Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb. 27 Tidbits

  • Let's start by giving a special thanks to Wally Fish of Kings of Kauffman. He runs a great blog over there and I strongly recommend it to fellow Royals fans.

  • There will be a home run contest tomorrow between a handful of Royals and Rangers players. The only player that I know of competing will be Mike Moustakas, who according to Robert Ford took several Phillip Humber pitches out of the park today.

  • The following bullets are points of Dayton Moore's interview with Robert Ford today that I found interesting.

  • When talking about trading Teahen, Dayton Moore didn't even mention Josh Fields. I'm probably reading to much into this, but I think it is probably further proof that Fields was a throw-in, in the deal and Royals fans shouldn't be too concerned about where he fits into the line up. I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if the Royals attempted to pass him through waivers to get him to Omaha to start the season.

  • On the Getz topic, it was interesting to learn that two years ago the Royals attempted to acquire Chris Getz. I hypothesize that after failing to do so the Royals decided instead to trade Billy Buckner to Arizona for Alberto Callaspo. So not only is Callaspo the backup going into Spring this season, but he was also the backup plan for when the Royals failed to acquire Getz in the first place.

  • Regarding Royals catching, Dayton Moore revealed that the Royals were basically going to sign either Ivan Rodriguez or Jason Kendall, depending on which accepted their offer first. He also talked about Rod Barajas being a target, probably because he did very well in Dayton Moore's favorite sabermetric categories last season: RBI. In all seriousness thank goodness Barajas wanted more than the Royals were willing to offer, because that dude stinks.

  • Recently I stated that Jose Guillen could very well begin the season on the DL. But today Dayton Moore stated that Guilen is ten pounds lighter than he was a year ago at this time and that his bat speed is back to where it was in his prime. As much flak as send Jose Guillen's way I can't deny that if he performed at the level he used to be accustomed to he would be an enormous asset to our weak lineup. Maybe he really is healthy and can perform well in his contract year. I'm going to guess though, that this is just another example of Spring Training Speak.

  • Dayton Moore also stated that the organization would not put any limitations on Aaron Crow's development in 2010 and that he would more than likely begin the season in Springdale.

Top Prospects #7.5: Noel Arguelles

#7.5 Noel Arguelles

Age: 19
Pos: LHP
HT/WT: 6-3/210
Signed: International Free Agent to a Major League deal worth approximately $7 mill.
ETA: 2012

The signing of Noel Arguelles this offseason served as a reminder to some that the progress in the Royals organization is occuring beneath the Major League surface. The increased spending in the Rule IV draft and the Latin American market should have Royals fans excited, but instead most are just plain tired of losing at the Major League level. Not that this isn't understandable, but fans need to realize that rebuilding takes time, especially when it is done from the ground up.

Back to Arguelles. Arguelles features a low 90s fastball, an already plus change up. and a curve that could one day be an above average pitch. Throw that together with an easy to repeat three-quarter delivery and you have a guy with the potential to develop into a front of the rotation anchor. While Arguelles is fairly polished for a nineteen year old pitcher he still lacks control. Arguelles is often compared with Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins, so hopefully the Royals can take care enough to make sure that his arm doesn't fall apart like Liriano's has. The Royals are off to a good start and have stated that they won't allow him to start throwing until March after throwing for over a year straight while profiling himself as a free agent.

I expect Arguelles to be held back in extended spring training and then be sent to Wilmington to join the rotation. Arguelles is already on the 40-man roster so I'm sure he will be moved through the system at a quick pace due to the fact that each year in the minors will result in the loss of an option year. Arguelles could be an expensive bust, or he could turn into a cheap top of the rotation starter. Either way I love the deal and I'd say it is the best move the Royals made this offseason. Hopefully it pays off and I can't wait to see some pro numbers from my facebook friend Noel Arguelles. Bueno Suerte este verano Noel.

Top Prospects #8: David Lough

#8 David Lough

Age: 23
Pos: OF
HT/WT: 5-11/180
B/T: L/L
Drafted: 11th Round, Pick #336 of 2007 Rule IV Draft
College: Mercyhurst College (PA)
ETA: 2010

David Lough was a multiple sport athlete while he attended Mercyhurst College, but a Royals scout liked what he saw in Lough on the diamond and so he was drafted in the 11th round of Dayton Moore's first official draft. He could wind up being the first Moore drafted player to impact the Major League roster if you don't include the 2006 draft. After being drafted Lough was viewed as less developed than other hitters from the class and so instead of going to Idaho Falls he was sent to the Appy League where he posted a triple slash of .337/.380/.477. The following season the Royals sent him to full season ball in Burlington, Iowa where his numbers decreased to a line of .268/.329/.455.

Moving into the 2009 season Lough made a couple of adjustments in his stance that enabled him to shorten his swing. Somehow Lough's numbers improved dramatically in the 2009 season at Wilmington and even after a promotion to Springdale continued to improve. Perhaps, this can be attributed to a high Babip but even his luck removed lines of .303/.356/.453 at Wilmington and .317/.363/.510 at Springdale represent improvements. Maybe the simple answer is that David Lough finally turned the corner and put his above average tools to use after getting some at bats under his belt. After all compared to most drafted prospects Lough was fairly new to the game after playing soccer and football much of his life.

Speaking of tools, Lough has them. He is an extremely athletic player that has a solid average arm, with above average range in the outfield that I expect to continue to improve as he gets more innings under his belt. Lough can also has above average speed even though he has only succeeded in stealing 37 out of 57 bases, thus far in his pro career. Lough doesn't have any obvious weakness in the tool shed but he has to improve his numbers against left handed pitching. So far in his career his triple slash against lefties is a paltry .239/.310/.327. If Lough can't improve his splits he will probably be stuck as a platoon outfielder for much of his career. But if he can improve against same side throwers then I envision him as a more athletic David DeJesus with less on base ability and a little more power.

Lough should begin the season in Omaha, but according to him this has yet to be determined and will be decided in Spring Training. So I guess it is also possible that the Royals send him back to Springdale to prove that his 2009 numbers there weren't a fluke. Either way he should be facing triple competition by the all star break and if he continues to hit he should at least receive a September call up in 2010.

