We continue to push forward with our 2013 pre-season prospect list reviews, turning our attention today to the Kansas City Royals. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season grades and rankings.
This list was originally published November 13, 2012 and revised on January 15, 2013.
1) Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Grade B+: Rough start in High-A, but turned things around in June and has been outstanding over the last few weeks. 4.82 ERA with 113/31 K/BB in 90 innings for Wilmington, 19/3 K/BB in 12 shutout innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Currently pitching like a future number one starter.
2) Bubba Starling, OF, Grade B: Hitting .227/.318/.360 with 18 steals, 45 walks, 101 strikeouts in 361 at-bats for Low-A Lexington. Still shows the marvelous tools, will take a walk, and is on a hot streak in his last 10 games, but overall it hasn't been a great year and his stock is down some.
3) Yordano Ventura, RHP, Grade B: Combined 3.13 ERA with 124/42 K/BB in 106 innings, 87 hits combined between Double-A and Triple-A Omaha. Command will wobble at times but overall he's held up in the Pacific Coast League and appears ready for a major league trial.
4) Kyle Smith, RHP, Grade B: I'm the only person who liked him this high. He was having a strong year in High-A (2.85 ERA, 96/25 K/BB in 104 innings) but the Royals traded him to the Astros at the trade deadline for Justin Maxwell. Smith got killed in his first start for Lancaster so it will be interesting to see what happens going forward.
My opinion pre-season was based on having seen him pitch in the low-90s and make hitters look foolish with sharp command of three good pitches in the Midwest League. He's reportedly not throwing as hard this year although he was still effective.
Perhaps I over-rated him, but I'm still stunned that public reports about him were as harshly negative and dismissive as they were last week. Even with the velocity decline, I was still hearing good things from non-partisan sources out of the Carolina League about his command, athleticism, and overall ability. I guess it depends on your source. Someone was out there trashing him but other sources were still saying positive things. Very strange. Someone was getting spinned here, but who?
5) Raul Mondesi, SS, Grade B: Formerly known as Adalberto. Hitting .268/.316/.378 with 28 walks, 90 strikeouts, 20 steals in 392 at-bats for Low-A Lexington, just turned 18 last week. Defense rough but the tools are there and he is extremely young for the level.
6) Sam Selman, LHP, Grade B-: 3.61 ERA with 95/67 K/BB in 99.2 innings for Wilmington, 77 hits. Big lefty got off to a slow start in April and May but has been very effective since early June. Command is an issue but he can dominate when everything is right.
7) John Lamb, LHP, Grade B-: When I advised caution about Dylan Bundy's Tommy John surgery earlier this year, I was attacked as a backward Luddite by some for thinking that TJ recovery is not an automatic thing and that some pitchers don't get their stuff back. People need to look at what happened to John Lamb, his 6.09 ERA, and 106 hits allowed in 86 innings in High-A.
8) Orlando Calixte, SS, Grade B-: Hitting .256/.303/.380 with 26 walks, 111 strikeouts in 403 at-bats in Double-A. Has improved defensively and is just 21, but has a lot of work to do with the strike zone.
9) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Grade B-: .280/.354/.418 in 60 games in High-A got him promoted to Double-A, which has been a struggle at .211/.252/.340. Age 20, still very young, but defense has deteriorated and he hasn't hit consistently well since the first half of 2011.
10) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Grade B-: Hitting combined .292/.364/.420 with two homers, 28 walks, 50 strikeouts in 257 at-bats combined between rookie ball injury rehab, High-A, and a week in Double-A. Young at 20, hasn't tapped his power consistently yet.
11) Jason Adam, RHP, Grade B-: 5.63 ERA with 100/47 K/BB in 115 innings, 125 hits for Northwest Arkansas. I've liked him as an inning-eating workhorse, but he's more hittable than he should be and has not lived up to expectations. Turned 22 earlier this week, so a great leap forward seems increasingly less likely.
12) Cameron Gallagher, C, Grade C+: Hitting .209/.287/.314 in 191 at-bats for Lexington, throwing out 28% of runners, age 20. Has yet to hit well in pro ball or live up to high school press clippings.
13) Bryan Brickhouse, RHP Grade C+: 2.25 ERA with 49/21 K/BB in 60 innings for Lexington, 2.32 GO/AO before hurting elbow, going down for Tommy John surgery.
14) Elier Hernandez, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .280/.337/.457 with 12 walks, 38 strikeouts in 175 at-bats for Idaho Falls in Pioneer League. This isn't dominant considering the hitting context of the league, however he is only 18 and his OPS has gained more than 200 points compared to last year when he was totally overmatched at the same level. Reports on tools still positive, so he's made progress refining them.
