Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Farm System: Year In Review

The minor league regular seasons have ended. The Royals' farm system had a pretty good year, considering the number of promotions during the year. Billy Butler and Justin Huber continued to establish themselves as top hitting prospects. On the pitching end, the farm system didn't make much progress. Most of the Royals' prospects have moved up to the next level and had success. Here's a look at the Royals' top prospects and their performance this season:

1. Billy Butler 19/LF: Butler has had a phenomenal season. Butler is easily the Royals' minor league player of the year. Butler tore up the California League, hitting .348 with 30 doubles and 25 HRs. Butler struggled, relatively speaking, at AA, but still had 14 extra base hits in 112 ABs. Butler did a pretty good job of adjusting to AA. Butler will be playing in the Arizona Fall League and will compete for a roster spot in Spring Training. Butler would be best served to start next season in AA and make a stop at AAA before joining the big league team. Given the Royals' pathetic situation at the corner outfield spots, he'll likely make his major-league debut early next year.

AA 112 ABs .313/.357/.527 9 2Bs 5 HRs 19 RBIs
High A 379 ABs .348/.419/.636 30 2Bs 25 HRs 91 RBIs

2. Justin Huber 23/1B: Huber has also had a great season, dominating AA again. Huber's minor league career has been very similar to Mike Sweeney, who was converted from catcher to 1st base. Although he struck out 103 times, Huber walked 68 times. Huber will play in the Arizona Fall League and likely have a full-time role at 1B/DH next year. Hopefully, Huber will develop into another Mike Sweeney.

AA 335 ABs .343/.432/.570 22 2Bs 16 HRs 74 RBIs
AAA 113 ABs .274/.374/.540 7 2Bs 7 HRs 23 RBIs
ML 29 ABs .207/.233/.241 1 2Bs 0 HRs 4 RBIs

3. JP Howell 22/SP: Howell has had a successful first full pro season. Howell breezed through short stints at high A and AA. Howell had a great first start, but has been knocked around. Howell's control must improve with his well below-average velocity. Once that happens, Howell could become a No. 3 or 4 starter.

High A 3-1 1.96 ERA 46 IP 33 Hits 24 BBs 48 SOs
AA 2-0 2.50 ERA 18 IP 12 Hits 5 BBs 23 SOs
AAA 3-1 4.06 ERA 37.2 IP 40 Hits 19 BBs 29 SOs
ML 1-5 7.08 ERA 48.1 IP 54 Hits 25 BBs 34 SOs

4. Chris Lubanski 20/CF: Lubanski had a successful season after having a terrible start. Lubanski put up amazing numbers, driving in 116 runs. However, he struck out 131 times and walked just 38. AA will be the best test for Lubanski. Lubanski hit 72 extra base hits, which is remarkable even in a hitter's haven. Lubanski still has a lot to work on, but could be ready by 2007.

High A 531 ABs .301/.349/.554 38 2Bs 28 HRs 116 ABs 14 SBs

5. Jeffrey Bianchi 18/SS: Bianchi had a outstanding debut in the Arizona Rookie League. A back injury prevented him from having more than 98 ABs. But, he was sensational nonetheless. Bianchi will likely start out at Idaho Falls or Burlington next year.

AZL .408/.484/.745 98 ABs 7 2Bs 4 3Bs 6 HRs 30 RBIs

6. Luis Cota 19/SP: Cota had a solid season as one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. Cota got off to a great start, but struggling down the stretch. Cota has a very good fastball, but will need to improve his command. That said, given his lack of command and minor league experience, he would be an excellent candidate to be rushed to the majors as a reliever, a la Burgos or Nunez.

Low A 5-8 4.01 ERA 148 IP 143 H 137 SOs 63 BBs

7. Chris McConnell 19/SS: McConnell had a very good season at Idaho Falls. McConnell is considered an excellent defender, so his bat was a nice surprise. McConnell will likely start at Burlington next year or could jump to High Desert.

Pio 262 ABs .328/.402/.511 16 2Bs 7 3Bs 6 HRs 36 RBIs

8. Leo Nunez 22/RP: Nunez had a pretty good season considering how quickly the Royals promoted him. Nunez throws a lot of strikes, although too many find the middle of the plate. Nunez pitched well at AA, but has struggled at the major league level. Nunez projects as a solid setup man.

AA 1-0 0.69 ERA 13 IP 2 BBs 14 SOs
ML 3-2 8.23 ERA 42.2 IP 13 BBs 26 SOs

9. Shane Costa 23/OF: Costa had an okay season, making his major league debut. Costa still hasn't shown enough power to be more than a 4th outfielder. Costa may split time with Ambres in LF next season until Butler is ready.

AA 277 ABs .282/.349/.448 18 2Bs 8 HRs 43 RBIs
ML 81 ABs .235/.287/.333 2 2Bs 2 HRs 7 RBIs

10. Andres Blanco 21/SS: Blanco has had a pretty good season. He's hit 4 HRs and shown some improvement offensively.

AAA 114 ABs .254/.331/.351 4 2Bs 1 HR 9 RBIs

11-20 coming soon!


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