Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Wil Myers

The Royals sailed through the weekend taking three of four games from the Mariners and find themselves having won two-thirds of the games they have played at basically the one-tenth mark of the 2011 season.  Somewhere there is a column or comment that will certainly detail that 15 baseball games is the equivalent of a game and one-half of an NFL season, ‘x’ amount of an NBA season, roughly equal to the beginning of the Battle of Britain of World War II and somewhere between the first and second plastic surgeries for Pamela Anderson.   Hey, we all know it’s early and we all know that baseball is long season.

That said, Dayton Moore and the Royals could have some interesting situations to ponder as this season moves forward.   If this team had come out of the gate at a much more expected pace of 5-10 instead of 10-5, the when and where of a variety of roster moves would be a pretty simple equation.   Winning, however, makes the scenarios much more complex.

On the one hand, Moore does not want to sacrifice 2013 and beyond by forcing the issue in 2011.   Conversely, he also does not want to lose a chance at a playoff run in 2011 (however unlikely) by playing only for the future.   You know, the old ‘bird in the hand’ principal.

So, for some Monday morning brain work, let’s take a look at several potential issues and scenarios and get your opinion on when to believe and when to pull the trigger.

  • When are the Royals for real?

The 2009 team stood at 18-11 on May 7th and was still tied for first place as late as May 15th, but still lost 97 games that year.    So, right there, is a cautionary tale for all of us to remember.   The Royals play seven of their next ten games against Cleveland, sandwiched around a three game set at Texas.   That stretch if followed by a nine game homestand with Minnesota, Baltimore and Oakland.   If the Royals are 20-14 after all that, go to New York and Detroit and split the six game road trip, would you consider them a contender?   

My gut reaction is yes, except it is still just May 15th when that is all done.   Surely, a team with a starting rotation like the Royals have would have to play winning baseball into at least some point in June to be considered a contender, right? 

Maybe the better way to approach this question is to look at it as ‘when to you consider the Royals a contender AND start making moves because of it?’.    Now, I will be watching the standings and the out of town scoreboard well in advance of June 9th (heck, we’re all watching them now), but somewhere in that time-frame, should Kansas City be in first or within three or four games of first, I think Dayton Moore has to consider making moves to win now.   Not ‘mortgage the future type move’, but move that make the 2011 team stronger.

Why June 9th?  That will be the end of an eleven game homestand against the Angels, Minnesota and Toronto, 64 games into the season, and right in front of a nine game road trip to LA, Oakland and St. Louis.  

  • How long do you stick with Kila Ka’aihue

I think it is funny how there is this ‘anti-Kila’ group of fans that are apparently irritated by the long standing call for Kila to get a shot in the majors.   I mean, isn’t that the point of having a farm system?   Have guys perform at a high level and then give them a shot?

Anyway, after going one for three with a walk on Sunday, Ka’aihue’s line stands at .174/.304/.283.   He is second on the team in walks with 9 (good), but leads the team in strikeouts with 15 (bad).   Thirteen games played in 2011 and a whopping total of 286 major league plate appearances is certainly not a big enough sample to know if Ka’aihue can hit or not, but there will come a time when the Royals will have to make a decision.

Again, if this team had stumbled out of the gate, there would be no harm in simply sticking Kila in the five hole and giving  him 600 plate appearances this year.   Should they keep playing well, the Royals will reach a point in time when they cannot afford to have a .200 hitter batting behind Billy Butler…or batting at all.  

Now, I might offer that it is unlikely that the Royals are going to be over .500 in early June without Ka’aihue giving them something at the plate.  In a way, the situation might solve itself.     With Eric Hosmer and Clint Robinson both off to hot starts in Omaha and Billy Butler reliably banging away, Dayton Moore can afford to have a quicker hook on at this spot than at other positions.   Basically, we’re not going to care if Kila goes somewhere else and hits 30 home runs if Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer are All-Stars.

While I have been and remain a big proponent of giving Ka’aihue a pretty large chunk of at-bats to once and for all see what he can do, I would be thinking about possibly sitting him against left-handers if the situation does not improve over the next two weeks or so.   After that, I think you are looking right at that mid-June date again.   Should the Royals be near the top of the standings and Kila is still flailing at the Mendoza line it is going to be really hard to not call up Eric Hosmer.   If not Hosmer, maybe Mike Moustakas if he recovers from a slow start with Wilson Betemit sliding into the DH role full-time.

  • Seriously, Kyle Davies?

Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen have allowed 26 runs over 73 innings to start the season.    That is a pace they likely won’t maintain, but is seems to point that those three could be competent starters.    The fifth starter spot, as it is with most teams, will be a rather inconsistent event with Sean O’Sullivan and Vin Mazarro, but the real sticking point is Mr. Davies.

While the organization remains hopeful, citing Jorge de la Rosa as their prime example, the rest of us have become tired of Kyle.   In the past, Davies has strung together enough decent six inning outings to be useful and Kansas City could certainly use a solid month from him now.   Assuming that Kyle does not produce a string of good starts, how long does the organization wait before promoting Danny Duffy or Mike Montgomery.

