Monday, March 31, 2014

Northwest Arkansas Naturals 2014 Preview

LF - Whit Merrifield
CF - Lane Adams
RF - Jorge Bonifacio
3B - Cheslor Cuthbert
SS - Orlando Calixte
2B - Justin Trapp*
1B - Mark Threlkeld*
C - Juan Graterol

Jason Adam
Greg Billo*
Tim Melville
Noel Arguelles
Sugar Ray Marimon

C - Micah Gibbs*, C - Parker Morin*, IF - Angel Franco, IF - Yowill Espinal, OF - Ethan Chapman*,  OF - Roman Hernandez, OF - Edinson Rincon

Scott Alexander, Angel Baez*, Malcom Culver, Cody Fassold*, Andy Ferguson, Hassan Pena*, J.C. Sulbaran, Andrew Triggs

  • There are 9 new faces that will put on a Naturals uniform for the 2014 season.  One of the more notable debuts is 23 year old pitcher Greg Billo.
  • To begin the year, the roster doesn't look all that great to those who pay attention to prospects and all things Minor Leagues, but with a fully loaded Wilmington Blue Rocks roster, there will be some big name players that could easily arrive in Springdale by mid-season (Dozier, Starling, Mondesi, Almonte, Manaea, etc.)
  • Top Prospect Kyle Zimmer, who ended last year's season with the Naturals, will stay in Arizona for extended Spring Training to get some work in while recovering from biceps tendinitis in his shoulder.  He is expected to join the Naturals on May 20th.
  • Jason Adam returns to the Naturals after throwing 144 innings in 2013.  Although Jason posted a career high K rate, he's coming off a disappointing year on the bump as he also logged career highs in ERA (5.13) and BB/9 (3.38).  As of now, his ceiling is that of a back-end starter.  His pitches are solid, but lack the flash as they once did back in his Instructional League days.  His fastball velocity has dipped the past couple seasons and if he can somehow work his way back to his rookie year throwing 98 mph, his status has a rotation candidate will rise drastically.
  • Adam won't be the only pitcher to watch at Arvest Ballpark.  Newcomer Greg Billo makes his Double-A debut coming off a successful 2013 campaign as he worked his back from Tommy John surgery.  In 40 innings for Lexington, he posted a 1.35 ERA, his best since 2011, 38 K's, 13 BB and 6 ER, along with a FIP of 2.93.  
  • Ranked as #4 in the Royals' Top 10 Prospects from Baseball America, RF Jorge Bonifacio will come back to Springdale for a second season only because age is definitely on his side.  The 20 year old has a pure swing with a lot of power potential.  Between Wilmington and a short stint with the Naturals in '13, his slash line was .298/.372/.429 with 4 HR and 55 RBI.  Scouts still say the power is there and will arrive soon.  It will be nice to see Bonifacio display that power in a full season at Arvest Ballpark.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals Ballpark Preview

In the second of four full-season previews, Nicholas Ian Allen, formerly the Assistant General Manager of the Helena Brewers, offers insight, tips and tricks to make the most out of your experience when visiting a Minor League ballpark.

Ticket Information:

  • $13 Super Premium
  • $11 Premium
  • $9 Reserved
  • $8 Berm

Receive a $1 discount on each level by purchasing in advance

The Naturals offer a wider range of tickets discounts than the Triple-A club, including buy-one-get-one offers for customers of two local sponsors on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Additionally, on Wednesday the club will give a free ticket to all fans if the Naturals win.

For the Kids: 

  • Parents can take advantage of the Kids Eat Free promotion on Sundays, and receive a hot dog, chips and soda. There will also be special kids-themes promotions on Sundays.
  • The kid’s club offers a free option (which includes free ticket to five selected games) and well as a paid “MVK” membership, which offers free entry to all Sunday home games and a t-shirt.

Best Bets:

  • By all indications, the staff in Northwest Arkansas is one of the best in professional baseball. The club has won national awards for the organization as a whole, and features a beautiful ballpark. The Naturals are also one of the most community minded teams in baseball and offer a wide range of programs that provide fundraising opportunities for charity as well as honor and recognition for members of the military.
  • Again, concessions are where most Minor League teams really make their money. Therefore, fans should take advantage of nights that offer food and/or drink discounts. The Naturals offer daily specials on Thursdays, which give discounts on beer and soda (of course) as well as $1 peanuts and mozzarella sticks. Mondays offer $1 hot dogs, and kid’s receive a free meal on Sundays (hot dog, chips and soda).
  • The Naturals are more involved in themed promotions that many other teams. Among the special nights this season are Star Wars Night (5/3), Thunder Chickens Night (6/6), Christmas in July (7/24), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Night (7/25) to name a few. The club will also offer a selection of giveaway nights including a t-shirt, rubber ducky and Wil Myers bobblehead.
  • Get an exclusive tour of Averest Ballpark Monday-Friday, year round. Call ahead to schedule and bring a group of up to 100.

