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.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 40-36

40. Crawford Simmons LHP

Crawford Simmons was a Royals bonus baby of the 2009 draft. A two sport star in high school, Simmons had a scholarship in hand to attend Georgia Tech University in the Fall of 2010. Instead the Royals took a flyer on him in the 14th round and lured him away from collegiate athletics with a $450,000 signing bonus.

Simmons entered the 2010 season rated as the #26 best prospect in the Royals' system according to Baseball America. As you can see from the stats above he dominated 2011 and the fact that he ranks just fortieth in my personal countdown doesn't mean that his stock has slid one bit as a prospect.

Simmons possesses a three pitch mix of fastball, curveball, and changeup. His 12-6 curveball is at times a plus pitch and his change according to one scout his changeup was the best the Appalachian League had to offer in 2010. Though his secondary offerings are strong his prospect status will hinge on his ability to add some velocity to his fastball, which was clocked in just the high 80s entering the season.

Simmons doesn't get great arm speed, however he has a 6-2 frame that could suggest a slight increase in velocity. If he can obtain any sort of increase he has mid rotation potential. If he continues to work in the high 80s his command and plus secondary offerings should still allow him to one day pitch in the back end of a Major League rotation.

I expect Simmons to begin the year in extended Spring Training, or open as a member of a very strong Kane County Cougar rotation.

39. Lane Adams OF

Like Simmons, Adams was a two sport athlete in high school. Instead of gold though, Adams was a basketball standout at Red Oak High School in Oklahoma averaging over 30 points per game his senior season and obtaining a basketball scholarship for Cuanzo Martin and the Missouri State Bears.

Instead of heading to Missouri State and playing in the Missouri Valley Conference though, Adams was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 13th round of the 2009 draft and signed away from his basketball scholarship with a $300,000 bonus.

Lane is a high upside guy that could rise fast if it comes together (think Hilton Richardson). In Idaho Falls he displayed good contact with promising pop in a 41 game stint. He also was a perfect 8 for 8 in the stolen base department.

I have read that he plays an all out style in the outfield and has a strong arm that could profile in right. He should team up with Hilton Richardson this summer in Kane County. Hopefully the good baseball environment can benefit the pair of them and they can translate those tools into results and leap up the prospect charts.

38. Justin Marks LHP

The Royals knew that if they would have declined DeJesus's option and offered him arbitration with him declining they would have obtained a supplemental draft pick in return. Instead they elected to accept the option and trade DeJesus for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. Since the trade Dayton Moore explained that the club and it's scouts felt as though Marks was the equivalent to a supplemental pick and thus a major reason why the pulled the trigger on the deal.

Marks was drafted out of Louisville in the third round of the 2009 draft after a very strong collegiate career for the Cardinals. Currently Marks possesses four average pitches: fastball, slider, curveball, and a changeup. Unfortunately Marks doesn't progress a plus pitch, which could extremely limit his development.

Marks pitches out of a 3/4s arm slot and tends to get an above average amount of groundballs as he pitches downhill very well. Marks is extremely polished and I don't see much projection left. Since his command is strong and he already knows how to use his arsenal of pitches, he could rise quickly. Although with the quality of arms ahead of him he may not have the stuff to pass them.

Marks could begin the season in either Wilmington or Northwest Arkansas. I think they will determine where he begins based on how other pitchers pitch in Spring with Marks taking the opposite spot depending on which rotation needs another arm.

37. Humberto Arteaga SS

I don't know much about Arteaga or Caxito, but I do know that they were both signed to huge bonus as Latin American shortstops. The organization obviously thinks very much of both and their signings have both greatly improved the depth that the Royals have at the short stop position.

Arteaga was signed out of Venezuela in August for a bonus of $1.1 million. He is about 6 feet tall weighing 160 pounds. Here is a quote from Rene Francisco Royals assistant to GM of International Operations regarding Arteaga's bat:

“It’s more of a contact, line-drive type bat. It’s a simple, compact stroke. We think he’s going to make a lot of contact.”

The sixteen year old Arteaga was a switch hitter at the time of the signing, however the Royals are planning to move him to just the right side of the plate.

Francisco also said this about Arteaga's defense:

"He's a surehanded shortstop, (His range is) enough to play shortstop and make the play from the hole. His quickness, his anticipation at shortstop, how to position himself—it's really, really good for his age."