Again, should Kansas City lose nine of the next twelve, then there is no point in rushing any of the young pitchers, but if they don’t?   I know that my trigger on Davies is considerably quicker than that of Dayton Moore’s, but making a move to hopefully bolster the rotation  as early as mid-May would be my timetable.  

  • There’s good defense and then there is great defense

Through fifteen games, Alcides Escobar has played some of the best defense I have ever seen at shortstop.   He needs to hit more than .233/.270/.267, but not a lot more.   Something along the lines of .250/.305/.340 might be enough given just how truly great Alcides appears to be in the field.   

That, however, is not really the question.   Contention or non-contention, Alcides Escobar is going to play shortstop the entire 2011 season.  The question is, after going 1 for his last 14, how long do you stick Chris Getz at second base.   With Mike Aviles showing signs of life (5 for his last 12) and Wilson Betemit simply smacking the ball, there will be some point where Getz is going to have to hit.

As the topic heading indicates, Escobar has thus far been a GREAT defender.   In my opinion, Getz is a GOOD defender and a slightly less critical defensive position.   His current line of .269/.333/.288 is not enough to justify keeping a good, not great, glove in the field at second.   Again, small sample sizes and no rush….yet, but this is a place that you could amp up the offense by inserting Aviles everyday (theoretically anyway) and providing the pitching with a little more run cushion with which to work.

  • What if it really, really gets real?

Okay, it is the second week of July and your Kansas City Royals lead the Central Division by one game.   Regardless of what the team has done with Kila, Kyle and Chris, this team is in contention.   How aggressive should Dayton Moore get?

Do you offer one of the big four pitching prospects (Montgomery, Duffy, Lamb or Dwyer) or one of the big four hitting prospects (Hosmer – no, by the way – Moustakas, Myers or Colon) for a player that can provide the 2011 team a real boost.   Basically, you are trading a potential 2013/2014 star for a 2011 good, but probably not star type player.

Obviously, there are a lot of variables to that equation:  who’s available, what’s their contract situation to start.   Still, if you believe this organization’s farm system is THAT GOOD, could you sacrifice one or two of your top ten prospects for a player(s) that can put the Royals over the top in 2011?   I might, or at least I would seriously consider it.

There are just a few of what could be many decisions to be made over the next three months.   While the questions are not easy, it would certainly be fun if we really had to answer them.

Yesterday was a night game for the Minor Leaguers as they took on the Texas Rangers prospects. These games are fun, but can be difficult because there are four games going on simultaneously. I was trying to catch as many interesting prospects as I could, but I kept getting pulled to another field. Then I kept missing out on guys that I wanted to see.

Jonathan Keck (LHP) – He’s a tall lefty who was pretty impressive in the high A game. He was throwing his fastball 90-92 and touched 93. It had good movement and he also flashed a really good curveball. In another organization he might get a lot more love, particularly since he’s a lefty. In the Royals organization he’s one of the many talented lefties. Someone to keep an eye on in 2011.

Tyler Graham (RHP) – Taken in the 22nd round of last year’s draft, Graham pitched in Idaho Falls last season. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He’s a “max effort” pitcher. When he throws the ball it looks like he’s trying to choke the life out of it—it’s a violent delivery. With that kind of delivery, he’s not going to be moved out of the bullpen and he might have some injury issues. It also hurts his ability to throw a secondary pitch, because getting a feel for it and also hiding it from the hitters can be difficult.

Shin Jin-Ho ( C) – He’s been kind of a mystery man since he was signed in 2009 as a 17 year old from South Korea. Behind the plate, he looked comfortable. He’s a “flat-footed” catcher, meaning when he crouches his heels are on the ground. It’s a technique that much better scouts than myself say they prefer. He seemed to pick balls out of the dirt pretty well, but I never saw him catch with runners on so it’s difficult to see how he would do when he has to block the ball.

At the plate, he seemed a little over-matched in the Low A game as he got blown away with a high fastball. It was only one plate appearance, so I wouldn’t take much away from it. He’s still very young and very raw. He might never be worth what the Royals paid for him, but he bears watching. He spent all of last year in the Arizona League (Rookie) and might graduate to Burlington (Rookie) this year.

Johnny Giavotella (2B) – Giavotella is an interesting prospect.  Pretty much everyone who gets a chance to watch him likes what they see, but there is plenty of debate on what his ceiling is. Some say average Major Leaguer, some say below average some say possibly above average. What makes him difficult to guage is that he does lots of things well and no one-thing great. He’s kind of like David Dejesus in that way. I’ve gotten to see him as much as any prospect in the system and I’m a believer in his ability. There are some questions about his defense and whether it’s Major League or not.

Scouting position players can be difficult without watching them every single day. What I see and continue to see in Spring Training this year is a player who can and will get a shot to be a Major League player.  He has a decent bat with some occasional power and he has a decent glove that he works hard on.

