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December 3, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects
State of the Farm: “I told a girl that my prospects were good and she said baby, ‘It's understood.’”
The Top Ten
1. Wil Myers
What Happened in 2012: As it turns out, a healthy Myers is a monster Myers, as the 21-year-old put all questions from the 2011 season to rest by mashing at two levels and emerging as a top-10 prospect in baseball.
Strengths: Natural hitting ability; quick/strong wrists; balanced swing; excellent raw strength; plus bat speed; hit tool is easy 6; power potential is 6; middle-of-the-order profile; mature approach; quality athlete; plus arm.
Weaknesses: Not many weaknesses with the bat; swing can get a little wild; two-strike approach could use refinement; hasn’t been tested by high-level stuff yet; needs refinement with his outfield routes; baserunning.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; Myers is major league ready and a high-level talent
Fantasy Future: From a corner spot, Myers is likely to hit for average (.285-plus) with good game power (25-plus HR). Above-average right field profile.
The Year Ahead: Myers is ready to jump into major-league waters, where his bat is expected to produce immediately. Against high-level pitching, holes that didn’t exist in the minors start to open up, and for Myers, quality fastballs on the inner-third will be a good test of his hand speed. Anything left out over the plate is batting practice, and he doesn’t miss many opportunities to crush mistakes. But the difference between Triple-A pitching and major-league pitching is extreme, and Myers will need to prove capable of hitting quality offerings to live up to his lofty hype.
Major league ETA: 2013
2. Kyle Zimmer
What Happened in 2012: An unknown name to some, Zimmer shot up draft boards in the spring and snuck into the top five, where the Royals signed the big right-hander to a slot-friendly bonus of $3 million.
Strengths: Excellent size/strength; fresh arm; clean delivery; excellent arm speed; fastball is easy plus offering and can show plus-plus velocity; can work anywhere from 91-96, and can touch higher; shows both two- and four-seam fastballs; ball arrives on a steep plane; two-seamer with plus sink; can throw strikes; curveball is present 6 and will flash 7; hard breaking ball with heavy depth on 12-6 shape; bat-missing pitch; hard for hitters to track and square; plays well off fastball.
Weaknesses: Limited track record; fastball will show velocity dips; tendency to overthrow the pitch; will throw too many strikes and become hittable; more control than command; changeup can get too firm, thrown in the mid-80s without much arm-side action; fringe at present; amateur slider was second fringe offering.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; limited track record/experience as a pitcher
Fantasy Future: Has the arsenal to miss bats and the body to log innings; could be workhorse starter or could develop into legit no. 2 on frontline team.
The Year Ahead: After a taste of the Midwest League in 2012, Zimmer will look to take a step forward in his first full season, with the arsenal and maturity to start at the Double-A level, but a High-A assignment is more likely. While not a finished product, Zimmer should move fast and could reach the majors by 2014, and perhaps even faster if the changeup develops into an average pitch, giving the soon-to-be 21-year-old a major-league-quality arsenal.
Major league ETA: 2014
3. Bubba Starling
What Happened in 2012: The $7.5 million bonus baby made his professional debut, putting all of his tools on display in the Appalachian League, covering wide swaths of ground in the outfield and showing more aptitude with the bat than expected.
Strengths: Elite all-around athlete; potential for 7 profile in center field; 7 run; 6 glove; 7+ arm; shows plus bat speed; can drive the ball to all-fields; potential for plus game power; highest upside in the organization.
Weaknesses: Questions about hit tool utility; swing can get long and loose; struggles with pitch recognition; fastball swing; soft and spinning can beat him; defense in center is heavily rooted in athleticism; uses speed to overcome poor routes/reads; needs to refine angles to the ball; lacks baseball polish
Overall Future Potential: 7; extreme
Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk because of wide gap between present and future grades; has yet to play full-season ball
Fantasy Future: If Starling hits his ceiling, he could be one of the best players in the game, with speed and power from a middle-of-the-diamond position.
The Year Ahead: Not many full-season debuts will be as scrutinized as Starling’s, which is a product of his own promise and the initial financial investment used to purchase that promise. While extremely toolsy and one of the best athletes in the entire sport, Starling’s baseball skills are still immature, and the full-season level could shine a light on some of those rough edges, especially at the plate.
Major league ETA: 2016
4. Adalberto Mondesi
What Happened in 2012: The son of former major leaguer Raul Mondesi jumped onto the prospect scene with an explosive performance in the Pioneer League, playing a healthy chunk of the season at age 16.
