The Kansas City Royals’ farm system has served as a pipeline to the major leagues in recent years, producing former top prospects such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy, as well as a slew of late-inning arms.
It seemed as though the organization would once again boast a top-10 farm system headed into the 2013 season, but after trading three of its top-10 prospects—including its top offensive (Wil Myers) and pitching (Jake Odorizzi) prospects—to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis, it’s a shell of what it was a few years ago.
In the wake of their deal with the Rays, the Royals’ prospect pool is now highlighted by a host of young, inexperienced players who are still years away from reaching the major leagues. A majority of their top prospects will open the 2013 season at either High-A Wilmington or Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where they each will presumably be tested.
Most of the team’s success in developing prospects has been the result of strong drafts, especially in 2009 and 2010. And although both Kyle Zimmer (2012) and Bubba Starling (2011) represent their top prospects, the Royals also have quietly assembled an impressive crop of raw, international talent.
Here’s a look at the Kansas City Royals’ top 10 prospects headed into the 2013 season.
DOB: 12/6/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2011 (Manheim Township HS, Penn.)
Scouting Notes: Large, physical catcher at 6’3”, 210 pounds; struggled in pro debut last season, batting .157/.227/.213 in 28 games; battled injuries all season which limited him to only 36 games in the rookie-level Appalachian League; much stronger performance at the plate, batting .276/.331/.425 with 13 extra-base hits; missed time with a hand and shoulder injury; compact swing results in loud contact; potential for above-average hit tool; lacks bat speed but still drives through the ball with authority; more power to the pull side; advanced plate discipline considering his age and amount of experience.
Appeared in only 30 games behind the plate last season; larger frame and lack of clear path to the major leagues may ultimately move him off the position; above-average receiver; blocking lacks consistency and needs improvement; lauded for game-calling and ability to slow down the game; above-average arm strength limits the running game, but he needs to streamline his throws with consistency.
Spring Training Forecast: The top catching prospect in the Royals’ system, the organization will continue to develop the 20-year-old at a gradual pace.
2013 Outlook: Given his projection as a major league backstop, the Royals are in a position to challenge Cam Gallagher with a full-season assignment at Low-A to open the 2013 season.
DOB: 8/4/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 219
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2010 (Blue Valley Northwest HS, Kan.)
Scouting Notes: Right-hander is physically mature at 6’4”, 219 pounds, but still has room left to fill out; didn’t make professional debut until 2011, in which he registered a 4.23 ERA in 104 innings; mechanics were simplified upon turning pro which detracted from his velocity; led to improved command is sophomore campaign; utilized a more active delivery as an amateur.
Fastball was touching high 90s in 2010, though he typically sat in the 90 to 94 mph range last season; pitch isn’t explosive with new, refined mechanics; shows ability to command it to both sides of the plate; locates curveball with consistency, though it’s a dead pitch at the moment; pace can be too slow and pace too loopy; changeup is undeveloped and flashes average potential; don’t be surprised if he struggles in 2013 at Double-A.
Spring Training Forecast: Jason Adam will participate in minor league spring training, as he continues to develop a feel for his mechanics and arsenal.
2013 Outlook: After an impressive full season at High-A in 2012, Adam is poised to make the jump to Double-A in 2013.
DOB: 11/16/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190
Drafted/Signed: July, 2009 (Nicaragua)
Scouting Notes: Cheslor Cuthbert was signed out of Nicaragua in 2009 for $1.35 million; posted a .742 OPS in full-season debut in 2011 as an 18-year-old; struggled at High-A Wilmington this past season as the youngest everyday player in the Carolina League; batted .240/.296/.322 in 124 games; present strength at 6’1”, 190 pounds; plus raw power; uses entire field; pitch recognition is poor; chases too many breaking balls out of the zone; solid bat-to-ball ability.
Moves well at the hot corner despite thick lower half; should be able to remain at the position even if he fills out unfavorably; gets to more balls than expected; clean footwork despite lack of speed; good instincts; plus arm; will likely open 2013 back at High-A but should graduate to Double-A as a 20-year-old.
Spring Training Forecast: Despite spending the entire 2012 season at High-A, Cuthbert will head to minor league spring training for additional work on his swing.
