The Kansas City took a big gamble on moving toward being relevant in the American League Central in 2013. They traded OF Will Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay for SP James Shield and SP Wade Davis. With loss of Myers and Odorizzi the Royals lost a significant part of the top level prospects in their organization. However, with Kyle Zimmer and Bubba Starling and the rising of players such as Yordano Ventura and Adalberto Mondesi, they still have plenty of upside on the farm. Let’s take a deeper look at what the Royals have to offer.
1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP 9/13/1991 H:6’3″ W:215 - The righty from the University of San Francisco switched from being a 3B to a SP full time in his sophomore year of college due to lack of playing time. The results were awesome and he wound up being the #5 pick in the 2012 draft. While Zimmer cruised in his first season of pro ball, he wound up needing surgery last fall to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow. We’re anxious to see how he throws this season, but it doesn’t look like he will be limited.
Tom Belmont wrote about Zimmer in his Prospect Instinct article last summer. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Zimmer works with a four pitch mix highlighted by a fastball/curveball combo.
The Fastball works in the 92-94 range and tops out 96-97. The fastball explodes out of his hands and gets on batters faster than even the plus velocity would indicate. He’s a pitcher you need to see to get a full appreciation of his stuff. He’s growing more able to work inside and outside, but one of the biggest adjustments he’s made is the ability to sink the ball lower in the zone. His sinker works in the low 90s while his 4 seamer is the 95-96 and it rides hard up in the zone. The two grips are used out of the same arm slot with the same arm circle, so it’s an effective mix.
The Curveball is a hammer pitch that is a 55-60 on the scale with a chance to be a 70+. It’s already a plus pitch at times and he controls it well in the 79-81 range. When his mechanics are in full tune, the curveball has true 12-6 drop and is a major league ready offering as a put away pitch.
He also throws a variation of the pitch with harder break. The Slider isn’t as refined and can lead to looking like his curveball has just flattened out making the pitch hit-able. Especially with righties taking it the other way. But the pitch, if also developed has a chance to give him an extra offering to combat lefties, because when it on it has hard break to the hands of lefties. My opinion is that the pitch will be scrapped. At least for now.
The biggest pitch that will need to be refined is going to be his Change Up. It’s currently a 40 on the scouting scale but he doesn’t get enough work with the pitch to manipulate the movement well. Repetition in game is going to be a huge step for Zimmer who really could dominate at the lower levels with the pitch. The Royals will need to put a mandatory hard count on his changeup use early on, forcing him to use the pitch early in counts. The pitch is mostly in the low 80s but doesn’t have sink or fade right now. I’m not sure which grip he’s been taught, but a change of grip may be in the works right now.
Our Instinct: Zimmer has the stuff to become a decent ace, if not a good #2. Depending on how far he’s progressed past the elbow surgery, he should spend the Season at AA. The Royals may decide to ease him into things with a short start at High-A. With the trade for James Shields and Wade Davis, the Royals have some decent depth in the big leagues and should be able to resist the urge the push Zimmer too fast. He might get a look towards the end of the season, but he’s likely a year and a half a way from becoming a fixture in the KC. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 3-3, 2.04 ERA, 2.03 FIP, .349 BABIP, 42/8 K/BB ratio in 39.2 innings between Rookie-A and Low-A. 2012 1st round draft pick, 5th overall.
2. Bubba Starling, OF 8/3/1992 H:6’4″ W:180 – Had the CBA taken hold in 2011 instead of 2012, someone else would be writing about the exploits of Bubba Starling. Most likely as a football player at Nebraska. It took $7.5 million to sign him away, and that clearly would not have happened in 2012. With an above average grade in speed, above average range, plus defense and a plus arm, Starling should be able to stick in centerfield for a long time to come.
Offensively, Starling is still very much a football player trying to develop his plus raw power into a legit baseball skill. He’s a little long in his swing and his mechanics need major refinement. His bat control is his major issue and it causes him to lose barrel awareness. Especially on breaking pitches.
