Sunday, February 27, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 15-11

15. Johnny Giavotella 2B

Johnny Giavotella was drafted in the second round out of the University of New Orleans, a place he pays homage to every time he came to the plate in 2010 at Arvest Ballpark with his New Orleans style jazz playing on the speakers. Giavotella was drafted in 2008 and was immediately sent to full season Burlington Iowa. There he became a catalyst at the top of the order that the Bees to that point had been without.

Two years later Giavotella continues to be a catalyst to whatever lineup he finds himself in. This past season in Northwest Arkansas he cruised to a line of .322/.395/.460 and after setting the Texas League on fire in the second half he was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he continued to blaze to a line of .328/.371/.578.

Some have compared Giavotella to Boston's Dustin Pedroia and many scoff at the notion. However, in Pedroia's first stint in the upper levels he split the season between double and triple-A and posted a line of .293/.385/.452. Now most scouts are probably somewhat surprised that Pedroia developed the power that he did, but at the time he was still viewed as a very strong prospect and described as a "gamer."

Giavotella is a gamer. He is a vocal player that has quick wrists with a short swing. His forearms are massive and probably a major reason why Giavotella is able to generate as much power as he does. I don't see Giavotella winning any MVP awards, but he could be a top notch hitter if he continues to develop. I also believe that he is one of the most Major League ready hitters in the entire organization probably ranking between second and fourth in this regard.

The concerns with Giavotella stem from his defense, in particular his range which projects to be average at best. Because he is already a second baseman many see him as a future starter or bust due to his bat not being able to carry him should he have to shift to a corner spot. I believe that his bat will be good enough for a Major League career regardless. Teams are always looking for guys that can hit Major League hitting and if he is capable of that someone will find him a position.

As far as his future with the Royals goes though it will be important that he hits the ground running when he is granted the opportunity at the Major League level. This is because with Alcides Escobar at short, Colon is now looming behind Giavotella on the organizational depth chart. If Giavotella continues to knock the cover off the ball he should see Kansas City by season's end unless Chris Getz decides to become a .300 hitter.

14. Tim Collins LHP

Over a year ago I defended the Ankiel signing because I felt as though he was a good buy low candidate and he would be a tradable commodity come the July deadline. This turned out to be true and in exchange for a couple months of Ankiel and perhaps the only Royal to ever be booed in his home opener, Kyle Farnsworth the Royals were able to add a piece to the future. Of course I am talking about Jesse Chavez.... I mean Tim Collins.

Collins instantly became a favorite among Royals prospect buffs due to his diminutive stature and his awesome K rate, which as you can see in the graph above has been at 13.3 per 9 innings in his minor league career. Collins stands in at 5-7, 155. When he stands on the hill he turns himself in a cock eye fashion and a delivery that only shows his back at the beginning. He then hurls not only himself at the hitter but also hurls mid 90s heat that he occasionally mixes with a plus hammer curveball.

Collins has closer potential, but should become a very strong setup man for the Kansas City Royals for the next six or seven seasons. This Spring the Royals have Collins working from both sides of the rubber in an effort to add even more deception to his already deceptive delivery.

Even though he is not yet on the 40-man roster I expect that he will open the season in the Major League Bullpen. If this turns out not to be the case, it will be a result of roster manipulation and inventory control and not because of Collins poor performance. Either way we should see Collins in Kansas City sooner rather than later.

13. Salvador Perez C

Salvador Perez was signed out Venezuela in 2006 as part of Dayton Moore's first international signing class. So far he has yielded extremely promising results. So promising in fact that I predict Perez to break out in a big way in 2011 when he spends the season at Arvest Ballpark for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Much has been made of Perez this Spring as Yost has been enamored with his defensive abilities. Pitchers love to throw to him and runners hate to run on him. Perez blocks balls with ease and records an astounding 1.8 second pop time to second base.

In the Royals intrasquad game perhaps the organizations best basestealer Jarrod Dyson attempted to rob second base from Perez. However, when Dyson normally would go into his slide he found that the ball was at second waiting for him. After the play Dyson was quoted as saying "I aint never got thrown out by that much."

It isn't just Perez's glove that has the organization and me so excited. As the youngest hitter in the Carolina League in 2010 he was able to hit .290/.322/.411 a line that is reminiscent of Sandy Alomar Jr. a player that Perez is often compared to. He also was able to hit seven homers, which was the highest total of his young career.

Yost believes that Perez is major league ready, but because he hasn't had a single at bat in the upper minors that is where he will spend 2011. Nonetheless it seems that the presence of Perez in the system was a major factor in the organization's decision to move Myers to the outfield. Hopefully, Perez can continue to breakout with the bat because his defense is already top notch.

12. Brett Eibner OF

Eibner entered the 2010 draft as perhaps the most intriguing two way player available. He could either be the power hitting centerfielder that had a knack for the clutch in college. Or he could be the pitcher that entered the game throwing missiles and dominated hitters with heat. Eibner preferred to be a hitter and the Royals obliged by selecting him in the second round and signing him to an overslot bonus.

Eibner may possess the highest upside of any player in the Royals system. He could develop into a four or five tool centerfielder with plus plus power, or his swing could continue to be too long and he could strikeout so much in the low levels that the Royals decided to convert him back to pitcher. Either way his numbers will surely be worth keeping an eye on in 2011 for the casual prospect observer.

Eibner should open 2011 in either Kane County or Wilmington. If he can keep his strikeouts down he could ascend through the system extremely fast and could even see Northwest Arkansas by season's end. He could also strikeout 150+ times in Kane County and just move one level at a time. It is tough to say.

11. Aaron Crow RHP

Those that hated the Luke Hochevar pick seemed to hate the Crow pick as well. It isn't hard to miss the similarities. Both are guys that declined huge bonuses and then went the Indy League route only to be selected a year later in the first round again. Many Royals prospect observers were less than thrilled with the pick.

But then Crow went to Spring Training and in a short time with the Big League club caused such a stir that some even argued he should open the season in Royal blue and I don't mean Omaha. Instead he was sent to Springdale where he would be the opening night starter for a team that would go on to win the Texas League title. Unfortunately for Crow by season's end he was no longer with the team due to a demotion to Wilmington.

Crow has great stuff. After watching most of his starts in Springdale I can attest to the fact that his stuff is still there. He has a mid 90s heater that has great sinking action that produced a huge groundball rate. (I can't remember the exact number, but I do know that according to Dayton Moore it was one of the top rates in the minor leagues.) Hopefully with improved infield conditions and a strong defense this rate can help Crow to produce strong results. Stuff is not what concerns me about Aaron Crow.

What concerns me is that his control in Northwest Arkansas yielded a 4.4 walks per 9 inning rate. Even with a ton of groundballs it is going to be hard to win with a rate that high. Perhaps part of the problem is due to Crow's questionable mechanics on the backside. I once read that a pitcher with a wrist wrap should never be a bonus baby, because their control will always be in jeopardy.

I am still optimistic that Crow's troubles were a combination of bad luck, overpitching and rust. I believe that he has ace potential, but if his control does not come around as a starter could still be a valuable member of the bullpen, perhaps even as a closer. Given that Crow is on the 40 man roster he needs to figure it out as a starter fast or else the Royals could use the Major League bullpen as an acclimation process. Crow should begin the season in Northwest Arkansas maybe even once again as the opening night starter.

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