2013 Outlook: Due to his regression last season at the more advanced level, the Royals may decide to give him a second tour to begin the year, as there’s no need to rush the 20-year-old.
DOB: 2/3/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160
Drafted/Signed: Aug., 2010 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: Highly athletic shortstop with an array of tools and steadily developing baseball skills; was overmatched last season as a 19-year-old at Low-A Kane County; repeated the level to open the 2012 season and batted .241/.303/.465 with 27 extra-base hits in 62 games; received aggressive midseason promotion to High-A Wilmington and exceeded expectations; batted .281/.326/.426 with 65 strikeouts in 63 games; showcases plus bat speed; pull-oriented approach is problematic; swing can get too long; swings at everything and makes too much weak contact due to bat-to-ball skills; moves well on the basepaths but isn’t a base stealer.
Inconsistent and frustrating defender; natural ability is there but his skills are raw; has the range to remain at the position; seems to lose focus on routine plays and abandons fundamentals; error total should come down with experience; strong arm; fails to consistently generate momentum towards target which results in inaccurate throws.
Spring Training Forecast: Coming off his best season as a professional, Orlando Calixte will continue to fine-tune his game this spring in minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: After finishing his 2012 campaign with a strong showing at High-A, the 21-year-old will likely return to that level to open the season, and could potentially to graduate to Double-A after the All-Star break.
DOB: 11/14/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 165
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2012 (Vanderbilt)
Scouting Notes: Raw college arm with minimal experience; untapped potential; had serious helium headed into the draft; dominated in professional debut in the Pioneer League, registering a 2.09 ERA and leading the league with 89 strikeouts in 60.1 innings; control and command will be challenged against more advanced hitters; arm gets stiff on the backside; has to work for consistent release point; not conducive to commanding secondary offerings.
Fastball has steadily gained velocity and now sits 91 to 96 mph; can reach back for a few more ticks when needed; throws it with weight and induces a favorable amount of groundouts; slider is a second plus pitch with late, diving break, though his command is fringy; swing-and-miss offering; changeup is present but nothing special; will need it to be at least average for success at higher levels; still has a high ceiling as a reliever if third pitch doesn’t develop; seems like a pitcher who needs to be challenged next season.
Spring Training Forecast: Even though he’s headed for minor league camp, the Pioneer League pitcher of the year could see some time on the mound with the Royals later this spring.
2013 Outlook: Depending on his development this spring, the Royals could challenge the southpaw with a jump directly to High-A. Regardless of his Opening Day level, there’s a strong chance that Sam Selman finishes the year at Double-A.
DOB: 6/4/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 192
Drafted/Signed: Dec., 2009 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: Younger brother of Emilio; physically mature at 6’1”, 192 pounds; played entire 2012 season as a 19-year-old at Low-A Kane County; batted .282/.336/.432 with 36 extra-base hits (10 home runs) and 84/30 K/BB in 105 games; struggled during second-half of the season; was limited over final two months of the season due to a wrist injury.
After the Wil Myers trade, Jorge Bonifacio is now, arguably, the top hitter in the system; above-average bat speed; laces the ball to all fields with quick wrists and a line-drive stroke; potential for above-average hit tool; adept to tracking the ball deep and driving it the other way; slightly above-average power potential; power frequency should improve as he becomes more comfortable turning on the ball; will armbar on occasion and drag bat head through the zone; highly advanced approach for his age.
Average runner with similar range in right field; will likely lose a step as he matures but shouldn’t be forced off the position; above-average arm strength ideal for right field; reads are still raw but should improve with additional experience; a strong season could have him in Double-A before the end of the year.
Spring Training Forecast: Bonifacio will head to minor league camp with a chance to see some playing time in exhibitions game later in the month.
2013 Outlook: The 19-year-old will open the 2013 season at High-A Wilmington, and if his power continues to emerge, could make a brief appearance at Double-A later in the year.