2014 Royal Revival Staff Projections

Landon Adams
  1. Royals Record: 91-71
  2. Final AL Central Standings: Tigers, Royals (-3), Indians (-8), White Sox (-17), Twins (-18)
  3. Team MVP: Eric Hosmer
  4. Pitcher of the Year: James Shields
  5. Royals with 20+ Home Runs: 2 (Eric Hosmer & Mike Moustakas)
  6. Leader in Home Runs: Mike Moustakas (26)
  7. Highest batting average: Nori Aoki (.311)
  8. Gold Gloves: Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon
  9. Jason Vargas ERA: 4.12
  10. Bubba Starling line: .248/.317/.372
  11. Team leader in WAR: Salvador Perez
  12. All-Star(s): Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, James Shields
  13. Team leader in stolen bases: Jarrod Dyson
  14. Eric Hosmer slash line: .301/.367/.469
  15. Lorenzo Cain games played: 127
  16. 1st Round Pick in 2014 Draft: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian University
  17. Midseason Trade: Royals reacquire Chris Getz for Johnny Giavotella to replace the injured Omar Infante.
  18. Number of runners thrown out by Salvador Perez: 44%
  19. End of season headline: Royals Knocked out in 1 Game Playoff, End Playoff Drought!
  20. Royals surprise performer & their WAR be: Nori Aoki - 4.4 WAR
Nicholas Ian Allen @NicholasIAllen
  1. Royals Record: 91-71
  2. Final AL Central Standings: Tigers, Royals (-2), Indians (-8), Twins (-25), White Sox (-28)
  3. Team MVP: Eric Hosmer
  4. Pitcher of the Year: Greg Holland
  5. Royals with 20+ Home Runs: Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas 
  6. Leader in Home Runs: Hosmer
  7. Highest batting average: Hosmer
  8. Gold Gloves: Perez, Escobar
  9. Jason Vargas ERA: 4.40
  10. Bubba Starling line:.275/.370/.475
  11. Team leader in WAR: Hosmer
  12. All-Star(s): Hosmer, Gordon, Holland  
  13. Team leader in stolen bases: Jarrod Dyson
  14. Eric Hosmer slash line:.305/.357/.451
  15. Lorenzo Cain games played: 125
  16. 1st Round Pick in 2014 Draft: Michael Gettys RHP/OF, Gainesville (GA) High School 
  17. Midseason Trade: Royals trade entire NW Arkansas roster for Giancarlo Stanton. If the Marlins resist, Royals settle for Chris Carter from Houston or Kyle Blanks from San Diego in exchange for a mid-level prospect. The club may also make a run at the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija or Brewers' Yovani Gallardo if Bruce Chen and/or Jeremy Guthrie and/or Jason Vargas can't get the job done.
  18. Number of runners thrown out by Salvador Perez: 40%
  19. End of season headline: Yost Named AL Manager of the Year, Thanks Bloggers for Support
  20. Royals surprise performer & their WAR be: Not sure what WAR is, but Yordano Ventura can win 15 games and Moustakas will make a run at hitting .275.    ... After some research, let's say Moustakas gets to 3.0. 
Paden Bennett
  1. Royals Record: 88-74
  2. Final AL Central Standings: Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox
  3. Team MVP: Eric Hosmer
  4. Pitcher of the Year: James Shields
  5. Royals with 20+ Home Runs: Butler, Hosmer, Moustakas
  6. Leader in Home Runs: Butler 24
  7. Highest batting average: Butler .312
  8. Gold Gloves: Gordon, Perez
  9. Jason Vargas ERA: 4.12
  10. Bubba Starling line: .278/.355/.472
  11. Team leader in WAR: Alex Gordon
  12. All-Star(s): Holland, Perez, Hosmer
  13. Team leader in stolen bases: Dyson
  14. Eric Hosmer slash line: .295/.362/.478
  15. Lorenzo Cain games played: 108
  16. 1st Round Pick in 2014 Draft: Braxton Davidson, 1B, T.C. Roberson High School
  17. Midseason Trade: Royals trade James Shields and Wade Davis to Rays who desperately need pitching due to David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore all going down to Tommy John for some guy named Wil Myers.  Real trade: Royals trade for Cliff Lee and make a run for pennant.
  18. Number of runners thrown out by Salvador Perez: 42%
  19. End of season headline: Royals lose in one game wild card playoff to A's
  20. Royals surprise performer & their WAR be: I'll go with Moustakas as well just because I really, really would love to see it happen. WAR of 3.2
Nathan Bramwell
  1. Royals Record: 90-72
  2. Final AL Central Standings: Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox
  3. Team MVP: Eric Hosmer
  4. Pitcher of the Year: James Shields
  5. Royals with 20+ Home Runs: Mous, Hosmer, Gordon, Butler
  6. Leader in Home Runs: Hosmer
  7. Highest batting average: Hosmer
  8. Gold Gloves: Gordon, Hosmer, Perez
  9. Jason Vargas ERA: 3.80
  10. Bubba Starling line: ∞/∞/
  11. Team leader in WAR: Perez
  12. All-Star(s): Perez, Hosmer
  13. Team leader in stolen bases: Escobar
  14. Eric Hosmer slash line: .302/.359/.465
  15. Lorenzo Cain games played: 99
  16. 1st Round Pick in 2014 Draft: Brady Aiken, LHP, California
  17. Midseason Trade: No one. 
  18. Number of runners thrown out by Salvador Perez: 
  19. End of season headline: "Royals win World Series as Chiefs remain undefeated."
  20. Royals surprise performer & their WAR be: Mous. Surprise player because of his WAR. Goes from a negative number to around 2.5-3.0 WAR range. 
Joseph Cox
  1. Royals Record: 85-77
  2. Final AL Central Standings: Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox
  3. Team MVP: Sal Perez
  4. Pitcher of the Year: James Shields
  5. Royals with 20+ Home Runs: 3 (Butler, Hosmer, Gordon)
  6. Leader in Home Runs: Butler (24)
  7. Highest batting average: Butler (.308)
  8. Gold Gloves: 2 (Perez, Gordon)
  9. Jason Vargas ERA: 4.44
  10. Bubba Starling line: .250/.350/.449
  11. Team leader in WAR: Perez (4.2)
  12. All-Star(s): Perez, Gordon
  13. Team leader in stolen bases: Dyson (32)
  14. Eric Hosmer slash line: .280/.360/.460
  15. Lorenzo Cain games played: 120
  16. 1st Round Pick in 2014 Draft: Bradley Zimmer/ OF/ San Francisco but really no idea.
  17. Midseason Trade: Hmmm yeah I don't know but Royals fans will probably be annoyed.  
  18. Number of runners thrown out by Salvador Perez: more than any other catcher manages.
  19. End of season headline: Different year same result, Shields likely gone without making playoffs as a Royal. 
  20. Royals surprise performer & their WAR be: Kyle Zimmer, 1.8
Daniel Ware
  1. Royals Record: 92-70
  2. Final AL Central Standings: 
    1. Tigers 
    2. Royals
    3. Indians
    4. White Sox
    5. Twins
  3. Team MVP: Eric Hosmer
  4. Pitcher of the Year: James Shields
  5. Royals with 20+ Home Runs: Hosmer, Butler
  6. Leader in Home Runs: Hosmer (25)
  7. Highest batting average: Hosmer (.312)
  8. Gold Gloves: Gordon, Hosmer, Escobar, Perez
  9. Jason Vargas ERA: 3.96
  10. Bubba Starling slash line: .259/.340/.402
  11. Team leader in WAR: Hosmer, 5.1
  12. All-Star(s): Hosmer, Gordon, Perez, Holland
  13. Team leader in stolen bases: Dyson (32)
  14. Eric Hosmer slash line: .312/.361/.480
  15. Lorenzo Cain games played: 120
  16. 1st Round Pick in 2014 Draft: Brad Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco
  17. Midseason Trade: N/A
  18. Number of runners thrown out by Salvador Perez: 41%
  19. End of season headline: In rematch of '81 AL Division Series, Royals fall to A's in 4 games of ALCS.
  20. Royals surprise performer & their WAR be: I would have chosen Mous, but Nicholas already claimed him.  I'm going with Alcides Escobar for 2014.  He's beefed up a little and he's now a father, so this can give him a nice boost at the plate.  I'd like to see him give the Royals a 2.8 WAR-type of year.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Omaha Storm Chasers 2014 Preview