Feb 26: Tidbits

  • The KCstar provided an update on Mike Aviles yesterday, and it sounds like he is progressing nicely. However, Hillman doesn't want to put a timetable on his progress because he doesn't want to "retard" his development. This must be Hillman's new favorite word, because listening to the audio clips provided on he must have used it five times at least. As for Aviles it sounds like Mid-May is the most likely return time for him. Hopefully he can go to Omaha in April in mash and force Betancourt out of a job.

  • Use this link here to see the latest Baseball Prospectus standing projection: I'm not sure that I buy that the Twins will only win 81 games, but wow is this division open for the taking or what?

  • I am not a Jarrod Washburn fan, however I do have a feeling that there is a possibility the Royals will sign him to a deal in the next week or so given their lack of a lefty in the starting rotation. While signing Washburn to a $4 mill+ deal would be a bad deal, I might not mind a one year deal for around $2 mill. He would be a pretty good fifth option and would give the rotation a much needed lefty. The biggest downside that I can think of would be that Tejeda and Davies would both be forced into the bullpen and wouldn't be given an opportunity to fulfill their potential as starting pitchers. This feeling has no substance, but in my mind it seems like a move the Royals might make.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top Prospects #9: John Lamb

#9 John Lamb

Age: 19
Pos: LHP
HT/WT: 6-3/195
Drafted: 5th Round, Pick #145 of 2008 Rule IV Draft
High School: Laguna Hills High School (CA)
ETA: 2014

After missing his entire senior season of high school, John Lamb's draft stock obviously took a hit. But the Royals liked him enough to draft him in the 5th round and sign him to a $165,000 bonus. Lamb features a fastball that sits between 88-93 mph and a curveball and changeup that come in, in the upper 70s. While his stuff is good for a pitcher of his age, it is his make up and command of the mound that really gets members of the Royals organization excited when they talk about him. In 2008 he posted decent numbers at two rookie league spots, but I'd really like to see some results at full season ball before I get too excited. Lamb will be the ace of a very talented Burlington, IA rotation on a Bees team that should compete for a Midwest League title. But before that I expect him to begin the year in extended spring training as the Royals continue to play it conservative with his arm.

Top Prospects #10: Kila Ka'aihue

#10 Kila Ka'aihue

Age: 25
Pos: 1B
HT/WT: 6-4/235
B/T: L/R
Drafted: 15th Round of 2002 Rule IV Draft
High School: Iolani High School (Hawaii)
Debuted: 2008

The keyword for Ka'aihue is opportunity. Kila Ka'aihue's major league potential is solely based off of his skill in the batter's box. He is below average defensively and a clogger on the base paths, but considering the Royals woes on offense last season it would have been nice to have seen him get an opportunity to DH in September, but instead he was not granted that chance. Apparently the Royals felt his 2009 stat line was not call up worthy and once again this begs the question: Can the Royals properly evaluate statistics? From my perspective Kaaihue did decline from 2008 to 2009, but he did post a 100 walk season for the second consecutive year and he posted an OPS of .825. But let's not stop there, Ka'aihue also had a terribly unlucky season as seen by his .277 BABIP and so with we can see what sort of slash line he had with luck taken out of the equation. How does a .290/.422/.482 line sound? Unfortunately because Ka'aihue didn't produce well in Dayton Moore's favorite "sabermetric" categories (rbi, rs, hr, basically things that you don't have to use any multiplication or division to figure...) he wasn't given a call-up at the end of Omaha's season.

With the way Kansas City's roster is beginning to take shape, it looks like Ka'aihue will again not receive an opportunity at the big league level in 2010 unless he is traded to another team. Look for him to begin the year in Omaha. At this point it is hard for me to imagine Ka'aihue ever having a role in this organization. Hopefully if this is the case he can be traded to another team so that he gets an opportunity elsewhere to produce at the big level, but otherwise I envision him wasting away in triple A until he is out of options and claimed by another organization.

Top Prospects #11: Jordan Parraz

#11 Jordan Parraz

Age: 25
Pos: RF
HT/WT: 6-3/215
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Via trade with Houston Astros as ptbnl for Tyler Lumsden
ETA: 2010

I am still somewhat shocked that the Royals were able to acquire anything of value for lefty Tyler Lumsden, and the fact that they did just speaks volumes on the value that teams place on left-handers with potential. Jordan Parraz is an interesting player because externally he has solid tools all across the board, but has never ranked highly as a prospect. As a twenty-four year old in the Texas League Parraz rolled to a slash line of .358/.451/.553 but his season was hampered by a couple of hamstring injuries.

Parraz has good gap power and Royals personnel insist that they believe his stroke will one day generate a fair share of home runs for a corner outfielder, but this is yet to be seen. Parraz has great plate discipline and owns a career .382 on base percentage as a pro. Not only has Parraz been a consistent hitter as a pro, but he has also stolen 106 bases in 157 tries, so there is some speed there. He has average range for a rightfielder and might have the top outfield arm in the entire system. Parraz will undoubtedly get some time in triple-A Omaha before being given an opportunity at the Major League level but other than Kila Ka'aiue, Parraz is probably the most major league ready hitter in the system and his major league triple slash equivalent in 2009 was a respectable .272/.340/.401. Odds are that Royals fans will get their first glimpse of Parraz as a September call up in 2010 or even earlier barring any injuries or trades.

Top Prospects #12: Jeff Bianchi

#12 Jeff Bianchi

Age: 23
Pos: SS
HT/WT: 5-10/190
B/T: R/R
Drafted: 2nd Round, Pick #50 of 2005 Rule IV Draft
High School: Lampeter Strasburg High School (PA)
ETA: 2010

After dominated the Arizona League in his first year as a pro, Bianchi began to slip due to injury issues, but for the second year in a row Bianchi was able to stay healthy for the whole season and his slash line jumped from .255/.290/.442 in 2009 to .308/.358/.435 in 2010. Bianchi has no clear weaknesses and grades out as average at every tool. He could improve upon his on base percentage, but I have hopes that this will improve as he gets more at bats under his belt. I expect Bianchi to reach the majors at some point this season, and there are some that think he could force Betancourt out of short stop by the end of the season.

