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December 1, 2009

Future Shock

Royals Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Four-Star Prospects
1. Mike Montgomery, LHP
2. Aaron Crow, RHP
3. Mike Moustakas, 3B
4. Wil Myers, C
5. Tim Melville, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
6. Danny Duffy, LHP
7. Jeff Bianchi, SS
8. Eric Hosmer, 1B
9. Chris Dwyer, LHP
10. John Lamb, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. David Lough, OF

Four More:
12. Tyler Sample, RHP: This 6-foot-7 power arm has a ceiling that might rank with that of anyone in the system.
13. Derrick Robinson, CF: Scouts still love his tools, especially the 80-grade speed, but 2010 could be a make-or-break year for him.
14. Carlos Rosa, RHP: The strong-armed Dominican has tons of velocity, but it's more than bit straight.
15. Kila Ka'aihue, 1B: The minor-league TTO hero failed to build on his 2008 breakout, and now just seems like a walks machine.

1. Mike Montgomery, LHP
DOB: 7/1/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Hart HS (CA)
2009 Stats: 2.17 ERA (58.0-42-24-52) at Low-A (12 G); 2.25 ERA (52.0-38-12-46) at High-A (9 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: The former supplemental first-round pick shined in his pro debut, earning universal accolades from scouts.
The Good: Montgomery's combination of size, stuff, command, and left-handedness is a truly rare commodity. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph, touches 94, and his smooth, easy delivery makes it look effortless. His secondary pitches also project as plus, with a power curve that breaks hard through the zone and a surprisingly advanced changeup. He hits his spots well and earns high marks for his poise on the mound.
The Bad: While Montgomery oozes projection, he'll have to reach some of it to profile as an upper-level starter. His curveball is a "flash pitch" for now, as for every truly plus one he throws, there will also be one that he overthrows and flattens out. Held back in extending spring, there are unanswered questions about his stamina.
Ephemera: It will take an incredible showing for Montgomery to even be the best left-hander taken 36th overall in the draft, as that's where the Expos found Randy Johnson in 1985.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average left-handed starter and occasional All-Star.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like the Royals don't need pitching.
Timetable: Montgomery will likely start the 2010 season back at High-A Wilmington, but he could reach Double-A before his 21st birthday.

2. Aaron Crow, RHP
DOB: 11/11/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Fort Worth Cats
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: The 2008 draft holdout pitched in the indy leagues and slid three spots lower in June, but still received a three-year big-league deal for $3 million with incentives.
The Good: Crow is a pure power arm with a low- to mid-90s fastball that features natural sink, and he supplements it with a power slider than can be a wipeout pitch when it's on. He's lanky, wiry-strong, and an excellent athlete who maintained his stuff deep into games during his college career. He pitches with a bit of a nasty streak, and seems to relish pitching inside.
The Bad: Crow's changeup is a below-average pitch that he seems to have little confidence in. His mechanics are not the prettiest in the world, leaving some to wonder if he profiles better as a closer. He looked rusty this spring and in the Arizona Fall League, as his slider didn't have the same bite as it did during his Missouri days.
Ephemera: Crow's first college win was a six-hitter over Pepperdine in the NCAA regional as a freshman, as he went 0-4 during the regular season.
Perfect World Projection: He's a power arm, with a role to be determined.
Path to the Big Leagues: Crow's AFL stint was designed for him to hit the ground running in 2010, and as a 23-year-old with a big-league contract, he'll be expected to move up quickly through the system.
Timetable: The Royals are hoping that Crow will be ready for an assignment to Double-A at the beginning of 2010, and his performance will dictate his timetable from there.

