Royals in the Caribbean: Puerto Rico League Primer

Today the Puerto Rico Winter League kicks off.  In the spirit of consistency, here is a look at Royals’ players who are currently assigned to rosters.

Puerto Rico Winter League:

  • RHP-Mario Santiago (24) [Gigantes de Carolina]:  The Royals drafted Mario in the 16th round of the 2005 draft out of Baton Rouge Community College.  He is unique in the fact that he is the only Royals pitching prospect on a Puerto Rico Winter League roster.  He spent 2009 as a part of the Wilmington rotation and threw 136.0 IP with a 4.30 ERA, 1.419 WHIP, 159 H, 34 BB, and 97 SO.  It was Mario’s second straight season with the Blue Rocks and he regressed a bit compared to 2008.
  • 2B-Irving Falu (26) [Indios de Mayaguez]:  Falu was drafted by the Royals in the 21st round of the 2003 draft out of Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.  In 2009 he got his first extended shot against Triple-A competition.  With Omaha he hit 0.269/.342/.344 with 2 HR, 12 SB, 52 BB, and 35 SO in 465 AB.  In seven minor league seasons he has drawn 277 walks and struck out only 237 times.  Falu is also versatile having played 2B, SS, 3B, RF, and CF last season and also played some LF in 2008.  He could potentially be a younger and cheaper version of Willie Bloomquist down the road if he ever gets a chance.
  • C-Fernando Cruz (19) [Leones de Ponce]:  The Royals drafted Cruz in the 6th round of the 2007 draft out of Puerto Rico Advancement College.  After spending most of 2007 and 2008 playing 3B, Cruz moved behind the plate for 25 of his 51 games with the Burlington Royals.  He hit 0.277/.308/.394 with 3 HR, 2 SO, 7 BB, and 23 SO in 188 AB.  Cruz has shown steady progression in each of his three professional seasons and is definitely an intriguing guy to keep an eye on this winter and in 2010.
  • SS-Mike Aviles (28) [Leones de Ponce]:  Aviles was drafted in the 7th round of the 2003 draft out of Concordia College in New York.  After bursting on to the ML scene in 2008 with an outstanding rookie campaign, 2009 was completely forgettable and ended with Tommy John surgery.  Capable of playing 2B, SS, and 3B, a healthy Aviles is one of the keys to the 2010 season for the Royals.
  • 2B-Fernando Garcia (21) [Lobos de Arecibo]:  The Royals drafted Garcia in the 28th round of the 2007 draft out of Manatee Community College.  They also drafted him in the 32nd round of the 2006 draft.  After playing for the Idaho Falls Chukars in both 2007 and 2008, Fernando spent all of 2009 playing 2B for Low-A Burlington.  He hit 0.260/.392/.345 with 1 HR, 29 SB, 61 BB and 56 SO in 296 AB.  He possesses the almost mythical skill, at least for Royals prospects, of plate discipline and it was on full display in 2009.  Garcia improved across the board against more advanced competition, which is definitely a good sign, and frankly a nice change of pace.
  • OF-Alex Llanos (19) [Lobos de Arecibo]:  Llanos was drafted by the Royals in the 6th round of the 2008 draft out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School.  He started out 2009 with the AZL Royals and hit 0.311/.366/.467 with 3 HR, 15 SB, 10 BB, 35 SO in 122 AB.  He was promoted to Idaho Falls in early August and had some struggles hitting just 0.223/.252/.277 with 0 HR, 3 SB, 5 BB, and 42 SO in 130 AB.  Llanos has youth on his side, but only 15 BB to go with 77 SO does not predict future success when he faces more advanced pitching.
  • OF-Adrian Ortiz (22) [Lobos de Arecibo]:  The Royals drafted Ortiz, out of Pepperdine University, in the 5th round of the 2007 draft.  He came into the season ranked by Baseball America as the Royals’ 22nd best prospect but 2009 wound up being a disaster.  In 2008 Ortiz hit 0.309/.345/.389 in 525 AB while splitting time between Low-A Burlington and High-A Wilmington.  Adrian started his 2009 season with Wilmington, but was demoted in mid-July after hitting just 0.238/.267/.289 with 0 HR, 12 SB, 9 BB, and 47 SO in 256 AB for the Blue Rocks.  Upon his return to the Bees, he continued to struggle and hit 0.244/.268/.313 with 0 HR, 10 SB, 6 BB, and 21 SO in 176 AB.  Plate discipline is clearly an issue.  In his 3 minor league seasons, he has drawn 48 BB to go with 183 SO.  His SB success rate did improve going from 63% in 2008 up to 73% in 2009.  Compared to the rest of his season, it was a very minor victory and with the speed he has, there is plenty of room for improvement in this area of his game as well.  His speed rates out as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he is an excellent defensive player with a strong and accurate arm, so he’s got those things going for him heading into 2010.  The tough decision for the organization at this point is figuring out whether to send him back to Low or High-A to start next season.

(Wally Fish is Kings of Kauffman’s lead blogger. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)

Tags: Adrian Ortiz AL Central Alex Llanos Baseball Fernando Cruz Fernando Garcia Irving Falu Kansas City Royals KC Mario Santiago Mike Aviles MLB Puerto Rican Winter League Royals

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