So far, we've looked at 4 of the systems in the Majors, and seen some good and some not-so-good. Moving forward, we're onto last year's top system, the Kansas City Royals. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:
While this system isn't quite as good as it was last year, that's a nearly impossible standard to live up to. However, the team still has quite a few pieces which are on their way towards the Majors.
Ready in 2012
Montgomery was pushed pretty aggressively, as he made just 13 starts above High-A prior to the 2011 season. The numbers don't look particularly good, especially the amount of walks he allowed (69). That said, Baseball America still ranked Montgomery as their #7 prospect in the PCL last year. Here's what Clint Scoles over at Baseball Instinct ha to say about Montgomery as a part of their Royals' top 10 prospect list:
The big lefty's biggest problems at this point is finding consistency with his looping curveball and with the strikezone throughout an entire start as he tended to lose it at times. He started to work with a cutter late in the season which combined with his change could keep righthanders off of his fastball. Montgomery can flash the stuff that makes him look like a potential #1 but he’ll need to find consistency with his curve to achieve that goal.
There's still a lot to like with Montgomery, and he could break into the Royals' rotation at some point during the season. It seems like he could get a shot during Spring Training, but with Jonathan Sanchez, Luke Hochevar, and Bruce Chen locked into spots, they may send him back to AAA unless he clearly out-pitches everyone in the competition.
Could Be Ready in 2014
Myers was converted from catcher to right field after the 2010 season, as his bat was expected to move him through the minor leagues faster than his glove could keep up. Myers missed portions of last season with injuries, most notably a knee infection and another knee injury as well. Regardless, Myers profiles to be a top-flight prospect with the potential to be a top-tier outfielder, both for the Royals and for fantasy owners. Here's what Kevin Goldstein had to say about him when he ranked him as the top prospect in the Royals system:
The Good: Myers can flat-out hit. He has bat speed, fantastic hands, and the ability to make in-pitch adjustments. His hitting ability is improved by a big league-level approach. While he's yet to put up big power numbers, scouts believe it will come as he learns how to drive balls. He made great strides in his first year in the outfield; he projects as an average right fielder with an above-average arm.
The Bad: There are times when Myers’ approach walks the fragile line between disciplined and passive; he lets plenty of hittable pitches go by. He's a 40-45 runner who will never have much range in the outfield. Scouts believe he'll hit and get on base, but they vary greatly on his power potential, with responses on his home-run ceiling ranging from 15-25-plus.
Realistically, he looks to me like he could be a 20-30 home run outfielder with a solid to high batting average once he gets to the Majors, which could be as soon as the end of 2012. Realistically, I don't think he will be a solid contributor at the Major League level until 2013 or possibly 2014, as the team does not need to rush him at the moment.
Odorizzi was one of the key pieces the Royals acquired in return for Zack Greinke, and was extremely impressive in his first season in the Royals system. Here's what Steve Kuperman had to say over at Bullpen Banter during the season:
Kuperman had a lot of other excellent tidbits about Odorizzi's stuff, and it's definitely worth your time to read it. I think that he could start 2012 in AAA potentially, and force his way to the Majors by the end of the season possibly. More realistically, I think he won't be up until sometime in 2013 though, as they don't really need to rush him either.
Herrera was pushed up through the ranks last year after being converted to the bullpen, and could push his way into the mix for the Major League bullpen after finishing out 2011 at AAA. Here's what Greg Schaum over at the Pine Tar Press had to say about him as a part of his scouting report:
Kelvin Herrera is a former starting pitching prospect that could not stay healthy. But, he has an electric arm that is well suited for the bullpen. He throws an excellent 95-96 mph fastball and has a plus change up around 80 MPH. He has a very good curveball but it is still very inconsistent.
I don't think that he will be ready to take over a closer's job in 2012 or 2013, but the reports about him seem to point toward that being his long-term role with the team. Ideally, he could mentor under both Joakim Soria and Jonathan Broxton this year, and provide another live arm for a bullpen that is getting stronger.
Long-Term Prospects (Won't Be Ready until At Least 2015)
Starling was the top draft pick of the Royals in last June's draft, going #5 overall. He received $7.5 M to keep him from going to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska, and it looks like it may very well be money well spent by the Royals. Here's what John Sickels had to say about Starling as a part of his top 20 propsects for the Royals, where he ranked Starling #1:
He will be in my Top 50 hitters, although I don't exactly know where yet. Enormous upside with power/speed/Winfield-like potential, but rawness an issue, and I regard this grade and ranking as somewhat risky.
I want to see what Starling can do once he starts playing as a professional, but his upside may be extremely high, and should definitely be targeted in all dynasty leagues. I think he could start in a full-season league if the Royals want to push him, especially given that he will be 20 before the end of the 2012 season.
Cuthbert was a popular target in the minor league portion of the Fake Teams dynasty league, and it definitely appears that there was good reason for that. Here's what John had to say about Cuthbert, while giving him a B+ grade:
If he hadn't slumped so badly in August this would be a no-brain A- grade. He was the youngest regular in the Midwest League and dominated much of the season. Defense may be an issue but bat could be special.
The fact that Cuthbert played the full season in the Midwest League at 18 really bodes well for him long-term, and while he probably won't be ready for another few years, there's a lot to like about his future. A bit of disagreement about his defense, as Baseball Instinct had this to say about his defense:
At 18 he carried a .900 OPS through July until an injury and fatigue slowed him down and put him into a major August slump decreasing his numbers. Cheslor has shown above average defense with good agility and a good arm that will make him a above average defender in the future.
Overall, I think he's definitely worth a look in all keeper and dynasty leagues. I think that if he can repeat his performance in 2012, he could vault to the top of prospect lists.