The first thing you’re probably going to notice in this part of the Royals prospect history is that there aren’t nearly as many ‘other notable prospects’ as there have been before. The reasons for this are twofold: many of these players are simply still operating on their first contract, which means the Royals haven’t had an opportunity to pick them up off the scrap heap. Also, the Royals are no longer picking guys up off the scrap heap just to fill their roster.
The second thing you’ll notice, unless you noticed it first, is that I’ve got more videos of post-season heroics!
Number 1 Prospect: OF Jay Bruce, Cincinatti. Jay Bruce may be one of the more underrated players in baseball. Were you aware that that he is a three-time All Star, including this season? That he came in fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2008? How about that he’s placed tenth in MVP voting twice?
He had a stretch of four straight seasons from 2010-2013 where he was amazingly consistent averaging 30 home runs and 97 RBIs and slashing .262/.337/.489. He had a weak, for him, 2014 but rebounded with a very good 2015 and an amazing first half to 2016 - he hit 25 home runs and slugged .506 before being traded to the Mets at the deadline. He did not do as well there, but still finished the year with 33 home runs and 99 RBIs. He’s currently a free agent, so it remains to be seen for whom he will play next year, and how much money he cost himself with a poor second half in New York.
Royals prospects: 18 - 3B Mike Moustakas, 57 RHP Dan Cortes, 63 - RHP Luke Hochevar
Mike Moustakas is the first of a slew of players we’re going to see over the home stretch of this series that has not yet had his career defined. He has been a very highly-regarded prospect destroying the minor leagues. He has been a guy with a lot of promise trying to put it together at the big league level. He has been a bust who had to be demoted to the minor leagues to try and find his confidence. He has most recently been an All-Star who put together a very good season and even received some MVP votes. But he spent most of 2016 on the DL with a torn ACL.
He has one more season of control left, and a big part of what happens after that is going to depend on how well he does this season after an astonishing turn around in 2015 that continued through 2016 before the injury. Some people would like to see him traded to make room for Cheslor Cuthbert - whom we will get to later - but the injury, his far superior defense, and the fact that he appears to be one of the vocal leaders of this team make that seem very unlikely for a club that has playoff aspirations in 2017, still.
Dan Cortes never appeared in the big leagues as a Royal. He was acquired in the trade that sent Mike MacDougal to Chicago, and after a couple years in the Royals’ minor league system he was traded away for Yuniesky Betancourt. Yes, I am sorry I reminded you of that, too. Cortes only pitched in parts of two seasons for the Mariners accruing a 5.06 ERA in 16 innings.
Other notable prospects:
8 - LHP Franklin Morales, Colorado.
17 - RHP Wade Davis, Tampa Bay.
34 - RHP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati. Johnny Cueto was astonishing in Cincinnati for many years, except when they were in the playoffs. The Royals, feeling that was a fluke, traded for him to help put them over the top in the 2015 playoffs. His starts immediately became Royals fandom holidays, and his first start for the Royals in KC was a complete game shut out.
Two starts later, though, he began a five-game stretch where he had an ERA over 9.00 and Royals fans began to panic that their new ace was already hurt before the playoffs could start. He rebounded to finish the season with 4 straight quality starts but the fears were still there with his 4.06 ERA in a Royals uniform.
Indeed, he had a 5.40 ERA in the post season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing he still went 2-1. He also pitched eight innings of two-hit, two-run ball in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to keep the Royals in it long enough for the offense to wake up. He also had a one-run complete game in Game 2 of the World Series to help the Royals to a commanding 2-0 series lead. He gave up the vast majority of his runs in start in Toronto, helped in part by his bizarre decision to call his own pitches, which caused the Royals to rearrange his appearances to ensure he only pitched at home the rest of the post season.
Johnny Cueto wasn’t very good as a Royal, but he was good when it counted. There remain rumors he didn’t try his hardest because he feared injuring himself heading into a new contract. If that’s true, it paid off more than the lack of appealing stats to finish the season. He signed a very nice deal with the San Francisco Giants before 2016 and has returned to his old self for them, even garnering an All-Star appearance in which he allowed home runs to Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez as well as Cy Young Award votes.
45 - RHP Ian Kennedy, New York Yankees. The Royals signed Ian Kennedy off of qualifying offer before the 2016 season to a 5-year deal with an opt-out after 2 for Kennedy. Kennedy claims he does not currently plan to use it, but there’s still plenty of time for him to reevaluate that situation. He pitched much better than most people probably realize in 2016. It was his first above average season by ERA+ since 2012 and his second best season ever by the same stat since 2011 when he went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pretty much every stat improved for Kennedy from 2015 to 2016 - except his walk, hit-by-pitch, and strike out rates. Definitely something to keep our eyes on, moving forward.
Number 1 Prospect: C Matt Wieters, Baltimore. Wieters is a four-time all-star and a two-time gold-glove winner for the Orioles and anyone with knowledge of him as a player will tell you he has the tools and talent to succeed in major league baseball. Unfortunately after a 2013 season which saw him catch 140 games he has had a hard time staying on the field. He rebounded a bit, health-wise, in 2016 as a 30-year old he played most of the season, catching 117 games and returning to the All-Star Game but it was also his worst season offensively.
