Down on the Farm – The Other Guys


Okay, we’ve covered Eric Hosmer and Mike Montgomery and Tim Collins and the like, but the best development of the Royals farm system in 2010 has been the depth of talent with potential to play in the major leagues.  This installment of Down on the Farm is going to take a look at a handful of those players that have gotten overlooked but who still deserve their time in the sun (especially since they’re just as important to the future of the team as the Big Names).

Christian Colon

I hesitate to include Colon as just another guy, but when he was drafted fourth overall in June he was the “safe” choice on the board and with good reason. Collectively, he has the skills be the an everyday regular at the major league level, but the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” really fits him. He’ll hit, but probably won’t contend for a batting title. He’ll show some pop, but you couldn’t expect more than 15 dingers a year. He’s typically fine defensively, but won’t contend for a gold glove.

The Royals think Colon will stick as a shortstop at the major league level, and if that’s going to be the case, he has some work to do. In 50 games with High A Wilmington, Colon has committed 13 errors.

At the plate, he didn’t have the best start to his professional career, going hitless in all nine June at-bats. He hit .269/.325/.356/.681 in July and has had a decent August, hitting .299/.340/.425/.765. He’s only walked nine times all year in 222 plate appearances, so he’ll need to improve his plate discipline as well.

If there’s a positive to his performance so far, it’s this: he’s producing with runners on base. It’s a small sample size, so have a grain of salt at hand, but of Colon’s 54 hits, 30 have come in his 80 at-bats with runners on base. Eight of his walks have come in those situations as well. With the bases empty, he’s only hitting .197 with a .534 OPS in 122 at-bats.

He’s barely 21, so there’s time to develop, and Colon has an edge over a lot of other draft picks, as he signed very early in the process and has gotten a two month jump on a lot of other 2010 draftees. He should make it to Kansas City at some point, but we may have to be patient.

Clint Robinson

2007Idaho FallsRk278398518115661942.336.388.593.981
2010Northwest ArkansasAA4988113936425835781.324.407.6011.009
4 Seasons1683238454107970270148269.303.371.527.898

It seems Robinson is always in somebody’s shadow. To start the year, he was the other corner infield slugger while Mike Moustakas destroyed the Texas League. Then right after Moustakas was promoted to Omaha, Eric Hosmer arrived and now garners all the press coverage.

Meanwhile, all Robinson’s done in 2010 is hit.  He leads the Texas League with 25 homers and is second with 83 RBI.  He also leads the league in doubles.  Built like a linebacker, the 6’4″ 225 lb lefty has a shot at Texas League Player of the Year.

He does have a sharp home/road split (as a lot of Northwest Arkansas hitters do), so that does need to be taken into consideration when looking at his numbers.  Similarly his 2009 numbers in Wilmington display the sharp power splits both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have run into.  At home in 2010 he has a line of .376/.476/.709/1.185.  On the road that production falls to “just” .283/.349/.517/.866.  Also, he’s hit the ball on the ground 45% of the time at home and has hit a flyball just over 33% of the time.  A few crude calculations shows that that’s about 65 flyball at-bats in Arvest Park, with 13 of them going over the fence for a homer – over 20%, which is an elite percentage for power.  Overall, though, he has a line drive percentage of 20.9% on the year, an improvement on his career rate of 17%.  He’s completely in the zone.

The biggest issue I find is that Robinson only has an average walkrate for his career hovering around 8%.  In 2010, he’s walked about 11% of the time, due to pitchers trying to avoid leaving him anything hittable.  He’s a below average defender at first base, has little speed, and he’ll be 26 once spring training hits next season and he hasn’t even stepped foot in Omaha yet.  I’m not sure where he fits into the Royals plans, as he plays a position blocked by Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue now and also has Hosmer to contend with.

Johnny Giavotella

2010Northwest ArkansasAA54081151285656135559.321.394.439.833
3 Seasons141121535770151613449146147.291.368.412.781

Standing 5’8″ 185 lbs, the common comparison Giavotella runs into is to Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (5’9″ 180 lbs). Even more bizarre is both were second round picks, Pedroia in 2004, Giavotella in 2008. Both made their professional debuts at age 20. Pedroia hit Triple A in 2006 after amassing a minor league career OPS of .844.

