Over the coming weeks, Craig and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.
Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.
The Royals consistently are noted for having one of the best systems in the minors, and while graduations in previous years have moved it downward somewhat, that is the best reason for it to happen at all. They still have an easy top-5 talent, and a few top-100 talents, which is more than most systems can boast. Whether the Royals can use these players to translate to improved performance in Kansas City seems to be the biggest question, as players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez start to reach their primes.
Graduates in 2012
Jarrod Dyson, Kelvin Herrera, Will Smith, Everett Teaford
AAA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who reached either AAA Omaha or the Majors in 2012. Generally they are expected to see the Majors in 2013, potentially for a significant amount of time.
I'm not really sure at this point what else there is to say about Myers. He led the minor leagues with 37 home runs between AA and AAA, and appears to be ready to take over as the starting RF for the Royals. He is probably one of the top 5 prospects in the minors right now, and it really isn't much of a discussion. He's very likely to provide excellent power production along with a high batting average at his peak, but just be aware that he may not do that in his first full season in the Majors. Realistically, the only thing holding him back at the moment is whether the Royals decide to let Jeff Francoeur play his way out of the job before bringing up Myers.
Jake Odorizzi (BBRef Statistics)
Acquired in the Zack Greinke trade, Odorizzi pitched at three levels in 2012, including the Majors in September. He made the majority of his starts at AAA, posting a 2.93 ERA and an 88/40 K/BB ratio in 107+ innings in the hitter friendly PCL. Odorizzi will likely be given an opportunity to win a starting rotation spot by the Royals this spring, and with Luis Mendoza and Chris Volstad currently slotted into the #4 and #5 spots according to MLB Depth Charts, he may not have a lot to overcome to win the job. Out of the gate, he seems like a streaming candidate with the potential upside of more for the 2013 season.
AA in 2012
These are players who reached the Royals' Texas League affiliate in Northwest Arkansas in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.
Ventura started the season in High-A Wilmington, and was promoted to AA after starting the Futures Game for the World team. Known for his 100 mph fastball, there have been concerns about whether Ventura is better suited to be a reliever or a starter in the long term. Across both levels, Ventura struck out 130 and walked 42 in just 109 innings pitched. I would have to imagine that Ventura will return to AA to start the 2013 season, and if he can improve on his walk rate while there (4 BB/9 IP), we could be looking at a potentially top 50 prospect after the season.
High-A in 2012
These players reached the Royals' Carolina League affiliate in Wilmington, and are likely to be at least 2 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.
Low-A in 2012
These are prospects who reached Low-A during the 2012 season, playing for the Royals' Midwest League affiliate in Kane County. These players are likely at least two to three full seasons away from arriving in Kansas City.
Craig profiled Bonifacio back in April, and while Bonifacio got off to a fast start in Low-A this year, his numbers were still solid, but did drop him back some in comparison to where he had been after April. He finished the year with a .282/.336/.432 slash line with 10 home runs and 6 stolen bases in 105 games. I tend to agree with the sentiment Craig provided that Bonifacio will be a level-per-year type of prospect, but it will be extremely interesting to see if Bonifacio's production will start to play closer to the level his tools have shown at times.
Kyle Zimmer (BBRef Statistics)
Zimmer was the Royals' top draft pick in 2012, taken 5th overall. Drafted out of the University of San Francisco, Zimmer finished his year with the Royals' Low-A affiliate in Kane County and notching a 42/13 K/BB rate between the two levels. However, his season ended a little bit early, as he underwent elbow surgery in late August to "remove loose bodies" from his elbow. Based on the reports within the article, it appears that this surgery is not expected to impact his 2013 season. The scouting reports on Zimmer indicate that he has potentially 3 solid to above-average pitches, along with solid command. These reports point for me toward a pitcher who could slot in as a #3 or #4 fantasy starter most years, with the upside to be even better. The key for me though is how he rebounds in the spring after the surgery, and how long it might take him to get to the Majors.
Short Season in 2012
These players made it to one of the Royals' short season affiliates in the Arizona, Pioneer or Appalachian Leagues. They are likely to be at least 3 or more seasons away from contributing at the Major League level.
Bubba Starling (BBRef Statistics)
The Royals were able to sign Starling away from a commitment to Nebraska after the 2011 draft, and he made his professional debut this season at short season Rookie Ball. The numbers point toward a player who has a ton of potential (10 HR, 10 SB, .275/.371/.485 in just 53 game), but the thing that keeps standing out to me about Starling is his age versus his level. He was older than the average high school draftee (Two months shy of 19 when drafted), and will be 20 years old for nearly all of next season. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but for a player who came into professional ball considered raw due to a lack of reps, it's not exactly what you want to see either. The potential is still massive if he can translate into the five tool player that many believed him to be at draft time, but it would definitely make me feel better if he can show solid production and scouting reports in 2013 in a full season assignment.
Others of Note
Sam Selman (SP) - Selman was the Royals' 2nd round draft pick this year, and proceeded to make Rookie League hitters look silly to the tune of 89 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. The scouting reports on Selman indicate that he may be better than his draft position might otherwise indicate, and is definitely worth watching going into 2013.
Added Later On Saturday (because apparently I was asleep while writing this post):
John Lamb (SP) - Lamb missed most of the 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery during the 2011 season. He did manage to pitch 13 innings between two rookie league affiliates this year, but the sample is so small that we really can't tell a ton from it. I will be very interested to see what he can do in 2013, as he was viewed as a top 25 prospect in a number of places prior to the injury.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS) - The son of former OF Raul Mondesi, Adalberto played in the Pioneer League this year as a 16 year old, and more than held his own. He hit .290/.346/.386 with 3 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 50 games. Minor League Ball's John Sickels recent gave Mondesi a "B" grade and ranked him as his #7 prospect in the Royals' system. Mondesi is almost entirely tools and projection at this point, but I think he's definitely worth a risk in deeper long-term formats.
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