*Omaha debut
Position Players:
LF - Brian Fletcher
CF - Brett Eibner*
RF - Paulo Orlando
3B - Jimmy Paredes*
SS - Christian Colon
2B - Johnny Giavotella
1B - Matt Fields*
C - Jesus Flores*

Chris Dwyer
Danny Duffy
Justin Marks
Ryan Verdugo
John Lamb

C - Francisco Pena*, IF - Brian Bocock*, OF - Gorkys Hernandez, OF - Melky Mesa*

Buddy Baumann, Aaron Brooks*, Donnie Joseph, Michael Mariot, Clayton Mortensen, Spencer Patton*, Wilking Rodriguez*, Everett Teaford, Brett Tomko*, Ramon Troncoso*, Cory Wade*, P.J. Walters*

  • A variety of position players and pitchers will make their Omaha debuts this season (14 total), including OF Jimmy Paredes and former Royal Brett Tomko. 
  • CF and former Arkansas Razorback Brett Eibner makes his Triple-A debut after spending the past year in NW Arkansas.  Posting career highs in BA, HR, and OPS in 113 games for the Naturals, Eibner started off 2013 on a cold spell (1-32 to begin the season), his future seemed to be on the path towards destruction, but he began to heat up.  At the end of May, he was hitting .208.  In June, he batted .245 with 4 HR, then July he hit .270 with 8 HR.  Come August, he cooled off again, but the fact that he bounced back from such a poor start shows that he worked hard to improve his approach at the plate.  Eibner will impress the crowd at Werner Park with a strong arm and solid range in center field.
  • One of the more unfortunate stories of this spring involved a fan favorite: Danny Duffy.  The 25 year old lefty, trying to bounce back from Tommy John surgery in 2012, could not overcome his command issues during his time in the Big League camp.  In 11 innings, Duffy gave up 16 H, 14 ER, 6 HR, and 6 BB.  Both Duffy and Yordano Ventura were vying for the final spot in the Royals' rotation, but in the end, Duffy's struggles and Ventura's dominance made the decision too easy.  Rather than stick Duffy in the bullpen, he will remain as a starter for Omaha to get some innings while working on his control issues.
  • Omaha will return a pair of infielders that helped lead them to a Triple-A Championship.  Both Johnny Giavotella and Christian Colon will man second base and shortstop, respectively, for the Storm Chasers.  The two, much like Duffy, were fighting for a spot on the big league roster when newly acquired 2B Omar Infante started having some soreness in his throwing elbow.  Throughout Spring Training, the front runner for a back-up middle infielder was Pedro Ciriaco, who already had Big League playing time with the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals.  With Infante likely starting the '14 season on the disabled list, Ciriaco seems to have the spot locked down.
  • Brett Tomko was an intriguing acquistion this spring.  Turning 41 in April, Tomko has 14 years of ML experience under his belt and last pitched for the Texas Rangers in 2011, only toeing the rubber in 8 games.  Tomko pitched for the Royals in 2008, appearing 16 games, 10 of those were starts.  He logged 60 innings, a 2-7 record with 6.97 ERA, 40 K's, 13 BB, and allowed 49 ER.  In mid-March, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reported that Tomko was consistently hitting 91-93 mph on his fastball, while showcasing good command with his changeup and curveball.  A true journeyman of the game, Tomko just isn't ready to hang up the ol' cleats.

