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The Royals love atheletes and Derrick Robinson is a prime example. In 2006, the Royals offered him above the recommended slot bonus to convince him to play baseball instead of football for the Florida Gators. At the time he was a raw athlete who the Royals had hoped could learn to hit.

In 2010, it seemed that the Royals gamble might be close to paying off. At AA, Robinson hit .286/.345/.380 which combined with his extreme speed and solid defense made him a viable option at center field in the not-so-distant future. He got a spot on the 40 man roster and went into 2011 hoping to replicate.

As 2011 rolled around, Robinson again found himself in Northwest Arkansas. He walked a bit more often and struck out a bit more often, but he just didn’t hit the ball very often or very hard. In 483 plate appearances, he hit only 9 extra base hits, compared to 36 in 570 plate appearances in 2010.

Although his hitting plummeted, it wasn’t the only reason that Robinson was never promoted to AAA. In the off-season, the Royals acquired Lorenzo Cain who is the less athletic but better baseball version of Derrick Robinson. Almost over-night, Robinson became organizational filler and a backup plan.

At this point, Robinson is holding onto a spot on the 40 man roster by the thinnest of threads. Honestly, I’m surprised that he has lasted this long. I think it says something about the improving Royals that Derrick Robinson is possibly the 40th best guy on the roster. He has two solid tools, but is lacking the one that teams need most: a bat.

The aesthetic value that speed brings to the table is something I’ll always appreciate. I do hope that Robinson can find the bat from 2010 that put him on the radar. The fact he’s still hanging around is indicative of Dayton Moore’s love-affair with athletes and speed. Robinson may be still on the roster as a potential 4th outfielder who brings some speed on the bases or he may be the next casualty when the Royals sign or promote someone better.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have an opinion on the new name of the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate.   My only real opinion is that I don’t like teams changing names, be it good or bad, and as such the new Omaha Stormchasers is nothing that gets me excited.

What does get me excited, however, is the Omaha team’s possible lineup next April.   Perhaps as much as anything else, it will represent just how much potential progress the Royals’ organization has made under Dayton Moore.

After years of being the depository of has-beens, almosts and never-weres, the Omaha Royals/Stormchasers are going to offer a somewhat breathtaking array of talent when they take the field next April.   Gone are the days of Brian Buchanan, Gookie Dawkins, Seth Etherton and Brandon Duckworth (all fine humans, I’m sure, but not exactly the solution to any major league problem that might arise during a season).   Instead, the Stormchasers might well roll out this lineup when they open up in their new stadium next spring:

Derrick Robinson, CF

Johnny Giavotella, 2B

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Eric Hosmer, 1B

Clint Robinson, DH

David Lough, RF

Paulo Orlando, LF

Jeff Bianchi, SS

Manny Pina, C

It may be a stretch to have Bianchi at shortstop that early, but he should figure into the mix at some point.   It is also possible that David Lough could well open 2011 in Kansas City, but for now we will start him off in Omaha.

When you couple this lineup with what is likely to be a bullpen stocked with near major league ready homegrown talent (Louis Coleman, Blaine Hardy, et.al.) and a starting rotation which at some point will include Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer (maybe even Aaron Crow), it will be hard to resist making a trek or two to Omaha in 2011.

While the organizational pitching depth is near legendary status at this point, the real positive about the Omaha roster next season is the position players who are not on it.

Just a rung below, we are likely to see Wil Myers (be it at catcher or in the outfield), middle infielder of the near future Christian Colon and catching prospect Salvador Perez.   When is the last time you could look at the AA and AAA batting orders and say with some degree of confidence that there were five or six future major league regulars playing?

2011 might well be a tough year to be a Kansas City Royals’ fan, but if you can tolerate the new name, it will be a fun year to be a fan of the Stormchasers.

