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Kansas City Royals Top 20 Pre-Season Prospects in Review

1) Denny Bautista, RHP
Began the season in the rotation, went 2-2, 5.80 in seven starts before going down with shoulder trouble. Surgery was avoided and he is expected to be healthy for '06. Bautista has a great arm, but is still learning how to pitch. Status for '06 is basically the same as for '05: can he throw strikes?

2) Billy Butler, 1B-3B
Now an outfielder. Hit .348/.419/.636 at Class A High Desert, then .312/333/.527 in 29 games for Double-A Wichita, at age 19. He has explosive bat speed and good plate discipline; these numbers are not just thin air inflation. Has hit 40 homers with 106 walks in his first 195 career games.

3) J.P. Howell, LHP
Was rushed very quickly, too quickly in my view. Pitched very well in A-ball and Double-A, went 3-1, 4.06 in seven starts in Triple-A, but was hit hard in the majors, going 3-5, 6.19 in 15 starts with a 54/39 K/BB in 73 innings. His walk rate was too high in the majors for a guy who doesn't throw that hard. If Howell's confidence is intact, he still has a reasonable chance to be a successful pitcher, but the Royals may regret having pushed him so quickly.

4) Justin Huber, 1B
Destroyed the Texas League with a .343/.432/.570 mark in 88 games. Held his own in Triple-A at .274/.374/.53, but was overmatched in 25 games in the majors. A late-season injury reportedly inhibited his September production. Huber is similar to a young Mike Sweeney, right down to his background as a catcher.

5) Mark Teahen, 3B
Hit .246/.309/.376 in 130 games for Kansas City. Disappointing performance overall, although he played very well in September. Needs to have a good year in 2006 to hold off Alex Gordon.

6) Billy Buckner, RHP
3.88 ERA with 60/17 K/BB in 60 innings for Class A Burlington, then 5-6, 5.36 with 92/46 K/BB in 94 innings for High Desert. The Cal League numbers are not bad considering the difficult context at High Desert. Buckner has good command of average stuff, projecting as a fourth/fifth starter.

7) Ambiorix Burgos, RHP
Unexpectedly promoted to the majors early in the year, posted a 3.98 ERA and a 65/31 K/BB in 63 innings for Kansas City. Throws very hard, and made strides with his breaking stuff and his command this year, despite being rushed into major league action. Part of the foundation for a strong bullpen.

8) Shane Costa, OF
Hit .282/.349/.448 in 75 games for Double-A Wichita. Hit .235/.287/.333 in a 27-game trial in Kansas City, like many guys being rushed too quickly. A skilled contact hitter, but may be a "tweener," lacking the power to play regularly.

9) Matt Campbell, LHP
Went 1-5, 4.66 in 12 starts for Class A Burlington, with disappointing 48/37 K/BB ratio. Problem was health: his shoulder bothered him all spring, and he had to be shut down early.

10) Don Murphy, 2B
Plagued by injuries, but hit .313/.362/.523 in 50 games for Wichita when healthy. Overmatched in 32-game major league trial, and needs a dose of Triple-A. Will be in the second base mix somewhere by 2007.

11) Mike Aviles, SS
Hit .280/.318/.447 for Double-A Wichita, with 14 homers. Another guy in the infield mix over the next two years.

12) Andy Sisco, LHP
Very successful Rule 5 pick, posted 3.11 ERA and 76/42 K/BB in 75 innings for the Royals. Needs to tighten up his control, but another young component for a potentially excellent bullpen. Not just a LOOGY, either.

13) Mitch Maier, OF
Hit .336 at High Desert, but just .255 with .289 OBP after promotion to Wichita. He combined for 49 doubles and 15 homers, but he needs to revive the good strike zone judgment he showed in college.

14) Andres Blanco, SS
Was injured most of the season. Hit just .215 in 26-game trial with the Royals, but showed tremendous fielding ability at both second base and shortstop. Probably won't hit much, although young enough at age 21 to improve. Another guy to consider in the infield.

15) Ryan Braun, RHP
Limited to just nine innings all season due to injuries.

16) Leo Nunez, RHP
Posted 14/2 K/BB in 13 innings for Wichita, 0.68 ERA, four saves. Was hit hard in the majors, although he flashed plus stuff. Another young power arm for the bullpen.

17) Chris Lubanski, OF
Overcame slow start to hit .301/.349/.554 at High Desert, with 38 doubles, 28 homers, 14 steals in 15 attempts, and 116 RBI. Nice numbers for a 20-year-old, although High Desert is a great place to hit, and there are questions about how much of this will carry forward to Double-A. My guess is that the power development is mostly real, but that his batting average and OBP will take a big hit in '06.

18) Brian McFall, OF
Hit .234/.319/.401 with 14 homers and 13 steals for Burlington. McFall has good tools, but his strike zone judgment is poor and inhibits his development.

19) Josh Johnson, 2B
Hit .240/.369/.388 for short-season Idaho Falls. Has good plate discipline and speed, but not much power. Needs to step forward in full-season ball in '06.

20) Justin Huisman, RHP
Went 8-2, 3.92 for Omaha with a 57/40 K/BB in 78 innings. His velocity was down this year, and he had problems with command for the first time in his career. Chance to sneak into middle relief role is fading.