FanPost

NWA Naturals - Starting Pitchers Report

When the idea of the Royals Review Minor League Project came up, I jumped at the chance of following the Northwest Arkansas Naturals pitchers.  That unit has the most prospects of any in the Royals system.  According to Baseball America, it contains 3 of the Royals top 10 prospects and 6 in their top 30.  The Naturals rotation is particularly interesting.  It contains the Royals #2, #7, #8, #14 and #30 prospects.  Even more interesting, none of them have pitched at a level higher than A-ball before this season.

 

 

ERA 

GS 

IP 

ER 

HR 

BB 

SO 

WHIP 

SP TOTAL

4

9

3.74

23

23

120

132

55

50

6

29

78

1.34

 

 

Daniel Cortes, RHP

Age: 21

Height: 6’5”    Weight: 205 lbs.

BA rank: 2 (#57 prospect in all of baseball)

Pitches:

  1. Fastball – 93-96 mph (can hit 98) with some movement.  This is a plus-plus pitch.
  2. Curveball – Nice hard break.  Another plus pitch.
  3. Changeup – Not very good yet, but it’s improving.

If you’re not familiar with Dan Cortes, you need to get to know him because he could be the next great Royals pitcher.  He was acquired with Tyler Lumsden in the Mike MacDougal trade and has quickly become the jewel of the deal and may well end up being the best pitcher of the three.  Since the trade, Cortes has grown an inch and added 4-5 mph to his fastball.  According to BA, Cortes has the best fastball and curveball in the Royals system.  His only weaknesses are some control problems and a weak third pitch.  If he can improve his control a bit and improve his change to an average offering, he could become a top of the rotation starter.

 

So far in 2008

 

ERA 

GS 

IP 

ER 

HR 

BB 

SO 

WHIP 

0

1

1.35

3

3

13.3

9

3

2

0

8

9

1.28

 

This is a good start, but not a great start, which is still pretty impressive for a guy pitching at the AA level for the first time.  While he has a great ERA, the peripherals aren’t yet what we’d like to see.  He’s not dominating batters and getting a lot of strikeouts and he’s giving up too many walks.  But he also isn’t giving up many hits.  He’s been pretty consistent in his three starts, going 4-5 innings and not giving up more than 1 run.  I expect that as the season progresses, we’ll see more dominant peripherals and hopefully better control.  After his third start, Cortes was placed on the disabled list with a strained left quad.  While there isn’t a lot of news out there on the extent of the injury, so far it doesn’t appear to be serious and it is definitely good news that it’s a strained muscle in his leg and nothing in his arm or shoulder.  The minor league DL period is only seven days, so the team has said that he will be evaluated before his next scheduled start and may only miss a start or two.

 

Carlos Rosa, RHP

Age: 23

Height: 6’1”    Weight: 185 lbs.

BA rank: 7

Pitches:

  1. Fastball – 91-95 mph (can hit 97) with some movement.  A definite plus pitch.
  2. Curveball – A good pitch
  3. Changeup – A good pitch
  4. Slider – A bad pitch that some say he should just abandon.

Rosa is an advanced, fairly polished prospect with three good pitches.  Bob McClure loves him and has called him a “stud” with ace potential.  I think he projects more as a middle of the rotation starter or a very good reliever.

 

So far in 2008

 

ERA 

GS 

IP 

ER 

HR 

BB 

SO 

WHIP 

2

2

1.61

5

5

28

17

6

5

1

5

25

0.79

 

To put it plainly, Rosa is dominating.  All five of his starts have been good and he appears to be getting better with every appearance.  In his last start, he pitched 8 innings, gave up 1 hit and 2 walks and struck out 9 batters.  His strikeouts are high, and walks, hits and runs are low.  There’s nothing to dislike about what he’s done so far this season.  Even though this is his first season at the AA level, I think he’s showing that he’s at the wrong level.  He’s at least a AAA talent right now and I hope he moves up relatively soon.  I think they should see if they can turn Ty Lumsden into a decent reliever and give Rosa his spot in the Omaha rotation.  If nothing else, De La Rosa will likely be shipped to Colorado in June as the PTBNL in the Ramirez trade.  Rosa could then take his spot in Omaha.

 

 

Julio Pimentel, RHP

Age: 22

Height: 6’1”    Weight: 190 lbs.