Omaha Storm Chasers - Ballpark Preview
If you are looking to take a baseball road trip to see the future boys in blue, the team at Royal Revival wants you to be prepared. Nicholas Ian Allen, formerly the Assistant General Manager of the Helena Brewers, offers insight, tips and tricks to make the most out of your experience when visiting a Minor League ballpark.

 Ticket Information:

  •  $17 Club Box
  • $13 Field Box
  • $9 Box
  • $9 Home Run Porch
  • $7 Berm
  • $1 Discount for children ages 3-10, seniors 60+ , or with valid military ID. Kids 2 and under are free. 
Parking: In Omaha, there are two free parking lots for fans, but if you would like to park a little closer to the park, you will need to pay $3. There is also a VIP parking lot for $5.

For the Kids: 
  • The Storm Chasers offer a pretty unique promotion with the help of a local sponsor. The first 50 kids each night are eligible to receive a berm ticket for just $1.
  • Section 125 of Werner Park is considered a Family Section, with no alcohol allowed.
  • Like most Kid’s Clubs, the Lil Chasers program is a no-brainer. For $25 per child (10 and under), kids receive free admission on Sundays and Wednesdays, plus a bunch of other free stuff. Parents that like to take their young ones to a lot of games can actually save money through ticket price savings alone. 
Best Bets:
  • Minor League Baseball really isn’t about who wins and loses (at least for most fans), but the Storm Chasers are the defending Triple-A National Champions and bring back a lot of familiar players this season.
  • Fireworks promotions often bring the biggest crowds, and the Storm Chasers offer fireworks following every Friday home game.
  • The Chasers don't have as many kooky and quirky promotional nights as some other teams, but they will host Star Wars Weekend Friday May 2-Sunday May 4, as well as a selection of promotional giveaway nights including a championship flag giveaway (4/5), Chris Dwyer bobble head (4/19) and t-shirt giveaway (7/17).
  • Concessions are where most Minor League teams really make their money (that super-sized soda you bought for $4.50 likely costs the club around $0.09 – including the souvenir cup). Therefore, fans should really take advantage of nights that offer food and/or drink discounts. The Chasers have a pretty good selection, including ½ price food on April 7, ½ price burgers on April 9, and $0.01 hot dogs on April 16. Like most clubs, you can also get big discounts on beer and soda on Thursdays.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #1 Kyle Zimmer

1. Kyle Zimmer Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 22
Position: RHP
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st Round of the 2012 Amateur Draft
From: San Francisco, CA

2013 Rank: 2

Landon Adams (2): The closer I look at Kyle Zimmer's 2013 season, the more impressive the numbers become. On the surface, it is easy to be somewhat disappointed in his 4.82 ERA while at High-A Wilmington. However, a closer look yields some inspiring findings. For example, Zimmer ranked first in the league in strikeouts per nine innings for pitchers logging at least 80 innings (11.34). He also ranked first in SIERA at 2.71. 

Upon his promotion to Northwest Arkansas, Zimmer's peripherals actually ticked up. His strikeouts per nine innings jumped to 13. His walk rate fell from 3.11 per nine to 2.41 and groundball percentage was able to stay at nearly 49%. Unlike in Wilmington though, Zimmer's ERA followed the directions of his peripherals and came in at a sterling 1.93.

I wrote at length about the speculation the Royals hopes that Zimmer could serve a similar role to the one that Michael Wacha served for the Cardinals in 2014. You can read that post here. Personally, this sort of forecast seems extremely optimistic. At the same time the Royals do have a front end starter that is near Major League ready. It would be silly to not plan for him as part of the Major League picture. Hopefully, this plays out for the Royals the same way as it did for the Cardinals a year ago.

Paden Bennett (2): Kyle Zimmer is filthy, he is electric, and downright scary sometimes.  Unfortunately him being shut down early last season due to biceps tendinitis was also scary.  Although Zimmer says his arm feels fine it looks the Royals are going to be very careful with him.  The Royals are going to keep him on a 150 inning limit as of now.  I can get on board with this, Zimmer has an phenomenal arm with phenomenal stuff and he is going to be a big part of our future very soon.  

Zimmer dominated in his brief stint in NWA last year.  In just 18.2 innings he gave up 4 runs with 27 ks to just 5 walks.  He is a power pitcher with big strikeout potential using his incredible fastball and nasty slider.  I hope to see this guy start in NWA or Omaha and get called up to help us during our playoff run this season (ideally).

Joe Cox (1): The number one player on our 2014 Top Prospects List is Kyle Zimmer.  Since being drafted 5th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, Zimmer has done nothing but dominate while on the field.  Unfortunately, his 2013 season was cut short as a shoulder injury forced him to be shut down for the rest of the year.  The injury should not affect his status in 2014, and he appears to be recovering without any issue, though any time your prize pitching prospect goes under the knife you have to feel a little uneasy.  

