Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Mike Montgomery (Photo by John Sickels, SB Nation)
Kansas City Royals Top 20 Prospects for 2012
THIS LIST WAS REVISED JANUARY 10, 2012
Given the large number of interesting prospects they have who haven't even played yet, the Royals system is particularly difficult to analyze.
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
Kansas City Royals Top 20 Prospects for 2012
2) Bubba Starling, OF, Grade B+: He will be in my Top 50 hitters, although I don't exactly know where yet. Enormous upside with power/speed/Winfield-like potential, but rawness an issue.
3) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Grade B+. If he hadn't slumped so badly in August this would be a no-brain A- grade. He was the youngest regular in the Midwest League and dominated much of the season. Defense may be an issue but bat could be special.
4) Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Grade B+: He has been a favorite of mine for three years and I see no reason to change that opinion, although he needs to work a bit lower in the zone.
5) Michael Montgomery, LHP, Grade B: Erratic, but still has high upside and is close to the majors. Slight adjustments could result in a breakthrough.
6) Kelvin Herrera, RHP, Grade B-: I'm shying away from giving relievers elite grades except in rare cases. There are lots of tough borderline grades in this system. I eventually decided there was enough uncertainty here to lower him to Grade B-.
7) Yordano Ventura, RHP, Grade B-: You have to love the arm strength and he was strong down the stretch. Grade could rise quickly in 2012.
8) Chris Dwyer, LHP, Grade B-: Another tough grade, but like Montgomery, there is still a lot of upside here if he can get his command where it needs to be.
9) Christian Colon, SS, Grade B-: Very solid glove, and I have not given up on the bat yet. High contact rate is a good marker and I think he can remain at shortstop.
10) Elier Hernandez, OF, Grade B-: Ranking Latin American signees this young who have no professional experience is very difficult, no matter how glowing the scouting report. His ceiling is enormous but we have no idea if tools will translate into skills.
11) Brett Eibner, OF, Grade B-: Another hard-to-handle grade, excellent power potential, draws walks, but contact issues look serious. This is a partial injury mulligan and he needs to get the bat going in '12 to retain this type of rating.
12) Bryan Brickhouse, RHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+: One of many promising high school players from '11 draft who signed too late to play. Without any pro data, it is tough to rank them in relation to guys already in the system.
13) Kyle Smith, RHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Same thing as with Brickhouse, impressive arm, bought away from college, scouts like him, but ranking is difficult.
14) Jason Adam, RHP, Grade C+: You could make a case to rank him ahead of the guys who haven't pitched yet. Seems overlooked and I think he could break through at Wilmington.
15) John Lamb, LHP, Grade C+: Tommy John guy. Just have to wait and see. Recovery of stuff and/or command is far from automatic.
16) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Grade C+: Well-kept secret, somewhat raw, but toolsy, hit well in Appy League, right field arm. Breakthrough candidate for 2012 if he makes additional progress with strike zone.
17) Cam Gallagher, C, Grade C+: Second round high school catcher from 2011 draft, you could rank him as high as 12 if you believe in the bat. If all goes well: Devin Mesoraco. If all goes poorly, Kyle Skipworth.
18) Clint Robinson, 1B, Grade C+: I know he's old, but I think he can hit. He doesn't have Kila's problems with excessive patience. Would be a monster in Japan, and would be a useable DH/1B bat for someone in the majors.
19) Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Grade C+: Still trying to figure out how to use that fastball, but seemed to go backwards this year despite making opening day roster.
20) Tim Melville, RHP, Grade C+: Continues to flash ability but still struggling to put it together game to game. Might be better off in the bullpen.
21) Brian Fletcher, OF, Grade C+: Need to see at higher levels, but he's mashed in college and the low minors. Aggressive hitter, not great tools or defense.
22) Greg Billo, RHP, Grade C+: Outstanding numbers in Midwest League, although scouts remain lukewarm due to lack of plus velocity. He is still quite young at age 21.
OTHERS: Michael Antonio, SS; Noel Arguelles, LHP; Humberto Arteaga, SS; Buddy Baumann, LHP; Jeff Bianchi, 2B; Mark Binford, RHP; Orlando Calixte, SS; Kevin Chapman, LHP; Jake Junis, RHP; Patrick Leonard, OF; Jack Lopez, SS; David Lough, OF; Justin Marks, LHP; Danny Mateo, INF; Adalberto Mondesi, SS (could rank a lot higher, I am still researching him), Yamaico Navarro, SS; Elisaul Pimentel, RHP; Leonel Santiago, RHP; Brandon Sisk, LHP; Tim Smith, OF; Will Smith, LHP; Everett Teaford, LHP; D'Andre Toney, OF; Kendal Volz, RHP.
It took me four days to work through this team, and I am still not sure of many of these grades. Ranking players who haven't played yet is a real pain, especially the 16-year-old Latin American guys who haven't played good competition. Even a North American high school guy like Starling isn't easy. His ceiling is tremendous but everyone knows the risks involved as well, and with no pro data to look at, I usually tend towards caution. Despite these issues, I went aggressive with Starling and Elier Hernandez, but cautious with others.
Major league promotions and pitcher attrition knocked the top layer off this system, but there is a lot more on the way up. The 2011 draft was very heavy with high-upside, high-risk, over-slot high school picks, and they have put a lot of money into Latin America. The Glasses have given Dayton Moore and his staff a lot of financial slack and they are using it aggressively.