but he doesn’t turn 21 until around Opening Day, and a good breaking ball is really the only thing he’s missing at this point.

I have him ranked a little lower than most others, because he’s a pitcher who hasn’t gotten out of A-ball yet, and you can't just ignore the attrition rate for pitchers who are four levels from the majors. Also, if it were that easy to throw a good breaking ball, everyone would be doing so. But Almonte is a very, very good prospect, and if he develops without any hiccups – something precious few pitchers in the Royals system have done recently – he should be a #3 starter at the very least. He’ll probably start this year in Wilmington; far less talented pitchers have put up excellent numbers there, so try to temper your excitement if he has a 0.86 ERA into mid-May or something.

#5: Jorge Bonifacio

Pos-B: CF-R
H-W: 6’1, 192 lbs
DOB: 6/4/1993 (20 years old)
Signed: NDFA ($135,000 signing bonus), Dominican Republic, 2009


2013: .298/.372/.429 in Complex (9 G), High-A (54 G), and Double-A (25 G)
2012: .282/.336/.432 in Low-A (105 G)

With Wil Myers having been traded, and with Norichika Aoki being a free agent at the end of this season, Bonifacio is the Royals’ right fielder of the future, and they’re hoping that future begins in 2015. It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable hope to me.

Bonifacio has been very young for his levels; he started in full-season ball in 2012 when he was still 18 years old, and he’ll start this season at age 20 – he’s two months younger than Almonte – even though he’s already reached Double-A and hit well in a short stint there. He has a compact swing that many project will add power over time.

That time may not be this year, however. Bonifacio was hitting .325/.404/.452 for Wilmington on May 12th when he got hit by a pitch and broke his hamate bone. He returned six weeks later; after a ten-day rehab in Arizona he returned to Wilmington, and while he only hit .250/.307/.338 in 20 games there, he impressed the Royals enough that he was sent to Northwest Arkansas for the final month of the season, and hit .301/.371/.441.

Hamate bone injuries are notorious for taking a long time to recover completely from; in particular, hitters frequently see their power sapped for a year or even more afterwards. So don’t panic if Bonifacio fails to reach even his career high of 10 homers this season. Given his youth, swing, and the injury, he could easily be the kind of player who goes from hitting eight homers in the minors in 2014 to 15-20 homers in the majors in 2015.

Projecting forward, everything about Bonifacio suggests that he’ll be a league-average right fielder. He projects to hit .270-.280, he projects to hit 15-20 homers, he projects to have average plate discipline, he projects to be an average defender. That might sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A league-average player making the league minimum is a huge asset, and if he’s capable of being a league-average guy when he’s 23 or 24 years old, he might be a borderline All-Star when he’s 26 or 27. He’s already reached the high minors, he’s still very young for his level, and he has a job opening waiting for him next year. There are sexier prospects in the system, but there may be none safer.


twm said...

I did not hate the Vargas signing when it happened, I found it confusing, but did not hate it or bash it. But now, holy smokes does DM's habit of jumping in front of the market look foolish. Chen is reasonably similar and no where near as expensive; Garza and Jimenez are both less predictable but also have higher ceilings and ended up costing something similar (although the draft pick changes that, and I am not competent enough to project picks into monetary value).

Unknown said...

Thanks for the new post! I'm getting excited for spring like I haven't been since oh, 1989 - maybe 1994. The weather may be playing a factor in that..

Still wondering why Santana wouldn't be open to a 1-year deal for $10M. That is assuming that GMDM and dos Glass have proposed that. Then, Santana can re-enter the free agent pool next year and(hopefully for both parties) without draft pick compensation. Hopefully, with another good year on his resume...would help both parties.

Michael S. said...

Twm, maybe time has made you forgetful, or maybe you just don't know the numbers. Vargas got 4 years and $32mm from the Royals while both Garza and Jiminez got 4 years and $50mm.

That's $18mm difference. $4.5mm per season. That's more than 50% greater than what Vargas will make. Do you think over the course of 4 years that Garza or Jiminez will be 50% better than Vargas?

twm said...

Maybe the Royals cannot afford an extra $4.5 per year in AAV, they certainly would have us believe that it is beyond their means, but within the context of free agent pitcher contracts, I consider 4/$32 "something similar" to 4/$50, mostly because the years are similar and the extra cost is valued at about 60% of an additional win above replacement, or, to put it in the context of the Vargas signing, 1.3 WAR versus 2 WAR.