Before the injury Zimmer had just made the move up to AA and had four starts and a 1.93 ERA while striking out 13 K/9.  Prior to this in Carolina, Zimmer had a 4.82 ERA in 18 starts.  This ERA was inflated due to a 59.2 LOB%, as his FIP was just 3.12.   Zimmer has also shown great command limiting his walk totals at each level. 

Zimmer has yet to throw a pitch above AA and is coming off an arm injury, so expectations will have to be tempered somewhat for any major league success he could have this year.  That being said, he has the talent where best case scenario is that Zimmer forces the Royals hand and receives some key starts down the stretch.  Zimmer has the ceiling to be a legit 1-2 pitcher in any rotation, and could be a mainstay in the Royals rotation starting as early as this summer. 

Dan Ware (1): Ranked as my #1 prospect on Royal Revival's Countdown, Zimmer was certainly a topic of discussion during Spring Training.  Unfortunately, it wasn't about him vying for the 5th spot in the rotation.  Last season, he was shut down early due to a biceps tendinitis issue, which during the winter gave him complications, but not to worry, the 22 year old phenom says his arm feels great.  That doesn't mean the Royals were ready to just put him on the mound and have him go 100%.  Although Zimmer was invited to the Big League camp this spring, his stint lasted just a couple weeks before heading to the side fields with the Minors.

Despite the gloomy stats in Wilmington, Zimmer never had issues with his shoulder and always felt confident in his stuff, yet still earned his way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he did nothing but dominate the Texas League, as he held batters to a .162/.240/.279 line.  I had the pleasure, along with fellow writers Landon Adams and Nathan Bramwell, to watch Kyle's Double-A debut in Springdale, and it was a dandy: 6 innings of 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K's, which was rewarded by a standing ovation from the crowd.  Consistently, his fastball sits anywhere from 92-96 mph and can go up to 98 mph when he's feelin' it.  That night, Zimmer was touching 100 mph a few times on the mound.  Let's not forget stadium radar gun's can be slightly misleading and that this was his first start in a Naturals uniform, but let's not forget that he has the ability to rear back and throw straight gas. 

The Royals will be giving Zimmer the 'Jose Fernandez' treatment (minus 20 innings).  During February, the Royals decided to give Kyle a 150-inning limit for 2014, regardless of who he's throwing for.  It's still a toss-up if Zimmer will stay in Arizona to for extended S.T., but the Royals hope for Zimmer to open this season with either NW Arkansas or Omaha.  

I fully support the course of action the Royals are taking with Zimmer.  Kyle is now considered the Royals version of Michael Wacha.  If all goes to plan to start 2014, the Royals would like Zimmer to be in Kansas City by June, giving the Royals an extra push towards a playoff berth. 

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): I like Zimmer a lot. He has tremendous upside and should help the big league club this season. That said, I would have ranked him third or fourth in the prospect rankings behind Ventura, Mondesi and possibly Starling.

I wrote about Zimmer in the Prospects on the Verge series for Grading on the Curve. Read my full observation here.

Total Points: 118

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #2 Yordano Ventura

2. Yordano Ventura Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 22
Position: RHP
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as non-drafted FA in 2008       From: Samana, Dominican Republic

2013 Rank: 3

2012 Rank: 10

2011 Rank: 17

Landon Adams (3): Last season I had the opportunity to watch Yordano Ventura pitch first hand on several occasions. Each time he pitched, he was more impressive than the start before. With three above average pitches, Ventura definitely has the stuff to enable him to be a front end of the rotation starter. At this point it is more a question of how long he will hold up given his stature. 

Ventura, who threw 155 innings over 28 starts in 2013, has already made comments about expecting to throw 200 innings in 2014. Given that he averaged approximately 5.5 innings per start in 2013, this would mean that not only would he need to make 33 starts this season, but that he would also need to go on average about 6 innings per outing. This fails to account for the potential of postseason games, so in my opinion it would be wise of the Royals to not push Ventura to get deep into games. 

With James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and an excellent bullpen, the focus shouldn't be on Ventura reaching his 20% share of the 1000 starter inning goal, instead the focus should be on keeping him fresh and producing quality innings throughout the entire season. If for instance Ventura simply averages 5.5 innings per start again this season, that would put him at 182 innings over 33 starts. This is a number that I'd be far more comfortable with than 200. 

You've heard enough from me on Ventura, but I want to leave you with this comment on the righty from Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus:
"In two brief innings of work, he sat 98-100 and touched 101 on at least one gun. That’s good, right? Snapped a few good breaking balls that looked like future 7 pitches when he released out front; lost a few that he seemed to cast from a deeper release; flashed a few changeups with late action. He’s going to be a monster if he can stay healthy and log innings/experience. I’m a huge believer." —Jason Parks (Article here.)

Paden Bennett (1): It's hard to consider Yordano Ventura a prospect anymore after he earned a rotation spot this spring with a dominant performance.  Ventura pitched 20.1 innings this spring while only giving up 4 earned runs, good for a 1.77 ERA.  Ventura also showed great control with 18 K's to just 4 BB's.  

