Down on the Farm – The New Guys


We’re chugging along, taking a look at some of the intriguing players in the Royals farm system.  Today, it’s a glimpse at the new players we’ve received and how they’ve done in their young Royals careers.

The Royals were active at the trading deadline, turning Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth and Alberto Callaspo into a group of young players.  Gregor Blanco, Sean O’Sullivan and Jesse Chavez are already with Kansas City, but the more interesting prospects – and those who I think Dayton Moore was wise to target – are still down on the farm.

Will Smith

2009Cedar RapidsA1053.7619115.0614824951.1578.
20104 Teams795.1224140.29280461041.49310.
2010Salt LakeAAA245.60953.0393320401.60411.
3 Seasons25164.1957328.2181153762751.2849.
A+ (1 season)434.171169.0373217561.2038.
A (1 season)1053.7619115.0614824951.1578.
AA (1 season)127.23418.21615982.25015.
Rk (1 season)823.081473.028256761.0829.
AAA (1 season)245.60953.0393320401.60411.

Smith was acquired with Sean O’Sullivan for Alberto Callaspo from the Angels about a week before the trade deadline. While not a blockbuster, both Smith and O’Sullivan are young pitchers who have shown signs of potential effectiveness.

Smith specifically has had an up and down year, literally.  He started the year with Angels High A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga, then surprisingly promoted to Triple A Salt Lake at the end of May.  From there, he was demoted to Double A Arkansas before his trade to the Royals, who assigned him back to High A, this time in Wilmington.

I’m not sure why the Angels felt it time to promote him to Triple A just a year removed from a 3.76 ERA in Low A, but he does have solid control which must have encouraged them to make the move.  He wasn’t necessarily awful at that level, but he’s just a month past his 21st birthday, so it’s clear he wasn’t ready for the advancement.  Yet.  Smith was the 15th ranked prospect in the Angels system according to Baseball America before the 2010 season, so the potential is there, and as a left handed starter, he’ll always get a longer look than some other young pitchers just on that scarcity.

Since heading down the Wilmington, Smith has been a solid starting pitcher, walking only four batters over 31.2 innings and striking out 25 in that sample.  He’s made it through at least six innings in four of his five starts for the Blue Rocks, and in the fifth start, he still lasted 5.2 innings.

Overall, Smith is slightly more effective against left-handed batters.  As a professional, he holds a career 3.63 ERA against lefties and a 4.09 ERA against righties.  In 2010, that split has been more pronounced (3.59 vs. 5.02) mostly due to a rough patch in Double A as he’s moved on to face more advanced hitters.  He does, though, have a higher K/BB ratio against righties (3.43/1 against RHB vs.  3.16/1 against LHB), so that’s promising.  Assuming all goes well the rest of the way in Wilmington, Smith will possibly start the year there next season with an eye towards and early promotion to Double A Northwest Arkansas (if he doesn’t start the year there anyway).

Elisaul Pimentel

20082 TeamsRk372.701060.0231815451.0507.
20102 TeamsA964.2020109.15351471131.3268.
2010Great LakesA933.491690.1373535971.1737.
4 Seasons16183.9745256.0134113872301.2898.
Rk (2 seasons)7113.7122119.0624930931.2529.
A (1 season)964.2020109.15351471131.3268.
FRk (1 season)014.23327.2191310241.3018.

At 22 years old, you’d expect Pimentel to be progressing towards Double A or at least a regular in High A, yet he’s been in the Low A Midwest League all of 2010. When the Royals acquired him from the Dodgers, he’d put up a 3.49 ERA over 90.1 innings.  Since, as you can see, he hasn’t been very effective in his four starts for the Burlington Bees.  With sharp spikes in his walkrate and H/9, he may not be commanding his pitches very well.  He’s only gone through 19 innings, so it’s also a small sample size at Burlington.

His stuff looks to be effective regardless.  He’s struck out 16 in his 19 Burlington innings and his HR/9 rate is consistent with his career mark.  Looking at FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), his adjusted ERA would be 4.23 during his time in Burlington – still not great, but much better than the 7.58 he’s at now.  Balls in play have gone for hits nearly43% of the time, so he’s been quite unlucky (and when he’s walking people those lucky hits hurt even more).

His batted ball splits look alright, as he’s had a career split of 45.7/34.1 GB/FB and in 2010 they’re in that neighborhood (41.1/36.7 cumulative, 42/36.2 in Burlington).

As far as long-term prospects, Pimentel is more of a project.  He was an add-on with Luke May in the Scott Podsednik deal and has a fair amount of upside, though his age and recent performance make that cloudy.  He’ll have some opportunity to show it’s a short term bump in the road but it’s also possible he won’t pan out to much past an organizational arm.  Still, the possibility exists that once he turns it on, he may rise up quickly and the Royals have nothing to lose with him providing some depth behind the front line minor league starters.

Update: Pimentel got the win against the Beloit Snappers Sunday night with six scoreless innings, surrendering only two hits.  He struck out three, but walked four.  His season ERA now stands at 5.94 in five Burlington starts and 3.98 in 2010 when combining his starts with the Dodgers Low A affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons.

