The Royals’ minor league clubs moved quickly into action as soon as the big league club broke camp. No sooner were the minors rosters set than they were on the field, starting games on April 5.
The Royals had the top rated farm system in all of baseball just over a year ago. But much has changed since then, and most of those top prospects are now doing battle in KC.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the cupboard is now bare. The minor league rosters are peppered with another crop of elite prospects. And though the games going on in KC should actually mean something this year, the minor leagues bear watching as the next wave of prospects matures.
With Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas entrenched in the corners of the Royals infield, most of the Royals’ top rated prospects are pitchers. Only three position players were ranked in the top 100 by Baseball America this off-season, and only those three were rated among the Royals’ top 10 prospects.
Wil Myers has been touted as one of baseball’s top prospects for a couple of years now, and he headlines the Royals farm system. Myers was rated the #10 prospect by Baseball America a year ago, and even after an injury-plagued, mildly disappointing 2011, he still is rated #28. Myers will start this season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas, but will look to move up mid-season.
Without having done anything on the field yet, outfielder Bubba Starling is Baseball America’s #24 prospect. Starling has every tool known to man, but will take time converting to baseball full-time after devoting little time to low-level Kansas high school competition.
Rising star Cheslor Cuthbert, a third baseman who will begin the season in Wilmington, is rated #84.
It’s time for some new position prospects to move to the fore.
Three of the Royals’ most prime prospects are not on rosters as of the beginning of the season. Starling, Brett Eibner and Elier Hernandez have yet to find their home for the start of 2012.
Hernandez signed the largest contract ever given to a Latin American amateur in KC history, and he will be brought along slowly. Eibner has been a frustrating talent since being drafted out of college. His days as an elite prospect are about up.
The Omaha roster is full of mid-to-late-20s players who aren’t exactly prospects anymore, minus the exception of second baseman Johnny Giavotella. Giavotella will turn 25 mid-season, and has a good chance of returning to KC sometime this season.
Minor league veterans Kevin Kouzmanoff, Clint Robinson and Jarrod Dyson will provide insurance, should any injuries occur in KC. Outfielders David Lough (26) and Derrick Robinson (24) are talented, but see their windows of opportunity closing.
No catcher in the Omaha roster is truly big-league caliber, which is why the Royals were forced to trade for Humberto Quintero after Salvador Perez went down. Minor leaguer Manny Pina may go to Omaha after he returns from the disabled list.
In Christian Colon and Rey Navarro, Northwest Arkansas has two top prospects in its middle infield. Former number one draft pick Colon (23 years old) is still struggling to put it all together at shortstop. Last season he batted just .257 with eight homers at Northwest Arkansas.
Colon has been given some chances at second base, but that’s also Navarro’s territory. Navarro (22) put up a .280 average with nine homers and 11 stolen bases between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas.
Myers will hope to improve on his .254 average and eight homers posted in Double-A last season. He looks to be just a year away from a shot at the big league roster.
Third baseman Cuthbert will start the year in Wilmington, and he won’t be rushed. After all, he is just 19. He’s two years younger than any other position player on the Wilmington roster. Cuthbert’s numbers don’t wow anyone, but his physical talents and maturity have impressed ever since he was signed as a 16-year-old.
Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is considered an elite prospect out of the Dominican Republic. Just 18 years old, and like Hernandez, he has lots of tools, but just needs to grow into them.
2010 Third-rounder Michael Antonio gives the Royals a shortstop to watch for down the road. He hit well in the rookie leagues last year.
Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher of the future, but catcher of the future-future might be big 19-year-old Cameron Gallagher, a second-round pick who got in 28 games of rookie ball last season. There aren’t many catching prospects in the farm system, so Gallagher will be watched closely.