Ventura features an unbelievable heater than can reach 101-102, a good curveball that froze hitters this spring and an improving changeup.  Small in stature with an extremely live arm, Ventura has drawn some comparisons to a young Pedro Martinez.  Out of all the games I go to this season in Kansas City, most of the games I will try and target when Yordano Ventura is pitching.  This kid is fun to watch, and you don't see live arms like this come around very often especially as a starting pitcher.  

I look for Yordano to take off running, and impress a bunch of people early.  Then I expect him to have a rough patch just like most young pitchers do and rebound from that and adjust.  Royals fans need to be ready to watch Yordano Ventura "throw fire" this season!

Joe Cox (4):  Yordano Ventura is easily the prospect most likely to make an impact at the Major League level in 2014.  We know the story on Ventura, the 22 year old righty who can light up the radar despite his small stature.  In his 3 starts in the Majors Last year his fastball averaged 97.5 MPH, which would easily be the best in the league over the course of a season.  Last season he averaged less than one home run every two starts between AA and AAA; while also easily striking out more than a batter per inning.  

The big question mark on Ventura is control, as his walks went from a mediocre 3.12 BB/9 in AA to a more troubling 3.86 BB/9 in AAA.  His elite velocity coupled with solid 2013 results is what has so many Royals fans so interested in what he can provide this year. ZiPS projection system has Ventura pitching 137 innings with a 4.20 ERA, which I think is a realistic expectation fans would be happy with.  The system was fairly conservative on walks and strike outs so there is room for Ventura to improve on those projections.

Over the course of his prospect career, the big question on Ventura has been whether he projects as a starter or reliever, but it appears Ventura has an opportunity to lock up the fifth spot in the rotation for the Royals.  If he doesn’t win that spot, Ventura will start the year in the Major League bullpen or as a starter in waiting in AAA.  Either way, I would project that Ventura ends the year in the Royals Rotation regardless of where he starts the year.  I do not expect Ventura to immediately become the Ace of the staff, but should be a positive piece to the rotation.

Dan Ware (2):  In the midst of a playoff birth quest, sitting just 2.5 games back in the Wild Card, Danny Duffy still wasn't 100%, suffering from inflammation in his pitching elbow.  The Royals decided to go the precautionary route and sit Duffy for a second straight start.  Yordano "Ace" Ventura, who was supposed to start for Omaha in the Triple-A championship game against the Durham Bulls, got the call to The K to make his MLB debut against the Cleveland Indians. 

The game was nothing short of an exciting one, as the 22 year old, in the first 5 innings gave up no runs and just 2 hits, while at one point throwing the fastest pitch of any Major League pitcher in 2013 (103 mph).  In the 6th, he gave up 3 hits, 1 resulting in a run.  With 2 outs recorded, Yost went to the pen.  The K arose for a standing ovation and the rookie tipped his cap.  Ventura made 2 more starts last season, going 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings, collecting 11 strikeouts and 6 walks.  Before his promotion, he threw 134.2 innings in the minors, 57.2 for NW Arkansas and 77 for Omaha.

2014 was up in the air for Ventura, until his 5th start during the Spring, where Yordano dominated a Texas lineup that comprised all of their starters, throwing 6 innings, allowing only 4 hits while striking out 6 batters.  The next day, the Royals made a decision to add Ventura to the rotation, which was rightfully earned.  He will sit in the 3rd spot behind Opening Day starter James Shields and newcomer Jason Vargas.

We expect him to be one of our 12 pitchers when we break camp unless something unforeseen happens. - Dayton Moore, February 8th 2014

Read more here:

Read more here:
Dayton wasn't joking!

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): There is not much to add to the discussion at this point. Ventura has excelled this spring and seemingly put most minds at ease about his role in the big league rotation this season: fans, bloggers, media members and the brass are all pretty much in agreement. Expect him to be a big part of the club's success this season and he should be the early favorite for American League Rookie of the Year.

Oh one more thing: He reminds me a lot of Cardinals rookie Carlos Martinez. I really like Carlos Martinez.

Total Points: 114

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #3 Raul Mondesi Jr.

3. Raul Mondesi Jr. Short Stop

Age: 18
Position: SS
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 165
B/T: S/R
Acquired: Signed as non-drafted FA in 2011
From: Los Angeles, CA

2013 Rank: 6

2012 Rank: 42

Landon Adams (1): Not surprisingly, I have bestowed Mondesi with the highest ranking out of the Royal Revival contributors. While Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura will rank higher on this list, just like nearly all others, I'd confidently argue that this 18 year old Dominican is the top prospect in the organization.

Let's start with the bloodlines. As most of us know, Adalberto is the son of former Major League outfielder Raul Mondesi Sr., who now serves as the Mayor of San Cristóbal in the Dominican Republic. If the bloodlines weren't enough to give Mondesi a slight edge in the rating, the prospect was also born stateside. This fact is often overlooked, but as a result he is fluent in English, which is a major reason for why the Royals have been able to push him into full season ball at such a young age. 

Like his father, the 1994 National League Rookie of the Year, Mondesi is blessed with an outstanding arm. Not only does his arm enable him to make plays deep in the hole, but it is also accurate enough to allow him to throw on the move and from strange arm slots and angles when necessary. Yes, Mondesi had 30 errors in 2013, but his defense is terrific and he is getting to much more balls than his Minor League counterparts. Another point that should be made is that infields get better the higher the ladder you climb. 

