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Looking Ahead: 2011 Low Minors

The lower levels of the minor leagues are an interesting place. They are filled with a combination of incredibly talented players and players who are there for the sole purpose of filling a roster spot. Watching a game of an A-ball team is always fun because it’s easy to spot the top prospect who is coming through that level on their way to stardom. My recommendation is to attend an A-ball game and find the top prospect on the field. Check out prospect rankings before you go and find him. Then just watch him the entire game. It’s an absolute blast.

For this version of Looking Ahead I thought I’d change things up again a little bit. As the low minors are filled with guys who have plenty of time to flame out, it’s tough to pinpoint which of them will hold their value and actually become Major League stars. It’s one thing to dominate on a field in, say, Kane County, but it gets tougher at each level. So what I’ve done is identified a few guys to watch in the low minors who I think, if they’re not already, will be well known names on next year’s prospect lists.

Jason Adam – The local boy on the list, Adam went to Blue Valley Northwest High School and was selected in the fifth round. Due to signing for signficantly over slot, his signing was not announced until the deadline. He did not pitch as the Royals were making some tweaks in his delivery and from all reports those tweaks paid off big time. A few analysts have said that if the draft was now that Adam would be a first rounder. He has a long way to go as he’s still a teenager and he hasn’t yet pitched in the organization, but he could be something special. He’s said that he’s been a Royals fan his entire life, so it’s hard not to root for the kid to make it to the majors to pitch for the team for which he roots.

Michael Antonio – The third round pick in the 2010 draft, many believed the Royals reached here while some believed they got good value. He’s far from polished, but he’s an athletic shortstop prospect. It looks like he won’t be able to stick at shortstop, and could move to third base or the outfield moderately quickly. He projects as a guy who could develop some serious power to go along with his athleticism. Unfortunately, I don’t know a ton about him other than that he’s a player I’m extremely interested in seeing in 2011. Don’t be surprised if he has a slow season in 2011 as the Royals are making changes with his mechanics. He’s a guy to really watch in 2012 after he’s had a year to process the organizational philosophy.

Brett Eibner – Eibner isn’t going to be your typical low minors player. He’s a college guy who is pretty raw from a hitting standpoint. Players from the SEC don’t often have the profile of Eibner. He’s a power hitter who, right now, can play center. My guess is that he’ll be a right fielder pretty soon, though, as he has a cannon for an arm (some believed he was a better pitcher in college and would have been drafted in the second or third round that way). Eibner will be in the low minors to start 2011 to work on some potential holes in his swing and to refine his plate discipline. He has the potential to move at lightning speed through the system if he picks up on what the organization has him working on quickly. I wouldn’t be terribly shocked to see him in 2012 at some point, but I also wouldn’t bet on that. Either way, Eibner will be a fun player to watch in 2011.

Salvador Perez – As it looks more and more like Wil Myers is beginning his transition into the outfield, Sal Perez is looking like the catcher of the future. Perez began to show some promise with the bat during the 2009 season, but regressed when he moved up to A ball. In 2010, he spent the entire season in Wilmington, a bit of an aggressive promotion after he struggled in Burlington, and hit well. The thing that jumps out from his batting line is a lack of strikeouts. He had just 38 in 397 plate appearances last year and has struck out just 98 times in 986 career plate appearances. His offense is important because his defense is of little to no concern to anybody. As soon as he really starts hitting, Perez will fly through the system. I’ve heard a comp to Sandy Alomar, Jr. before and I would certainly take that.

Yordano Ventura – It’s really early to be getting excited about a guy like Ventura, but he had a very strong campaign in rookie ball in 2010 and showed the tools to become a top prospect. In 52 innings, he walked just 17 and struck out 58. For a pitcher as raw as Ventura, those numbers really stick out as fantastic. I’m planning to get to know more about Ventura throughout the 2011 season, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him in my list of whom to watch.

Robinson Yambati – 2010 was Yambati’s second season in professional baseball, but he’ll be just 20 when the 2011 season begins. He has a big frame that should fill out as he gets older which will add to his already impressive fastball. The thing I love about Yambati is his control with only 12 walks in 66 innings after walking 14 in 27 innings in 2009. He really improved on that. My biggest concern about him is that I just feel like he should be dominating his league more at his age and size, but it’s hard to complain about a 5.3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. If he can maintain anything near that, he’ll shoot through the system.

So that’s a look at a few of the guys who should highlight the low minors for the Royals. Some other names to keep an eye on are Noel Arguellas (maybe), Cheslor Cuthbert, Justin Marks, Crawford Simmons and Will Smith. There’s’ actually been talk that this level of Royals prospects is even more impressive than the current wave that is making its way to the majors. Time will tell on that, but wouldn’t that be amazing? I’m looking forward to it!

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