Mr. Sickels' List (Prospect Grade):
1. Wil Myers (A-)
2. Bubba Starling (B+)
3. Cheslor Cuthbert (B+)
4. Jake Odorizzi (B+)
5. Michael Montgomery (B)
6. Kelvin Herrera (B-)
7. Yordano Ventura (B-)
8. Chris Dwyer (B-)
9. Christian Colon (B-)
10. Elier Hernandez (B-)
11. Brett Eibner (B-)
12. Bryan Brickhouse (B-/C+)
13. Kyle Smith (B-/C+)
14. Jason Adam (C+)
15. John Lamb (C+)
16. Jorge Bonifacio (C+)
17. Cam Gallagher (C+)
18. Clint Robinson (C+)
19. Jeremy Jeffress (C+)
20. Tim Melville (C+)
One of the keen impressions I take away from reading Sickels' report on the Royals is that there is a vast quantity of unknowns. Although this is true for any team's prospect list, it seems explicitly true for the Royals. Many of the prospects listed in the top 20 had not seen much or any playing time. Some were coming off "down" years. So there was a lot to be discovered about the presumed "Second Wave" of Royals prospects that would be making their major league debuts over the upcoming seasons. So where do they stand now?
1. Wil Myers, OF: After destroying the ball in AA (.434/.414/.731, 13 HRs in 35 games), Myers was moved up to AAA two weeks ago. He has played in 12 games and has continued to rake, hitting .326/.383/.651 with 7 XBH. He has also struck out 51 times in 47 minor league games this year. Concerns continue to be raised about whether or not he actually has the ability to play center (he probably does not), which leaves a conundrum for the Royals in 2013 if he continues to hit well, with Francoeur pre-printed on every lineup in right field, hitting 5th. I guess the dream scenario would be that they move Frenchy at the deadline next year and bring up Myers. As a prospect, though, he is clearly still the Royals' best prospect, and is one of the better hitting prospects in all of baseball.
2. Derek Starling, OF: The Gardner, KS prodigy has yet to play in an organizational capacity outside of extended spring training. He may or may not be assigned to a short season league soon, but it's hard to say. The Starling Endeavor is going to take some time, but everyone loves his tools. He has the athleticism to be a very special player, but again, it will take time.
3. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B: In 81 games for Kane County, Cuthbert hit .267/.345/.397, which is a tad misleading, since a month-long August slump dragged his numbers down. Prior to that he was performing exceptionally. Well, so far this year, it has been more of the latter: In 44 games, he is hitting .222/.299/.281 with 1 HR. He also has 9 errors in the field. The adjustment from Kane County to Wilmington may be responsible for a portion of it, but Cuthbert's career line of .250/.326/.370 in the low minors doesn't speak well to his high ranking on this list. However, Cheslor is young for his level. Really young. Last season he was 18. He doesn't turn 20 until November and is already cutting his teeth in High A. He has performed very well for his age, and should improve along those same lines.
4. Jake Odorizzi, SP: Odo started the year in AA, where he struck out 47 batters in 38 innings, holding his opponents to a .191 AVG and walking 10. He was promoted alongside Wil Myers to AAA, where he has made 3 starts. He has adjusted decently (as opposed to completely collapsing), garnering 13 K's to just 3 walks in 16.2 IP. Jake is currently the Royals best pitching prospect, due in large part to a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness by organizational comrades. He has performed exceptionally over the previous two seasons, and if his success continues the rest of this year, it is not inconceivable that he could make the rotation out of Spring Training next year (particularly with Danny Duffy's recovery time). He continues to profile as a good #2.
5. Michael Montgomery, SP: There isn't a question mark large enough to put on Montgomery's future at this point. After seeing his numbers dip after being promoted to AAA last year, they have continued their downturn this season. Montgomery averaged 8 K/9 and a 2:1 K/BB ratio like clockwork through the low minors, but over his last 206.1 innings at AAA, he is averaging 7.24 K/9. It's even worse this year, where he is averaging just 6.0 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 to match his 5.17 ERA. While his 4.30 FIP last year sparked an undercurrent that he was "unlucky" (5.32 ERA), combined with some injury issues, his 5.12 FIP this year bespeaks to the growing resume that this might be what Montgomery is (or that he still isn't right from the injury). At 22, it is still way, way, way too early to give up though, and his success in the past, combined with his scouting report, suggests that he can regain the form that had FanGraphs listing him as the Royals #2 prospect in February of this year.
6. Kelvin Herrera, RP: Herrera made the jump to the big league club this season, and he is quietly putting together a very good rookie debut. It's a little disconcerting that he has already thrown 26 innings roughly one-quarter of the way into the season, but so far he has performed very well. His 8.0 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 are exceptional when combined with his .962 WHIP.
7. Yordano Ventura, SP: A strong start has Ventura making some more rumblings in the Royals organization. In 10 starts at High-A Wilmington, Yordano has 61 K's in 49.1 IP with just 16 walks and a 3.10 ERA (3.26 FIP). His fastball sits at 97 and is complimented by a deep breaking curve. Oh, and he turns just 21 next Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the jump to AA this year, but given his age and experience, he will probably sit at Wilmington for the year. He profiles long-term as a reliever/closer.
