Thursday, January 21, 2010

TEAM #12 – Kansas City Royals

Montgomery has quietly become one of the Minors’ best arms

The Kansas City Royals check in at #12. With potentially eight prospects that may make the overall Top 100, there is a lot of quality at the top of this organization—but it falls off rapidly and the ‘B’ thru ‘C+’ level prospects are among the lightest in all of baseball. Perhaps more importantly, player development is a key issue with this franchise, as we have seen disappointing results coming from elite level draft picks (i.e. Moustakas and Hosmer), which has left the organization with only 1 position player prospect that earns a grade of ‘B’ or better that has played above A-ball. There are positive signs, including a number of quality prospects at the lower levels, and one of the most aggressive Latin American efforts over the last couple of seasons that should begin to pay dividends shortly and there is good balance between high-ceiling and low-floor types of players.

Grade A

1) Michael Montgomery, LHP (2009 Performance Scores – Dominance 57; Stamina 71; HRrate 50; Control 57)

Montgomery has been a personal favorite of ours for a couple of seasons now, as he brings the complete package that you want in a pitching prospect, namely: a competitive drive combined with a high baseball IQ, a low 90s fastball that could go a notch higher before he is done, quality secondary offerings with a potential plus change and above average curve, sound repeatable mechanics, precocious pitchability and command. While his ceiling is not short—potentially a Major League #2 starter material, his floor is about as high as they come for a 20yo pitcher. He used all of that in 2009, to post the second best Performance Score in the MWL, before posting an even more impressive top Performance Score in the Carolina (CAR) League. If you want to pick nits, you can talk about his weaknesses, namely his secondary offerings need work as he has a tendency to abandon them when he struggles, and his command still needs improvement, but they are things that time and experience should fix. Montgomery will pitch most of the 2010 season as a 20yo, and he is likely to begin it at AA. While he isn’t likely to see Kansas City this year, he looks like a good bet for the 2011 rotation.

2) Aaron Crow, RHP -

Crow allowed $500,000 to come between himself and the Nationals, causing him to sit out the 2009 season before getting drafted 12th (3 slots later than the previous year) and signing with the Royals for less money. We aren’t a fan of poor judgement, and are even less of a fan of a 23yo pitcher who has yet to throw a professional pitch. Nonetheless, the Royals did send him to the AZFL this fall, where he showed only minor rust, flashing a fastball that sat in the low-90s, and remarkable, given his layoff, command. Crow compliments his fastball with an above average curve. The downside here is that Crow is a fairly polished pitcher at this point, who isn’t likely to show much in the way of additional projection and his Change is not yet of Major League quality. The Royals could very well debut Crow at AA in 2010 where improving his change will be the focus. With the upside of a quality Major League #2, he could move rapidly—even seeing Kansas City before the year is out. If his Change doesn’t improve, he looks to have a solid floor at that of a back of the bullpen candidate.

Grade A -

3) Mike Moustakas, 3B (2009 – Power 71; First Base Rate 29; Discipline 62; Speed 55)

While we have never been as high on Moustakas as some have, things are getting a bit out of hand in downgrading him off of his disappointing 2009 performance. Coming off of a monster 2008, when he belted 28 home runs in the pitcher friendly MWL, the Royals aggressively promoted him to Hi-A, where he played the season as a 20yo. Despite the aggressive promotion, he still finished with a Top 10 Performance Score in the CAR. Power is his calling card, as over 40% of his hits go for extra bases. While he struggled at times against pitchers with better secondary stuff, his lightening quick bat allowed him to catch up to mistakes and he fanned only 17% of the time—despite a tremendously aggressive plate approach. Defense however is another matter. Moustakas was drafted as a SS, and quickly shifted over to third base. We warned at the time of his being drafted that we feel his eventual position will be RF or 1B—both of which will depress his value. Nothing we have seen so far has changed our opinion. The ceiling remains tremendously high for Moustakas, but the Royals need to be more patient with his development. He will open the season as a 21yo, and we would love to see another half-season at Hi-A—but don’t expect to get it.