Wil Myers (OF) – Myers continued to impress, but by not swinging the bat. I watched him walk three times in a Minor League Spring Training game. His pitch recognition and plate discipline are that good. It’s disappointing not to see him swing the bat when he can do it so well, but a guy who has the ability to take walks like that in that kind of game is advanced.

Brett Eibner (OF) – One of the guys I was really anxious to see, but kept missing when I went to his field. People that did get to see him said he looked really good and put some charge into the balls he got a hold of.

Christian Colon (SS) - His bat will play in the Major Leagues, questions linger over his glove and ability to stick at shortstop. I haven’t had a chance to see him field much so I can’t comment,  but I do like his bat. I think he has a really good season this year.

I spent yesterday in Royals Minor League camp and here are my notes:

Jason Adam – As I reached the field, Jason Adam was pitching against some of his fellow Royals teammates. The scouts were all clustered up and keeping a close eye on him. His name has been circulating amongst the scout circle, so there were plenty who wanted to get a firsthand look. I’m no scout, but what I saw was very impressive. He was fastball was in the 94-96 mph range and he was locating his curve ball for strikes.  He seemed to be using the curve as an out pitch and it was working. It had nice break, but he was leaving it up in the zone. Had he been facing a higher level of competition it probably would have been crushed. He’s only 19, so it’s not a concern at all. He seems very advanced for his age and should rocket up Royals prospect lists this year.

Sal Perez – I’ve heard good things about Sal, but I’ve never seen him in person. He’s bigger than I expected. He’s not only tall, but has thick legs. He isn’t fast in the first place, so if he gets much bigger he could really lose speed and possibly mobility. He’s only 20, so it’s highly likely that he will get bigger which is a concern.

At the plate, he was crushing the ball. He hit an absolute no-doubter to left on a Kevin Pucetas hanging curve and later he crushed a line drive opposite field that hit about a foot below the top of the fence. His power seems absolutely legit and I expect him to mash at AA Northwest Arkansas this year. If his defense is as good as some say, he is a good bet to be a good to possibly great Major League catcher. The building hype seems to be legit for the young catcher.

John Lamb – Lamb was throwing his fastball 88-91 mph with a really nice 68-72 mph curve and a 77-78 mph changeup. His fastball velocity wasn’t as high as it’s been in the past, but I heard he might have a muscle strain that had him going a little easy, it’s not a concern though. His control, which is his hallmark was on display. He was extremely efficient and wasted very few pitches. His fastball had really good movement. He could run it in on the hands of a right handed batter, and it seemed that he could also run it in the other direction when he wanted

Wil Myers – Myers was rotating through all three outfield positions. I would imagine it’s so he can get a good look at reading balls from all three fields. Though he’s certainly going to be a corner outfielder, balls in general are easiest to read from CF because there is usually a lot less bend in them. So it’s a good place for him to work on his defensive instincts, and does need work in that area.  He’s still clearly trying to get the hang of the position after shifting from catcher this off-season. He’s pretty athletic, but not athletic enough to make up for poor reads in the outfield.

His defense though, isn’t what he’s known for, that would be his bat which was on display. Watching him next to other minor leaguers you c an see what makes him different. His wrist strength is phenomenal and that’s a skill that nearly every Major League hitter has. He can put his bat on the ball and react at the last possible moment and still hit the ball hard. And hit the ball hard is exactly what he did when I saw him. He smashed three balls right up the middle, including one that hit pitcher Kevin Pucetas in the leg and had all on-lookers saying “oouuuch”. Myers though, didn’t react. He was running full tilt to first base throughout. It’s not a knock on him, in fact it’s to his credit. His mindset was to go all out down the baseline regardless of what was happening on the field. I was impressed. He also took a walk on around six pitches which in these Minor League intra-squad games are very rare, I think it’s a credit to his plate discipline.

Kevin Pucetas – He was acquired in the trade with the Giants for Jose Guillen, so really he doesn’t have to be good at all to make that trade a win for the Royals. Fortunately, he is a decent pitcher. He didn’t have that special stuff that other pitchers have, but his stuff did seem to be able to play in the Majors right now. He could be a contributor to the Royals bullpen today and might get a look at some point in the season. He’s not Lamb or Duffy, but few are.

I’m going to see the Royals again today so look for more notes tomorrow. If there’s anyone you’d like me to try and get a look at post it in the comments. I’ll also be tweeting things as they happen tonight at about 8:30 Central time. You can follow at http://www.twitter.com/brokenbatsingle

Jason Adam – As I reached the field, Jason Adam was pitching against some of his fellow Royals teammates. The scouts were all clustered up and keeping a close eye on him. His name has been circulating amongst the scout circle, so there were plenty who wanted to get a firsthand look. I’m no scout, but what I saw was very impressive. He was fastball was in the 94-96 mph range and he was locating his curve ball for strikes. He seemed to be using the curve as an out pitch and it was working. It had nice break, but he was leaving it up in the zone. Had he been facing a higher level of competition it probably would have been crushed. He’s only 19, so it’s not a concern at all. He seems very advanced for his age and should rocket up Royals prospect lists this year.

