While the big league club is headed for the All-Star break, it’s a good time to check in and see how some Royals prospects are doing on the farm.
Let’s start with the Royals last three first round picks:
Bubba Starling, 2011 first round selection
Clint had a solid scouting report from Lexington on Starling, and, after a slow start, Starling had started to turn things around. On July 3, he was hitting .230/.308/.383. Since, though, he’s slumped, and has been held without a hit in his last seven games. He did walk seven times during his 0-for-23 stretch.
Starling’s been much better at home, with all of his homers coming in Lexington and half of his doubles. Lexington’s park is slightly below average as a run scoring environment, so that’s a positive – Bubba’s creating runs in a park that isn’t inflating his numbers. Still, his overall production isn’t encouraging. The tools are incredible, but polish and experience are lagging behind.
It’s still too early to write off Bubba as a bust, but it’s fair to be concerned, even strongly so. I’ll sometimes look at a prospect with two question in mind: how likely are they to reach the majors and how likely are they to reach their ceiling? I think that, over time, Bubba can reach the majors, but he may be a Drew Stubbs type of player, with lots of strikeouts and lots of power and speed. Starling could be a decent player with some breakout upside in that case, but the issues with pitch recognition (which will hopefully be aided by LASIK) and migrating hands in his stance, will hold him back. If he overcomes those, he’ll be a monster. If not, who knows?
Kyle Zimmer, 2012 first round selection
This year hasn’t been great for Zimmer, but he’s showing signs of getting back on the fast track. His ERA looks high for a first rounder in a pitcher-friendly park, but everything else is looking much better.
He’s still walking more than you’d want to see from a potential #2 (maybe #1) guy, but he’s striking out more batters than last season as well, so it balances a bit. FirstInning.com calculates his FIP at 3.56, so he’s possibly been hurt by some High A defense as well.
Also, Zimmer’s been trying to get his command of four pitches. Over his last three starts, that work has started to pay off. He’s thrown 20.1 innings and struck out 26 batters while walking just two. Carolina League hitters put up just a .435 OPS over the three game span. The three starts had an average game score of 70. One of those was a two hit, seven inning complete game shutout.
The reason for the breakthrough comes from an adjustment from the stretch. He told Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star that he’d moved his hands from an upright position when set to down near his waist, where they would be from the windup. It’s improved his command of his secondary pitches and his curveball has started to turn into a pitch he can throw for strikes and as an out pitch. After a trip to see him, Dayton Moore was very impressed.
Hunter Dozier, 2013 first round selection
We haven’t talked a lot about Dozier, the Royals first round pick in June. Early returns are positive, though.
Up until last night, he’d reached base in every pro game, a stretch of 21 straight to start his career. To this point, he’s only got the 102 plate appearances, so the small sample size caveat applies, but his performance suggest he can make good contact (just a 10.7% strikeout rate) and is able to take a walk (10.7% walkrate).
Eleven of his hits have gone for extra bases in a league and home park that play fairly neutral, but does suppress home runs historically. His BABIP is normal at .308 and he’s hitting 23% of his balls in play as line drives. It’s a good start for him, and there aren’t big warning signs right now. Bob Dutton suspects that Dozier will remain in Idaho Falls all summer, but he’s a good bet for Lexington or even Wilmington next year if he doesn’t move up in the next few weeks.
Raul Adalberto Mondesi (or, R.A. if you prefer), 2011 amateur signee
I’m including Mondesi because his performance has been impressive given his age. He’ll turn 18 at the end of the month but already has 569 plate appearances under his belt at the professional level and has more than held his own. That he plays a premium position (and will stay there, barring some surprise), makes him even more exciting as a prospect.
He hit well in Idaho Falls last year, and this year, at a higher level, he’s continuing to do so. His average is slightly down, but he’s hitting for more relative power at a higher level.
His walkrate could be higher (juswt 6.2%) and he’s striking out about a quarter of the time, but again, he’s only faced pitchers who are older and with more experience. He’s going to have some struggles early. That he isn’t buried is a great sign. Fellow prospect Elier Hernandez, signed the same month, was left out of full season ball this year, so the Royals have a ton of confidence in him.