Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.
Kansas City Royals
Heading into the 2011 season the Kansas City Royals farm system was far and away the best in baseball. Some considered it the best collection of upper echelon prospects ever assembled and beyond the elite talent, the system was also very deep.
At the big league level it was yet another losing season (71-91) but there is plenty of optimism around town as the team saw C Salvador Perez, C Manny Pina, 1B Eric Hosmer, 2B Johnny Giavotella, 3B Mike Moustakas, LHP Danny Duffy, LHP Tim Collins, RHP Aaron Crow, RHP Louis Coleman, RHP Nate Adcock, LHP Everett Teaford, and RHP Kelvin Herrera all make their major league debuts. RHP Greg Holland, who retained prospect eligibility after pitching 18.2 innings in 2010, had a superb season and finished 6th among all MLB relievers in WAR.
At the end of the season the Royals starting infield had an average age of 22.2 years. Alcides Escobar was the “elder statesman” of the group at 24 with Perez and Hosmer the youngest at 21. On top of the youth in the infield, the entire bullpen was 27 or younger, the entire outfield was 27 or younger and DH Billy Butler was just 25.
In terms of run differential the team should have finished 78-84 and things are just getting started.
Don’t believe the 2011 Royals system was one of the best, if not the best ever? Consider that twelve players made their debuts and several other prospects logged some major league service time and figure into the team’s long term plans. Consider that several top prospects including John Lamb, Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery (to name a few) battled injuries or other setbacks. Consider all the factors and it would be reasonable to expect that the Royals would have fallen out of the top-5 or even top-10 in the organizational rankings. It would be reasonable but it would be wrong. Heading into 2012, the Kansas City Royals system was ranked 3rd by Baseball America behind the Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I live in Kansas City and count the Royals as one of my two favorite teams (the other being the Twins as I grew up in the Twin Cities). I will do my best to write what follows in as unbiased a fashion as I possibly can, but be forewarned that the fan in me will likely overwhelm the writer/scout/analyst in me from time to time.
(These system grades are preliminary and may be scaled back)
Position Player Upside: B+
Position Player Depth: B-
Pitching Upside: B+
Pitching Depth: B+
System Grade: B+
Catcher – Cameron Gallagher (19): The Royals 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft, Gallagher hit 0.157/.227/.213 in 28 games between the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues after signing. It was a bit of a disappointing debut, but he got his feet wet and will be better prepared for his first full minor league season. At 6’3″ and 210 lbs Cam is big for a catcher but he’s already solid defensively with good arm strength. Offensively he projects to have an average bat and plus power if things break right. He gets high marks for his character and work ethic and comes from a baseball family. With Salvador Perez establishing himself as the future behind the plate for the Royals, and with Manny Pina looking very capable of serving as the backup, the Royals can afford to be patient with Cam and let him develop naturally. He just turned 19 last month so he has plenty of time.
First base – Clint Robinson (26): The depth in Kansas City’s system at 1B starts and ends with Robinson but that’s hardly a concern with Eric Hosmer (21) blocking all others from the position on the major league roster. After hitting 0.335/.410/.625 in Double-A in 2010 Clint carried his success over to 2011 and hit 0.326/.399/.533 for Omaha (AAA) in 2011. While his power is regarded as average he’s hit 76 2B and 52 HR in the last two seasons and has done so while showing solid plate discipline for a player with his size and profile (15.5 K% and 10.2 BB% in 2011). The bat is there but he’s below average defensively and lacks any sort of speed. Robinson will turn 27 next month and is getting long in the tooth for a prospect. Like Ka’aihue before him, he’s proven himself in the minors but his shot at extended major league playing time will probably come via another organization down the road.
Second base – Daniel Mateo (20): In 2010 – his first season playing in the states – Mateo hit 0.218/.256/.350 with 10 BB and 48 SO in 52 games with the AZL Royals as an 18-year old. He turned things around in a big way in 2011. Playing with the Chukars in the Pioneer League he hit 0.348/.389/.478 with 17 BB and 43 SO in 56 G. It was a surprising season from the switch-hitter and one that included a 5-5, 8 RBI game which saw him hit for the cycle in his first four at bats. His defense at 2B is still a work in progress as the Royals have moved him from SS in 2009 to 3B in 2010 and then had him split time between 2B and 3B in 2011. He doesn’t have the power potential to make a good fit at 3B so 2B should wind up being his long term home. The sooner the Royals make that decision the better off he will be as he has all the tools to develop into an average if not above average defender. Mateo’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate is legitimate but he will need to continue to show improved plate discipline as he advances. On a closing note he hit 0.500/.532/.727 with 2 2B, 1 3B and 2 HR in his final 10 games and 44 at bats of the season (and no that doesn’t include the game he hit for the cycle).
