Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 10-6

10. Jeremy Jeffress RHP

By now we all know several things about Jeremy Jeffress. First, he came as part of the Greinke to Milwaukee deal. Second, he has had to serve a couple of suspensions due to recreational drug use. Third, Jeffress throws gas.

Upon acquiring Jeffress the Royals elected to use him strictly as a reliever, continuing on a decision the Brewers made with him last summer. This is definitely a good move. In the pen Jeffress stuff can play up even more and his "80" fastball can be used in the late innings to render hitters obsolete.

Jeffress also has a strong slider that sits between 78-83 mph. His changeup still needs a lot of work but as a late inning reliever it won't be crucial to his success that this pitch develops. Given the strength of his triple digit fastball his slider should be plenty to throw hitters off balance in the late innings.

Jeffress could be the closer of the future for Kansas City and could take the reins from Joakim Soria when his time in Kansas City comes to pass. However, that could still be several years away so the Jeffress will have plenty of time to get acclimated to late inning, high-leverage situations. He could be a Joel Zamaya type for Kansas City and along with Soria could form a vicious two-headed monster at the end of games as soon as this season begins.

Jeffress will likely begin the year in the big league pen, and as the season progress could be pushed into higher leverage situations. If Tejeda is dealt at the deadline like I expect, Jeffress is a prime candidate to become the right-handed set-up man.

9. Christian Colon SS

The Royals have made a living drafting right behind the consensus and in the 2010 draft this was no different. Heading into draft day the top three were very clearly Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon, and Manny Machado. The Royals picked 4th and many believed that prospects 4-40 could go in any order and be easily justified. The Royals elected to go with the guy I pinned as my choice roughly six months before the selection was made: Christian Colon.

Christian Colon immediately strengthened my good feeling regarding the pick when he signed for the MLB slot recommendation so that he could start his pro career. Due to this enthusiasm Colon was able to play in sixty games for Wilmington in 2010, which puts him ahead of the curve right from the start.

Colon's numbers weren't awe-inspiring in his debut but they were strong enough to make me extremely confident in his future. Colon has solid tools across the board. He could find his home run totals in the 10-15 range and the same could be said for his stolen base numbers. He should post a strong average throughout his career and his hit tool is obviously his best.

Many have compared Colon's floor to that of Placido Polanco and some have even thrown out Derek Jeter comparisons. Colon will probably fall somewhere in the middle and be a solid contributor with a long career, but never being a superstar. Colon can speak both Spanish and English and scouts rave about his leadership qualities.

With the acquisition of Alcides Escobar many expect Colon to shift over to second. However, the Royals are going to continue to develop him as a shortstop at least for the short term. Colon's range and arm have both been questioned, but the organization believes that his fundamentals are strong enough to be an adaquate fielding shortstop. If Escobar can hit, then Colon will eventually shift to second and be an above average fielder from the right side of the diamond.

Colon should begin the season in Northwest Arkansas and along with a top notch rotation and mega prospect Wil Myers they should push for a second Texas League title.

8. Jake Odorizzi RHP

Like Jeffress, Odorizzi came to Kansas City as a part of the package Kansas City received for Zack Greinke. Ironically some scouts have stated that Odorizzi could be a lesser version of Greinke at some point down the road. Odorizzi ranked as the top prospect with his former club. However, he comes in at just number eight on the Royal Revival Prospect Countdown.

Odorizzi was drafted in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft and many in the game regarded him as the top prep pitcher available. Odorizzi's reminds me a bit of Kansas' City's Tim Melville as a top right handed high school talent that isn't far into his development. Unlike Melville, Odorizzi has not yet tasted high A competition due to the Brewers conservative approach with him.

Odorizzi pitches out of a 3/4 arm slot and displays a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a slider in the high 70s, a curve in the mid 70s and a changeup that sits in the lows 80s. All of his secondary pitches need to show improvement, but scouts believe his curve could develop into an above average pitch.

Odorizzi may have the highest upside out of all the players the Royals received for Greinke. He could develop into a frontline starter and provide the Royals a right handed anchor for a predominately left-handed rotation. Odorizzi should begin the season in Wilmington and could filter up to Northwest Arkansas for the second half depending on his numbers and what happens ahead of him.

7. Chris Dwyer LHP

Now is the time that we reach what has been dubbed by some as the "Sinister Seven" this final group offers three future middle of the order superstar caliber bats and four southpaws with front of the rotation potential. The system is considered strong for its depth of prospects at all positions. However, the next seven prospects give Kansas City what some believe to be the best farm system in the history of system rankings.

Chris Dwyer is just another guy that shouldn't be a Royal. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He is a blend of a scout's choice and an overslot bonus baby. He was a rare draft eligible freshman and even though his numbers at Clemson weren't great, the Royals front office loved what they say and put the dollar sign on the muscle of $1.45 million.

Dwyer has a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s and a changeup that he has greatly improved since the time he was drafted it. But it is his 12-6, hammer curveball that turns him into an elite prospect. The pitch was rated by prospect guru John Sickels as the top curve among prospects. Coming from the same release point as his fastball it is a true out pitch in every sense of the word.

Injury precautions limited Dwyer's workload upon his promotion to the Texas League last season. But there are no concerns going forward. He should begin 2011 in one of the best minor league rotations in recent memory for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

6. Danny Duffy LHP

Duffy gave Royals nation a scare a year ago when he abruptly left the game to sort his life priorities. After some time off he decided that baseball was important and he returned to the game. After the Royals rebuilt his arm strength he found himself in the Naturals' rotation where he continued to post dominating minor league results and show an uptick in velocity.

Duffy has a career k rate of 10.5 and a career walk rate of 2.9. He is one of the most advanced arms in the system and was even granted an opportunity to make the big league club out of Spring Training. Duffy didn't take advantage of this and at times he seemed timid, displaying poor command. He also had flashes of brilliance with six strikeouts versus just five hits allowed in eight innings pitched.

Duffy has a fastball that has reached 97 mph, but works best when he is in the low or mid 90s. He also has a changeup that should be an above average offering and a curveball that could be scrapped for a slider that will fit better with his cross fire delivery.

Duffy will begin the season in the Northwest Arkansas Naturals rotation and with a strong season should find time in Kansas City by season's end.
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