Top 10 pitching prospects

This list is preliminary for the offseason. Looks good to me for now though.

1) Daniel Cortes, RHP
Age: 21 | Team: Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
2008 Vital Line: 3.98 ERA,110.2 IP, 106/53 K/BB

Cortes is the top pitching prospect in the Royals system right now. His stats aren't sexy, but his fastball/curveball combination is one of the best in the entire minor leagues. It's good enough that he could probably be an effective Major League reliever right now. Cortes' fastball sits at 92-96, and has touched 99 this year.

His changeup needs the most work, and you can tell because lefties are hitting .294 against him compared to only .224 against righties. He'll definitely need to keep improving it to become the top of the rotation starter he is capable of becoming.

MLB Comparison? Something like the Royals version of Gil Meche. Excellent fastball/curveball, command off at times, but absolutely dominant when things are working.

2) Carlos Rosa, RHP
Age: 23 | Team: Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)/Omaha Royals (AAA)/Kansas City Royals (MLB)
2008 Vital Line: 2.73 ERA, 99.0 IP, 89/19 K/BB

Rosa is more advanced than Cortes, but has a bit less upside than him and has a tad more injury concern. Rosa uses a three pitch mix -- fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball has good velocity and movement, it sits 92-95, and I saw him hit 97 in the 7th inning of a game in Omaha this year. His slider is thrown hard, in the mid-80's and it has great downward movement.

Rosa needs to improve command with his slider and changeup to go along with his fastball. They're both good pitches, but more consistency (insert Joe Morgan joke here) would go a long ways for him. Some think Rosa would be better suited for the bullpen, and I wouldn't be one bit surprised to see him broken in as a reliever.

MLB Comparison? Normally you don't compare to someone younger, but he compares quite favorably to Johnny Cueto. Short right hander with good fastball and slider. If moved to the pen, Rafael Soriano will be a popular comparison.

3) Tim Melville, RHP
Age: 18 | Team: None
2008 Vital Line: Uh, none.

A shocking selection in the fourth round, Tim Melville lands third on the list. Melville was a first round talent that slid due to signability concerns, as many teams thought he'd honor his commitment to North Carolina and follow three other highly touted pitchers that turned down high money offers -- Andrew Miller in 2003, Alex White in 2006, and Matt Harvey in 2007.

Melville has a strong fastball already, sitting at 91-94, and compliments it with a curve and a changeup that show a lot of promise. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, he could stand to put on some muscle and add a few ticks to his fastball.

His athleticism, projection, and current stuff have garnered Phil Hughes and Mark Prior comparisons at the same point. My best guess at a comparable upside? Chris Carpenter.

4) Daniel Duffy, LHP
Age: 19 | Team: Burlington Bees (Low A)
2008 Vital Line: 2.20 ERA, 81.2 IP, 102/25 K/BB

My favorite selection in the 2007 draft (I drafted him in the second round in my shadow draft I liked him so much), Duffy checks in as the top southpaw on the list. Duffy throws four pitches -- fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. The fastball checks in anywhere from 88-92 on most nights, and he can dial it up closer to 94-95 when he reaches back for a little more.

Duffy still needs to improve fastball command. He's smoothed out his delivery since last year and it has come a long ways since last year, but it still needs to get better.  It might be the only thing holding him back from becoming an elite pitching prospect...

He's been frequently compared to Scott Olsen of the Marlins. Hopefully without the little attitude problems.

5) Blake Wood, RHP
Age: 23 | Team: Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A)/Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
2008 Vital Line: 4.34 ERA, 141.0 IP, 139/47 K/BB

Wood came into the season as a prospect with possible helium, and he showed just why in his first start of the year by throwing 5.1 innings of one-hit ball with nine strikeouts. The whole season hasn't gone quite that smoothly for Wood, especially upon his promotion to AA, but he's performed fairly well done the stretch run.

Wood throws a good fastball that regularly sits in the low-to-mid-90's, and complements it with a hard breaking ball that he describes as a "slurve." His changeup has also made a lot of progress since being drafted in 2006. Wood still needs to improve his fastball command further. If he can do that, he has the makings of a workhorse (he's 6-foot-5, 240 pounds) mid rotation starter.