3. Mike Moustakas, 3B
DOB: 9/11/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .250/.297/.421 at High-A (29)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: The former top pick failed to build on a huge second half in 2008, instead delivering a mediocre year in the Carolina League.
The Good: Moustakas' bat speed remains the best in the organization, and among the best in the minor leagues. With strong wrists, he whips the bat through the hitting zone and has plus raw power to all fields. He made dramatic strides defensively, improving his footwork, and projects to be an average third baseman glove-wise, albeit one with a cannon for an arm.
The Bad: Moustakas still gives away too many at-bats by consistently putting himself into bad counts. His defense at third is still a little rough, and his arm can get him into trouble at times when he rushes his throws. Left-handers still give him trouble, and he seems uncomfortable at the plate against them at times.
Ephemera: J.D. Drew became the fifth player drafted second overall pick to hit 200 major-league home runs in 2009; the all-time leader is Reggie Jackson, with 563.
Perfect World Projection: Projections for absolute stardom have dimmed, but he still could become an above-average everyday third baseman. In addition, there are still plenty of scouts out there that would love to see him move behind the plate.
Path to the Big Leagues: At third base, he's behind perennial disappointment Alex Gordon, but that might not be the roadblock it once was.
Timetable: Moustakas had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, but his 2010 season at Double-A will define if he's truly a prospect or a suspect.

4. Wil Myers, C
DOB: 1/23/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2009, Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)
2009 Stats: .125/.125/.438 at Rookie-level, Appalachian League (4 G); .426/.488/.735 at Rookie-level, Pioneer League (18 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: In the mix for the Royals with the 12th overall pick in June, Myers slid due to signability concerns, but the Royals waited and nabbed him in the third round, and gave him a $2 million bonus. His pro debut was nothing short of stunning.
The Good: Myers had one of the most advanced high school bats in the 2009 draft. He has a good feel for recognizing pitches, in term of both strike-zone awareness and identifying which pitches he can drive. His swing is smooth and simple, and his power projects as plus. He's a solid athlete, with at least average wheels, and his arm is a true plus tool.
The Bad: There are many questions about Myers' ability to stay behind the plate, as beyond the arm strength, his catching skills are quite crude. He doesn't move well laterally, and he's often stabbing at balls with the mitt as opposed to receiving them. He played a lot of third base in high school, and many think he'll end up back there or in an outfield corner.
Ephemera: In the nine games he started at catcher for Idaho Falls, Myers hit .528, going 19-for-36 with five doubles and a pair of home runs.
Perfect World Projection: A middle-of-the-order run producer... but at what positon?
Path to the Big Leagues: If he can improve behind the plate, Myers could move through the system faster than your standard teenager.
Timetable: Myers will work on his catching while trying to avoid the offensive pitfalls that struck former premium picks Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer at Low-A Burlington.

5. Tim Melville, RHP
DOB: 10/9/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2008, Holt HS (MO)
2009 Stats: 3.79 ERA (97.1-89-43-96) at Low-A (21 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: A local product, Melville was given an over-slot bonus, and made slow but steady improvements in his full-season debut. He was among the best pitchers in the Midwest League during the second half of the year.
The Good: Melville already has two plus pitches, beginning with a 91-93 mph fastball that gets up to 94-95 on several occasions. He throws a slow, looping curveball in the mid to upper 70s that features big break, and he already has good feel for throwing it for strikes or using it as a chase pitch. His big, sturdy frame is designed to eat up innings, and he maintains his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Melville's changeup is still a work in progress, and he rarely throws it in pressure situations. He can be a bit inconsistent in terms of command, especially with his secondary pitches.
Ephemera: While Melville is the only player ever drafted out of Holt High School, he's not the highest drafted alumni, as Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler went sixth overall to the Nationals in 2007 after going undrafted out of high school.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be one of those good third starters with a slightly above-average ERA and 200+ innings every year.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Royals' collection of young pitching at roughly the same levels could create some interesting competition down the road.
Timetable: After being limited to just under 100 innings in his pro debut, the Royals will extended Melville with a full season at High-A Wilmington.