With the football season in full swing and the baseball playoffs being Royals-free for the 25th consecutive season, it can be easy to stop paying attention to things involving the team.  However, there is still baseball being played by players in the Royals Minor League system.  There are at least 9 players I know of playing for various teams in the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, including 6 for Team USA and tonight is the season opening games in the Arizona Fall League.  With the AFL opening I thought I’d discuss each of the prospects the Royals have sent.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Arizona Fall League here is a primer.  The AFL consists of 6 teams with 30 players on their rosters.  Each MLB team sends 6 players to an individual team, and can send along so called “taxi-squad” members who only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The league is mostly for advanced and high-quality prospects to work on their skills against other high quality prospects.  A team can send up to two players from below Double-A ball.  The games are usually sparsely attended, but those in attendance are primarily scouts and executives who get a chance to see a bunch of top prospects at one time.  The games are played at various stadiums used for Spring Training, including the Royals spring home in Surprise.  The Royals will all be playing for the Surprise Rafters.

Royals Playing In The Arizona Fall League

Danny Duffy (LHP)

Just before the beginning of this season, Danny Duffy told the Royals he was leaving baseball.   The Royals were understanding of his situation, let him take his leave and told him he had a place if he decided to come back.  Luckily for the organization he did come come back and put up some eye-popping numbers.

Team Level ERA GS IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
Idaho Falls Rookie 1.50 2 6 4 0 6 6 0 9
Burlington Rookie 3.38 2 2.2 2 1 4 6.8 3.4 13.5 4
Wilmington A+ 2.57 3 14 8 7 18 5.1 4.5 11.6 2.57
NW Ark AA 2.95 7 39.2 38 9 41 8.6 2 9.3 4.56
Total 2.74 14 62.1 52 17 69 7.5 2.5 10 4.06

He didn’t take very long to become re-accustomed to pitching.  He moved quickly through levels and ended up at Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he was a key member of the Texas League Champions.  He currently is part of Team USA playing in the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament where he started one game, went five innings, gave up four hits, struck out one and allowed one earned run.

Patrick Keating (RHP)

Keating was taken in the 20th round of the 2009 draft.  He has been a reliever for the two seasons he has been with the Royals and has 24 saves over those seasons.  He was an under the radar signing, but was a highly though of High School prospect before having a slightly disappointing college career. I’ll be interested to see if Keating can continue is phenomenal strikeout rate against the AFL competition.

Team Level ERA GF IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
Wilmington A+ 1.19 6 30.1 18 10 41 5.3 3 12.2 4.1
NW Ark AA 3.10 20 40.2 33 19 60 7.3 4.2 13.3 3.16
Total 2.28 26 71 51 29 101 6.5 3.7 12.8 3.48

Mike Montgomery (LHP)

Montgomery had some injury issues which limited his games to only 20 this season, however that didn’t stop Baseball America from ranking him as the #3 prospect in the Texas League, below only Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.  One of the nice things about the AFL is it allows pitchers who didn’t get enough work during the regular season, whether due to signing late or injury, a chance to get some work in.

Team Level ERA GS IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
AZ Royals Rookie 1.04 3 8.2 6 1 7 0 1 7.3 7
Wilmington A+ 1.09 4 24.2 14 4 33 0 1.5 12 8.25
NW Ark AA 3.47 13 59.2 56 26 48 0.6 3.9 7.2 1.85
Total 2.61 20 93 76 31 88 0.4 3 8.5 2.84

Brandon Sisk (LHP)

I got to see Brandon Sisk pitch for Northwest Arkansas this season.  I was extremely impressed.  He was throwing mid 90’s with low 80’s off-speed stuff.  He seems to go on a run of dominating hitters, then gives up a few runs.  The Royals seem to have been drafting and developing bullpen arms more than they have in the past and Sisk is one of those guys.  I’ll be looking for consistency during the AFL season out of Sisk.

Team Level ERA GF IP H BB SO H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
NW Ark AA 4.46 25 68.2 73 28 63 9.6 3.7 8.3 2.25

Salvador Perez (C)

If you listened to my podcast with Greg Schaum, he predicted Salvador Perez to be a breakout player in 2011.  He is a young catcher with a lot of promise.  How he plays in the AFL will be one of the things I’ll be watching very closely.  He is still quite young, and has a lot of time to develop into a top prospect for the organization.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
Wilmington A+ 99 396 106 21 1 7 1 .290 .322 .411

Johnny Giavotella (2B)

