Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, we wrap up our bold predictions with a look at the minor leagues. Co-editor Hunter Samuels had this thought about Miguel Almonte:
I’m not very good at doing bold predictions when it comes to big league players anyway, and with this current Kansas City Royals roster, I don’t see any major breakout stars in waiting. However, I do think Miguel Almonte is going to have a big year in the minors, somewhere along the lines of a 2.95 ERA with 9 K/9 over 125 innings between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha. I’ll take it one step further and say he’ll be a September call-up to pitch out of the bullpen, in a similar role to Brandon Finnegan in 2014.
He’s got a live fastball that can touch the mid-90s, and a plus changeup that can get big league hitters out right now. While his ERA was an unsightly 4.49 last season in Wilmington, Almonte still missed bats (8.3 K/9) and limited his walks (2.6 BB/9). If his curveball continues to progress, the soon-to-be 22-year old will have a good shot at seeing time in the Royals rotation in 2016.
Meanwhile, our minor league expert, Jen Nevius, had this thought about John Lamb:
It has been a long time since people have legitimately talked about the lefty making the big leagues, let alone make an impact. I think 2015 is the year for Lamb.
I had the chance to see him up close during the 2013 season when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery. In Wilmington, he may have gotten knocked around (13 home runs and 109 hits) and his velocity was WAY down, but he fought and was aggressive. He didn’t walk many (just 19 in 92.2 innings). I honestly don’t think he was ready for the season to start, as he was shut down for a month in the middle of the season to build up arm strength. When he came back and right before his promotion to Omaha, he threw seven innings in his final three starts and struck out a total of 13.
In 2014, the velocity was back for Lamb. But the walks were WAY up (68 in 138.1 innings). His strikeouts were also up (131), but he gave up 137 hits (including 19 homers).
I think if Lamb combines the last two seasons: lowers the walks and keeps the strikeouts up, he should be successful. He cannot completely rely on his fastball and his offspeed pitches looked really good in Wilmington.
If Lamb makes an impact for the Kansas City Royals, that means that someone in the rotation either failed or got hurt. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I think Lamb will be okay if he keeps his emotions in check (which has gotten him into trouble in the past).