We all remember January of 2010…
Tiger Woods takes a “break” from golf. A blizzard cripples the East Coast. An earthquake rocks Haiti.
And the Royals announce they reached an agreement with Cuban defector Noel Arguelles.
The Arguelles signing represented perhaps the most aggressive foray into the international market by the Royals. General Manager Dayton Moore reached deep into the Royal coffers and came up with a five year major league contract worth a base salary of $6.9 million with the possibility to add up to $2 million in performance issues. It’s the kind of ballsy move the Royals were making to build the best farm system in the history of the game. And it’s the kind of move that the Royals (and other small market teams) won’t be able to make anymore with the new collective bargaining agreement. As such, Arguelles will forever remain the Royals largest dip into the international market.
The fact the 19 year old Arguelles defected from Cuba and the fact the Royals threw a wheel barrow full of cash in his direction, expectations were sky high from the beginning. The Royals preached caution, given he had thrown for 17 consecutive months prior to leaving his homeland. They were going to start him slowly in spring training with an eye to beginning his professional career in the low minors.
The Royals and GMDM were predictably thrilled with the signing. Moore characterized Arguelles as a top of the rotation starter. Various scouts said if Arguelles were coming out of high school in the draft, he would be a first round talent.
Arguelles threw on a back field in early March, but was soon shut down with shoulder pain. He never made his pro debut in 2010 and instead went under the knife in August to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
He made it through his rehab and finally made his professional debut for Wilmington in 2011. Arguelles got off to a great start, posting a 1.02 ERA with 15 strikeouts and just 1 walk in his first four starts. He stumbled a bit at times, but finished with a 3.20 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 24 walks in 104 innings of work. The Royals shut him down in early August in order to limit his innings. Makes sense, given he was just a year removed from his shoulder surgery.
Arguelles had a plus fastball before his injury, but the shoulder surgery seems to have robbed him of some of his velocity. He now features an average fastball but backs that with solid command. The command is evident in his 2.1 BB/9. Once upon a time, he may have been able to miss bats, but that ability is gone as well. His 5.5 SO/9 in A-ball doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward if he’s going to fulfill GMDM’s proclamation that he could be a “front end of the rotation” starter. As for his other pitches, he features a change that could be considered a plus pitch but his lack of fastball velocity diminishes it’s value. He also has a decent curve ball.
The injury and the results of a full season of A-ball have removed some of the shine off his prospect star. While Arguelles still ranks as a prospect, but the thought of him as a number one or number two has passed. If he makes the majors, it could be as a back of the rotation guy, but it will probably be as a reliever. Maybe one of those LOOGYs that Ned Yost lusts after. Still, he remains one of the more intriguing pitchers in the system and one to watch in 2011. He will likely start the year in Double-A, where we will keep an eye on his velocity. If he somehow regains his shoulder strength, he could force his way back into the Royals prospect discussion.