Posted on 21 February 2012.
Spring Training Report #1: Naturals reporting to Camp
Former Naturals Looking to Turn Heads this Spring
Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas
SPRINGDALE, AR – The Kansas City Royals have opened spring training with pitchers and catchers already reporting to camp. Position players will be reporting this Friday, although a number of them have already reported to the Surprise, Arizona facility. The Royals are looking to build off a season that saw several of their young prospects and former Naturals make their major league debuts.
Former Naturals Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez all enter camp in new roles as projected starters this season, rather than battling to try an earn a spot on the big league roster as they have in past seasons. Hosmer is coming off a year where he hit 19 home runs and drove home 78 in just 128 games in the major leagues. He finished third last season in Rookie of the Year voting behind Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo. Moustakas had his best month as a major leaguer in September when he batted .352 with four home runs and 12 RBI. Perez made great strides in working with the pitching staff in 2011 and was strong at the plate posting a .331 average in Kansas City.
Another Natural, Johnny Giavotella is in camp after also making his major league debut in August last season. Giavotella is expected to battle major league veteran Chris Getz for the starting job at second base.
Former Naturals Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando, David Lough, Wil Myers, and Derrick Robinson are also in major league camp competing with Mitch Maier and the newly signed Greg Golson to make the major league roster as a fourth outfielder.
The pitching staff is where most of competition will be this spring. The starting rotation potentially has two positions that several players will be competing for with Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, and Bruce Chen considered to have already secured spots. Former Naturals Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery, are expected to compete for a job at the back end of the rotation along with Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza and Felipe Paulino. Several former Naturals are looking to nail down a spot in the bullpen as well. Louis Coleman, Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Jeremy Jeffress, Everett Teaford, and Blake Wood are among those competing with offseason acquisitions Jose Mijares and Tommy Hottovy.
Other former Naturals in major league camp include pitchers Chris Dwyer, Jake Odorizzi, Will Smith, Zach Miner, Roman Colon, catchers Manny Pina and Cody Clark, and infielders Irving Falu and Clint Robinson.
Naturals/Texas League Notes
Naturals in Other Camps: At least eight former Naturals players are also showing up in other big league spring training camps around major league baseball. Right-hander Juan Abreu (2009) has reported to camp with the Houston Astros after making his major league debut last season. He’ll be joined by infielder Angel Sanchez (2008), an Astros’ non-roster invitee. Kila Ka’aihue is also in camp with the Oakland Athletics and is expected to compete for playing time at first base and designated hitter with Daric Barton and former Texas leaguer Chris Carter (Midland, 2009). Ka’aihue is out of options, and must make the big league roster or be exposed to waivers prior to being sent to the minor leagues. Former Naturals’ starter Dan Cortes (2008-09) is in camp after signing a big league deal with the Washington Nationals following his release from the Seattle Marinerrs. Right-hander Jeff Fulchino, who spent an abbreviated two-game stint with the Naturals in the first week of their history, joins him in Nationals’ camp as a non-roster player.
A trio of former Naturals – left-hander Dusty Hughes (2008), first baseman Ernesto Mejia (2010), and outfielder Jordan Parraz (2009) – are also in big league camp, with the Atlanta Braves, as non-roster invitees.
‘Manny being Manny’ at Arvest??? Divisive big league slugger Manny Ramirez agreed to terms on a contract with the Oakland Athletics this week. Manny will have to serve a 50-game suspension violating major league baseball’s substance abuse policy. There is a provision that would allow Ramirez to play a ten game stint in the minor leagues before joining the Athletics roster for their 51st game – which would be a road contest May 30th against the Minnesota Twins. This would put him on track to possibly begin a minor league stint on or around May 20th. It is too early to speculate on where he may appear, or what minor league teams he may be with, but the Midland Rockhounds, Oakland’s Double-A affiliate, will be at Arvest from May 23-25th. Should he appear in Springdale he would be the biggest name to rehab at Arvest Ballpark since Kevin Millwood made a rehab start against the Naturals in August of 2008, while on a rehab assignment from the Texas Rangers.
Top 100 Prospects: Several former and future Naturals are listed on the Baseball America top 100 prospect list. Former Natural Mike Montgomery is ranked 23rd, while Bubba Starling, the fifth over all pick in the 2011 draft, is right behind Montgomery ranked 24th. Starling is not likely to see time in Northwest Arkansas before 2014. The Royals had five players overall make the list, as current Natural Wil Myers is ranked 28th, and Jake Odorizzi is ranked 68th, and Cheslor Cuthbert, a promising third baseman from Nicaragua who is expected to begin the 2012 season with Wilmington, is 84th on the list. Former Diamond Hog Zack Cox, who spent last season in the Texas League with Springfield, was ranked 88th. The Royals are one of three teams to have three players make the Top 30 for 2012. The Mariners and Diamondbacks also accomplished the feat.
Transaction Log: Former Naturals’ right hander Roman Colon returns to the Royals organization after spending the 2011 season in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization pitching for Triple-A Albuquerque. In 27 appearances the 32-year old Colon posted a 2-1 record and a 4.85 ERA in 27 appearances. Colon spent the 2010 season pitching in Korea, and has been invited to big league spring training this season, but if he wins a job coming out of camp, that’s likely to be in the bullpen with Triple-A Omaha…The Royals also signed right-hander Steve Kent to a minor league contract. Kent is a 22-year old Australian right-hander who has spent the last two seasons in Class-A ball in the Atlanta Braves’ system. He’ll join the cast of arms competing for spots with Kane County and Wilmington, but could advance to Double-A later in the season. Kent’s career minor league record is 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA in 67 career games, including 30 starts. He posted a 7.77 ERA in 48 2/3 innings last season for Class-A Rome (GA), where he missed time with injury.
Check nwanaturals.com for our Spring Training Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in spring training as well as cover other baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.