Strengths: Instincts are off-the-chart; tremendous feel for the game; 6 defensive profile at shortstop; plus arm; plus range; slick actions; soft hands; fluid swing from both sides of the plate; can drive the ball into the gaps despite limited (present) strength; easy feel for good contact; hit tool projects to plus; good baserunner; shows legit baseball skills at very young age.
Weaknesses: Lots of developmental unknowns; athletic body/frame, but needs to add strength; see ball, hit ball mentality in the box; susceptible to off-speed offerings; more bat speed from the right-side; lacks power potential.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; despite game skills and precocious talent, wide gap between present and future; only 17 years old
Fantasy Future: Could hit for a high batting average, with gap power and speed from a premium defensive position.
The Year Ahead: Mondesi has the potential to be a special talent, but his statistical output in the next few years might not accurately reflect the scouting reports. Despite being an advanced talent for his age—with instincts that one source dubbed “Jeter like,” and possessing major league bloodlines—Mondesi is still only 17-years-old and will be playing against much older competition if he jumps to the full-season level. His lack of strength could limit his offensive function for a few years, but his glove work will continue to draw praise, as will his overall approach to the game, which mirrors a major-league veteran more than a player that would be entering his senior year in high school.
Major league ETA: 2016
5. Yordano Ventura
What Happened in 2012: After a solid but not spectacular 2011 season, Ventura decided to make it more spectacular, blowing away Carolina League hitters before a late-season promotion to Double-A.
Strengths: Lighting fast arm; fastball has explosive velocity; can work in the 94-98 range, and touch triple-digits; pitch can show plus movement , with late burst to the arm-side; easy 7 offering; could play at 8 in bursts; curveball is plus offering; two-plane break; tight rotation; plays well off the fastball; true swing and miss offering; flashes as a 7; changeup took developmental steps forward; shows some sink and fade; could be average pitch; delivery allows arm to work well; holds stuff better than body suggests.
Weaknesses: Very slight build; limited physical projection; concerns about stress on body; will overthrow fastball to miss bats; loses plane when he elevates; falls under curveball, causing pitch to slurve; changeup is inconsistent; can get deliberate and will cast the pitch; command comes and goes.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3; 7; frontline setup/closer.
Explanation of Risk: High risk as a starter because of unrefined command and immature changeup; moderate risk in relief; now arsenal to compete.
Fantasy Future: Could prove doubters wrong and end up in a major league rotation, with bat-missing stuff; body unlikely to hold 200-plus innings; in relief, could rack up strikeouts and holds/saves.
The Year Ahead: Ventura will return to the Double-A rotation, where the development of his changeup and refinement of his command will dictate his fate. On paper, Ventura looks like a reliever, with a near elite fastball and a curveball that shows 7 potential. Add to the mix his junior-high body and up-and-down command and the profile looks like it was poured in concrete. But don’t rule out his potential as a starter, as he can pitch with feel despite pitching with intensity, and he can hold his stuff better than you would think. It’s a massive player to live up to, but some sources think Ventura has some Pedro Martinez to his game and could develop even higher than this projection indicates.
Major league ETA: 2013
6. Jake Odorizzi
What Happened in 2012: Odorizzi’s deep arsenal was too much for the Double-A level, and after 18 solid starts in Triple-A, the 22-year-old made two starts at the major-league level, setting himself up for a run at a roster spot in 2013.
Strengths: Plus athlete; clean delivery; repeats well; fastball works in the low-90s and can touch a little higher; shows some sink when spotted lower in the zone; curveball looks plus more than it looks average; good shape and vertical action; changeup is similar; is plus offering when he finishes the pitch; shows some arm-side fading action; slide piece is adds another average or better pitch to the arsenal; shows feel for strike-throwing; feel for sequence and situation.
Weaknesses: Lacks knockout pitch; arsenal is solid-avg, but lacks upside; fastball can flatten out when elevated; secondary offerings aren’t consistent enough to back hitters off fastball; gets loose in the zone and struggles to put hitters away.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; already achieved major-league level; mature arsenal; athletic with good mound IQ.
Fantasy Future: Nothing fancy, but athletic enough to make adjustments and strong enough to log innings; won’t be big bat-misser at major-league level, but will compete and take ball every fifth day with intensity.
The Year Ahead: Odorizzi is ready for an extended major league look, and with some pitchability and a deep solid-average arsenal, he showed be able to stick around for a long time. He will often walk a tightrope, as the sum of his parts is greater than any one attribute. But as long as expectations are properly managed, Odorizzi should be a player Royals’ fans can get used to seeing penciled in as a no. 3 or 4 starter for the next decade. It’s not going to be flashy, but it’s going to be something positive.
