Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Around the Minors

Here's a summary of how the Royals' farm teams and top prospects have done so far:

The Omaha Royals:

The Omaha Royals are off to a solid 11-8 start in the PCL. Justin Huber has been tearing up PCL pitching, with a 1.094 OPS. The bad news, 3 errors in 19 games. So, he's probably got quite a bit of work left defensively. Andres Blanco has taken a completely different form, sporting a .850 OPS. But, he also leads the team in errors with 8. Chip Ambres is off to a disappointing start so far.

JP Howell has pitched well for the Omaha Royals, recording almost a strikeout an inning and being stingy on the walks. Howell is probably still a couple months away from the majors and hopefully will take a spot away from Joe Mays eventually. I can't stand watching Mays pitch. Brian Bass hasn't pitched well, allowing an average of 2 baserunners per inning. Danny Tamayo has pitched exceptionally for Omaha, with a 1.69 ERA and 15 K's to 2 walks in 16 innings. Tamayo has an excellent changeup, and might be a candidate eventually for long relief. He's at least better than Joe Mays.

Wichita Wranglers

The Wranglers are off to a tough start, with a 6-13 record. Alex Gordon has hit AA pitching very well so far. Gordon has a team-high 8 doubles and along with 4 HRs and a team-high .963 OPS. The strikeouts are adding up for Gordon, but not a huge concern yet. Billy Butler continues to climb through the Royals' farm system and keeps on mashing. Butler leads the team in HRs with 5 and has an excellent .325/.360/.578 line. I still wonder how the defense is coming along though. Mitch Maier is off to a pretty good start as well, with 4 HRs and a .814 OPS. Chris Lubanski is off to his typical slow start, but has shown better plate discipline. It'll be interesting to see if last season was really a breakthrough season or not.

Juan Cedeno has struggled early on, allowing too many walks (12 in 18 IP). The 22-year-old lefty has the stuff to be a good starter down the road and that'll depend upon improved control. Leo Nunez has struggled so far, allowing 3 HRs and 7 walks in 9 innings. Another potential power arm for the bullpen, Ryan Braun, has pitched pretty well striking out 13 in 10 innings. Braun was injured for most of last season, so it's good to see him back on track.

High Desert Mavericks

The High Desert squad is off to an 11-8 start thanks to some quality pitching. Leading the staff is Billy Buckner, who has won all three of his starts. Buckner has struck out 23 in 22 2/3. Buckner possesses a great curve, which could be his ticket to the majors by 2008. Ditto on Danny Christensen, who has reattained prospect status. The lefty has a great K/BB (25/5) and an excellent WHIP (1.04). Luis Cota has struggled so far at High Desert, with a 7.17 ERA. However, his K/BB has been pretty good (18/7), so I suspect he's pitched better than his ERA indicates. Former 1st round pick Mike Stodolka is tearing up High Desert pitching so far. The former pitcher is sporting a .404/.491/.745 line. It'll be interesting to watch his progression. Let's just hope we don't see Zack Greinke doing the same thing in 3 years.

Burlington Bees

All signs so far point toward a very success 2005 draft with Gordon mashing AA pitching, Bianchi having a great debut in the Arizona Rookie League, and Chris Nicoll having a great start at Burlington. Nicoll has allowed just 2 runs in 12 innings and has an excellent K/BB. Chris McConnell is showing signs of coming through a huge slump. McConnell went 2 for 5 today with a double and 2 RBIs.

Overall, the Royals' pitching prospects are off to a good start. It appears the Royals' pitching depth is improving thanks to two solid drafts in the past season. The Royals have a strong group of potential impact bats in the upper minors which should produce a much improved offense by 2007. If the Royals' pitching depth continues to improve, then there may indeed be hope.


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