Luke May

2007Inland EmpireA+55481130253258936107.256.313.465.778
20103 TeamsAAA-AA382599717315523280.281.344.478.822
8 Seasons29093926821412191402209654.260.321.434.756
AA (3 seasons)74588166462198765177.255.328.419.748
A (2 seasons)91312221141112713551222.253.303.425.728
Rk (2 seasons)34244821325402775.268.340.373.713
AAA (1 season)355579316315513073.290.350.498.849
A+ (1 season)55481130253258936107.256.313.465.778

May was the bigger piece of the Podsednik deal as the top catching prospect in the Dodgers system.

He made a big impact in his first few games with Omaha, as he homered in his first at bat with his new team, then added three more in his next 20 at bats. Since, however, he hasn’t homered in his last 10 games.

In 285 plate appearances with Albuquerque, May hit .296/.352/.496 and much was made of the park conditions and atmosphere that aided those numbers.  While his batting average has dipped in limited time in Omaha, his on base percentage and power have still been there, and he has a slightly higher OPS with Omaha.

Using to neutralize park effects, May’s average for the year (comprised of every level of play) comes in at .267 with a .332 OBP and a .449 slugging percentage for a .781 OPS.  So really not all that bad for a young catcher.  May’s not likely to make any all-star teams, but he should be in line to make it to Kansas City out of spring training next year and, if Jason Kendall ever releases his stranglehold on playing time, could see a chunk of time as the catcher of the future (until William Myers arrives – assuming he’s still catching at that point).

May has a below average walkrate, with only 209 walks in 2909 career plate appearances (7.2%), so I wouldn’t expect him to hit much higher than 7th or 8th in the lineup once he gets to the majors.  He can, however, provide a fair amount of basehits and power.

Defensively, May’s coming along, though as a converted shortstop, it hasn’t been the smoothest transition.  He’s reduced his passed balls in every season behind the plate and in 2007/2008, he threw out 31% of attempted base-stealers.  That number dipped to 19% in 2009 and he’s only thrown out 19% in 2010.

Tim Collins

2007Blue JaysRk004.5076.033271.3339.
20092 Teams972.914977.13025351161.2166.
2009N. HampshireAA235.68912.2987171.5008.
20103 Teams201.915066.01414251020.9395.00.73.413.94.08
2010N. HampshireAA102.513543.0121216731.0005.70.83.315.34.56
4 Seasons1592.23145217.26054943231.0665.70.53.913.43.44
AA (2 seasons)332.975063.22221261041.0846.10.83.714.74.00
A (1 season)421.583968.1131232980.9954.
Rk (1 season)004.5076.033271.3339.
AAA (1 season)100.60915.0116150.8003.
A+ (1 season)742.374064.2211728991.1606.50.33.913.83.54

First of all, let’s wish Collins a happy belated birthday, as he turned 21 yesterday. He celebrated by throwing 2.1 innings against Memphis and struck out three. Ho hum.

That’s been the norm for Collins since joining the Royals. Standing a robust 5’7″ and 155 lbs, Collins is a pitcher straight out of Billy Beane’s Moneyball universe. Passed up because of his size, all he’s done since signing with Toronto as an undrafted high schooler is succeed.

While Jesse Chavez and Gregor Blanco arrived from Atlanta as young stopgaps, Collins looks like a potentially dominant left-handed reliever who could project to a set up or closing role in the future.  Consider this: his current 9 K/9 in Omaha is his lowest since becoming a professional, though that’s partially due to a jump to Triple A for the first time in his career and even then, in his last 6.1 innings he’s struck out 9 batters.

Armed with a 93-94 mph fastball and a sharp 12-to-6 curveball, Collins gets the most out of his small frame and delivers the ball with a quirky delivery that adds deception.  His walkrate is a bit high, but it’s overcome by the elite K/9 rates over his career.  Also he’s only surrendered 11 homeruns in his career in 217.2 innings.

In Omaha, he’s been a pint-sized wrecking crew, carrying a 0.60 ERA through 15 innings in nine appearances.  The Pacific Coast League is hitting .118 against him so far.

Collins doesn’t show any sharp splits to indicate that he’s only a lefty specialist.  He’s been trouble for hitters on both sides of the plate, though in 2010, righties had a brief amount of success against him in Mississippi in the Braves organization (though he only pitched 8 innings with them, so it’s not much more than a blip).

When batters do put the ball in play, they have tended to hit grounders instead of flies (43.4%/38.7%).  In 2010 he started to give up more flyballs in New Hampshire and Mississippi, but reversed the trend since arriving in Omaha.  He’s leaned slightly more towards being a flyball pitcher in 2010 relative to his career rate, but it’s not extreme.

If Collins keeps up this pace, he’s got a shot to break camp next year with the big league club.  For sure he’ll at least be in Omaha as their top reliever.  Think of the potential of a Louis Coleman/Tim Collins back of the bullpen.  It’s exciting…and we’ll have to take a deeper look at that on our next trip down on the farm.

You can stay current on all the Kings of Kauffman content and news by following us on TwitterFacebook, or by way of our RSS feed.