The 2015 just_another_fan minor leaguer watch list is finally here.
I have gone back and forth on this list several times. As always, this is not a list of top prospects, or even a list of the prospects with the most major league potential. This list is dedicated to prospects who add depth to the Kansas City system. Whether they add depth because they were former high prospects that have fallen off, or because they are flying just a bit below the radar, or have a specific tool, or set of tools, that could benefit the major league club if harnessed, these guys represent the real chance for KC to have depth within the system.
Without further ado...
1. Jake Newberry (11/20/1994) RHP, drafted in the 37th Round (2012). This will be his fourth year in the system. He has always been extremely young for his level, even in rookie ball because of his November birthday. He should finally get to full season this year. Last year he had a 4.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He's at a point where he could still be a starter, or could be in line to become another bullpen weapon. Right now, the hope is that (of course) he sticks as a starter in the Sally. He K'd 22.4% of batters faced last season, while walking just 7.6%. If those numbers hold up, he could improve on his numbers from last year quite a bit.
2. Bryan Brickhouse (6/6/1992) RHP, drafted in the 3rd round (2011). Brickhouse missed most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, and as a result has fallen behind quite a few arms in the Royals system. He was solid, if unspectacular at Low A before getting hurt in 2013, and got some innings late last year. This is his chance to get back into the hunt for the 2017/2018 rotation. Realistically, he's just depth, but if he emerges, that could be a huge value add for the organization.
3. Daniel Rockett (11/9/1990) OF, drafted in the 9th round (2013). Rockett can play all three OF spots and is another toolsy OF prospect. He was a disaster at the plate last year, slashing .205/.259/.299. That's terrible no matter what. He's a little old for his level, so this is a big year for him. He could start at AA this year, but he needs to swing the bat.
4. Dominique Taylor (8/11/1992) OF, drafted in the 15th round (2013). Taylor is basically just like Rockett, although he is a little bit younger and a level behind. He also hit last year, slashing .300/.348/.441. He also plays all three OF spots, so he has some versatility, but he's heading to the pitcher friendly Carolina League, so this year will be a challenge for him. KC needs to find an OF out there somewhere, and they are flush with toolsy, versatile guys at the lower levels. They just need some of these guys to hit.
5. Glenn Sparkman (5/11/1992) RHP, drafted in the 20th round (2013). Sparkman is similar to Christian Binford in that he is an extreme control pitcher that has excelled so far at the lower levels. His K/BB ratio is 4.69 for his career. The challenge this year for Sparkman is what happens as he moves up the chain. His HR/9 is 0.2 for his professional career. That is unsustainably low. However, Sparkman has also been stingy in giving up hits, averaging 6.8 hits per 9 for his career. He is clearly not a prospect right now, but if he becomes anything in the organization, he's a big find as a 20th round pick.
6. Angel Baez (2/14/1991) RHP, signed out of Dominican Republic (2009). Baez is a hard throwing righty that has converted to the bullpen because he cannot throw strikes. I like to follow guys like this because if he figures it out, he's a late inning option. The Royals have to find guys like Baez and hope they can get them to throw strikes. None of his numbers are any good, but he has progressed through the system to AA. Not much in terms of expectations here, but there's a chance he could find something resembling control and be a bullpen piece in 2016 for the major league club.
7. Logan Moon (2/15/1992) OF, drafted in the 6th round (2014). Moon is a bit old, but he tore up the Appy League last year, hitting .332/.357/.447. That's a little deceiving because he was a little old for the level at 22. He was sent there because of the glut of OFs in Idaho Falls and because he was a D2 collegiate player (Missouri Southern). He's from Blue Springs originally. Like those above him, he's a long shot, but if any of the three make it, that's a huge bonus. Looking at the lower minors, it may be prudent to skip him up to Wilmington to challenge him, although there are so many OFs that he may have to spend most of the year in the Sally, where he will again be old for his level.
8. Samir Duenez (6/11/1996) 1B/LF, signed out of Venezuela (2013). Duenez is a bat only prospect. He will only make it if his bat can play because he really doesn't have a defensive position. Fortunately he's just a teenager and he has already seen the Sally for a bit last year. He should return to Lexington this summer and hopefully make better on his .232/.268/.324 slash line.
9. Chad Johnson (5/31/1994) C, drafted in the 5th round (2012). The Royals have Salvador Perez at the ML level, but if Perez moves off catcher as he nears 30, the Royals will need a replacement behind the dish. Johnson is as good a hope as any to be that guy, so I will follow him this season. His strikeout numbers are absurd (he struck out in over 37% of his at bats last year). That will (obviously) not play at any level.
10. Ramon Torres (1/22/1993) 2B, signed out of Dominican Republic (2010). He got on my radar last year by hitting .304/.346/.428 at Lexington. He cooled significantly at Wilmington. He's worth the follow because the Royals really don't have anyone in the pipeline at 2B. They could end up with some failed SS prospects moving over to second, but he's got a chance to be a player if he can hit.