#34 Yem Prades
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent in March, 2011
From: La Habana, Cuba
In way of scouting reports, there isn't a lot of information available on Cuban outfielder Yem Prades. In a year highlighted by big bucks and hype being thrown at Leon'ys Martin, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jorge Soler the Royals elected to go under the radar by signing Prades.
Earlier this year I advocated for the signing of Leon'ys Martin in part because I felt he could help Arguelles transition to American life while in Wilmington. Instead the Royals stealthily added Prades to the roster and as the season progressed he began to catch not only my eye, but several other members of the Royals Blogosphere and Twitterverse.
The primary reason for Prades rapid rise into the Royals' fan prospect conscience was the fact that despite never playing baseball on American soil, Prades held his own in the pitcher friendly environment of Frawley Stadium. Of course calling Frawley pitcher friendly always feels like a bit of an understatement, but I digress. In his first professional season Prades posted a line of .289/.313/.413.
While I'm very impressed with Prades ability to post a strong batting average in Wilmington in his first professional season I'm also skeptical for a couple of reasons. First, Prades struck out in over 20% of his at bats. Surprisingly this is barely higher than the league average of 19.7%, but Prades also only walked 3.1% of the time. The Carolina League average for walks is 8.1%.
The biggest reason for Prades' walk rate woes is his astronomical O-Swing% of 62.7%. Compared to the Carolina League O-Swing % average of 25.8% it isn't hard to see why Prades walk percentage is less than half of the league average. But to compound this problem is the fact that Prades is actually below average at making contact on pitches outside the strike zone. This is evidenced by his 52.4% O-Contact % compared to the league O-Contact% of 67.1%.
I'm optimistic that Prades can refine his approach as he receives more at bats in full season ball. After all until this season I'm sure he was one of many Latin American prospects taught to play under the mantra of "you can't walk off the island." Given his age and reasonably success in Wilmington last summer, Prades should be assigned to Northwest Arkansas to begin the 2012 season. But it is also possible that he could return to Wilmington if the Royals want him to further prove himself in the Carolina League.
Picture credit: Milb.com