Giavotella intrigues me more than any other player in the system. I think he will absolutely get a shot in the Big Leagues at some point, but will he be a cup of coffee guy, a steady backup, an everyday player or something better?  Opinions vary on his true ceiling, but everyone gives him high marks on his makeup.  He hit pretty well this season, but I hear his defense still needs work.  The fact he is on the AFL roster, gives some indication that the Royals think pretty highly of him.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
NW Ark AA 134 597 168 35 5 9 13 .322 .395 .460

Eric Hosmer (1B)

This is probably a name you’ve heard of before.  He’s one of the top prospects in the Royals system, is a part of Team USA, was in the futures game and is my personal top position prospect.  He had a breakout year and will be taking his talents to Surprise to help bring the Rafters a championship.  I am still a little shocked he isn’t able to play a corner outfield spot, so I’ll be watching his defense at first base pretty close.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
Wilmington A+ 87 375 115 29 6 7 11 .354 .429 .545
NW Ark AA 50 211 61 14 3 13 3 .313 .365 .615
Totals 137 586 176 43 9 20 14 .338 .406 .571

Derrick Robinson (CF)

Speed, speed and more speed.  That’s the report on Derrick Robinson, however after a change in his stance, his bat has become a much better tool than in the past.  He hit a respectable .286 in the Texas League against quality pitching.  His high OBP of .345 shows his patience, and 50 stolen bases shows his speed.  I’ll be watching to see if he can continue to progress as a hitter in the AFL.

Team Level G PA H 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG
NW Ark AA 127 570 146 26 8 2 50 .286 .345 .380

If you would like to get an email most days with the boxscores for the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, the Arizona Fall League and the entire Royals Organization in the 2011 season, just drop me an email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.  I’m also attempting to make a trip to the AFL to see some of these prospects in person, if you’ve been, I’d love to hear your tips and recommendations.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook.

This past weekend I took the family on a little jaunt down to Fayetteville, Arkansas  to see some friends and catch a Naturals game at Arvest Ballpark.  It wasn’t my first trip down to see the Royals AA affiliate, I made the same trek last year but this time there was a little bit more to see.  What follows is my trip report, hopefully it provides some information about the team and some hints on making the trip yourself.

The Trip

From Kansas City, its roughly a 3 hour drive south on HWY 71 nearly the whole way.  I don’t consider 3 hours to be too bad of a length, so I always say it is an easy trip to make for Royals fans.  If you haven’t driven the route in quite a while, it is multi-lane the whole way, so it is both easier and shorter than in years past.  I wish I knew of some good stops on the way, but I don’t.  Mostly gas stations, fast food restaurants and farmland.  I’d welcome some suggestions of places to stop on the way.  Once you get into Arkansas and particularly once you hit 540, the traffic picks up considerably.  And, no, people in Arkansas don’t understand what the left lane is used for any better than Kansas Citians do.

The Area

I really like Fayetteville and the surrounding area.  The University of Arkansas is there, and they have an absolutely gorgeous baseball stadium that the Razorbacks play in.  The area is growing fast and there are tons of great places to eat, have a beer, play golf or whatever you want to do.  Dixon Street is where the local college bars are, and is a nice place to grab a bite to eat before the game or a drink after the game.

The Ballpark

The ballpark is new and its great.  Parking is $3 which is reasonable, and I don’t think there are any other options.  The ballpark is kind of by itself on a road by some houses, so there isn’t any parking or places to go within walking distance.  I would bet that in a few years that will change.  Everything is clean and nice, which it should be considering it is a new ball park.  There are some inflatable things out in left field for the kiddies and they have the Johnny Damon-like mascot Strike the Sasquatch running around.

The Team

On the night I was in attendance, the Naturals clinched the Texas League first half championship.*  The week prior, 9 players were named to the All-Star team and 5 will be starters.  So the team is very good, and not just because it is a collection of good players, but they are good in nearly all facets of the game.  They have speedsters, power hitters, dominant starters, great bullpen arms and solid defense.  Its a spectacularly fun team to watch, and they always have a very good chance of winning.

*Minor Leagues have first have champs and then reset the records for the second half to keep the standings competitive and to compensate for the often changing rosters.