Bianchi is an average defender with an above average arm. In many organizations Bianchi would probably be moved over to second, but with the lack of shortstop talent in the Royals organization Bianchi is going to get every opportunity to flourish there. I expect that at the minimum Bianchi will become a utility man at the major league level, and if he can continue to refine his approach at the plate then he could become a league average starting shortstop. On a side note it would be a very odd fact that after year's of bad drafting in the Baird era, that his final draft could very well go down as his best.

Bianchi will start the season in Omaha and there's a good chance he'll see playing time in Kansas City by season's end.

Top Prospects #13: Johnny Giavotella

#13 Johnny Giavotella

Age: 22
Pos: 2B
Ht/WT: 5-8/185
B/T: R/R
Drafted: 2nd Round, Pick #409 of 2008 Rule IV Draft
College: University of New Orleans
ETA: 2012

Johnny Giavotella was a somewhat surprising pick for the Royals in the second round of the 2008 draft, and he signed for a bonus $9,000 under slot value. Giavotella represents a prospect that both scouts and stat-heads can get excited about. In his first season he spent the year in Burlington, IA and posted a triple slash of .299/.355/.421. The next year he was promoted to high A, Wilmington and in 2009 he posted a line that many would consider disappointing. But as we have discussed this came at pitcher's paradise Frawley Stadium and so let's use to take his park factors into consideration. We now arrive at a line of .270/.359/.398 this line is more respectable even though, it still shows a drop in performance from his 2008 numbers. But by taking an even closer look at Giavotella's 2009 numbers and one finds that he suffered through an incredibly unlucky season with a BABIP of .286. So using the same website let's take out the luck factor as well. We now arrive at a triple slash of .329/.410/.478. There is obviously still very much reason to be excited about Giavotella's bat.

Unfortunately, we now have to talk about his questionable glove. According to his total zone rating, Giavotella was 3 runs below average per 150 in 2009. John Sickels of The Baseball Prospect Book 2010, believes that Giavotella has an average throwing arm and range, but his twenty-one errors were the result of stiff hands. But Baseball America feels that Giavotella possesses above average range, especially to his right and that his throwing arm is his only asset on the defensive side of things. I look forward to seeing Giavotella this season in Northwest Arkansas and I hope that his defense can continue to improve and that the promotion to the Texas League can have the same sort of affect on his line as it did David Lough's and Jeff Bianchi's in 2009.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feb 24: Tidbits

  • Baserate: You may have saw this on the MLB Network tonight, but the anchors were discussing a statistic called baserate. The formula for it is simple and Baserate= On Base + Slugging- Batting Average. Anyway, the anchor's first showed the top five players for the statistical category last year out of qualified individuals and not surprisingly Pujols with a baserate of .771 ranked number 1. The show then showed the bottom five in the category. At second to worst in baseball last season was Yunieskey Betancourt at .380 and then at fourth worst was Jason Kendall at .390. There are many things that to be said here, but I'll keep it simple if the Royals 7 hole hitter makes an out with runners on base you might as well take your bathroom break before the 8 hole hitter gets to the plate because the inning is as good as over.

  • Jose Guillen: So after varying reports regarding Jose Guillen's health it became known yesterday that Jose Guillen underwent back surgery after the 2009 season came to an end. This isn't to surprising, but with Guillen's track record of hiding injuries and playing home doctor it is possible that he wasn't even close to 100 percent at any point last season. I guess this could be a reason that fans can hope for an increase in production heading into 2010, but I'm going to guess that his production continues to fade. I also think it is highly possible that Guillen will begin the 2010 season on the disabled list. If he does the Royals could improve their defense even more simply by shifting Gordon to first and placing Callaspo at third while moving Butler to DH. This would also provide the Royals with a way to get Callaspo regular at bats.

  • Derrick Robinson: Not long ago I discussed Derrick Robinson on my top prospect countdown and I mentioned that one of the reasons I remain optimistic that he can hit was an outstanding August. Well after reading the 2010 copy of Baseball America Prospect Handbook, I learned that towards the end of June the Royals asked Robinson to quit hitting from the left side, but he suggested that he place his feet closer together and so the Royals gave him one more chance to show something. Robinson then proceeded to post a sparking stat line in August and his new stance helped him to turn on the ball quicker and get out of the box faster, which in turn improved his bat speed and his speed from home to first.

  • Top NRI's: Recently SI's Tom Verducci posted a list of the most intriguing non-roster invitees around baseball. The top three in his list? Tony Pena Jr., Jimmy Gobble, and Chris George. He also begs the question "what happened to the generation of young Royals pitchers such as Jimmy Gobble, Chris George, Jose Rosado, Runelvys Hernandez, Kris Wilson, Mac Suzuki, etc.?" Here's the link to the article:

Top Prospects #14: Carlos Rosa

#14 Carlos Rosa

Age: 25
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 6-1/210
Signed: International Free Agent in 2001
Birthplace: Dominican Republic
Debut: 2008

It feels like Carlos Rosa has been a prospect forever and considering how bad the Royals bullpen was a season ago it is absurd that he wasn't given an opportunity in Kansas City. I'm not going to talk about the fact that Rosa was the original reliever that was to be shipped to Florida for Mike Jacobs, because I don't want to have to think about Mike Jacobs ever again. Obviously I wish that the Marlins would have felt that Rosa was healthy and wouldn't have persisted that Nunez replace him in the trade, but honestly even if it would have been Rosa for Jacobs we would have still been getting a bad deal. Rosa still has a lot of time left under team control and as long as injuries don't continue to derail his career he should become a fixture at the back end of the Royals pen during that time.

Rosa has a fastball that sits in the low 90s that is his best pitch, plus a mid 80s slider and a change up. All three pitches are serviceable and his fastball and slider are both quality out pitches. At a glance Rosa's numbers didn't look so hot this season in Omaha, but his FIP was actually a solid 3.80 and his K:BB rate was 48:11 in his last 32 innings pitched. Rosa should be in the Royals bullpen to start the 2010 season and I expect him to quickly become a go to guy when outs are vital.

