Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 20-16

20. David Lough OF

I am definitely a big fan in the David Lough camp. After breaking out in 2009, he made a bit of noise at spring training prior to the 2010 season and I fully expected him to be called up after the deadline to replace one of the traded outfielders. This unfortunately didn't happen as Lough got off to a semi slow start in the Pacific Coast League. But what happened in the second half of the season for Lough was something that makes me even more optimistic of his future.

Prior to the all star break Lough had drawn 19 walks to 33 strikeouts in 302 at bats. His triple slash was .262/.313/.424. Obviously this is part of the reason why Lough was not given an opportunity at the big league level post trade deadline. However from that point on Lough's approach at the plate took a huge step forward from where it had been in his previous three and a half seasons.

In the second half of the season Lough posted a k:bb of 25:21. In 158 at bats he hit to a tune of .316/.403/.462. This improved plate approach helped Lough in the contact and power departments. Also, given that the major complaint against Lough was his average driven on base percentage, if these numbers are a sign of things to come then his stock only rises.

I am a fan of Lough game. He has solid tools across the board, but no real plus tools. Royals' fans often throw out comparisons to DeJesus when talking about Lough and I suppose this is fair. Although it does seem like anytime the Royals have a prospect that is solid, but doesn't have any plus tools he gets DDJ comparisons. I believe that Lough has more speed than DeJesus and could even have more power. But I believe DeJesus still gets the nod in defense, arm and plate discipline.

Lough is an athletic player that could be a defensive asset in left field. He seems like a great guy every time I have had the opportunity to talk with him (twice). He could be a very valuable fourth outfielder for a contending team and a guy that other team's would like to give more at bats as a starter.

What Gordon does in 2011 will play a significant role in Lough's future as a Royal. Given that it is hard to see Francouer as a Royals for just one season. If Gordon performs as most expect him to, Lough will be a fourth outfield option for the team. However, if Gordon struggles or if the Royals do cut ties with Francouer I hope that Lough is granted an everyday opportunity. You have to be intrigued by a guy that posts 15 doubles, 12 triples, and 11 homers in a season. (Especially when he would be moving to the triple friendly Kauffman Stadium.)

19. Jason Adam

Entering the 2010 first year player draft, I thought that Yasmani Grandal was likely to be the guy. However, the Royals threw everyone a changeup when they selected Christian Colon with their first round selection. The other thing that I expected was that the Royals would find Jason Adam at some point later in the draft and that they would then sign him to an over-slot deal much like the one Tim Melville had received a couple years before. This prediction came true when the Royals selected Jason Adam with their fifth round pick and signed him to an over-slot bonus of $800K.

Like Melville, Adam was another local product actually living roughly 20 miles away from Kauffman Stadium. So the Royals did not want to let a local product slip through the grasps and it is a good thing they didn't. In instructs Adam received glowing reviews from Royals officials as his fastball routinely sat in the mid 90s. He also flashed promising secondary offerings with a curveball in the high 70s and a low 80s change-up.

I expect Adam to stay back in extended spring training as a way to limit his innings in his first season. But after that he should report to low-a Kane County for the 2011 season.

18. Cheslor Cuthbert

Cheslor Cuthbert was one of the big international signees for the Royals in 2009. He was hailed as the top prospect to ever come from Nicaragua. He actually came from a small island off the coast of the country called the Corn Island. On this island they speak primarily English and so Cuthbert will be without the burden of learning both a new language and culture as he makes his way into professional baseball.

This is probably a major factor in the Royals decision to begin him in the states as just as seventeen year old. His final numbers weren't spectacular but when put in perspective they provide plenty of reason for optimism. His season was going very well until a hand or wrist injury wound up ending his season. Considering the kid was already playing against competition years older than him, it isn't surprising that an injury such as this could have brought a quick statistical collapse to his season.

Cuthbert won't win many races but he has good bat speed and an advanced approach at the plate. When signed several said he could one day develop into an Adrian Beltre type player. Since he is projected to have good power and strong defense I would say this is a fair comparison.

The Royals say there is no reason to be concerned about the injury and I don't see any reason to be. Cuthbert will probably stay in short season ball for 2011, but it is possible that he could start the season in Kane County if he really impresses the Royals in Spring Training.

17. Yordano Ventura

In 2008, the Royals signed Yordano Ventura out of he Dominican for $28K. But as it usually goes on the international market the best players tend to not be the fattest bonus babies. Ventura represents a good piece for the Royals scouting department. When he signed he stood 5-11 with about a 140 pounds on his thin frame. He threw in the high 80s at the time, but now he has added twenty pounds and he throws absolute gas.

His fastball is a plus-plus pitch that consistently sits in the upper 90s. He also throws an improving curveball that some project as a plus pitch and a changeup has shown flashes. Being 5-11 and Dominican, Ventura has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. It seems to me as though every promising short Dominican righty draws comparisons to Pedro so I am not going to get too worked up about this.

The Royals should continue to play it safe with an arm with as much potential as Ventura's. Steadily improve the workload as he is progressed through the minors. However, first sign of trouble I wouldn't be opposed to moving him to the pen where he instantly becomes a future closer. If he can prove that he can handle the workload he has front end potential written all over him.

Ventura should spend 2011 in short season ball in either the Appalachian or Pioneer League.

16. Robinson Yambati

Given their similar ascension up the Royals prospect charts, their nationalities, and their ability to throw heat Ventura and Robinson Yambati could be discussed as a pair for a long time. Yambati has larger frame than Ventura as he stands at 6-3, 185. For this reason I am going to give Yambati the slight odd, because his body type doesn't scare me quite like Ventura's does.

Yambati's fastball isn't quite on Ventura's level but he has hit the mid 90s on the gun before. He also has curve and a change that both need development. Given his size I expect him to stick in the rotation and one day he could play a critical role for the organization as a rookie and on. Just imagine in 2015 the Royals are in a thick playoff race and a starter goes down due to injury. The Royals call up Yambati and instantly he steps right in and succeeds.

Yambati and Ventura are going to be part of a group of guys that will be called upon in crucial situations as rookies and second year guys. They are the guys that will be asked to fill the shows of their older counterparts. Think Tampa Bay Rays, who the past couple of years have had a wealth of pitching talent to take advantage of at the major league level.

Yambati could make the jump to Kane County at somepoint in 2011, or he could spend the season in short season ball building up his innings count as he prepares for the workload that full season baseball offers.

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