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Looking Ahead: 2011 High Minors

We’re down to the final two parts of my organizational report for 2011 and today we take a look at the high minors of the organization. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll classify the high minors as AA and AAA. My top 15 Royals prospects could conceivably be a companion piece. We’re now into the strength of the Royals organization, the farm system. When Baseball America releases their top 100 list and ranks every farm system, it’d be an upset if the Royals are not number one. Let me be the 1,391,202,129th to tell you that all but one team with the top farm system since 1992 has made the playoffs within four years.

Since I’ve already written about many of these guys, this might end up being a little bit of a shorter post. That said, I’ve planned on writing short posts before and 1,700 words later I finish. For this look ahead, I’m going to go over the players of note at both Omaha* and Northwest Arkansas.

*Have they picked a name for the Omaha team yet? I think that might be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard. Of course, this is coming from the team who changed their name to the Golden Spikes for one year…or was it two? Either way, not long enough to make a branding impact.

Omaha Royals (we’ll stick with this for now) 
Mike Moustakas: Of course, he is the big name in Omaha. He’s slated to be the first of the top prospects to make his major league debut. Well, the first if you don’t count one of the reliever prospects who might make the opening day roster. My guess is that Moustakas has very little shot to make the big club, nor should he. Let’s not forget that prior to his breakout 2010, he had two uneven years, though only 2009 could be classified as a disappointment. His path to the majors is blocked mostly by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but he will benefit from a couple of months in AAA to get everything completely in order to hit the ground running when he’s called up.

Eric Hosmer: Dayton Moore and the Royals have long maintained that they believe Hosmer is such a mature hitter that he can move through the system quickly and they’ve never been afraid to push him. I think it’s about 50/50 whether he starts the year in Omaha or Northwest Arkansas, but for this exercise we’ll assume Omaha. He’s got a very good chance to make his Major League debut in 2011, but a lot of that will depend on Ka’aihue. While Kila will never take priority over Hosmer, his performance would allow the Royals to both delay Hosmer’s service clock and be absolutely sure he’s ready for the majors. I think he’s most likely up in September, but if he does something silly like hit .377/.491/.682, the Royals will have no choice but to make room for him.

Danny Duffy: I think Duffy starts the year in Omaha. He could conceivably go to AA to start, but I think he’s probably the first of the big four lefties to make it to the majors and even has a chance to make the Opening Day roster. He’s struggled a bit in the AFL which is slightly disconcerting because workload shouldn’t be the factor for him that it seems to be for some of the other pitchers. Duffy doesn’t have the ceiling of Montgomery, Lamb or Dwyer or maybe even Crow, but he still has a chance to be very good. I think he has a chance to be in the majors at any point during the 2011 season. It appears as though the Royals are not going to resign Chen and Dayton Moore loves a lefty in the rotation.

Everett Teaford: I’ve said this before on this very blog, but I think Teaford has a great shot at starting the season in the majors, but if he doesn’t, he will almost assuredly be here. He’s not a top prospect in the traditional sense of being 21 and dominating levels, but he has a chance to be a solid contributor at the top level in some way. We’ve discussed his increased velocity and his solid numbers as a starter, and he could impact the big club in that way. I think his future is ultimately a reliever, and the time is now to find out what the Royals have in him.

Johnny Giavotella: Giavotella and Hosmer are similar to me in that either one could start at either AA or AAA. I have a feeling that where Hosmer goes, so goes Giavotella, at least throughout the minors. I think if they truly believe that this is the right side of the infield of the future that they should get used to each other and learn each other’s every tendency. He’s another guy whose path to the majors sort of depends on the guys in front of him. While ultimately a guy like Aviles or Getz isn’t going to block him, the Royals have the opportunity here to be very careful.

David Lough: Lough may be my favorite non-elite prospect. He’s been compared to David DeJesus in that he does a lot of things but none of them at a superstar level. I think he has a chance to be better than DeJesus. They have about equal power, but Lough is faster than DDJ. His walk rate improved so dramatically in the second half that you have to wonder if things just clicked for him. My guess is DeJesus gets traded this year and Lough is the guy who replaces him.

