Back in February, Kings of Kauffman published our 2011 prospect rankings. With the conclusion of the Royals season, it seems like a good time to take a trip back and see how those rankings worked out. Whose stock rose? Who regressed? Who made interesting developments?
There won’t be much suspense as to who we’ll cover, as the plan is to go back down the top 25 from before the season started. To get a sneak peak at the order, you can go back and read our rankings right now.
This means that we’ll start out reviewing our #25 prospect entering 2011, right-handed pitcher Tim Melville.
Melville, to remind you, was the fourth round selection of the Royals in 2008. Many scouts considered him a top prep pitcher, but teams were scared off by a commitment to North Carolina. The Royals managed to sign him anyway.
At 6’5″ 210 pounds, he certainly looks like a pitcher, with the “projectable frame” you hear about a lot. His fastball hangs around 91-93 mph, but Baseball America’s scouting report says it can top out at 96 mph with downhill action.
Because of that height and downhill movement, Melville is a slight ground ball pitcher. According to firstinning.com, 45% of the time in 2011, he induced a ground ball. That’s helpful to a developing pitcher, and is particularly helpful for Melville, who, to this point in his career, has been prone to walking hitters. At least with a decent amount of ground balls in play, he gives the defense opportunities to make outs.
Entering 2011, Melville had a 4.2 BB/9 walkrate. He improved that this season, walking “just” 3.5 batters per nine innings. He struck out batters at the same rate as 2010, which is promising, to at least maintain a better than average rate. He was unlucky when the ball was put in play. Batters hit hit .349 against him when they put it in play. Adjusting for that, his FIP (fielding independent pitching) would have been a fine 3.74.
After spending two seasons in High A, Melville, 22 years old this month, should be up for a look in Double A. I suspect he’ll get some time early in the year at Wilmington before the move, but if he’s still there at the end of the season, he’ll fall off the prospect radar.
We had Melville graded fairly low in our rankings, as many had him in the teens. He still has upside, and if he puts everything together, he could develop into a mid-level starter at the big league level. His biggest hurdle is command. I said it in February and it bears repeating, Melville can’t survive as he moves up the ladder by walking more than four batters every nine innings. If the trend continues, he may end up being moved into the bullpen, where he can at least let loose rather than pace himself through a game. He may walk a similar amount of batters, but it could improve his strikeout rate and make him effective in short bursts.
He’s been a starter almost exclusively, but over a four game stretch last season, he came out of the bullpen. In those appearances, he threw a total of 8.1 innings and gave up just two earned runs. He also had a rough August, which skew his numbers a bit. Prior to August, he had a 3.90 ERA. Then, in August, he walked 18 batters in 26.2 innings and had a 6.75 over six starts in the month. Despite a one-run seven inning start in September, his ERA landed above 4.00 for the full season.
He seems like he’s making progress though. The August meltdown could be the result of fatigue. Prior to that month, he never walked more than nine batters in a month. Again, he seems to be making progress. I see Melville sticking around the top 30 going into next season, but as more pitchers enter the organization, he’ll need to improve command to separate himself from the pack.