Sal Perez – I’ve heard good things about Sal, but I’ve never seen him in person. He’s bigger than I expected. He’s not only tall, but has thick legs. He isn’t fast in the first place, so if he gets much bigger he could really lose speed and possibly mobility. He’s only 20, so it’s highly likely that he will get bigger which is a concern.

At the plate, he was crushing the ball. He hit an absolute no-doubter to left on a Kevin Pucetas hanging curve and later he crushed a line drive opposite field that hit about a foot below the top of the fence. His power seems absolutely legit and I expect him to mash at AA Northwest Arkansas this year. If his defense is as good as some say, he is a good bet to be a good to possibly great Major League catcher. The building hype seems to be legit for the young catcher.

John Lamb – Lamb was throwing his fastball 88-91 mph with a really nice 68-72 mph curve and a 77-78 mph changeup. His fastball velocity wasn’t as high as it’s been in the past, but I heard he might have a muscle strain that had him going a little easy, it’s not a concern though. His control, which is his hallmark was on display. He was extremely efficient and wasted very few pitches. His fastball had really good movement. He could run it in on the hands of a right handed batter, and it seemed that he could also run it in the other direction when he wanted

Wil Myers – Myers was rotating through all three outfield positions. I would imagine it’s so he can get a good look at reading balls from all three fields. Though he’s certainly going to be a corner outfielder, balls in general are easiest to read from CF because there is usually a lot less bend in them. So it’s a good place for him to work on his defensive instincts, and does need work in that area. He’s still clearly trying to get the hang of the position after shifting from catcher this off-season. He’s pretty athletic, but not athletic enough to make up for poor reads in the outfield.

His defense though, isn’t what he’s known for, that would be his bat which was on display. Watching him next to other minor leaguers you c an see what makes him different. His wrist strength is phenomenal and that’s a skill that nearly every Major League hitter has. He can put his bat on the ball and react at the last possible moment and still hit the ball hard. And hit the ball hard is exactly what he did when I saw him. He smashed three balls right up the middle, including one that hit pitcher Kevin Pucetas in the leg and had all on-lookers saying “oouuuch”. Myers though, didn’t react. He was running full tilt to first base throughout. It’s not a knock on him, in fact it’s to his credit. His mindset was to go all out down the baseline regardless of what was happening on the field. I was impressed. He also took a walk on around six pitches which in these Minor League intra-squad games are very rare, I think it’s a credit to his plate discipline.

Kevin Pucetas – He was acquired in the trade with the Giants for Jose Guillen, so really he doesn’t have to be good at all to make that trade a win for the Royals. Fortunately, he is a decent pitcher. He didn’t have that special stuff that other pitchers have, but his stuff did seem to be able to play in the Majors right now. He could be a contributor to the Royals bullpen today and might get a look at some point in the season. He’s not Lamb or Duffy, but few are.

Episode #040 – I discuss being selected for the Royals Digital Digest and covering the FanFest next weekend.  I also discuss the age of the upcoming roster and the starting rotation.  Adam Foster of Project Prospect talks Royals prospects with me including Tim Mehlville, Wil Myers, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi and Johnny Giavotella.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs040.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Adam on Twitter @adamwfoster and check out Project Prospect

Music used in this podcast:

Steddy P. – Honesty

Steddy P. – Rap Lessons

Ween – A Tear for Eddie

How to Get the Podcast:

Click here to be taken to the site to download directly.

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Episode #037 – Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus joins me to discuss Royals prospects, Starcraft in Korea, Kane County Cougars and other baseball related issues.  I also touch on the Melky Cabrera and Jeffy Lockerroom signings.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs037.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_goldstein also check out his Up & In podcast and his articles at Baseball Prospectus.  You should also pre-order the Baseball Prospectus 2011book for good measure.

Music used in this podcast:

Real Estate – Beach Comber

Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane

Ahmad Jamal – But Not For Me

How to Get the Podcast:

Click here to be taken to the site to download directly.

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Nick Scott writes about the Royals for Royals Authority, podcasts about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and writes about the Chiefs for Chiefs Command. You can follow him on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.

I know some of you out there get tired of columns focused on the future.  Lord knows, I have written my share, but there’s good stuff from Bob Dutton at the Kansas City Star on the goings on in the Instructional League this fall.

Among many hopeful and notable tidbits, the most noteworthy was word that Wil Myers has started taking some fly balls in the outfield as ‘possible preparation of a future move to that position’.   A lot of us have been speculating on this pretty much since Myers was signed as his bat may simply be too good to wait for his defense to develop behind the plate.

While I have not personally seen Wil catch, some others in the blogosphere have and there is a pretty much universal opinion that Myers has a LONG way to go to even be an average defensive catcher.    When you think about the future of this organization and all the young pitching that is coming up, it does not make a lot of sense to have promising young pitchers paired with a defensively challenged young catcher who is up just because he can really, really, really hit.