The Royals had been following Arteaga since he was just 13 years old. I expect Arteaga to follow the Cheslor Cuthbert path and begin the year in Stateside baseball, most likely in the Arizona League.

36. Orlando Caxito SS

Caxito is the man of many names; however when he played this summer this is the name he went by so I am going to use it here.

RoyalRevival broke the story of a third major international signing by Kansas City after Dayton Moore mentioned it in a 610 sports interview a year ago. After I wrote a blog entry about the intriguing quote, several sources used my article to create some speculation of their own (Keith Law and MLBTradeRumors). I thought that the signing could be outfield prospect Wagner Mateo, however a couple of weeks later we found out that it was a short stop by the name of Paul Carlixte.

Nearly a year after the signing Caxito still remains a prospect mystery to the Royals fanbase. All we really know is that he has a propensity to aliases and that he is a rangy shortstop with smooth hands, a quick bat and plays beyond his years. He generated strong reviews in Instructionals last September and even though his numbers in the Dominican League were less than spectacular I am still very interested in the development of this player.

He should hit the states in 2011 and I am going to venture a guess that it will be in the Applachian League.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Billy Butler Extended

When Dayton Moore took over in June of 2006, he promised that the Royals would lock up players long term when they were deserving. Obviously the team would not be able to lock up every young star. But they would be more willing to spend than they had been in the previous regime.

Well since 2006, the Royals have had three players that in my opinion have deserved to be extended: Joakim Soria, Zack Greinke, and Billy Butler. So far Dayton Moore is 3 for 3 on fulfilling his promise.

Joakim Soria is locked up thru 2014 on what could be the most team friendly deal in baseball. How often can you lock up an elite closer and have the final three years on the deal be club options?

Zack Greinke was locked up to a four year deal just before his 2009 Cy Young campaign. Even by extending him thru 2012 it was determined that his controlled years didn't quite matchup with the Process's timetable to success. Match that with the fact that Greinke was threatening a no show for spring training and the Royals were forced to make a move. The trade netted the Royals roughly twenty-three years of major league service time control in Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi. All because Dayton Moore and the front office made a great move and signed Greinke to a team friendly extension at just the right time.

Now two years later the Royals have extended Butler for potentially five more years, by buying out his remaining three years of arbitration, one year of free agency, and a club option for a second.

The terms of the deal are as follows: $2 million signing bonus, $3 million for 2011, $8 million fo 2012, 2013 and 2014, plus a club option for $12.5 million for 2015 with a buyout of just $1 million.

This deal isn't just good for the Kansas City Royals, this deal is an absolute steal for the Kansas City Royals.

I'm sure by now that everyone reading this blog has seen the list that Butler joined after his 2009 season. You know the list that includes just five players besides Butler that had hit 50+ doubles, 20+ homers at 23 years old or younger in a single season. You know the list that now includes only Butler, Hammerin Hank Greenberg, A-Rod, Albert "The Machine" Pujols, Grady Sizemore, and Miguel Cabrera.

One season later Butler finds himself on another exclusive list. Over the past two seasons only five other players under twenty-five have posted an OPS as good as Butler's .855 figure: Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, and Troy Tulowitzki.

According to currently the market value for 1 WAR (win above replacement) is around $4.5-5 million. Basically this means that if Butler was on the open market this season he would have been coming off a season with a 3.4 WAR making him worth about $15 million conservatively. Not to mention that Butler is going to be just twenty-five for the 2011 season.

If Butler continues to be a 3.4 WAR and doesn't improve at all, he would accumulate about 17.5 WAR over the length of the five year deal. Using the current 10% inflation rate in MLB salaries per year these wins would be worth about $93.5 million conservatively. Butler over the course of those same five years would make just $42.5 million.

Keep in mind that is IF Butler shows no improvement on his 2010 campaign. If Butler were to progress to be 4 WAR guy during what would have been his arbitration years, then a 4.5 WAR guy in 2014, and a 5 WAR guy in his 2015 season. His value during the next five years would have been right around $120 million.

Even if Butler regresses and becomes a 2.5 WAR player over the next five seasons, his value still comes in at just below $70 million. So as you can see this deal has relatively low risk, and has a reward that is potentially very, very high.

Entering the 2011 season many speculated that whichever player performed better between Kila Ka'aihue and Butler would be kept while the other would then be shopped in order to create space for Eric Hosmer.

