|Original Published Date: Oct. 21, 2012|
In terms of quality, no minor league organization can stay on top forever. In fact, the goal is to develop young players, promoted or trade them to build your Major League organization which in turn will deplete your minor league organization. This circle of baseball life should be happening in Kansas City and while there has been some success on the positional side, it’s failed thus far on the pitching side.
Kansas City has promoted a dozen prospects over the past two years with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar providing significant contribution to the parent club. The problem has been the pitching, with Danny Duffy and John Lamb falling to Tommy John Surgery (TJS) and Mike Montgomery completely imploding. The next wave of prospects are nearing the Majors but after those matriculate, things getting very thin and questionable.
Wil Myers is going to be a very good baseball player with the ceiling of an all-star right fielder. Assuming the Royals don’t decide to extend the contract of Jeff Franceour, Myers should make his MLB debut in 2013 and not look back. Jake Odorizzi and 2012 first round draft choice, Kyle Zimmer, and John Lamb could begin to contribute to the big club in 2013 and 2014 but all have mid-rotation ceiling with an outside chance at a number two. Bubba Starling, the Royals 2011 first round draft pick is very raw and is a long way off. After that, it becomes very speculative.
The Royals have been promoting 2013 as the year that they will begin to compete. While they should score a lot of runs, the pitching will likely not be there unless they decide to enter the free agent pitching market. Remember, the free agent years of Moustakas, Hosmer, Escobar, Perez, and soon Myers are ticking.
|2013 Age: 22||BP: North Carolina|
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2013|
I’m really surprised that Wil Myers is the number one ranked prospect for the Kansas City Royals as I fully expected him to not qualify. However the slash line of .235/.287/.378 that Jeff Franceour enjoyed during 2012, was just too valuable for the Royals to even consider promoting Wil Myers.
Believe it or not, Myers had a bounce back year in 2012 after a knee infection cost him a large part of the 2011 season. While many prospect writers were concerned, after I saw him play in the Arizona Fall League, I was convinced that the injury that caused Myers to loose power as he pivoted during his backswing was resolved.
Myers slash line was .314/.386/.554 in Triple-A clearly shows there is nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. While the Royals’ experimented moving Myers to center field to provide some additional flexibility, he doesn’t have the speed to adequately play the premium position and therefore, right field will be his destination. If there was a negative in 2012, it was Myers contact rate of 73.2%. In seeing several of his games, he created more loft in his swing while using his lower half to generate more power. This generally will result in making less contact but given his approach at the plate and his ability to take a walk, I still see an above average batting potential.
One of the lessons that we must consider when evaluating Wil Myers, or candidly, any top “can’t miss” prospect, is the 2012 version of Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is athletic, has great hitting mechanics, a great approach at the plate, and great make-up, yet he managed to bat .232 and have the fourth lowest WAR of any regular major league player (Franceour was third worse). Some will argue that he was unlucky (BABIP=.255), but more importantly, he didn’t make the necessary adjustments to the adjustments that pitchers made. While we don’t know what will happen with Myers, it’s a lesson that we should always remember when discussing the best prospects in the game.
Fantasy Impact: Wil Myers has a chance to be a very good fantasy player with the upside of 30 home runs and a .280+ batting average. I will though, stop short of saying he will be an elite fantasy player as the speed is not there. As a comparison, look at Andre Either’s 2009 season as a comp – .272 BA, 31 home runs, 106 RBI, 92 runs, and 6 SB. This was a $22 fantasy player – very good, but not elite.
|2013 Age: 22||BP: Illinois|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2012|
Drafted in 2008 as the 33rd pick in the draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, Jake Odorizzi was the perfect example of what scouts call projectable. Odorizzi was a skinny 6-foot-2, 185 pound kid that could touch 90 MPH. Four years later, he made his major league debut and his fastball averaged 91.74 while maxing out at 94. That three or four mile an hour increase can take you from a back-of-the-rotation starter profile to a mid-rotation or better.
Odorizzi arrived in Kansas City as part of the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. While he was the least known of the players involved, he also possessed the highest upside. First, Odorizzi is a great athlete which is key to establishing consistent and repeatable pitching mechanics. As mentioned before, he throws both a four and two-seam fastball that sits 91-93 and get can touch higher. His secondary pitches are still a work in progress with both his curve and change-up having above average potential. However, currently, he relies heavily on his four-seamer which he throws high in the strike zone and is therefore, subject to the long ball.
