If you read this blog regularly (or any Royals-related blog, really) you know about the top prospects in the Royals organization. Names like Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura, and Raul Mondesi, have been discussed quite a bit in this space, and rightfully so. They’re among the top 30 prospects in all of baseball, and their potential obviously merits recognition. However, an organizational farm system is made up of more than just its top three prospects, so I thought I’d cover a few of the players with perhaps a lower ceiling, but who could still make an impact in the big leagues at some point. In the next week or two, I’ll break down a few of these prospects to keep an eye on in 2014. I wrote about Christian Binford here, and today I’m moving on to another top 10-ish prospect in Orlando Calixte.
Calixte was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 for a seven-figure bonus, and as an 18 year old shortstop he had an OPS of .668 in his 80 plate appearance debut season. In 2011, Calixte had a terrible year at the plate, hitting just .208/.256/.263 in 317 plate appearances. Fortunately, he followed up that atrocious season with a much better 2012. Playing for Low-A Kane County and High-A Wilmington, Calixte had a .759 OPS with 14 home runs and 52 extra base hits. Scouts really liked his defense, and with his frame, there were no concerns that Calixte would have to be moved away from shortstop. Now, he was showing some solid potential with the bat, and people were starting to take notice. Baseball America ranked Calixte the 9th best prospect in the Royals’ system after the 2012 season.
Last season, however, some of that shine wore off.
Despite playing in a hitter-friendly environment for Northwest Arkansas, Calixte struggled in 2013, hitting .250/.312/.368. He did have 8 home runs and 14 stolen bases, but Calixte was also caught stealing 11 times and struck out 131 times in 123 games. If there was one positive to take from Calixte’s season, it was his walk rate, which was 7.8%. While that’s not great, it was better than any other season sans his short 2010 debut. Still, Calixte’s offensive performance left quite a bit to be desired.
Even with his disappointing season, Calixte is still getting some love. Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet ranked Calixte 10th in his Royals’ prospect rankings. Hulet notes that Calixte has the tools to develop into a plus defender at shortstop, and that he could see time at AAA this season if he bounces back at the plate.
Based on his track record, a bounce back could be expected. Calixte will likely be repeating a level, and he’s going to turn 22 years old next week. The last time he repeated a level (Low-A in 2012), he did very well, and now he’s going to be repeating a level with the hitter-friendly Arvest Park. A mid-season promotion certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for Calixte if things go well.
Beyond this season, Calixte could provide some competition for Alcides Escobar in the next year or so before Mondesi is ready to take over. If that happens, Calixte could easily slide to 2nd base and provide solid defense with a decent bat. Obviously there is a bit of projection there, but if Escobar’s bat doesn’t bounce back, Calixte could provide a cheap alternative when the Royals have to decide on the former’s more expensive team options. If nothing else, Calixte’s glove should provide some value as a backup infielder at the big league level.
In 2014, Calixte has quite a bit to prove. While his defense will be solid once again, he’ll need to rebound from a down year with the bat to keep his place among the Royals top 10 prospects.