6. Danny Duffy, LHP
DOB: 12/21/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2007, Cabrillo HS (CA)
2009 Stats: 2.98 ERA (126.2-108-41-125) at High-A (24 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: The left-handed starter now has career ERA of 2.49 in 52 minor league games after posting yet another good season.
The Good: Duffy has above-average velocity for a southpaw, sitting at 90-91 mph with heat that also features good movement. His curveball is an above-average pitch that he already uses as an out pitch, and his changeup is solid. He has smooth, easily repeatable mechanics and good control.
The Bad: It's hard to find weaknesses in Duffy's game, but there aren't any big strengths either, as his pitches all grade 50-55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, while many scouts don't see much projection in him.
Ephemera: Only two pitchers drafted 96th overall have reached double-digit career wins in the big leagues, with the all-time leader being Kent Bottenfield (1986, Expos) with 46.
Perfect World Projection: He may be a solid fourth starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: He needs to keep pace with Montgomery and Melville to get his shot.
Timetable: Questions about Duffy's ultimate upside will have a much clearer answer after his 2010 season, one that begins at Double-A

7. Jeff Bianchi, SS
DOB: 10/5/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2005, Lampeter-Strasburg HS (PA)
2009 Stats: .300/.360/.427 at High-A (60 G); .315/.356/.441 at Double-A (68 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: The on-again, off-again prospect flipped the "on" switch with a good showing at both High- and Double-A, establishing himself as the best up-the-middle prospect in the system.
The Good: Scouts are universal in their belief that Bianchi can hit for average, as he has the bat speed and hand-eye coordination to succeed at any level. He has gap power, average speed, and very good defensive fundamentals.
The Bad: There is considerable debate over Bianchi's ability to stay at shortstop. While he makes all of the plays he gets to, his range is questionable, which could lead to a slide over to second base. His power is 'gap'-level at best, with little projection for more, and he doesn't walk much, so he'll need to keep his batting average high to have offensive value.
Ephemera: In his first 20 Texas League games, Bianchi went 20-for-40, but he hit just .283/.323/.396 in his next 230.
Perfect World Projection: Solid everyday second baseman with a .280-.300 batting average, but not much else.
Path to the Big Leagues: Alberto Callaspo had a good year, and Chris Getz is next in line for a shot at the second-base job in the long term, so his path to shortstop might be clearer.
Timetable: Bianchi will stay on the left side for now, and see a September call-up by the end of the year.

8. Eric Hosmer, 1B
DOB: 10/24/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, American Heritage HS (FL)
2009 Stats: .215/.352/.382 at Low-A (79 G); .206/.280/.299 at High-A (27 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The third overall pick in the 2008 draft had a brutal, if not downright strange full-season debut that included an inexplicable promotion to High-A and a late-season shutdown for Lasik surgery.
The Good: Hosmer still puts on a show in batting practice, letting the bat fly and producing plenty of home runs, including the occasional moon shot. He has excellent plate discipline, and is a solid defender with a good arm that is a bit wasted at his position.
The Bad: Hosmer's performance in games was almost bizarre, as he'd shorten his swing and utilize a more contact-oriented approach, leading to a reasonable strikeout rate but very few balls getting squared up. He's a below-average runner.
Ephemera: When facing lefties in 2009, Hosmer went 18-for-116 (.155) with one home run.
Perfect World Projection: Scouts are just as confused as you probably are on this one.
Path to the Big Leagues: Let's see him hit first.
Timetable: The Royals hope that the vision correction as well as the lessons learned in 2009 will lead to a turnaround in 2010, as Hosmer returns to High-A Wilmington.

9. Chris Dwyer, LHP
DOB: 4/10/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2009, Clemson University
2009 Stats: 4.15 ERA (8.2-12-8-15) at Rookie-level (4 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: A true rarity as a draft-eligible freshman, Dwyer showed enough stuff to earn a $1.45 million bonus in the fourth round.
The Good: Dwyer has special stuff for a lefty, beginning with a 90-92 mph fastball that peaked at 95 this spring. Even better is his 77-80 mph curveball, a true plus-plus breaker that features heavy, late drop. He's a big athlete with clean arm action.
The Bad: Dwyer's changeup flashes average at times, but is also highly inconsistent. He's as inexperienced and raw as your average college freshman, but he's also two years older than most with his limited experience. His command is highly inconsistent, and he has a tendency to overthrow.
Ephemera: Dwyer was a 36th-round pick by the Yankees in 2008 out of Salisbury Prep in Connecticut, where he was a teammate of Phillies first-round pick Anthony Hewitt.
Perfect World Projection: While he's far more unrefined, Dwyer's ceiling ranks with that of any other young pitcher in the system.
Path to the Big Leagues: Left-handed power arms tend to have easier paths than most.
Timetable: Dwyer will begin the year at Low-A Burlington, with equal possibilities of struggling mightily or taking off.