Our Instinct: The talent is there. The drive is there. If you went on raw potential alone, Starling might be the #1 prospect in baseball. Obviously, we can’t say that. A season under new Low-A hitting coach Justin Gemoll should help with the arm bar hitch in his swing. With any luck he could make the transition to High-A before the season is over because the 800 pound Gorilla in the room is that he’s not a young prospect for his level now. It’s time to develop and Starling could be a late bloomer. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: .275/.371/.485, 20 XBH(10 HR), 10 SB, .375 BABIP, 70/28 K/BB ratio in 200 ab’s at Rookie-A. 2011 1st round draft pick, 5th overall.
3. Yordano Ventura, RHP 6/3/1991 H:5’11″ W:180 – You typically don’t expect triple-digit heat from a wiry frame, but Ventura can get it up there when he chooses to. Typically he works in the mid 90 with decent movement. His curveball has a nice late break to it and is developing into an above average out pitch. If he can command it better it has plus potential to be a bury pitch.
His changeup is going to decide his fate as a starter or a reliever. It ranks behind the FB and CB at this point, but does have potential. He’s still very raw and doesn’t always show a lot of feel for the pitches yet. If he can improve his command and control and develop those secondary pitches further, he stands the chance of being an outstanding starter.
Our Instinct: Ventura already has the stuff to be a good closer. The Royals hope there’s more to him than that though. He should get another shot at the AA Texas league this season, eventually finding his way to AAA. If the CU turns into an average to above average pitch he could make the jump to the majors some time next season. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 4-7, 3.62 ERA, 2.92 FIP, .321 BABIP, 130/42 K/BB ratio in 109.1 innings between High-A and AA, with a rehab stop in the AZL. 2008 IFA, Dominican Republic.
4. Adalberto Mondesi, SS 7/27/1995 H:6’1″ W:165 – Both of Raul Mondesi’s son’s played in the Pioneer league in 2012. Raul Mondesi, Jr. as a 19 year old outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers (later traded to the Tampa Bay Rays) and Adalberto Mondesi, as a 16 year old shortstop of the Kansas City Royals. Playing in the Pioneer league, which is comprised mostly of guys coming off a full college season, is no small task in itself.
The fact that he more than held his own is even more impressive. Mondesi displays excellent bat speed for a very young switch hitter, and while it isn’t producing a ton of power, there is some power potential there. It may always fall more on the side of gap power than home run power though. Mondesi’s speed will help him turn a fair amount of singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He was 11 for 13 in stolen base attempts and his speed plays well with his overall base running IQ.
Defensively, he is still very raw, which should be expected from a 16 year old, but he has excellent range, a cannon for an arm, and soft hands. It’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together and cuts down on the errors. He had 23 errors in 232 chances, a .902 Fld%. A number that is indicative of a SS with so much range that he’s getting to balls he shouldn’t be getting to and forcing the issue.
Our Instinct: His showing wasn’t too much different than that of Jurickson Profar in 2010 in the Northwest League. Since the Royals are in the APPY as well as the Pioneer league and not in a Short Season-A league, the Pioneer serves as both a Rookie and Short Season for them. The question becomes, do the Royals bump him up to Lexington as a 17 year old in the Sally, which is full season ball or do they leave him at extended spring training and start him off again in the Pioneer? There are merits to both options, but I think it’s safe to say that at some point in 2013 he will be in full season ball. He could be an elite prospect in just 12 months. ETA: 2016.
2012 by the numbers: .290/.346/.386, 12 XBH(3 HR), 11 SB, .394 BABIP, 65/19 K/BB ratio in 207 ab’s at Rookie-A. 2011 IFA, Dominican Republic.
5. Jason Adam, RHP 8/4/1991 H:6’4″ W:219 – When you look at Jason Adam (not Adams) the first thing that jumps out as you is he looks the part of a starting pitcher. Mature body, long arms and legs, and athletic. He works with a big leg kick and a short stride, using a low to mid 90′s fastball as well as throwing in a changeup and a curve ball that are a work in progress. Both pitches have plus potential, especially the CB when he throws it in there at the back foot of left handed hitters. He shows pretty good command of his FB, working both sides of the plate with ease, especially in the low 90′s range. If he can keep that command with an uptick in velocity, this will be a great plus pitch to work his secondaries around.
