You've waited, you've had sleepless night, you've dreamed of this day---who (or perhaps: in what order) are the Royals' Top 6 Prospects. If the Royals are to ever climb out of the deep dark hole they've dug, they will need some of these players to become stars--perhaps have one who can put up a few MVP type seasons .
But we aren't quite done yet, next week I'll wrap up the series by putting out a little something I call The Overview.
#6 Chris Dwyer--LHP--DOB:1/10/88
Chris Dwyer was the Royals 4th Round of the 2009 draft out of Clemson. Dwyer was the baseball draft equivalent of an unicorn: the extremely rare draft eligible freshman. He repeated a couple years of school (I believe his parents wanted him to do that for athletic reasons). Thus, he was 21 during his freshman season and eligible for the draft. He was inconsistent during his freshman season but his talent and stuff were evident. He signed with the Royals for $1.45 million. Dwyer has a fastball that is in the low 90s--reaching 94 at times. His curveball is a plus pitch--it can be devastating at times and his change-up can be above average as well. The potential for 3 plus pitches is why he is ranked this high but as you can see his control is something he will have to work on. He's been a flyball pitcher so far in his career--so he will need to keep the longball in check. He pitched well in Wilmington last year and pitched pretty good in limited innings at AA. A back strain kept him out the last 6 weeks of the season. As far as I know, he is healthy and should start 2011 at AA. He profiles as a #2 or #3 starter.
#5 John Lamb--LHP--DOB:7/10/90
The Royals have built much of their farm system on a lot of above slot spending in the draft. However, in John Lamb the Royals simply found a gem outside the top couple rounds of the draft. Lamb had been an impressive HS pitcher but broke his arm in a car accident and missed his Senior season. The Royals went ahead and took him in the 5th Round of the 2009 draft--and Lamb signed for close to slot money. Lamb has a low 90s fastball that can be a good pitch. His curve and change also can be good pitches--he needs to trust them more. Lamb has very good control and is advanced for his age. He dominated at Low-A and High-A in 2010. His numbers at AA don't look quite as good but his FIP there was 3.89. Lamb is also considered a fierce competitor--I think I've read the term "bulldog" applied to him. I'm not sure if that makes him a better prospect but its something that folks like to mention. I'm guessing he will go back to AA for 2011. He has the potential to be a good #2 and if things go really well, he could be an #1.
#4 Mike Montgomery--LHP--DOB:7/1/89
Montgomery topped this list a year ago. He ranks #4 this year--not due to performance issues--but I prefer high ceiling bats to high ceiling arms--and Monty has a bit of injury concern lingering from last year. Montgomery started the year off completely dominant at High-A--including an amazing early season outing --7ip, 2h, 1r, 0w, 13k, 84 pitches, 64 strikes--I think it was BA's JJ Cooper that called it the best pitching performance he's ever seen in minor league baseball. He was soon promoted to AA but suffered a strained forearm that landed him on the DL. He wasn't quite the same coming back from the injury--velocity at times was lacking and his control suffered. He did go ahead and pitch in the Arizona Fall League where he pitched 10.1 IP, 13h, 7r, 7er, 3hr, 2bb, 11k. When he's healthy, Montgomery features a very good fastball--that can reach 95 and with downward movement that produces a lot of ground balls. He change-up is also a very good pitch. What was most impressive early in 2010 was that his curve had improved and become a good pitch also. Put it all together and Montgomery has the makings of a #1--with health being the big concern. He will probably start 2011 at AA or AAA and could force his way on the big league roster late in the year.
