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What to Expect in 2011 From the Prospects

We’ve talked in recent days about guys who could come up to the big leagues early in 2011 and make an impact throughout the season, but today I want to focus on the guys who we could and should see at points throughout the season. These are the guys who you’ve all heard about and you’ve heard all the comparable players for, but I’m going to talk about the expectations we should have for them for this upcoming season alone. Keep in mind as you watch these players through their rookie year that very few players make an impact like Buster Posey or Jason Heyward did this past season. Even the best rookie seasons tend to pale in comparison to what a lot of players end up doing throughout their career. There aren’t a lot of players like Albert Pujols in the world who light up the stat sheet in their rookie year and then never come back.

The first group of players we should see comes through the bullpen. That’s a part of the process that we should see from Opening Day throughout the season. I think guys like Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Everett Teaford and maybe even Aaron Crow have an opportunity to make the club out of Spring Training as relievers. Ultimately, that will be the home for Coleman and Collins, but Teaford and Crow have the opportunity to be starters in their careers. I think that Teaford ends up in the bullpen as well, but he might be able to go on to a career as a starter either with the Royals or elsewhere.

So let’s take a look first at Coleman and Collins. I don’t have a basis for this argument, but it seems like relievers tend to debut better than position players or starters over the course of a full season. My guess is that it has a lot to do with sample size issues. In so few innings, it’s difficult for hitters to adjust to a new pitcher and/or a new style. Now obviously, some relievers come up to the big leagues and struggle immensely before figuring out or some without ever figuring it out. Another reason that some relievers may do well upon arriving in the big leagues is because they’re deceptive. Maybe their delivery can’t hold up over seven innings per game and 200 innings per season, but it works for an inning at a time and 65-70 innings per season. That looks to be the case with both Coleman and Collins. There’s a lot of deception in both of their deliveries.

With both, I think we can expect strong debuts in 2011 and then maybe some drop off in 2012 as the league catches on. I love both of their abilities to get a strikeout in a tough situation and Coleman does an excellent job of also getting groundballs in tough situations. Both will be valuable members of the bullpen for years to come, but especially in 2011. I think these two are about the only ones who we can look at their minor league numbers and account for just a bit of drop-off before coming to the conclusion of what we can expect from their 2011 season. Both will strike guys out (think 8 K/9 or so) and both will be very effective for the Royals.

The other two mentioned above were Teaford and Crow. I think both make their debuts in 2011, and I think Teaford is both first and worse than Crow. I really love the way his prospect status skyrocketed after his 2010 season, but I’m a bit skeptical until I find out if his newfound velocity can last. I think he gets a shot to take a rotation spot after an injury or a bout with ineffectiveness that I could see from Bruce Chen. I don’t think we should expect much from Teaford in 2011. He might end up able to carve out a long career, but starters often struggle, and Teaford will probably be no different. Crow, on the other hand, I think will be fantastic from the get go. Some will argue that he had such a poor 2010 that it seems silly to predict instant success in the Majors, but I predict it for two reasons. The first is that I don’t think he even sniffs the Majors without significant improvement over last season. The second is that I think Crow is the type of pitcher that will benefit greatly from actually being in the big leagues over the minors. I think he’s hurt by inferior defenses behind him and he might even have concentration lapses as he’s clearly an extremely talented pitcher. My guess is that Crow debuts in the rotation for the same reasons that Teaford does or maybe even some team is desperate and trades for Kyle Davies. Okay, maybe that’s not realistic. Either way, I think once he hits the big leagues, he will be a number three starter from the get go with the chance to propel into a top of the rotation guy.

I think any of the big four left handers have a chance to debut in 2011, but none will make any kind of significant impact. There’s been some discussion about Danny Duffy even making the team out of Spring Training, but with such a low inning total from last year, I think the Royals are going to be pretty careful with him which means limited impact on the Royals club. Dwyer is probably a year and a half away still as he hones his control while Montgomery and Lamb could both make their debuts in 2011, but too late in the season to have any real impact. I think both of them could reasonably start 2012 in the rotation, though.

The pitching is where most of the 2011 Process action will take place, but we’ll see one notable player debut and that’s Mike Moustakas. He was actually the impetus behind writing this post as I keep going back and forth in my mind about what we could expect from him. On one hand, he’s so good at making solid contact that he shouldn’t have a huge problem making the jump. On the other hand, though, his lack of walks concerns me a little bit as he makes the jump to the higher levels. He’ll be given an outside chance at winning the third base job out of camp, but I think he’ll end up back in Omaha for a couple of months. Many will assume it’s purely because of service time, and that will play a role, but I think he needs at least a little more time in Omaha to prove the adjustments he made at the end of the year are for real.

I’m not the only one who is concerned by the fact that Moustakas doesn’t take too many walks, but it should also be noted that he doesn’t strike out much at all, for anyone let alone a power hitter. That will bode well for future success in the big leagues. I’ve seen people predict that he could be a .260/.330/.550 type hitter throughout his career or could even be a .300/.350/.550 guy. Either one would be fine by me. The Royals have been power starved for their whole existence and Moustakas is a guy who I think can hold the top five spots on the Royals home run record list. I wouldn’t expect greatness, though, in 2011. I think Moustakas will hold his own once he’s here and will hit a lot of homers. He might even lead the team for the season. My guess is that he struggles in June when he first arrives before having a nice August and a very good September. I think we’re looking at an All-Star here, but not until 2012 or 2013. I could see something like a final line of .255/.320/.490 when it’s all said and done in 2011 for Moose.

With all these young players making their debuts, 2011 and 2012 are huge seasons for the Royals. In 2011, I think they’re the type of team who could start something like 29-52 but finish 45-36 to end up with an almost respectable win total. 2012 is another development year, but I don’t think that .500 or even fringe contention is out of reach either if they can get some experience going for the young guys this season. Young players almost never play as well in their rookie season as they do in subsequent years, so it’s important to get the growing pains out of the way for the time when these players need to be key components on championship ball clubs. We’re just ten days away from pitchers and catchers. It’s starting soon.

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