March 30, 2011
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
An Embarrassment of Riches: The Kansas City Royals, Part I
As I type this, the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t exactly been the beneficiaries of good fortune over the last 25 years, have the top farm system in baseball. While that certainly doesn’t come as a shock to those who follow the minor leagues, the severity of the claim can’t be overstated. For as good as the Royals are now—and believe me, they have the best set of prospects I have ever seen—the farm has a chance to avoid the systemic regressions associated with major-league promotion, general prospect stagnation, attrition, and any other words that might feature the suffix –ion.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spend a lot of time waxing hyperbolic about Eric Hosmer and his heroic (see?) potential as a player. I’ve been so drunk on his present and future that I’ve even dared to opine that he might be the best all-around offensive prospect in baseball. He’s a special talent. The same hyperbole can be applied to Mike Moustakas, although I’m not convinced he belongs in the same conversation with Hosmer. Then you have the line of projectable southpaws that seem to multiply like wet mogwais: Montgomery, Lamb, Dwyer, and Duffy. Throw Wil Myers into the mix and you have seven prospects worthy of top-100 consideration, and at least five that could be in the top 30 in all of baseball. That’s a gross display of upper-level talent.
Where is all of this headed? The Royals aren’t just stacked at the more advanced levels of the minors; they have a new wave of talent about to hit full-season ball and jump in the queue as keepers of the throne. Let’s take a look at a few of the under-the-radar prospects in the Royals system and celebrate the obscene wealth of talent now on display down on the Kansas City farm.
RHP Jason Adam
The arm itself is crazy fast and the delivery is relatively smooth, although he opens a bit, which causes him to throw across his body and spin off to first base in the follow-through. Despite the lower slot (3/4), Adam is able to generate good angle on the fastball (he uses his height very well) and stays on top of the curve. He can repeat his mechanics and throws strikes; with more repetition and refinement, above-average command projection is possible. It’s a little to early to offer something definitive, but based on what I’ve seen so far from Adam, it’s very possible that he will develop two plus pitches (with one of them already showing 70 velocity), a solid-average third pitch, at least 50 command, and size that can’t be taught. Add to the equation a natural feel for the mound and youth (he will pitch most of the ’11 season at 19 years old), and you start to see why Adam could become a household name before the season is over. I expect him to start in extended spring training before heading to full-season ball after the Midwest chill releases her icy grip. (Releases her icy grip? This is a low moment. Apologies.)
3B Cheslor Cuthbert
On defense, Cuthbert was better than I was lead to believe, with quick reflexes (despite having fringy speed) and good clean actions, especially the backhand pickup. The hands are soft and he is fundamentally sound, but although his throws were accurate, the arm didn’t wow me with its strength. Depending on how well he acclimates to full-season ball, the 18-year-old native of Big Corn Island (sounds like the DeKalb, IL of Nicaragua) could launch himself onto a higher prospect tier, especially if the present polish he is showing in Arizona finds its way to Kane County.
SS Orlando Calixte
With the glove, Calixte is average, but shows the necessary actions to remain at the position. He has good hands, and despite having a body that looks awkward and uncoordinated, he displays more grace than anticipated; the pivot and footwork around the bag are clean and his range isn’t hampered by his average straight-line speed. His arm looks like a legit 60 and his throwing mechanics appear sound. Calixte isn’t a special talent; at least, I didn’t recognize any special tools or attributes. He appears to have solid-average potential, which is difficult to recognize in a low-level infielder, especially one that hasn’t played stateside ball yet. He’s probably not a player that will reach the full-season level in 2011, but Calixte has logged substantial playing time so far this spring, and given his seven-figure sticker price, a player that the Royals are obviously high on.
This system is so deep that I might need to produce a sequel to this article to highlight more of the lower-level talents ready to step up and grab some of the prospect love. I don’t want to get too Royals heavy, but if the appetite for the system proves to be insatiable, I’d be more than willing to champion the skills of Brett Eibner, Yordano Ventura, Robinson Yambati, and Humberto Arteaga in Part 2. In fact, I should probably just become a full-time Royals blogger and get it over with.