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February 12, 2009

Future Shock

Royals Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Eric Hosmer, 1B
2. Mike Moustakas, SS/3B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Daniel Cortes, RHP
4. Kila Ka'aihue, 1B
5. Tim Melville, RHP
6. Daniel Gutierrez, RHP
7. Danny Duffy, LHP
8. Mike Montgomery, LHP
9. Carlos Rosa, RHP
10. Blake Wood, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Tyler Sample, RHP

Just Missed: Jose Bonilla, C; Johnny Giavotella, 2B; Matt Mitchell, RHP

Ranking Challenges: Choosing between Hosmer and Moustakas almost involved a flip of the coin to pick a #1 between them. They have highly similar projections, but in the end, I went with the long, lean body over the short and stocky one. Even more confusing to sort through are all of the young arms. If you want to take the six pitchers in the fifth to tenth slots and put them in random order, you could make an argument for all of the possible results. I shifted them around many times before final publication.

1. Eric Hosmer, 1B
DOB: 10/24/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, American Heritage HS (FL)
2008 Stats: .364/.533/.545 at Rookie-level (3 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The best high school hitter in the 2008 draft met every expectation in his senior year and signed at the deadline for a $6 million bonus.
The Good: While Hosmer's power ranked with that of any other player's in the draft, he's far from a one-dimensional hitter. His bat speed is fantastic, and he make adjustments to pitches in-flight as if he were a veteran, hitting to all fields without any reduction in his massive power. He's an above-average defensive first baseman, and while the tool is a bit wasted on the position, he has a fantastic arm, touching 98 mph as a closer in high school.
The Bad: His bat is his ticket to the big leagues. He's a solid athlete for his size, but there are questions as to how mobile and flexible he'll be once his body fully matures.
Fun Fact: Hosmer is the only high school first baseman ever taken with the third overall pick in the draft. The only other first baseman taken at that slot was Stanford's David McCarty, taken by the Twins in 1991.
Perfect World Projection: He's going to be a big-time run producer.
Glass Half Empty: Something would have to go surprisingly wrong for him not to get there, but he is young.
Path to the Big Leagues: With Billy Butler set as a designated hitter, there's really nothing major in his way for now.
Timetable: Hosmer will be one of the biggest names playing in the Midwest League this year, as he'll begin the season at Low-A Burlington.

2. Mike Moustakas, SS/3B
DOB: 9/11/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .272/.337/.468, .225 EqA at Low-A (126 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The club's 2007 first-round pick recovered from a slow start to hit .321/.392/.557 after the All-Star break in '08 while winning the circuit's home-run title by hitting 22.
The Good: Despite a smallish frame, Moustakas has plus-plus raw power thanks to his outstanding wrist strength and bat speed that is off the charts, with one scout comparing him to a smaller version of Billy Butler. Like every aspect of his game, his plate discipline improved as the season wore on, and he learned to lay off of chase pitches. Originally drafted as a shortstop, he made a seamless transition early in the season to third base, where his tools play much better, especially his arm, which is the best in the system.
The Bad: Other than the arm, Moustakas is not a premium athlete. He's built a bit like a catcher, and while he has soft hands, he needs to improve his positioning and reactions at the hot corner. He can be quite pull-happy at times.
Fun Fact: Chatsworth High is filled with notable alumni, both in show business (actors Kevin Spacey and Val Kilmer) as well as sports (Dwight Evans and Angels play-by-play man Rory Markas).
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a big-league cleanup hitter.
Glass Half Empty: He has power for sure, but his pull-happy style leads to a lower batting average, making him more of a hitter who bats lower in the lineup than fourth.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Royals have a good, young third baseman in Alex Gordon, but many scouts think that Moustakas might work out best long-term in the outfield anyway.
Timetable: Moustakas will remain at third base for now and begin 2009 at High-A Wilmington.

3. Dan Cortes, RHP
DOB: 3/4/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2005, Garey HS (CA) (White Sox)
2008 Stats: 3.78 ERA at Double-A (116.2-103-55-109), 5.06 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: Little known at the time of his acquisition from the White Sox, this projectable right-hander has made major improvements over each of the last two years.
The Good: Cortes has all the ingredients to be an effective major league starter. He has a big frame, smooth arm action, and a 90-94 mph fastball that features good movement. His curveball is an easy plus pitch that can make opposing hitters look foolish at times, and his changeup flashes plus as well.
The Bad: Cortes' changeup lags behind his other pitches; he's rarely needed one in the past and is just beginning to mix it in. His control can be shaky, but there may be a confidence issue there, as scouts saw him getting too cute early in the count instead of using his fastball to get ahead of hitters. When he misses, he misses up in the zone.
Fun Fact: Cortes suffered just one loss in his last 14 starts in '08, yet his ERA was lower during his first nine outings of the year, when he went 2-3.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid third starter in a big-league rotation.
Glass Half Empty: He winds up more of a fifth-starter type.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Royals' rotation is fairly set for now, but it's not loaded enough to keep a good prospect from getting a shot.
Timetable: Royals officials aren't sure if Cortes will return to Double-A or move up to Triple-A Omaha for 2009, and it will likely depend on the numbers game and how the early-season rosters unfold.

