Noel Arguelles was supposed to be the key international signing for the Royals. Signed to a five year, $6.9 Million contract in 2010, the at the time 19 year old Arguelles was supposed to develop into a worthwhile piece for the Royals. If he was able to put together one or two solid seasons at the major league level, then the almost $7 Million lottery ticket would have been worth it.
Instead, Arguelles has struggled since his time in Wilmington in 2011. After getting routinely battered at every stop along the way, the Royals removed Arguelles from the 40 man roster, leaving him available for anyone willing to take a chance on the young lefty. Naturally, after Arguelles posted a 1-9 record with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.727 WHiP across two levels last season, he went unclaimed.
This year, looking at Noel Arguelles’ overall statistics, there would not appear to be much hope. He has put together a 1-2 record with an 8.33 ERA and a 1.991 WHiP, walking 24 batters in 35.2 innings of work. Considering the overall statistics that Arguelles posted last season, it would appear as though he has somehow managed to regress.
Yet, there may actually be a glimmer of hope that the Royals could get some value from the Arguelles signing. Even though his 2014 season has been atrocious based on the overall numbers, Arguelles has actually made progress as of late. In his last ten games for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Arguelles has posted a 3.77 ERA while allowing only four walks in 14.1 innings and striking out 18 batters. Over his last six games encompassing 7.1 innings, Arguelles has not allowed a run while giving up only five hits and two walks, striking out eleven.
Is this most recent run for Noel Arguelles sustainable? If so, it may signal that the Royals will actually be able to get a return on their investment. Pitching in relief exclusively this season, Arguelles may be able to position himself not as a piece of the rotation as the Royals expected, but as a useful part of the bullpen, getting left handed hitters out. His numbers at AA against lefties, where Arguelles has held same side hitters to a .261 batting average while striking out 15 hitters in 12.1 innings he has pitched against lefties indicate that he may have a future as a lefty specialist.
When Dayton Moore signed Arguelles to that contract four years ago, the expectation was that he would eventually appear in Kansas City as a part of the rotation, likely to be a solid fourth or fifth starter for the Royals. Instead, Arguelles may end up as a possible piece to the Royals bullpen, turning into the left handed reliever that they appear to be in need of at the major league level. If he can continue to build off of his recent success, then Arguelles may get a look at AAA, and maybe even Kansas City by the end of the season.
The journey to the majors for Noel Arguelles may not have gone as planned, but there are signs that his contract is not a sunk cost. Arguelles may have turned the corner, and may be of value to the Royals as of yet.