With the Royals battling (if you can use that term) for fourth place, it’s not a bad idea to get some reassurance by looking down the line and seeing what potential lies ahead for Kansas City. This 2010 season has seen many of the more important prospects in the Royals organization find great success early in the year and many have stayed on that strong upward path.
Now a few have fizzled so far or are at least no better off now than in April. That’s at least better than regression.
I’m going to take a look over the next few days at some of these prospects and their performances overall as well as any recent streaks. And to be fun, I’m going to break these down into four categories:
- The Big Names – Those prospects we hope will be the core of future contenders. I’ll cover batters today and pitchers tomorrow.
- The New Guys – Those prospects we’ve recently acquired.
- The Other Guys – Guys who have a shot at productive major league careers, but will need some breakthroughs to get into category 1 at any point.
- The Young’uns – guys in the lower levels who are performing and could be the future top ten prospects once the Big Names hit the majors.
The Big Names
These are in no particular order, per say, but Moustakas is the closest to the majors, so I’ll let him do the honors.
Moustakas earned a promotion to Omaha July 14 with solid numbers across the board. The Texas League may have inflated those to an extent, but there’s no denying he has legit power. The transition to Triple A hasn’t been completely smooth. Most notable is his poor walkrate so far. His 8.7% walkrate in Northwest Arkansas was alright, but with only four walks in 153 appearances, he’s in Mark Quinn territory.
Two things. First, Moustakas is just 21 years old. He’s in his fourth professional season and his first in the most challenging levels of the minor leagues. Obviously the pitching is going to be more difficult from Double A to Triple A.
Second, while the walkrate has been disappointing, he’s at least improving it. He walked once in 79 plate appearances in July. In 74 appearances in August, he’s walked three times (I didn’t say it was a big improvement). Moustakas could be pressing, or he could just be more aggressive and swinging at more pitcher’s pitches. His strikeout rate has declined with the advancement, so making contact isn’t the issue. It’s more likely he’s being impatient at the plate and swinging at pitches he can hit, but not necessarily drive. That would also explain the low batting average (relative to his numbers with the Naturals). In those 79 July plate appearances, Moustakas hit a line drive 16.4% of the time and hit a fly ball 52.2% of the time. Line drives are more likely to land for hits; fly balls are more likely to be caught. In August, he increased his line drives, decreased his flyballs and his BABIP (and batting average) improved to .286 and .296 respectively. He also reduced his strikeouts by half after his first couple weeks in Omaha (11 Ks in 79 July appearances vs. 5 in 74 August appearances).
Also, we should be mindful that we’re looking at a month’s worth of data, so there’s the danger of small sample sizes at play. Still, the August trends are a step in the right direction.
|A+ (2 seasons)||482||57||135||31||8||8||61||53||61||.320||.396||.488||.884|
|A (1 season)||327||31||71||17||2||5||49||44||68||.254||.352||.382||.734|
|AA (1 season)||144||26||40||9||2||9||22||10||18||.301||.354||.602||.956|
|Rk (1 season)||15||2||4||2||0||0||2||3||2||.364||.533||.545||1.079|
Hosmer was promoted to Double A three days after Moustakas made his jump to Omaha. His transition has been much more productive than Moustakas’s. While nobody can expect him to continue to rake with a .354 batting average, Hosmer has maintained a near-1.000 OPS by improving his power numbers. That was to be expected as Moustakas made similar leaps when jumping from Frawley Stadium in Wilmington in the pitcher friendly Carolina League to the power-friendly Texas League. It’s not as if Hosmer didn’t have power – he still had 42 extra base hits in 375 plate appearances. But the lack of homeruns threw some people off. It’s clear now that the environment had more to do with that total than Hosmer’s bat.
In his first 70 plate appearances in Double A, Hosmer hit .323/.391/.694. In his next 75 appearances (all since August 1) he’s cooled off, hitting “only” .282/.320/.521 for a more mortal .841 OPS. His line drive numbers were better the first sample, while he struck out more and hit more fly balls (and more infield flies) in the August sample. That could just be a small blip or it could be pitchers adjusting. His BABIP in both cases was reasonable, so he wasn’t particularly more lucky in July by that measure nor less lucky in August.
Just like Moustakas, Hosmer is young. At this point in 2009, Moustakas at age 20 was still in Wilmington, so Hosmer is ahead of where Moose was last year and you have to remember the jump from High A to Double A is really where you start to separate the future major leaguers from the journeymen. Hosmer seems to be fine, though he could stand to walk a bit more than he currently is in Northwest Arkansas (6.9% walkrate).
|Rk (1 season)||96||19||31||7||2||5||18||9||18||.369||.427||.679||1.106|
|A (1 season)||294||42||70||19||1||10||45||48||55||.289||.408||.500||.908|
|A+ (1 season)||176||20||55||13||1||3||29||26||25||.379||.483||.545||1.028|
If there’s one player right now that you should be excited about as a Royals fan, Myers is it. At 19 years old, his bat is probably ready for Double A already. His main obstacle is the dreaded tools of ignorance. As a catcher, he’s improving, but I still have questions that he’ll make it to the bigs behind the plate. If he does, we could be in for elite level production from that position. If he doesn’t come up as a catcher, his bat still has the potential to be the most potent in the lineup. (Also he’s on this really excellent custom baseball card by Aaron Stilley – I really can’t express how much I love the 1989 Topps design)
After a poor April in Burlington in Low A, Myers jumped out of the gate in Wilmington. Other than the homerun totals, he’s just getting better – and as in the case of Hosmer and Moustakas, the deflating power of the Carolina League can be deceiving on the stat sheet.
Disclaimer: Myers has gotten a hit almost 45% of the time when he puts it into play. The accepted norm for league average is 30% there, so he’s been lucky. When he’s made contact, he’s hit it on the ground 40% of the time, hit a line drive 14.2% of the time and hit a fly 45.8% of the time. Considering he’s only struck out 16.6% of the time, that means a lot of balls put into play, and a lot of those have snuck through on the ground or dropping in for hits.
But while that 30% mark is the norm, there are some players that make more contact and also better contact. Alberto Callaspo and Yuniesky Betancourt have both generally made contact at the same rates over their career, yet Callaspo has been more productive than Betancourt. While it’s great to make contact at a high rate, it’s not just getting the bat on the ball that counts, it’s finding the right pitch to swing it and making contact while also making quality contact on the swing. Now finding the right pitch requires patience, knowledge of the strike zone and coordination to jump on the pitch.
One way to measure a batter’s eye is to see how often he walks, and in Myers’s case, that’s one of the more encouraging elements to his production. Myers has walked in 14.6% of his plate appearances. In Burlington, he walked 16.3% of the time and since his callup to Wilmington, he’s been just as strong in that category with a 14.7% walkrate.
That’s pretty good.
Hosmer and Moustakas have already been recognized as the cream of the minor league crop, as they’ve participated in the All-Star Futures Game in 2010, while also being named to Baseball America’s midseason minor league All-Star team. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Myers has drawn praise from Ben Badler at BA as a potential top 5 prospect. Not top 5 Royals prospect. Top 5 OVERALL prospect.
Now that’s pretty exciting.