Third base – Cheslor Cuthbert (19): Signed by the Royals out of Nicaragua for $1.35, Cuthbert spent all of 2011 with Kane County (A) of the Midwest League. Despite being just 18 years old – the youngest everyday player in the league – he more than held his own hitting 0.267/.345/.397 with 36 BB and 65 SO in 81 games. Those slash stats don’t do his season justice as they include his 13-96 stretch to close out the season. By all accounts his drop off was primarily a result of fatigue and isn’t cause for concern in 2012 and beyond. Cuthbert’s emergence is one of the reasons the Royals system remains so strong. The young 3B profiles to be a plus hitter with plus power but couples that with good hands, arm and instincts which should allow him to be an above-average defender. He has an extremely advanced approach at the plate for someone his age which should allow him to adapt quickly as he advances in the system. Some question his ability to stick at the position but I don’t believe that to be much of a concern as long as he puts in the work – much like Moustakas did.
Shortstop – Christian Colon (22): Going back to his days at Cal-State Fullerton I’ve always thought Colon was overrated and I threw a mini-tantrum when the Royals drafted him with the 4th overall pick in the 2010 draft. Coming out of college he only had one potentially above average tool at his disposal in his bat. For a player who was supposed to move quickly through the system his offensive performance was lackluster with Wilmington (A+) in 2010 and took a step back in 2011 with NW Arkansas (AA). On the positive side of the ledger he put up a nice 51-46 SO-to-BB in 127 games last season but outside of that he owns a career line of 0.264/.326/.355 in his first two pro seasons. He stole 17 bases for the Naturals but was caught 7 times and has average speed at best. His ceiling is very limited and anyone who thinks he can stick at SS is just kidding themselves as he lacks the range and arm strength to advance much further. I’m listing him here only because the data on their stable of young SS (Mondesi, Arteaga, Calixte, Antonio and Lopez) is so limited. He can’t match Giavotella’s bat, Escobar’s glove or Mateo’s ceiling. I think he winds up being a solid but unspectacular MI backup. He’ll open 2012 with the Storm Chasers and I’ll be hoping he proves me wrong every day he takes the field. If you want to read more on Colon, check out this article over on Kings of Kauffman.
Outfielder #1 – Wil Myers (21): A lot of people will look at the line of 0.254/.353/.393 and walk away thinking that Myers was a disappointment. That would be a mistake on a similar level to when fans wrote off Eric Hosmer after he struggled in 2009. As with everything else in life the numbers do little good without some context. In addition to the fact that making the jump to Double-A is one of the toughest, Myers also dealt with a knee injury that later got infected and he was transitioning from catcher to the outfield. Throw on to that pile the fact that, at 20-years old, he was one of the youngest players in the Texas League and suddenly his statistical performance looks a little better. The Royals sent him to the AFL to get him more work and the fully healthy and acclimated Myers put on a show hitting 0.360/.481/.674 with 15 XBH (5 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR) 20 BB and 18 SO in 23 G. Stats in the AFL aren’t all that valuable but in this case it gave people a very loud reminder of the type of player Myers could become. Understandably his defense remains a work in progress but he’s got a plus arm and good enough speed that he should wind up being at least average in the field. At the plate, he mixes the ingredients of natural strength, strike zone awareness, bat speed and quick hands to make his swing a sight to behold. Wil Myers is a star in the making and remains one of the 15 to 20 best prospects in all of baseball. Nathaniel slotted him at #16 in his Top-100.
