We cover prospect #24-19 in this installment of the our Prospect List. I decided to drop adding pics because it was such a headache last time. We've got some high ceiling players on this section--if even one of them came close to reaching their potential, that would be a good ratio. As was mentioned in the Community Prospect List comments, it can very hard to know how to rank Carlos Rosa--25, signed for $25,000 and ready to contribute in the big leagues as a reliever vs. Chelsor Cuthbert--16, signed for $1.5 million and miles away from the big leagues but with a huge ceiling. Rosa might be a free agent by the time Cuthbert is contributing--but I've got Cuthbert a couple spots ahead--I wouldn't argue with anyone who wanted to flip them around. I tend to think of a minor league system in tiers--with players within the tier as pretty much interchangeable. Anyway on to the rankings:
Robinson is an important figure in the recent history of the Royals draft--even if he never develops into anything special. Robinson was ranked as a 1st Round talent, but he fell to the 4th Round of the 2006 draft because he had a football scholarship to the University of Florida to play cornerback. The Royals gave him $850,000 to sign and not play football. That began a trend of the Royals being willing to dish out big bucks to players who dropped in the draft due to signability (Melville, Esposito--even though he didn't sign, Myers, Dwyer, Simmons, etc.). It was and is a good strategy and got better as the Royals have (since Robinson) stayed away from giving big bucks to players who main tool is speed. As to Robinson as a player, the Royals have claimed from the day he signed that he was more than just a speed guy--that they believed he could and would hit. Speed is his calling card and with that comes what is supposed to be very good defense in CF. But the bat hasn't developed like the Royals had hoped. 2008 showed some positives as he hit 245/316/322 as a 20 year old in Wilmington. Those weren't good numbers but they showed some progress from previous numbers (especially with taking a walk). This year, however he regressed (as you see above). His power dropped slightly and he took fewer walks. It actually looked worse at the end of July, then in August he hit 311/362/513 and hit 5 home runs (more than doubling his career total). The past couple of years, he's posted BABIP that are rather low for someone with his speed. He'll go to AA next year where it would be good to see him restore those walks and flash his power more consistently.
Wood was our 3rd Round Pick out of Georgia Tech in 2006. He had a disappointing Junior season but the Royals saw something they liked and drafted him. He seemed like a bit of reach when drafted but pitched well to begin his pro career. When he's going good, he's got good stuff--mid 90s FB, good curve and good change-up. He pitched pretty well until he hit AA in 2008 and has struggled there the past 2 seasons. Wood has a hard time keeping it together and thus makes him inconsistent. He also struggled with injury last year. In the AFL this fall, he has again followed good outings with horrible ones. He could eventually move to the bullpen but he has the build of a workhorse starting pitcher and I think he'll get one more chance to show himself in the rotation. He could get a chance to prove himself at AA again or perhaps he will get a pass and go straight to Omaha.
Richardson was our 7th Round pick out of highschool in the Kirkland, WA area. Richardson is a crazy good athlete who was also pretty raw when we drafted him. His ceiling is as high as any position player in the Royals system. He didn't hit very well in his first two season in short season ball. As you can see, last season he posted much better numbers at Idaho Falls. There are some encouraging signs there: decent walk %, not too many strikeouts, 20/1 SB/CS but his numbers were inflated by a unsustainible .431 BABIP. His power hasn't come around yet but he is big and strong enough that it should eventually be there. He'll play OF next year for Burlington, probably splitting time in CF with Alex Llanos. The Midwest League should be a very good test to see how many skills Richardson has acquired.
Carlos Rosa has been around forever. We signed him for $25,000 in 2001 and he methodically made his way through the system. He missed 2005 with Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to be the player we traded for Mike Jacobs last year but the Marlins got nervous because Rosa was struggling with a forearm injury. The Royals moved him to reliever this past year. He's got a very good mid-90s fastball and a slider to go with it. He was unlucky last year with the Omaha as his FIP was 3.80. He pitched especially well in the 2nd half of the year. He gets a good amount of ground balls to go with an impressive amount of strikeouts. He should be a key part of the Royals bullpen in 2010.
Espinal was given $250,000 to sign in 2007. In 2008, he was in the Arizona League and struggled--most alarming was that he walked twice in over 200 plate appearances. As you can see, he made great strides in 2009 walking 22 times in 271 plate appearances. He also increased his power. Those are the types of things you are looking for a toolsy international signee to do. His numbers even appear to be a little depressed by being unlucky on BABIP. The question is if Espinal can stay at short as his body grows. If he stays at SS, he could be very valuable as he could have an above average bat. He could be a lot higher on the list at this time next year. If he performs well in the spring, he could be Burlington, Iowa's SS in 2010.
Going into 2009, the most the Royals had ever given an international free agent was $300,000. They paid out $600,000 for Korean teenage catcher Shin Jin-Ho earlier this year. Then for the July 2 international signing day they dished out $1.5 million for the Nicaraguan 3rd baseman. There have been only about ten players to play in the big leagues from Nicaragua and most of those have been pitchers. Currently, Everth Cabrera--SS from the Padres is the only current big leaguer from the country. Giving that much money to a player from a country that is still somewhat anonomous to scouts is either a cunning way to find a hidden talent or crazy way to blow valuable resources. Cuthbert is supposed to already be be big and strong--and show the potential to hit for average and power. I've heard conflicting reports about his defense: some say he can handle 3rd and others say the Royals expect him to move to a corner outfied position. If the Royals like his progress, he might play in the Arizona League next summer.