Major league ETA: 2012
7. Jorge Bonifacio
What Happened in 2012: Bonifacio moved to the full-season level at age 19 (same age as Starling), and showed the ability to hit for average as well as power, knocking 36 extra-base hits, including 10 home runs, in a pitcher-friendly environment.
Strengths: Big raw power; could play at 6 or higher at maturity; swings the bat well for power threat; shows very good bat control; will use all-fields; definite hitability; big present strength; mature frame; athletic enough for right field; arm is very strong; not afraid to use it.
Weaknesses: Not overly athletic; 4+ runner; body has potential to get thick, especially lower-half; limited on defense; swing can get hitchy; shows excellent hand-eye coordination and recovery skills, but approach can get too reactionary; will chase sliders off the plate; questions about bat against plus velocity, especially on the inner-third.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; teenaged prospect with wide gap between present/future; questions about hit tool utility.
Fantasy Future: Fits the mold of prototypical right fielder, with big power potential and a big arm. Has the raw to hit 25-plus bombs.
The Year Ahead: The Carolina League isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise, so the young Dominican’s numbers might not set the world ablaze. His swing can show some length, and the better the arm the better the test, so it will benefit Bonifacio to work in an environment that favors the mound. He has all the ingredients to develop into a first-division right fielder, but that reality is a long way off, and the utility of his bat will be tested all along the way.
Major league ETA: 2015
8. Cheslor Cuthbert
What Happened in 2012: A year filled with assorted injury and on-the-field setback helped retard his prospect status, but the tools are still there to blossom into a top tier talent in the system.
Strengths: Quick hands at the plate; shows plus bat speed; raw power is a 6; can square velocity; hips are explosive; torque-heavy swing; very good present strength; good fielding fundamentals; 5 glove; arm is strong; makes all the throws; feel for the game.
Weaknesses: Lacks plus athleticism; body was slow and sluggish at times in 2012; speed is already well below-average; range at third is fringy; hit tool is schizophrenic; shows plus potential against quality stuff but then can’t square fringe-velocity; struggles with fastballs above the hands; will expand and chase on secondary stuff; struggled with failure in 2012; lost focus at times.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; will player 2013 season at age 20; lots of developmental room; good makeup
Fantasy Future: Could be 5 hit/6 power third baseman, with average all-around defensive profile.
The Year Ahead: When players are faced with setback for the first time in their career, the adjustment process can take time and take its toll on the stat sheet. Cuthbert wasn’t very good in 2012, but it wasn’t because he lacks talent or lacks a bright future. The Nicaraguan then-teenager was in an advanced league and an often dreary place to play, making his struggles with nagging injury and poor fitness all the more difficult to rebound from. I think he needs another round of High-A action before moving onto the Texas League, which he could reach by summer if he can stay healthy and find some offensive rhythm.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Miguel Almonte
What Happened in 2012: In relative obscurity, Almonte blitzed through the complex league Dominican Summer League before turning stateside heads with electric performances in the Arizona League and Fall Instructionals.
Strengths: Easy stuff; delivery is simple/repeatable; arm is extremely loose; almost whippy; fastball works at 92-95 with some run; ball is a creeper; just pops on the hitters; changeup is best pitch; consistent mechanics and arm speed; pitch has good velocity separation and plus action; curveball works fringe-average; flashes above-average potential; tight rotation; some depth; can show big hook; throws strikes; shows pitchability; athletic with room for more strength.
Weaknesses: Limited track record against quality opponents; velocity would dip in longer outings; tendency to lose curveball early out of the hand; break was too exaggerated and loose; needs to add strength; needs to log innings
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter
Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; limited professional record; has yet to escape complex level; will be 20-years-old in 2013.
Fantasy Future: Has the stuff to miss bats, the pitchability to limit damage; lacks ideal body for heavy workload, but arm is silky smooth; full-arsenal.
The Year Ahead: Almonte is still an unknown commodity to those that don’t frequent the complex facilities, but the arm strength, arsenal, and feel for pitching are undeniable. With an advanced changeup and a plus fastball, the young Dominican could make the jump to the full-season level, where the curveball will need to tighten to be successful. It’s clear that Almonte’s raw abilities rank him among the best arms in the Royals’ system, but he will need to bring his complex league heroics to the bigger fields if he wants to win over a larger audience. This guy is legit, and it’s just a matter of time before every source is jumping on board the bus to champion his status.