Our Instinct: Adam has the makings of a major league #3 or #4 innings eating work horse. If his secondary pitches don’t fully develop though he’s not going to have that plus secondary to fall back as a power RP. Adam should be up to the challenge of AA hitting this season, assuming those pitches keep developing. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 7-12, 3.53 ERA, 3.81 FIP, .287 BABIP, 123/36 K/BB ratio in 158 innings at High-A. 2010 5th round draft pick, 149th overall.
6. Miguel Almonte, RHP 4/4/1993 H:6’2″ W:160 - Listed as 6’2″ and 160 pounds, Almonte is closer to 6’3″ and may be 160 pounds if his uniform and glove are soaking wet. Almonte works in the low 90′s but can bring it up to 94-95 mph if he reaches back for a little more. Excellent deception on his changeup, working it in there in low 80′s with good deception, a possible future plus pitch.
His curveball has some life with a late break to it, but he works too much in the zone with it. It’s not quite an average pitch at this point; however you can see the above average potential. He started 2012 in the Dominican Summer league, making his way to the Arizona league, and ended his season on a high note, joining the Burlington Bee’s in the APPY for a playoff game. He struck out 4, while giving up just 1 hit.
Our Instinct: Almonte has an athletic build with a lot of room to grow in his frame. Definitely a top pitching prospect in the Royals system and you’re likely to hear more about him as the season gets underway. There’s little reason to think that the soon to be 20 year old won’t be in the Sally with Low-A Lexington to start the 2013 season. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 8-2, 1.75 ERA, 2.12 FIP, .274 BABIP, 74/13 K/BB ratio in 77 innings at 2 stops of Rookie-A ball. 2010 IFA, Dominican Republic.
7. Jorge Bonifacio, OF 6/4/1993 H:6’1″ W:210 – The younger brother of Toronto Blue Jays infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonafacio, Jorge jumped onto our radar during the 2011 season and then became fairly known as a prospect in 2012. He isn’t his brother though. Emilio is known for his speed, while Jorge is looking the part of a future slugger, though his power is still quite raw. Bonifacio displayed that power potential in the Sally in 2012, posting a .140 ISoP to go with 36 XBH. He hit 10 HR and more are sure to follow as he turns the gap power into out of the park power. He has better than average bat speed with strong wrists and can hit the ball to all fields.
In the field, he’s an average defender. His arm is strong enough for right field and his range is nothing special. He’s still trying to get a good read to run the right routes to the ball, but that should come as he matures. He has a little speed, but isn’t anything close to being a burner and as he physically develops he won’t steal many bases.
Our Instinct: If everything breaks right for Bonifcaio, he could turn into a good middle of the order bat. He’s going to have to be a little more selective at the plate; however he did cut his K% from around 23% down to fewer than 19%. High-A is the next stop for Bonifacio and you should see more home runs from him this season. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: .282/.336/.432, 36 XBH(10 HR), 6 SB, .315 BABIP, 84/30 K/BB ratio in 412 ab’s at Low-A. 2009 IFA, Dominican Republic.
8. Orlando Calixte, SS 2/3/1992 H:6’0″ W:175 - While looking over matched at times at Low-A early on, as he did in 2011, things started to click for Calixte and earned an aggressive promotion to High-A midway through the season. He handled the promotion well, posting a triple slash of .281/.326/.426. He went on to have a respectable showing the Arizona Fall League as well.
At the plate Calixte can let his over aggressive nature get the best of him. He has tremendous bat speed, but swings at everything and his pitch recognition isn’t very good, however it is improving as taking on pitchers in the Carolina League was a healthy task in itself. He runs the bases well, but won’t ever be confused for a burner. Defensively, he’s chalked full of errors, again from being overly aggressive. He has a strong arm and the range to play short, but gets away from fundamentals to try to look flashy. This is a maturity issue which should improve this season.
