With a pretty quiet week, I was able to crank out another set of rankings. The Royals have a highly regarded set of left-handed pitching. This installment is the "revenge of the right-handers". Ventura, Yambati, Jeffress and Melville--coupled with Jason Adam, Aaron Crow, and now Jake Odorizzi give the Royals a lot of potential (and velocity) from the right side---they just lack the consistency and advancement that the lefty crew has shown.
Happy New Year--hope it brings good things for all. Bring on 2011! (or as it's known to Royals fans: 2012 Eve)19. Yordano Ventura--RHP--DOB:6/3/91
Ventura is a young Dominican that made a big impact in 2010. The Royals signed him as a international free agent and he wasn't yet throwing 90 MPH but he has seen his velocity jump and so has his status as a prospect. He put up good numbers in a short stint with the Royals' Dominican team and then also pitched well for the rookie Arizona League team. Baseball America ranked him as the #2 prospects in the Arizona League. Ventura has a mid-90s fastball--that was clocked at times last summer at 99MPH--and a good curve. He needs to work on his changeup He is not a big guy--stands around 5' 11"--but he's already gotten bigger since the Royals signed him and he might continue to grow a little bit. He could also continue to add velocity. The size concern and the need to work on a changeup combine to make me wonder if he might have to eventually move to the bullpen--but I'm sure he will be given every opportunity to start. It will be interesting to see if the Royals send Ventura back to short-season (perhaps Idaho Falls) or if they try to challenge him with some innings at Kane County in 2011.
18. Robinson Yambati--RHP--DOB:1/15/91
Robinson Yambati joined Ventura in the "young Dominican Royals breakout" club. Yambati was rated the #3 prospect in the Arizona League by Baseball America. Yambati also can run it up to the upper 90's with his 4 seam fastball. Keith Law reported he had very good movement on his 2 seam fastball. Yambati also throws a slider. I haven't heard any reports about his changeup. In the Arizona League last summer, he got a good amount of K's while having a minuscule walk rate. He also generated a lot of ground balls (63% according to firstinning.com). Keith Law labeled him a future reliever--not exactly sure why--I hope he gets every opportunity to remain a starter. Yambati is a tall (6'4"), skinny kid who should be able to handle the innings. You could flip Ventura and Yambati in the rankings--they are really close. But I like Yambati's size/projection a little bit better. Like Ventura, he could go to short-season of Kane County in 2011.
17. Tim Melville--RHP--DOB:10/9/89
Melville was given a record signing bonus after the Royals took him in the 4th Round of the 2008 draft. He had entered his senior season as Baseball America's #1 rated HS player (just like Bubba Starling) but had a tough senior season. He was decent in 2009 but 2010 started off as a disaster. He was one of the few Royals' prospects to disappoint last year. He pitched a little better as the season went on but his K rate continued to be low and he continued to give up way too many walks. He ended with a 4.56 FIP which looks even worse when you consider he played half his games at Wilmington. However, at Instructional League during September/October, the Royals sped up his delivery which apparently turned Melville into a new pitcher. He was called the most improved player in camp by Scott Sharp. The proof will be what he pitches like in 2011. When he's going good, Melville got a low to mid 90s fastball with good movement and an above average curveball. He needs to up the K rate and reduce the walks. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go back to Wilmington to try and build some confidence in 2011.
16. Jeremy Jeffress--RHP--DOB:9/21/87
Jeffress, as I'm sure you are aware, came over in the Greinke deal. Most everyone knows two things about Jeffress: 1. he throws hard and 2. he like pot. Jeffress was a 1st Round pick in 2006 out of HS. He's got a legitimate 100 MPH fastball and a very good curveball. He also generates a ton of ground balls--which is a big plus. Of course, the question has been and will be control. Jeffress also pitched 10 IP with the big league Milwaukee club last year allowing 8 hits with 8 K and 6 BB. His control looked a little better during the year but he then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. There he pitched 11 2/3 IP with 9 hits, 8 runs (4 earned) 12 BB and 14K. Jeffress had been a starter up until last year when the Brewers moved him to the pen. I'm still a little curious what he can do in a starters role but it sounds like the Royals will keep him as a reliever. It's hard for me to rank any reliever very high on the rankings. Jeffress could certainly be a top notch closer if he ever figures it out. He will probably start 2011 at Omaha but he could get the call the big leagues soon if he shows any hint that he has figured out how to control his stuff.
15: Tim Collins--LHP--DOB:8/21/89
Collins went undrafted out of HS but signed a free agent deal with the Blue Jays. He was really successful in HS but nobody gave a 5' 7" (being generous) pitcher a chance. However, since signing, he has been dominant as a lefty reliever. As you can see, he has averaged 13.3 strikeouts every 9/IP while only allowing 5.7 hits every 9/IP. He was traded twice in 2010--first in the Yunel Escobar deal to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to us in the Ankiel/Farnsworth deal. He has succeeded with a great fastball/curveball combo. From what I can tell, he also hasn't shown a big lefty/righty split. If you are looking to nitpick, his K rate dropped at AAA--perhaps a signal that more advanced hitters aren't as fooled by his stuff. But his FIP was still 2.31 and his hit rate also dropped. Collins is about as unique a prospect as there (how many undrafted FA out of HS are there on ML rosters? How many players are under 5' 7"? How many relief prospects could be ready for the big leagues at age 21?). He will compete for a bullpen spot in Spring Training.
14. David Lough--OF--DOB:1/20/86
David Lough is the Royals' forgotten prospect. He played Division II ball and was drafted in the 11th Round of the 2007 draft. A year ago, he was pretty well regarded after putting up very good numbers at A+ and AA. Lough had a brutal April to start 2010. Improved some in May and June---showing power but also not taking many walks. Then in July and August, out of the blue, he went from walking 3-4% of the time to walking about 13-14% of the time. It may have been just a fluke thing but if he can sustain part of that increase going forward, then he is a player who may not do anything great but has no holes either. Lough can play all three OF positions. He hasn't gotten as much opportunity to play CF because the Royals have preferred more prototypical CF types. I'm not sure what his future with the Royals is. He's certainly not flashy but he could be a solid player--with average offense and above average defense in LF. He probably could use some more time in AAA while he waits to see if a spot opens up in the Royals outfield in 2011. Although I have this feeling like the Royals will throw Lough into some deal and we'll watch him put up 2-3 WAR a year for the league minimum for someone else.
13. Johnny Giavotella--DOB:7/10/87
I'm sure Johnny Giavotella was excited when the Royals picked up Tim Collins--Johnny G. won't look short in the team picture if he stands next to Collins. Giavotella is only 5' 8" and has constantly overachieved from what people said he could do. Giavotella seemed like the anti-Dayton pick when the Royals took him in the 2nd Round of the 2008 draft out of the U. of New Orleans. Giavotella wasn't toolsy but perhaps being scrappy and gritty helped him out. Giavotella's bat has always been his calling card. He walks about as much as he strikes out and has a compact stroke that produces a ton of line drives and surprising power. Last year he was up and down at AA until the 2nd half of the year--with an OPS near 1.000 after the All-Star break. He continued to hit in the Arizona Fall League with a 950 OPS. The question has always been his defense at 2B. I heard he improved on D in 2010 and Giavotella keeps working to get better on defense. Giavotella's future is complicated by the impending move of Christian Colon to 2B. Both players could be useful but we'll have to see how the Royals play this. Giavotella will be the 2B at Omaha in 2011.