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A History of Royals Top Prospects Part 8 (2011-2013)

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The farm system blossoms!

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

There remain only two more three-season blocks to cover with this series, including this one. This time there are only two ‘other notable prospects’, but it also has the absolute most Royal names. Also, not one of these guys have finished their careers. In fact, some of them haven’t even made it to the big leagues, yet.

2011

Number 1 Prospect: OF Bryce Harper, Washington. Bryce Harper is probably the single most talented player in Major League Baseball other than Mike Trout. Since making the big leagues in 2012 he’s made four out of five possible All-Star Teams, he won Rookie of the Year, and he was even the NL MVP winner in 2015 when he had a ridiculous season OPS of 1.109. The same season he was choked in the dugout by teammate Jonathon Papelbon for not trying hard enough.

2016 for Harper has been termed a season-long slump. He still hit 24 home runs, stole 21 bases and took 20 intentional walks. Despite a career-low batting average of .243 he still made himself useful with a .373 OBP - the highest of his career outside 2015’s ridiculous .460 OBP. He’ll be back with Washington next year.

Royals Prospects: 8 - 1B Eric Hosmer, 9 - 3B Mike Moustakas, 10 - OF Wil Myers, 18 - LHP John Lamb, 19 - LHP Mike Montgomery, 51 - SS Christian Colon, 68 - LHP Danny Duffy, 69 - RHP Jake Odorizzi

This is it. Finally. The Best Farm System in the History of Whenever. Let’s dig into this feast.

Wil Myers, of course, didn’t make his debut with Kansas City. He was traded to the Rays along with Mike Montgomery and another guy we’re going to talk about here in a second, Jake Odorizzi. His rookie season in 2013 had a lot of Royals fans regretting that trade when Kansas City missed the playoffs and Myers went on to win the Rookie of the Year award on the strength of a .293 batting average and 13 home runs in 88 games.

He had a bad and injury filled 2014 before he was traded in the off-season to the Padres. His 2015 wasn’t much better but he bounced back in a big way in 2016. His batting average was still way down at .259, but he hit 28 home runs and stole 28 bases while playing all of the corner outfield and corner infield spots for the Padres. He’s still under his rookie contract with the Padres, for now.

John Lamb was very high on everyone’s lists, but he suffered a torn UCL in June of 2011 and required season ending surgery. It took him a lot longer than anyone had hoped or expected to get it back together. He finally recovered to have a very nice season for Omaha in 2015, to the point that he was named the 26th man for a double header the Royals had that summer. He was traded to the Reds where he has been largely ineffective, his fly ball tendencies did not match up well with the bandbox that is the Great American Ballpark. He suffered an career-threatening injury this season and was cut by Cincinnati after the season. We will just have to wait and see where and if he pitches next.

Christian Colon is a weird case. He was famously drafted ahead of Chris Sale and has not lived up to expectations. In parts of three seasons he has gotten consistently worse every year but he has also delivered two of the biggest hits in Royals’ post season history. These include both the hit above to put the Royals on top in Game 5 of the world series as well as driving in the tying run in bottom of the twelfth inning of the 2014 AL Wild Card Game, his only official post-season at bats (he also has a walk).

Unless I am much mistaken, CC is out of options for next season, so it will be interesting to see if he gets to keep his utility role or if he gets a shot to produce for another team.

Danny Duffy seems to have finally ended up at "Near Ace Avenue" after pit stops in "Tommy John Surgery Lane", "Mediocre Starter Boulevard", and "Elite Left-Handed Reliever Road". He fell off a bit at the end of 2016 after eliciting hopes from many Royals fans that he would by in the Cy Young Award conversation. He still finished the year with a 3.51 ERA and a 3.83 FIP. His 124 ERA+ led all Royals’ starters. He also pitched a career high 179.2 innings, which isn’t bad considering he spent the first month in the bullpen. This was also Duffy’s first complete big league season without some sort of injury. He seems likely to be an extension candidate this offseason with rumors circling that he’s already near a deal with the Royals. Either way, he’s still arbitration eligible through 2017 so if the Royals haven’t seen enough they’ll get one more look.

Jake Odorizzi went along with Montgomery and Myers to Tampa Bay, and he’s been a very solid to above average starter for them for three straight years. He has yet to break the 200 inning limit but he did manage 187.2 innings last year while delivering a 3.69 ERA. He did give up quite a few more homers than he had the previous two years but continues to look like a solid option in the Rays’ rotation. He came in eighth in Rookie of the Year voting back in 2014 and looks to have a productive career ahead of him.

He’s the last piece of the Greinke trade that we’ve talked about here, so now it’s fair to point out that that was an excellent trade for Dayton Moore. It netted the Royals 4 big league regulars, it’s just that only two of them stuck with the Royals for any length of time. On the other hand, the trade to Tampa Bay doesn’t look nearly so good. Sure it netted a quality starter and one of the best relievers in baseball. But if the Royals hadn’t made that trade, but all the players involved matched their production Odorizzi still would not have been ready in 2013, but the rest of the team really wasn’t either. He wouldn’t have been quite as good as Shields in 2014 but he would have been MUCH cheaper, and could still be pitching for the Royals while Shields has pitched poorly for a lot of money for San Diego and Chicago. It turns out that while Montgomery was a failure as a starter, he’s a pretty good reliever. Again, not as good as Davis, but good enough to plug into the Royals’ bullpen somewhere. And they’d still have Wil Myers, who appears to be quite an offensive force when healthy, and the Royals could desperately use a quality right-fielder.

Still, it’s hard to complain too much when your guys won the world series, right?

Other Notable Prospects:

None.