Snide comments aside, a bit more discussion...

Vargas is more predictable, having neither the recent injury concerns of Garza nor the recent performance concerns of Jimenez. That said, I think Jimenez is a good bet to provide greater than 8 WAR over the next four seasons, as he has been worth in excess of 3 WAR per season in all but one of his past five seasons. Garza I am less comfortable with because of his injuries, but presumably the Brewers were satisfied enough to guarantee him four years.

Back to Vargas then. I do think he can provide excess value over the 5.1 WAR his contract projects, but I think the excess will be minimal (whereas with Jimenez I can see an extra 4 WAR as easily attainable). So, yes, I think that at least Jimenez will be 50% more valuable over the next four years.

Beyond that, though, I think that maybe a guy like Vargas would be in line for less money than the royals gave him, were he still available. Maybe not in AAV, but perhaps in years. And that is another cost, beyond the opportunity costs of signing a guy like Jimenez, of DM's tendency to jump in front of the market.

Look, Michael, I still don't think the Vargas contract is terrible, but now more than ever I question whether it is the best allocation if resources. Chen's one year plus option for the second cost the same as one season of Vargas, and they are roughly identical pitchers. And for not much more in salary, and no extra years, to get a player like Jimenez would probably have been a much better use of resources.

Deep Dixie Blue said...

My enthusiasm for Almonte was tempered a bit after I saw him in June. His fastball was low 90's, he couldn't get his breaking ball over, and his changeup had a noticeably slower arm speed -- something advanced hitters will pickup on very quickly. Hopefully, I just caught him on an off day because all of the scout hounds seem to love him.

As for Bonifacio, I wonder if he's not more likely bound for DH than RF. Reports I've read says he has a big arm but below average speed.

Michael S. said...

Over the last 4 years, Ubaldo has been better in overall bWAR than Vargas by a tally of 11.3 to 8.3. That makes Jiminez about 36% better overall than Vargas the last 4 years.

But, 7.5 of that WAR for Jiminez came in just one season, his outstanding 2010 year. That shows just how volatile Jiminez has been. In the other three seasons he's been worth a total of only 3.8 bWAR, including one season of negative value.

There was much complaining about the Gil Meche contract when it was signed too, much more than even the Vargas signing has gotten. The Royals saw something in Meche that they thought they could maximize his abilities and he would be worth the cost. They were right until Trey Hillman screwed it all up. Maybe there is something they see in Vargas as well that makes them think he has something more to contribute.

While I somewhat agree that they overpaid a bit for Vargas in terms of years, I'm not willing to say he won't live up to the contract. I just don't think its something to fuss over 3 months after it was signed and 1 1/2 months before he has ever thrown an official pitch for the Royals.

In other news, according to mlbtraderumors, the Royals are still talking with Ervin Santana. They still make the absolute most sense for him because they are the only team that doesn't have to factor in the cost of losing a draft pick as well. If they are still talking I'm assuming ownership has approved the extra cost it would take to bring him back.

kcghost said...

The Royals must lead the Free World in prospects who project to be "average".

You would think with all the high draft choices we have had we we get one guy to the majors who is a stud from the get-go.

If Sam Mellinger wants to believe the Royals are broke he is welcome to do so, but I am not buying. There needs to be some "put back" from all the years they made money hand over fist.

KHAZAD said...

The stud's name was Wil Myers

Jayboid said...

Again, thanks Rany

Moving into the Southern heart of Cardinal Country next month, and was wavering on loyalship. Our minors keeps me wearing Royal Blue. Got goose pimps reading about Almonte. Even sounds like a pitcher's name.

It is a bit odd, Pre-GMDM the minors were not loaded, but sure had some HOF type youngsters.

??Seems pretty easy to pick draft players, even if you just took the consensus best college players every year. Any slot, pick,then next. Some would have to pan out. Look at Dozier for instance. He will be a 10 year above ave. MLB player. Soon.

Still wonder what Johnny Damon numbers would be IF he played his entire career here with a .500 +- team. Still think he was better than Beltran. Most likely would be retiring this year with a whole bunch of team records.

Not much of a Sweendawg fan, but he could rip it.

Somebody should have barred Sweeney from lifting wts, the same with Gordon. Both were not baseball flexible.

Who was running Baird's minor pitching programs, Slappy The Bait Guy? Did we have anybody after Rosales?