Feb 29, 2012; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Noel Arguelles (45) poses for a picture during the Royals photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Noel Arguelles, or the Prospect That Never Was

When the Royals signed Noel Arguelles to a five year, $7 Million contract after he defected from Cuba in 2009, it came as a bit of a surprise. Teams such as the Yankees and Mariners were thought to be interested in signing him, so getting Arguelles appeared to be a coup for Dayton Moore. He touched 94 MPH with his fastball during his workouts after defecting, and at age 19, appeared as though he could be a part of the Royals future.

Feb 21, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Noel Arguelles (45) poses for a picture during photo day at the Royals Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans. Arguelles had shoulder surgery after signing, and did not pitch until 2011. While he was solid in his debut, putting together a 4-5 record with a 3.20 ERA and a strikeout to walk rate of 2.67, Arguelles simply lost his command afterwards. In the past two seasons, Arguelles has walked 122 batters in 196.1 innings, with only 109 strikeouts. His command problems absolutely cratered during his time in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. In his 12.1 innings of work, Arguelles walked 15 batters. Although he still struck batters out, Arguelles appeared as though he could not locate the strike zone with a GPS.

Now that he has been removed from the 40 man roster and designated for assignment, it would be easy to refer to the signing, and subsequent disappointing performance, as a failure of the Royals and Moore to develop Arguelles properly. However, that would be an absolute disservice to both parties. Sometimes, prospects simply do not pan out. Just because a 19 year old has $7 Million invested in him does not necessarily equate success. Players still have to develop, and for any number of reasons, they may not reach their potential.

Noel Arguelles’s time with the Royals began on an ominous note when he missed all of 2010 with a shoulder injury, and it may be fair to wonder if that injury, and surgery, adversely affected his performance. Or it could be that Arguelles just could not handle pitching in the upper minors, as his struggles coincided with his promotion to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, walking 119 batters in 190.2 innings at AA. Perhaps he just was unable to adjust to the higher levels of the minor leagues. At age 24 heading into next season, Arguelles still has the potential to resurrect his career. It just will not be with the Royals.

No prospect can be considered a given, regardless of how good they are projected to be. In this case, Noel Arguelles may simply not have been a legitimate prospect at all.

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