Prospect Talk

It’s winding down the the final days of the season.  The Royals have staved off 100 losses, but may still finish dead last in the AL Central.  That being said, the winter months and start of 2011 will be focused on prospects and hope for future success.

Jim Callis at BaseballAmerica.com had a Royals-centric prospect chat on Wednesday, and the impression I get is that the Royals should land at least five and perhaps as many as seven prospects in BA’s Top 100 when their Prospect Handbook comes out. (Which, if you enjoy looking at prospects at all is a must have.  I flip through it at least once a week and have 2011′s copy reserved at my area Borders store.)

Let’s look at some highlights from the chat, and I’ll toss my two cents into the fountain, too.

Callis is a strong John Lamb fan, considering Lamb surfaced in two separate questions. The first asked about a comparison between fellow lefties Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, and Chris Dwyer.

Callis ranked them 1. Lamb 2. Montgomery 3. Dwyer 4. Duffy and said that Lamb and Montgomery should be in the top 50. That’s high praise considering Duffy has been among the top left-handed pitching prospects in the organization since he was drafted and also shows how Dwyer is developing to be in the discussion.

But with Montgomery, you’re looking at 2010′s #1 Royals prospect among many publications, and at worst their #3 overall prospect. And Lamb’s not only in the same discussion, but surpassing him as far as scouting opinion’s are concerned. Later on, Lamb was compared with Matt Moore (Tampa) and Rockies left-handed prospect Tyler Matzek. Lamb edged Moore in Callis’s eyes as the top of that trio.

Another lefty was the subject of a question, asking about the future upside of Will Smith, the toss in prospect in the Alberto Callaspo trade (and winning pitcher of Northwest Arkansas’s Texas League Championship Series finale). Callis views him as a #4 starter who’ll have solid control (and Smith had a 51/4 K/BB ratio with the Naturals) but doesn’t have the stuff to maintain the strikeouts. That limits his upside. And that’s fine in the big picture. If Smith was asked to be anything beyond that, then some of the exciting young pitchers in the system would have fallen off somewhere. You can pitch effectively for a long time with good control and by being left-handed.

But the questions didn’t just concern pitching, as a reader asked Callis to compare the power potential of Billy Butler to Eric Hosmer. As Royals fans, we have to be disappointed that Butler won’t quite be able to improve on his 21 homers from last season. While he’s still just 25, Butler’s also shown over more than 2000 plate appearances that he may top out in the 25 homer range. That’s okay as long as he continues to hit for average, hits doubles, and continues the improvement to his walkrate and strikeout rate (Butler’s walked more in less PA than in 2009 and struck out almost half as frequently in 2010 than during last year). With Hosmer, there’s the same doubles power, but also potential for 30 homers every year. With his escape from Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, we all saw the improvement in homerun totals – especially during the playoffs when he hit six homers in a two week span.

Other questions asked if the Braves should give up Freddie Freeman and pitching prospect Julio Teheran for Zack Greinke. Freeman is a top prospect for the Braves and made his major league debut on September 1st at the age of 20, but he’s also another first baseman, and the Royals, with Butler, Kila Ka’aihue, Eric Hosmer and Clint Robinson are crawling with hard-hitting first basemen…though Teheran could be just as good as Greinke by 2013 (according to Callis) and will be under his team control years in that time, too.

I suspect this winter we’ll hear a lot of Greinke trade talk. That’s another column, but it’s an interesting proposition.

The Royals and Dayton Moore are going to be making a lot of decisions over the winter to shape the depth and talent of the organization. Greinke might be a name to throw out and see what kind of return could come back. The first of the uber-prospects should be playing for a spot on the team in spring training this coming March, and the clock starts ticking at that point.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Billy Butler Eric Hosmer John Lamb Kansas City Royals KC Mike Montgomery MLB Royals Will Smith Zack Greinke

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