Outfielder #2 – Bubba Starling (19): Myers has stardom written all over him but his significant potential and upside cannot hold a candle to the package of tools that Derek “Bubba” Starling has at his disposal. A product of Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas, Starling is something of a mythical legend around these parts. He was a standout athlete in baseball, football and basketball and could have played Division-I in any of the three if he chose to do so. The University of Nebraska’s loss is the Royals gain. Plus bat speed, plus-plus power, plus speed, plus range, plus arm strength … Starling is a rare breed as a true five-tool prospect. The challenge for him will be harnessing his considerable tools and turning them into production. In terms of upside few, if any, prospects can match him but with such great upside comes a great deal of risk. Because he was a three-sport athlete he is a little more raw and could take a little longer to develop but he has superb natural baseball instincts. I believe he will move faster than most people anticipate. As the 5th player taken in the 2011 draft he merited a pick profile written by yours truly on June 7th.
Outfielder #3 – Elier Hernandez (17): The talent and depth of the Royals OF prospects is significantly better than any organization I’ve covered so far. There is a good case to be made that Kansas City has the best collection of OF prospects in all of baseball. For a fanbase that was subjected to Emil Brown in the field for 3 years – and there were plenty of guys who were even worse (Chip Ambres anyone?) I’d say we’re due for some outstanding outfield play for the next decade or so. I could go with 3 guys here but I’m opting to go with the one that has zero pro experience. Hernandez was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $3.05 million this past July. Due to the lack of data we only have scouting reports to go off of right now. His best asset is his excellent bat speed and it is readily apparent in this DPL video. Primarily a line-drive hitter now, he projects to have above-average power and is an excellent athlete overall. Hernandez is another guy with an enormous upside and a great deal of risk.
Starting Pitcher #1 – LHP Mike Montgomery (22): Constructed almost entirely out of home-grown young pieces, the Royals have the makings of a great lineup and a lights-out bullpen. What they don’t have right now is any semblance of a playoff quality rotation. Danny Duffy made the jump to the majors in 2011 but he’s going to need some help. Candidate 1A to provide that help is Montgomery who is coming off a forgettable season – 5.32 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 69 BB, 129 SO in 151.0 IP – with the Storm Chasers. The root cause of his struggles were related to his mechanics which threw everything out of whack. When he’s right he still has the plus-fastball and plus-changeup at his disposal. The Royals have tried to get Montgomery away from the palm-curve he threw in high school but he’s been unable to find a more traditional curve that suits him. Once he finds a style and grip that works for him he should be able to develop it into an average offering if not above average. We live in an era of over-reaction and wander around with “what have you done for me lately” attitude as a society so of course people are down on him. For me though, Mike Montgomery still has the makings of a front of the rotation arm and still has a good chance to reach that level of production.
Starting Pitcher #2 – LHP John Lamb (21): 2011 was essentially a lost year for Lamb. He came out of the gates dealing with a strained oblique and later learned he had a torn elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery in June. Odds are that he’s going to miss the bulk of 2012 as well but he should be able to regain his stuff quickly. Even though he was dealing with injuries and didn’t have his usual control or velocity at his disposal, he had a 3.09 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 35.0 IP with Northwest Arkansas before he was shut down and went under the knife. Lamb knows how to pitch, and he knows how to get by on the days that he has his “B” or “C” instead of his “A” stuff working for him. When healthy he complements his 90-94 mph fastball with a plus changeup and a still developing curveball. His stuff is plenty good to take on major league hitters but it’s his fastball command that makes him a potential #2 starter. Still just 21, Lamb has plenty of time to get healthy and resume his march toward Kansas City. Once he’s back on the mound I believe he will move quickly.
Starting Pitcher #3 – RHP Jake Odorizzi (21): He had no problems adjusting to the Royals organization after being acquired from the Brewers in the Greinke trade and needed just 15 starts to get through High-A Wilmington (2.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 22 BB and 103 SO in 78.1 IP). Odorizzi found a stiffer challenge waiting for him in the Texas League and his numbers took a step back across the board as a result. Still, he held his own (4.72 ERA, 1.28 ERA, 22 BB, 54 SO in 68.2 IP) and should be able to master the level the second time around. Odorizzi throws 4 pitches – low 90s fastball, slider, curve and changeup – that all project to be at least average major league offerings. He can push his fastball up to 95 but generally sits in the 92-93 mph range with the pitch, which also has good movement. His stuff alone isn’t top shelf, but the diversity of pitches coupled with his athleticism and clean, easy delivery allow him to keep hitters off balance and he controls the strike zone well. Odorizzi has #2 starter upside, but to reach it he will need to pitch lower in the zone with his fastball and refine his secondary offerings. While his ceiling isn’t as high as guys like Lamb and Montgomery, he’s a much safer bet to have a long and productive major league career.