8. Chris Dwyer, SP: Much like Montgomery, Dwyer has also seen his share of struggles over the last 1 1/4 seasons. More disconcerting, though, is that Dwyer is struggling in Northwest Arkansas, and not Omaha. He has continued his struggles from last year (4.97 BB/9, 5.60 ERA) into this season (4.78 BB/9, 5.51 ERA). He is becoming an older prospect (24) and the expectations for him continue to lower, but there is still plenty of time for him to figure things out. His K rate (career 8.9) continues to be the light at the end of the tunnel. That being said, I would not be surprised to see him out of the top 10 next off-season.
9. Christian Colon, 2B/SS: The 23 year-old Colon came into the season with a lot of concerned looks pointed his way, and so far he has managed to assuage some fears that he was going to be a flat-out flop of a 1st-round pick (granted, it is still very early in his career). After hitting .257/.325/.342 in AA last year, Colon returned to NWA and is hitting .303/.374/.434. His ability to make contact continues to give fans hope for the future. He may very well see some time in AAA later this year.
10. Elier Hernandez, OF: The 17 year-old outfielder was one of (if not the) top international prospect last summer and is a high-risk, high-reward player with great size and physical skills. He is definitely a project, but could make his pro debut in either a short season league or in the Arizona Fall League this year.
11. Brett Eibner, OF: In 2011, he hit .213/.340/.408. In 2012, he is hitting .190/.299/.408. He has also struck out 148 times in 117 career games between Kane County and Wilmington. He is the real-life equivalent of Merrill Hess. If he can make more, consistent contact, his raw power and ability to draw a walk could go a long way.
12. Bryan Brickhouse, RHP: A fastball/curveball high school pitcher out of Texas selected in the 3rd round of last year's draft, Brickhouse turned down an offer to pitch for UNC and signed for $1.5m to start his pro career. His repertoire and makeup suggest that he could be a solid #3 starter in the future. Some minor concerns over his "high-effort" delivery may relegate him to the bullpen. Should begin rookie ball this season.
13. Kyle Smith, RHP: Very much like Brickhouse, Smith signed after being taken in the 4th round out of high school. Solid arm. Should make his debut in rookie ball soon.
14. Jason Adam, SP: I have a soft spot for Adam, since he is a local guy from Overland Park, Kansas. Last year, he went 6-9 with a 4.23 ERA in just over 104 innings for Kane County (6.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9). He moved up to Wilmington this year and has continued his performance. Despite his 1-7 record, he has a 3.67 ERA, 6.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. He has already shown very good command, and if he can develop his swing-and-miss ability a little more, he could become a very good prospect. He turns 21 this August.
15. John Lamb, SP: Still out from his Tommy John surgery, but he has started to make strides in his recovery, throwing from a mound in extended Spring Training. He is on track to resume pitching in games later this year.
16. Jorge Bonifacio, OF: Turns 19 on June 4th. Hit well in Rookie Ball last year and has been very good so far at Kane County (.312/.374/.427). Good size (6' 1", 192) and good arm strength in the outfield. Profiles as a RF.
17. Cam Gallagher, C: (copy/paste from Sickels) "Second round high school catcher from 2011 draft, you could rank him as high as 12 if you believe in the bat. If all goes well: Devin Mesoraco. If all goes poorly, Kyle Skipworth." Should make debut in short-season rookie ball.
18. Clint Robinson, 1B/DH: Hitting .325/.428/.515 with 7 HRs in 52 games. He is older (27) than Billy Butler (26). He's also a year younger than Kila Ka'aihue (28). I bet he could manage to best KK's current line of .243/.289/.402 in 114 PAs for Oakland. As a prospect, though, he is what he is: a replacement bat stuck in AAA because of the players ahead of him.
19. Jeremy Jeffress, RP: 8.77 K/9, 4.21 BB/9, 4.56 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 25.2 IP at Omaha. Given the Royals' hefty innings load being given to the bullpen this year, it would not surprise me to see Jeffress up again at some point, but they seem pretty locked in to rotating Mazzaro, Adcock, and Teaford for their 5th starter/long reliever role.
20. Tim Melville, SP: 2012 is shaping up to be Melville's worst season as a professional. His ERA is 7.71 (6.11 FIP) and his BB/9 have climbed all the way to 5.79. After a quasi-decent showing in Wilmington last year, Melville looks completely lost in NWA to start this season. A move to the bullpen may be in his immediate future after he returns from the DL.
So there you have it. If I had to re-order this list in a quick manner, it would probably be:
1. Wil Myers
2. Jake Odorizzi
3. Derek Starling
4. Cheslor Cuthbert
5. Yordano Ventura
6. Michael Montgomery
7. Kelvin Herrera
8, Christian Colon
9. Elier Hernandez
10. Chris Dwyer
11. Jason Adam
12. Jorge Bonifacio
13. Brett Eibner
14. Bryan Brickhouse
15. Kyle Smith
16. John Lamb
17. Cam Gallagher
18. Clint Robinson
19. Jeremy Jeffress
20. Timothy Melville