Back in January I had a post about some of the youngest players in the Royals system. It was my thought then (and still is now, actually) that these four players represent an enormous opportunity for KC, and much of that opportunity, for now at least, is tied as much to their youth as it is to their talent. If you aren't familiar with the effect age can have on prospects, you should read up on the subject. Suffice it to say that while younger players aren't guaranteed stardom, if they can hold their own as 17, 18 and 19 year olds, they could blossom into contributors later on.
OF Alexis Rivera (June 17, 1994), who at 19 is the elder statesman of this precocious group, stands 6-2, 225 (think a young Carlos Lee). After a strong showing last year in the Arizona rookie league, he moved to Idaho Falls this season and has posted a .269/.349/.363 triple slash in 240 PAs. He has also walked 23 times (9.6%) and struck out 37 times (15.4%). Those K and BB rates are above average, which is always something to look for in a young hitter. He hasn't done anything particularly eye popping this year, but he has been solid. He probably could grab a promotion to full season ball next year, although there are so many OFs in the lower part of the Royals system (including teammates Daniel Rockett and Dominique Taylor) that he may get one more trip to short season ball next summer before he heads to the Sally in 2015. With his size you would hope more power would be there, but its not at this point - only 4 HR this year, 12 XBH. He did steal 9 bases, for what that's worth.
OF Elier Hernandez (November 21, 1994), stands 6-3, 200. He's probably a member of the get of the bus all stars. He was terrible last year in Idaho Falls, but this season has been a complete 180. His triple slash of .301/.350/.439 absolutely crushes last year's meager .208/.256/.280. But then, that's the difference a year can make when you're 17. His walk rate (5.6%) is abysmal. His K rate (19.4%) is trending to the high side, which is very worrisome. The biggest item of light for him is his XB power - 15 doubles, 8 triples and 3 home runs. I'd expect to see him in the Sally next year patrolling right field for the Legends. He also stole 9 bases.
SS Raul Mondesi (July 27, 1995) stands 6-1, 175. He's starting to fill out. He's a big time prospect, unlike the other three in this piece, so everyone already knows him. The .261/.311/.361 triple slash isn't setting the world on fire, although its nice to see a little pop (13 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR). The defensive reports are still stellar. His walk rate of 6.3 percent is terrible and the K rate of 22 percent is way too high, so there are reasons for caution, but the talent is there. That K rate absolutely has to come down for him to have any chance of success at higher levels. You can't strike out that much if you aren't an absolute masher, and that's not his game.
OF Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado (February 17, 1995) stands 6-1, 180. He had a nice season last summer in Arizona and carried that over into another solid campaign this year in the Appy. The .277/.333/.380 triple slash is still solid. The K rate (20.5%) and the BB rate (6.8%) leave something to be desired. He's interesting mostly because he's completed two seasons of rookie league and will turn just 19 when he reports to spring training next year. If there were such a thing as a deep sleeper in the system, I would point to him because of his youth and the fact that he has been solid (if unspectacular) in his first two campaigns. Upside is probably just a David Lough type, but he's still young enough to blow past that.
Not one of these guys has reached his 20th birthday yet. In fact, Rivera turns 20 first, and that won't be until the middle of next season! Hernandez, Mondesi and Escalera-Maldonado aren't even 19 yet. I will keep an eye on these guys, even though only Mondesi and Hernandez will likely be in full season ball next season to see how their development matches against the aging curve.