Tag Archive | "Rising Star"

Royals minor league placements: position players

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.

Take a look at the Royals top pitching prospects

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

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.

Omaha:
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.

Northwest Arkansas:
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.

Wilmington:
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.

Kane County:
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.

Idaho Falls:
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.

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The Hot Corner In The NL Central

Aside from Aramis Ramirez no other NL Central third basemen surpassed the 100 games played mark. Only David Freese sniffed the 100 game mark in 2011, falling just short at with 97. Though it’s tough basing everything off of a post season run Freese showed the kind of hitter he can be in the postseason. It is dangerous evaluating off of postseason hype, but Freese should have had this breakthrough in seasons prior. Assuming health, which for him could be a big gamble, he can put it all together and be a .280-25-100-90 work horse on the hot corner.

As it stands now Freese is more of less in a class by himself among the NL Central third basemen. Not quite at the Ramirez and Rolen level, but well above the likes of what takes the field for the Astros, Cubs, and Pirates. Here is who he be measured against moving into 2012.

 

Ian Stewart split the 2011 season between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, totaling two stints in each spot. He batted .156 with six doubles in 48 games with the Rockies and hit .275 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs in 45 games in the Minor Leagues. A change of scenery might help Stewart, who hit 25 home runs in 2009 and was considered a rising star but never gained a solid footing in the Majors.

Reds third baseman Scott Rolen was limited to 252 at-bats in 2011, hitting .242 with five homers, one stolen base, 36 RBIs and 34 runs scored.  Rolen continues to deal with injuries and shoulder problems which again cut short a season. The 36-year-old has only reached 350 at-bats once in the past four campaigns and is a significant injury risk for 2012. When healthy he is one of the game’s best at the hot corner and his defense alone will keep him on the field.

For the Astros Jimmy Paredes hit .286 with a pair of homers, five stolen bases, 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored in 168 at-bats during his rookie season. Paredes didn’t distinguish himself in his initial Major League action but he didn’t look out of place either. The 22-year-old didn’t hit for a lot of power in the Minors so his upside for 2012 isn’t very high from a power perspective but Paredes has shown he can hit for average. Which for the Astros happens to be the case for most of the roster.

Aramis Ramirez completed his sixth season with at least 30 doubles and 25 homers. He got off to a slow start, hitting two home runs in the first two months of the season. Ramirez has a career .261 average in April and playing in Miller Park early in the year could help him boost those numbers. Ramirez has a lifetime .270 average and .503 slugging percentage at Miller Park, hitting 15 homers and 25 doubles there.

Pedro Alvarez was a big disappointment in 2011, as he hit four homers, stole one base, drove in 10 runs and scored eight times while hitting .191 in 235 at-bats.  Alvarez entered 2011 as a budding prospect but got off to a slow start and was eventually sent to the Minors. He didn’t show much more after returning to the Bucs in September and is a major question mark heading into 2012.  The addition of Casey McGehee gives the Pirates another option at third base, though the club has insisted that Pedro Alvarez will get the first crack at holding onto the starting role.

Our towns David Freese missed time early in the season due to a broken hand but produced reasonable numbers when healthy. In only 97 games in 2011 Freese hit .297 with 10 homers, 55 RBIs, 41 runs scored and one stolen base.  He set a postseason record with 21 RBIs, which has everyone drooling about a possible breakout campaign in 2012. From time to time he still shows he has room to grown defensively but a full offseason and being healthy going into 2012 should help.

By the time 2012 is said and done here is how I see things shaking out amongst the NL Central three baggers.

  1. Aramis Ramirez
  2. Scott Rolen
  3. David Freese
  4. Ian Stewart
  5. Jimmy Paredes
  6. Pedro Alvarez

Looking ahead: There is still a lot to prove for Freese in 2012. The NL Central already has an established senior class of third basemen in Aramis Ramirez and Scott Rolen. Rolen’s defense, for now, keeps him ahead of Freese and Ramirez’s ability to do it year in and year out keeps him atop the class at this point. If Freese can stay healthy enough to play 145+ games and sure up his defense even a little look for him to overtake Rolen amonth the pecking order of NL third basemen.

Follow Derek on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze

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Winter Meetings Solidify Royals Outfield

GM Dayton Moore made multiple moves during this week’s Winter Meetings, but is deferring his biggest decision until a bow is wrapped on Cliff Lee and put under the Christmas tree of one of his many suitors. Zack Greinke survived the hectic week, but his future as a Royal is still in jeopardy. It has been reported Moore won’t trade Greinke until Lee signs, hoping some desperation sets in consequently pushing the price up a tad higher.