4) Wil Myers, C/OF -

One of the biggest surprises, to us, of the 2009 draft was Myers, who we had rated as #23 on draft day, lasting all the way to the Royals at pick #91, where they signed him to mid-first round money. There are two things about Myers that we absolutely love: 1) His ‘diamond rat’ approach to the game where an observer would quickly assume that Myers would rather be playing baseball than do just about anything else and 2) his advanced bat that allows him to spray balls all over the diamond, with authority, seemingly at will. Myers is athletic, strong-armed and possesses decent speed for a catcher. Offensively, he shows plus power potential, and above average plate discipline and contact skills. The downside is that Myers is raw as a catcher, and may outgrow the position as he matures. We feel that he may be a better fit in RF, but the Royals will give him plenty of opportunities to behind the plate before moving him. Look for Myers to open 2010 in the MWL, where his advanced bat should perform quite well.

5) Danny Duffy, LHP (2009 – Dominance 66; Stamina 69; HRrate 49; Control 54)

Duffy continues to be one of the Minor League’s most underrated hurlers, as all that he has done since being a third round pick in 2007 is post the #2 Performance Score in the AZL in 2007, the #2 score in the MWL in 2008, and the #3 score in the CAR last season. Other than the lack of a truly overpowering fastball (his is a low 90s offering) and a tendency to throw across his body, we just don’t get what there is not to like. His curve ball shows plus potential, his change is at least an average offering, and his command—while sloppy at times, has always been at least League average. Add to that a solid baseball IQ and you have a pretty promising 21yo lefty. Duffy is likely to spend the 2010 season in the TXL. If he continues to put up the numbers he has in the past, the baseball world is going to have to take notice.

6) Noel Arguelles, LHP –

While Arguelles may be ‘the other Cuban lefty’ signed this off-season, he is likely a more polished pitcher than Chapman at this stage of his career—despite being only 20yo. With a low-90s fastball and potentially three Major League pitches, Arguelles has the upside of a mid-rotation starter. At this point it looks like Arguelles will begin the year in either the CAR or TXL, and it will be interesting to get some real numbers on him.

7) Tim Melville, RHP (2009 – Dominance 57; Stamina 68; HRrate 48; Control 40)

Melville was likely the top prep arm available in the 2008 draft, but lasted until the 4th round due to signability concerns. Melville possesses a heavy, low-90s, fastball and a potentially plus curve. Like many prep pitchers, his change is an underdeveloped offering at this stage. There is plenty of projection left in him. Melville has the ceiling of a front of the rotation starter if he can develop his change. On the downside, he has trouble repeating his delivery, and therefore his command leaves a lot to be desired. Look for Melville to begin 2010 at Hi-A.

8) Eric Hosmer, 1B (2009 – Power 40; First Base Rate 54; Discipline 45; Speed 34)

Tabbed by many as the top prep hitter available in the 2008 draft, his 2009 season has to be considered a huge disappointment. We urge caution in his assessment though, as he, like Moustakas, is a victim of an over aggressive promotion approach by Royal management. Hosmer played the entire 2009 season as a 19yo, and still posted a Top 20 Performance score in the MWL. Add to that, Hosmer had eye surgery at the end of the season, aimed at correcting some vision problems. Hosmer possesses plus power and contact potential. While he did fan in 21% of his PAs, he has shown the patience for taking a walk, and was playing the 2009 at a very precocious level. We are likely to give Hosmer somewhat of a mulligan for 2009, and still see him with the upside of an above average Major League first baseman. We aren’t convinced that, if Moustakas ends up developing at first base, Hosmer couldn’t become a solid right fielder. Look for him to repeat Hi-A at the beginning of 2010, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see significantly better results.

Grade B

9) John Lamb, LHP (2009 – Dominance 68; Stamina 71; HRrate 48; Control 58)

Lamb was a 5th round pick in 2008, who had missed his entire senior season due to injuries. The Royals were somewhat cautious with him, and he did not make his professional debut until the short season leagues opened this summer. Lamb made up for lost time, as he posted the Top pitching Performance score in the Pioneer League. Although there is plenty of projection here, Lamb’s fastball is currently only a 90Mph offering. While he controls it reasonably well, it is his pitchability where he scores the highest. On the downside, Lamb has thrown only 70 innings over the last two seasons and his secondary offerings are lagging. There is mid-rotation upside here, and he will likely take his act to full-season A-ball to begin the 2010 season.

