I’m continuing my look at the Royals’ minor league teams in an effort to give you an idea of which prospects to look out for at each of the four full season squads. I’ve already discussed the Low-A Lexington Legends, and today we’ll move up to the next level. If top prospects were high-quality BBQ restaurants, consider the Royals’ High-A affiliate to be Kansas City. The Wilmington Blue Rocks will have a very impressive collection of talent this summer, and if you get the opportunity to catch a game there, you absolutely should take it. And don’t wait too long, because some of these prospects may not spend much time in Wilmington.
The Blue Rocks are in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League, and they play their home games in the very pitcher-friendly Daniel S. Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, Delaware. Their manager is Darryl Kennedy, and last year, the Rocks finished 63-77, although the infusion of so many talented players to that level this year should result in a much-improved finished product.
Must-See Players in 2014:
Raul Mondesi (SS): Mondesi won’t turn 19 until later this summer, and that will likely make him one of the youngest players in this league. Scouts have loved what they’ve seen from him, both in the field and at the plate, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ranked among the top 15 prospects in baseball after this season.
Miguel Almonte (RHP): There had been some talk of starting Almonte at AA Northwest Arkansas, but that appears to have been quieted for now. Almonte’s changeup is a plus pitch right now, and if he can polish up his slider a bit, the Royals may start to move him up more quickly.
Sean Manaea (LHP): Another pitcher the Royals would like to see in their 2015 rotation, Manaea has impressed several scouts this spring, including Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks, who suggests Manaea has number 2 starter potential. The organization would like to see him earn a promotion sometime this season.
Hunter Dozier (3B): Dozier crushed pitching at the rookie and Low-A levels last year, to the tune of an .892 OPS. However, based on his age, that’s something that many people expected to see. This season should present a larger challenge for Dozier, although he could still earn a promotion if he continues to succeed.
Bubba Starling (OF): By now, you surely know Starling’s story. The loud tools are still there. He still has as much power as any prospect in the Royals’ system, and his defense is still excellent. Reports from camp have been less than glowing regarding Starling’s swing, though, and it doesn’t appear his pitch recognition skills have improved. This will be a hugely important season in Starling’s development.
Worth Keeping an Eye On:
Cameron Gallagher (C): As the top catcher in the system, Gallagher has shown very good defense behind the plate, but not much promise offensively. He’ll need to keep progressing in order to not be surpassed by Zane Evans.
Jack Lopez (SS/2B): With Mondesi in the fold, Lopez will likely move to the other side of the keystone after playing shortstop for the Blue Rocks last year. He had a rough year at the plate, but hopefully repeating the level will get Lopez going.
Terrance Gore (OF): Gore’s speed is among the best in the minor leagues. Even though his offense isn’t all that great right now, Gore does have the ability to draw some walks, which is a valuable asset for a guy with this kind of ridiculous speed.
Aroni Nina (RHP): FanGraphs’ Nathaniel Stoltz wrote a very fascinating article on Nina, including some video, and even though he’s a bit old for this level, he could be an interesting relief prospect to watch for the next few years.