We are a healthy ways into the minor league season, with all of the full season affiliates having 50+ games already played. The sample sizes are no longer that small. So how's everyone doing.
Elier Hernandez - we were looking for consistency from Elier and we have largely gotten it. Unfortunately, he has been consistently bad this year. Slashing a meager .208/.253/.336 with 38 strikeouts and only 9 walks in 163 PAs. This is not what anyone had hoped for. Almost assured that he returns to Lexington next year, with the hope being that his second tour in the Sally resembles his second time around the Pioneer League. He's still young, so no reason to panic, but this definitely means that his ETA in Kansas City is 2017 at the earliest.
Christian Binford - He's almost 2 years younger than most of the players in the Carolina League. That's definitely a plus. He still has his elite level control, walking just 11 of the 232 batters he's faced this year (4.7%). He's also struck out 28.8% of the batters he's faced, which is also an elite level. His key is stuff and the reports out of Wilmington are good, but I expected him to dominate there. He's also only given up 1 HR in 57 innings. The real question is when does he get sent to Springdale? He needs more disciplined hitters to see if his control continues to be elite or if more advanced hitters start crushing him in the zone.
Aroni Nina - Injured since May 8, he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire before that. In 14.2 innings, he had given up 15 hits, 15 earned runs and, worst of all, 16 walks. Not good since his key was control. Really nothing else to say about him. The season is a disaster for him.
Brett Eibner - After a hot streak, Brett has really cooled off. He's now hitting just .216 and has struck out 60 times in 230 PA. That's 26% of the time, which sadly, is an improvement from his career mark (roughly 31%). Now for the bad news. After 44 PA, he had only struck out 5 times. In his next 186 PA, he has struck out 55 times. That's nearly 30%, which is back around that career mark. His problem has always been contact and continues to be so.
Jack Lopez - I think we are quickly approaching the point where Jack Lopez is who we thought he was. He hasn't really progressed in his second trip around the Carolina League. Last years' slash was .230/.297/.301. This year he's at .233/.278/.306. He's a year older, but doesn't look like he's progressed much with his hitting. With the middle infield getting crowded by more prospects, Lopez could be the odd man out.
Chris Dwyer - Had a rough start to the year. Missed some time, but just got back on the mound and pitched 3 innings in relief (giving up 5 hits and 3 runs). The Royals need him in long relief as he really doesn't have much upside as a starter. As is the theme of this piece, the wheels have kind of come off for him this year, between injury and ineffectiveness.
John Lamb - Hard to believe he's still just 23. His key is velocity and his velo has been up at times this year. He's also struck out 56 in 57.2 innings (21.3%) while walking 24 (9.1%). That puts him almost right on the success/fail line for pitchers, as those with above average K% (above 19%) can get away with a walk rate around 9%. Anything higher than that and you can't make up for it with your K%. His problem has been the long ball, already having had 10 dongs hung on him (yes, that is as bad as it sounds). That could be due to his velocity issues, though it is hard to tell without seeing his starts consistently.
Terrance Gore - His speed is still elite, having swiped 17 bases in 19 attempts. His problem is that you still can't steal first, and since he's hitting .208, he can't use that speed very much. He walks a bit, but not enough to combat such a weak bat. Maybe he can keep the ball on the ground a little more and leg out some infield hits, but its tough to see him becoming a useful player in even the upper minors without some significant improvement at the plate.
Cheslor Cuthbert - It still seems like he doesn't bring it every day, which is a problem since in baseball you tend to play just about every day. He's still younger than you realize (turns 22 in November) and he's having an okay season at NW Arkansas. He's slashing .242/.324/.406 and he's only struck out 33 times in 188 PA. That's not elite, but considering he walks a bit (11%), he can get by with it. The question is whether he will ever be able to be an everyday guy in the majors since he seems to disengage for a week or two at a time. That remains to be seen, as he has slumped badly in the second half the last two seasons.
Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado - His youth still seems to be his best tool. After 2+ years in the system, you would hope for something more, but it appears that he is just going to toil along as a fourth OF type player in the organization. He's shown a little more pop this year, hitting 4 home runs (1 total as a pro before that) and also improved his contact rate (K% down from 20.5% last year to under 17% this season). But he's still hitting .221, and that simply isn't going to cut it for a guy that isn't going to be a big bopper.
This season has been a huge disappointment from a watch list standpoint. Binford is the only one that you could say has truly made progress. Cuthbert and Lamb have held steady. Everyone else has probably regressed, honestly. Lopez and Gore are probably on their way to topping out at AA (if that). Elier Hernandez and Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado are both still young, but neither has played nearly well enough to make you feel like they will be shooting through the system. Just a hugely disappointing year in the minors when looking at the fringe prospects that the Royals have to have pan out to be successful.