15) Robinson Yambati, RHP, Grade C+: 3.82 ERA with 42/18 K/BB in 35 innings for Wilmington, out since mid-July with elbow injury.
16) Miguel Almonte, RHP, Grade C+: What I wrote in January: Rookie ball sensation shows strong command of fastball and changeup. Need to see how it transitions to higher levels, but could rank much higher next year. The transition has gone well: 3.18 ERA, 103/33 K/BB in 105 innings for Lexington, 89 hits, enthusiastic scouting reports. Way up the charts now, ranks just behind Zimmer among Royals pitching prospects and a Top 50 candidate.
17) Donnie Joseph, LHP, Grade C+: 3.42 ERA with 77/31 K/BB in 50 innings for Omaha, holding lefties to .156 average. Perfect LOOGY profile.
18) Alexis Rivera, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .261/.342/.362 with 15 walks, 24 strikeouts in 138 at-bats for Idaho Falls. I felt he was capable of much better than this. Age 19.
19) Colin Rodgers, LHP, Grade C+: 3.27 ERA with 33/21 K/BB in 44 innings for Lexington, on disabled list since late May.
20) Christian Colon, 2B, Grade C: Hitting .264/.325/.374, 10 homers, 35 walks, 45 strikeouts in 417 at-bats for Omaha. Has been hot lately, hitting .330 with .475 SLG in his last 30 games and .361/.446/.597 in his last 18 games. Just a lucky streak or has he figured something out?
OTHERS: Humberto Arteaga, SS; Christian Binford, RHP; Edwin Carl, RHP; Christian Colon, 2B; Kenny Diekroeger, INF; Chris Dwyer, LHP; Alfredo Escalera, OF; Brett Eibner, OF; Andy Ferguson, RHP; Brian Fletcher, OF; Fred Ford, OF; Chad Johnson, C; David Lough, OF; Justin Marks, LHP; Daniel Stumpf, LHP; J.C. Sulbaran, RHP; Andrew Triggs, RHP
People were screaming for Dayton Moore's head a few weeks ago, with Wil Myers tearing things up in Tampa and the Royals struggling to score runs and mired below .500. This has changed very quickly.
Myers has been excellent (.329/.379/.553) but the Royals suddenly got extremely hot, pushing to 57-52 and back into contention, at least for the wild card spot. They didn't sell at the deadline, although I didn't like the Maxwell trade at all, thinking that you didn't have to give up a real prospect to get him plus I like Smith more than most people do. However, Smith got killed in his first start at Lancaster and Maxwell is 4-for-6 with a homer in Royals uniform. So far, that's a win for the Royals.
The roster still has holes, but hey, winning is winning. If the Royals get to the playoffs, was everything worth it? Sure. If they stay safely over .500 but don't make the playoffs? Sure. If they slump and finish below .500, what about then? We'll just have to see.
The only rookie to contribute much this year is 27-year-old David Lough, who profiles as a fourth outfielder for me due to his defense, gap pop, and ability to hit for average, although his lack of patience is a significant problem. He's one of those guys who becomes a drag on your offense if he's hitting below .300, since his OBP is almost entirely dependent on his batting average. What happens if he hits just .260?
Triple-A Omaha is a .500 team that relies mainly on journeymen, though there's some interest on the pitching staff with Yordano Ventura, rehabbing Danny Duffy, and erratic but talented lefty Chris Dwyer perhaps providing some big league help down the stretch. Double-A Northwest Arkansas is 20 games below .500 but actually has more raw positional talent than Omaha, with a heavy emphasis on raw. Recently-promoted Kyle Zimmer is the big name there and he should be ready to help the pitching staff sometime next year.
Injury attrition has taken a toll on the pitching arms. One exception is right-hander Christian Binford, former 30th round draft pick who already got through his Tommy John gauntlet in high school. He has a 1.95 ERA with a 113/21 K/BB in 115 innings down at Lexington and is young at age 20.
The 2013 draft brings in a promising college bat in Hunter Dozier, and if Sean Manea recovers properly from his hip injury, grabbing him in the supplemental round is a real coup.
Overall, this system is short of impact bats close to the majors and long on toolsy guys who haven't hit yet and may or may not do so in the future. They have a long list of injuries, but they still have an enviable collection of high-ceiling arms: any team would love to have Zimmer, Almonte, Ventura, and Manaea. I think the system grades out as middle-of-the-pack currently, featuring a mixture of both significant strengths and weaknesses.