I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so….
What a difference a year makes. All of these people that were touting the Royals system just one season ago, seem a little bit down on it just a year later. Now, I would be ignorant if I didn’t mention the fact that the Royals had something like 8 guys exhaust their rookie eligibility, and some of them were stellar prospects. Graduations have as much to do with a system “falling” as anything. The Royals gave Erik Hosmer, Aaron Crow, Danny Duffy, Mike Moustakas, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman, and Salvador Perez to the major leagues last season. Just to name a few. Don’t worry Royals fans, that is nothing this robust system couldn’t handle. There is still plenty left, so let’s take a look at what the Royals have for 2012.
Top 20 Prospects:
1. Wil Myers (OF)- Myers is a pretty good athlete who could hit for power and average, but may be below average as a defender. His bat is quality enough to carry him, and if his Arizona Fall League is any indication, he should handle a repeat of AA ball just fine. I think people are giving up on him way too early. The offensive ability is still there, and if he concentrates more on defense he could be better there too.
2. Mike Montgomery (SP)- Montgomery also struggled in 2011, but it’s not like he doesn’t have top flight stuff for a lefty still. His fastball can get mid 90′s, but usually sits around 92 or so with good life. He owns a plus change up, and flashes an above average curve. If Montgomery can command and keep his walk rate to around 3.5/9, he should be a top of the rotation guy.
3. Bubba Starling (OF)- It’s tough to give this guy this high of a rating, but the scouting reports almost have leaped off the computer and twisted my arm until I cried “Uncle!”. Starling has 5 tool potential, and could be a big, strong, athletic CF that other people get compared to in 20 years.
4. Jake Odorizzi (SP)- Odorizzi is a guy that needs a little more love to me. He has quality stuff, a good track record, and held his own at 21 in AA. A low to mid 90′s sinker, coupled with an above average potential curve and good change up has me thinking a mid rotation workhorse at the least for Odorizzi.
5. Chelsor Cuthbert (3B)- To me, you know your system is strong when Cuthbert is your 5th best prospect. At 18 years old, Cuthbert was impressive in the tough hitting Midwest League. He shows advanced discipline for a player his age, potential for power, and a strong throwing arm. He lacks athleticism, but the Royals think he will be fine at 3B.
6. Jason Adam (SP)- There are some kids where conditioning is a factor, and I think this is the case with Adam. Adam is a big bodied kid with good stuff, having the potential for three above average pitches in his fastball, curve and change. His stamina I think held him back, and as he gets conditioned better as a pro, we will see more consistency from his stuff, and him blossom as a pitcher.
7. Yordano Ventura (SP)- Ventura is a fireball throwing right hander who sits in the mid 90′s, but has touched 100 already. He commands better in the mid 90′s, and also owns a potential plus curve and above average change up. He is going to have to battle his small frame, but at just 20 years old, he has a bright future.
8. John Lamb (SP)- Lamb is only 8 on this list because he went through Tommy John surgery in 2011. He owns a quality fastball in the low 90′s, a plus change, and an improving curve ball. Obviously, he may not be a factor in 2012, but he is only 21, and should bounce back as good as before by 2013.
9. Kelvin Herrera (RP)- Herrera is the owner of some serious cheese on his fastball, as he has been clocked numerous times at 100+ mph. He also owns a hammer curve, that he sometimes has trouble commanding, but it’s a swing and miss pitch. Also has a pretty quality change as well. Could be just another quality piece in that bullpen.
10. Jorge Bonifacio (OF)- Bonifacio is an exciting player for an 18 year old youngster. He has a strong frame already and projects a right fielder who is a solid athlete. He projects for power, and his K rate isn’t terrible. Could stand a little more patience, but there is a lot to like so far.
11. Chris Dwyer (SP)- Another guy most teams would love at #11. Dwyer struggled to command last year. And that is the difference. I don’t think he will ever command his pitches great, but if he is somewhere between 2010 and 2011, that is fine. The stuff is mid-rotation for the lefty. Sturdy frame.
12. Elier Hernandez (OF)- We don’t have any stats, and I haven’t seen him perform. Just scouting reports suggest a very high ceiling for the young man. The Royals must think something of him, dropping a boatload of money on him in the International signing period.
13. Christian Colon (SS)- I have never been as high on him as others, but I can also concede that is just a matter of personal preference. Colon does make contact, and is solid defensively. I don’t think he is that good of an athlete, but should do a little bit of everything well enough to be a pro.
14. Bryan Brickhouse (SP)- I really like this Texas high schooler from the 2011 draft, and see at least a workhorse #3 if all goes well for him. He has a power arm and curve, and with some work on his mechanics, he might be able to harness some more.
15. Kyle Smith (SP)- Probably not as high ceiling as Brickhouse, but Smith might be more likely to reach his. His ceiling is of a middle of the rotation starter. Shows good command already and has quality stuff as well, sitting in low 90′s with his fastball.
16. Brett Eibner (OF)- Was thinking of leaving Eibner alone all together, but his power potential is pretty tremendous, and he is one of those strange guys who walk a good bit, but have trouble with contact. Has the arm and athleticism to be a quality RF.
17. Jeremy Jeffress (RP)- Jeffress has a high fuel arm, who I think needs some consistency in his program. I think the Royals would do best to either pick starter or reliever and let him ride it out. Potential blazing fastball as a reliever.
18. Tim Melville (SP)- Melville has always had quality stuff, but is so inconsistent with command that he has never lived up to expectations to this point. Has a quality frame, though he may struggle to repeat his delivery. Should be better and needs to generate more ground balls.
19. Clint Robinson (DH)- The guy can hit. He deserves a chance at some point doesn’t he?
20. Leonel Santiago (SP)- Santiago isn’t tall, but he is sturdy. He has a good moving fastball, and commands his arsenal well. Santiago is a sneaky guy in this deep system.
Just Missed The List: Cam Gallagher (C), Michael Antonio (SS), Elisaul Pimentel (SP), Justin Marks (SP), Humberto Arteaga (SS), Adalberto Mondesi (SS), Jake Junis (SP), Greg Billo (SP), Brian Fletcher (OF), Jake Junis (SP), and Noel Arguelles (SP)
Sleepers: D’Andre Toney (OF) and Danny Mateo (SS). Toney is a quality athlete that has some power and an idea of the strike zone. Mateo is more of a slugging SS that can switch hit, but needs to work on his patience.
Rebound Candidate: Honestly, there are multiple candidates here. However, I will go with the one that I think will rebound the most and that is Wil Myers.
Verdict: Obviously when we get to this point in the rankings there is going to be a tremendous amount of talent and depth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be this high. The Royals though don’t suffer from as big a letdown as some might think in my opinion. There is still a tremendous number of high profile players here, and a good amount of them were young for the leagues that they were in. When you put some of these guys’ ages into context of where they were playing, some of the setbacks don’t seem so bad, and some of the younger guys like Bonafacio get more intriguing.
This system is still fantastic and has the ability to produce players in waves over the next couple of years.