With the long anticipated arrival of Mike Moustakas to the big league club the Royals are in the middle of the first wave of talent so long promised by Dayton Moore. Mike, Hosmer, Duffy, Crow, Collins are all ready and contributing to the club while others like Monty, Cain, Lough, and Giavotella all look like they'll be ready to assist the club in the coming months. Even a little further down the line guys like Wil, Dwyer, Colon and Perez all look to be bringing up the rear of the wave with the (hopefully) eventual arrival of Lamb signaling the end of our current talent Tsunami.
So what does the next wave look like? Who do the Royals have in system who are performing well and have the opportunity to become the next best farm system in the history of whatever in two or three years?Lets start with the Royals Class A+ team in Wilmington. Notorious as a pitchers park, Wilmington is also one of the best drawing parks in the minor leagues. Seems folks in Delaware are absolutely desperate for baseball. That being said, a minor league team that basically pays for itself is a precious commodity and the Royals like to send stars in waiting there to keep the fanbase interested.
Position Players [Name -position (age)]
Ryan Eigsti -C (25) - Ryan was actually profiled earlier this here by Wil, here. At the time Ryan was a organizational catcher, showed good on base skills, but little power and virtually no contact ability. That's changed a bit this season. Currently boasting a .296/.424/.667 line through 11 games, Ryan clearly hasn't played a lot of playing time, starting the year behind Jose Bonilla and then getting called up behind Salvador Perez. However in the time he's gotten Eigsti has shown power that clearly did not exist before. He's already hit 3 home runs this year, including 2 at Wilmington and is showing a combination of power and patience that is great for a catcher, even one hitting just .200. Ryan will need to show us more and get more playing time, but since his competition at A+ is the light hitting Bonilla, he should get the opportunity. Interesting note: Eigsti is a bit of a HBP magnet, getting hit every 24 AB's, accounting for almost 40% of his walks.
Rey Navarro -2B(21) - Another player who seemingly found his power stroke in the unlikeliest of places, Navarro was acquired from the D-Backs last year for Carlos Rosa. Navarro's history had not been promising. Another poor hitting, decent on base, little slugging guy, Navarro has seemingly turned a corner this year hitting .288/.343/.464 in about 60 games this season. Rey's biggest improvement seems to be in developing a bit of a power stroke hitting 12 doubles and a whopping 7 triples to go with 4 HRs. To give you an idea of the improvement, last season Rey had 26 EBH in 427 AB's. This year he has 24 in just 222. If Rey can mantain his average, this kinda of power production will play very well from any middle infield position. Interesting note: Despite the triples, Rey is not a great base runner, he's a career 47 of 73 in stolen bases, just a paltry 64%.
As Wilmington is a pitchers park, its a bit tough to get a gauge on just how poorly hitters are handling it, and how well pitchers are taking advantage of it. So its not surprising the position list is a lot smaller. That being said, I want to do a couple of quick shout outs.
Whit Merrifield -OF(22)-Second year out of college. Has the same OPS he had at Single A, but is generating it completely differently. While The two guys above both found their power stroke, Whit lost his, but has gained a much better eye for the ball. Will be very interesting to see what happens if he moves up to AA and gets his power back. One of the sleepers in the system.
Yem Prades -OF(23)- Despite being old for the level, this is Yem's (cool name) first year of professional ball after defecting from Cuba. Given his place of birth, Yem could be anywhere from 21 to 26. Yem makes this list for his strange splits. Against Lefties he is hitting .217/.280/.217. Against Righties, he's crushing them to a tune of .293/.310/.436.
