The Royals' farm system continues to improve, despite setbacks to a few of last year's top prospects. The Royals' 2006 draft should help add depth and talent to a system that badly needs pitching help. Luke Hockevar is a tremendous talent who has ace potential and shouldn't be in the farm system long. Harold Mozingo is a polished college righty who is a steal in the sixth round. Blake Wood and Jason Godin are a couple of college righties who have good upside as starters, but aren't as polished as what you'd expect from a college starter. Overall, the draft should help to strengthen the Royals' pitching depth and it'll be interesting to watch these players at Idaho Falls once short-season ball starts in a week or two.
Onto the top prospect list:
1. Alex Gordon 3B/22: Gordon has done nothing to disappoint in his first full season in the minors. He has a very good .926 OPS and has stolen 14 bases in 15 attempts. Gordon will be a good candidate for a September callup, unless the Royals decide to delay his service time and keep him in the minors at the start of next year.
.305/.408/.518 226 ABs 19 2Bs 9 HRs 30 RBIs 14 SBs
2. Luke Hockevar SP/22: The Royals are beginning negoiations with Scott Boras. Hopefully the negotiations will go smoothly as the Royals would have been foolish to draft Hockevar if they didn't know what they'd have to pay him. Then again, you can't ever be sure when you're dealing with Boras.
3. Billy Butler OF/20: Butler is doing incredibly well at AA for a 20-year-old. Butler has a .881 OPS. He's only made 4 errors, so perhaps that's a sign he's becoming a serviceable outfielder defensively. If he doesn't, it doesn't look like he'll have any problems hitting enough as a first basemen or DH. After all, it's not like you have to hit to be the Royals' first basemen or DH, just ask Doug Mientkiewicz or Matt Stairs.
.318/.381/.500 264 ABs 18 2Bs 10 HRs 48 RBIs
4. Justin Huber 1B or OF/23: Huber is still very young and while he isn't putting up great numbers at AAA, he's still doing pretty well. Considering he sat and did nothing for the Royals because Bell is a moron and the Royals are trying him in the outfield (not a bad idea really), Huber is going through a lot. So, it's not surprising his numbers aren't great. He hasn't looked great in his major league appearances, but he hasn't really been given a chance yet. He should at least provide the Royals with a younger and better Matt Stairs-type player.
.253/.338/.461 178 ABs 6 2Bs 9 HRs 18 RBIs
5. JP Howell 23/SP: Howell has been dealing with a stiff shoulder. Before the injury, he was pitching very well. In his last two outings, he's pitched very well, allowing no runs in 6 1/3 innings and just 2 hits.
3-2 4.75 ERA 36 IP 39 Hits 3 HRs 14 BBs 33 SOs
6. Billy Buckner 22/SP: Buckner is having a good season at High Desert after struggling there last season. Buckner has a fantastic curve, which alone should get him to the majors. His strikeout numbers are promising, with 73 strikeouts in 81 innings. 6 HRs in 81 innings is very impressive, especially for the California League. He better not get used to that winning record though.
7-1 3.65 ERA 81.1 IP 84 Hits 6 HRs 39 BBs 73 SOs
7. Jeffrey Bianchi 19/SS: Bianchi had a great debut last season and scouts were very impressed with his speed and power. He'll start at Idaho Falls shortly.
8. Chris Nicoll 22/SP: Nicoll is dominating Midwest League hitters. Nicoll has struck out 65 in 66 innings and his control remains good (just 18 walks). His WHIP is a mere 0.97. He should be due for a promotion shortly.
3-4 2.45 ERA 66 IP 46 Hits 4 HRs 18 BBs 65 SOs
9. Chris Lubanski 21/OF: Lubanski has struggled at AA so far, with just a .694 OPS. He's still very young for AA and while he won't live up to his draft status, he might become a decent outfielder in a couple of years.
.239/.316/.378 251 ABs 16 2Bs 5 HRs 25 RBIs 4 SBs
10. Mitch Maier 23/OF: Maier is having a solid season at AA. Maier is solid overall, with good offensive and defensive abilities. He can play all outfield positions and should hit well enough to be at least a solid backup outfielder with his versatility. He could be the Royals' rightfielder next year if Sanders is traded.
.298/.353/.473 258 ABs 15 2Bs 8 HRs 45 RBIs 6 SBs
11. Luis Cota 20/SP: The young righty is struggling at High Desert. Cota's lack of secondary stuff will make it difficult for him to advance through the minors for a while. He must improve his secondary pitches and his command. He has the upside to become a top starter, but is still a long ways away.
3-6 6.91 ERA 71.2 IP 82 Hits 9 HRs 33 BBs 61 SOs
12. Ryan Braun 25/RP: Braun is a bit old for AA, but he's having a great season. Braun has a great power arm and could reach KC this year with the bullpen problems.
His strikeout numbers are very impressive.
1-5 1.98 ERA 9 Saves 36.1 IP 25 Hits 2 HRs 16 BBs 52 SOs
13. Angel Sanchez 22/SS: Sanchez pretty young for AA as well. He hasn't shown much power, but unlike Berroa, he isn't afraid to draw a walk.
.288/.354/.362 11 2Bs 2 HRs 27 RBIs
14. Danny Christensen 22/SP: Christensen has struggled after getting off to a get start at High Desert. His K/BB is great, with 80 strikeouts to 20 walks. The lefty has a very good curve.
1-4 5.78 ERA 76.1 IP 100 Hits 13 HRs 20 BBs 80 SOs
15. Harold Mozingo 6th Round 2006 pick: I see him having success and following a track like Nicoll.
16. Chris McConnell (oops, dropped him a bit too far)
17. Matt Kniginyzky RHP
18. Jason Taylor SS (position change imminent)
19. Andres Blanco SS
20. Derrick Robinson OF