Instead, Moore addressed what many baseball execs felt was the worst outfield heading into the Winter Meetings. With a collection of Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco, Jarrod Dyson, and Alex Gordon, it is difficult to argue otherwise.

Moore reached into his Atlanta Braves’ roots and signed two former Braves, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. Neither is considered an impact signing, but for $2.5 million (Francoeur) and $1.25 million (Cabrera) were deemed cost effective stop gaps on a barren MLB roster.

Since the day Moore took over as GM for the Royals, it was speculated Francoeur would end up in a Royals uniform. Moore’s quasi ‘bromance’ with Francoeur took four years to facilitate, but he finally landed him in a one year deal which comes along with a mutual option for 2012.

“In a win or a loss, he’s going to give effort, energy, focus, intensity and competitiveness every day,” Moore said in an interview with Dick Kaegel of MLB.com.

Francoeur, an Atlanta native, was drafted by the Braves in the first round of the 2002 MLB Draft. At the time Moore was Atlanta’s director of player personnel.

“Dayton was in my house when I signed my first contract when I was 18, so I’ve always respected him and the way he’s building with young guys,” Francoeur said.

By 2005, Francoeur had made the big league squad finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 2006, Francoeur, 22, played in every game for the Braves and crushed, .260, 24 2B, 29 HR, and 103 RBI.

2007 marked continue success for the rising star. ‘Frenchy’ hit .293, 40 2B, 19 HR, and 105 RBI, to go along with a Gold Glove in right field. Francoeur spurred by his home run drop, decided to beef up and try to turn those doubles into dingers.

“I bulked up to 242 going into spring, and it just never was the same,” he said.

In 2008 his offensive numbers plummeted, hitting only .239 with 11 homers. Since 2007, Francoeur has posted a -2.1 WAR in the three seasons. Despite being regarded as a competent defender, with a cannon for an arm, Francoeur has managed a career OBP of only .310. It seems this is a trending theme with recent roster transactions.

Even though the Royals finished second in MLB in batting average, they were in the middle of the pack when it came to getting on base.

Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs put the meager output into perspective using wOBA and WAR.

‘The four worst hitters (by wOBA) among qualified from 2008-10’

127. Pedro Feliz – .284 wOBA

126. Jason Kendall – .288 wOBA

125. Yuniesky Betancourt – .291 wOBA

124. Jeff Francoeur – .298 wOBA

‘The three least valuable (qualified) position players from FanGraphs WAR 2008-10’

127. Jose Guillen/ -1.1 WAR

126. Yuniesky Betancourt/ -0.8 WAR

125. Jeff Francoeur/ 0.0 WAR

Despite his lack of recent productivity, Francoeur still brings solid defense, along with veteran and postseason experience. Most recently he was traded to help with the Rangers’ World Series push. Francoeur also adds a right handed bat, which has performed much better against lefties, posting numbers nearly 50 points or higher in every category. Since the departure of Guillen, the Royals lineup has lacked any right handed thump.

Career vs. RHP – .256/.296/.403/.699

Career vs. LHP – .299/.343/.481/.824

Manager Ned Yost has already said Francoeur will be the Royals right fielder and bat in the middle of the lineup.

“I do want to play every day,” Francoeur said. “If you get to know me, I’m not the greatest guy to sit on the bench. I’ve always got ants in pants wanting to play.”

Cabrera, 25, brings postseason experience of his own to the Royals. In his six major league seasons, Cabrera has been on a squad which reached the playoffs every season. Cabrera posted four solid years of production in New York, before his star faded and he was dealt in the Javier Vazquez deal.

Last season, the switch hitter, managed .255, 27 2B, 4 HR, and 42 RBI in his 147 games with the Braves. Cabrera has played all three outfield positions in his career. He will compete for time in centerfield along with Blanco, Dyson, and Maier. Cabrera could also be used as a platoon in left field with Gordon.

Moore rounded out the week of action by selecting 22 year old RHP Nathan Adcock in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Adcock went 11-7 with a 3.38 ERA, 113 SO, in 141.1 innings pitched for the Pirates advanced A minor league squad in 2010. To retain Adcock’s rights, he must stick with the big league club throughout 2011.

This move backs Moore’s previous statements about letting some of the youngsters earn a spot in a rotation with more question marks than names penciled in. Moore has been adamant about giving the likes of Mike Montgomery and Everett Teaford a legitimate shot of making the 2011 roster. Moore has chosen to see if any of the home grown talent is ready, instead of seeking affordable free agent options such as Jeff Francis or Kevin Millwood.

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