Sleeper Pitching Prospects in the Kansas City Farm System
Through drafting and trades, the Kansas City Royals have collected an outstanding group of pitching prospects in Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Dan Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Jeffress, and Aaron Crow. But the system has a second tier of pitching prospects beyond the top group. In many organizations, these pitchers would get much more attention, however in Kansas City they get overlooked. So let's correct that, and take a look at some of the sleeper prospects in this loaded organization.
Jason Adam, RHP: Drafted in the fifth round last year from a high school in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Adam hasn't pitched professionally yet so might get overlooked by casual fans. He can hit the mid-90s but needs work on his secondary pitches and command. Scout say he has the upside of a number two starter, and in many systems he would already be a Top Ten prospect. I gave him a Grade C+ in the book, with higher grades possible as he starts pitching.
Buddy Baumann, LHP: A seventh round pick in 2009 from Missouri State University, Baumann is a finesse lefty who works in the 80s but has an excellent curveball and changeup. He posted a 2.24 ERA with a 113/36 K/BB in 100 innings for High-A Wilmington with just 76 hits allowed last year. Although the park was in his favor, I don't think it is all illusion. I saw him pitch in college and he's got a great feel for changing speeds and pitching. I have him rated as a Grade C+ with a chance to be a fourth/fifth starter or a bullpen asset.
Kevin Chapman, LHP: A fourth round pick from the University of Florida last year, Chapman is a power lefty with a 90-94 MPH fastball and a hard slider. He fanned 20 in 18 innings for Wilmington, but might be overlooked due to his 5.50 ERA. He was extremely effective in college, however, where he saved 13 games with a 1.65 ERA and strong component ratios last year. If he throws strikes he can move to the majors quickly as a reliever, and his stuff is good enough he doesn't have to be a mere LOOGY. Grade C+.
Louis Coleman, RHP: Drafted out of LSU in the fifth round in 2009, Coleman has been very effective in pro ball so far, with a 2.06 ERA and a 125/29 K/BB in 114 innings, 72 hits allowed, all in relief including an impressive performance in Triple-A last year. He's got solid velocity, good breaking stuff, a deceptive delivery, and an unimpeachable statistical track record. We should see him in the majors this year, and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets a chance to close eventually. At worst he'll be a great 8th inning guy. I gave him a Grade B-, a high grade for a reliever, but I really like him.
Tim Collins, LHP: Collins is well-known to sabermetrically-oriented fans. Originally in the Blue Jays system, he was traded to the Braves and then to the Royals last year. His career numbers: 2.26 ERA, 329/96 K/BB in 223 innings, 141 hits. . .his K/IP and H/IP marks are terrific. He has a nasty breaking ball and an above average fastball despite his 5-7, 155 pound frame. Scouts were skeptical at first, but as he's moved up the ladder successfully, more of them are buying in. I rate him as a Grade C+ and a likely contributor in the KC bullpen later this year. His stuff is good enough that he won't be confined to LOOGYdom.
Patrick Keating, RHP: Keating was drafted in the 20th round in 2009 from the University of Florida. In 104 professional innings, he has a 2.08 ERA with a 148/39 K/BB and just 72 hits allowed, along with 24 saves. This includes 10 saves, a 3.10 ERA and a 60/19 K/BB in just 41 innings in Double-A last year. Keating has a 90-94 MPH heater, a good slider, and outstanding K/IP marks. We should see him in the Royals bullpen later this year or in 2012, and he's another Grade C+ prospect to watch.
Justin Marks, LHP: Acquired from Oakland for David DeJesus this past winter, Marks was a third round pick from the University of Memphis in 2009. He has an unattractive 5.29 ERA so far in A-ball, but his components are more impressive with a 136/53 K/BB in 129 innings, 129 hits allowed. He has an upper-80s fastball, a curve, slider, and changeup, picks up grounders, and could sneak up on us as a fifth starter or long relief type. Grade C.
Leonel Santiago, RHP: Signed out of the Dominican in 2007, Santiago posted a 66/17 K/BB with a 2.78 ERA in 81 innings for Burlington in the Appalachian League last year, with 73 hits. He will transition to Low-A this year. His fastball is average but he has a good curve, throws strikes, and has a chance to break through into being an interesting prospect according to people close to the organization. Grade C, but should be watched.
Crawford Simmons, LHP: A 14th round pick from a Georgia high school in 2009, Simmons could have been a third or fourth round pick but he had a commitment to Georgia Tech that cost $450,000 to buy out. He posted a 2.77 ERA with a 70/19 K/BB in 78 innings for Burlington in the Appy League, working with an average fastball, excellent curve, and strong changeup. He throws strikes and knows how to pitch, and there's some chance his velocity can pick up. I have him as a "Grade C but interesting" and with a Sleeper Alert! Tag in the book this year.
Will Smith, LHP: The Royals picked up Smith from the Angels last year for Alberto Callaspo. He split the season between four teams which broke up his stat line, but he's got decent stuff, including an 88-92 MPH fastball (he threw harder after the trade) and a good curve. He's still working on his changeup and could use a year of stability, but he was great after the trade (2.80 ERA with 51/4 K/BB in 55 innings at Wilmington) and is another guy who could develop into a fourth starter. He's another C+.
Everett Teaford, LHP: A 12th round pick in 2006 from Georgia Southern, Teaford went 14-3, 3.36 with a 113/32 K/BB in 99 innings for Double-A Arkansas last year, with 91 hits allowed. He's a soft-tosser with a so-so fastball, but he changes speeds well, throws strikes, knows how to pitch, and has had success as both a starter and releiver. The Royals like him enough to give him a spot on the 40-man roster, and while he doesn't have the plus velocity of other lefties in the system, he shouldn't be underestimated as a surprise contributor. Grade C, but interesting.
Yordano Ventura, RHP: Ventura was signed out of the Dominican in 2008. He made his North American debut last year, posting a 58/17 K/BB in 53 innings for the Arizona Rookie League Royals, with a 3.25 ERA and 49 hits allowed. He showed off a mid-90s fastball and reportedly hit 100 at times. His secondary pitches are below average and he's pretty raw, but the arm strength is very impressive obviously. He isn't big at 5-11, 160 and could end up in relief eventually. Grade C+, with higher potential.
Robinson Yambati, RHP: Another Dominican, Yambati was signed in 2009 and is more classically projectable than teammate Ventura, with a 6-3, 185 build. He posted a 2.71 ERA with a 64/12 K/BB in 66 innings and 65 hits. He works at 90-93 MPH with his sinker, can hit 95, and should pick up more velocity. He has a decent curve but needs a better changeup. He is control is good. He's a Grade C+ but higher grades are possible as he moves up.