2012

Number 1 Prospect: OF Bryce Harper, Washington.

Royals Prospects: 23 - LHP Mike Montgomery, 24 - OF Bubba Starling, 28 - OF Wil Myers, 68 - RHP Jake Odorizzi, 84 - 3B Cheslor Cuthbert

Bubba Starling has every appearance of being the kind of bust who never even makes it to the big leagues. The Royals have bet heavily on him so you might see them try to force it to happen by bringing him up in a reserve role, perhaps even sometime in 2017. By all accounts his defense is major league ready, and of very high quality. He also has a bit of pop and plenty of speed. The problem is that he strikes out at an abysmal rate and hardly ever walks. He had a combined .183 batting average in 2016 between Wichita and Omaha. He hit seven home runs and had an combined OPS of .534. He received the promotion to Omaha halfway through the season as a last ditch effort to get him out of the slump by resetting his numbers. It failed. Bubba? More like Busta.

Cheslor Cuthbert actually fell off this list before getting time in the big leagues in 2015, filling in while Mike Moustakas was on bereavement leave a couple of times. He took over the third base job in 2016 when Moose suffered a season-ending ACL tear. He started off not-so-hot, played awesome for a bit, and then in the last month of the season appeared to hit a wall that not only affected his ability to hit, but also his ability to throw with any accuracy to first base. He’s out of options because he was added to the 2014 40-man roster to prevent him from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft that year, so the Royals had him play second base in the Arizona Fall League. The results were mixed.

Considering agility is not really his forte and his continued inability to pick a consistent, accurate arm slot he doesn’t seem likely to stick at second base and the move may have been done to convince other teams he has value to the Royals so they can try to get something useful in return for a trade. If the Royals can’t trade him he’ll probably be carried as a nominal utility infielder/DH - depending on other off-season moves - for 2017 in case Moustakas doesn’t ever recover sufficiently from the ACL tear or they can’t find a way to bring him back in 2018.

Other Notable Prospects:

None.

2013

Number 1 Prospect: SS/2B Jurickson Profar, Texas. Profar is an amazingly talented middle infield prospect who is so often injured he has a very hard time finding the field. He debuted in 2012 and played half a season in 2013 but missed all of 2014 and 2015 as well as the beginning of 2016 with injuries. He played 90 games in 2016 and hit well below average, despite a strong start. He did have a huge ~80 point bump from his average to his OBP, so he wasn’t entirely without worth. If he can get a few more hits and maybe a bit more power he will instantly be at near Ben Zobrist levels of production at a variety of positions. It’s also worth remembering that 2017 will still only be his 24-year-old season, so there’s plenty of time for that to happen.

Royals Prospects: 24 - RHP Kyle Zimmer, 35 - OF Bubba Starling, 85 - RHP Yordano Ventura

Kyle Zimmer has been injured so often and so badly that he has become a meme among Royals fans. Any time you see Zimmer mentioned in Royals Review comments, you will find a waterfall of imaginary injuries suffered because of the mention. Most have given up on him ever reaching the big leagues, but not the Royals management. Last season the Royals think they finally figured out what was wrong with him - Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The very same problem that Chris Young suffered from for years before finally self-diagnosing. Luke Hochevar also came down with it in the middle of last season.

The upshot is that Zimmer had surgery to correct the problem and the Royals are hopeful he has not just kicked his injury issues but that he will compete for and possibly win a spot in the 2017 rotation, though it might be wiser to stick him in the bullpen even if he’s healthy for now and let him build back up some innings since he barely took a mound in 2016.

Yordano Ventura wowed everyone when he made his major league debut in September of 2013 and flashed a 101 MPH fastball. His rookie season in 2014 was very promising, topped by an emotional 7 inning, shut-out performance in Game 6 of the World Series shortly after his friend Oscar Taveras died in a tragic car accident. He signed a contract extension that bought out all of his arbitration seasons and added team options for what would have been his first two free agency eligible seasons. He was also named the opening day starter for 2015 and expectations were incredibly high.

Unfortunately Ventura left two games early that season with cramps and instigated some on-field angst with his attitude on the mound, finally receiving a suspension after cursing at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and inciting a brawl. Much was said about his lack of maturity and his lack of readiness to be an ace for a team, his pitching suffered as the season went on but he finally found himself at the end of 2015 when he began harnessing his curveball in his last start in August and began striking everyone out. Over those last 8 starts he went 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA and 60 strike outs vs 20 walks in 49 innings.

Unfortunately the success did not carry over to the post-season where he had a 6.43 ERA in 6 starts.

His 2016 was another mixed bag. He did have a career high in innings at 186, but his walks also skyrocketed and he had his first down season by the ERA+ stat at 98. He flashed at times in the middle of the season like he was regaining his rookie form - in between receiving another suspension for throwing at fellow hot-head Manny Machado - but as the season ended he resumed walking everyone and giving up lots of runs again. That is the story of Yordano Ventura in a nutshell - so talented you’re sure that next time he’ll start showing how much of an ace he is, but so volatile that he can’t ever quite get it to come together and work consistently.

That being said, even at his worst he’s been a nearly league average pitcher, and there is certainly value in that. And who knows? Maybe 2017 is the year he really does put it together.

Other Notable Prospects:

4. OF/3B Wil Myers, Tampa Bay.

92. RHP Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay.

We’re nearly finished with this series, now. There’s the final three year block which will catch us up to the 2016 list and then we will finish with a summary of top 100 prospects

You can read Part 1 of this series here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here,Part 4 can be found here, Part 5 can be found here, Part 6 can be found here, and Part 7 can be found here.