However, entering 2011 Butler's long term appeal may have been too great to pass up the opportunity to lock him up. Butler is now locked up through his age 25-29 seasons, this is to say that according to most aging curves he is locked up right through the prime years of his career. Meanwhile Ka'aihue who should be under team control through 2015, is currently locked up through his age 27-31 year old seasons. These are also prime years, however by the end of his arbitration years Ka'aihue could be regressing a bit as a player. Butler on the other hand will be hitting his peak.

So what's the problem? The Royals possibly have two strong hitters for the middle of their lineup that hit from the opposite sides of the plate through 2015? Well it is a good problem to have, but the Royals also have a player that they believe could be the best of the bunch that could be major league ready by June of this season.

This is not to say that Kila will not be giving an opportunity. On the contrary as far as he is concerned the next one and a half seasons will be the most important of his career. I say one and a half because in about that amount of time Eric Hosmer will not just be knocking at the major league door, instead he will be running right through it.

If Kila and Butler both destroy the ball for the next season and a half the Royals will have a great trade chip at the 2012 deadline in Ka'aihue as the Royals would probably prefer to keep the right handed bat that has the longer track record. However, if by chance Kila dominates and Butler fails to progress the Royals could hang onto Kila given that he will be under team control just as long as Butler (I find the latter of these two scenarios extremely unlikely.)

If Kila is just an average hitter in 2011, then we will see Hosmer in Kansas City even sooner and the Royals should still be able to fetch a solid prospect in return for roughly 5 years of service for Kila.

*There have also been discussions that Hosmer could make a move to the outfield. He is a decent runner and has a very strong arm, but having watched him play for half the summer in Northwest Arkansas I just can't see that happening.

I think that overall this extension means that more than likely Ka'aihue's days in Kansas City are numbered, if they weren't already. I think that unlike the Greinke deal Butler's now coincides with the timetable for contention, meaning that he will not be traded two years into the deal. (Unless it is determined that Mike Moustakas cannot handle third base.)

Butler wants to be in Kansas City, if he loves the city. He has clearly given the Royals a major hometown discount. But if Butler continues to progress as a hitter and continues to establish himself on the premier hitting lists of professional baseball then the value that the Royals will receive in this deal cannot be overstated.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To the Left, To the Left

So finally the Royals have turned their rotation into a mildly respectable unit with the signings of two veteran lefties. By now everyone reading this knows that these two lefties are Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen. I am also going to guess that everyone has heard all of the praise about the Francis deal, and that most readers realize that there is a strong possibility that he pitches well in 2011. I would agree with this statement and looking at the numbers closely it seems like this could be a steal of a deal.

On the other side of the coin is Bruce Chen who also represents a good deal for the Royals at just another 2 million gaurunteed. However, unlike Francis his numbers seem to suggest a drop off from his 2010 results. Nonetheless I am a fan of this deal as well.

With the two signings the Royals rotation is upgraded considerably, and with six major league ready starters Sean O'Sullivan should be allowed to begin the year in Omaha. There he can attempt to learn how to strike some hitters out, an aspect of his game that he is going to need to improve on in order to find any success at the Major League level.

Also, with the two signings the 2011 Royals go from having one of the worst rotations in organizational history to having a rotation that should be stronger than the 2010 version.

But wait the 2010 version had Zack Greinke!

Well based on the results Zack Greinke had an era of 4.17. Let's look at last year's starting six compared to what the Royals should have in 2011.

As you can see compared with the team a year ago the 2011 rotation actually comes out in a pretty favorable light. I also expect that we are going to see a much stronger defensive unit this season in Kansas City particularly in the infield. As a result of this I think Luke Hochevar is going to take a huge step forward and become a very stable starter once every five days. I am sure that Hochevar is also aware of the growing army of pitching prospects in the minors behind him meaning. His deadline for proving himself is growing nearer.

There are those, myself included that have at times viewed 2011 as the waiting line to the midnight premier for when the clock strikes 12, or as I should say the calendar flips to 2012. However, in the next couple of months I am going to try and rile up as much enthusiasm as possible, because it is my opinion that sports are much more enjoyable when there is at least the hope of victory. The signings of Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis provide just a little more hope.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Once upon a time a man named Ted Turner purchased a small Atlanta television station called UHF. The station at the time was in financial disarray and boasted the lowest ratings of the six primary Atlanta stations. But Turner decided that with a bit of innovation he could salvage the station and turn it into a money maker.