There will be a push by the Kansas City fans to have Odorizzi break camp out of spring training. I personally do not believe he is ready as his secondary pitches are not yet fully developed. You can’t survive in the major leagues by throwing primarily fastballs (63%) while flashing average secondary pitches that you struggle to throw for strikes.
Fantasy Impact: Odorizzi will be ranked in the upper half of my Top 100 list but not in the upper echelon of pitching prospects. While I love the athleticism and the smooth pitching mechanics, I need to see a plus off-speed pitch before moving him up in my rankings. He should be owned in a Dynasty League but as a candidate for your 2013 fantasy baseball team, it’s a pass for me.
|2013 Age: 21||BP: California|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 215||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Given the disappointing state of the Kansas City pitching depth, it was no surprise that the Royals selected a college pitcher as the fifth pick in the 2012 draft. Kyle Zimmer is an ultra athletic pitcher that has smooth, yet inconsistent pitching mechanics. When he’s on and pitching in the 93-94 MPH range, his balance is superb and his release point is very consistent. However, when he reaches back to get that little extra on his fastball, his follow-through is poor resulting in an awkward landing and loss of his release point. This should be correctable as Zimmer goes through the development process.
As opposed to Odorizzi, Zimmer has an above average to plus hammer curve that he can throw for strikes. Because the release point is not consistent, some of his curves look completely unhittable, almost knee buckling, while others will bounce in the dirt. I did see a few quality change-ups from Zimmer that should work to keep left-handed batters honest and therefore not cause massive platoon splits.
Fantasy Impact: Kyle Zimmer should be on quick path to the majors with a 2014 debut not out of the question. His stuff is slightly better than Odorizzi but there is more risk as he’s only pitched 39.2 innings in professional ball. He should be drafted in Dynasty League shortly after taking Odorizzi.
|2013 Age: 20||BP: Kansas|
|Ht:6-5 Weight: 200||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
The Royals selected Kansas native Bubba Starling with the fifth pick in the 2011 draft and paid him a franchise-record $7.5 million dollar signing bonus. Starling’s high school athletic achievements are something out of a Hollywood movie. He was the star quarterback setting state records and causing a recruiting frenzy before settling on the University of Nebraska. He was also a great basketball player leading the team in scoring and also getting scholarship offers to play Division One hoops. But in the end, Starling took the life changing money and decided to make baseball his occupation.
Clearly Bubba Starling is an elite athlete with above average speed, strength/power, and a plus arm. However, as with many multi-sport athletes, Starling lack of focus on baseball has put his hit tool behind his other skills. While many were calling for Starling to start the 2012 season in full season ball, the Royals decided to hold him back for more instruction and start him off instead in the Appy League. The results were mixed as Starling showed power and speed by hitting 10 home runs and stealing 10 bases in only 200 at-bats, but he also struck out an alarming 35% of the time.
His swing mechanics are very raw with a lot of movement and a definitive two part swing. While there is bat speed, which is good, his swing will not work long-term unless he quiets the setup, shortens the stroke to develop a more compact approach.
Bubba Starling is a very difficult prospect to evaluate as his talent shows a ceiling of an all-star caliber player but his hit tool is so raw that it’s hard to see him reaching that ceiling. However, that is what the development process is all about.
Fantasy Impact: Bubba Starling needs to be owned in a Dynasty League but realize that he is at least four years, maybe longer away from reaching the Majors. However, the reward could be enormous.
|2013 Age: 22||BP: California|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 200||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014|
At the beginning of the 2011 season, John Lamb squared off against Mike Montgomery in an exhibition game in Kansas City to provide the Royals faithful, hope of what the future would bring. Montgomery has completely imploded and has regressed considerably since that game and Lamb injured his pitching elbow and is working his way back from TJS.
Before the injury, nobody disputed the stuff that Lamb possessed. A 92-93 MPH fastball that he was able to spot on both sides of plate as well as a great change-up that he can throw at will for strikes. His curve was not yet a plus pitch, but had improved greatly during 2010. While his strikeout-per-nine was a modest 7.09 before the injury, I expected this to increase as he develops a better feel for his curve.
