Finishing up the Omaha Trip report....
Omaha Royals (Triple-A Kansas City Royals)
Irving Falu, 2B
Hitting .255/.332/.333 with 45 walks and 28 strikeouts in 384 at-bats Not really a prospect due to lack of power, Falu is interesting to watch because he has a slick glove at second base, and he does an excellent job working the count and making the pitcher sweat a bit with is command. Indeed, many of the Omaha hitters were quite patient and showed good strike zone judgment. At age 26 he has little upside remaining, but will stay employed at the Triple-A level for a long time.
Luis Hernandez, SS
Hitting .306/.356/.403 in 112 at-bats. Owns a very fine glove at shortstop, giving Omaha a slick-fielding combination up the middle. Like Falu, Hernandez was concentrating on working the count in the two games I saw, drawing three walks. He's a year younger and has better arm strength than Falu, so he can remain at shortstop. He doesn't hit enough to be a regular but worse players have had careers on the bench.
Greg Holland, RHP
Recently promoted to Triple-A, has a 7.88 ERA with a 1/5 K/BB in 8 innings so far, with 12 hits allowed...quite ugly. He had a 3.18 ERA with a 49/19 K/BB in 45 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas before moving up. In the game I saw, he looked pretty solid, throwing three shutout innings of relief to pick up a save. His sinking fastball was at 87-90 MPH, mixed in with a slurvy but decent breaking ball. His command has bugged him in his other Triple-A outings, but he deserves a full chance at the level. If his control sharpens up he can be a utility pitcher in the majors.
J.R. House, C
He's had good Triple-A success before, but has struggled this year for Omaha, hitting .245/.286/.349. The home park doesn't seem to agree with him: .215/.260/.271 at home, .269/.307/.413 on the road, though even his road numbers are below his previous standards. I thought his bat looked slower than when I saw him last year. . .just not as quick, though the swing mechanics themselves look the same level stroke as before, it just wasn't as fast. I wonder if he's fully healthy, or maybe he's just entering his decline phase. Defensively, he showed more mobility and arm strength than I remembered him having before, so if there is a physical problem it isn't impacting the glove. Maybe he's just having a bad year.
Dusty Hughes, LHP
3.95 ERA with a 48/28 K/BB in 57 innings, 62 hits. Had a great game on the fifth, allowing one run in six innings, fanning nine. I've seen Hughes a lot over the last several years, and this was the best I've seen him throw. His fastball was 86-88 MPH, but it looked faster than that due to the contrast with his breaking ball and changeup. The breaking ball in particular was really good in this game. He's been tough on lefties this year (.213, vs. .318 against right-handers) and I think he has a chance to be a useful LOOGY, though his control hasn't always been reliable enough for that role.
Tug Hulett, DH
Used as the DH in this game. His natural position is second base, but the O-Royals went with the superior defensive combo of Hernandez and Falu up the middle. Hulett is not your classic DH physically but he's hit like one this year, .308/.395/.503 overall. Like many of the other O-Royals, he worked the count effectively and was patient in these two contests. He deserves more major league chances.
Kila Ka'aihue, 1B
Hitting .261/.398/.453 on the season, certainly less effective than last year but enough to keep him in-line for a major league trial. Ka'aihue went 3-for-5 in the first game, pulling three singles to right field, but 0-for-4 in the second game. His swing looked less fluid than last year, not as mechanical as it was a few years ago, but not as easy and free as 2008. He's still working the count extremely well, drawing 83 walks against 77 strikeouts in 360 at-bats. Omaha is a tough park for power, and indeed he has 17 doubles and 10 homers on the road, but just eight doubles and four homers at home. He deserves to come up in September and really needs a legitimate job as a DH next year in Kansas City. His glove at first base is better than you think; his range is limited, but he catches what he gets to, has good hands, and scoops errant throws well.
Chris Lubanski, OF
He looks a LOT better physically, looking 20 pounds lighter than last year. He's running much better and showing better outfield range. He also has seven steals in eight attempts in 32 games. However, the bat didn't look good, as he was getting tied up on pitches inside. Hitting just .244/.331/.370. . .but there is a huge home road split, .120/.182/180 at home, .333/.432/.507 on the road. The sample size is just 32 games as he missed much of the season with injury, and I suspect he's still working the rust off. Indeed, he went 0-for-25 in his first eight games back from the disabled list before finally getting a hit yesterday. I haven't given up on him as a prospect just yet.
Victor Marte, RHP
Minor league vet, 28 years old, 2.76 ERA with a 26/18 K/BB in 33 innings, 29 hits allowed. He has a good arm, fastball was 90-93 MPH, but I thought his breaking ball was below average and he struggled with his command on the sixth, walking two guys and giving up three hits in two innings, though he got out of the jam and didn't give up a run. If his command was a bit more consistent, he certainly has enough arm strength to be a bullpen asset.
Jordan Parraz, OF
I really really really like this guy. He has above average speed. He has a very strong arm. He has good range in the outfield, and enough hand-eye coordination and vertical leap ability that he leapt backwards over the right field fence and robbed Las Vegas of a home run. As a hitter, he works the count fairly and made hard contact in the two games I saw. His swing is fairly level and I am unsure how much home run power he will develop. He concentrated on the opposite field in the two games I saw, lashing liners into the right-center gap. Overall I was very impressed with him. He's hitting .311/.360/.444 in 12 games since being promoted to Triple-A, and his overall season line stands at .351/.433/.545. He's an exciting player to watch, though he still needs to polish up his baserunning.
Heath Phillips, LHP
Listed at 6-3, 280, and he looks it.. . .scouts would likely hate his conditioning level. 5.47 with a 90/39 K/BB in 125 innings this year, 154 hits allowed. He pitched well in this contest, throwing eight shutout innings with seven hits and five strikeouts. Fastball was 85-88 MPH, but he mixed in a slider, a softer curveball, and a decent changeup, keeping the hitters off-balance. His stuff sinks well and he collects grounders. His data shows a very sharp home/road split, 3.11 ERA with 46/15 K/BB in 67 innings in Omaha, 8.18 ERA with 44/24 K/BB in 58 innings on the road, 85 hits allowed. He is likely just a Triple-A inning-eater for the next ten years, but teams will always have room for guys like that.
Carlos Rosa, RHP
5.14 ERA with 61/27 K/BB in 56 innings, 55 hits. He had the best stuff of anyone in the series, hitting 92-93 MPH consistently, with movement, and touching 96 once. His slider also had good bite. Ironically, he was the only Omaha pitcher Las Vegas was able to handle in the second game, as they scored two runs off him to win in the 11th. He struck out the side but they interspersed four hits (two hard hits, two soft cheap ones) to score the two runs. He should be ready to help in the major league bullpen soon, though his command may wobble.
Scott Thorman, OF
Hitting .291/.355/.521 in 70 games. He has some juice in his bat, but doesn't control the strike zone well and isn't much of a defensive outfielder. His MLE this year is about .251/.299/.428 translated from Omaha to Kansas City. Thorman is 27 this year, and it would not surprise me to see him have an age 28 performance spike in 2010 along Garrett Jones lines.