Of course, the above probably makes more sense than two different managers being afraid to tell Jason Kendall he has to sit out day games after night games, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Earlier this season, I advocated moving Myers to the outfield with the basic premise of do you want his bat in rightfield in 2012 or behind the plate in 2014?   With speculation coming out of the organization that Myers’ bat might be major league ready within one year, it appears the Royals may have come over to the 2012 side of the argument.   

Going outside the Royals’ universe for a moment, a Rangers-Giants World Series probably is not exactly what Fox and MLB had in mind, but I find it intriguing.   This match-up should also remind long suffering Royals’ fans that your organization does not have to be perfect to eventually get it right.

Take the Giants for example.    They made one of the worst trades in history when they shipped Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser to the Twins for one ineffective year of A.J. Pierzynski and bungled one of the biggest free agent signings as well by inking Barry Zito to seven year and $126 million.  Yet, here they are, in the World Series and doing so with two-thirds of their outfield made up of guys who were mid and late season cast-offs from other teams.

Now, of course, the Giants also did a lot of things right.   Namely they drafted Tim Lincecum after he fell to them in 2006 and Buster Posey when he fell to them in 2007.   Every once in a while, I lament the 2006 draft, but I distinctly remember the talk that Lincecum’s funky delivery and heavy college usage was a prescription for injury trouble.   Plus, there was a lot of talk that he would also profile out as a reliever and not a starter in the majors.  

Drafting is so much easier when you do it after the fact.   You should see the Cleveland Browns team I constructed by simply redrafting the first six years of their existence on a very long plane flight a few years back!

The point of the above is simply that the Giants, who have more money than the Royals but are not considered ‘big market-big money’, really screwed up multiple times and still managed to make the Series.     Of course, you need some luck as well:  like getting stuck with Cody Ross who turned into the NLCS MVP.

The Royals have a ton of hope in the system.   Now, a little luck would be nice.

Episode #033 – It’s the final game of the season for the Royals, but it isn’t the final podcast.  Nick quickly recaps the season and brings in special guest Greg Schaum to talk about the Royals farm system.  Nick and Greg discuss which of Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas they’d rather have, who is a potential 2011 breakout candidate, the future of Clint Robinson and Aaron Crow, a bunch of other prospects and Nick tries to sell Greg on the knuckleball academy.

:http://www.livekc.com/podcasts/bbs033.mp3|titles=BBS

Follow Nick on Twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook

Follow Greg Schaum on Twitter @greg_schaum and visit his site at http://www.royalsprospects.com

Music used in this podcast:

Curtis Mayfield – Beutiful Brother of Mine

Arcade Fire – Ready To Start

John Zorn – Mow Mow

How to Get the Podcast:

Click here to be taken to the site to download directly.

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Yesterday, Clark wrote an article about the next Big Three Royals pitching prospects in Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery.  The potential to have a trio of top of the rotation starters is something that could put a team in contention, however adding three stud everyday players is how you win pennants.  The Royals potentially do have that trio of everyday bats in the minors and they are: Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers.  The combination of these six players would make nearly every other team in the MLB drool with jealousy.  With the minor league seasons now completed, lets take a look at what this trio did this year and look back breifly on their professional careers.

Mike Moustakas

Moustakas was drafted in the 2007 June Amateur draft out of high school in California and was projected to be a hitter.  He played shortstop in high school, but was immediately moved to third base upon beginning his professional baseball career.  In 2007 he was sent to the short-season Pioneer League to play for the Idaho Falls Chukars.  He played in 11 games and hit .293/.383/.439.

Coming into 2008 he was named the 18th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.  He was sent to the Singl A Midwest League to play for the Burlington Bees.  Moustakas showed the power potential the Royals expected to see out of him when he blasted 22 homeruns.  He hit .272/.337/.468 over 126 games.  His batting average and on base percentage were not what people had hoped, however he was still only 19 years old and had some time to develop his patience at the plate.

Prior to the 2009 season, Moustakas was named the 13th best prospect by BA.  He was promoted to the High-A Carolina League where he played for the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  Wilmington plays in Frawley stadium, which is notorious for being a pitchers park.  Hitting a ball out of the stadium is an extremely difficult task and not surprisingly Moustakas’ homerun total dipped to 16.  Beyond that, he hit .250/.297/.421.  He didn’t improve in any area statistically, which shouldn’t have come as a huge shocker as the 20 year old was getting his first taste of the elevated competition.  However, it did generate a little bit of worry amongst Royals prospect watchers.

Moustakas’ rough 2009 hurt his BA prospect ranking prior to the 2010 season.  He dropped all the way to #80 on the list.  Fear started running amok in the Royals fan base about the potential for another first round bust.  It surprised quite a few people, including myself, when it was announced that Moustakas would be playing at Double A Northwest Arkansas for the Naturals.  The prevailing thought was that if he had trouble with High A ball, then Double A might destroy him and his confidence.  Regardless, it was an extremely important year for Mike and all eyes would be on him, hoping to see a turnaround.  Moustakas delivered in spades by hitting .347/.413/.687 with 21 homeruns in only 66 games for the Naturals before being promoted to AAA.  Just as the Blue Rocks stadium is pitcher friendly, it seems that the Naturals stadium is hitter friendly and although Moustakas dominated on offense, there were whispers it was because of the stadium.