Top Prospects #15: Chris Dwyer

#15 Chris Dwyer

Age: 21
Pos: LHP
HT/WT: 6-3/210
Drafted: 4th Round of 2009 Rule IV Draft
College: Clemson
ETA: 2012

By now most Royals fans know the background on Chris Dwyer and that he was an extremely rare draft eligible freshman in last years first year player draft. This is because he was held back a year in elementary school and attended prep school. The fact that he is a draft eligible freshman has been spun by many within the organization as a positive, by I'm not so sure that I am buying that and I tend to view it as more of a negative. Sure you could argue that because he was just a freshman that there is potential for improvement, but my point is simple. A prospects development is judged by age and as far as development is concerned every year counts. I view Dwyer's situation as a negative because compared with most twenty-one year old pitchers he hasn't logged near as many quality innings and is thus behind in his development. For this reason I have Dwyer rated lower in my prospect rankings than most.

Dwyer exhibits an 89-94 mph fastball and a curve that sits in the low 80s both have the potential to be plus pitches to go along with a change up that needs much more development before it can be an effective pitch. Because of the quality of the first two pitches mentioned Dwyer has the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher, however if his change up fails to develop and his command doesn't improve then he will probably wind up in the bullpen.

I expect Dwyer to be pushed along and while he hasn't pitched in full season ball I envision him starting the season in the Wilmington rotation and if he starts hot he could get a midseason promotion to the Texas League. At this point I'm not a huge fan of Dwyer, and I don't like him as much as several other lefties in the organization. But the guy is a legitimate prospect and many people much wiser than myself love Dwyer as a prospect.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top Prospects #16: Louis Coleman

#16 Louis Coleman

Age: 23
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 6-4/195
Drafted: 5th Round of the 2009 Rule IV Draft
College: LSU
ETA: 2011

The Royals drafted Coleman in the fifth round of the 2009 draft and soon after Coleman helped lead LSU to a College World Series Championship. While in college, Coleman spent time in both the rotation and bullpen finding success in both roles. However, in the pros I expect him to stick as a reliever where I think he will find great success and will be put on the fast track to the Major Leagues. Coleman's delivery isn't prototypical by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem to be effective. His arm slot comes is somewhere in between three quarters and sidearm and while Coleman appears to be throwing across his body towards the plate. The delivery is deceptive and much of his success can probably be attributed to this.

Coleman's fastball usually sits right around 90 mph and he has a plus slider. Thus far he has displayed exquisite command and I expect him to reach the Majors at some point next season, although if the Royals' bullpen is as bad in 2009 as it was in 2010 there is the possibility that he reaches the Majors by year's end. Look for Coleman to begin the year in the Texas League with a midseason promotion to Omaha, where he can return to the park that he won a college championship on just a year just months ago.

Top Prospects #17: Tyler Sample

#17 Tyler Sample

Age: 20
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 6-7/245
Drafted: 3rd Round, #80 overall of 2008 Rule IV Draft
High School: Mullen High School (CO)
ETA: 2014

Tyler Sample was signed for a bonus of $500,000 in the third round of the 2008 first year player draft. He displays a 92-94 mph fastball that at times he dials up into the mid to upper 90s with a 12-6 knuckle curve and change up. Like most taller pitchers Sample has problems repeating his delivery which results in poor location of his pitches and a decrease in the velocity of his fastball. According to John Sickels his curve is nasty but his change is below average. If his change can improve he has front-line starter potential. If it doesn't I could see him being a filthy right handed set up man.

Sample put together a good 2009 season, in large part because he was able to drop his walks per 9 innings rate from 9.7 in 2008 to 3.6. This could be an indication that his delivery is gaining consistency. A 3.6 walk rate isn't amazing, but if he can keep this number as he climbs the organizational ladder I would be fine with it, especially if he can continue to hold opposing hitters to a sub .200 batting average like he did in the Appy League last season.

I expect Sample to get a promotion to full season ball to begin 2010 and he should get a spot in an extremely talented Burlington rotation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Prospects #18: Cheslor Cuthbert

#18 Cheslor Cuthbert

Age: 16
B/T: R/R
Pos: 3B
ETA: 2016

Cheslor Cuthbert was signed in July for a then club record bonus of $1.4 mill. Cuthbert was considered a major victory for the Royals scouting department considered he was "groomed" by Pittsburgh Pirate personnel even as the international signing period began many in baseball believed he was a lock to sign on with the Pirates organization. However, the Royals swooped in and lured him away with dollar signs.

Cuthbert hails from the baseball factory known as Nicaragua. Wait... Let me try again. Cuthbert hails from  Nicaragua, a nation that currently boasts one Major League hitter (shortstop Everth Cabrerra). For some reason though this excites me. It makes me feel as though the Royals aren't just mining the typical talent mines of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, but that they are also willing to explore new frontiers.

According to some Cuthbert is the best prospect ever to come from Nicaragua, and his bat speed is incredible for a player of his age. Scouts vary in opinion on his defense and some believe that he will have to move to an outfield corner, however J.J. Picollo has stated that the Royals project Cuthbert to be a third baseman and compares him to Adrian Beltre. I'll go ahead and say that if his glove is anywhere close to Beltre's then third base is the place he should be, because Beltre is one of the best fielding third basemen of all time.

Complain all you want about the major league decisions of Dayton Moore, but ultimately his tenure will be defined by the players that he developed and right now he and the rest of the Royals organization are putting just as much work and money into the farm system as any team in baseball. Hopefully the farm begins to bare fruit sooner rather than later, because we all know that the Major League roster needs it.

Check out this video of Cheslor Cuthbert, cool stuff.

Top Prospects #19: Kelvin Herrera

#19 Kelvin Herrera

Age: 20
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 5-10/165
Signed: International Free Agent in 2006
Birthplace: Tenares, Dominican Republic
ETA: 2013

Kelvin Herrera was one of the first international free agents signed by General Manager Dayton Moore when he took over in 2006. It didn't take long for Herrera to get into the swing of things. As a seventeen year old in 2007 he pitched in 42.2 innings with an era of 0.84 in the Dominican Summer League. Then in 2008 the Royals gave him 50 innings in the Appalachian League, and when Burlington needed a starter for a playoff run Herrera was the man who got the call. In 12 innings of full season ball Herrera struck out 7, walked 2 and gave up just 3 earned runs. Going into 2009 many expected big things from Herrera. Baseball America even selecting him as their breakout prospect for the Royals organization for 2009. Unfortunately Herrera's season was derailed by injuries and he was only able to pitch in 5 innings (didn't give up a run).

