Monday, January 09, 2006

Early look at the Royals' Top 10 Prospects

The Royals are just over a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting. Spring Training isn't that far away and we'll get an early preview of the team we'll see in 2007. Having Butler, Gordon, and Huber in the lineup will be fun to watch. These are the Royals' best prospects and all three will be at AA or AAA this season. The Royals' top three prospects are among the best trios of hitting prospects in the minors. After those three, the list drops off quite a bit. The Royals have serious pitching depth issues that remain unresolved. With the first overall pick, the Royals should be able to add a potential future ace to the farm system. The 2004 and 2005 drafts added a nice group of position players, so hopefully the Royals will focus more on pitching in 2006. But, that's a moot point if the Royals can't develop any of the pitching talent they have to work with.

1. Billy Butler/OF/DH: Butler is coming off a remarkable season, particularly for a 19-year-old. Butler has great raw power and should be a good contact hitter as well. Butler hit 30 HRs during the regular season and hit above .300 at High A and AA. His plate discipline has been good so far, although he struggled a bit in that area at AA. He'll have no trouble finding a spot in the lineup, but finding a position in the field might be tough. It might be hard to hide his glove in LF, although surely he couldn't be worse than Emil Brown or Matt Stairs. Corner outfield is a position of need in the organization, so he'll get every chance to play there.

2005 Stats: 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. Alex Gordon/3B/OF: Gordon had a decent debut in the Arizona Fall League, exhibiting good plate discipline with a .403 OBP. Gordon has very good power from the left side of the plate. Gordon has drawn a lot of comparisons to Mark Teixeira and could be the Royals' No. 3 hitter of the future. The biggest questionmark is Gordon's future position. The Royals are going to keep him at third until Teahen proves himself. If Teahen becomes a solid third basemen, then Gordon will likely be moved to the corner outfielder.

3. Justin Huber/1B/DH: Huber had a productive year in the minors, putting up a 1.002 OPS at AA. Huber hit pretty well at AAA, but struggled at the big league level. Part of that was because he was injured at the end of the season. Huber has shown a lot of similarities to Mike Sweeney. Their minor league numbers are very similar and both have been converted from catcher to 1st basemen. Huber will have most of the season to polish his defense at 1st base and should be the Royals' 1st basemen in 2007.

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 78 ABs .218/.271/.256 3 2Bs 0 HRs 6 RBIs

4. JP Howell/SP: Howell quickly rose through the Royals' farm system and made a quick debut in June. Howell had a terrific debut, pitching 5 innings and striking out 8. Howell has maintained a solid strikeout rate because of his solid repertoire of secondary pitchers. Howell must improve his command of a below-average fastball and cut down on the walks (39 in 72 2/3 innings). With the addition of 3 new starters, Howell will have the opportunity to work on those things at AAA.

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 3-5 6.19 ERA 72.2 IP 73 Hits 39 BBs 54 SOs

5. Chris Lubanski/OF: Lubanski put up some great offensive numbers at High Desert. Lubanski had 72 extra base hits and drove in 116 runs, even with a very slow start to the season. However, Lubanski's great numbers were likely a result of his home park, as his road splits weren't nearly as impressive. AA will tell a lot about Lubanski's future. His defense in CF is suspect and his arm isn't good enough to play RF.

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

6. Luis Cota/SP: Cota had a pretty good season in the Midwest League. Cota has a very good fastball, but needs to improve his secondary pitches and his command. Cota's command will be tested at High Desert this season. A lot of pressure rests on Cota's shoulders, as he's the only intriguing pitching prospect below AAA.

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

7. Jeffrey Bianchi 18/SS: Bianchi had a great debut in the Arizona Rookie League before sustaining a back injury. He's a very advanced hitter who should move quickly and could enter the 2nd base picture by 2008. Bianchi would be rated higher, but the limited sample size brought him down a couple of spots. Bianchi will probably start at the Pioneer League or Burlington.

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

8. Leo Nunez 22/RP: Nunez has displayed pretty good command and pitched well most of the time for the Royals. But, there were times when he couldn't get anybody out. Nunez has a fastball that can reach 97 mph with pretty good movement. He should be apart of a solid bullpen at some point during this season.

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. 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. The Royals' post-Berroa infield could feature Bianchi at 2nd and McConnell at SS. Of course, that's a long ways away.

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

10. Mitch Maier 23/OF: I feel like I'm forgetting someone, mainly because I don't think Maier should be in the top 10. Nonetheless, I couldn't find a better candidate. Maier is the best defensive outfielder in the farm system, has pretty good speed, and has shown solid gap power. Maier's swing needs lots of work, so he's still at least a year away.

High A 221 ABs .336/.370/.583 26 2Bs 8 HRs 32 RBIs
AA 322 ABs .255/.289/.416 21 2Bs 7 HRs 49 RBIs


At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Juan Cedeno? 4 Plus pitches and he is left handed. Plus the Royals decided that he is a starter.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Denny Bautista still qualify as a prospect? If so, he has to be on the list.
Baird's more recent drafts have been steadily improving, this is probably the most encouraging aspect in the organization right now.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Cedeno is an interesting prospect and could probably take Maier's spot. He struggled last year, but part of that was because he was pitching at AA to avoid High Desert. I guess if Howell is on my prospect list, then Bautista would have every right to be as well. I'm not sure either one qualifies as a rookie anymore, so they probably aren't considered prospects in that sense.

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would put Bautista and Howell on the list, mostly because I fully expect them both to spend all of 2006 in AAA. I would, of course, rate Bautista ahead of Howell.

I'd also have to put Gordon ahead of Butler, simply based on his reputation.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Mike A said...

I think I would have put Gordon ahead of Butler, simply because Gordon will be a much better all around player.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Mark S. (YoungPhenom) said...

I don't think Gordon should be rated ahead of Butler until he has played atleast a half of a season in the minors. Then we'll have a better idea.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Butler has had great success at each level he's played at and he's only 19. Gordon may hit just as well, but he hasn't proven that yet. Really, they could be ranked 1a and 1b though. Assuming they both become good hitters, Gordon has more value because Butler is most likely going to be a DH.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger royalsbeliever said...

I think if Butler can be atleast average defensively in the outfield, he may have as much value as Gordon with his Manny Ramirez type bat.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger DL said...

Ok, ok. I like Billy Butler as much as the next guy. Hope springs eternal, or something like that, but let's please dispense with the Manny Ramirez comparisons. Ramirez is a once-in-a-generation hitter. He slugged .690 in AAA at the age of 21. Butler has one season of solid but altitude-inflated minor league ball. When I see him slug above .600 every season in the minor leagues, then we'll see.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

As a best-case scanerio, Butler might become a Manny Ramirez type hitter. Of course, he might not pan out at all. The reality lies somewhere in between. My guess is that between Gordon, Butler, Huber, and Lubanski, two of them become productive big league hitters (.280+ AVG, 25+ HR, 90+ RBI) and one will be serviceable and just sort of linger around.

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont mean to be picky but McConnell had 331 Batting Average.403 OBP,516 Slg, 275 AB,39 RBI,17 2B,and 8 3B.


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