After proving he could not only hit AA pitching, but dominate it, the Royals promoted him to AAA Omaha.  He got off to a slow start, but eventually hit .293/.314/.564 and hit 15 homeruns for the O-Royals in 52 games nearly propelling the team to a playoff spot in the Pacific Coast League.  He was recognized as the Sporting News Hitter of the Year, and earned a spot on Team USA for the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament.

Moustakas has shown he can hit for power and average at high levels of the minors, but hitting AA and AAA pitching is nothing compared to hitting MLB pitchers.  One of the chinks in his armor is his number of strikouts.  In AA Moustakas had 26 walks to 42 strikeouts and in AAA had 8/25.  You can get away with that in the minors, but doing it in the Major League is another story.  Pitchers will find his weak spots and work them mercilessly.  I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions and his defense at third is pretty good from what I hear.  He probably needs to work on that facet of his game as well to become an everyday player at the Majors.  I’d expect to see him in a Royals uniform sometime mid season in 2011.

Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer was drafted in the first round of the 2008 June Amateur Draft out of high school in Florida.   He was an extremely late sign and played just 3 games that year for Idaho Falls.

Prior to 2009 he was ranked the 24th best prospect by Baseball America and was sent to play for the  Burlington Bees.  He hit .241/.334/.361with 5 homeruns in 106 games for the low-A Bees.  The Royals decided that they would promote him to Wilmington, possibly to boost his confidence or for a change of scenery.  He played even worse for the Blue Rocks, hitting .206/.280/.299 with 1 homerun in 27 games.  These numbers combined with the rough season that Moustakas had in 2009 were enough to really shake the confidence of the fan base.  The team at the MLB level was flailing and the much heralded prospects were failing in epic fashion.  We’d seen this before, and it wasn’t surprising.What most fans didn’t know though, was that Hosmer had a hand injury and needed eyesight correction.  Both of those complications certainly could have caused the rough season that he had.

In the off season, Hosmer got his hand healthy and he got eye surgery.  He also got completely dropped off of the BA prospect list and came into 2010 with expectations lowered just a tad.  He was re-assigned to High-A Wilmington and the power sapping nature of Frawley Stadium.  However, like he was reborn, Hosmer tore the roof of of the place.  He hit .354/.429/.545 with 7 homeruns and 6 triples in 87 games for the Blue Rocks.  He earned a trip to the Futures Game in Anaheim for the All-Star break, and subsequently earned a promotion to Northwest Arkansas.  There, he continued his torrid hitting pace and hit .313/.365/.615 with 13 homeruns in 50 games.  He helped replace the bat of Moustakas, who had been promoted to AAA, and helped lead the Naturals to the Texas League Championship.

Hosmer is a tall athletic young kid who is still only 20 years old.  He has been playing first base since his arrival in the Royals organization.  Personally, when I’ve seen him he almost looks too athletic to play first, but he is a very big guy.  I was higher on Moustakas until I got a look at Hosmer at the futures game.  His body type and plate discipline are what really impressed me.  I believe he can grow into even more power and should be able to be a very good defensive first baseman.  If you forced me to pick, I’d take Hosmer over Moustakas for my team.  He will be joining Moustakas in the Pan Am Games this fall and he will be in the Arizona Fall League,  I expect him to play a full season in AAA in 2011 with a call to the majors in mid 2012.

Wil Myers

To catch or not to catch, that is the question.  Wil Myers is the third of our trio of players and he is also the youngest.  Continuing the theme, he was drafted out of High School in the 3rd round of the 2009 June Amateur Draft.  The Royals offered the young catcher money well above the recommended slot bonus for a third round pick and Myers chose the professional route in lieu of a scholarship to North Carolina.

Myers got to work early in 2009 and played 22 games for Idaho Falls and hit .369/.427/.679 with 5 homeruns in 22 games.  He was quickly promoted to the Burlington Royals of the Rookie level Appalachian League.  He only played in 4 games and accumulated 2 hits in the brief stint.

The question going into 2010 for Wil Myers, was his spot on the field.  He’d been a catcher in high school, but there was plenty of talk that his bat was too good to be behind the plate, and his defense there was not spectacular.  He was sent to Burlington, Iowa to play for the Bees and was still behind the plate.  He hit .289/.408/.500 with 10 homeruns in 68 games before being promoted to the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  There, he hit.346/.453/.512 with 4 homeruns in 58 games.  More importantly, he continued to catch and DH.

Opinions on his defense vary, but I haven’t heard anyone call him a great catcher just yet.  Rumors of him moving positions will probably follow him all the way to the Major Leagues if he stays behind the plate.  That isn’t uncommon for a great hitter, which Wil Myers certainly is.  I don’t have a huge issue moving him, and I don’t have a huge issue with keeping him at catcher.  What I would have an issue with is moving him to a defensive position once he gets to the MLB.  The Royals continually try and put players in a new defensive position at the Major League level and it confounds me.  They need to identify NOW whether they think Wil Myers is a catcher or not.  If he isn’t get him used to an outfield spot today.