Honestly, Herrera is one of my favorite prospects in the organization and I fully expect him to breakout in 2010. But because of his injury in '09 I am going to have to hold him at #19 until he can pitch more innings in full season ball. Herrera possesses a 90-92 mph fastball that at times he has been able to dial up into the mid 90's. In addition to a lively fastball Herrera also has very impressive command of a slurvy curveball and change-up for a pitcher of his age. If Herrera can handle the workload of a starting pitcher than the sky is the limit for this prospect. Herrera should begin 2010 in the Burlington, Iowa rotation but after he dominates Midwest League hitters for the first month or two he will get a midseason promotion to Wilmington where he will post a sub 3.00 era for the 2010 season.

Top Prospects #19.5: Edgar Osuna

#19.5 Edgar Osuna

Age: 22
Pos: LHP
HT/WT: 6-1/165
Acquired: In 2009 Rule V Draft.
Birthplace: Mazatlan, Mexico
ETA: 2010

For the second time in the Dayton Moore era the Royals dipped their toes into the Rule V draft and came out with a Mexican pitcher. Of course anyone reading this blog knows the results of the first pick, but the second is still a mystery. His name is Edgar Osuna and he is a "soft tossing" lefty that exhibits an 85-87 mph fastball with a refined curveball and change up. I like this pick and if you read my rule V draft preview you know that I feel that the Rule V draft is an underrated source of talent and the $50,000 pick fee that a selection cost you is insignificant compared to the money spent on other methods of acquiring talent. If you read that article you also know that I suggested the Royals take an outfielder by the name of John Raynor, but unfortunately he was selected before the Royals got a chance to make their selection.

Back to Osuna. He hasn't had much success in the upper levels, but typically with Rule V guys you aren't drafting on results, but instead you are relying on scouts that think they could make the transition to the majors in the following season. The Royals insist that they view Osuna as a starter but I'd give him about a one percent chance at the rotation in 2010. Instead I think the Royals will attempt to hide him in the pen as a Loogy or mop up guy unless he either proves himself worthy of quality innings or proves himself unworthy of a place on the twenty-five man roster.

Scouting reports suggest that his ceiling is that of a 4 or 5 starter, but more likely will be a long relief, swing-man for a bullpen somewhere. Then again if his scouting reports thought that he could become a front of the rotation starter or a quality setup man then he wouldn't have been left unprotected this winter. Someone in the Royals scouting department obviously saw something that other haven't and that someone believes that Osuna is ready for the Major Leagues. It would be a great victory for the Royals scouting department if once again they could pluck a pitching gem from the Rule V draft, however the odds are stacked against this happening. I have a lot of hope in Osuna, but it is important to keep in mind that for every Joakim Soria or Josh Hamilton there are dozens of rule V failures.

Top Prospects #20: Tim Smith

#20 Tim Smith

Age: 23
Pos: Corner OF
HT/WT: 6-3/225
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Via trade with the Texas Rangers along with catcher Manuel Pina for pitcher Danny Gutierrez in 2009.
ETA: 2011

Tim Smith was acquired las September for pitching prospect Danny Gutierrez, who has since been suspended for 50 games due to performance enhancing drug use. Gutierrez claims that the drugs were cleared by a doctor, but he simply failed to go through the process to get them cleared by major league baseball. Whether or not this is the truth, it still gives the feeling that Gutierrez isn't taking professional baseball as seriously as one would like. Add this to the rumors that Gutierrez (like former Royals prospect Dan Cortes) has been in trouble with the law on several occasions since joining the organization then I believe it is a good idea to remove the bad seed from the pot of pitching prospects. I also approve of the Royals dealing from a current strength in efforts to add some upper level hitting prospects into an organization that seriously lacks in the department.

So let's look at one of the two prospects that was acquired in the trade: Tim Smith. Smith has never overwhelmed scouts with his tools as he possesses average speed and defensive range with an average arm. He has displayed plus gap power and a great line drive swing in his time in the minors with a career triple slash of .305/.373/.448. Keep in mind though that those numbers are helped by his time in the hitter's heave California League as a 23 year old with a triple slash of .333/.413/.475. Smith has a large swing, so as he continues to develop I could see some of that gap power turning into home run power and the guy become a 10-15 home run per year guy.

Smith doesn't have the tools to be a star, but with his current hitting abilities and his ability to work counts he probably has the ceiling of a starting outfielder and the floor of a AAAA stop gap sort of guy. I like his slash lines so far and I'm looking forward to watch him in 2010, when I expect him to either return for a short stop in the Texas League or begin the year in the Pacific Coast League. If Smith can continue to hit as he has thus far in his career and if he can stay healthy, then Smith is a sleeper candidate for a September call-up this season.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Top Prospects #21: Keaton Hayenga

#21 Keaton Hayenga

Age: 21
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 6-4/190
Drafted: 31st Round, Pick #936 of 2007 Rule IV Draft
High School: Eastlake High School (WA)
ETA: 2014

Hayenga missed his senior season in high school due to a torn labrum. However, the Royals took a chance on the young hurler offering him a $300,000 bonus as a 31st round pick, knowing that he wouldn't be able to pitch in 2008. Because of his injuries Hayenga has been put on a conservative developmental track and has only logged 66.1 pro innings since being drafted.
Hayenga possesses a fastball in the 91-94 mph range, a curveball that has plus potential and an average change up. I like Hayenga and he would be an excellent story if he can continue to develop and turn himself into a big league pitcher, but his injury history scares me and I'm not a fan of his low strikeout rate. Like several other pitchers I have mentioned, I think Hayenga will be held back in extended spring training and then join the Burlington Bees crowded rotation sometime in May.