10) Johnny Giavotella, 2B (2009 – Power 42; First Base Rate 71; Discipline 77; Speed 77

The Royals drafted Giavotella in the second round in 2008 and sent him to the MWL where he posted a Top 15 Performance Score in his debut. Moving up to the CAR in 2009, he bettered that with the #9 Performance Score in the League. Only 5’8”, Giavotella makes up what he lacks in size with a fierce baseball intensity. He possesses solid middle infield speed, excellent plate discipline and above average contact skills. The downside is that he will never hit for much power, and defensively he is below average. While this isn’t a significantly high-upside player, but he does profile as a solid utility infielder type at the Major League level. Expect Giavotella to move up to AA to start 2010.

11) David Lough, OF (2009 – Power 68; First Base Rate 53; Discipline 71; Speed 62)

After playing two seasons where he was a bit old for his League, the Royals finally challenged Lough with more age appropriate competition in 2009, when he finished the season as a 23yo in the TXL. Lough responded with his best performance of his career—posting the League’s #4 Performance score. Lough is a patient hitter, with plus speed and above average power and contact skills. He has the upside of an average Major League everyday outfielder, with a floor of a solid 4th OF type, if he can’t improve his splits against lefties. With only a little over 230 age-appropriate professional ABs, we still want to see more, and the Royals should provide Lough with that opportunity at AAA in 2010.

12) Chris Dwyer, LHP –

We had Dwyer rated as a second/third round talent on draft day, where the Royals picked him in the 4th round and gave him first round money. Scouts drool over his athleticism and Dwyer possesses a low 90s fastball and compliments it with a potentially plus curve. His change should end up as an at least average Major League offering. With that combination, Dwyer has the upside of a solid mid-rotation starter. The biggest negative for us is that, being a draft-eligible freshman, Dwyer isn’t as polished a pitcher as one would like for a 22yo. Add to that some disappointing control performances at Clemson, and you have a long way to get from where he is to a finished product—and a relatively short window to accomplish it. Expect Dwyer to make his full season debut at Hi-A. There is definitely upside here, but it comes with significant questions.

13) Yowill Espinal, SS (2009 – Power 59; First Base Rate 44; Discipline 54; Speed 64)

Espinal is another middle infielder without a tremendously high upside, but an intriguing set of skills. A solid athlete, Espinal has good speed, solid range and a strong arm. If he outgrows the shortstop position as he matures, second base would be a sound option. Offensively, Espinal doesn’t have any one skill that stands out, but he is solid across the board, save for his lack of patience at the plate. The Royals should challenge the 19yo Espinal with his first full-season assignment in 2010.

14) Jeff Bianchi, SS (2009 – Power 51; First Base Rate 65; Discipline 44; Speed 70)

Big things were expected from Bianchi after the Royals drafted him in the second round in 2005, and he posted a 1.229 OPS in his AZL debut, but a series of injuries and poor performances basically had Bianchi disappearing from the prospect radar screen entering the 2009 season. But Bianchi posted his best performance since his 2005 debut in stints in the CAR and TXL. With no exceptional skills, Bianchi does show solid average skills across the board, including solid defensive fundamentals, despite a tendency to chase too many bad balls at times. Bianchi is a low ceiling player, who probably possesses the upside of a slightly below average Major League middle infielder, but his floor is also not likely worse than a utility type. Look for him to cement his future role as a 23yo in AAA in 2010.

Grade B-

15) Jordan Parraz, RF (2009 – Power 71; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 75; Speed 34)

Parraz has been a fringy prospect, ever since the Astros made him a third round pick in 2004. While his numbers have been relatively solid throughout, he has invariably been a bit old for his League. 2009 was no exception, as Parraz played most of the season in AA as a 24yo. Still he posted the #5 Performance score in the TXL. Parraz possesses average power and contact skills. His strike zone management skills are his only true plus talent, as a string of injuries has diminished his, once, above average speed. Now a 25yo, Parraz looks likely to begin 2010 in AAA. While his ceiling isn’t tremendously high, he could very well see Kansas City at some point this season.