Our Instinct: Calixte isn’t in an enviable position. At the major league level Alcides Escobar is just 25 years old and mans the shortstop position. Behind him and coming on fast is Mondesi. While he has the talent and ability, 2013 is going to be a year for Calixte to gain patience and maturity. Look for him to start the season at High-A. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: .262/.315/.444, 52 XBH(14 HR), 10 SB, .310 BABIP, 109/36 K/BB ratio in 484 ab’s between Low-A and High-A. 2010 IFA, Dominican Republic.
9. Christian Colon,SS 5/14/1989 H:5’10″ W:185 - When you’re the 4th overall pick in the major league first-year players draft there is a lot of expectation put on you. When Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon, and Manny Machado are drafted right before you, the expectations can be unrealistic. Christian Colon has been pegged a draft day bust right from the beginning. A foot injury got things off to a bad start for Colon in 2012, but once he was ready to play it took him no time at all to get into the swing of AA ball. He earned a late season promotion to AAA, where he looked right at home. Colon is a patient hitter who uses the whole field. He has a nice compact and controlled swing that should play for average in the majors. It’s unlikely he will ever hit for much power or steal many bases. Defensively, he can play either SS or 2B adequately.
Our Instinct: With the likes of Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella manning 2B in the majors, Colon could reasonably get a shot at proving himself there. However, with Mondesi, Orlando Calixte, Cristian Cano behind him in the minors, his time is short to lock down a job. Ultimately, he should have no trouble finding a job as a utility infielder when it’s all said and done. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: .301/.376/.413, 21 XBH(6 HR), 13 SB, .309 BABIP, 28/37 K/BB ratio in 312 ab’s at AA, with a brief stop at AAA and rehab in the GCL. 2010 1st round draft pick, 4th overall.
10. John Lamb, LHP 7/10/1990 H:6’4″ W:195 - 2011 was a lost cause for John Lamb, as he would need Tommy John surgery. He returned late in 2012, but clearly the rust was still there and the arm strength was not. He was healthy though, and that’s important. He sat in the 88-91 mph range in 2012, down from the low to mid 90′s prior to surgery. If the velocity returns and he can pick up where he left off developing his curveball, Lamb has mid rotation potential.
Our Instinct: Lamb had pinpoint control and a low stress CB prior to his injury. TJ surgery has become very much en vogue in the past 20 years, so the likelihood of him returning to his previous form is quite good. Lamb is listed at 205 pounds, but has reported to camp at lean and mean 195 pounds. He lost nearly 40 pounds in just over a year. The goal for this season should be to stay healthy and make all of his starts at AA. Unfortunately there’s a new wrinkle that can’t be ignored and why we’ve dropped him out of the top 10. He’s now 19 months past his Tommy John surgery and his velocity sits in the mid 80′s this spring. Something isn’t right with his arm and we’re not convinced yet that he’s going to pitch consistently in the low 90′s, let alone regain that mid 90′s velocity. But the innings aren’t there yet and he may just need enough work to start upticking. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 0-1, 6.92 ERA, 3.97 FIP, .365 BABIP, 14/4 K/BB ratio in 13 innings at 2 stops of Rookie-A ball. 2008 5th round draft pick, 145th overall.
11. Sam Selman, LHP 11/14/1990 H:6’3″ W:195 – Selman’s senior year at Vanderbilt got off to a rocky start. After a couple terrible early starts he was sent to the bullpen. He would find himself again in the bullpen and return to the rotation. He finished the season 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 80 K’s over 76 innings. Ultimately resulting in his draft stock going up. He has a 92-94 mph fastball and bumps 98 in short stints. He has an average slider with plus potential and a changeup that needs some refinement if he’s going to stay in the rotation. His college career as a whole wasn’t impressive, but the improvements that he did make late in his senior year combined with the level of pitching that led to him winning the Pioneer League pitcher of the year, leaves hope for him to remain a starter.