Starting Pitcher #4 – RHP Yordano Ventura (20): Signed by the Royals out of the Dominican Republic in the fall of 2008, Ventura has front of the rotation upside but may wind up in the bullpen. The primary concern here is durability relative to his small 5’11″ 145 lb frame and the fact that he has a tendency to overthrow. He’s capable of scraping triple digits but is much more effective when he is throwing in the 95-97 mph range with his fastball. Beyond his attention grabbing fastball, Ventura has an above average curve and a developing low-80s change. There is some effort to his delivery but he has excellent arm strength and very good control for someone his age. He had a solid year with Kane County (4.27 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 24 BB and 88 SO in 84.2 IP) and is a good bet to put up strong numbers in Wilmington’s pticher friendly environment in 2012. If his body holds up to the workload he has the potential to be something very, very special.
Starting Pitcher #5 – RHP Jason Adam (20): Joining Ventura in Kane County last year was Adam – the Royals 5th round pick in the 2010 draft. Born in Overland Park, Kansas (a KC suburb) he’s another example of GM Dayton Moore’s emphasis on drafting and signing local talent. In his first professional action last year he finished with a 4.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9 and 6.6 SO/9 in 104.1 IP. Adam’s arsenal includes a low-90s fastball (can hit 96), a curveball and a changeup. All three pitches project to be average or better as he develops, with his curveball being a potentially plus pitch. At 6’4″ and 225 lbs he has the frame to be a middle of the rotation workhorse, but there’s a very good chance his velocity will improve a tick or two as he develops. He has a feel for all of his pitches and has good control, but needs to improve his consistency and learn to put hitters away. If I had to pick one player from this system most likely to have a breakout season in 2012, Jason Adam would be my choice.
Relief Pitcher #1 – RHP Kelvin Herrera (22): Royals fans have been patiently waiting to see what a healthy Herrera could do on the mound. After battling elbow problems for the bulk of 2009 and a large chunk of 2010, that patience paid off this past season as he carved his way through Wilmington, Northwest Arkansas and Omaha before making his major league debut on September 21st against the Tigers. Herrera finished the season with a 1.60 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 15 BB and 70 SO in 67.2 IP and it wasn’t a fluke as his stuff is probably better than anyone else in a very talented system. Capable of topping 100 mph, Kelvin sits in the upper 90s with his fastball and complements it with a good curveball and a plus changeup. Both of his secondary pitches come at hitters in the low to mid 80s giving them excellent separation from his heater. Herrera is major league ready and could make the Royals Opening Day roster but a stint in Omaha to start the season is certainly a possibility given the the already overcrowded state of Kansas City’s relief corps.
Relief Pitcher #2 – RHP Edwin Carl (22): In the spirit of full disclosure, Carl is not the Royals 2nd best relief prospect still in the minors. That title should probably go to RHP Kevin Chapman or perhaps RHP Jeremy Jeffress (if you believe he will start throwing strikes). No, Carl is here to honor the phenomenal season he had in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League in 2011. In 21 appearances he finished with a 1.60 ERA, 0.61 WHIP and gave up just 17 hits and only 3 walks in 33.0 IP. He also struck out 71 hitters for an eye-popping 19.4 SO/9. Carl also pitched in 2 regular season games and 2 playoff games for Kane County at the end of the year and while the overall results weren’t as impressive he still struck out 11 in 7.1 IP. Another impressive tidbit is that he didn’t allow a single HR the entire season.
Best of the Rest
The depth of the Royals system makes picking just 10 players to slot here very difficult and ranking them was even tougher. Beyond the guys I selected there are dozens more that received serious consideration. For instance, in the other systems I’ve covered so far, a guy like OF David Lough (26) would have wound up solidly in the 3rd OF slot. In the Royals system however he doesn’t even make the BotR and he wasn’t all that close.
Since I’ve already piled up the word count I’m going to tackle these in more of a quick hitting fashion as I did with the Reds system.