Top Prospects #22: Gregory Billo

#22 Gregory Billo

Age: 19
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 6-4/220
Drafted: 28th Round, Pick #835 of the 2008 Rule IV Draft
High School: Carl Sandburg High School (IL)

Gregory Billo is the opposite of Carlos Fortuna. Billo features a 90 mph fastball (on a good day), and a curveball and changeup that are average pitches. His raw stuff isn't impressive, but after a strong senior season and a decent 2009 I am optimistic that this guy might have something that scouts can't see. In 2009, Billo posted a 3.92 Fip with a .228 batting average against as a member of the Burlington Royals rotation, however, in the bullpen Billo was just dominate posting a 2.14 Fip with a .128 batting average against. Billo isn't a guy that I know much about but I hope that he gets a shot at full season ball this year and can prove himself to be a legitimate prospect.

Top Prospects #23: Yowill Espinal

#23 Yowill Espinal

Age: 18
Pos: SS
HT/WT: 6-0/185
B/T: R/R
Signed: International Free Agent in 2007
Birthplace: Santiago, Dominican Republic
ETA: 2014

Like Carlos Fortuna, Yowill Espinal was signed in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic. Unlike Fortuna though, Espinal signed for a hefty bonus of $250,000 which at the time was one of the largest ever given by the Royals to an international free agent. I don't know what it is but I have a lot of optimism about Espinal. It could be the fact that the Royals organization is barren when it comes to shortstop prospects or it could be the fact that I really want this new stream of talent to start paying off, but either way Espinal is a guy that I am going to be keeping a close eye on in the 2010 season.

Looking at that stat line there are several things that stand out to me. First, the man has a little bit of power, which is a huge bonus for an 18 year old Latin American short stop. Also, he has displayed some speed by swapping 20 bases in 34 tries. This isn't a great success rate but hopefully he can refine his base swapping skill set and be a threat there as he climbs the ladder. The other thing that I really like about Espinal's 2009 season is that he took some walks. The walk rate is still a little lower than I'd like but, he showed much improvement from 2008 when he only took 2 walks in 206 plate appearances.

In 2009 Espinal committed 26 errors and according to the great John Sickels he has below average range and will probably be forced to second base at some point in his career. But according to TotalZone Rating he was 5 runs above average at shortstop last season. I am going to withhold judgment at this point and keep my fingers crossed that he can stay in the 6 hole.

I expect Espinal to begin 2010 in Burlington, IA, but I don't expect him to have an overwhelming batting line and like Salvador Perez in 2009 I could envision him struggling mightily to start the year and then picking it up at the end after a demotion to Idaho Falls.

Top Prospect #24: Carlos Fortuna

#24 Carlos Fortuna

Age: 19
Pos: RHP
HT/WT: 6-2/205
Signed: As an international free agent in 2007
Birthplace: La Romana, Domincan Republic
ETA: 2014

Carlos Fortuna is another player that is a part of the Royals continued progress in the Latin American market. Fortuna's best current asset is his 96 mph fastball, but other than that he doesn't have much except for raw ability. Fortuna also has a curveball and change up that have shown potential, but like most teenage pitchers the stuff is raw. Fortuna makes this list soley because of his velocity and young age. IF he can begin to refine his stuff and gain some control, he has the potential to shoot up this list a yar from now. I expect Fortuna to begin the season in extended Spring Training and then be assigned to Burlington, IA.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Top Prospects #25: Hilton Richardson

#25 Hilton Richardson

Age: 20
HT/WT: 6-3/200
B/T: L/L
Pos: CF
Drafted: 7th Round, Pick #216 in 2007 Rule IV Draft
High School: Kirkland High (WA)
ETA: 2013

As far as pure potential goes you would be hard pressed to find many hitters in the Royals system that have more than centerfielder Hilton Richardson. Richardson was drafted out Washington as a guy oozing with raw talent but completely lacking polish. Even after a 2009 campaign which saw him hit .313 at Idaho Falls I still am not convinced that he is beginning to turn the corner. Richardson's Babip was a ridiculous .426 in Idaho Falls and his luck removed average according to was a paltry .234.

Richardson has been blessed with a great baseball body, and while he hasn't hit for home runs yet, it would not be hard to imagine him becoming a home run threat in the future. He also has plus speed, which has already began to translate into stolen bases. He has a plus throwing arm and if things were to break right, he could be a true five tool player at the major league level.

In 2010 Richardson should start the season in Burlington, Iowa getting everyday at bats, while splitting time with centerfielder Alex Llanos. It would be nice to see Richardson break out within the next year or so, but if he doesn't he could quickly begin to resemble prospect Derrick Robinson as just another speed guy that hasn't hit. But the potential is there and he should be a fun prospect to keep an eye on in 2010.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chone's AL Central 2010 Standings & Why fans should be optimistic again.

One year ago, Kansas City fans were beginning to get giddy about the 2009 season. Despite some negative feedback on several offseason the moves, Royals fans saw the AL Central as a division that was up for grabs. With the excitement of the new ballpark and a payroll of around $70 million, fans were optimistic that 2009 would be the year that the Royals would stay competitive throughout the dog days of summer and into late August and September. The hope hinged on a young rotation, two young hitters that had dominated the minor leagues, and a superstar closer. Even though many projection systems predicted the Royals to reach a win total in the mid to upper 70s, fans had reason to hope that these projections would fall short if certain players exceeded expectations and lived up to their potential.

As we all know after getting off to a 18-11 start the Royals collapsed due to injuries and players being unable to maintain unrealistic levels of performance. The team finished the season with a 65-97 record and the Royals fanbase's optimism has disappeared. I will state now that this is a completely reasonable reaction and that Royals fans should not be expected to have faith in a team that has disappointed them so many times before. Personally, I work hard to remain optimistic and without a sense of hope what is the point of following the team? So I am going to attempt to persuade the fans that there is more reason to be optimistic for the 2010 season than there was to be optimistic for the 2009 season.

Let's begin by discussing the AL Central. Here is Chone's projections for the AL Central in 2010:

Minnesota Twins 85-77
Cleveland Indians 81-81
Chicago White Sox 79-83
Kansas City Royals 76-86
Detroit Tigers 76-86

Once again the Royals find themselves as a member of the most winnable division in baseball. Although I disagree with the Twins projection and think that they will approach 90 wins, the other three teams in the division don't scare me. The Indians are in rebuilding mode and on paper have one of the weakest rotations in baseball. The White Sox could provide decent competition but I can't envision them doing much more than cracking .500. The Tigers like the Indians are also in rebuilding mode and while their lineup still has several impressive names, they are all getting older and haven't produced near the wins that many expected them to a couple of years ago. So just like last year the Royals find themselves in a tight, but winnable division where anything could happen.