4. Kila Ka'aihue, 1B
DOB: 3/29/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/230
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 15th round, 2002, Iolani HS (HI)
2008 Stats: .314/.463/.624, .307 EqA at Double-A (91 G); .316/.439/.640, .323 EqA at Triple-A (33 G); .286/.375/.429, .158 EqA at MLB (12 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Seen as little more than an organizational player entering the year, the slugging first baseman had one of the best years in the minors in 2008, leading all minor leaguers in walks while finishing in the top five in both on-base percentage and slugging.
The Good: Many scouts who saw Ka'aihue last year felt that his performance was no fluke. He has plus power, along with a clean and easy swing that gives him a surprisingly instinctual feel for contact and outstanding plate presence, with one scout saying, "He just seems to slow the game down when he's up [at the plate]."
The Bad: Ka'aihue is a well below-average runner and a sluggish defender, leaving nearly all of his value in his bat. Because of his track record, which has nothing close to his production in '08, some scouts are still unconvinced by his leap forward.
Fun Fact: In his last 22 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Ka'aihue went 30-for-73 (.410) with eight home runs and 22 walks.
Perfect World Projection: He should be an everyday big-league first baseman who hits in the middle of the lineup.
Glass Half Empty: He may settle for being a second-division starter, possibly limited to designated-hitting duties because of his glove.
Path to the Big Leagues: The off-season acquisition of Mike Jacobs confuses things for now.
Timetable: The Royals aren't ruling out Ka'aihue making the club out of spring training, but that might be a bit of a long shot. He's more likely to wind up returning to Triple-A Omaha.

5. Tim Melville, RHP
DOB: 10/9/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2008, Holt HS (MO)
2008 Stats: None
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: One of the top high school arms entering the spring, Melville had a disappointing senior year, but didn't let that lower his bonus demands. The Royals were happy to give the local product a $1.25 million deal as a fourth-round pick just before the deadline.
The Good: Royals officials were thrilled with what they saw from him in the instructional league, as they sped up his deliberate delivery and saw his velocity jump to a consistent 91-95 mph, with his long, lean frame offering plenty of projection. He had one of the best curveballs of any high school pitcher in the draft, and he's a highly polished product for his age with good command and a nice feel for his changeup.
The Bad: Melville's intelligence and coachability can work against him; he can tinker with his mechanics and worry too much about the little things instead of just gripping it, letting it fly, and trusting his stuff. Like most teenage pitchers, his secondary stuff flashes plus, but he can also flatten the pitches out when he overthrows them.
Fun Fact: While Melville is the only player ever drafted out of Holt High, the school did graduate Nationals 2007 first-round pick Ross Detwiler.
Perfect World Projection: A mid-rotation starter with an outside chance to be better than that.
Glass Half Empty: He winds up more of a back-end type.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's yet to face a batter as a pro, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Timetable: Despite Melville's lack of experience, he'll be evaluated for a shot at a rotation job at Low-A Burlington to begin the year.

6. Danny Gutierrez, RHP
DOB: 3/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 33rd round, 2005, Rubidoux HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 2.70 ERA at Low-A (90-83-25-104), 7.20 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This little-known draft-and-follow right-hander dealt with elbow problems early in 2008, but he created a big buzz in the Midwest League during the second half of the season, which included a playoff start in which he out-pitched Arizona's top pitching prospect, Jarrod Parker.
The Good: Gutierrez became more dominating as the season wore on, sitting at 93-95 mph towards the end of the year with outstanding location and a bit of sink. He has a plus power curveball that gives him a second out pitch, and he mixes his pitches extremely well.
The Bad: Gutierrez' feel for his changeup comes and goes, and at times he abandons the offering completely. His history of elbow issues is a bit of a concern, and he does throw across his body. He's not especially big, which could limit his projection.
Fun Fact: Gutierrez allowed just one earned run in his second innings in 2008, allowing only eight hits during his 18 trips through the frame, while striking out 27.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a solid mid-rotation starter.
Glass Half Empty: He'll be a future swingman or late-innings reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Royals have a number of impressive young arms, and like all of them Gutierrez has to separate himself from the pack.
Timetable: Royals officials feel that Gutierrez could rocket up prospect lists with a full, healthy season, and he'll begin the year at High-A Wilmington.

