Monday, May 01, 2006

Our young arms in the minors

Last year, the Royals' farm system seemed completely bereft of any pitching talent. Things seem to have improved considerably, as most of the Royals' pitching prospects have done well at the next level and had success. The Royals have had good performances from starting pitching prospects JP Howell, Billy Buckner, Danny Christensen, and Chris Nicoll. The Royals' efforts in the Dominican may be starting to pay off as well with a new group of arms now in A ball. A combination of good recent drafts (especially for not focusing on pitching as much) and prospects not regressing has improved the Royals' farm system.


1. JP Howell: Howell really struggled in his last two starts, surrendering 12 runs and 20 hits (8 for extra bases) in 10 innings. Ouch! Howell is doing a good job of throwing strikes over his last two starts (just 1 walk), but those strikes are getting hit pretty well. Howell finished the month with an excellent K/BB ratio of 4. Howell’s secondary pitches, especially his curve, are very good and his fastball does a good job of getting grounders. However, Howell’s fastball does concerns me, as its velocity is well-below average. He must develop great command of it to be successful in the majors. If he leaves it up and over the plate, hitters are going to demolish it. If Howell overcomes the challenge, he can probably be a good No. 3 or 4 starter in the majors. If not, he better get used to his Omaha jersey.

First 3 Starts: 3-0 2.65 ERA 15 IP 13 Hits 0 HRs 5 BBs 13 SOs
Last 2 Starts: 0-2 10.80 ERA 12 IP 20 Hits 2 HRs 1 BB 11 SOs

Totals: 3-2 5.67 ERA 27 IP 33 Hits 2 HRs 6 BBs 24 SOs Ground Outs 39 Fly Outs 18

Others: Brian Bass finished the month with a respectable 4.50 ERA, but he needs to strike out more batters. Danny Tamayo might be worth a look in long relief after putting up a 1.69 ERA and striking out 15 in 16 innings.


1. Juan Cedeno: The lefty Cedeno has good stuff, possessing a mid-90s fastball, potential plus curve, and change. But, he’s been hit pretty hard throughout his minor league career and this season is no exception. Cedeno is walking far too many hitters and has allowed over a hit per inning, a combination that has led to his early struggles. He’s still very young for AA, so he has plenty of time. The Royals skipped him past High Desert last year.

Totals: 0-2 5.91 ERA 22 2/3 IP 27 Hits 3 HRs 13 BBs 19 SOs 1.76 WHIP

2. Leo Nunez: Nunez has also struggled with command, walking almost 1 hitter per inning. He’s also allowed 3 homeruns in just 9 innings. Like Cedeno, Nunez possesses electric stuff and is very young for AA.

Others: Ryan Braun is a bit of a sleeper. He possesses a good fastball and is off to a good start, striking out 13 in 10 innings.

High Desert

1. Billy Buckner: Buckner has pitched well at High Desert, possessing a 3-0 record and a 3.25 ERA. Buckner has struck out almost a hitter per inning (and so has just about every pitcher on the High Desert roster) and has yet to allow a homerun in a very hitter-friendly park. He needs to cut down on the walks, as he’s averaging 4.6 BBs/9 IP.

3-0 3.25 ERA 27 2/3 IP 27 Hits 0 HRs 14 BBs 24 SOs 1.48 WHIP

2. Danny Christensen: Christensen has also pitched well. His K/BB ratio is very good (6.6!). The 23-year-old lefty also has an outstanding 1.07 WHIP as well. Both Christensen and Buckner have had impressive success considering the difficulties higher elevations impose on pitchers who rely heavily on curveballs.

0-1 4.03 ERA 29 IP 26 Hits 2 HRs 5 BBs 33 SOs 1.07 WHIP

3. Luis Cota: Cota has had a disappointing season so far, but that’s not entirely unexpected given his youth and command issues. The combination of hits and walks has created problems for the young righty.

1-3 6.92 ERA 26 IP 30 Hits 2 HRs 11 BBs 19 SOs 1.58 WHIP


1. Chris Nicoll: Nicoll has done nothing but impress since joining the Royals’ organization. Nicoll has dominated low A hitters so far, allowing just 4 hits and 2 earned runs in 10 innings. Nicoll’s 15 strikeouts in 10 innings is impressive as well.

1-1 1.80 ERA 10 IP 4 Hits 0 HRs 4 BBs 15 SOs 0.80 WHIP

2. Matthew Kinginyzky: The Canadian right-hander has enjoyed success after becoming a starter again. His control has been very impressive, with just 4 walks in 30 innings. Here’s a good article about Kinginyzky: Kinginyzky article

Although his recent success as a starter is promising, the article mentions a cause for concern:
Kinginyzky said, “It's easier for me to come in for two or three innings. Guess I wear out as a starter.”

2-1 2.90 ERA 31 IP 27 Hits 1 HRs 4 BBs 25 SOs 1.00 WHIP

The Bees also have a group of arms from the Dominican that might be worth watching. Eliszer Garcia, Carlos Rosa, Rayner Oliveros, and Gilbert De la Vara have all pitched well for Burlington.


At 8:03 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

I guess we could look at Howell's hit rate as a cause of concern, but given the fact that Omaha's infield consists of sub-par defenders Justin Huber, Ruben Gotay, and Mike Aviles (Andres Blanco is the exception here), couldn't he also fall under the "hit-unlucky" category given the outstanding K-to-BB ratio?

At any rate, I'm extremely encouraged by his improved control.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger DL said...

Agreed. I still see 27IP, 24K, 6BBs, 2HR as the most important numbers by far, and those numbers are excellent.

Are Howell's GB/FB ratios available somewhere?

At 6:26 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Good points. Hopefully he'll rebound from his struggles over the past two weeks. The 8 extra base hits in 2 games suggest he's getting hit pretty well. As you mentioned, a poor defensive infield, especially with Blanco not playing well defensively, is probably playing a role. His control is impressive as well as his solid strikeout rate and those things should bring him success over the course of the season.

I just did some quick boxscore math to get his GB/FB ratio.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When are the Royals going to get with reality and change their name from the "Royals" to the "Commoners"?


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