Kansas City Royals Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Yordano Ventura - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our reviews of the pre-season prospect lists today with the Kansas City Royals. Remember, this is a review of the old list. This is not a new list! These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published December 16, 2013

1) Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Grade A-: Borderline B+. Has missed almost the entire season with a lat injury and a balky shoulder. No point in speculating at this stage.

2) Yordano Ventura, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline A-. 146 innings in the major leagues, with a 3.40 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 125/55 K/BB. This is his genuine level of talent, with the remaining unanswered question being durability.

3) Raul Mondesi, SS, Grade B+: Borderline B. Hitting .218/.262/.365 in 443 PA in High-A, 15 steals, 23 walks, 116 strikeouts. Reports continue to focus on defensive ability, overall athleticism, and youth at age 18, but he has a lot of work to do with the bat.

4) Miguel Almonte, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline B: Not a great year in High-A, 4.80 ERA in 101 innings, 89/30 K/BB, 101 hits, FIP is better at 4.14. Bothered by elbow problems and reports that his secondary pitches have gone backwards. Stock down some.

5) Hunter Dozier, 3B, Grade B: Borderline B+: Strong in High-A (.295/.397/.429, wRC+135 in 267 PA) but hasn’t carried this forward to Double-A (.208/.302/.311, wRC+80 in 242 PA). Defense has been disappointing as well. I felt he was capable of much better.

6) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Grade B: Another disappointment, .228/.301/.309 in 545 PA in Double-A, wRC+77. He hit well at this level last year so the lack of growth is disturbing, let alone the serious slippage in his performance. Still reasonably young at age 21 but stock is down.

7) Sean Manaea, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. 3.30 ERA in 115 innings in High-A, 3.27 FIP, 134/54 K/BB. Has picked up after a slow start, excellent K/IP ratio backs up reports on his stuff, has cut more than a run off his season ERA in the last month. Stock up, Grade B+.

8) Bubba Starling, OF, Grade B-: Hitting .219/.306/.346 in 520 PA in High-A, 16 steals, 86 wRC+. Still bedeviled with swing difficulties and lack of contact. Defense and baserunning are excellent but they won’t matter without a great deal of progress with the bat. Ceiling remains high but risk continues to grow and grade continues to drop.

9) Elier Hernandez, OF, Grade B-: Hitting .256/.288/.386 with 15 walks, 94 strikeouts in 419 PA in Low-A, wRC+ of 85. Not living up to his $3,000,000 bonus, looks good in uniform but uncrafted swing and poor strike zone judgment limit his production. Still young at age 19, has time to improve.

10) Sam Selman, LHP, Grade B-: 3.87 ERA in 93 innings in Double-A, 87/49 K/BB, 4.04 FIP. Just promoted to Triple-A. Still shows promising fastball but erratic command and secondary pitches make it more likely for him to succeed as a reliever than as a starter.

11) Jason Adam, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Traded to Minnesota Twins for Josh Willingham. 5.03 ERA in 98 innings in Double-A, 89/30 K/BB. Converted to bullpen after moving up to Triple-A with good early results (2.35 ERA, 11/4 K/BB in 15 innings) but Twins say they will move him back to starting. More of a C+/C type prospect at this point.

12) Orlando Calixte, SS, Grade C+: "Orlando Caxito" at Fangraphs, Calixte at Baseball Reference. Hitting .244/.292/.375 in 386 PA in Double-A, wRC+ of 89. Good glove but hitting has made no progress repeating Double-A, with poor pitch recognition the main culprit.

13) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Grade C+: Hit .276/.342/.420, wRC+118 in 395 PA in Double-A. Promoted to Triple-A, hitting .224/.268/.343, wRC+ 55 in 71 PA for Omaha. Remains an enigma, defense at third base is deteriorating at the same time his bat has improved, scouting report vary wildly depending on the source and when he’s seen. Still young at 21.

14) Brett Eibner, OF, Grade C+: Borderline C. Hitting .243/.319/.382 in 309 PA in Triple-A, 83 wRC+. Currently on injury rehab in Low-A, 2-for-20 so far. Still flashes physical talent, defense, power, still has problems with contact and actual production against quality pitching.

15) Christian Binford, RHP, Grade C+: Here’s one with rising stock, 2.40 ERA, 2.08 FIP in 83 innings in High-A, 3.19 ERA, 3.94 FIP in 48 innings in Double-A, just promoted to Triple-A, combined 134/19 K/BB in 136 innings on the season. Outstanding command has carried him forward.

16) Zane Evans, C, Grade C+: Hitting .232/.293/.339 in 376 PA in High-A, 79 wRC+. Very disappointing with the bat considering how well he hit for Georgia Tech and in the Pioneer League. Strong arm but has spent half the season at DH.

17) Alexis Rivera, OF, Grade C: I thought he was a sleeper but he has taken too much ambien, hitting .181/.276/.232 in 157 PA in Low-A, 49 wRC+, unable to make contact against low-level pitching with 68 whiffs in 204 PA overall. Highly disappointing.

18) Samir Duenez, 1B, Grade C: Hit .232/.268/.324 in 149 PA in Low-A,.290/.342/.370 in 112 PA in rookie ball. Very young, just 18 years old, hasn’t produced yet but not unexpected given his age and experience level. Very limited defensively so he needs to get the bat going.

19) Bryan Brickhouse, RHP, Grade C: Working his way back from Tommy John surgery, 4.88 ERA in 28 innings in rookie ball. Too soon to tell much here.

20) Christian Colon, 2B, Grade C: Strong in Triple-A (.311/.366/.433 in 388 PA) and off to a terrific start in the majors (.379/.418/.586 in 31 PA). He’s not that good but it would not surprise me to see him have a longer and more productive career than a lot of guys with better tools. As noted in the side bar article, we need to forget where he was drafted and concentrate on what he actually does.

Exciting times in Kansas City right now with the Royals in first place. Rookie Yordano Ventura and farm system products like Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and most of the starting lineup have been key reasons for this, even if the careers of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are hard to make sense of.

That said, there’s a lot of disappointment with the pre-season group, with several bats failing to develop as well as Zimmer’s inability to stay healthy. If you want to spin it positively, I suppose you could say that it opens up space for intriguing products of the 2014 draft. Lefty Brandon Finnegan, catcher Chase Vallot, righty Scott Blewett, and southpaw Foster Griffin should all rank highly going into 2015. Right-hander Glenn Sparkman has had an outstanding year in High-A.

Infielder Ramon Torres is also moving up the list, although 2014 bonus baby Marten Gasparini has been weak so far, with 30 strikeouts in 66 at-bats in rookie ball. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything given his youth, Italian background, and physical projection, although the failure of other young bats to develop in this system should give us a note of caution.

Or perhaps an entire symphony; there seems to be an endemic issue with developing hitters in this organization.

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