7. Danny Duffy, LHP
DOB: 12/21/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2007, Cabrillo HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 2.20 ERA at Low-A (81.2-56-25-102), 5.68 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: The crafty left-hander was among the Midwest League's most dominant performers before his season ended early due to shoulder soreness.
The Good: Duffy's breaking ball is among the best in the system, a looping, spiraling curve with heavy break that he's equally adept throwing for strikes or bouncing in the dirt as a chase pitch. One scout classified his fastball as, "just enough to challenge hitters," usually sitting with just average velocity though he has outstanding command of the pitch. He earns praise for his pacing and calm demeanor.
The Bad: One talent evaluator described his fastball as 84-93 mph; he seems to relax against some hitters in the style of a Deadball Era pitcher. His changeup is an inconsistent offering that needs refinement. He's rarely overpowering, and doesn't have a projectable frame.
Fun Fact: Of the 20 earned runs allowed by Duffy in 2008, 11 crossed the plate in his first three starts. Over his final 14 outings, he had a Gibson-esque 1.16 ERA.
Perfect World Projection: Another Royals mid-rotation starter.
Glass Half Empty: He may end up as a back-end starter or situational lefty.
Path to the Big Leagues: As with all of the young arms in the organization, he steers his own destiny by how he performs.
Timetable: Duffy is 100 percent healthy, and he'll move up to High-A Wilmington to begin the year.

8. Mike Montgomery, LHP
DOB: 7/1/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/180
3 Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Hart HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 1.69 ERA at Rookie-level (42.2-31-12-34)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The supplemental first-round pick did not allow an earned run in eight of twelve outings during his pro debut in '08.
The Good: One word comes up constantly when the subject of Montgomery comes up with scouts and team officials: polish. He lives off his 91-94 mph power sinker which he keeps in the bottom half of the strike zone, and is just as comfortable missing bats with as he is getting ground balls. When he gets ahead in the count, he mixes in a quality changeup with late depth and fade, and his long, skinny frame and smooth athleticism gives him some projection.
The Bad: Montgomery has struggled to find a consistent breaking ball, as his slurvy offering is often flat and he has trouble controlling it, and he'll need another go-to pitch as he moves up.
Fun Fact: Located in a Los Angeles suburb, Hart High's most famous baseball alum is Todd Zeile, and the best pitcher to come out of the school is Rays' starter James Shields.
Perfect World Projection: Like so many young arms in the system, Montgomery looks to many like a potential good third starter.
Glass Half Empty: Like so many young arms in the system, there's still plenty of time for things to go wrong.
Path to the Big Leagues: Right now it's a path to full-season ball.
Timetable: Montgomery will be part of a talented rotation at Low-A Burlington to begin the year.

9. Carlos Rosa, RHP
DOB: 9/21/84
Height/Weight: 6-1/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001
2008 Stats: 1.20 ERA at Double-A (45-30-7-42), 2.57 DERA; 4.09 ERA at Triple-A (50.2-51-12-44), 4.66 DERA; 2.70 ERA at MLB (3.1-3-0-3), 3.00 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: The strong-armed Dominican dominated at Double-A, held his own with a one-level jump at Omaha, and did well in a brief big-league stint pitching out of the pen.
The Good: Rosa has one of the best pure arms in the system, sitting at 93-95 with his fastball and touching 97 while showing good command of the pitch in the lower half of the zone. His slider is a plus pitch with solid depth and tilt, and he employs an aggressive style that includes pitching inside and not being afraid to throw strikes to good hitters.
The Bad: Many aspects of Rosa point to a future in the bullpen. His arm action is a bit violent, and he's already had a Tommy John procedure four years ago and was shut down towards the end of 2008 with forearm soreness. His changeup is below-average and he doesn't like to throw the pitch at key points in the count.
Fun Fact: Double-A batters facing Rosa with runners on base and two outs went 1-for-17.
Perfect World Projection: A fifth starter, but more likely a late-inning reliever.
Glass Half Empty: He never pitches well enough to earn a chance to start and his stuff falls a touch short for closing or set-up roles, leaving him in a pool of middle-relief candidates.
Path to the Big Leagues: Power arms always find their way.
Timetable: Rosa will get a legitimate shot at a bullpen job in spring training, and if he doesn't make the team, he'll bide his time at Triple-A Omaha.

