As the chill of winter falls over I-70 Baseball Land, here’s something to warm the cockles of your heart: the Kansas City Royals continue to prove they have one of the best farm systems in baseball.
Prospects from the Royals and their I-70 counterpart St. Louis Cardinals have come together with rising stars from the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers to form the Surprise Rafters, one of six teams competing in the Arizona Fall League. The season runs from the middle of October through the middle of November. A little more than halfway through the season, the Rafters claim an 11-8 record.
The Royals have nine players on the Rafters, the most of any organization on the roster.
Here’s a look at each of those players:
Danny Duffy, LHP, 6’3”, 195 lbs, 21 years old
As you probably know, Duffy quit baseball earlier in 2010 but came back with a vengeance, earning a 5-3 record with a 2.74 ERA mostly with AA-Northwest Arkansas. He’s struggled in the AFL, pitching primarily out of relief. He’s 0-1 with a 10.57 ERA over five games (one start) and 7.2 innings pitched. His ERA is inflated by that one start, where he gave up six runs during just one inning of work.
Aaron Hartsock, RHP, 6’3”, 200 lbs, 26 years old
Royals fans may be scrambling to remember Hartsock; he didn’t pitch during the 2010 regular season due to injury, but the 2006 draft pick was gangbusters in 2009. Hartsock has seen limited action in the AFL, throwing one inning on Nov. 3 where he gave up two unearned runs.
Patrick Keating, RHP, 6’2”, 215 lbs, 23 years old
The versatile Keating worked mostly as a closer in A+ Wilmington and AA-Northwest Arkansas during 2010, compiling 15 saves and a 2.28 ERA, while striking out an impressive 101 batters over 71 innings. For the Rafters, he’s pitched in seven games and has worked a 4.50 ERA with eight strikeouts.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, 6’5”, 180 lbs, 21 years old
Montgomery has a 2-1 record but a bloated 6.10 ERA in the AFL over three starts. But his regular season numbers split between A ball, rookie ball and AA, look like this: 7-5, 2.61 ERA, 88K, .228 average against. Montgomery is one of only two Royals prospects (along with Eric Hosmer) who will take part in today’s Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. An MLB.com article about the game says this: “If the AFL as a whole is a stepping stone to the big leagues, perhaps the Rising Stars Game is a trampoline.” Montgomery is the best out of a strong group of left-handed pitching prospects for the Royals.
Brandon Sisk, LHP, 6’3”, 210 lbs, 25 years old
Sisk spent all of 2010 with the AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals, and his work out of the bullpen was a big reason they made it to the Texas League Championship. He threw in 40 games, striking out 63 batters over 68.2 innings. Sisk has really shined in the AFL, pitching in six games in relief and earning a 1.93 ERA with a .152 average against.
Salvador Perez, C, R-R, 6’3”, 175 lbs, 20 years old
One of three catchers on the Rafters, Perez is often overlooked in Royals circles because of catching phenom Wil Myers. But Perez, who played in 99 games for A+ Wilmington in 2010, batted .290, and collected 106 hits over 365 at-bats. In the AFL, he has caught in seven games, and has struggled at the plate with a .143 average.
Johnny Giavotella, 2B, R-R, 5’8”, 185 lbs, 23 years old
The hottest middle infield prospect in the Royals’ system has been a stud for the Rafters so far, batting .326 with a .373 OBP and a .543 slugging average. In the regular season, the slight Giavotella batted .322 with nine homers and 65 RBIs for the Texas League champ Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, L-L, 6’4”, 215 lbs, 21 years old
There’s no doubt Hosmer is the biggest Royals name on the Surprise Rafters. After batting .338 with 20 dingers and 86 RBIs between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas in 2010, hopes are extremely high for this left-handed power hitter. He has bat has been nearly non-existent in the AFL, though, with a .179 average over 13 games, and his power has disappeared, too. But not to worry. Hosmer is one of two Royals prospects (along with Mike Montgomery) to be picked for today’s AFL Rising Stars Game.
Derrick Robinson, OF, S-L, 5’11”, 180 lbs, 23 years old
Robinson is the only Royals outfielder in the AFL this season. For Northwest Arkansas in 2010, the speedy Robinson stole 50 bases while batting .286. In the AFL, Robinson has yet to flash his wheels. Over nine games, he’s batting .188 and hasn’t attempted a stolen base.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.