Despite adding a pair of soon-to-be 32 year olds to the lineup, the Royals look to have a relatively young roster. The projected Opening Day lineup will average 27.4 years of age, and the rotation will average around 29 years of age if Yordano Ventura is the 5th starter, slightly higher if the 5th spot goes to Luke Hochevar or Wade Davis. However, most of the young regulars have a few years of service time in the major leagues, so the roster is not without experience. Because there is quite a bit of young talent already in Kansas City, and because the team aims to be in contention all year long, we’re not likely to see a ton of rookies make appearances until September next season. Still, there are a few Royals’ prospects who could have an impact on the big league club in 2014.
As mentioned, Ventura may start the season in Kansas City, depending on what happens with that 5th rotation spot. Even if he’s not in the big leagues in April, Ventura certainly will spend a good portion of the season there. He’s got an electric fastball that sits at about 98 MPH with arm-side run, a hammer curve, and a developing changeup. Along with that explosive fourseam fastball, Ventura also mixes in a sinker at 97 MPH and a cutter at 95 MPH. Basically, everything Ventura throws has movement, and he’s already made star hitters look silly. Despite his small frame, Ventura’s mechanics are smooth and easy, so worries over injury may not be as warranted. There is some legitimate concern about Ventura’s ability to eat innings, but his ceiling is still absurdly high.
Prior to the team’s signing of Omar Infante, Colon was thought to be in competition for the starting second base job, or at the very least, a spot on the big league roster as a utility player. Now, however, it seems that Colon is likely headed back to Omaha for the start of 2014. There have been whispers of Emilio Bonifacio receiving interest on the trade market, so if something happens on that front, Colon may still have a shot at that utility job. He hasn’t been particularly impressive in his short minor league career (.274/.339/.374), but Colon’s decent-yet-unspectacular skillset could potentially allow him to contribute at the major league level next season, even if it’s just in a part-time role.
After being selected with the 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Zimmer debuted as a professional and struck out 42 batters in his first 39.2 innings. Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America tabbed him as the 24th best prospect in baseball, but Zimmer struggled early on at High A Wilmington. After making a slight mechanical adjustment, though, Zimmer broke out in a big way, striking out 36 batters and walking just 3 in 25.1 innings in his last 4 starts for the Blue Rocks. He was then promoted to Northwest Arkansas, where Zimmer continued to strike out all of the batters, tallying 27 strikeouts in 18.2 innings before being shut down for the season as a precautionary measure. I’d expect Zimmer to start 2014 in AA again, but a promotion to Omaha shouldn’t be far away, and if needed, he could be added to the 40-man roster and called up prior to September.
Adams doesn’t get a ton of hype as a prospect, but there’s a reason the Royals added him to their roster last month. Including Adams, the organization has just 6 outfielders on their roster, and if either of Justin Maxwell or Jarrod Dyson is traded away, Adams would be the only outfielder on the 40-man who’s not in Kansas City. In other words, if an outfielder goes down with an injury, Adams is the only true outfielder who could replace him without the team having to make a corresponding roster move. As a player, Adams doesn’t have any star-level skills, but he does quite a bit of everything well enough. He has good speed, stealing 95 bases in his 5 year career, while only being caught 16 times. His contact skills are less than great (K% of 21.2), but his plate discipline helps to cover some of that (BB% of 9.4, including 11.1% in 2013). Adams can play all three outfield spots competently, and he even has a touch of pop in his bat (.150 ISO in 2013). I’m obviously hoping Adams isn’t needed next season, but don’t be surprised if you see him in a Royals’ uniform sooner rather than later.
There are a few other prospects who could see time this season, although they’ll either be used in the bullpen, or not called up until rosters expand. Michael Mariot & Chris Dwyer are the most likely candidates for the
I-29 Express next summer, but I could also see Justin Marks and John Lamb make their big league debuts, depending on circumstances. Of course, there are some players not currently on the 40-man roster who may be added during the season, like Buddy Baumann and Brian Fletcher (whom David Hill profiled here yesterday), although those kinds of moves are difficult to predict so far in advance. The Royals have a young, talented roster that they hope will be good enough for a playoff spot, and if reinforcements are needed, the organization has some talented prospects who could potentially help the team achieve that goal of contention.