Saturday, January 29, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 35-31

35. Kelvin Herrera RHP

Herrera was signed in 2006, as a sixteen year old international free agent. Since then he has performed famously while on the mound. Unfortunately in the past two seasons he has only been on the mound enough to make 9 starts. He still has a great arm, but his injuries are starting to blur the image of him making it to the majors.

Apparently the latest elbow injury is the result of an attempt to make his mechanics less injury conducive. However, he overcompensated which resulted in him shortening his stride which caused more damage. The good news is that reports out of instructional league were good and that his stuff is still as strong as ever.

Herrera wields a low 90s fastball that at times can reach the mid 90s. He also has a potential plus pitch in his changeup and an average slider-curve hybrid. Herrera is a diminutive righty that has already lost his fair share of time due to injury, so a move to the bullpen could be in his future.

It'd be a shame because he has such a great arm and before his injury woes the Royals raved about his poise on the mound even giving him a start in the Midwest League playoffs as an eighteen year old. But a career as a Major League reliever is a lot better than no career at all.

I am not sure if Herrera will be rule five eligible after the 2011 season or the 2012 season. But if it is 2011, I could envision a scenario where he is one of the most appealing prospects available. But before that happens Herrera needs to put together an effective season. I'd like to see him in Wilmington to start the year, but a return to the Midwest League is probably most likely.

34. Nicholas Francis OF

In 2009, Mike Moustakas spent the entire season at the unfriendly confines of Frawley Stadium in the Carolina League. While in the Carolina Circuit he hit 16 homers in 442 at bats, which comes out to 1 home run per 27.6 at bats. This sounds like an extremely unimpressive total. However in the ten seasons prior to 2010, the average home run leader for the Wilmington Blue Rocks hit 12.9 bombs in an average of 457.1 at bats. This works out to 1 dinger for every 28.2 at bats. But if you remove Cody Strait's 2008 outlier when he hit 13 homers in just 196 at bats. You then arrive at a nine year average of 486.1 at bats per season and a at bat per home run ratio of 37.7:1

I bring this up because in 2010, the Blue Rock leader in home runs was a rightfielder by the name of Nicholas Francis and his at bats per home ratio was just 20.9. He also stroked twenty-seven other extra base hits and posted a slugging percentage of .516. Impressive power numbers for a player in his first stint in Wilmington.

Of course I should probably mention that the reason that Francis only played in 84 games was because he began the season with a fifty game suspension for a drug related issue. Unfortunately I'm not sure if what type of drug it was that came back as a positive on the test. Nonetheless it isn't something you want to happen to a prospect. This is especially true when the prospect is already old for his level, like Francis.

Francis's power seems to be a bit underrated and I would not be shocked if he posted 20+ homers in Northwest Arkansas in 2011. However, it is also very possible that he gets lost in the outfield shuffle with Tim Smith, Derrick Robinson, Wil Myers, and possibly even Paulo Orlando and Derrick Robinson. I hope that the Royals push him to double A and find him consistent at bats because the power upside could be huge.

This is probably an over ranking but I wanted to make sure that I made sure that people noticed that the power potential was there.

33. Buddy Baumann LHP

Not wanting to miss out on another Shaun Marcum the Royals have made a strong commitment to controlling the backyard. As a part of this strategy the Royals selected lefty Buddy Baumann out of Missouri State in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. At the time of the selection Baumann possessed three average pitches with a good pitch no how.

His velocity has been up since he move to professional baseball and now consistently can hit the gun between 90-92, sometimes even getting as high as 94. To go with that are the average slider and changeup.

After dominating in the pen for the first half of the season, the Blue Rocks moved Baumann to the rotation in June. There he saw his numbers get even better. I'd like to see Baumann to get continued development as a starter, however he has proven that he requires a promotion to double A and with the arms that should begin the season in Springdale he will probably get moved back into the pen. I think he has the potential to be a back end starter or a 6th or 7th inning reliever.

32. Everett Teaford LHP

I watched Teaford for most of the season with the Naturals and I can attest to the fact that he was a different pitcher in the second half of the season. There was a point when he was moved to the bullpen as several of the top arms began to trickle in and it seems that he took that decision personally. Becuse for the rest of the season Teaford was lights out.

I am not sure if this was the case in the beginning of the season because I can't remember, but I can say that just about everyday at the ballpark, while the team was preparing for the game. I saw Teaford either preparing to pitch, or if it wasn't his turn I saw him sweating due to working out or running. I know that to get to this level nearly every player puts in plenty of his work, but for whatever reason the image of Teaford running on the track when the other players hadn't taken the field yet has stuck with me.

I also remember a time when Teaford, frustrated by his defense's performance yelled for his teammates to get going in the dugout. The coaches didn't say or do anything in response but what happened from there on was one of the better comebacks of the Naturals season. I wish that I could remember the specific game, but I saw so many Naturals comebacks this summer that it isn't a shock to me that I can't.

The key to Teaford's strong second half and his earning a spot on the 40 man roster was his spike in velocity that has resulted in his fastball now being clocked consistently in the low 90s as opposed to the high 80s where it had been previously. Perhaps with his improved velocity or arm speed his curveball was also able to add some bite and now could one day be a plus pitch. He also has shown a propensity for a change and cutter.

Teaford has good control and a solid arsenal, but if he struggles he could very easily be passed by the highly touted arms that are looming like a T-Rex in his rearview mirror. It has been discussed that he could earn a spot in the big league rotation in Spring, however I expect him to open the year in the Omaha rotation. If he has a strong first half he should be in position to be given the opportunity to replace Francis or Chen if they are dealt at the deadline.

31. Clint Robinson 1B

Clint Robinson continues to progress a level at a time and he continues to hit. Although the latter may be an understatement considering in 2010 he brought home the Triple Crown title for the Texas League. There has been a lot of hype about the top prospects that enabled the Naturals to win the Texas League title. However, you can't overstate Robinson's value from a development and competitive standpoint by providing protection for Moustakas and Hosmer.

There were a countless number of times that one of the aforementioned players would be intentionally walked and Robinson would make them pay with towering home runs into the night or with doubles into the gap. I also believe that Robinson has a type of leadership quality that goes unnoticed by a one or two time viewer. He was always even keeled and he always provided a veteran type calming presence to what was a young Naturals team for most of the season.

Robinson's future in the organization is hazy due to the presence of Eric Hosmer right behind him and Kila Ka'aihue and Billy Butler directly ahead of him. Partly for this reason the Royals tested him in the outfield a bit during pregame drills and even once that I can remember in game action (it was a disaster). Even though he struggled mightily I hope that the Royals don't totally abandon that idea.

At this point it seems like the best case scenario for both Robinson and the Royals is that he continues to rake and is packaged at some point for something of value and he is given the opportunity to play elsewhere. Or that he learns to play a serviceable left field and can be a valuable bat off of the bench.

In other organizations or other years bloggers would be salivating over Robinson's numbers even though he is already twenty-five. However, with the quality of the Royals system he seems to get lost in the shuffle considering how strong his numbers were in 2010. Personally after watching Clint Robinson and the way he conducted himself on and off for an entire summer, I will always have a special place in my heart for the Alabama Hamma.


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