BA rank: 8

Pitches:

  1. Fastball – 90-93 mph.  A good pitch.
  2. Changeup – A deceptive plus pitch with good movement
  3. Curveball – Average at best with control problems

You have to love any prospect with two plus pitches, but it is doubly impressive when one of them is a changeup.  Most pitchers have a changeup at the back end of the repertoire because it is usually the hardest pitch to throw.  Many pitchers spend their whole careers trying to master some kind of offspeed pitch.  Pimentel mastered his at an early age.  BA says that he has the best changeup in the system.  His major problem is control.  If he can harness his stuff and improve his breaking ball, he could be a good major league starter or reliever.

 

So far in 2008

 

ERA 

GS 

IP 

ER 

HR 

BB 

SO 

WHIP 

1

2

3.21

5

5

28

27

10

10

1

8

23

1.25

 

Pimentel started out slow with two poor starts which in part were due to NWA’s sometimes iffy defense.  But he’s been spectacular in his last three starts, allowing only 3 ER in 20 IP and striking out 15 batters against 5 walks.  Overall the stat line is pretty good.  He’s missing bats and not giving up too many hits or walks.  Pimentel’s K/9 dropped significantly last year which was pretty inexplicable given his plus stuff.  So it is good to see the strikeouts increase, and doing that in his first exposure to AA hitting.

 

 

Blake Johnson, RHP

Age: 22

Height: 6’5”    Weight: 200 lbs.

BA rank: 14

Pitches:

  1. Fastball – 88-92 mph (can hit 94).  A pretty average fastball.
  2. Curveball – Mid-70’s velocity with a lot of break.  An excellent pitch.
  3. Changeup – Not very good yet, but it’s improving.

Opinions on Mr. Johnson are kind of all over the place.  Some praise his control, but others say it is inconsistent and blame somewhat poor mechanics.  Overall, Johnson is more of a control pitcher with only ok stuff.  He relies on his curveball, his one plus pitch, sometimes too much.  He clearly has a projectable body and might add a little to his velocity over the next year or two.  Regardless, his curve could carry him to the majors as a reliever.  If he adds a little velocity and improves his consistency, he might be able to make it as a major league starter.

 

So far in 2008

 

ERA 

GS 

IP 

ER 

HR 

BB 

SO 

WHIP 

1

2

5.40

5

5

25

34

15

15

2

6

12

1.60

 

Johnson hasn’t been particularly impressive.  He’s had a mix of good, mediocre and bad starts.  He isn’t striking a lot of batters out and he’s giving up a lot of hits, but he’s showing good control.  I would have thought that his excellent curveball would strike more batters out.  I hope he’s not trying to “pitch to contact.”  He’s going to have to get more strikeouts if he wants to succeed.

 

 

Rowdy Hardy, LHP

Age: 25

Height: 6’4”    Weight: 170 lbs.

BA rank: 30

Pitches:

  1. Fastball – 80-84 mph with lots of movement
  2. Changeup – above average pitch
  3. Curveball – Not very good yet, but he’s working on it

Even though this is only Hardy’s third professional season, he’s a bit old for a prospect because he was signed by the Royals as a 5th year senior before the 2006 draft.  He has always been a pitcher who succeeded with pinpoint control, despite very unimpressive stuff.  He led the Carolina League last year in Wins and Innings Pitched and was second in ERA.  His 91:16 K:BB ratio was particularly impressive.  The question is, can a pitcher who throws this slowly succeed at higher levels?  The odds are stacked against him, but never say never.  Most likely, if he makes it to the majors, it will be as a lefty specialist reliever. 

 

So far in 2008

 

ERA 

GS 

IP 

ER 

HR 

BB 

SO 

WHIP 

0

2

6.23

5

5

26

45

21

18

2

2

9

1.81

 

Like everyone else, I was hopeful that Hardy could manage to succeed at the AA level with his plus control and minus stuff, as he had at high-A Wilmington.  So far, that hasn’t happened.  He’s had four bad starts and once decent one.  Overall, he’s getting hit like a batting practice pitcher.  He’s maintained his control but so far that just isn’t enough.  But perhaps this is just a difficult adjustment period as he figures out how to get AA batters out.  I would imagine that the adjustment might take longer for Hardy given his stuff.  His last two starts have been decent (6 IP, 3 ER and 6 IP, 4 ER), so hopefully he’s starting to figure something out…a little.

So that's it for the starters.  I'll get a post up about the NWA relievers sometime today.

 

 

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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