It is a common belief, and in my opinion an incorrect assertion that Tommy John Surgery is pretty straight-forward and pitchers come back “as good as new”. While some do, candidly, many never regain their velocity or command that they had before the surgery. Additionally, when it happens to younger players, they loose valuable development time that can never be returned. By July, we should have a better sense on Lamb’s recover and whether he will be “as good as new”.
Fantasy Impact: I would definitely take a flyer on John Lamb in a Dynasty League draft. While there is clearly risk, there is also great upside.
|2013 Age: 19||BP: D.R.|
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Brother of Emilo Bonifacio, Jorge could not be a more different ballplayer. While there is clearly a physical resemblance, Jorge is slightly taller at 6-foot-1, but Emilo’s game is all about using his plus-plus speed while Jorge is an average runner at best.
What Jorge does bring to the dance is a quality hit tool with loft, backspin and the ability to use his lower half to drive pitches. His 79.5% contact rate illustrates the contact he’s able to make and while 10 home runs in Low-A is far from impressive, the Midwest League is notoriously tough on hitters and the contact that Bonifacio did make was loud with the ability to drive pitches to all fields. While it’s dangerous to get overly excited about a power display during batting practice, Bonifacio does put on an impressive exhibition showing nice pull power and equally impressive center to right power.
Bonifacio did appear to slump in the second half, batting a paltry .221. However, he still managed 17 extra base hits, including six home runs in 113 at-bats. Part of his problem was a .241 BABIP that would indicate he ran into a bit of bad luck.
Fantasy Impact: I own Bonifacio in one of my Dynasty Leagues and would try to add him in others given the chance. The contact and power are very promising.
|2013 Age: 21||BP: D.R.|
|Ht: 5-11Weight: 140||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Some were surprised when Yordano Ventura was named as the starting pitcher for the World team during the Futures Game. Sure, he is a Kansas City Royals farmhand, but he also has impressive skills that validated the selection.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for the unspectacular amount of $28,000, Ventura has a plus-plus fastball that he can throw into the upper 90’s. He also has a classic curve that flashes plus as well. His delivery is fairly messy as it’s somewhat all-out and lacks the fluidity you like to see in a pitcher. This coupled with his small stature makes you wonder whether Ventura will eventually find his way to the bullpen.
Fantasy Impact: Ventura is not draftable in a Dynasty League but with a 10.70 K/9 and in Double-A, he’s somebody that fantasy owners need to monitor.
|2013 Age: 20||BP: Nicaragua|
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Cheslor Cuthbert was one of the big “Pop-up” guys last year as he demonstrated a lot of hard contact to accompany contactability and plate patience. As he moved to Wilmington in the Carolina League, he batted .240 with seven home runs and now he’s dropping in prospect rankings, including mine. I’ve heard everything from his inability to hit curveballs to make-up issues as the reason for the decline.
I had a chance to see Cuthbert a couple of times in 2012 and I thought he was a fine player, but not an elite talent. At a listed 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, but the 190 pounds is probably closer to 220 pounds, Cuthbert does not have a great baseball body. I saw him make hard contact and demonstrate power in batting practice, but during games, he was flailing at far too many pitches, particularly soft stuff away. He was able to make contact with some of the pitches, however, most of them turned into weak grounders to the right side of the infield.
In the final analysis, I’m not sure Cuthbert is the third baseman of the future for the Royals. I see a 5 offensive player on the 2-8 scouting scale and a below average defensive player. That to me is a second division starter.
Fantasy Impact: I think Cuthbert can be ignored in all but the deepest Dynasty Leagues.
Major League clubs have been on Sam Selman for years with the Los Angeles Angels even drafting him in 2009. Selman opted instead to attend Vanderbilt where his career did not flourish until the second half of his junior year. That breakout continued in 2012 in the Pioneer League where Selman pitched to a 2.09 ERA with a 13.28 K/9 and a 3.28 BB/9 and flashed his plus fastball and slider.
One of the big international bonus babies in 2011, 17 year-old Elier Hernandez is a quick twitch athlete with great bat speed and future power potential as his 6-foot-4, 210 pound body would suggest. The Royals challenged him in 2012 by putting him in the Pioneer League where he was a bit overwhelmed, with a slash line of .208/.258/.280 and a 66K/14BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 250 at-bats. Even though he’s a long way off, keep your eye on Elier Hernandez.