DOB: 7/27/1995 (Age: 17)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 165
Drafted/Signed: July, 2011 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: Son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi, Adalberto signed in the summer of 2011 for $2 million; spent 2012 season in the rookie-level Pioneer League, half of it as a 16-year-old; projectable 6’1”, 165-pound frame leaves room to add strength; switch-hitter who’s understandably raw from both sides of the plate; approach is advanced for his age and gives him a chance for an average-to-above-average overall hit tool; above-average bat speed; hard to get a read on his power potential at the moment; shows in-game gap power and has above-average speed to be consistent extra-base threat.
Mondesi is raw at shortstop, but has the athleticism and defensive skills to stick at the position; intuitive player with an instinctual first step; excellent glove; slick transfer and quick release; needs to improve his body control; plus range led to high error total this past season, though it’s nothing concerning; plus arm should only get stronger.
Spring Training Forecast: Still a very raw prospect, Mondesi will benefit from additional instruction this spring in minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: After an outstanding professional debut as the youngest player in the Pioneer League, Mondesi will likely be challenged with a promotion to Low-A to open the season.
DOB: 6/3/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 140
Drafted/Signed: Oct., 2008 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: Right-hander has wiry frame at 5’11”, 140 pounds with room to add strength, clearly; registered a 3.30 ERA with 98/28 K/BB in 76.1 innings last season for High-A Wilmington; started for the World Team in the XM Futures Game; received midseason promotion to Double-A NW Arkansas where he posted a 4.60 ERA over six starts.
Yorando Ventura has a lightning-quick arm that pumps fastballs in the mid-to-high 90s; capable of reaching triple digits earlier in starts and in shorter stints; curveball has the makings of a second plus pitch with sharp downer break; comfortable throwing it in any count; legitimate out pitch but still needs refinement; changeup is fringy but could be a weapon if it develops as hoped; potential to be highly effective considering his arm speed; both command and control are raw; doesn’t always show a consistent feel for arsenal; development of changeup will dictate whether he remains a starter or is fast-tracked as a reliever.
Spring Training Forecast: The little man with the big arm will look to make an impression in his first big league camp, and could potentially audition for a late-season call-up.
2013 Outlook: After struggling at Double-A following a late-season promotion, the right-hander will presumably return to the level to begin the year.
DOB: 8/3/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 180
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011 (Gardner-Edgerton HS, Kan.)
Scouting Notes: Legitimate center field prospect with present plus defense and arm strength as well as above-average range; premium athlete at 6’4”, 180 pounds who receives above-average-to-plus grades for his speed; no reason to believe he won’t remain at the position.
Batted .275/.371/.485 with 20 extra-base hits and 70 strikeouts in 53 games in Appalachian League; painfully raw from an offensive standpoint; right-handed hitter boasts above-average raw power to all fields with slightly more to his pull side; concerning amount of swing-and-miss in his game (70 strikeouts in 200 at-bats) with an inability to make in-game adjustments; has a tendency to armbar which leads to a long swing; bat head travels through the zone on same plane regardless of pitch location; lacks bat-to-ball ability which impedes overall projection of hit tool; more experience will hopefully improve his pitch recognition.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in his second minor league camp, Bubba Starling will try to establish a more consistent swing and approach before the start of the season.
2013 Outlook: Although it’s taken a little longer than expected, Starling will finally graduate to Low-A for his full-season debut.
DOB: 9/13/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (San Francisco)
Scouting Notes: After the Royals selected Kyle Zimmer with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, the right-hander ultimately reached Low-A Kane County and registered a 2.04 ERA with 42/8 K/BB in 39.2 innings across two levels.
Projectable frame at 6’3”, 215 pounds; had surgery following the season to remove bone chips in his elbow; clean, repeatable mechanics; fast, fluid arm action; lack of mileage after moving to the mound as a college sophomore; works on consistent downhill plane.
Zimmer’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s with late life; jumps out of his hand thanks to quick arm; can reach back for 96 to 98 mph at times; curveball projects to be a second plus pitch with sharp downer break; also throws an average slider with tight rotation; changeup has come along nicely and gives him a deep, four-pitch mix; gets into trouble when he throws too many strikes; should correct itself with experience.
Spring Training Forecast: After undergoing offseason surgery, the Royals will ease the right-hander back into action this spring in minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: Zimmer will likely open the 2013 season at High-A, while his electric arsenal and feel for the strike zone should allow him finish the year at Double-A.