Organizational Analysis: Infielders
Sorry for the delay in the organization reviews. Just got back from Paris (very cold in January). Not too much news on the Royals' front at the moment. Most exciting news at the moment is that Baseball America released their top 10 prospect list: BA Royals' Top 10. You have to have premium access to read the chat wrap and the scouting reports. No real surprises in the top 10 of the list. I wasn't particularly impressed with Kimmey's analysis. I think the Royals' farm system ranks somewhere in the 20-25 range because the Royals don't have good enough pitching depth in the farm system, but their top 5 prospects are very solid. On to the infield analysis:
The Royals' infield has pretty good depth overall, improving considerably over the past few years. The Royals had a major void at 3rd base and catcher before the Beltran trade and were able to add two pretty solid young players at those positions (Teahen and Buck). Adding Grudzielanek improves the second base position considerably, giving Murphy, Blanco, and Gotay needed developmental time in the minors. Berroa will continue to fool around at shortstop, with no competition on the horizon until 2008 or 2009. The Royals' infield also features two of the Royals' best offensive prospects in the organization, Justin Huber and Alex Gordon.
The catcher positon has been a problem since Mike MacFarlane left almost a decade ago. John Buck appears to be the Royals' catcher of the future. Buck is a solid defensive catcher and does a pretty good job of throwing out runners. His game-calling skills still need some work though. Buck has shown good power at times and may hit 15-20 homers. He'll never be a great hitter, but could be a productive bat at the bottom of the lineup and a solid defender.
Prospects: Adam Donachie, Kiel Thibault, Matt Tupman
Donachie is an excellent defender and could make the team by 2008 as a backup. Should find out more about Thibault, Howell, and Everett, the catching trio the Royals drafted last season.
The Royals have a crowd at first base. Mike Sweeney has been a mainstay in the middle of the lineup for several years and could be moved to make room for Huber and Butler. Mientkiewicz improves the Royals' defense at first base and provides insurance in case Sweeney has an extended period on the DL. Stairs will play some first base, DH, and maybe stumble into the outfield from time to time.
Prospects: Justin Huber, Kila Kaaihue
Huber is the Royals' first basemen of the future. Huber has an excellent bat and compares well to Mike Sweeney to an almost extraordinary degree.
The Royals signed Mark Grudzielanek to give Blanco, Murphy, and Gotay time to develop. Grudzielanek should improve the Royals' offense and defense at second considerably. Certainly hard not to improve upon the .500-something OPS Blanco, Murphy and Gotay combined to produce last season.
Prospects: Jeff Bianchi, Donnie Murphy, Andres Blanco, Ruben Gotay, Gary Perez
The Royals have pretty good depth at second base. By 2007, when Grudzielanek's contract will likely expire (option for 2007), the Royals should have 3 candidates for the job. Murphy is probably the best overall prospect close to the majors. Murphy has shown pretty good power and has an above-average glove at 2nd. Bianchi has much more upside and could be a potential All-Star down the road.
The Royals unfortunately gave Berroa a long-term contract. So, we're stuck with him for the near future. The Royals don't really have any shortstop prospects near the majors.
Prospects: Chris McConnell, Andres Blanco, Angel Sanchez
McConnell has earned the reputation as an outstanding defensive shortstop and hit pretty well at Idaho Falls last year. Blanco is a great defender, but can't hit at all.
The Royals are in good shape at third base, despite poor depth. Mark Teahen could be a gold-glove third basemen in a year or two and has shown signs of being an average hitter. If he learns to pull the ball, I think a 20+ HR season isn't out of the question. The Royals' premier talent, Alex Gordon, will challenge Teahen for the third base job. Gordon's bat is more valuable at third base. So, the question will emerge: are we better off with Teahen at 3rd and Gordon in the OF OR Gordon at 3rd and an OF prospect/FA in the OF?
Prospects: Alex Gordon
1. Current Infielders' Performance: D (poor defense, lack of production offensively last season)
2. Current Infielders' Potential: C
3. Current Prospects Depth: B- (still thin at catcher, short and third, but better)
4. Current Prospects Potential: A
Overall, the future of the infield looks brighter. The Royals improved their infield offense and defense this offseason. With improving depth and two very talented offensive talents ready to make an impact, the infield should be much improved by 2008.