On Thursday, Cheslor Cuthbert and Raul Mondesi were named to the Future Games roster for the World Team. This got me thinking about their prospectdom and how they fit into the system overall (note - these thoughts go through my head every night on some level as I watch the minor league games). In this case though, Mondesi and Cuthbert perhaps share a similar problem with other Royals prospects.
Here's my question: are the Royals too aggressive with their prospects? If they are, why? It is an organizational philosophy? I'm not going to delve into a big opinion article about this as I'm interested in what everyone else thinks outside of my opinion (I think they are).
Further more on this, Baseball Prospectus had this to say about Cuthbert and Mondesi this morning:
Perhaps one of the most aggressively assigned players this season, Mondesi continues to hold his own against competition much older than him. The tools are beginning to marinate together, and shape his profile into form. With a plus glove up the middle, and the potential for an above-average hit tool, Mondesi is one of the most exciting 19-year-olds in Double-A. In fact, he is the only one. —Tucker Blair
Cuthbert has always been talented, but his ability to translate it into game production has always been difficult to gauge because the Royals have constantly pushed him against better competition. Still just 22, though it seems like he's been around forever, Cuthbert still doesn't show the type of power you'd want from a third baseman, but he does show the contact skills requisite of a strong major league hitter. —Jeff Moore
There's no doubt that the Royals have pushed both, and Mondesi even more aggressively.
Other candidates include:
Starling didn't exactly light Wilmington of fire in 2014 when had an 84 wRC+ (16% below league average - though not park adjusted) and he was expected to return to the league the next year though there was some chatter (my own opinion too) that he'd go to AA to open 2015. He did return to Wilmington but only stayed for 12 games after demolishing the league to the tune of a 210 wRC+. He was then pushed to AA where he started off hot, got injured (hamstring), and has struggled since his return. Maybe it would have made sense for Starling to see a couple hundred more plate appearances in A+ before the big jump to AA.
Dozier is similar to Starling a bit. Dozier hit pretty well in A+ in 2014 and then moved to AA where he struggled (and continues to do so this year). There was some talk around the time of his promotion that the move was a bit too aggressive and instead he should have stayed in A+ to continue working on his approach and try to coax out the power he showed in Idaho Falls.
This is a case of a good outcome here as Perez never really beat up a level for an extended time, but in 2011 was promoted aggressively from AA (309 PA) to AAA (49 PA) and then to the MLB (158 PA) where he's been a mainstay since. Perez has been a consistent ~3 win catcher so the move seemingly has paid off, but at the time it seemed like Perez could use some more time to cook.
Finnegan famously went from pitching in the College World Series in June to the MLB World Series in October. This was on top of pitching 150+ innings from the previous summer with Team USA and his season at TCU. Drafted as a starter, the plan was ditched in the short term it seemed, but this year he's been moved around from the minors (where he was sent to start) to the MLB bullpen, back to the minors (where he was sent to stretch out to start) and now back to the bullpen. Finnegan hasn't really returned to the strikeout/command artist he was for the Royals down the stretch since.
Binford has had success at basically every level prior to his brief time in AAA last year where he was called up to partake in Omaha's PCL playoff run. He was ineffective in his 10 innings there. Binford then opened up the 2015 season in AAA (despite only 50 innings in AA) where he was again ineffective, before being demoted to AA where his command has come back to him.
Bonifacio actually has had success basically every level, but is on his third straight season in AA. He was a roughly 15-20% better than league average hitter from Rookie League to A+. Then at the age of 20 and a decent showing in A+, the Royals bumped him up to AA for 25 games where he hit well. Bonifacio returned to AA where he struggled in 2014, but has hit better this year.
Maybe it isn't an aggressive problem as much as it is a development problem and hitters are falling on their face in AA? It's a common theme for prospects (flailing in AA), but it seems like the majority of Royals prospects who have either busted or seen their stars fade a bit have struggled in AA.