These three players, Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers make are the core of the Royals future position players.  Combining them with Duffy, Lamb and Montgomery you have six players with elite potential.  How they perform the next two to three years will tell you everything you need to know about the Royals chances to compete in the near future.  Fans like to compare this crop of guys to past failures like Roscoe Crosby, Dan Reichert and Dee Brown.  Sure, they have a chance to fail just like those guys, however this crop is significantly more talented than anything the Royals have seen in decades.  The odds are good that not all six of them will become elite talents, but the good news is, when you have 6 players this good, not all of them HAVE to be, that is the difference.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook .  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.  He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.

Nineteen year old Wil Myers went three for seven over the weekend for High-A Wilmington and saw his on-base percentage go down.  You know you are having a good year when a .428 on-base weekend is a negative.

Through his first 33 games in the Carolina League, Myers has posted a rather amazing line of .393/.493/509.    He has done that playing in the same league and same home ballpark that made Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer look like something less than top prospects.    He has virtually the same OPS (.990) in Wilmington as he does away from it (.997) and while Myers has yet to hit a Carolina League home run, he does have 11 doubles already.

Prior to Wil’s promotion to Wilmington, he also tore up the Low-A Midwest League to the tune of .289/.408/.500 with 19 doubles and 10 home runs.   Not bad for a high school draftee in just his first year of full season baseball.   

For the 2010 season combined, Myers has a batting line of .322/.435/.503 with 30 doubles, 10 home runs and 67 walks versus 74 strikeouts.   He has done so playing in the cold spring of Burlington, Iowa and the cavernous ballpark of Wilmington, Delaware.

To provide a little perspective, a nineteen year old Billy Butler playing in the launching pad that was High Desert put up a line of .348/.419/.636 in his High A debut.   As 18 year old rookies in Idaho Falls, the Butler and Myers each ripped the opposition:

  • Butler – .373/.488/.596
  • Myers – .426/.488/.735

Even without adjusting for ballparks, Myers is at least even with Butler, if not already ahead statistically.      While you might be hoping for more from Wil Myers in the future than a Billy Butler-like career, there is nothing wrong with being compared to a guy who at age 21 posted an OPS+ of 108 in the majors.

If you are not a numbers guy, you don’t have to go very far to find quotes from scouts and minor league pundits alike who rave about Myers at the plate.    The raves about Wil’s quick stroke and good plate discipline are many.  Often those glowing reports also come with the coveted ‘projectable raw power’ quote.  Face it, Wil Myers can hit the baseball.   He can hit it so well, that the Royals cannot afford to waste time developing him as a catcher.

As a catcher (a position that he did not play full-time in high school), Myers is athletic and has a good arm, having thrown out 32% of potential base stealers, but is still a long ways from being even an average defender.  One scout was quoted (and I think I stole this from Kevin Goldstein’s column) as saying ‘balls were bouncing back to the screen all the time’.   In 62 games behind the plate this season, Myers has been charged with 19 passed balls and 4 errors.  In a word: YIKES!

Now, as talented an athelete as Myers is, it is not a stretch to envision him becoming a decent defensive catcher over time.   Heck, as an 18 year old rookie, Joe Mauer had 11 passed balls in 19 games.   The next season, Mauer was charged with just 7 passed balls in 81 games and the following year only 5 in 99 games.   Could Myers, given time, become a good defensive catcher?   There is a decent chance, but it will take real time. 

From where Myers is today defensively to where he would need to be to handle a Joakim Soria cut fastball with a runner on third in Yankee Stadium is probably a three year project.   That means restarting 2011 back in Wilmington, a mid-season promotion to Northwest Arkansas and another mid-season promotion in 2012 to Omaha, plus a full season of handling pitchers in AAA in 2013.   At that point you might have a quality major league defensive catcher.

In the alternative, the organization could give Myers duty as Northwest Arkansas’ designated hitter the last week of August and the first week of September, convert him to right field over the winter and have him restart the year as the Naturals’ everyday rightfielder in 2011.  The way Wil has been hitting, he could be in Omaha by July of 2011 and in the majors as early as 2012:  probably two full seasons ahead of when he would likely be ready if the Royals’ keep him at catcher.

Of course, playing in a division with Joe Mauer, we would all love to have the Royals develop a top shelf catcher, both with the bat and with the glove, but is realistic to try to do that with Wil Myers?   Is it worth taking the time to do so and, in the process, lose as much of two seasons worth of Myers’ bat in the majors? 

My opinion is no.   I have come to believe that Myers is, probably by far, the best hitting prospect in the organization.   The time to move Wil Myers to the outfield and fast-track his bat to the majors is right now.

I struggled with a topic today or, to be more exact, with picking a topic for today.

