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May 9, 2011

Fantasy Focus

Kansas City, Here They Come

by Marc Normandin

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Eric Hosmer is in the major leagues, and earlier than expected. He is just the first of many prospects who may become Royals in 2011; what kind of fantasy impact is the rest of the bunch likely to have this year?

Mike Moustakas, 3B (29 percent owned CBS)
Moustakas ranked seventh in Kevin Goldstein’s pre-season top 101 prospects list; he was the top-ranked Royal on the list, and also the highest-ranked infielder. The 22-year-old has hit just .241/.322/.417 at Triple-A this year, but chances are good that this is just a small sample hiccup—Moustakas played at Triple-A last year as well, and hit .293/.314/.564 over 236 plate appearances, giving him an overall line of .276/.317/.517 at the level.

PECOTA projected Moustakas to hit .263/.295/.461 in 2011—while on the surface that isn’t so impressive, in leagues that don’t use OBP it is more than serviceable at the hot corner. If he could hit his 70th, 80th, or 90th percentile projections, he would be above-average or even one of the better options available—there is a reason he is already owned in 29 percent of CBS leagues.

There is no word yet on when the Royals will call Moustakas up, but Hosmer’s promotion gives you the sense that once Moustakas hits well at Omaha, there will be a place for him in the bigs. It will knock down the playing time of any number of Royals—Mike Aviles, Wilson Betemit, and Chris Getz could all be affected—but none of those guys will still be on the hypothetical future Royals team that matters in the standings, anyway.

John Lamb, SP (7 percent owned CBS)
Lamb is still just in Double-A, but Goldstein ranked him #11 in his top 101, and stated that he was likely to be the first of the Royals' high-ceiling arms to reach the majors. In his 12 starts and 55 1/3 innings at Double-A, Lamb has struggled with his control and hasn’t struck out many hitters—he has just 41 punchouts, against 25 free passes.

While his ETA was late 2011 back in November, Lamb’s struggles at the start of this season may push that back to 2012. If he can turn things around quick, and pitch as well as he did prior to reaching Double-A—Lamb has struck out 9.2 per nine against 2.9 walks per nine with an ERA of 2.97 in 238 2/3 innings in his professional career—then we can talk about him being worth a look in deep leagues and AL-only this year. As of now, though, given his performance and PECOTA forecast (4.79 ERA, 1.7 K/BB), the seven percent of you using a roster spot on him may want to find a different use for it (assuming those aren’t all keeper leagues).

Mike Montgomery, SP (11 percent owned CBS)
Montgomery is even more popular at CBS than Lamb, a fact he likely owes to his being in Triple-A. Of course, he has pitched about as poorly as Lamb to begin the year, with a 1.3 K/BB (24 strikeouts against 19 walks in 33 innings). Montgomery has kept the ball in the yard, though, allowing just one homer in the young season—that, along with the 6.3 per nine hit rate, is how he has kept his ERA at 2.45.

Montgomery was ranked #21 in Goldstein’s top 101—have we mentioned yet that the Royals system is loaded?—and was expected to come up in late 2011 as well. It was believed that his problems with command in the second half of 2010 were due to the forearm tightness he experienced then, but, as you read above, that command has not yet returned.

Because of that, Montgomery, along with Lamb, may not see the majors early enough this year to help out your fantasy team. As with Lamb, unless you’re in a keeper league, using up a roster spot for Montgomery doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this juncture. PECOTA agrees, forecasting a 4.56 ERA, 6.4 K/9, and a K/BB of 1.5. He has been tough to hit at Triple-A, but if he can’t put the ball where he needs to consistently, he won’t find much sustainable success there, never mind in the majors.

That success, given his stuff and track record, should be on the way—as it should be for Lamb, as well—but don’t spend for it before you have to.

Johnny Giavotella, 2B (0 percent owned CBS)
The 23-year-old Giavotella is a bit of a longshot to play for the Royals in 2011, but merits attention due to a strong second half in 2010. Giavotella hit .374/.436/.571 after the All-Star break, bringing his overall line up to .322/.395/.460—that is some impressive work from a second baseman.

PECOTA agrees, forecasting a major-league line of .275/.327/.374 for him in 2011. That would be close to average at the position, and the system also believes that he is capable of significantly better work at his upper percentile levels. He will need to hit at Triple-A before the Royals find a reason to promote him, though: as of now, he is hitting .278/.347/.324 in 123 plate appearances there.

The plate discipline and strike zone recognition are there—Giavotella has struck out 13 times and walked 12 times—and while he hasn’t started to steal at Triple-A just yet, he has swiped at least 10 bases every year in the minors, including 26 thefts in 2009. He isn’t a great runner, though, and has been successful on just 50 of his 74 attempts, good for a below-average 68 percent success rate.

There are a few stumbling blocks in his way, besides the missing pop in his bat this year. His defense is awful, and his bat isn’t so good that the Royals should feel the need to push players like Mike Aviles and Chris Getz out of the picture entirely—there will be plenty of time for that once Giavotella is actually ready to contribute.

CBS owners have it right with Giavotella—he is not so good that you need to stash him away on your roster, so keep on watching and waiting. 

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