In just a few more days, the 2014 Kansas City Royals will be taking the field in Detroit on Opening Day. A few days after that, the Royals’ minor league affiliates will be opening their seasons in small towns around the country. Since we’ve spent plenty of time previewing the Royals in this space, I thought we should take a quick look at the four full-season minor league teams in the Royals’ system. I won’t go so far as to predict the teams’ records, but I will give you a few names to look out for this summer, and if you get a chance to take a trip to any of these cities, you’ll want to keep an eye on these potential future Royals. Since the organization hasn’t officially announced all of the minor league assignments, this preview is based on what information is available at this time. We’ll kick things off in the Low-A South Atlantic League, with the Lexington Legends.
As wearers of one of the best-looking hats in baseball, the Legends play their home games in Whitaker Bank Pallpark in Lexington, Kentucky. They are managed by Brian Buchanan, and are coming off a disappointing 67-71 season in 2013.
Must-See Players in 2014:
Elier Hernandez (OF): Hernandez signed with the Royals for $3 million in 2011 as a 16 year old, and has yet to make his full season debut. The lofty signing bonus was deserved, as Hernandez has loud tools and a good frame already, at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. He’s got a plus arm that should fit in well in right field, and he has the potential to hit for above average power as he matures his approach. His .790 OPS as an 18 year old in Idaho Falls last season could be a sign of things to come for the young outfielder.
Samir Duenez (1B/LF): At just 17 years old, Duenez could get a taste of his first full season of professional ball this summer. After signing for $425K in 2012, Duenez didn’t put up eye-popping statistics, but he certainly has opened some eyes recently. Clint Scoles of Pine Tar Press ranked the Venezuelan first baseman 15th among Royals’ prospects after seeing him hit in spring training. Duenez isn’t the most athletically gifted player, and that will likely limit his defensive value in the future, but he does have terrific bat speed and projects to hit for quite a bit of power as he continues to develop.
Daniel Rockett (OF): Unlike the two players mentioned above, Rockett will be old for this level. He was drafted in the 9th round of the 2013 draft, and at 23 years old, he’ll need to make some noise this season in order to not be passed by the younger prospects coming through the system. He’s got quite a bit of pop in his bat, shown by his .882 OPS and 11 home runs in 247 plate appearances last season. In the field, reports suggest Rockett could handle center field, although his lack of top-end speed could lead to a future in a corner.
Worth Keeping An Eye On:
Humberto Arteaga (SS): A slick fielder at shortstop, but he’s been less than successful at the plate (.601 OPS in 2013).
Jake Junis (RHP): 8.3 K/9 as a 20 year old starter in Idaho Falls last year, although allowing 13 home runs in 13 games wasn’t quite what the Royals would like to see.
Luke Farrell (RHP): 6th round pick in 2013, and struck out over a batter per inning in his professional debut.
Potential Mid-Season Call-Ups:
Pedro Fernandez (RHP): Big-time stuff, and while he’s still a few years away from the major leauges, don’t be surprised to see Fernandez make more appearances on prospect lists following this season.
Desmond Henry (OF): Doesn’t hit much, but has legitimate 80-grade speed, stealing 20 bases in 48 games last year.