We're a little less than a full month into the minor league season, so it's time for fun with small sample sizes here on the watchlist. As always, everything here comes with some sort of caveat, either that these guys aren't prospects (or are already failed prospects), or that this is too small a sample to think anything of it. Still, the games are real and so are the stats (for whatever that's worth).
1. Luke Farrell (AAA) - Farrell is a potential 4/5 guy if everything goes well, or a swingman if he falls off, or a future coach if he washes out at this point. He's off to an okayish start, posting a 4.19 ERA in 19.1 innings. He has struck out 19% of batters faced, which is pretty average, but has walked 9.5%, which is much too high for someone that isn't striking out tons of guys. He has already given up three HR this season, which is cause for concern - for his career he has averaged about 1 HR per 9, but this is his first go around at AAA. Still, it's early, so this may just be a case of SSS, but it is something to watch for Farrell.
2. Jorge Bonifacio (AAA) - Baby Boner slashed .240/.305/.416 last year when he sold out for power in exchange for contact. He did hit 17 bombs, though. This year, he is off to a great start, slashing .333/.341/.571, and has already hit 4 home runs. The bad news - only 1 walk so far, and he has struck out 21 (yes, twenty one!) times in just 84 at bats. I he is going to strike out in a quarter of his ABs, he is going to have to hit more than one HR every 21 ABs.
3. Pedro Fernandez (A+) - Fernandez is off to a wonderful start in the pitching paradise of the Carolina League, striking out 27% of batters faced (he is walking 9.5%, though). He is surrendering just 6 hits per 9 innings and sports an ERA of 1.21 in 22 innings. If Fernandez can drag that walk rate down a bit, he could really be something. He has consistently had K rates above 8 per 9 during his minor league career, so his ability to maintain a lower walk rate could really stake his prospect status.
4. Balbino Fuenmayor (AAA) - He's not a prospect, and he's not off to a blazing start, so there's no reason to hold your breath, unless you want to hear Hud trying to say his name at the big league level, there's not much special about his .265/.297/.309. Balbino is a guy without a positive defensive reputation, so his value is tied up in hitting, and OPSing .606 just doesn't get it done. I do hope he gets hot like he was last year when he hit .358/.384/.589 for NWA.
5. Julio Pinto (A-) - Control has always been a concern for Pinto, he of the 4.7 walks per 9 career rate. It's been a problem this year - 8 walks in 11 innings. At least nobody is hitting him. No, wait, that's 17 hits per 9 innings. Not good. About the only thing that I can point to that is positive is that it's just 11 innings, and he's just 20 years old in his first turn at full season. This isn't a disaster that he can't recover from, but he needs to start by throwing some quality strikes.
6. Amalani Fukofuka (A-) - For those that want to see Hud get suspended for a pronunciation mishap, this is your guy. However, hitting just .233/.275/.291 is not going to cut it. However, this is also his first ride through the Sally, and he is only 20, so there's something to be hopeful, especially for a guy that absolutely torched the Pioneer League last year.
7. Brooks Pounders (AAA) - He's a former second round pick that the Royals got from the Pirates organization. His career was derailed by Tommy John, although before that, he was a fairly meh pitcher in the low minors. Since returning, he has been a fairly meh pitcher in the upper minors. Except this year, he's started out by striking out 28% of the batters he has faced. He has had some strong strikeout numbers before, but never higher than A ball, so this is something to keep an eye on to see if it maintains as the season progresses.
8. Mauricio Ramos (AA) - Ramos has proceeded through the system as a pretty average guy. Advancing basically a level at a time through the system, always about league average in age, always a roughly averagish hitter. The .299/.349/.442 slash he is currently putting up is his best showing since the Pioneer League. He's not elevating himself to prospect status or anything, but this is definitely keeping him in the organization.
9. Zach Lovvorn (A+) - He's another guy getting his first try at the Carolina League and he is probably benefitting from the run suppression aids rampant in the Carolina League as, despite a below average K rate and an average walk rate, his overall numbers aren't too bad. His ERA would be worse, but a third of the runs scored against him have been of the un-earned variety, driving his ERA to a respectable 3.60. If those runs start counting against Lovvorn, that ERA will balloon quickly.
10. Parker Morin (AAA) - I follow a catcher every season, and Morin was the pick this year. He is off to a rough start, slashing just .207/.265/.241. He only has 34 plate appearances, so that's not even two weeks worth of games to go on, but that also speaks volumes about the Royals feelings on his place in the organization. He's still fairly young (just 24) and he was pretty good at NWA last year (.309/.347/.489) in nearly 200 PA, but the Royals aren't giving him nearly the time you would hope for a younger player.