10. Blake Wood, RHP
DOB: 8/8/85
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2006, Georgia Institute of Technology
2008 Stats: 2.67 ERA at High-A (57.1-32-15-63), 4.41 DERA; 5.30 ERA at Double-A (86.2-96-32-76), 7.23 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: The young power pitcher got off to a strong start in the Carolina League, but scouts didn't see the same pitcher after a promotion to Double-A.
The Good: Wood often pitches like a top prospect, beginning with a fastball that parks at 93-94 mph and consistently gets up to 95-96 when he rears back for something extra. His big frame provides good stamina, and his curveball can be a solid second offering, while he also has an average changeup.
The Bad: A big guy, Wood can get out of sync mechanically, with one scout saying, "one night I think he's a future number-three starter, and the next, I'm wondering what he's doing in the Texas League." His velocity, command, and the quality of his secondary offerings can vary wildly.
Fun Fact: Despite being a third-round pick out of a school with a storied baseball history, Wood is the fourth-highest drafted pitcher in Georgia Tech history.
Perfect World Projection: "One night I think he's a future number-three starter..."
Glass Half Empty: "I'm wondering what he's doing in the Texas League."
Path to the Big Leagues: Developmentally, Wood is ahead of the cadre of young arms in the system, but behind Cortes and Rosa on the depth chart, so this could be a make-or-break season for him.
Timetable: Wood will get a second chance at Double-A this year.

11. Tyler Sample, RHP
DOB: 6/27/89
Height/Weight: 6-7/245
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Mullen HS (CO)
2008 Stats: 9.00 ERA at Rookie-level (27-30-29-39)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: A high-risk/high-ceiling draftee, Sample missed plenty of bats in his pro debut, while also missing the strike zone nearly as often.
The Good: Gifted with a massive frame and power arm, Sample's ceiling rates with anyone in the system; his velocity fluctuated in high school, but he was consistently getting up to 95 in last fall's instructional league. His hammer curve is a plus offering right now, and could become a real wipeout pitch with more refinement.
The Bad: Sample is exceptionally raw, as pitching in Colorado gave him few innings, and even fewer against top-flight competition. He has extreme problems controlling the strike zone, and would be better off with simplified mechanics, with one scout already suggesting a move to the bullpen so he can pitch out of the stretch.
Fun Fact: Left-handed batters facing Sample in the Arizona Fall League had a .556 on-base percentage, going 9-for-25 with ten walks.
Perfect World Projection: With his size and fastball/curve combination, some see Daryl Kile in him.
Glass Half Empty: With his size, power arsenal, and trouble throwing strikes, some see Jeff Juden.
Path to the Big Leagues: Long, and so, so far away.
Timetable: Sample is not ready for a full-season league, but the Royals can be conservative in their development at times, with three short-season teams to show for it. Sample will stay in Arizona this spring in extended spring training in preparation for a June assignment.

The Sleeper: Don't completely write off outfielder Derrick Robinson after his .245/.316/.322 season at High-A Wilmington in 2008. He's a pure 80 runner with astounding range in center field, the best athlete in the system, and still adjusting to becoming a switch-hitter, which he did not start doing until he turned pro. Royals officials still see a big future for him.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Zach Greinke, RHP
2. Alex Gordon, 3B
3. Billy Butler, DH
4. Joakim Soria, RHP
5. Eric Hosmer, 1B
6. Mike Moustakas, SS/3B
7. Alberto Callaspo, 2B
8. Luke Hochevar, RHP
9. Kyle Davies, RHP
10. Daniel Cortes, RHP

It's so very hard to balance existing young talent with guys who have incredible ceilings but are still so far away. I usually find these extended lists both fun and easy to do, but I stared at this one for a long time before lining them up like so. Does one put the studs that have yet to prove themselves in the big leagues ahead or behind the guys who could be studs but are still so far away? Luckily I found a scout online late at night that provided some enlightenment. "There's no way to say that we won't be just as wrong on the guys in A-ball," he said. "I'll take the guys who haven't adjusted to the major league level but have conquered the minors." Sound advice, thus the ranking you see above after Greinke, who's the clear number one. A quick note on Callaspo however: I think he's one of the more underrated talents in the game, not in the sense that he's going to be some kind of superstar, but that .300 average is the real deal, and he's got Gold Glove-quality potential defensively at second base.

Summary: Royals fans have been exceedingly patient with a franchise that hasn't seen the postseason since 1985. While they're not ready to be this year's version of the Rays, there is plenty of high-ceiling talent on both offense and defense, and if the pitching develops and they find some up-the-middle talent in the next three years or so, they have a chance to be that young team that everyone is talking about.

Up next: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.


This BPR brings not one but two guests, as J.J. Picollo, the Royals' Director of Player Development, sits down with Baseball Digest Daily's Eric SanInocencio to discuss the Royals' top prospects on Baseball Prospectus Radio.

Click to download mp3

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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