I absolutely had my eye on Moustakas whenever he was on the field.  The physical descriptions that I have heard were all accurate.  He doesn’t have an athletic build, and from what I saw he isn’t as trim as Billy Butler is these days.  Pitchers seemed to try and pitch him away and particularly with off-speed stuff which was working pretty well. The guy can absolutely rake though.  His first hit was a double by the 2nd baseman, which was hit extremely hard.  Later in the game, the Springfield Cardinals had a right handed submariner who was throwing in the low 70’s.  I thought there was no way the manager would let him stay in to face the left handed Moustakas, but alas I was wrong.  However, I was happy to be wrong and anticipated something big.  I told my wife and friends “watch, watch, watch this, Moustakas is going to hit a homerun”.  First Moustakas was way, way too far out front and provided the crowd down the first base line with some high velocity souvenirs.  Then he got his timing right and blasted a ball  to left that hit the wall about 4 feet shy of going over the quite tall fence.  It was one of those balls that was almost hit too hard to be a homerun, it needed more loft to clear the fence.  Either way, it was impressive and I nearly called the shot.

In the field it is hard to judge a guy on one game.   Heck it’s hard to judge a guy after a dozen games.  He fielded three balls that I recall.  One was to his left which he showed good range and then had a weak throw to first which was in time for the out.  The second was right at him and he rifled a throw to 2nd to start a double play.  The third was to his right which he dove and was unable to get and it went into left field.  So, I don’t know what that means.  I hear people say they don’t think he can stick at third, but he seemed fine on this one night to me.

I’d had a chance in spring training to see Johnny Giavotella, but he continues to impress.  He just gets hits, and plays hard.  He is an easy guy to root for and probably has the upside of a major league average player.  That is a good thing though, no teams are made up of 25 stud players.  You need a stud or two, some above average guys, some average guys and you likely have some below average guys.  If Giavotella can be one of the average guys, he is an important cog.

I have to admit, I really like fast guys.  Even though I know the stolen base is over-rated as a statistic, I love stolen bases.  I really like to see guys swipe a bag or cover tons of ground in the outfield and Derrick Robinson is just that kind of guy.  He got under two balls in left center that I was sure were going to fall for hits and he nearly got to another but pulled back to take the safer play.  He only went 1 for 6, but on the season he is hitting .294.

Brandon Sisk came on in relief for the stuggling Blake Johnson and was electric.  He is a tall left hander who hit mid 90’s with his fastball and low 80’s with his off-speed stuff.  He struck out his first 6 batters in a row before walking a couple of guys and surrendering a couple of runs in the 9th.   I am really high on this guy as a solid bullpen arm with the potential to be a setup man or closer.

There were lots of other solid performances and guys I am hopeful about in the future like Clint Robinson, Tim Smith and Nick Van Stratten.  However, I still think these are fringe guys with holes in their games.  But don’t take my word for it, last year I said that Anthony Lerew was a non-prospect and he was the starter for the Royals this weekend.  What do I know?


The Naturals had The Famous Chicken do his thing the night we were there, which I was pretty excited about.  I remember when the Chicken was making his rounds of MajorLeague stadiums, I was a young lad then and my parents would always get us Royals tickets when The Famous Chicken was in town.  So there is a more than a little nostalgia for me when I see that orange and yellow bird clad in his powder blue top.  From about 2000-2008, I was an avid hater of mascots at baseball games.  I felt they were distracting, silly and unnecessary.  Since then, I’ve come to accept them and even enjoy them from time to time.  They don’t really bother me, and I don’t really bother them.  The kids really do like them and there are other aspects of the baseball game atmosphere which annoy me much more.  However, the Chickens routine is awesome.  It hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years, but it is still hilarious.  I went in wondering if I would still like his act, but there were moments I was laughing hysterically which rarely happens at a baseball game.  Of course since he is THE Famous Chicken, he gets to do things other mascots could only dream of, like coach 1st base during the actual game, throw water balloons at the opposing team and pretend to urinate on the umpire.  Before the game I told my wife and friends that he would be at the game and none of them knew who he was, I was more than a little shocked.  I guess the Chicken will likely slide into a mere nostalgic memory like the light bulbs on the old crown scoreboard someday.  But for one night, it was fun to be a kid again.

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