Offensively, Mondesi also features his father's bat speed. In 2012, I distinctly remember Mondesi turning on a fastball that no 16 year old should be able to turn on. Later in the same game he did an excellent job of taking an offspeed pitch to the opposite field with two strikes.Since my time watching the Pioneer League, few images have stuck in my mind like those of Mondesi's. It was quite apparent at the time that the kid was special and the buzz around the league dictated the same. 

Mondesi will likely open the season as the youngest prospect in High-A. There are plenty of reasons to believe that his batting line will continue to look pedestrian as he faces competition often times four or five years his senior. However, at some point Mondesi is going to catch up with his competition and when he does look out. 

Paden Bennett (6): Raul Mondesi Jr. is an incredibly exciting prospect, one that I am extremely pumped to see move through the system and become an above average overall shortstop that we haven't seen in Kansas City in a long long time.  Mondesi was just 17 years old last year when he hit .261/.311/.361 with 7 hrs and 47 rbis.  Not excited about those numbers?  Let me ask you this, what were you doing at 17 years old?  I know I wasn't playing professional baseball and was the youngest player in the Sally League and holding my own.  

While Mondesi's numbers don't jump off the page, for a 17 year old these are extremely encouraging numbers.  Rumor is that Mondesi and Dozier will both start in Wilmington.  If Mondesi starts in Wilmington, I look for him to struggle initially then show signs of improvement late.  Even if he struggles all year I won't be discouraged, he will still only be turning 18 this coming July.  I'm ecstatic to see Mondesi move through the system, rarely do you see a combination of superb fielding, speed, contact and a little bit of pop.

Joe Cox (2):  Raul Mondesi has become one of the most exciting prospects in all of the minor leagues.  Mondesi played well enough in the Pioneer League in 2012 where the Royals brass decided they wanted to see how he would handle a full season league.  Mondesi Jr. spent his entire 2013 in the Sally League as a 17 year old, making him the youngest player in league.  His performance was very encouraging when considering his age.  

At the plate, he put up a .312 wOBA with seven home runs and 24 stolen bases.  Mondesi was able to cut down his strikeouts from the year prior and maintained his power speed combo.  Defensively, many scouts feel he should be able to play as a plus defensive shortstop at the major league level.  In 2014, I’d like to see continue progression with the bat.  Even if he stays in A ball, he will be one of the youngest players in the league he is in, so I’m not expecting lights out numbers wherever he goes.  Mondesi has potential to be a top prospect in the league in a few years as long as he can continue to improve on his already impressive all around game.

Dan Ware (6):  Mondesi fared well for being the youngest player in the South Atlantic League at just 17 years old.  Although he hit .261/.311/.361 with 7 HR and 47 RBI, which is still promising to see from a teenager in professional baseball, he held his own against Low-A pitching.  Being a switch hitter, Raul put up better numbers from the left side (.261/.314/.372, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 90/29 K to BB), although he had a few more plate appearances as a lefty (311 to be exact). 

As Nathaniel Stoltz of FanGraphs points out in his post on Mondesi, the now 18 year old has separate batting stances from both sides of the plate.  From the left, he opens up a little more, showing quick bat speed and decent power that Stoltz predicts in the 10+ HR range.  On the right side, he's in a closed stance and doesn't have as good of mechanics when batting left-handed.

In regards to his glove, Baseball America has him as the 'Best Defensive Infielder' in the organization.  With his above-average speed, smooth motions, and solid arm, he easily has the makeup to be a solid SS in the Majors.  Last year, he committed 30 errors in 105 games at SS, which does seem exorbitant, but given his age and inexperience, the fielding will improve with maturity.

2014 will be a challenging year for Mondesi.  It's probable that he'll be playing SS for Wilmington in the Carolina League, which as you know, is notorious for being a pitcher's league.  While he'll see better pitching this go-around, I don't see him going on a tear, but if he puts up the numbers like he did in Lexington, that will be a positive sign.

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): I'm still calling him Adalberto. The young man with the familiar name - so familiar he shares it with his father and at least one brother - continues to impress despite an extremely young age. When I was 17 I had a tough time hitting in the Georgia High School Association, and Raul A. Mondesi put together a full season in the South Atlantic League, with seven homers and seven triples.

While his numbers on paper are not mind-blowing, the fact that Mondesi has been able to keep his head above water in US professional baseball leagues for two seasons at his age, is. I'm not even going to discuss his stats, because really, they don't even matter.

Think about it: the players he is competing against everyday are an average of three to five years older. Most have played three seasons of college ball and have worked for two more years as a professional to reach the same level. Not many of them have a father that was a big league all-star, but still. If Mondesi grew up in his California birth place instead of the Dominican Republic, and had not signed as an international free agent two years ago, he would be playing high school baseball!

I am very impressed by Mondesi, and I am certainly not alone. He is already a multi-millionaire and is a fixture in Top 100 prospect lists everywhere. As a switch-hitter with speed, a solid glove, and more than a little power in a thin but still growing frame, the sky is the limit. This time next year, Mondesi will be the mix with Miguel Sano and Carlos Correra to be the best overall prospect in baseball, and he may make the big leagues before he turns 20.

All that said, there is still a long way to go for Mondesi to become a star in the Major Leagues. His talent is unlimited, be he is still just a kid.