He just achieved free agency for the first time in his career, but he’s got enough talent that he will probably get a big league job somewhere, next season.
Royals prospects: 13 - 3B Mike Moustakas, 24 - 1B Eric Hosmer, 90 RHP Dan Cortes
Eric Hosmer, like Mike Moustakas, has not yet managed to define his career. Unlike Moustakas, he is not currently working on the good will of a great turnaround. Hosmer has participated in some post-season heroics including the mad dash above as well as a twelfth-inning triple in the 2014 Wild Card Game and a home run to win Game 2 of the 2014 ALDS. However, he can’t ever seem to put together a completely solid season without at least one long and nasty slump.
Despite the fact that Hosmer has won three gold gloves most scouts and advanced metrics will tell you that his defense is well below average. He also has astonishing raw power but a career 53% ground ball rate which prevents him from using it effectively in games.
His 2016 season started off very well but in the second half he hit only .225/.296/.380. Doing that while batting third and fourth in the lineup is probably a large part of why the Royals offense couldn’t ever seem to get anything going. He also has one year remaining on his contract and is the current face of the team, but I think most Royals fans should probably hope that someone else is willing to pay for his recognition factor instead of his actual production in order to prevent the Royals from doing so.
Other notable prospects:
19 - SS Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee. I’m sorry to say this, but Alcides Escobar is not a very good short stop. He can’t hit - even his best offensive season in 2012 includes a below average OPS+. He has had a very good glove and excellent speed but those things are finally disappearing as well. Fortunately we will always have #EskyMagic
32 - RHP Wade Davis, Tampa Bay.
100 - RHP Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee. Jeffress came to KC along with Escobar, Cain and Jake Odorizzi (who is going to show up later) he relieved for the big league team for parts of 2011 and 2012 without doing anything noteworthy before being traded again to the Blue Jays for cash.
Number 1 Prospect: OF Jason Heyward, Atlanta. Jason Heyward, in contrast to Bruce above, may actually be among the more over-rated players in baseball. He hasn’t been an All-Star since his rookie season in 2010. He has been a pretty good base-stealer and fielder in his career, but only his 2014 and 2015 had particularly good SB/CS ratios. He usually hits home runs in the double digits, but only once has he cracked more than 20 - a very weird outlier of 27 in 2012. A career .262 hitter that managed to hit .293 for St. Louis in 2015, he does at least walk a lot. He has also started hitting in a rather large number of double plays the last 2 seasons.
He just signed a huge deal with the Chicago Cubs, including an opt-out that I suspect they were counting on him to take, before the 2016 season. Unfortunately for them 2016 was his absolute worst year which he topped off by hitting .104 with no home runs in the post-season. That one may come back to bite the Cubs.
Royals prospects: 39 - LHP Mike Montgomery, 40 - RHP Aaron Crow, 80 - 3B Mike Moustakas, 100 LHP Noel Arguelles
Yes, I kind of tricked you with the last video. That’s not of the Royals’ post-season, but the Cubs. This is because Mike Montgomery closed that game out. Montgomery never actually pitched for the Royals’ big league team but he was a piece in the deal that brought James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City. He’s spent the last two seasons being a spot starter and quality reliever for Seattle and Chicago, but he seems most likely destined to be a very good reliever.
Aaron Crow made it to the big leagues in 2011 but as a reliever, rather than the starter the Royals had hoped they were going to get. He also made the all-star team that year with his 2.76 ERA and the MLB requirement to have a player from every team. He had decent seasons in 2012 and 2013 but fell off a cliff in 2014. This wasn’t as noticeable because that was the year the Royals had their 3-headed bullpen monster, HDH, fully healthy and ready to go. Unfortunately for Crow, no one is likely to remember his good seasons for bad teams, they’ll only remember his poor 2014. Particularly the moment when Ned Yost brought him in instead of Kelvin Herrera to relieve left-hander Jason Vargas against switch hitting Daniel Nava who prefers to bat left-handed. Crow gave up a grand slam and only appeared in relief three times more that season.
Crow was traded to the Marlins for left-handed pitcher Brian Flynn before the 2015 season, but had to undergo Tommy John surgery before the season. He signed with the Cubs before the 2016 season but did not appear in the major leagues. He is currently a free agent.
Noel Arguelles was a highly touted Cuban pitching prospect. The Royals used the money saved when Meche chose to retire due to his injuries to sign the left hander. Unfortunately a multitude of injuries derailed his career and he has never appeared in the major leagues. He signed a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals in April of this year but doesn’t appear to have actually pitched in their system. He did appear for the Joplin Blasters, accruing a 5.40 ERA for the independent league team across five starts.
Other notable prospects:
12 - SS Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee
34 - RHP Wade Davis, Tampa Bay
Already you can see the touch of Dayton Moore on this list; money was finally spent bringing in more players who were well-regarded even before the draft and that led to some slightly more consistent results and better results. Next time we should see more of Dayton Moore’s plans in Latin American scouting come to fruition.