A quick perusal of the Royals All-Time Hispanic Heritage Team is enough to realize that the team has not had much of a history in Latin America. The team’s system produced just one true star of Hispanic decent – Carlos Beltran – in its first 42 years.
You would think when they watched Beltran quickly bloom into a dynamic five-tool star that they would have begun searching high and low for other such talents.
But they didn’t. A few good Hispanic players came along, most of them acquired via trades. But the number, documented in a previous article, was shockingly low.
Mining Latin America for young talent just wasn’t a part of the plan. While the percentage of Latin players on major league rosters climbed to 27% last year, the Royals lagged behind.
But under Dayton Moore, that approach has changed. Signing players from Latin America is a way to augment annual draft classes and quickly bulk up a minor league system. The Royals are now one of the primary players in Latin America, competing to sign the top free agents and fill their system with dynamic prospects.
It is significant that two of the brightest hopes for the Royals future were signed in Moore’s first year on the job. Salvador Perez, from Venezuela, and Kelvin Herrera, from the Dominican Republic, shot so fast through the minor leagues that they never even showed up on rankings of top prospects.
Since then, other top Hispanic prospects have joined the organization, and the minor league system is filling up with Hispanics following in the footsteps of Perez and Herrera.
Not all will work out, obviously. The Royals dug deep into their pocketbooks to ink Noel Arguellas at the same time the Reds broke the bank to sign Aroldis Chapman. Sad to say, the Royals have not had the same success with Arguellas.
Sugar Ray Marimon (23): During the same off-season that KC signed Perez and Herrera, they also added this right-handed starter from Colombia. Shoulder problems have slowed him, but he advanced to Double-A mid-season.
Robinson Yambati (21): The Dominican righty received a mid-year promotion to High A Wilmington for his solid relief pitching. He may be following in the footsteps of Herrera.
Yordano Ventura (21): This Dominican got the start for the international team in the Futures Game, heralded as one of the hardest throwers in the minor leagues. Boasting a 100 mph heater, Ventura tore up Carolina League hitters (98 Ks in 76 innings), adjusted slowly to Double-A.
Cheslor Cuthbert (19): A pup who’s been slowly climbing the minor league ladder, Cuthbert gets rave reviews, but has yet to explode on the field. The Nicaraguan remains a top third base prospect, but hit just .240 with 7 homers at High A Wilmington.
Jorge Bonifacio (19): The Dominican outfielder rocketed out of the blocks last spring at Low A Kane County. He slowed over the season, but finished with a .282 average, 10 homers and 61 RBIs in 105 games.
Orlando Calixte (20): Looks like he has all the skills necessary to play shortstop. Hit well enough at two levels of A-ball to inspire hope for the future.
Noel Arguelles (22): This signing has been disastrous for the pitching-starved Royals. After giving the Cuban defector $7 million, the Royals had to wonder if Arguelles would ever take the field. After about a year on the sidelines nursing arm troubles, Arguelles has been essentially a batting practice pitcher at Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. Don’t check out his numbers if you have a weak stomach: 4-14, 6.41 ERA, 1.777 WHIP.
Humberto Arteaga (18): Could follow in the footsteps of fellow Venezuelan shortstop Alcides Escobar – a tall, lanky line-drive hitter. He hit .274 for Burlington last season, but struck out a ton.
Eliar Hernandez (17): Signed for $3 million, expectations are high for the Dominican outfielder. He is tall and athletic, but failed to hit in his first professional season – .208 with no homers at Idaho Falls. The Royals hope he’ll develop into a Wil Myers-type outfielder.
Adalberto Mondesi (17): Yet another shortstop at the low minors, the son of Raul Mondesi doesn’t exactly fit the criteria for this article. Though he was signed out of the Dominican, he was actually born in Los Angeles. Mondesi spent the season at Idaho Falls, even though he didn’t turn 17 until the end of the summer. He was solid enough considering his age; he hit .290 with 3 homers in 50 games.