Turner began by renaming the station WTCG, which obviously was an acronym for Watch This Channel Grow. But really, that is what it stood for. But the name wasn't the reason for the station's turnaround. The reason for the station's turnaround was a concept that Turner employed called counterprogramming. Basically what this meant was that WTCG would show the exact opposite of what was being aired on the top Atlanta stations at the same time slot.

If you didn't feel like watching the six o'clock news, don't worry just tune into WTCG and watch reruns of homesteader Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford defend their ranch in the New Mexico territory. If you are the churchy type don't fret, instead of watching worship services on Sunday mornings you could flip over to channel 17 and watch Academy Award Theatre. But most importantly if you weren't the type that got caught up in the primetime sitcom lineups, WTCG offered a different type of lineup that you could watch, a lineup that included nine major league hitters.

Of course this is where Turner really made headway on the station's turnaround from worst to first. (A trend that his Atlanta Braves would become famous for in the 1991 season.) Turner put the Braves on every night in front of a massive television audience, because of this Turner's television station ascended to SuperStation status.

So what does all of this have to do with the Kansas City Royals or even professional baseball? Well, bare with me here but I would like to suggest a radical idea that if executed properly could add numerous wins to the final total of the 2011 Kansas City Royals. Are you ready for it?

I suggest that the Kansas City Royals counterprogram their 2011 rotation. Meaning that I believe the Royals should take a proactive approach at their rotation by pairing their top starters against their opponents lesser starters. This also would mean sacrificing the games in which they face other team’s top starters by starting their own back end guys.

Now before you press the X in the upper right corner of your browser, bare with me. As of today the Royals rotation is as follows (era projection per Bill James):

Luke Hochevar (4.65)
Vin Mazzaro (4.05)
Jeff Francis (4.45) Sub in your veteran of choice.
Kyle Davies (4.89)
Sean O'Sullivan (4.88)

Basically with this rotation the Royals have five guys who are middle to back end of the rotation starters at best. So if Kansas City goes with the traditional order with the top guys at the front, then in every game the Royals will enter the contest with the lesser of the two starters taking the mound.

If the Royals take a proactive approach they can at least have a favorable matchup occasionally, perhaps even twice every five games if a couple of our starters pitch well this season. Think of it this way if Hochevar is paired up against another team's ace in every start, the Royals are going to lose a vast majority of those games. However, if Hochevar faces another team's number 4 or 5 starter then that is a matchup that could very well favor the Royals the majority of the time.

Let's look at the first four games of the season against the Angels. Traditionally these are the matchups that we could expect:

Game 1: Hochevar (4.65) vs Weaver (3.45)
Game 2: Mazzaro (4.05) vs Haren (3.52)
Game 3: Veteran Free Agent Signing/Francis (4.45) vs Santana (4.14)
Game 4: Davies (4.89) vs Piniero (4.06)

Looking at these matchups every single one favors the Los Angeles Angels. The smallest difference in ERA between the two starters is .31 in Game 3 and then .53 in Game 2. While in Games 1 and 4 it appears that the matchups aren't even close.

However, if the Royals swap Hochevar and Davies in these matchups, they all of the sudden have turned one of these matchups into just a .59 difference in projected era. This makes the match up a more favorable one from a Royals perspective.

If the Royals were to get even more bold they could turn to Mazzaro in Game 3. Move Hochevar to game 2, Francis to game 4, and Davies to game 1.

With this game 1 continues to be extremely favorable to the Angels, but a loss is a loss so why not just let this one be as lopsided as necessary to create better matchups in the future? In Game 2 you continue to have an unfavorable matchup, however it isn't quite as unfavorable as the traditional lineup of Hochevar facing Weaver. In Game 3, the Royals even have the edge in one of the matchups with Davis being .09 better than Santanta. Finally in game 4 you also have a fairly balanced matchup of Francis just being .40 worse than Piniero.

With a rotation as bad as the Royals 2011 projects to be, the matchups aren't all of the sudden going to scream out in the Royals favor even if you employ this tactic that I have deemed as "counterprogramming." However, it seems a bit dumb to lineup and march straight at the British lines. "That Gates is a damned fool." The Patriot reference? Anyone?