Louis Coleman: If Coleman doesn’t start the year in the majors, he’ll be here. He’s probably ready for Major League relief duty now, but the Royals have some other guys on the 40 man who they might rather take a look at to start the year just for the purpose of figuring out what they have. If the Royals were expected to contend, Coleman would be a shoo-in for a bullpen role, but 2011 will be an evaluation year, so it makes sense to take a look at as many arms as possible.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Mike Montgomery: Here’s the big name in NWA. Montgomery struggled through some injuries in 2010, but they didn’t take much of the luster off his prospect status. He’s still considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game, though he may have actually been passed by John Lamb. If not for his injuries in 2010, he’d be a candidate to start 2011 in AAA or even the majors, but AA is the place for him to start. With success, he’ll almost certainly get a taste of Omaha and maybe even Kansas City. He’s very close to ready, just needs a little refinement.

John Lamb: While Lamb may be the higher rated prospect between he and Montgomery, I think that Lamb is a little farther away. I’d like to see him spend most of the year in AA and get to AAA maybe in July or August to get a bit of a taste. Then in 2012, he can be on the Moustakas plan and make a mid-season impact on the hopefully contending Royals. Lamb was a bit overmatched when he first got called up to AA which is why I advocate him being there most of the season. He started to taste success toward the end of the season, and I’d love to see him build on that.

Christian Colon: Colon is advanced and began to pick things up with the bat as the season progressed. He’ll start at AA and I would guess be in the majors no later than September. I believe the organizational hope is that he’s the starting shortstop on Opening Day 2012. 2011 will go a long way toward determining that. I’m very optimistic for Colon breaking out this year in that park and with the tutelage of Terry Bradshaw (blog post coming soon about him). Colon may be the reason that Giavotella starts 2011 in AA if the organization wants to pair them together.

Chris Dwyer: As I mentioned in my top prospects list, my only concern with Dwyer making the leap from very good prospect to elite is his walk rate. He’s got electric stuff and the ability to dominate a game, but as things stand right now, he’s liable to walk seven in five innings. I think at least another year of development will be absolutely huge for him. I think he makes his Major League debut in 2012, maybe at the start of the year.

Aaron Crow: Crow is possibly the biggest wild card in the system aside from maybe Tim Melville. He has great stuff, a hard fastball, lots of sink and after his demotion to A ball his command returned. It’s time to put that into action. The hope by both the organization and me is that it was just rust that led to his down 2010, but it’s going to take a very strong 2011 performance to wash this season out of our minds. If he’s successful he has a chance to be on the big club by mid-season. If he fails, well, let’s hope he doesn’t fail.

Wil Myers: As anyone who reads this blog knows, Myers may be the best of any of these elite prospects. He’s offensively more mature than just about anybody in the minor leagues, but the question is his position on the field. His bat is ready for AA (and maybe even AAA), but it appears the Royals are ready to begin transitioning to the outfield, and I’m just not sure where they’ll do that. One school of thought is that AA is a perfect place to learn right field while the other school says to keep him where he’s comfortable, at least in the beginning stages. His athleticism lends well to the outfield, and I’m almost positive he’ll pick it up and be at least average from the get go.

And as I suspected, my short blog post is now approaching 1,700 words. This farm system just continues to amaze me. This is just two levels. Next week we’ll take a look at another ten or 12 names who could make an impact in the near future.

  1. wizscape
    November 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Do you have any info on Jeff Bianchi? I saw he’s in the AFL but it doesn’t look like he’s played much. I don’t really consider him much of a prospect anymore, but I didn’t like to see you hangin’ with no comments.

  2. November 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for popping the comment cherry on this one!

    I don’t have any real information on Bianchi, but I’d expect him to be playing in April and probably full strength by June or July just based on Tommy John timelines from other players. He’s a good kid and still might have a strong career. I fear, though, that he’s going to be passed by before he proves he’s back.

  3. Patrick
    November 8, 2010 at 10:50 am

    How much of Crow’s improvement do would you attribute to him moving down from AA to high A, especially considering that the Wilmington park is notoriously pitcher friendly?

  4. November 8, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I think the move to Wilmington had a decent amount to do with it, but I also think he put things together a little bit better. We’ll definitely find out next season. I don’t think the Royals will be cautious with throwing him at either AA or maybe even AAA if he looks good in spring training. The good (and bad) thing about Crow is that I think we’ll know what the Royals have in him pretty quickly one way or another.

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