Major league ETA: 2016
10. Jason Adam
What Happened in 2012: Opting for slow and steady rather than slick and sexy, Adam spent the entire season grinding it out in the Carolina League, logging innings and using a three-pitch mix to limit damage.
Strengths: Good size/present strength; plus pitchability; good delivery; fastball works in average velocity range (90-92), but has shown more meat in bursts; pitch has good vertical action; curveball will flash plus; works in mid/upper 70s with some bite; changeup made big strides during season; flashes above-average potential; thrown well off fastball with some sink; body of workhorse starter.
Weaknesses: Lacks true plus offering; fastball can be hittable up in the zone; lacks big punch; changeup and curveball are nice complement pitches, but can’t own the stage; reliant on sequence and command; will struggle with present stuff at higher levels without grade bump or additional offering (cutter).
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; mature frame, mind, and arsenal; big makeup; no injury red flags.
Fantasy Future: Fits the profile of a backend innings workhorse, with enough stuff and pitchability to limit damage and enough projection for a slightly higher ceiling.
The Year Ahead: Adam will move to the Texas League, where his solid-average stuff will be put to the test by better bats in offense-friendly environments. He will need to continue to work lower in the zone, establishing his fastball and using his two secondary offerings to induce weak contact from poor, unbalanced swings. He is unlikely to miss a high number of bats with the current arsenal, but he has the potential to tick up a bit, with a smooth delivery and excellent arm strength.
Major league ETA: 2014
Prospects on the Rise:
1.LHP Sam Selman: A second round pick from Vanderbilt, the 6’3’’ lefty has solid now stuff and a frame that offers some additional projection. The 22-year-old was too much for the Pioneer League, and will face his first professional test in full-season ball, where his stock could soar or stagnant depending on his transition.
2.RHP Kyle Smith: Limited size, but excellent pitchability and a plus curveball allowed Smith to cruise in his 13 Midwest League starts. A fourth-round pick in 2011, Smith will need to maintain his sharp stuff and sharp feel as he climbs the ladder, with the microscope on his profile at every stop.
3.C Cameron Gallagher: Catchers with sustainable defensive profiles behind the plate and power potential in the bat are always in high demand, and Gallagher could end up with that description. A second-round pick in 2011, the 6’3’’ 210-lb. catcher is still very much a raw product behind the dish, but he has the necessary tools to shape at the position, and the bat has already turned heads at the short-season level.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
1. LHP John Lamb: Remember this guy? Once considered in the top tier of pitching prospects in the Royals system, Tommy John surgery helped derail his rise to the majors. When fully healthy, Lamb could bring a plus fastball from the left side, with a good changeup and curve combo, but the entire package will need to return to form before Lamb becomes an option at the highest level.
2. LHP Mike Montgomery: It was only a year ago that Montgomery was widely considered the top prospect in the Royals organization, primed for a promotion to the majors in 2012 and well on his way to solving some much needed problems in the rotations. But the 23-year-old lefty’s season was a disaster, and he ended up back in Double-A, where he couldn’t miss barrels. But all hope is not lost, as the southpaw is still within striking distance of the majors, and sometimes all it takes is a mechanical tweak and a few positive outings to turn the ship around. If healthy, you can’t count Montgomery out for some form of major-league contribution.
3. IF Christian Colon: When you take a player fourth overall in the draft, you expect a first-division talent at worst, and an all-star if everything falls into place. With Colon, the Royals are unlikely to get either outcome, but they should get a major league contributor, either as a second-division second baseman or a utility option.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
For years Royals fans have feverishly waited for the minor-league system to bear fruit. For the most part, the plan still seems to be in place. Hosmer and Moustakas have struggled to adjust to the highest level, but the club has seen others develop into studs (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon), while others have turned into above-average regulars (Alcides Escobar, Kelvin Herrera). The lack of talented pitching depth at the major-league level has long been a concern, but Zimmer, Ventura, Odorizzi, and Jason Adam make up a solid crew of young arms that could make the jump over the next two seasons. Danny Duffy has shown promising signs of utilizing his upside, and his return from Tommy John surgery could have a strong impact on the club in 2013.
Overall, the Royals’ process is the same today as it’s been for the past several years. They continue to load the system with high-upside talent with the hopes that something sticks. If Starling and Mondesi can access their potential, the Royals could be dangerous for a long time. –Hudson Belinsky
A Parting Thought: While success at the major-league level has eluded the Royals organization, they continue to help their chances in that pursuit by keeping the minor-league system stocked with premium talent that could ultimately benefit the team through developmental maturity or trade.