6) Michael Montgomery, LHP
Age: 19 | Team: Surprise Royals (R)
2008 Vital Line: 1.69 ERA, 42.2 IP, 34/12 K/BB

The Royals made Montgomery the 36th overall pick in last June's draft, adding to the number of very young but talented pitchers in the low minors. Montgomery signed fairly quickly and has pitched extremely well for the Royals in his short career. He uses a fastball that ranges 89-92, along with a curve and changeup. His changeup is especially a weapon because of the late drop on it, and it induces a ton of ground balls. His 6-foot-5, 180 pound frame gives scouts reason to project his fastball will sit in the low-90's as he matures.

Montgomery is similar to how Daniel Duffy was last year, in that he needs to work out some mechanical things to improve his command. If he continues to improve in that regard as expected, Montgomery projects as a middle-of-the-rotation, ground ball inducing starter.

7) Daniel Gutierrez, RHP
Age: 21 | Team: Burlington Bees (Low A)
2008 Vital Line: 2.70 ERA, 90.0 IP, 104/25 K/BB

Gutierrez joined the organization back as a draft-and-follow in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft. After a pretty bad pro debut with Idaho Falls, things only got worse when he was suspended for part of the 2007 season for violation of team rules. He's bounced back since then and emerged as a very good prospect after a fantastic 2008 season. Gutierrez throws a fastball that sits 92-93, touches 95, along with a very good 12-6 curveball and an occasional changeup.

His changeup still has a ways to go, and that'll determine whether his future is as a starter or reliever. Based on what I've read and heard, he actually barely throws the changeup at all right now. He does, however, know that he needs to improve the pitch as he climbs the ladder.

8) Julio Cesar Pimentel, RHP
Age: 22 | Team: Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
2008 Vital Line: 5.23 ERA, 152.1 IP, 109/49 K/BB

Pimentel joined the Royals back in 2006 in a trade from the Dodgers. At the time, he wasn't much more than a hard thrower with a promising changeup. In 2007 he blossomed when the Royals put him back in the starting rotation. He's taken a step backward this year, but the raw stuff is still there. Pimentel throws a fastball with good sink when it's down in the zone, velocity usually 91-93. He also throws a plus changeup and an above average curve.

With that stuff, he should be able to dominate right? Well, yea, but he's Mr. Inconsistency this year. He also works up in the zone (intentionally or not, I do not know) too much for a guy with good sink on his fastball. Some think Pimentel would be better suited for the bullpen where his fastball especially would play up. I actually do too, but there's no reason to take him out of a starting role yet.

9) Edward Cegarra, RHP
Age: 19 | Team: Burlington Bees (Low A)/Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A)
2008 Vital Line: 3.99 ERA, 160.0 IP, 112/26 K/BB

Cegarra's just the first of a hand full of good pitching prospects from the Royals Dominican Academy. He dominated the Midwest League to open the year before a midseason promotion to Wilmington. He's held his own as one of the youngest players in the league, though certainly hasn't dominated. Cegarra throws a fastball that registers up to 93, and can command it very, very well for a pitcher his age. He can also flip in a slurvy type curve ball for a strike when he's got that pitch working for him as well.

He needs to continue to work on using the lower part of the strike zone, as he's proven very prone to the long ball in the Carolina League. Like most pitchers his age, refinement of a third pitch (changeup) will go a long way for him. He doesn't have the long term upside of some of his peers, but he's got enough stuff and command to be a good pitcher down the line.

10) Tyler Sample, RHP
Age: 19 | Team: Surprise Royals (R)
2008 Vital Line: 9.00 ERA, 27.0 IP, 39/29 K/BB

Sample was thought by most to be a steal in the third round of this past years draft because of his upside. His first go around as a pro hasn't been stellar because of the poor control and command. The first thing you notice about Sample is his size -- he's 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds and he's only 19. He throws a strong fastball, usually 90-92 and topping at 95, but with his size you can project even more. Sample also had one of the best curveballs in the entire draft, which is even more impressive when you consider he was throwing that curveball in the elevation of the mountains in Colorado.

Clearly, he needs to work on his control and command of the strike zone. He's never going to be a control artist that can just pound his spots with ease, but he's going to need to learn to throw strikes. Also, his changeup is still in the early stages of development and he needs to improve it. Sample's upside is very, very good though, and he could be an excellent pitcher if the Royals can fix him up.

Honorable Mentions--

Kelvin Herrera - Similar to Cegarra, better fastball.
Blake Johnson -
He's fallen a bit this year, still might be a backend guy.
Sam Runion -
Nice rebound in Appalacian League, still very good upside.
Alex Caldera -
Good four pitch mix along with good control.
Matthew Mitchell -
Strikeout rate plummeted, can improve with better breaking ball.

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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