Breaking Down The Prospect Rankings


It’s been a very busy month.

I set out with the goal of covering our full list of 25 prospects here at Kings of Kauffman this month and ended up finishing with our number one prospect Eric Hosmer on Sunday.

You can view the entire list of 25 (with an honorable mention) along with profiles on our 2011 Prospect Rankings page.

I also wanted to look at the way our rankings break down.  As I compiled the list and wrote about each player, I noticed a few trends that I found interesting and also thought it’d be a good idea to look at the balance of the rankings.

The players in our rankings are young, but not so young that they’re that far from the majors.  With an average age of 21.56 years old on opening day this season, it’s feasible that the majority are just a year or two away from breaking into the big leagues.  Seven of the 25 will be younger than 21 on March 31st, with Cheslor Cuthbert being the youngest at 18.  Clint Robinson was the oldest at 26 years old.

Of this group, only Jeremy Jeffress has any major league experience with ten innings for the Brewers last September.  Only four players have made an appearance in Omaha – Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, David Lough and Mike Moustakas – so they’re short on experience in the higher levels of the minor leagues.

That’s what makes 2011 an important year.  It’s possible that all four of last year’s Omaha participants will be in Kansas City later this year, while there’s a large group that played in Northwest Arkansas last year who’ll be ready for Triple A this year.

Most of the prospects have been homegrown, a clear goal of Dayton Moore’s since taking over in June 2006.  Only one player on the list (Derrick Robinson) was acquired before Moore officially took over.  Robinson was a fourth round pick in 2006, the draft where Moore sat out after preparing Atlanta’s draft board before the Royals brought him in to replace Allard Baird.  The next longest tenured player in the system is, surprisingly, 20-year-old Salvador Perez who was signed out of Venezuela in 2006.

He’s one of four international signings, joined by Robinson Yambati and Yordano Ventura (both signed in 2008) and Cheslor Cuthbert (2009).  Four players have been acquired via trade – Will Smith, Jeffress, Collins and Jake Odorizzi.

Beyond that, the other 16 players on the list are all draft picks by Moore.  The front office has been excellent at early round selections, as 14 of those 16 picks were in the fifth round or earlier.  Clint Robinson (2007 -25) and David Lough (2007-11) are the late-rounders in that group.  Of course, that’s been helped by employing the successful strategy of offering above-slot bonuses to picks who slip due to signability concerns.  The Royals were able to sign Tim Melville, Wil Myers, Chris Dwyer and Jason Adam from the rankings that way.

One of the struggles the Royals face in the current system is negotiating the supplemental draft pick system.  Since Moore’s been in place, only once have they picked in the supplemental round, selecting Mike Montgomery in 2008 (thank you David Riske).  That year’s draft has proved to be exceptional – the Royals took Eric Hosmer (1), Montgomery (1s), Johnny Giavotella (2), Tim Melville (4) and John Lamb(5) that year in the first five rounds.  Tyler Sample, the third round pick, could still creep up after being in the top 15 in Baseball America’s 2010 rankings.

The list shows a good balance by position.  There are 14 pitchers on the list and 11 hitters ranked.  Of those pitchers, eight are right-handed, the other six are southpaws.  There’s a good split in handedness among the batters, too, with four lefties, six righties and Derrick Robinson as the lone switch-hitter. The Royals on our list have a prospect representing every position on the field, with four outfielders, two first basemen, two third basemen and one each at catcher, second base and shortstop.

The average height of a prospect in our rankings is 73.88 inches – almost 6’2″ tall.  The pitching staff especially has a lot of height with an average 6′ 2.5″ measurement.  Aside from Tim Collins (5’7″), Yordano Ventura (5’11″) and Jeremy Jeffress (6′), every ranked pitcher is listed at taller than six foot tall.  The hitters are a bit shorter at just a bit taller than 6’1″ on average.

It also seems that the tall pitching was a draft target, as Collins and Jeffress came over in trades and Ventura was an international signing.  Of players listed who were drafted by the Royals, the shortest player checks in at 6’3″ (and there are four listed at that height – Lamb, Crow, Duffy and Dwyer).  To be fair, another trade brought 6’5″ Will Smith into the fold.