Total Points: 109

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #4 Hunter Dozier

4. Hunter Dozier Third Baseman

Age: 22
Position: 3B
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 220
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st Round of the 2013 Amateur Draft
From: Denton, TX

Landon Adams (5): Many scoffed when Hunter Dozier's name was called 8th overall on June 8, 2013. It didn't take long for the well informed to put two and two together and realize that the Royals were making a play for Sean Manaea at 34 overall. This strategy played out beautifully and looks even better after a strong first year campaign from Dozier and excellent reports on Manaea this spring.

Baseball America considered Dozier to be a second round talent entering draft day last season. Post draft reports though suggest that this ranking was much too low for the Stephen F. Austin product. It is said that had Dozier lasted to 21 overall, he would not have gotten past Rays. Also, rumored was that the Arizona Diamondbacks were considering him with the 15 overall selection. Either way it appears that the Royals were able to nab two high end talents in last season's amateur draft. 

Upon Dozier's selection, he became the highest drafted athlete ever out of the Southland Conference. This is in large part due to a junior campaign which saw him hit .396/.482/.755 with 17 home runs in 212 at bats. According to College Splits, surprisingly it is estimated that Dozier faced more difficult competition than the average Division I baseball player. When the website adjusts for park and schedule, Dozier's line becomes .434/.516/.816. However you slice it, Dozier was awesome last season for the Lumberjacks.

A shortstop in college, Dozier will wind up on a corner for Kansas City. He has an excellent arm and a quick enough first step to be a good fit at third base. However, if Moustakas can fill the position, Dozier's athleticism should allow him to handle an outfield corner. Most view him as a replacement for the disappointing Mike Moustakas, however, I'll predict that he winds up as Alex Gordon's eventual replacement in 2016 or 2017. 

Paden Bennett (4): I could have easily ranked Dozier as my number 1 prospect, but I think this is where I really want him.  Hunter Dozier is a well polished hitter who knows the strike zone.  In 258 at bats in Idaho Falls last season he hit .303/.403/.509 with 7 homers and more walks (35) than strikeouts (32).  Dozier moved up to Lexington late last season and proved he wasn't over matched.  

Dozier should start in Wilmingtonand hit in the heart of the order where I look for him to continue to use his great approach at the plate and continue to move up level by level.  Dozier isn't just a dead pull hitter, he is extremely well balanced and has the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field with some pop.  I expect Dozier to prove he is too good for Wilmington and move up to Springdale possibly midseason.

Joe Cox (5):  Hunter Dozier was considered to be an intentional overdraft when taken 8th in the 2014 Amateur draft.  Many in the blogosphere considered this strategy a success when the Royals were able to draft and sign Sean Manaea later in the draft.  Because of this Dozier was somewhat overlooked as a guy who seemed to be drafted more on signability than anything else, though many projected Dozier as a first round talent. 

Dozier, who turned 22 last August, was sent to the Pioneer League and proceeded to put up a very impressive overall offensive line.  In 258 PA, Dozier had more walks (35) than strike outs (32) and slashed an impressive .303/.403/.509.  Dozier played short stop before being drafted but the Royals view him as a third baseman moving forward, a position he should be able to handle.  Dozier had a short stint in A ball last year and that should be the level he starts at to start the year.  Because of his high draft slot and age, Dozier should move quickly through the system and could be a solution at third in the next year or two if Moustakas can’t put it together.

Dan Ware (4):  Voted as the Top Pioneer League Prospect after the 2013 season, Dozier made an immediate impact in the Idaho Falls lineup, hitting .303/.403/.509 with 7 HR and 43 RBI in only 54 games.  His impressive debut earned himself a promotion to an already prospect-filled Lexington lineup.  He managed to get 59 plate appearances, hitting .327/.373/.436 while collecting 9 more RBI.  

With his first professional season in the books, Dozier ended up with more walks than strikeouts (39:38) and 30 doubles, which is definitely nice to see especially in a rookie season.  Rightfully so, Baseball America gave him the honors of being the 'Best Hitter' and 'Best Strike-Zone Discipline' for the 2014 campaign.  Dozier has an athletic build at 6'4" 220 lbs and exceptional strength.  He is known for his quick hands at the plate and ability to drive the ball to the opposite field.  

Playing SS in college, he only played 9 games at the same position for Idaho Falls before the move to third base was put into action.  Dozier easily has the glove to stay at shortstop, but with his frame, lack of quickness, and the depth at the position in the system, the move to third was inevitable.  The position switch shouldn't be a problem long-term considering he has average speed and during his college days, threw 91-93 mph in relief outings.  Don't be surprised to see Dozier put on both Lexington and Wilmington uniforms in 2014.

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): It is pretty rare for an organization to execute a first round draft strategy as perfectly as the Royals did in selecting Dozier 8th overall and managing to sign him well below slot value, before selecting Sean Manaea with their following pick. While some questioned the move to select Dozier as high as they did, the Royals look like geniuses so far.

The former shortstop was impressive in his first professional season, earning a two-week promotion in August before returning to Idaho Falls to lead the team to the Pioneer League championship. Simply, the 22-year old put together a great season that included a total of 37 extra-base hits and 52 RBI in 69 regular season professional games, and had a fairly smooth transition to third base. Despite making 11 errors, he has good range and a good arm, and should be an above-average fielder in the long run.

Dozier appeared in only one big league Spring Training game this March, but with another solid season in 2014, should gain an invite to the Major League squad in 2015, with a real shot to make his Kansas City debut later in the year. 

Total Points: 106