Baseball America has released its Top 100 Prospects, and of course the first name that draws interest from Royals fans is probably former prospect Wil Myers, now a member of the Tampa Rays system after being shipped out as part of the package that brought over James Shields and Wade Davis (and Elliot Johnson).
But we are all ready to move past Myers, aren’t we? (He ranks fourth on the list, if you’re curious). So let’s take a look at what other Royals prospects made the list.
First up is Kyle Zimmer, who sits at 24 on the list. Zimmer is, of course, the best pitcher in the system now (potentially) after being drafted in the first round by KC last year. Zimmer, 21, is a righty who currently ranks out pretty well on the 20-80 scouting scale. His fastball sits at 70, curve at 65, and his changeup at 55. He also ranks pretty well with his control, currently a 65, and his command is a 55.
Zimmer pitched briefly in Rookie ball last year before a promotion to Low A. In all, he threw 39.2 innings and mowed batters down, with a 9.53 K/9. In addition to his 42 strikeouts, he only walked 8 batters. Though very brief, it wasn’t a bad debut. Most reports have him on the fast track to the big leagues, and Baseball America agrees, with an ETA of 2014.
Next up, at 35 on the list, is homegrown super-athlete Bubba Starling. Bubba is an outfielder, and is a pretty raw talent. He was drafted in 2011, but has seen limited action so far in professional baseball. Going again to the 20-80 scale, his athleticism is what shines through with a 70 rating on both power and speed. His defense and arm both rate out at 60, while his bat is a little lower at 50, which rates out as an average big leaguer.
As I mentioned, Bubba’s seen limited time as a player since being drafted, not playing at all in 2011. In 2012, he played for Burlington at the Rookie level and hit .275 in 200 AB. He also managed 10 homers and 10 stolen bases and had an .856 OPS. The power and speed are definitely there…what remains to see is how good of an overall hitter he will become. But if he’s got game changing home run and stolen base potential…he doesn’t need to bat .300, or even .270.
For what it’s worth – and this isn’t a fair comparison as they are different types of players – Myers bat rates as 60, power 70, speed 45, defense 55, and arm 60. Which outfielder will prove to be the better player? Only time will tell, but if you put any stock in these ratings…KC potentially kept the better outfield prospect when they traded for Shields and Davis.
Bubba’s still a couple of years away, with Baseball America looking for a 2015 debut. Personally, I think it might be 2016.
The last Royals prospect to make the cut, ranked at 85, is Yordano Ventura, a pretty familiar name around KC. Ventura, like Zimmer, is also a righty and is just 21. Unlike Zimmer (6’3, 215), Ventura stands in at 5’11 and is only 180 pounds. Some scouts think his smaller size makes him a better bullpen candidate, but the Royals seem determined to give him every chance to start – and they should, given his electric stuff.
Ventura’s fastball rates a 75 on the scouting scale, which is definitely elite. His curve is a 60, which is a above average, and his change sits right at 50. Not a bad arsenal, but for that fastball to truly be effective, his secondary stuff has to be good, and that change could definitely improve just a bit. His control and command are about average as well, rating out at 55 and 50, respectively.
As for his track record, Ventura has been pitching in pro ball since 2009 and worked his way up to AA in 2012, also pitching for the international team in Kansas City in the Futures Game. He had his roughest time in AA, where he posted a 3.99 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, but managed 25 strikeouts in his 29.1 AA innings. On the downside, he also walked 13. Not an impressive K/BB ratio, but for his career, spanning 280.2 minor league innings, he has a BB/9 rate of 2.85 and a K/9 of 9.62 – pretty impressive stuff.
With Ventura the sky is the limit, but he’s going to have to work on his control and command while refining at least one of those secondary pitches a bit more. But with two above average pitches, including what could be one of the better fastballs in the big leagues; he’s still an exciting prospect to keep an eye on. BA has his ETA as 2014, which could be an exciting year for young starting pitching in KC with both Ventura and Zimmer expected to be knocking on the door.
None of these guys are top five like our former standout Myers, but they could be by the end of this year. Yeah, we gave up a potentially great one in Myers for immediate big league improvement…but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare in KC.