The next thing to remember is that much of the excitement in 2009 was the hope of young players breaking out. So let's look at which guys that the hope of '09 hinged on. Starting with the Rotation and working around the Diamond.

*In 2009 fans hoped Zack Greinke would establish himself as a Cy Young caliber starter. In 2010 the Royals know that Zack Greinke is a Cy Young caliber starter.

*In 2009 fans expected Meche to post his thrid straight sub 4.00 era season. Unfortunately this is one of the things that did not happen, but just because he was overworked one year doesn't mean that Royals fans can't hope for a return to form in 2010. Hopefully Hillman and the training staff learned their lesson in 2010.


*In 2009 fans hoped that Davies could carry on his September 2008 success and become a quality three starter. In this instance it is hard for me to imagine Davies become an above average three starter, however he could very well have a season era right in the 4.00 to 4.25 range and be a quality option at the back of the rotation.

*In 2009 fans seemed to have jumped off the Brian Bannister bandwagon, but he returned to the rotation and posted solid results until like Meche he was overworked and hit the DL. Bannister, like Davies could definitely provide the Royals with 180+ innings of averageness at the back of the rotation.

* In 2009 fans hoped that Hochevar could begin to live up to top pick potential and even though he was awful in '09 he showed flashes of brilliance and in 2010 fans now have tangible examples of what he could do with this potential.


*In 2009 fans knew that Joakim Soria was a top flight closer and going into 2010 this hasn't changed except now Trey Hillman maybe more willing to go to him with 4 or 5 outs left, rather than just 3 and thus his value increases.

*In 2009 fans were somewhat skeptical of the bullpen after Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez were traded off in the offseason. In 2010 fans are also skeptical of the bullpen after disappointing years from Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz. But the bullpen is one of the hardest places to predict results and given the stockpile of minor league free agents and several major league ready relief arms, perhaps the pen will rebound in 2010.


*In 2009 fans hoped that Billy Butler would emerge as a legitimate middle of the order hitter. In 2010 fans already know that Billy Butler is a legitimate middle of the order.

*In 2009 fans hoped that Alex Gordon would breakout and become an all-star caliber third baseman, but instead he was injured for most of the season and it simply became a wash. In 2010 fans once again can hope that Alex Gordon breakouts, but even if he returns to 2008 form fans need to realize that even then he is above average offensively at third.

*In 2009 fans thought that Mike Aviles would once again produce at an above league average level. I personally was not one of these, but I don't think Aviles is nearly as bad as his '09 numbers indicated. In 2010 Aviles is still with the team, but would have to overtake the under performing Yunieskey Betancourt for the starting job.

*In 2009 fans expected David DeJesus to be a fixture and consistent played at the top of the order. DeJesus did there is no reason to doubt that he can't do it again in 2010.

As you can see the Royals have just as much reason to hope in 2009 as they did in 2010, and in some ways you could argue that some of that hope has been replaced with expectations after breakout 2009 performances. The Royals also had breakout years from Alberto Callaspo on the offensive end, and in September 2009 Robinson Tejeda put together a month that would even put Kyle Davies to shame. Also, the Royals have realized that Guillen won't cut it defensively and heading into 2010 the outfield looks stronger on the defensive end at least with Ankiel and Podsednik stepping in. It also wouldn't be surprising if Ankiel returned to his 2008 numbers when he was one of the better power hitters in the National League. The Royals lacked depth last year to compensate for injuries but going into 2010 the team looks to be better equipped in this regard as several prospects are a year closer to being major league ready.

There may not be enough here to make you believe the Royals will when the division in 2010. But there is just as much reason to be optimistic heading into the 2010 season as there was heading into the 2009 season. Royals fans just need to take a step back and look at it with the same innocence that they had a year ago, before they were jaded by one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history. I know it is hard, but for the next two months at least, baseball will be a lot more enjoyable if you have a little hope, a little faith.

Top Prospects #26: Derrick Robinson

#26 Derrick Robinson

Age: 22
HT/WT: 5-11/170
B/T: S/R
Pos: CF
Drafted: 4th Round, Pick #107 of 2006 Rule IV Draft
High School: PK Yonge HS (FL)
ETA: 2012

By now most Royals fans know the story on Derrick Robinson. He was a football recruit for the University of Florida to play corner, but the Royals were able to persuade him to begin a career in professional baseball for an above slot bonus of $850,000 (the highest bonus for a fourth rounder in 2006). When drafted Robinson had the speed, after all he did set a record at the Perfect Game USA Camp for a 6.19 second 60 yard dash and he grades out as an 80 on the 20-80 scale. But Royals scouts also saw the potential for Robinson to develop into Kenny Lofton type leadoff hitter.

In back to back seasons Robinson has stolen over 60 bases and many still believe that he hasn't reached his base running potential. I shudder to imagine the stolen base numbers he could post once he refines his pitcher reading abilities and if he were to post an average OBP season. If these two things could happen I would expect Robinson to steal 90+ bases a season.

Unfortunately this brings me to Robinson's biggest weakness. Dude can't hit. In four minor league seasons Robinson has posted a triple slash of .243/.307/.318, but there are three reasons why I remain optimistic for Robinson in 2010.

1) Robinson's Babip: On the surface it appears as though Robinson's numbers took a step back from 2008 to 2009. However, his BABIP dropped over twenty points and if his BABIP would have stayed at a league average level, then according to he would have posted a triple slash of .257/.304/.337, while this line isn't impressive it represents improvement over his luck removed 2008 line of .235/.307/.308. Typically when players outperform their BABIP it is because they are speedsters and are able to beat out balls that typically result in groundouts. Given that Robinson is one of the fastest players in baseball, I am going to hope that 2009 was an aberration and that over the long run Robinson will out perform his BABIP.