16) Kila Ka’aihue, 1B (2009 – Power 65; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 50; Speed 30)

Another player who has been a fringy prospect for some time, Ka’aihue broke out with a huge season in 2008, winning the TXL MVP award and getting a few late season ABs in Kansas City. Seemingly poised to win a roster spot in 2009, he found himself without any real opportunity and spent the entire season in AAA, posting solid, yet unspectacular, numbers. Ka’aihue has a solid bat, with above average power and contact skills, coupled with plus plate discipline. Unfortunately, he is only a marginal defensive firstbaseman, and has base-clogging speed. Ka’aihue will play the 2010 season as a 25yo. While he has a relatively high degree of certainty to spend some time in the Majors this season, the offensive bar is considerably higher for a player with his defensive liabilities. We don’t see a strong enough bat to be an everyday DH, so there is little likelihood that he becomes much more than a platoon type player.

17) Chester Cuthbert, 3B –

The Royals signed Cuthbert for $1.3MM in July, as part of what has to be considered one of the year’s most aggressive Latin American efforts. We had Cuthbert as a Top 10 Latin American talent entering the July signing period, as he is potentially the best position player to come out of Nicaragua. With a chiseled physique, Cuthbert possesses plus power potential and an advanced plate approach. Defensively he has soft hands and a strong arm, though there are questions about his lateral movement as he continues to mature. Expect Cuthbert to make his U.S. debut in the rookie League this summer. There is a significant upside here.

18) Derrick Robinson, CF (2009 – Power 33; First Base Rate 46; Discipline 65; Speed 80)

While scouts still drool over his blazing speed, it is becoming apparent that the 2006 4th round pick isn’t likely to hit enough to ever be an everyday Big League player. Now 22yo, Robinson still doesn’t show anything more than below average power and below average contact skills. He doesn’t walk enough to take full advantage of his speed. Defensively, he has Major League talent, and when combined with his base running ability, there remains a good chance that he may eventual find an opportunity as a Major League role player. With three appearances now in Hi-A, the Royals will advance him to AA in 2010. Unless something clicks that hasn’t been there in his first four seasons, there just isn’t much to see here.

19) Carlos Rosa, RP (2009 – Dominance 77; Stamina 29; HRrate 48; Control 34)

After six seasons as a starter, the Royals converted Rosa to the bullpen in 2009, and it looks to be the place where he will spend the remainder of his professional career. With a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, Rosa has all the makings of a solid back of the bullpen contributor. He will have to continue to improve his command though if he is going to find Big League success, as he walks more than 4 batters per 9IP. Look for Rosa to compete for a spot in the Royals pen this spring. If he must return to AAA, he could be one of the first arms called up.

20) Tim Smith, LF (2009 – Power 56; First Base Rate 71; Discipline 67; Speed 68)

Acquired with Manny Pina in the Gutierrez trade, Smith is one of those players that never gets his just respect from the scouting community. With a bit below average power, plus contact skills, and above average speed and strike zone management skills, Smith posted a Top 20 Performance Score in the CAL, before posting the #9 score in the TXL. While not a high ceiling player, Smith has shown enough to believe that he could have a Major League career as a David Murphy type player. At 23yo, Smith is likely to be moved up to AAA in 2010, with a chance to contribute in Kansas City before the season’s end.

Grade C+ Prospects –

21) Tyler Sample, RHP; 22) Fernando Cruz, C; 22) Greg Billo, RHP; 23) Jason Taylor, 3B; 25) Edgar Osuna, LHP; 26) Louis Coleman, RHP; 27) Nick Van Stratten, LF; 28) Manny Pina, C; 29) Blake Wood, RHP; 30) Crawford Simmons, LHP; 31) Fernando Garcia, 2B.

Grade C Prospects –
Juan Abreu; Eric Basturto; Geulin Beltre; Jerico Blanco; Jose Bonilla; Edward Cegerra; Malcom Culver; Joe Dickerson; Jarrod Dyson; Carlos Fortuna; Juan Graterol; Blaine Hardy; Keaton Hayenga; Chris Hayes; Kelvin Herrera; Greg Holland; Dusty Hughes; Tug Hulett; Patrick Keating; Alex Llanos; Chris Lubanski; Sean McCauley; Kurt Mertins; Chris Nicoll; Dusty Oldenbach; Salvador Perez; Hilton Richardson; Clint Robinson; Jin-Ho Shin; Brandon Sisk; Ben Theriot; Cole White.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

No comments:

Post a Comment