The Royals are on an almost glacial pace to fill the proverbial "hole" in the outfield and designated hitter. While there have been whisperings about filling those holes, mainly in regards to Torii Hunter, there has been little to no news. The modern day adage is of course that no news is good news, but beside that point, the continued no news means we can continue to cover possible players to fill those positions. Possible is being used hard and fast there, but baseball doesn't always, almost rarely, make sense.
The covered players in this article offer different levels of possible talent, but all offer the ability to play outfield or first base.
Cesar Puello - Mets RF
Puello was once a Top-100 prospect (ranked 77th by Baseball America) but a 50 game PED suspension and a hand/wrist injury have removed him from that list. Signed by the Mets for a moderate bonus of $400,000, Puello was always a "tool-shed" but his rawness and aggressive approach at the plate (mixed with an aggressive push by the Mets) always left scouts hesitant to go full force behind him.
Blessed with a trio of 60 grade tools (speed, arm, and power) and a possible fourth with his glove, Puello hit an above average league adjusted line in his first three years in the minors.
As mentioned, injuries slowed him down and his plus raw power didn't turn into game power until AA. In early August of 2013, Puello accepted a 50-game suspension for a connection the Biogenesis scandal (although never testing positive for drugs reportedly) and his season was over. In his return to baseball the next year, Puello started off the first half of the AAA season slow with a 75 wRC+, but from July 1st on produced a 120 wRC+.
Puello is a defensively average outfielder who can steal 20 bases. Behind the plate his plus raw power will likely play down due to the fringe to below average hit tool. Ultimately Puello may not be someone you'd like to give 600 at bats to in a season (in fact Steamer600 suggests you to not expect much if you do), but he hits left handed pitchers extremely well. Don't expect a .280 batting average or a sub-20 K% though.
Puello is on the Mets 40 man roster and is also out of minor league options. If the Royals do want to acquire Puello, he's been deemed a candidate to be released by the Mets this offseason, so patience may have to be a virtue for them as there may be no reason to trade for him.
Kyle Parker - Rockies OF/1B
The Rockies are enamored by college quarterbacks it seems. To date, they've drafted Todd Helton, Seth Smith, and Russell Wilson (also have drafted many star high school quarterbacks like Ryan McMahon). To add to that list, in 2010 the Rockies selected Kyle Parker in the late first round.
The defensive profile on Parker is limited and if he's going to be an outfielder he'll be fringy there and likely below average defensively even at first. This will require Parker to hit the ball well, something he's at least done in the minors.
Parker has three 20+ home run seasons under his belt in the minors, but the worry with him is the below average hit tool playing down his power at the big league level. Parker does have a good approach at the plate, but struggles to make contact at times.
Parker needs to play the outfield to maximize his value, even with below average defense. He's not likely going to hit enough to be a full time option at DH or even 1B.
Rob Refsynder - Yankees 2B/OF
Every year a minor league player or two will make a move from fringe prospect to legit prospect. Last year it was Mookie Betts. This year it may have been Rob Refsnyder.
Drafted by the Yankees in the 5th round of 2012, Refsnyder played right field primarily out of the Arizona (where he was named the Most Outsanding Player in the CWS) but the Yankees made the determination to have him play second base in 2013 with less than scathing reviews defensively.
Refsnyder isn't going to carve a career out of the major leagues via his glove though, he's going to do it with superb bat to ball skills and approach at the plate. Refsnyder isn't going to hit for power in the majors, something he certainly hasn't done in the minors, but a 60 grade hit tool that could be borderline 70 is a nice feature to bring to the plate every at bat. I've seen now twice Refsnyder being comped to the Mets Daniel Murphy, a player with back-to-back ~3 win seasons in '13/'14.
Unlike any other player discussed today, Refsnyder brings a potential strong immediate impact. Using a tweaked methodology, Carson Cistulli at Fangraphs has deemed Refsnyder as being projected to have the 6th best fWAR by any rookie for 2015.
Meanwhile, here are your PECOTA Similarity Index players PRIOR to the 2014 season:
Note that 96 is an exceptionally high score, and 89-91 are high as well.
Delino DeShields Jr - Astros OF
If you care about bloodlines then DeShields should be a favorite of yours. Son of one of the few legacy prospects who's dad was a good baseball player, DeShields shares similarities with Dad.
Jr. is the only player in minor league history to have a 10-100 season; 10 home runs and 100 stolen bases. Rickey Henderson is the only MLB player to have such a season, doing so in 1982 (10-138) and neared that feat two other times.
DeShields was also known this past season for his twitter photo of his face after being hit with a pitch, which can be found here.
As with most extreme speedster, DeShields brings contact ability with very little power.
One problem constantly talked about with DeShields is his almost disinterest in baseball and attitude spats. In the outfield he has the chance to be an above average fielder with great range but weak arm. Instead though he plays the position casually. At the plate he has been pulled many times for not running out ground balls and shows the same disinterest.
Despite the less than stellar personality reviews, DeShields still maintains his prospectdom and was ranked the 66th best prospect by MLB.com this past offseason.
What makes DeShields the most interesting though is his availability. The Astros have elected to not place him on their 40-man roster and he'll be Rule 5 eligible for the draft this coming December. He'd obviously have to stay on the Royals 25-man or be shipped back to the Astros, but unlike any of the other players on this list, DeShields can be had for basically free ($50,000).
Andrew Aplin - Astros OF
There are players out there scouts love to watch. Not because they have impressive tools or clobber 500 foot home runs, but because they play the game with full effort and make the most of their limited abilities. That's Andrew Aplin.
Aplin is a fourth outfielder, and is really on this list, much like everyone else mentioned, as more of a wild-card or longshot.
There's little power in his game and speed isn't an asset, but what he does do is play centerfield adequately. Offensively Aplin shines at the plate with discipline. He's constantly in deep ball counts and has walked more than he's struck out at four levels in his career meanwhile swiping 20+ bags three times.
The main reason I bring up Aplin is his because of his often stated comparison to Rays Kevin Kiermaier, an outfielder who just posted a near 4-win season on the back of a less than flashy offensive season and profile who also received well regards for his pedal to the medal play and hitting eye. Another sourced comparison is Sam Fuld of the Twins who recently posted a 3-win season.
Again, all these players are more or less long shots to be productive in the majors next season. Truth be told the list was compiled as a way to break away from obvious candidates and to look at more interesting pieces in unknown names that provide intriguing enough upside or background.