I mentioned balance before, and the Royals have had year by year success in all fronts of player development.  Here’s how our ranked players fit by draft class since Moore took over:

2007 2008 2009 2010
Mike Moustakas (1) Eric Hosmer (1) Aaron Crow (1) Christian Colon (1)
Danny Duffy (3) Mike Montgomery (1s) Wil Myers (3) Brett Eibner (2)
David Lough (11) Johnny Giavotella (2) Chris Dwyer (4) Jason Adam (5)
Clint Robinson (25) Tim Melville (4) Louis Coleman (5)
John Lamb (5)

Finally, I wanted to look at the actual innings pitched and plate appearances and how prospects rank.  That’s a good indicator of how close a player may be or how much they’ve had to work on things in the lower levels.  For instance, Derrick Robinson has been to the plate more than any other prospect in our rankings, but he’s had a few years where he’s been stuck in Wilmington since signing out of high school.  Last season, a change in batting stance finally got him on track with the bat.  In the case of Brett Eibner or Jason Adam, who signed late in 2010, there are no appearances in the regular season, so Adam, a high school pitcher, is pretty far away (or will start out that way) and Eibner is behind younger hitters (but had three years of college ball so that counts a bit even if it isn’t professional experience).

Pitchers:

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Prospect Age (Opening Day) IP

.

Ventura 19 87.0

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Dwyer 22 110.2

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Coleman 24 113.2

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Yambati 20 172.1

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Crow 24 181.1

.

Odorizzi 21 188.1

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Melville 21 214.1

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Lamb 20 216.1

.

Collins 21 223.0

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Montgomery 21 245.2

.

Jeffress 23 306.2

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Duffy 22 308.0

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Smith 21 351.2

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Adam 19

Hitters:

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Prospect Age (Opening Day) PA

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D. Robinson 23 2368

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C. Robinson 26 1733

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Lough 25 1669

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Moustakas 22 1660

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Giavotella 23 1468

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Hosmer 21 1035

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Perez 20 986

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Myers 20 637

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Colon 21 271

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Cuthbert 18 140

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Eibner 22

The Royals system has been celebrated by multiple publications, and going over the scouting reports and statistics, it’s easy to see why. The last month of prospect-filled writing has shown me that the front office deserves credit for the right strategy and hitting on the right players. Some of it has been fortunate luck, and if Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer hadn’t rebounded like they did in 2010, it might look a little different, but the Royals are stacked. There were numerous prospects I really think highly of, but listing just 25, you have to make choices and some players are either farther away or players the organization may not be as invested in as others.

Our rankings aren’t perfect, and in a few spots, the actual rank isn’t that important either. I flipped Myers and Hosmer after the Royals moved Myers to the outfield because while he’ll still be a great player, his value, prospect-wise, is a touch lower at a less premium position. He could still be worthy of the #1 ranking.

One last note: the rankings we cooked up look to be a bit more concentrated on players who should be up sooner rather than later. Some writers have Tim Melville higher and have Jason Adam knocking on the door of the top ten. That’s fine. To me, most of the players at the front of the list are those who have a longer track record and are easier to project. Those towards the back have either one full season, if that, or just haven’t logged many appearances. They could well turn out to be more successful players than guys in the top ten. We don’t know.

And that’s the fun. The journey towards something. In 2011, we get to watch the finest collection of minor league talent in the game find their place in professional baseball. A few players will fade out, some will come out of nowhere. Some will make it to the big leagues and give us a hint of what’s to come. By the time we get an idea where things stand, it’ll be time for another draft and, hopefully, another wave of solid players to fill in behind an already impressive list.

Keep track of the full list of prospects in the Kings of Kauffman Countdown on our Prospect Rankings page under the Organization tab or by clicking here.  Stay current on all the Kings of Kauffman content and news by following us on TwitterFacebook, or by way of our RSS feed.

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Tags: Aaron Crow AL Central Baseball Brett Eibner Danny Duffy Derrick Robinson Eric Hosmer Jason Adam John Lamb Kansas City Royals KC Mike Montgomery Mike Moustakas MLB Royals Wil Myers