We could have discussed Dayton Moore’s announcement that he was hired ‘to rebuild the farm system’.   Sure, that is true, but my guess is David Glass was probably delighted to find out the extra $25 million per year in payroll he has paid the past two years was simply to mark time in the majors.  Basically, Moore’s words sound a lot like a struggling college coach who brings up his team’s excellent graduation rate as his team flounders along at 3-11.

We could have reviewed last night’s loss.  You know, the one where the Royals went one for ten with runners in scoring position and where we saw Yuniesky Betancourt bat with two on in the eighth with Kila Kaaihue on the bench.

I even thought of going back two years to the trades of Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez and the nasty domino effect that has resulted from those.  How different would this team look right now had those trades not taken place?   That’s actually kind of a fun exercise, but we’ll save it for another time.

No, today, let’s look forward.   While it may not be comforting to diehard fans, at least it gives us something different to think about.

We are currently less than a month away from the amateur draft, where the Royals sit with the 4th overall pick.   Bryce Harper is THE name in this draft and likely will not fall past the Nationals at number one.   Just as well in my opinion.   If Harper happened to slip to the Royals, they would basically have to break the bank to sign him.   While the investment might well pay off, I would much prefer to have Harper gone and see the Royals make a good pick at number four (with the usual $5-$6 million signing bonus) and then have money to overpay in the second, third and fourth rounds on premium talents that slip due to signability issues.

That said, what are the likely options for the Royals at number four?   In no particular order, let’s throw out some names:

  • Yasmani Grandal – This 6’2″, 210 pound switch-hitting catcher is in his third year at the University of Miami.   The Royals inquired on him when he came out of high school, but decided his bonus demand was a tad high, so the organization certainly is familiar with Grandal.   He hits with power and is an above average defender with a big arm.  If the Royals want to get Wil Myers’ bat to the majors quickly, they could draft Grandal to catch and move Myers to the outfield.
  • Manny Machado – Royals’ fans may not be in love with drafting another high school bat, but this shortstop out of Miami might be good enough to change their minds.    Manny is 6’2″ and 180 pounds and hits with natural power:  despite having done little to no weight training.  A smooth defender who can almost certainly stick at shortstop, you don’t have to be overly optimistic to project Machado into a Hanley Ramirez/Miguel Tejeda type shortstop down the road.
  • Jameson Tallion – A big righthander (6’7″ 230 lbs) out of The Woodlands High School in Texas, Tallion recently struck out 19 of 21 batters on his way to a seven inning no-hitter.   It is problematical that Tallion will even be available at number four, but he is the best high school arm in this draft.
  • Drew Pomeranz – A lefty out of Ole Miss, Pomeranz combines a mid-90′s fastball with a knuckle curve and occasional change to pile up strikeouts.   He might not be as polished as you might want from a college pitcher and hence could take a little longer to get to the majors than an Aaron Crow type player.
  • A.J. Cole – Another good high school arm with the classic ‘projectable frame’, Cole features a changeup already and a live fastball is the low to mid 90′s.    Although A.J. is 6’5″ tall, he weighs in at just 190 pounds and hence has scouts believing there is room to grow.
  • Dylan Covey - Yes, another right handed high school pitcher.   This one features a 95 mph fastball and good slider, plus a curve and change.   At 6’2″, 200 pounds, Dylan does not sport the ‘projectable frame’.  However, he exhibits good, clean mechanics and might well be the pick at number four.

There are some others that could sneak up here, too, and we may detail those if things change as we get nearer to draft day, but I wanted to move onto a couple of names to watch for in the second round.   Both of these players did not sign last year and are eligible to be drafted again in 2010.   There is a very good possibility that both will be gone by the time the Royals second pick comes around, but if not, I would be all for nabbing either one.

  • LeVon Washington - The speedy outfielder was picked number 30 overall by the Rays last year, but did not sign.  He is currently playing at Chipola Junior College and has run down several fly balls in the gap that his JC coach has simply never seen anyone get to before.   Basically, anyone Tampa Bay liked enough at 30th is good enough for the Royals this year.
  • James Paxton - The lefty pitched for Kentucky in 2009 and was the Blue Jays supplemental first round pick last year.  After not signing, he was set to go back to Kentucky, but there were eligibility concerns and Paxton is going to throw with the Grand Prairie Air Hogs until the draft this year.    The Air Hogs are in the same league as the Fort Worth Cats – the past home of Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow.   If the Royals go with a position player in round one, Paxton might be a nice complement with their second pick.

What direction the Royals take with the 2010 Draft remains to be seen and there is a lot of amateur baseball to be played between now and June, so things will change.     I am torn between Grandal and Machado myself, with a hope that Washington or Paxton is still around in round two (faint hope as it is).   If the Royals believe that Grandal can move quickly through the minors, he might make the most sense as it would allow the organization to slide Wil Myers to a different position and vault upwards towards the majors.

While the above capsules are not overly detailed, they give you a rough idea of some possibilities….and something different to think about than the present situation of the Kansas City Royals.

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