A strong farm system is about depth. The guys on this list are supposed to provide that depth. Yeah, we look to the star power of guys like Sean Manaea, Hunter Dozier, Raul Mondesi, Kyle Zimmer and Jorge Bonafacio, but for a team like the Royals to succeed, they need contributions from guys that weren't top 5 prospects in the minors.
Another month is in the books. Let's get to how the guys under the microscope are doing down on the farm.
1. Elier Hernandez - In April Elier slashed .231/.268/.256. At our last update he was slashing .208/.253/.336. Now he's at .224/.270/.331. I had high hopes for Elier, but he has not done much to validate those hopes at this point. He's striking out almost 23% of the time, while walking just 5%. My hope was that he would get going as the weather started heating up, but Elier has remained consistently cool. I think he will be seeing the Sally again next year. Hopefully, the return trip will look like his repeat of the Pioneer, when his OPS jumped 250 points.
2. Christian Binford - Christian Binford had walked 11 batters on the season on June 4. Today is July 1 and Christian Binford has walked... 11 batters on the season. He has faced 97 more batters and walked none. Meanwhile, he has added 25 K's to his tally, meaning he is striking out nearly 28% of all batters he has faced. The walk rate (3.3%) is absurdly low. I will beat the same drum I beat a month ago. Binford needs to be promoted to the Texas League after the ASB. There's nothing to be gained from him continuing to mock Carolina League batters at this point. It's time to find out if his stuff will play at the higher levels. Did I mention that he's just 21?
3. Aroni Nina - May have begun to right himself after getting healthy. He did not pitch due to an injury from May 8 until June 7. At that time he had given up 15 hits, 15 earned runs and 16 walks in 14.2 innings. Since his return on June 7 he has given up 8 hits, 2 earned runs and 7 walks in 12 innings. In his last 7.1 innings, he has given up 0 ER (2 unearned) while striking out 8 and walking just 1. His demon has always been control, so having just 1 walk in over 7 innings is huge for him. Still a project and there's no telling if this run of control will stick, but its something in what was turning into a lost season for him.
4. Brett Eibner - A .243/.319/.382 slash is not going to get it done. As always, Eibner is weighed down by contact or more accurately, the inability to make such. He's still striking out in a quarter of his PAs. That simply has to get better. He has power and will take a walk, but with his K rate trending back towards his career levels (near 31%), he simply gives away too many ABs.
5. Jack Lopez - The theme of ugly slash lines continues with Lopez hanging a .227/.287/.288. He's just not hitting well enough and with a guy like Ramon Torres coming on behind him, Jack may be at a make or break moment. His problem isn't K's (only 14%), and he will take a walk (almost 7%). He just doesn't hit well enough.
6. Chris Dwyer - Tough season for Dwyer. Missed all of May with an injury. Up and down in June, literally alternating scoreless appearances with giving up runs in relief. His window is closing, even in long relief. The best hope is that he gets a shot somewhere else, because I just don't see him making it back to Kansas City.
7. John Lamb - Lamb has been very hittable this season, giving up 91 hits in just 82 innings. That includes 12 HR. He's started striking people out again (21%), but giving up that many hits, you can't strike enough people out. His walk rate is also sky rocketing (10%). TINSTAAPP rings true yet again.
8. Terrance Gore - The ugliest of slash lines (.191/.273/.230). He's 25 of 27 on the basepaths, but looking at that slashline, he doesn't get on those basepaths nearly enough. He's more Derrick Robinson than Jarrod Dyson and unless the bat makes some significant strides, I doubt he ever sees even AA.
9. Cheslor Cuthbert - Finally, a slashline that won't make you cry - .273/.339/.415. I wondered last month if he would still be hitting .270 when July arrived. Well, here we are and lo and behold, here he is. He walks almost 9% of the time and only strikes out a shade over 16%. He's moved off third since the promotion of Hunter Dozier, which probably limits his upside quite a bit, but his bat was always going to be his bread and butter, and he's still doing fine in that regard. The question is whether he can keep this up for another two months.
10. Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado - A rough year for the kid. He's been playing just about every day at Low A and he hasn't been a complete disaster, but he hasn't been good, either. Still, hitting .236 isn't going to cut it when you don't hit for power and you're not an absolutely otherworldly defender.
Bonus - Ramon Torres - Honestly, he wasn't on my radar prior to this season. He had a strong season of complex ball in 2012, but didn't do much in either the Appy or Sally last year. This year he has hit a very nice .304/.346/.428 in the Sally. Doesn't strike out (13%) or walk (5%) much (Be Royal, Ramon. Be Royal) so he will always depend on BABIP to keep his numbers up, but he has already passed Jack Lopez on the prospect depth chart for me.
The tenor hasn't changed much over the last month or so. Binford is a revelation and Cuthbert has stayed on track, but with Lamb continuing to get hit, there's really not another bright spot on this list. Torres has done well, but he appears to be cooling (hitting .171 over his last 10 games). The Royals system looks a bit hollow after the top 6 or 7 prospects, which could spell serious trouble for the future if some of these guys don't turn it around.