Our Instinct: Selman possibly could make it as a #3 starter, but as of now I think #4 is a reasonable expectation. However, if he doesn’t develop his change he’s likely to end up as a high-leverage lefty out of the bullpen. He should hit the Sally League and his 1st taste of full season ball in 2013. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: 5-4, 2.09 ERA, 1.56 FIP, .336 BABIP, 89/2 K/BB ratio in 60.1 innings at Rookie-A. 2012 2nd round draft pick, 66th overall.
12. Elier Hernandez, OF 11/21/1994 H:6’3″ W:200 - Another Dominican hitter that the Royals thought the world of, signing him for a $3 million payday in 2011. Unlike Mondesi, Hernandez struggled mightily in the Pioneer league as a 17 year old. At close to 6’4″ and 200 pounds, Hernandez looks like a major league outfielder despite his young age. He has excellent bat speed and tremendous raw power. Power that he did not tap into as he looked over matched in the Pioneer. He has average speed which will probably be slightly below average by the time he matures fully, limiting him as a base runner and keeping him to a corner defensively.
Our Instinct: Hernandez is the epitome of big risk, big reward players. He’s athletic, yet lacks speed and range. He should do just fine in right field, as it won’t exploit his arm, range, and lack of speed as the other outfield positions would. Who he can be at the plate is why the Royals shelled out the big bucks for him. If he hits, he should hit for a pretty good average and a ton of power, making him a middle of the order stud hitter. Will he hit? That’s going to take some time to figure out. I would expect him to start the season in extended spring training, followed by play in the AZL, APPY, or back to the Pioneer. He’s still young, so there is time to be patient. ETA:2017.
2012 by the numbers: .208/.256/.280, 14 XBH(0 HR), 2 SB, .283 BABIP, 66/14 K/BB ratio in 250 ab’s at Rookie-A. 2011 IFA, Dominican Republic.
13. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B 11/16/1992 H:6’1″ W:190 - At some point you have to stop justifying things with “he was the youngest player at his position at that level” and reevaluate things. While Cuthbert was indeed very young for the High-A Carolina league at 19 years old in 2012, he struggled with it. The Royals shouldn’t make the mistake of sending him to AA. Instead they need to slow him down and let him repeat High-A. There’s plus raw power there, but his pitch recognition is terrible at times. He was very unlucky with a .274 BABIP, so his struggles could have been mental as well. Sometimes these kids will press and make things worse. On a bright note, he lowered his K rate to almost 15%. Expect a bounce back season for him as long as the Royals keep him in High-A to start the season. Defensively, he has the arm, range, and glove to stay at 3B long term. ETA: 2015.
14. Alexis Rivera, OF 6/17/1994 H:6’2″ W:225 - Voted as an Arizona League All-Star, The big kid from Puerto Rico hit .341/.413/.477 with 9 SB and a 29/23 K/BB ratio as a 17/18 year old in the AZL in 2012. He’s got a strong muscular build shows plus raw power from the left side. Rivera already shows decent pitch recognition, has good bat speed, and hits to all fields. Defensively, he has good arm strength, gets a good read and jump on the ball, and ranges well. He’s one to watch as he will likely move into full season play in 2013. ETA: 2016.
15. Angel Baez, RHP 2/14/1991 H:6’3″ W:225 - After a rocky season in 2011 in the Pioneer League, Baez bounced back in his first taste of full season ball, going 6-5 with a 3.17 ERA and had a 83/31 K/BB ratio over 76.2 innings at Low-A. The overall career record doesn’t say much about the pitch combo, but it’s highlighted by a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 98. His change is near average but still needs work to become a major league offering. He’s going to need to focus on his breaking ball this year. Currently a slurvy curveball, he’s going to be asked to tighten the pitch and focus on a slider. He should be ready for High-A in 2013. That breaking ball is the difference between him remaining a SP or becoming a power RP. ETA 2015.