10. John Lamb, LHP
DOB: 7/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2008, Laguna Hills HS (CA)
2009 Stats: 3.95 ERA (27.1-24-9-25) at Rookie-level, Appalachian League (6 G), 3.78 ERA (41.1-33-11-46) at Rookie-level, Pioneer League (8 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: A high school pick from 2008, he delivered his second straight excellent performance in the short-season leagues.
The Good: Lamb has slightly above-average velocity for a southpaw, sitting at 90-92 mph with his fastball, and while it's a bit of a cliché, the pitch features that natural lefty movement. His long, broad frame has scouts seeing more projection in him, his command and control is well above average, and his delivery is smooth.
The Bad: Lamb's secondary offerings need work. His curveball is highly inconsistent, but he will show a handful of truly plus ones in every outing, while the same can be said for his changeup.
Ephemera: Many saw Lamb as a potential first-round pick in 2008, but a car accident cost him the season, leaving many teams surprised to see him take a $165,000 bonus in the fifth round.
Perfect World Projection: A third or fourth starter, with the backup plan of left-handed set-up man.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's behind a ton of young arms already in the system for now, but like Dwyer, Lamb has the potential to break through.
Timetable: Some think Lamb is the best-kept secret in the Royals' organization. That could no longer be the case after a full-season in 2010 that begin in Low-A Burlington.

11. David Lough, OF
DOB: 1/20/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 11th round, 2007, Mercyhurst College
2009 Stats: .320/.370/.473 at High-A (65 G); .331/.371/.517 at Double-A (61 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This solid organizational outfielder put himself on the radar with a breakout season that seemed to get better as the year went on.
The Good: Lough has a quick bat that makes consistent contact to all fields with gap power. His speed is a tick above-average, and he runs the bases well. He earns universal praise for his makeup and max-effort style of play.
The Bad: Many scouts see Lough as a tweener, as his range is a bit short in center, and he doesn't have the power or patience to profile well in a corner. He does nearly all of his damage against right-handers, as he hit just .252 with one home run against lefties. His arm is below average.
Ephemera: No position player drafted out of Mercyhurst College (and there have been five) has reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Good bench outfielder with an outside shot at a few years as a second-division starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: If you're an outfielder in the Royals system, there will be plenty of opportunities, as the team's current depth chart at all three positions is wince-inducing.
Timetable: Lough could begin 2010 at Triple-A Omaha, and chances are good he'll get a big-league look at some point in the season.

The Sleeper: Added to the 40-man roster after the season, former Astro Jordan Parraz had a great year at Double-A, and he still has impressive tools, but at 25 he's always been behind the age/level curve.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)
1. Billy Bulter, 1B/DH
2. Joakim Soria, RHP
3. Mike Montgomery, LHP
4. Aaron Crow, RHP
5. Mike Moustakas, 3B
6. Wil Myers, C
7. Tim Melville, RHP
8. Danny Duffy, LHP
9. Jeff Bianchi, SS
10. Eric Hosmer, 1B

The Royals aren't as young a team as one might think, as at this point they have more players just outside this age range who haven't developed as expected. The good news is that Billy Butler did finally begin to live up to his potential, and most think he'll be even better next year. Soria was down just a bit in 2009 and had some shoulder issues, but he's still one of the better closers in baseball.

Summary: The Royals have one of the more impressive collections of young pitching in the minors, but the attrition rate is always strong in that pool, and it's hard to see where the runs are going to come from in the future.


Next: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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