Basically what I am saying is the Royals can line up the pitchers in a traditional way and let themselves be put into an unfavorable matchup night in and night out. Or they can manipulate their rotation in a way that hasn't been done before, by sacrificing certain matchups as lost causes and choosing to fight the battles that have the greater opportunity of success.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 45-41

Pressing on as we begin to get into the meat of top system in baseball.

45. Jorge Bonifacio OF

The teams in the Dominican Summer League very rarely have standout offensive performers. However, in 2010 Jorge Bonifacio was just that as a seventeen year old centerfielder. With the DSL Royals Bonifacio posted a .335/.429/.476 slash line, which compared to his team's collective slash of .236/.337/.304 is extremely impressive. Did I mention that Bonifacio was just seventeen and plays a premium position?

It is also rare that a player beginning the year in the DSL gets a promotion to states side baseball. Part of this is because of legal issues concerning visas. Considering Bonifacio did this as a seventeen year old is even more impressive.

In the DSL Bonifacio displayed a strong blend, of contact ability, power potential, and plate discipline by garnering 26 walks compared to 27 strikeouts. However, after his promotion his strikeout rate went thru the roof and his numbers collapsed as a result.

Because of his strong 2010 campaign, Bonifacio is ahead of the curve progression wise. He should spend 2011 in short season ball at either Idaho Falls, or rookie league Arizona. Both of these environments are hitter friendly and could help him gain some confidence. However, if the Royals want to challenge him more they could send him to rookie league Burlington like they did with Yowill Espinal. If Bonifacio has a strong 2011 season, expect him to get his first shot at full season ball in 2012.

44. Manny Pina C

This summer I had the pleasure of watching Manuel Pina first hand for most of the summer and I can attest to the opinion that Pina is a top notch major league ready catcher... defensively. Pina has a strong arm and excellent pitch blocking ability. However, some scouts have questioned his game calling ability. Personally I don't have an opinion on this and I couldn't say one way or another whether Pina does a good job setting up hitters or not, but I do believe that this is often an overvalued trait of catchers that is nearly impossible to statistically find evidence of one way or another.

Like Tim Smith Pina was acquired a season and a half ago for righty Danny Gutierrez. Since the trade Gutierrez has experienced a dip in velocity and has lost much of his luster as a potential top pitching prospect. On the opposite end Smith and Pina returned to the Texas League in 2010 and both basically duplicated their 2009 performances.

Pina's offensive numbers left much to be desired in 2010, but he did have a knack for the timely rbi. Pina's bat isn't good but it isn't awful. With his defensive abilities he will probably have a major league career at some point as a back up catcher. Anything he can do with the bat will just be gravy.

Pina enters 2011 as the third string catcher in the Royals organization. As of right now he is ticketed to be the starter in Omaha for the freshly christened Omaha Storm Chasers. However, with Kendall already on the shelf he will have the opportunity to provide some Spring competition with Lucas May and Brayan Pena, both of which are offensive first catchers.

Given that team's usually prefer to have on offensive oriented and one defensive oriented catcher on the roster Pina could make some noise with a strong Spring. Also, by default if either May or Pena get injured in Spring Pina will begin the 2011 season on the Major League roster.

43. Yowill Espinal 2B

Espinal was a bonus baby for the Royals when Dayton Moore established the Royals on the Latin American market after he took the helm, although now his few hundred thousand dollar bonus seems like chump change compared to the bonuses by top Latin players now. In 2008, Espinal was given an opportunity to prove himself stateside. He struggled, however entering the 2009 season Espinal was considered the #29 prospect for the the Kansas City Royals. He has since disappeared from Baseball America's top 30.

Espinal's biggest problem has been his contact skills, but he has drawn walks at a decent rate. In 2010 he struckout over 1 time per game played. Not good. The potential is there for Espinal with the raw tools that he possesses. But at some point he will need to begin to harness those tools and translate them to game success.

Espinal hasn't necessarily earned it, but I would like to see him given the opportunity to prove himself in full season ball in 2011. Hopefully in a good environment at Kane County he can begin to make the most out of the skills he has.

42. Patrick Keating RHP

The Royals drafted Patrick Keating in the 20th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Florida. Up to that point Keating had had somewhat of a disappointing collegiate career. At Florida he was a starter and had posted an era of 5.12 for his senior year. The Royals scouting department liked his stuff and with a move to the pen and a small change to his delivery Keating went to Idaho Falls and posted a 1.78 era in 30 innings. Out of nowhere the Royals had suddenly found themselves a very solid relief pitching prospect.