That’s not to say that Giavotella is the next Pedroia, but he could turn out to be a nice homegrown alternative to the former Rookie of the Year.  Pedroia struck out a lot less in his minor league days with more power and is a better defensive player, but Giavotella has been a better basestealer in his minor league career.

Some picture Giavotella as the second baseman of the future, and he’s certainly the best prospect at the position in the system. He shows no discernible splits against left handed or right handed pitchers – over his career1411 plate appearances coming into today, he’s batted .302/.375/.432/.807 against lefties and .291/.368/.407/.775 against righties.  His batted ball numbers are fairly even, too, as against lefties he has a GB/LD/FB split of 45.5/20.1/33.9 versus a split of 46.8/19.2/33.7 against lefties.

The biggest knock from scouts about Giavotella is his fielding, though he’s been improving in that area, though it’s coming slowly.  As the 16th ranked prospect before the season by Baseball America, his range and concentration were the biggest factors in his poor fielding performance.  His bat will be what gets him to the big leagues.

Derrick Robinson

20072 Teams4634310412322635733100.248.303.305.608
2010NW ArkAA5236713423824647174281.287.347.383.731
5 Seasons232127652682271017723378185423.253.316.332.648
A+ (3 seasons)114114225242135811324087187.244.305.325.629
A (1 season)449429911322634732100.243.299.300.599
AA (1 season)5236713423824647174281.287.347.383.731
Rk (1 season)20825416312420142455.233.335.318.653

Robinson is possibly the best pure athlete in the entire system. A former quarterback who was recruited by the University of Florida, Robinson has speed and range that make him valuable as a defender in centerfield. His problem, to this point, has been his hitting.

Last season, Robinson had a huge August.  Overall, he hit .239/.290/.324/.614 for Wilmington, but in that month, he put up a surprising .310/.362/.491/.853 line including all of his homeruns.  The cause for the surge was an adjustment to his batting stance that moved his feet closer together and ended up improving his bat speed.

The adjustment paid off in 2010 as he started the year off solidly, hitting .338/.434/.479/.913 after April.  A poor July has brought his numbers down since, but he’s still performing well enough to be back on the prospect radar.  He’s only walked about 8% of the time in his career, so there are legitimate concerns that he won’t have on-base skills to be a true leadoff hitter, so he profiles as more of the speedy number nine hitter instead.

For all his warts, Robinson is among the fastest in the minors.  He’s stolen at least 35 bases every year he’s been in full season minor league ball, though he’s only got an average success rate.

Robinson has hit left handed pitchers slightly better than right handers in his career, prompting the Royals to suggest he bat exclusively from the right side of the plate last season (after which Robinson asked to retool his stance and had the big August).  Oddly, in 2010, he’s hit better from the left side of the plate to the tune of .306/.350/.420/.770 as opposed to the .245/.301/.341/.642 from the right side.  All of his homeruns have come the left side of the plate as well.  After his finish to 2009 and this season, his career splits have evened out to where the split isn’t significant to suggest he can’t continue to switch hit.

Another encouraging sign is his strikeout rate has declined with every additional year in the minors.  In 2006, he struck out 26.4% of the time in rookie ball, but has whittled it down to 15.5% in 2010.  The next test will be if Robinson can learn to hit Triple A pitching or if he’ll fade out of the picture.

Louis Coleman

20092 Teams411.661421.2544220.6464.
20102 Teams632.313881.2222122920.9185.80.82.410.14.18
2010Northwest Ark212.092151.2131214550.8715.
2 Seasons1042.1852103.12725261140.8615.

I’ll just be upfront – I’m a big Louis Coleman fan.  After he signed with the Royals as their fifth round pick last year, I knew from draft reports that he had a big arm, so when he got promoted after just four appearances, I made a special note to check the Wilmington boxscores every night, and as you can see, he really picked it up in his ten appearances there, mowing down more than a batter an inning by strikeout and hardly walking anyone.

