So everyone knows the Eric Hosmer’s and Mike Moustakas’ of the world. But who is in the next wave of players that will help push this team from a trendy sleeper team to a real threat to win the AL Central? Here are 10 guys you may or may not have heard of, depending on how much of a Royals’ nut you really are.
10. Jason Adam, RHP (highest level – Kane County) – Adam was drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft out of a nearby high school is just 20 years old. His first pro season had it’s ups and downs and some head scratching numbers. He was just 6-9 in his 21 starts, but his periphrials don’t suggest anything out of the norm (6.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.141 WHIP). His fastball sits between 94-96 and has show an out pitch in his curveball. Could be a potential bullpen arm (closer?) or a back-end starter. ETA – 2014 Sept.
9. Jorge Bonifacio, OF (highest level – Burlington) – Bonifacio is still just 18 years old and won’t turn 19 until early June. So afr his stats in two short seasons have been pretty solid, giving hope that the Royals might have a gem in the making. He’s displayed a solid glove in CF and RF with a Range Factor/Game of 1.92 and 18 Assists in 131 games. Offensively in 540 plate apperances, he’s hit .290/.358/.462 with 36 2B, 11 3B, 8 HR, 64 RBI and 19 SB. 116 to 48 K/BB ratio suggest a bit of a free swinger, but he’s young and can still change that. ETA – 2016.
8. Noel Arguelles, LHP (highest level – Wilmington, will start at Northwest Arkansas this year) – Arguelles was signed out of Cuba in late 2009, only to develop arm problems and miss all of 2010. He returned in 2011 and debut in solid fashion. He’s still just 22, but I’d expect the Royals to push him through the system quickly since they signed him to a 5 year-6.9 Million dollar MAJOR league deal back in December ’09. His strikeouts were lower than expected at 5.5 K/9 last year, but his 3.20 ERA, 1.125 WHIP and 2.1 BB/9 were nice numbers to see in the 104 IP last year. ETA – 2013 Sept.
7. Elier Hernandez, OF (No Royals experience yet) – Hernandez is 6-4, 200 lbs and will be 17 for this entire season. The Royals plunked down a nice chunk of change in the offseason to secure his rights as they think he could be absolute stud (so do I). He shows plus speed, a big swing and a whole lot of potential. Won’t really no much more than that until he gets some experience. ETA – 2016
6. Yordano Ventura, RHP (highest level – Kane County) – He will turn 21 midseason and there is hope that he will progress quickly up the ladder. He stands just 5-11 and 150 lbs, but he can sling it pretty darn well. A 4-6 record last year in A ball may be disappointing to some but his second half was much better. Overall he ended up at 84 IP with 88 K and 3.67 K/BB ratio. HE has a plus fastball and a curve and change that are improving quickly. Draws comparisons to Pedro Martinez. ETA – 2015.
5. Mike Montgomery, LHP (highest level – Omaha) – Montgomery is a confusing guy. His stuff, when focused, is downright nasty. When it’s not, he’s a crappy version of Barry Zito. Will he be able to put it together consistently and become the front of the rotation starter we all think he can be? I think the main problem is the Royals are so fascinated by his raw stuff, that they are rushing him through the minors. In 2010, he threw his first set of innings above A+ ball when he threw about 60 innings for Northwest Arkansas. He peripherals weren’t other wordly like they were in A-ball. 1.374 WHIP, 7.2 K/9 (this is still good), 3.9 BB/9 and a 1.85 K/BB ratio. Nothing superbly spectacular there other than a solid K rate. So naturally the Royals invited him to spring training and then sent him to AAA. Where he struggled mightily. A 1.5 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 1.87 K/BB ratio were his totals over 150 IP last year. If anything, Montgomery should have started 2011 in AA and EARNED his promotion to AAA (like Salvador Perez did). I think he needs another full season at AAA this year, but I’d be shocked if we don’t see him by the ASB. ETA – 2012 ASB (although it is early).
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP (highest level – Northwest Arkansas) – Acquired in the Zack Grienke trade, this 22 year probably was an afterthough to most fans. He definatley wasn’t an afterthought to the Royals and is probably the best part of the deal. He has moved up a level every year, so in 2011 the Royals started him out in high-A ball and he obliterated it. A K rate of 11.8 per 9 INN with a 4.68 K/BB ratio over 78 innings and he was onto Northwest Arkansas in July. His stats over 68 IP in AA were actually better than Montgomery in 2010. But naturally it looks like he will start out in Northwest Arkansas this year, with eyes on a midseason promotion to Omaha. Personally, I might contend that Odorizzi is the future front of the rotation guy, not Montgomery. Hopefully for Royals fans, it’s both. ETA – 2013 ASB.
3. Wil Myers, OF (highest level – Northwest Arkansas) – Wil used to be a catcher, then the Royals realized (A) that he probably wouldn’t be a very good defensive catcher, (B) they have a stellar defensive catcher in Salvador Perez and (C) Myers bat will be ready for the big leagues very, very soon. So the Royals moved him to the OF, where he fared okay in his first season. But of course an injury hampered him all season and his swing never seemed quite right. His line of .254/.353/.393 over 354 had only the bright spot of a solid walk rate. Then he got a little rest and went to play in the arizona fall league, where if not for a guy named Bryce Harper, everyone would have been talking about Myers. His fall line over 23 games was .360/.481/.674 and suddenly, the stellar bat is back. He will start in AA this year, but I expect him to show up in Omaha sometime this year. And there is a reason the Royals signed Jeff Francouer for just two years. Wouldn’t shock me for Frenchy to be a trade deadline deal in 2013 when Myers is ready for his closeup. Myers won’t turn 22 until December of this year. ETA – 2013 ASB.
2. Bubba Starling, OF (No experience yet) – Bubba Starling had a choice. Full ride scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska, or take the multi-million dollar contract the Royals put on the table when they selected him fifth in the 2011 Amateur Draft. Bubba, a local kid from Gardner-Edgerton High School, took the money and instantly became one of the 20 best prospect in all of baseball. He’s a five tool guy who could be the best all-around player the Royals have seen since Bo Jackson. Yes, the hype is that big for Bubba. He won’t turn 20 until August. ETA – 2015.
1. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B (Highest Level – Kane County) – Cheslor might be my favorite of all Royals prospects. As an 18 year old in A-ball, he hit pretty well with a line of .267/.345/.397 and that included a second half swoon. All told, not many 18 year olds move up to A-ball and manage to hit much of anything. Cuthbert’s glove projects out well enough that the Royals could have a tough decision in a few years and might consider moving Moustakas to the OF or to DH full time. ETA – 2015.
Special Mention: John Lamb, LHP (Highest Level – Northwest Arkansas) – Lamb was one of the team’s best prospect until he blew up his arm and required Tommy John surgery last summer. He should be back in July, when he will be turning 22 years old. The Royals plan to play it safe with him and limit him to no more than 10 starts this year. All-in-all, it pushed back his development by a year and a half really. Lamb doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he does have three ML-ready pitches and a presence and cool demeanor on the mound that scouts rave about. Could be a very solid number 3 guy, I liken him to Andy Pettitte. ETA – 2014.