Keating throws a mid 90s four seamer, with a hard slider. Entering the season Keating was getting by primarily on his four seamer, but I saw a good slider at times in Springdale and I think he can one day pitch it consistently enough for it to play as another above average offering. Keating's numbers were strong in his sophomore season and he should begin 2011 as a member of the Storm Chasers bullpen.

If all goes right for Keating he could one day be a setup man. More likely he will be a solid middle relief guy. Keating could reach Kansas City at some point in 2011.

41. Hilton Richardson OF

Entering the 2010 season, I viewed Hilton Richardson as one of the most likely prospects to struggle. This was because of a highly inflated BABIP and the fact that he was moving from a hitter friendly environment to the much more pitcher friendly Midwest League. It probably didn't help Richardson that he had to play in Burlington and on a team that struggled mightily for much of the season.

For the year Richardson posted a line of .204/.272/.316, but even with such a poor year with the bat Richardson was able to post an on base percentage 68 points higher than his batting average and a career high in homers (I am aware that he played about twice as many games as he had in any previous season).

Richardson looks like a ballplayer and possesses the physical tools to put it all together and rise extremely fast through the system. He has a football player's build, a strong arm, and good speed that he translates both on the bases and in centerfield.

I've got my fingers crossed for Richardson, because the potential reward is higher than most hitters in the organization and probably the highest out of all outfield prospects not named Brett Eibner.

Speaking of Eibner it will be interesting to see where they assign him to begin 2011, because if he goes to Kane County, then it will mean that Richardson will have to shift to right in what would be an extremely toolsy outfield. But if Eibner goes to Wilmington Richardson should return to the Midwest League as a centerfielder and leadoff hitter once again. This time though it should be in a much better baseball environment in Kane County.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Carl PavaNO

Half an hour ago mlbtraderumors reported that Heyman has tweeted that the Royals and Pirates have become other options for Pavano. Now we have heard that both the Nationals and Twins have been interested in Pavano so it is a bit of a shock that the Royals have suddenly become a suitor for the righty's services.

Common sense tells me that the Royals would have to offer Pavano an extra year in order to sign him away from either of the aforementioned clubs. This means that the Royals would probably have to invest three years to the thirty-four year old Pavano and his career 4.34 ERA.

Pavano would provide an upgrade to the 2011 rotation. But I can't imagine the upgrade being as much as his 2011 salary would indicate. Also, he is going to require a multiyear commitment which to me is the red flag.

Right now it is an ideal situation that the Royals not only have a colossal wave of prospects about to hit Kansas City, but that they also have no guaranteed contracts for 2012. If the Royals give Pavano three years then there will be an overpaid veteran on staff thru 2013. This would be an extremely unwise move.

Sure Pavano sounds nice when you think about the potential nightmare rotation of 2011. But as soon as 2012 the Royals could be looking at a rotation that includes Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, and Chris Dwyer among others. Do you really want to go ahead a spot in 2012 to a pitcher that is already subpar? Not to mention 2013 when the prospects are even better and Pavano has regressed even more.

Sure in 2010 Pavano had a strong campaign for the division champion Minnesota Twins. He posted a 3.75 era, with an ERA+ of 111. But since his great 2004 season in Florida that was his first season as an above average pitcher. He doesn't seem to be a very wise pitcher to invest millions upon millions of dollars and mutliple years in.

I do believe that the Royals should sign a starter or two on one year deals. I would prefer one to be an innings eater being either Kevin Milwood or Jeff Francis, and the other to be on a reclamation project in the Ben Sheets of Justin Duchscherer mold. What the Royals should not do is invest multiple years in any of the remaining free agent starters. None of them are worth the investment. Not one.

Mark my words if the Royals sign Pavano, they will regret it by the time his contract expires.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Prospect Countdown: 50-46

50. Kevin Chapman LHP

Due to tommy john surgery in 2008, Chapman had only logged 50 innings as a member of the Florida Gators pitching staff heading into the 2010 season. However, in 2010 he established himself as the top relief arm and closer for the Gator staff. Chapman possesses a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a slider that moves from one plane to another with great depth. He also has a changeup that serves as a timing pitch, but not necessarily a pitch he can go to on a regular basis.

Entering the 2010 draft many scouts viewed Chapman as the top closer in the class and a potential 2nd round selection. There were some that even viewed Chapman and his 6-4, 215 pound frame as a guy that could make a smooth transition to the rotation. However, this is obviously not the approach that the Royals have taken.