Timothy Melville-(21)-Two years ago Melville looked like he would be joining the Fab Four as part of our current wave of talent. That was before his control fell apart last season. Now this year at first glance doesn't seem too much better. Melville is having more trouble striking people out, dropping from a career high 11/9 to a new low around 6/9. In addition his ERA isn't reflecting much change down barely a quarter of a point from the year before. However there is a lot of improvement going on behind the scenes. While Melville has seen a decrease in strikes, he's seem a similar decrease in walks. He's walking a career low 3/9 down almost a walk and a half from last year. Even more promising is this: Melville's BABiP for the season is a ridiculously high .377. Even better he's inducing ground balls at a rate that he hasn't since his first season. Put it all together and you have a guy who with a little more work could break out next year(or the last half of this year) and put his career back on track.
Tyler Sample-(21, barely)-Sample is an interesting case, he started his first two years in the minors in the short season league, limiting his innings and not giving us a clear idea as to his abilties. But what he flashed seemed very promising, 8K/9 and a 2.84 ERA at A ball in '09. Then like Melville, in '10 the wheels came completely off. Sample lost any semblance of control, walking 7/9 and giving up homers by the truckful. This year though the boat seems to be righting itself. The walks have dramatically decreased and so have the home runs. However all is not right in Sample-world. His groundball/flyball ratio decreased sharply this year and his strikeouts are down to just 6/9. If he wants to become a great pitcher instead of a marginal one he needs to get the groundballs flowing again and start striking people out.
Jake Odorizzi-(21)- Now we start getting into the exciting players. Odorizzi as is well known came over from the Brewers in the Greinke trade. At first glance he seemed to be a toss in alongside Cain, Escobar and Jeffress, but the longer he plays the more it looks like Jake could be the lynchpin that wins this trade for the Royals. Always a bit of a strikeout ace, Odorizzi has really turned it on last year, jumping from 8.5/9 to 10.5/9, an impressive rate...for a closer and a herculean one for a starter. However this was tempered by his 3BB/9 and a slightly above average home run rate. However Odorizzi reacted to the trade by apparently trying to make the Brewers wish they'd just promoted him instead of trading for Zach. This year he is striking out 12, that is to say TWELVE batters per 9 innings, and has done it while LOWERING his walk rate down to just 2/9. At the same time he went from a slightly above average home run rate to simply giving up none, allowing just one so far all season. Even more impressive, he's managed his sterling 2.03 ERA with a .355 BABiP, giving him a drool worth 1.54 FIP. Odorizzi may not make it to the majors til 2013, but it will be an exciting day when he does.
Noel "The Loch Ness Bigfoot" Arguelles-(21, maybe)-Well folks he's real. After a year and half of delays and injuries, Dayton's mysterious Cuban hurler has finally taken the mound. I was thinking about including photos in this, only to discover that all pictures take of Noel have turned out blurry and inconclusive.
~Cuban Hurler or Bigfoot Alien Clone?
In any case someone name Noel Arguelles found himself in Wilmington this year, and has proceeded to pitch fairly well. The biggest bright spot is the walk rate. While Odorizzi maybe striking out a ton of guys, Arguelles is matching his 6:1 K/BB ratio by walking just 1/9 and striking out 6/9. Now obviously in a perfect world we'd like Noel to strike out a few more people. Maybe get that K rate up to 8/9. But at the same time, whenever you can find a pitcher whose WHIP is consistently flirting with 1, you don't question him too much. The big upside to Arguelles game will be limiting home runs and getting more ground balls. He's currently giving up almost 1HR/9 innings, an amount much higher than anyone else on the team and an amount well above average for the league. It might help if he could induce a few more ground balls as well. .73 is well below average in that department, though at the major league level, it might play at Kauffman. Also, that being said, a low GB/FB is not a preclusion to greatness. Guys like Jared Weaver and Mat Latos among others have sub.8 GB/FB ratios. That being said, many of those players have k/9 rates above 8, and there does seem to be a correlation at that level between higher k/9 and a better ERA. Arguelles is certainly interesting, but he'll need to start striking more guys out to really achieve success
All right, there's part one. Part two should be good to go either tomorrow or Monday and will cover the important guys at A+. If I can find time around starting a new job, I'll try to get a part 3 up once short season ball starts.