Ready for the Rafters


The Surprise Rafters play their opening Arizona Fall League game tomorrow at 12:35 MST against the Peoria Javelinas.  Fans can look forward to following the progress of 7 Royals prospects during the AFL season.  There are also two other names on the Rafters roster to keep an eye on.  Since I spent countless hours crafting my 5 part Royals Instructional League primer, as Royals based AFL primer seemed like a logical thing to write.

RHP-Aaron Hartsock (1/17/1984)  Royals 2006 23rd Round Pick  (S=0 / R=44)
2009 Wilmington Blue Rocks:  18.2 IP, 0.48 ERA, 0.857 WHIP, 13 H, 3 BB, 17 SO
2009 NW Arkansas Naturals:  51.0 IP, 2.82 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, 43 H, 17 BB, 27 SO
2009 Omaha Royals:  1.0 IP, 18.00 ERA, 4.00 WHIP, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 SO
He has a low SO/BB and low SO/9 working against him, but he does have an apparent knack for keeping runners off the base paths.  2009 definitely put Hartsock on the prospect radar, and his assignment to the AFL is a good sign for him going forward.  He figures to open 2010 in the O-Royals bullpen, but strong AFL and Spring Training performances could land him in the ML bullpen on opening day.

RHP-Blake Wood (8/8/1985)  Royals 2006 3rd Round Pick  (S=15 / R=5)
2009 AZL Royals:  4.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 SO
2009 NW Arkansas Naturals:  78.2 IP, 5.83 ERA, 1.525 WHIP, 92 H, 28 BB, 49 SO
While Blake did struggle in Double-A for the 2nd year in a row, he was a year younger than the league average age of 24.2 for pitchers.  Personally that is where the good news ends.  Based on his low SO/9 and low SO/BB numbers, Wood must walk a very thin line if he is to have success at higher levels.

LHP-Brandon Sisk (7/13/1985)  Signed by the Royals as a NDFA out of the Independent Leagues  (S=0 / R=45)
2009 Wilmington Blue Rocks:  61.0 IP, 1.92 ERA, 0.787 WHIP, 30 H, 18 BB, 78 SO, 21 SV
The Royals signed Sisk away from the Bay Area Toros in the Continental Baseball League last season.  All he has done since is pitch lights out with an excellent ERA, WHIP, SO/9, BB/9, SO/BB to go along with his proficiency to close out games.

LHP-Ben Swaggerty (8/8/1982) Signed by the Royals as a Non-Drafted FA on 5/21/07  (S=0 / R=42)
2009 Wilmington Blue Rocks:  22.0 IP, 1.64 ERA, 1.273 WHIP, 16 H, 12 BB, 27 SO
2009 NW Arkansas Naturals:  43.2 IP, 4.33 ERA, 1.672 WHIP, 53 H, 20 BB, 54 SO
According to Baseball America he entered the 2009 season as the Royals top ranked LH reliever, but was not included in the top 30 overall.  He was solid in Wilmington but had some struggles with the Naturals.  He has shown the ability to miss bats and has struck out 11.0 batters every 9 innings in his minor league career.  That positive has to be tempered by his elevated 8.6 H/9 and 4.1 BB/9 career numbers.  He turned 26 this summer making him a little old to be in AA.

3B-Mike Moustakas (9/11/1988)  Royals 2007 1st Round Pick  (3B=122 / DH=4)
2009 Wilmington Blue Rocks:  0.250/.297/.421 with 16 HR, 10 SB, 32 BB and 90 SO in 530 PA
I’ve spent a lot of time dedicated to Moose already this season, but his improvements defensively deserve to be mentioned yet again.  He should start out 2010 in Double-A where he will be over 3 years younger than his competition.  The AFL tends to be an offensive environment which should be a nice change of pace after playing in the pitcher dominated Carolina League this summer.

SS-Jeff Bianchi (10/5/1986)  Royals 2005 2nd Round Pick  (SS=120 / DH=5 / 2B=2)
2009 Wilmington Blue Rocks:  0.300/.360/.427 with 4 HR, 12 SB, 20 BB and 47 SO in 245 PA
2009 NW Arkansas Naturals:  0.315/.356/.441 with 5 HR, 10 SB, 19 BB and 58 SO in 297 PA
Welcome back to prospect status Jeff Bianchi!  Excited to see how he does in the AFL and in Spring Training.

OF-David Lough (1/20/86)  Royals 2007 11th Round Pick  (RF=50 / LF=36 / DH=20 / CF=18)
2009 Wilmington Blue Rocks:  0.320/.370/.473 with 5 HR, 6 SB, 12 BB and 34 SO in 250 PA
2009 NW Arkansas Naturals:  0.331/.371/.517 with 9 HR, 13 SB, 12 BB and 30 SO in 253 PA
Lough was already on the prospect map as he entered 2009 ranked as the Royals 15th best prospect.  He clearly has a bright future and survived the difficult jump from A to AA this season.  It isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that Lough could open the 2010 season on the ML roster.  If that happens it means that David continued his impressive work in the AFL and Spring Training 2010.  It would also mean that Dayton Moore found a way to move Jose Guillen or the team decided to pay him not to play for them next year.  He doesn’t have the arm strength to play RF but he can play CF or LF.  With Lough and DeJesus in the OF together, a stupid nickname like Double David can’t be far behind.

Other noteworthy names on the Rafters’ roster include former Royal RHP-Danny Gutierrez who joins the team via the Texas Rangers.  Something tells me that has to be kind of awkward considering he pitched for Wilmington before being traded.  Another Ranger of note is 2009 Independent League draft pick RHP-Tanner Scheppers, which has to raise the question, where is Aaron Crow?

The upper levels of the Royals’ farm system does lack talent, but 4 of these 7 players; Lough, Bianchi, Sisk and Hartsock could accumulate some ML service time during the 2010 season.  Moustakas will hopefully arrive at some point in 2011, leaving Swaggerty and Wood on the outside looking in.  Then again, as Lough and Bianchi proved during 2009, a lot can happen in a year.