As spring training inches closer, we reach into the mailbag to answer questions.
For this year? It is probably just Matt Strahm. He's already on the 40-man (so is Alec Mills) and has the distinguishing quality of being left handed. Strahm popped up a bit this year in the prospect realm. He wasn't really well regarded thanks to command issues and having Tommy John surgery in 2013. In 2014 he got a few innings of work then eyed 2015 for a full season. He started out in the bullpen at Lexington before moving to the rotation in Wilmington full time.
There are some things to like about Strahm. He generates a lot of whiffs and his command took a step forward this past year. He's also 6'4" but he's a lanky guy along the lines of Chasen Shreve. Strahm could work out of the bullpen and ultimately that may be his end role. The fastball can touch 96 MPH and the curveball is average but I haven't seen a lot with the changeup necessarily from what I can recall.
So I'd put it:
Strahm and Mills taking priority for already being on the 40 man.
@Shauncore Should Ryan O'Hearn be the Royals top prospect?— Noah Riley (@NoNoNoNoahRiley) February 9, 2016
The Royals TOP prospect? No, but he's knocking on the door of the top 10 which is a start.
The main issue with O'Hearn is that he's a first baseman, and an okay one at that. He'll need to hit, hit, and hit to justify being a top five prospect. Thankfully O'Hearn has done just that, with a >120 wRC+ in every level he's seen so far. The most impressive is perhaps his .211 ISO in Wilmington, one of the worst hitter parks in all of organized baseball. He also drew a decent walk rate to boot.
One concern though is a question on his swing getting a bit long, leading to him struggling against velocity at times. His strikeout rate has increased at each level and touched ~30% in A+ in 2015. That will have to come down. There are certainly things to like about O'Hearn definitely (power, average defense, surprising speed for his size), but in the end he's a first baseman and we need first baseman to always hit.
@Shauncore will Colon have a bigger role in 2016.— Dave Newkirk (@DaveNewkirk) February 9, 2016
I may be wrong on this one, but I could have sworn the Royals said they were going to at least consider Colon for a larger role in 2016. It seems like the organization may finally realize how bad Infante and his contract are and have no excuses anymore to give him 500 plate appearances.
That is...if Infante can stay healthy for 500 plate appearances. As you get older, injuries generally come more often and hit harder. Meanwhile Infante hasn't hit at all in his Royals tenure. Colon may not be a slam dunk upgrade over Infante in regards to severe improvement, but I think he'd be a positive net change over him.
*Full disclosure - I'm actually related in a capacity to the questioner
I'm sure one of the fringe benefits Andy got from leaving the Star is that he won't have to be asked about Zimmer - as much. However I await for the hopeful day that Zimmer pitches against the Dodgers.
As far as Zimmer goes he's set to appear in spring training for the Royals in some capacity. Hopefully he doesn't injure himself between now and then, but then again he could injure himself walking out to the mound to throw his first pitch.
So I'm sure I'll write a good bit about Dozier when I do my Royals top 60 list so I'll keep it somewhat brief here. Can he bounce back? Yes. Will it happen? Maybe.
When a guy struggles after doing well for several levels you have to ask yourself if anything has changed? Is he injured? Did he not make adjustments? Has he tweaked his mechanics?
The Royals changed Dozier's swing a bit to add more loft; it didn't work out...at all. Again, I'll have more about this in a few weeks when I publish my list but if Dozier doesn't hit this year then he's basically off the prospect radar.
I haven't posted my top 20 yet so I'll go off of MLB.com's top 30.
Matthew Strahm is the most obvious candidate but we'll skip him since that's a cop out and we've already talked about him. I'll go with Anderson Miller. I think he may even crack my top 20. He can run well, and has above average power. I think he could even stick in centerfield. I think you could make the case that he has four average tools right now: power, speed, defense, and arm. Meanwhile the hit tool isn't that good, but he doesn't strike out very much. Instead it's just weak contact at times. There's a fourth outfield ceiling right now and he made it to Lexington in his debut year. If the bat speed plays all the way up and the hit tool comes around to average you could see a 2nd or 3rd outfield type from him.
So let's just look at the Royals first five picks.
Ashe Russell: The Royals liked Russell more than most teams from what I've heard and he was meh in his Burlington debut innings.
Nolan Watson: Watson and Russell are very close in age, both pitchers, and both from High Schools in Indiana (you're going to see this comparison a lot over the next few years). Like Russell, Watson was just meh in Burlington. The Indiana duo above will probably go along the route of Foster Griffin (the Royals first round pick in 2014 alongside Brandon Finnegan) and debut in Lexington next year for the whole year.
Josh Staumont: Staumont is interesting. He was a college guy but he was younger for his class. He pitched primarily in Idaho Falls (where the Royals like to send their college draftees) where he struck out almost 40% of the batters he faced but also walked almost 20% of them.
What's fortunate though is that Staumont has an insane fastball, and alongside Ray Black of the Giants, it's probably the best in the minors (Black too walks a quarter of the batters he faces). Like Black, Josh has an above average curveball but it isn't always consistent and at times he doesn't know where it is going to end up (his fastball as well). Staumont has a changeup, but he can basically just scrap that as he isn't going to ever be a starter. He could go to Lexington, but I'd guess he ends up in Wilmington (A+) instead.
Anderson Miller: Miller is probably going to back to Lexington but maybe he goes to Wilmington (ala the Hunter Dozier route).
Garrett Davila: Davila is tough too. The Royals didn't let him pitch after being drafted as they wanted him to gain strength and put on size. I think they may keep him in Arizona for most of the spring/early-summer until short season ball breaks camp. Lexington would be the only other solution if they wanted to give him full season reps, but that seems like a bit of a jump.
Roman Collins: Collins hit fairly well in Idaho Falls, continuing how well he hit in Division II as a junior. I haven't seen or heard much of Collins really and he wasn't even on Baseball America's top 500 list for the draft. He's probably due for Lexington alongside the rest of his college draft classmates.