- #1) OF Brett Eibner (23): Hit 0.213/.340/.408 with 13 2B, 12 HR, 48 BB and 90 SO in 324 PA (76 G) for Kane County (A). The Royals 2nd round pick in 2010, he’s still a bit raw at the plate but displays plus raw power, good patience at the plate, a strong arm, good speed and excellent overall athleticism. Eibner has some issues making contact but if he addresses that part of his game his prospect status will shoot up. If playing in the field doesn’t work out he can also be moved to the mound where he was a highly regarded pitching prospect in college.
- #2) LHP Chris Dwyer (23): 5.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 78 BB and 126 SO in 141.1 IP (27 GS) for NW Arkansas (AA). He’s got the best curveball in the organization and probably one of the best in the minors. The problem is that he’s terribly inconsistent and can completely lose the strike zone. I’ve never been as high on him as some, but he still has significant upside if he can iron things out.
- #3) LHP Noel Arguelles (22): 3.20 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 24 BB and 64 SO in 104.0 IP (21 GS) for Wilmington (A+). Another guy that Royals fans had to wait on due to injury he had a strong debut season after missing time due to shoulder surgery. He’s all but ignored on most prospect lists, but that will quickly change if he holds his own in the Texas League. His stuff will continue to improve as time passes and he logs more innings. Shoulder surgery is a big deal for a pitcher but I remain optimistic about Noel’s chances to have an impact.
- #4) OF Jorge Bonifacio (18): Emilio’s little brother, Jorge hit 0.284/.333/.492 with 20 2B, 7 HR, 16 BB and 58 SO in 258 PA (62 G) with Burlington (Rk). He was the 2nd youngest regular in the league and has a good five-tool mix and overall athleticism. Unlike his brother, Jorge has plus power potential and a strong arm making him an ideal fit for RF if he develops.
- #5) RHP Greg Billo (21): 1.93 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 25 BB and 119 SO in 135.0 IP (27 G/18 GS) for Kane County (A). Anytime a 20 year old turns in a 1.7 BB/9 in full season ball and does so while throwing over 100 innings we should take notice. He doesn’t have plus velocity but deserves some attention as getting results is the name of the game. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to have success against more advanced competition.
- #6) RHP Bryan Brickhouse (19): The Royals 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft, Brickhouse signed for $1.5 million after pitching for powerhouse Woodlands HS in Texas. Kansas City managed to pull him away from his college commitment to UNC and may have a #3 starter on their hands if things break right. He’ll make his professional debut in 2012.
- #7) RHP Tim Melville (22): 4.32 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 53 BB and 108 SO in 135.1 IP (29 G/25 GS) with Wilmington (A+). Three seasons into his pro career and we’re still waiting for Melville to put things together and realize his potential. He’s still young and has time but after 2 years and 247.2 innings of mediocre results in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League, it’s time for him to show something more.
- #8) SS Orlando Calixte (19): 0.208/.256/.263, 9 XBH, 11 SB, 20 BB and 70 SO in 317 PA (81 G) with Kane County. The overall numbers are lackluster but he was playing well over his head in the Midwest League in his first action stateside. As with Wil Myers, context is key with Calixte.
- #9) SS Humberto Arteaga (18): 0.254/.290/.324, 11 2B, 8 SB, 9 BB and 39 SO in 229 PA (47 G) with the AZL Royals. Another 7 figure signing bonus investment by the Royals and another potential answer at SS.
- #10) SS Adalberto Mondesi (16): The son of former major league OF (and 1994 NL ROY) Raul, Adalberto signed with the Royals for $2 million this past July. Despite his young age, he’s regarded as a fairly advanced defensive player and he has the bloodlines. The big question is what he will do with the bat.
The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.
For more on the Royals, check out Kings of Kauffman.
Topics: Adalberto Mondesi, Brett Eibner, Bryan Brickhouse, Bubba Starling, Cameron Gallagher, Cheslor Cuthbert, Chris Dwyer, Christian Colon, Clint Robinson, Daniel Mateo, Edwin Carl, Elier Hernandez, Greg Billo, Humberto Arteaga, Jake Odorizzi, Jason Adam, John Lamb, Jorge Bonifacio, Kansas City Royals, Kelvin Herrera, Mike Montgomery, Noel Arguelles, Orlando Calixte, Tim Melville, Wil Myers, Yordano Ventura