He sustained the success in his time in Double A, even improving his K/9 from his 2009 overall numbers.  Then upon his promotion to Omaha, he just kept improving to the point that when Scott Podsednik was traded to the Dodgers, Coleman’s name was floated as the replacement on the 40 man and active roster (instead Greg Holland – also deserving – won that honor).

Quite frankly, he’s ready to contribute today in the Royals bullpen and I’d say he warrants a September callup, but there’s also no rush at this point.  It’d be nice to give him a taste of the majors.

If there’s one concern I have about Coleman, it’s that his 3/4 delivery may give lefthanded hitters a better look at the ball – and his ERA is worse against lefties than righties at 3.46 vs. 2.12 in Omaha.  His career strikeout rate is lower against lefties, too.  Not significantly, but it’s worth noting.

Coleman was drafted with the intention of using him as a reliever despite starting for most of his college years with LSU.  He really only has two pitches, a fastball around 93-95 mph and a slider that has a lot of bite to it when he’s in command of it.  So far, he has been.

David Lough

20092 TeamsAA-A+5036914928414612464.325.370.496.866
2009Northwest ArkansasAA25341781329311230.331.371.517.887
4 Seasons164522243470274319199218.294.349.465.814

David Lough isn’t flashy. He’s not the athlete that Derrick Robinson is. He isn’t the pure hitter that Eric Hosmer is. He doesn’t have Mike Moustakas‘s power. Bear with me on this comparison, but he’s a lot like Mario in the various sports-themed games made by Nintendo. Whereas Bowser was a bruising and powerful force on, say, the tennis court, he was also slow. And while Yoshi was fast, he didn’t offer much in the way of power or consistency. Toad was weak but precise; Waluigi tricky but not strong in any other way. But Mario was a mix of all of that, above average in everything, but not spectacular in just one thing.

That’s kind of like David Lough. There’s a reason the first comparison people make about him is to David DeJesus who’s the same kind of player. I think DeJesus has been underrated by the general baseball audience for years. Not many players can bring solid defense, good contact numbers, the ability to take a walk and a little bit of pop to the party, but DeJesus does just that. Lough’s the same type of player.

Despite a rough July where he hit just .200 (but still had a .336 on base percentage) Lough’s season line of .281/.343/.443/.786 is pretty solid for a 24 year old 11th round pick who was a walk-on for a Division II baseball team.  An encouraging sign for Lough’s prospects comes from examining his 2009.  In 250 plate appearances for High A Wilmington, he hit .320/.370/.473.  In 253 appearances that same season for Double A Northwest Arkansas he added a bit more pop but almost hit the exact same splits – .331/.371/.517.  Same amount of doubles almost, same amount of triples, same number of walks, only four more strikeouts in Wilmington – the two stops were nearly identical despite moving up a level.

That consistency has continued in 2010 other than that July, and he’s had a superb August, so you can almost consider that the balancing factor between the two months.  In August he’s hit .405/.467/.570/1.037, mostly on a slew of multi-hit games.  In his last ten games, Lough has two or more hits in six of them and has stolen four bases on top of it.  And if you combine his July and August numbers, they even out to a .293 batting average and a .385 on base percentage.  Those are good numbers to have even if they came in two different batches.

For his career, Lough, a left handed batter, has had more difficulty with left handed pitchers, which isn’t a surprise as that’s how it usually turns out.  But the split isn’t as pronounced as it used to be, and in 2010, he’s hitting fairly well against lefties with a .262 average compared to a batting average against righties of .290.  His OBP is almost identical regardless of which hand the pitcher’s using – it’s within .005.

I think that had it not been for the Brian Anderson/Rick Ankiel/Scott Podsednik signings, Lough would have had an opportunity to make the big league club out of spring training.  As it is, I think we should see him in September, though he’s not on the 40 man roster so it’s a slim chance it happens.  He’ll have a shot to make the team next season and I say he does it.

The next installment of Down on the Farm will look at some of the players in Rookie League play who you may not have heard much about (if at all).  They represent the important secondary wave of prospects in the event that all the others fizzle out as they reach the majors.

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