Out in Left Field
For the Royals, Emil Brown and David DeJesus split left field duty in 2006. Brown started 84 games in left and batted .287 with 15 HR and 81 RBI. Emil's OPS was .815. DeJesus batted .295 with 8 HR and 56 RBI and an .810 OPS. Brown is arbitration eligible after making $1.775 M in 2006. He will be due another big raise for 2007. The Royals could use Brown as trade bait to try to land some pitching help. DeJesus has been a center fielder to this point in his career, but switched to left field for 60 games to make room for Joey Gathright to play center. It is kind of up in the air as to what will happen with the Royals outfield over the winter. There could be some moves made on the major league level or some of the minor league guys could be packaged and dealt.
Omaha Royals (AAA)
24 year old, Justin Huber, started 68 games in left field for the Omaha Royals in 2006. Justin's season has already been discussed as a first baseman, but I'll leave this in anyway. Huber was acquired by the Royals on July 30, 2004 in the deal that sent Kris Benson from Pittsburgh to the Mets. When we acquired Huber, he was catching. In fact, he was injured in his last game in the Mets organization at a play at the plate, which caused him to miss the remainder of the 2004 season after the trade. The Royals moved Huber out from behind the dish to 1B. Huber started 38 games at 1B for the ORoyals in 2006 before moving out to left field. Huber put up pretty decent AAA numbers. He batted .278 with 15 HR and 44 RBI in 352 at bats. His 2006 OPS was .838 (.480 slugging %). The Royals brought Huber to KC during the summer where he sat the bench. I'm not sure exactly how long Huber was on the 25 man roster this year, but I think it was about two weeks. During that time, Huber accumulated a total of 10 at bats. He was 2 for 10 with a double. He's a good offensive prospect. The Royals just need to find a place for him to play in the field.
Wichita Wranglers (AA)
Chris Lubanski (21 years old) started 108 games in left field for the Wranglers in 2006. Lubanksi was drafted by the Royals in the 1st round (5th overall) in the 2003 draft. He was drafted out of a Pennsylvania high school and signed on June 6th. Overall, Lubanski batted .282 with 15 HR and 70 RBI for the Wranglers with an OPS of .844. He also stole 11 bases in 18 attempts. Lubanski walked 72 times this season, which was tied for the team lead. Up until the 2006 season, Chris had a K:BB ratio of 2.90. In 2006, he did a much better job with a K/BB ratio of 1.56. Lubanski did improve as the season went on, as well. From July 1 to the end of the season, Lubanski hit .314 with 10 HR. His K/BB ratio also improved from July 1 on. During that time span, Lubanski had 1.27 K's per BB (47 K's, 37 BB's). When Lubanski was drafted, he was described as having blazing speed. Now, it appears he has slowed down a few ticks although he did lead the team with 11 triples, but his power numbers have improved. It is a very good sign that he is improving his K/BB ratio.
High Desert Mavericks (Advanced A)
The Mavs had two guys to get significant starts in left field, but neither is a prospect. James Tomlin (24 years old) started 58 games in left and batted .301 and a .762 OPS for the Mavs in '06. Geraldo Valentin(23 years old) signed with the Royals as a non drafted free agent in 2003. Valentin started in left for the Mavs 47 times and batted .283 with an OPS of .718 in 406 ABs. I'd hate to think how bad the offensive numbers would be if they hadn't been in High Desert.
Burlington Bees (Low A)
Ethian Santana was the primary left fielder for the Bees in 2006. He started 67 games for the Bees and batted .244 with an OPS of .615 in 312 at bats. He has stolen 20+ bases in each of the last three seasons since being drafted. Santana was drafted by the Astros in the 2002 and 2003 drafts, but signed with KC after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2004 draft. Santana was a Pioneer league all star last season after batting .300 with an OPS of .813 for the Chukars. He did bat .286 in his last 35 games of the season from August 1 until the end of the season. I wouldn't call him a prospect, though. He is 22 years old, but he'll need to do more with the bat than a .615 OPS in low A ball to be considered a prospect.
Idaho Falls Chukars (Advanced Rookie Ball- short season)
Brett Bigler and Alvi Morel split duty in left field for the Chukars in '06. Both are 22 years old. Bigler was a 7th round draft pick in the 2006 draft out of UC-Riverside. His game is high OBP and speed. He came as advertised. He batted .276, but had an OBP of .392 on the season. He appears to be a slap hitter. Of his 58 hits, only 5 were for extra bases (all doubles). He stole 20 bases in 22 attempts for the Chukars, and he struck out 8 fewer times than he walked (27 K's, 39 BB's). His OPS on the year was only .692, due in most part to his pretty sad slugging percentage of .300. I like him, though. I like the fact that he's got fantastic speed and his got a great eye and doesn't strike out much. Alvi Morel was signed by the Royals as a non drafted free agent on 11/8/02 out of the Dominican as an 18 year old (I'm guessing we thought he was 16 at the time). Morel started 41 games in left for Idaho Falls, and batted .301 with 1 HR and an OPS of .757. The vast majority of his at bats were from the leadoff spot.
Arizona Royals (Rookie Ball-short season)
The left fielders for the AZ Royals were Jarrod Dyson (50th rounder in the 2006 draft) and Nick Francis (15th rounder in '06). Nick posted a good batting average (.303) and OBP (.366) in his professional debut. He ended the season with an OPS of .792 in 155 ABs. Dyson batted .273 in 161 at bats, but appears to be a burner. He stole 19 bases in 23 attempts this season. He seems to keep the ball in play (18 walks and 30 strikeouts). His OBP was .373, but his slugging percentage was a paltry .373.
The Royals seem to be stockpiling some speedy left fielders in the minor league system. Dyson, Bigler, Santana, and even Lubanski all run very well. In terms of who brings the most to the table, I'd rank the Royals left fielders in this way:
1. Chris Lubanski -mix of power and speed.
2. Justin Huber-good bat, but no real position, yet. DH?
3. Brett Bigler-I liked this guy from the draft. A good batting eye and speed don't slump.
4. Nick Francis-barely worth ranking at this point. Put up decent numbers in pro debut.
5. Ethian Santana-didn't hit in the pitcher friendly Midwest League. He'll need to hit at least in the .270's with an OPS of around .750 to contribute much.