#3 Mike Moustakas--3B--DOB:9/11/88
I think every ranking of Royals Prospects I've seen has Moose at either #1 or #3. If you value power and like your prospects almost ready to go, then Moose is your #1. If you prefer a more complete hitting package with better on base skills and don't mind waiting another year, Myers and the Hoz rank above Moose. I've got Moose at #3 but in my overall ranking of baseball prospects, they are very close to each other (Myers, Hoz and Moose rank within 4 slots of each other--I'll post my overall prospect list in the The Overview). Moose, the #2 overall picks in the 2007 draft, recovered from a disappointing 2009 to put up video game numbers in 2010--326/369/630 with 41 doubles, 36 HR, 34 BB (that's right, more HR than BB), and 67 K). His home/road splits at AA were crazy-716 OPS on the road/1379 at home). He was finally promoted to AAA in July and initially struggled there. He had a Quinn-like streak of not walking at one point but things finally clicked and he got red hot again--this time without the crazy home/road split. Moose has tremendous bat speed that helps generate that amazing power. While he will never be an on base machine--if he can keep the walk rate between 6-8% he should be OK. He also doesn't strike out much--again his quick wrists allow him to get to all kinds of pitches. Moose should be able to stick at 3rd for the foreseeable future--his range isn't great but beyond that he is a pretty good fielder with a great arm. Space doesn't allow me to fully pontificate on Moose's legendary leadership skills. Moose is a hard prospect to project--the power combined with low BB and K rates make him to categorize. I will be happy if he can provide power in the middle of the lineup and get on base at an average clip. Moose has the best shot of any Royals' prospect in a long time to break Bye-Bye's HR record of 36. Moose will be at AAA to start 2011 until the beginning of June when he will take over 3rd base duties for the big club.
#2 Eric Hosmer--1B--DOB:10/24/89
I was wrong and I was right. I was wrong because I blasted the Royals for taking Hosmer over Smoak in the 2008 draft--Smoak is still a good prospect but I think most folks would pick Hosmer now. I was right because Hosmer had a snake-bitten 2009 and I predicted he would bounce back in 2010--and he surpassed my expectations. First, he went back to where 2009 ended--Wilmington--and expelled the demons of the past by destroying the Carolina League--putting up slightly better numbers at home--William Frawley Stadium--a place that has destroyed the psyche of lesser hitters. He then went to AA where he displayed the "best power in the 2008 draft class" that had been missing up until then. At AA, he hit better at home but still posted an 889 OPS on the road. Hosmer is an above average 1st baseman--but he has a canon for an arm. We heard this offseason for the first time that he has been taking some fly balls in the outfield. It's a really tough call as to whether to move him or not--but I would like to see him try the OF. Hosmer has the ceiling to be one of the elite offensive forces in the league--he should hit for average, get on base and hit for power. He could start at either AA or AAA--I think the Royals would like him to debut in the big leagues in 2012--but he might force the issue this year.
#1 Wil Myers--C/OF--DOB12/10/90
While Moose and Hoz exercised demons in 2010--Wil Myers simply excelled. There were rumors that the Royals might take Myers with the #12 overall pick in the 2009 draft--I was dead set against it--it turns out he was available (because of his price tag) with the 3rd Round Pick. It also turns out he was more than worthy of that #12 pick. His first month at Burlington the numbers were not great--part of that was due to some bad luck and his BB/ K rate was not good. But then he really turned it on, hitting for average/power and walking more than he struck out. He was a bit overshadowed in the Midwest League by Mike Trout. I think Trout is a great prospect--and I would rank him slightly higher than Myers--but I think the gap between them is smaller than most people think.
Midwest League numbers
Trout 12.6% BB 14% K .165 ISP 978 OPS
Myers 14.9% BB 16.1%K .164 ISP 908 OPS
They were both promoted to High-A. Myers to the pitching friendly Carolina League and Trout to the hitting friendly California League. Trout--785 OPS, Myers--957 OPS. Again, I get it--Trout plays a plus CF, there are big questions if Myers will stay at C--and Trout is 8 months younger. I just think Myers is a tad underrated. At this point I actually am hoping he'll end up in RF. I think he'll get more at-bats and simply based on the fact that he's a pretty good athlete, I think he could be an asset on defense out there. Myers will hit for average and could very well be among the league leaders in OBP. He may not hit 40+ HRs but I could see him hitting 20-25 (Moose's ISP in the Midwest League was .196 just for comparison). Put it all together and I think he can rack up some big WAR numbers. For 2011, he could go back to the Carolina League or they could bump him up to AA. If they move him to RF, I could see him starting at AA.