16. Bryan Brickhouse, RHP 6/6/1992 H:6’0″ W:205 - The former high school teammate of Jameson Taillon, Brickhouse was drafted a year later. He throws a low 90′s fastball that can hit 94-96 mph as well as a curveball and changeup that flash plus. His command has been his main issue so far and it has a lot to do with how much movement he gets on his fastball. Once he’s able to lock that command in, he’s going to be a touch pitcher to square up. He made his professional debut in 2012, albeit shaky. He’s going to need find the confidence to trust his stuff and let it shine. He should begin the season at Low-A again and find himself building innings in High-A midway through. Look for him to touch 100+ innings in 2013. ETA: 2016.
17. Kyle Smith, RHP 9/10/1992 H:5’11″ W:175 - The 2011 4th round draft pick signed too late in 2011 to get into action that season. He made his pro debut in 2012 and shined. He went 5-3 with a 2.86 ERA and a 98/21 K/BB ratio between the Pioneer League and the Low-A Midwest League. He should return to Low-A in 2013, but this time it will be in the Sally as KC jumps from the MWL and it might not be a long stretch. Typical stuff for prospect pitcher at his stage: 88-92 mph fastball, above average curve, and a changeup that needs work. He might uptick in 2013 based on late season velocity showing 93-94 more regularly. He’s got #3-#4 upside. ETA 2015.
18. J.C.Sulbaran, RHP 11/9/1989 H:6’2″ W:220 - Sulbaran was struggling in the Southern League before his trade from the Cincinnati Reds to the Royals as part of the Jonathan Broxton deal, and then struggles escalated in his short time in the Texas League. He finished the season 7-11 with a 4.75 ERA and a 135/76 K/BB ratio over 130.2 innings. He did manage to stay healthy for the 1st time in several years. He features a low 90′s fastball that can range up to 94 mph, to go with a plus curve and average changeup. The problem is his command isn’t as sharp as it should be. His stock clearly dropped with the Reds and the Royals are gambling that he will return to his previous form. Perhaps joining former high school teammate Eric Hosmer in the majors will be added motivation for him. ETA:2014.
19. Ramon Torres, 2B 1/22/1993 H:5’11″ W:160 – Torres is a solid middle infielder, playing mostly SS so far in his career, but a move to 2B seems in play this year. He has solid arm and despite his size, he has surprising pop in his bat to go along with plus speed. He’s a switch-hitter with more power from the right side, but a much more polished hitter from the left side. He’ll need to develop from the right side to remain a switch-hitter. He’s going to stick in the MI, his bat will determine if he can be a regular though. ETA: 2016
20. Wander Franco, 3B 12/12/1994 H:6’0″ W:165 - Some decent speed there with a little pop from the Dominican, but may never grow into the body you would expect for a 3B. Hard to get too excited about Dominican Summer League numbers, but was impressive in his pro debut as a 17 year old nonetheless. Triple slash of .311/.431/.434 with 13 SB and an impressive 30/44 K/BB ration in 235 at bats. He hits both lefties and righties well and patience at this age is a solid sign of future development. If he grows into his frame he could be a top prospect. ETA: 2017.
21. Cristian Cano, 2B 2/9/1994 H:6’2″ W:170 - Franco’s DSL teammate, Cano a native of Colombia, posted a .291/.419/.372 triple slash to go with 9 SB and a good 39/41 K/BB ratio over 196 ab’s in his pro debut. He has some speed, but we will have to see how he fills out before we can project any power. With his size though there is room to grow and add power. He’ll need it, because sticking at 2B looks like it might be tough. ETA: 2017.
Other players to watch in 2013: Cam Gallagher, Ashton Goudeau, Donnie Joseph, Luis Lara, Pedro Fernandez, David Lough, Kenny Diekroeger, Humberto Arteaga, Alfredo Escalera-Maldanado, Colin Rodgers, Brooks Pounders, Chad Johnson, Chris Dwyer, Brian Fletcher, Brett Eibner, Zach Lovvorn, Hunter Haynes, Greg Billo.
For a complete list of the Top 21′s visit the 2013 Top 21′s Page
Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon as we release our top 21 prospects for each organization. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our top 360 prospects from 2012, and we will be updating it for 2013 soon. Also check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be, so don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at email@example.com. And while you’re at it head over to Facebook and join the Instinct page. You can also follow us on twitter: @BaseballInstinc.