On Tuesday, the Royals announced that the following minor leaguers would be playing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League:
- RHP Jason Adam
- RHP Angel Baez
- RHP Malcom Culver
- LHP Noel Arguelles
- SS Orlando Calixte
- 3B Cheslor Cuthbert
- OF Jorge Bonifacio
- OF Lane Adams
Of those eight, Adam, Calixte, and Bonifacio opened the season in Baseball America’s top 10 prospects. Cuthbert was also included in the top 10 after the Wil Myers trade.
The two names nobody really talks about are Baez and Culver. Baez is 22 years old and was 18th in Baseball America’s Royals prospect rankings. He’s fought his control through the years in the minors, walking nearly 11% of batters faced. But he also gets strikeouts, which at least balances out some of those walks. The scouting report gives him a “heavy fastball” in the 92-96 mph range, but his changeup and curve could use work. He’s probably a reliever if he gets to the big leagues, but at 6’3″ and 226 pounds, he fits the Royals ideal for a starter.
Culver was drafted out of high school in the 8th round of 2008’s draft and pitched one season, then was moved to the infield until returning to the mound in 2011. He never really hit, but the idea was to rest his arm at doctor’s urgings anyway. Since coming back to pitching, he’s been effective, but has things to work on. Like Baez, he has shown that he can strike batters out, but he also still walks a high percentage. His fastball has been tabbed in the 93-95 mph range.
I’m pretty sure that Noel Arguelles is on his last opportunity with the organization. He’s never been the same since shoulder surgery shortly after signing with the Royals in January 2010. His velocity has never returned and he’s had control issues combined with low strikeout totals and gives up a lot of hits on top of everything. The AFL season may be his last chance to show the Royals that they need to keep up with the experiment.
The rest of the names are interesting, though.
Jason Adam’s had some tough starts in Double A, but he’s also had stretches of dominance. His strikeout rate has increased each season, but his walkrate has jumped this year as well. Overall, though, he’s still in good standing, striking out 8 batters per nine innings and walking 3.4 per nine. One of the things I like most about Adam is that when his walkrate jumps, it’s still lower than other minor leaguer’s best number.
Adam works with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, a changeup and curveball that can improve, but he’s also recently added a slider, according to comments made to Pete Grathoff of the Star. He’s made adjustments in Double A, and he’s seen more stretches of success as the season’s progressed, but he’ll still run into a bad night, as evidenced by his July 27 to August 21 stretch where he gave up four earned runs in 31 innings, then gave up eight in 2.2 innings on Monday. He may end up as a middle of the rotation guy or a good #4, but he’s got size and is able and willing to make adjustments, so the upside is still there.
Nearly every time I see someone discussing Orlando Calixte, I notice the term “intriguing”. He could hit more, but he’s also 21 years old in Double A. He’s one of those shortstop prospects who will actually stay at shortstop, rather than shift over to second or get too big and move to third. Baseball America surveyed scouts and Calixte was named the Texas League’s best defensive shortstop. As long as he has that tool, he’ll get opportunities.
Cheslor Cuthbert is 20 years old and playing in Double A already. After getting promoted in the middle of June, Cuthbert struggled with the jump, but in August, he’s showed signs of getting comfortable in the Texas League. After playing on August 7, Cuthbert had a .208/.251/.351 line as a Natural. He’d struck out 36 times in 169 plate appearances (21%) but walked only eight times (4.7%).
The next day, he went 4-5 over the next last three weeks has hit .290/.380/.484 with nine walks and nine strikeouts in 71 plate appearances. It’s a small sample size and he’ll need to repeat Double A next year, but he can get some experience in the AFL that may carry into his 2014 season. He has 37 doubles across the High A and Double A levels this year to go with eight homers.
Jorge Bonifacio broke a bone in his hand in May and didn’t return to Wilmington until early July. Prior to the injury, he was enjoying a .325/.404/.452 start in High A. He spent three weeks back in Wilmington after the injury had healed and hit well enough in 20 games to get pushed up to Double A just under two months after turning 20 years old.
Bonifacio was the #4 Royals prospect according to Baseball America before the season and he responded to the promotion like you want to see a top five prospect to respond. On Tuesday, he went 0-1 and left the game after a foot injury of unknown severity. That hitless at bat snapped a nine game hitting streak. Hopefully, the foot injury doesn’t cost him any more time. In Double A, he’s hitting .304/.369/.446 with nine extra base hits in 104 plate appearances. One of the big concerns after a hand injury is how it will affect power. Bonifacio seems to have suffered little ill effects. And again, he’s just 20 years old.
Lane Adams is another intriguing player. Over his minor league career, he’s shown a mix of patience with developing pop. He’ll turn 24 in November, though, so his July promotion to from High A to Double A was an important step. He has 45 extra base hits this year across both levels and 12 of those have come in his 37 games for the Naturals. Combine that with an 11.1% walkrate on the year, and there may be some late bloom here. Adams was a 2009 draft selection in the 13th round, so he wasn’t a huge prospect right away, but not really a longshot either.
If he continues to get on base and show some power, he could split next year among Double A and Triple A. He’s probably not going to be much more than a reserve at the big league level, but he has some skills that would be of value in that sort of role. Adams is designated as the taxi squad player, which means he’ll play on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
The Arizona Fall League season starts on October 8.