2) Frawley Stadium: Any time we evaluate a player's numbers we need to consider the park in which he played, and since Frawley Stadium is hell on Earth for hitters I am going to cut Robinson a little slack. Generally though Frawley stadium is tougher on power hitters than average guys, but I have also heard that the infield conditions at Frawley also result in a lower number of hits on ground balls. (I wish I could remember the source that I heard this from!) In 2009 Robinson had a groundball percentage of over 60%. Don't get me wrong this is an awful number, but I'm sure part of the reason it is so high is because of Robinson's efforts to slap hit down the third base line and bunt for hits. So perhaps if Robinson can get out of Frawley more of these types of hits can get Robinson on base as opposed to getting his team back into the field.

3) August 2009: Through the first 3 and a half seasons of Robinson's career there was no reason to believe that he had the ability to hit. That changed in August 2009 when Robinson posted a triple slash of .311/.362/.513 with 5 home runs. (Robinson has just 8 home runs in his pro career.) While some would contribute these numbers to a small sample size. I am going to argue that he did receive 119 at bats in this month and his numbers in this month are so different than the rest of his career that something must have changed for him. The other promising factor here is that this month is the last full month that he has played in and so there isn't a months worth of at bats after that are bad enough to suggest that August was a mirage, which it could very well wind up being. The point is that up until this point in time the only reason a Royals fan would think that Robinson would one day hit is because scouts have told them that he might or would. But August 2009 proved that there is the potential there that Robinson could wind up hitting to a certain degree.

For these three reasons I hold out hope that Robinson will develop into an everyday center fielder that can become a fixture at the top of the order. I have also failed to mention that Robinson is considered by many to be a top flight defensive center fielder. The potential is still here and he has done just enough for me to hold out hope that it can one day be reached, but he hasn't quite done enough to break into the Royal Revival top 25 and for this reason he comes in at #26 in the countdown.

Top Prospects #27: Nick Van Stratten

#27 Nick Van Stratten

Age: 24
HT/WT: 6-1/185
B/T: R/R
Pos: Corner OF
Drafted: 10th Round, Pick #287 in 2006 Rule IV Draft
College: St. Louis CC Meramec
ETA: 2012

Like other prospects that have been mentioned, Nick Van Stratten is slightly on the older side given his stage of development. For this reason he ranks much, much lower than if he were a 22 year old. Also, Van Stratten lacks home run power and at the most I could see him having a career high of 11 or 12 homers. Van Stratten does have above average gap power and some speed. In a best case scenario I could see Van Stratten developing into a DeJesus-esque player with less defensive ability and a weaker throwing arm.

Just like fellow prospect Clint Robinson, I think that Van Stratten needs to be pushed along to double this season even though he only has 255 at bats at the high A level. If he isn't rushed then he will continue to post decent numbers that won't say as much given his age. If he continues to hit in double A like he has throughout the rest of his career, then Van Stratten's stock will rise. More than likely though if he reaches the Major League level he will find time as a decent obp option off of the bench as a fourth outfielder.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Top Prospects #28: Blake Wood

#28 Blake Wood

Age: 24
HT/WT: 6-4/225
Pos: RHP
B/T: R/R
Drafted: 3rd Round, Pick #77 in 2006 Rule IV Draft
College: Georgia Tech
ETA: September 2010

In 2008 and 2009, Wood was featured in Baseball America's top ten for the Kansas City Royals, however after a disappointed 2009 campaign he should drop into the twenties. The potential is still there, but injuries and inconsistency are starting to hurt the perceptions of him as a legitimate major league rotation prospect. Wood features the body of a durable starter with his 6-4, 200+ pound frame, but if he doesn't put together a decent 2010 I expect him to be moved to the pain where he could potentially excel.

Wood features a mid 90s fastball, and at times a plus curveball and changeup. What he lacks is command. While he hasn't pitched as well as many hoped he still has just as good or better shot than others from the pitching crop that arrived in Springdale a couple of years ago (Julio Cesar Pimentel, Dan Cortes, and Blake Johnson). There was also a pitcher by the name of Carlos Rosa in AA when Wood arrived, who in 2008 began the year in the Natural rotation and posted great numbers before ultimately being moved to the pen. Unlike Rosa I believe Wood would be durable enough to endure a rotation spot if his results warrant it. But I expect Wood to be like Rosa in that he ultimately is moved to the pen, except the reason in Wood's case will be lack of consistency as a starter.

There is still a possibility that Wood develops into a mid rotation guy for the Royals, but I don't think that is what will happen. Instead I think Wood will put together an average 2010, and then get a call up in September and by opening day next season will be viewed as either a bullpen guy with above average setup man potential or a guy with an outside shot at the fifth starter spot.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Top Prospects #29: Jason Taylor

#29 Jason Taylor

Age: 21
HT/Wt: 6-1/210
B/T: R/R
Drafted: 2nd Round, Pick #45 in 2006 Rule IV Draft
School: Floyd E. Kellam High School (VA)
ETA: 2013

I have no doubt that my decision to rank Taylor so high on this list will be questioned by some. However, Taylor intrigues me a great deal and coming into the season Baseball America had him ranked even higher at number 17. Taylor only played in 62 games in 2010 due to a suspension for drug use. Also, Taylor missed the entire 2007 season to a suspension as well. If both were drug related as I believe then Taylor has one strike left before he will be gone forever. Hopefully Taylor can straighten out his personal life and let his talents on the diamond develop as they should.

After playing short stop in high school Taylor has played the corner infield spots in pro ball. Personally, I think Taylor should be moved into left field where the Royals system is thin compared to the third and first base. This past season the power numbers dropped from his 2008 numbers when he led the minor leagues in home runs for players with 40 or more stolen bases. Taylor displays average speed and maybe even slightly below that, but according to Baseball America he does a fantastic job of reading pitchers and is extremely aggressive on the bases.

Taylor also has great plate discipline compared to others in the system and for his career he has posted an obp of .369 with a k:bb of 161:135. Taylor should start the 2010 season in Wilmington at third base. He strikes me as a guy who could potentially move quickly if certain aspects of his game begin to click. I feel this way because of his advanced hitting approach at the plate. It is my hope that he can straighten out his life and if he does it would be within the realm of possibility that he could one day play an average corner spot and post 15-20 steals and homers annually with a triple slash somewhere around .260/.370/.430. If he can do that he would definitely justify the #29 spot on this list.