The Royals entered 2011 with the game’s best farm system, loaded with hitters, fielders, pitchers both left- and right-handed and many were highly touted by nearly everyone in the game.
Then John Lamb – considered by many to be the top pitching prospect in the Royals system – underwent Tommy John surgery. Mike Montgomery, two years ago the top prospect in the whole system, pitching or otherwise, has struggled in Triple A with a 5.00 ERA over 75.2 innings pitched with a 64 to 46 K/BB ratio.
At the big league level, Robinson Tejeda struggled with his velocity and location and ended up designated for assignment and went unclaimed. One of two sure occupants of the Royals bullpen heading into spring training, Tejeda now sits in the minors.
Look at the Twins. They’ve suffered injuries to their major league team that they weren’t able to fill with minor leaguers. The Royals have been fairly healthy at the big league level, but the organization has taken some lumps.
Thankfully, a few players have stepped up to keep the foundation strong.
Felipe Paulino has filled in much like Tejeda did when he joined the Royals in 2008. Snagged off waivers, Tejeda came in and became a hard-throwing swingman out of the pen. Sometimes wild, sometimes nasty, he also had success as a starter. Paulino’s another big-armed thrower with a penchant for wildness, but has reined it in since joining the Royals. Over 21 innings, he has a 1.29 ERA and a 16 to 4 K/BB ratio.
The gap left by Tejeda has been filled by a troop of rookies who don’t realize that they’re supposed to be intimidated at this level. The crew of Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Greg Holland are mowing down hitters during their on-the-job training and nobody even misses Tejeda’s presence.
Further down the line, the replacement for John Lamb as Best Pitching Prospect in the Best System in Baseball is going to a new name, both within the Royals minor leagues and in the discussion of top prospects.
That’s not to say that Jake Odorizzi is just some nobody jumping into prominence. Baseball America named him Milwaukee’s top prospect in their 2011 Prospect Handbook and we ranked him eighth in our prospect rankings before the season started.
Since, he’s exceeded expectations at High A Wilmington. Jeff Herr profiled his success at Seedlings to Stars, FanSided’s Minor League site:
Odorizzi has ascended to the top of the pitching prospect charts. At the time of the Zack Greinke trade, he looked like a nice part of the package. Now, he’s the best part of the deal (not to take away from Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar or Jeremy Jeffress). His ceiling may still be in the #2 starter as many scouts have projected, but he could be the type of pitcher who can carry a staff as an ace for spells.
He’s been dubbed as a “Greinke-lite” kind of pitcher, with a varied repertoire and solid stuff. He’ll be in Double A at some point this year, perhaps as soon as the end of the month. He’s ready. As Jeff points out, Milwaukee took a slow approach towards his development, and he does have secondary pitches to work on.
By the end of the year though, the loss of John Lamb won’t sting as much because we’ll have a new pitcher at the top of the heap. (And besides, Lamb will return.)