The Royals nabbed Chapman in the fifth round and he should join his former Gator teammate on the fast track to the major league bullpen, a bullpen that in a few years should produce some ridonkulous strikeout rates.

49. Michael Antonio SS

Entering his senior campaign, many people viewed Antonio as one of the top high school prospects in the 2010 draft. However, Antonio struggled which caused his draft stock to plummet to a point that when the Royals drafted him in the 3rd round many viewed it as an over-draft. At this point in time I have a lot of faith in the Royals scouting department and I think that in their eyes this wasn't a cost saving move and was probably viewed more as a potential steal. After all if Antonio wouldn't have struggled in his senior season he would have never been available in the 3rd round anyway.

Many scouts believe that Antonio is going to be pushed off short onto a corner position due to his increasing size. Antonio isn't a good runner, but many believe his bat will be very solid. According to one publication Antonio's bat has .300+ ability and solid average power.

Antonio could be a potential steal for the Royals or could one day be looked at as a wasted pick. If it is true that Antonio can't handle shortstop then I would like to see him shifted to a corner outfield spot as opposed to third base. I expect Antonio to return to short season ball in 2011, and begin the year in Idaho Falls

48. Murray Watts 1B

Murray Watts is a guy that I could see becoming a cult favorite among Royals bloggers. At Arkansas State his Junior season he dominated posting a 1.106 OPS, the Royals took notice and decided that he was worth a 28th round selection in the 2010 draft. The story reminds me a great deal of Clint Robinson's who played very well during his time at Troy University. Like Robinson, Watts was assigned to Idaho Falls after signing as a draft pick from the middle rounds. Once at Idaho Falls both players tore up the circuit and gained some attention.

Like Robinson, Watts should begin his first full season in the pitcher friendly Midwest League, and it will be interesting to see what he does from there. I like Watts, but not as much as some. I think Watts has legitimate power potential, probably more than Robinson. But I also think he will have contact troubles as he advanced. That is always a concern from tall players and I don't think that Watts will be an exception. (think Richie Sexson)

Watts will be old for his level, so unless the Royals want to get aggressive with him and send him to Wilmington to start the season (a move that I would endorse) he will need to produce consistently. Because like all older prospects, he can't afford to stall at any stop because time and age are not on his side.

47. Nathan Adcock RHP

Adcock is 6-5, 190. He offers the Royals a projectable frame with a fastball that sits in the 88-93 mph range. With his size it would not be shocking to see him either add some velocity as a starter, or dial up his stuff a bit in a move to the bullpen. Adcock also has a curveball that in 2009 was considered the best in the Seattle Mariner organization. However, at this point most believe that he possesses three average pitches, but no plus offerings.

The good news for Adcock is that he has a reputation as a downhill thrower and has consistently had an above average groundball rate. The bad news is that he doesn't have that plus offering and he throws from an "inverted w" which is a health concern moving forward.

The Royals claimed that they viewed Adcock as a rotation candidate upon drafting him in the Rule 5 roughly a month ago. However, since then I haven't seen his name discussed at all as a potential option. I think he will pitch mediocre in Spring and be offered back to the Pirates, who will accept the 25K option to repurchase his rights.

46. Lucas May C

May came over to Kansas City from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Scott Podsednik deal. He was having a strong season for the Dodger's triple A affiliate and had posted a .296/.352/.496 slash line in the most hitter friendly park in triple A baseball. Many expected his numbers to take a dive in Omaha (myself included), however he was a pleasant surprise and continued to hit with power. His OPS actually was 20 point higher in Omaha than Albuquerque.

May's receiving skills are a work in progress, but according to Baseball America he has the tools to be a plus defender. He has an above average arm, and has drastically improved his game calling abilities. I don't believe his upside is as high as other catchers in the system but he doesn't have a glaring weakness, unless his bat simply fails to translate to the Major League level as I suspect. I hope I am wrong though, because if he ever finds a way to duplicate those triple A, numbers then he is a top notch starting catcher.

Lucas May entered the season as the number 17 prospect in the Dodgers system, but even after a very strong 2010 season he should drop in his team ranking due to the strength of the Royals system. For some reason I am just not that high on May and I probably and ranking him much lower than he deserves. Nonetheless, at this point I would like to see him as the opening day starter at catcher.