Kansas City Royals: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Dayton Moore
Farm Director: Mike Arbuckle
Scouting Director: J.J. Picollo

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The system certainly has some talent brewing, but most of it lies below the double-A level, so fans are going to have to be patient. A renewed emphasis on the draft should definitely help turn the organization around. For more on the ’09 draft picks, see yesterday’s post.

1. Mike Montgomery, LHP, high-A
DOB: July 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 supplemental 1st round – California HS
MLB ETA: late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-95 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

If the organization can find a way to keep its current ace, then it could have a nasty one-two punch at the MLB level with Zack Greinke and Montgomery. The left-hander has flown through the system and will likely open ’10 in double-A. Montgomery, 20, posted a 2.30 FIP in 52.0 innings in high-A in ’09. He allowed just 38 hits and posted a walk rate of 2.08 BB/9. He also showed that he can miss some bats with a strikeout rate of 7.96 K/9. In his career, Montgomery has allowed just three homers in 152.2 innings of work, thanks in part to his solid ground-ball rates. His rate averaged out at 50% for the ’09 season.

2. Mike Moustakas, 3B, high-A
DOB: September 1988 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2007 1st round – California HS
MLB ETA: mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Still just 21 years of age, Moustakas has been hurt by some low BABIPs over the past two seasons: .291 in ’08 and .277 in ’09. As a result, this former No. 1 draft pick’s triple-slash numbers have plummeted each of his three pro seasons. Moustakas is going to have to improve his patience at the plate (6.1 BB% in ’09) but he does flash some raw power (.171 ISO in ’09). A .319 wOBA is not going to make him an impact third baseman.

3. Eric Hosmer, 1B, high-A
DOB: October 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 1st round – Florida HS
MLB ETA: mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Big things were expected of Hosmer in ’09, but he struggled with his vision and hit just .254/.352/.382 in 280 low-A at-bats. Curiously, the organization chose to promote the first baseman despite the lackluster numbers. He then hit .206/.280/.299 in 97 high-A at-bats. On the plus side, Hosmer posted a walk rate of 13.6% in low-A, which is extra impressive considering he was not seeing the ball very well.

4. Danny Duffy, LHP, high-A
DOB: December 1988 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 3rd round – California HS
MLB ETA: mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, slider, change-up

He’s certainly not the hardest thrower in the system, but Duffy knows how to pitch, as witnessed by his 2.84 FIP in high-A ball in ’09. Duffy allowed 108 hits in 126.2 innings of work. He gave up just six homers (0.43 HR/9) and showed solid control with a walk rate of 2.91 BB/9. His strikeout rate dropped from 11.24 in low-A in ’08 to 8.88 K/9 in ’09, but it’s still an encouraging number. A word of caution: Despite his low homers-allowed totals, Duffy is a fly-ball pitcher. He posted a ground-ball rate of just 42.2% in ’09 and 36.6% in ’08, so that suggests he’s going to have to work down in the zone a little more.

5. Tim Melville, RHP, low-A
DOB: October 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 4th round – Missouri HS
MLB ETA: early-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Melville entered the ’08 draft more highly regarded than organization-mate Montgomery, who has now passed him. Melville had a solid debut year (unlike Montgomery, he did not pitch in ’08) and allowed just 89 hits in 97.1 innings. The right-hander pitches up in the zone more than Montgomery, and he was hurt by a 0.92 HR/9 rate. He also showed less control with a walk rate of 3.98 BB/9. Melville did, however, show the ability to strike out batters with a K-rate of 8.88 K/9.

6. Kila Ka’aihue, 1B, triple-A
DOB: March 1984 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2002 15th round – Hawaii HS
MLB ETA: early-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 1

Ka’aihue was the forgotten man in the organization while Mike Jacobs played everyday and provided below average production (-0.7 WAR). Despite slugging 38 homers in ’08, the 25-year-old spent the entire year in triple-A where he hit .252/.392/.433 with an ISO of .181 in 441 at-bats. Ka’aihue walked 102 times on the year… or six fewer times than Jacobs has in the last three years combined. If Kansas City is not going to take him seriously as a cheap source of power, it should do the slugger a favor by trading him.

7. David Lough, OF, double-A
DOB: January 1986 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 11th round – Mercyhurst College
MLB ETA: mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

The 23-year-old Lough had a breakout ’09 season and could be the best in-house option to eventually replace David DeJesus or Coco Crisp (when they are deemed too expensive). Lough, though, is probably still a year away from being ready to play everyday at the MLB level. In ’09, he began the year in high-A and hit .320/.370/.473 in 222 at-bats. He then moved up to double-A where he hit .331/.371/.517 with a .186 ISO in 236 at-bats. Lough stole 19 bases but was caught eight times, and he needs to get on base more frequently (4.8 BB% in double-A) to take advantage of his speed.

8. Jeff Bianchi, SS, double-A
DOB: October 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 2nd round – Pennsylvania HS
MLB ETA: late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Finally healthy, Bianchi showed consistency in ’09 and reached double-A. In high-A ball, the shortstop hit .300/.360/.427 in 220 at-bats. Moved up to double-A, Bianchi responded with a triple-slash line of .315/.356/.441 in 270 at-bats. He also stole 22 bases on the year and was caught just six times. The 23-year-old infielder strikes out too much (21.5 K%) for his modest power.

9. John Lamb, LHP, rookie
DOB: July 1990 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 5th round – California HS
MLB ETA: late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 87-91 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Lamb did not pitch after signing in ’08, so he made his pro debut in ’09 and pitched well at two rookie ball levels. Overall, he allowed 57 hits in 68.2 innings and showed good control with a walk rate around 2.70 BB/9. Despite an average fastball, Lamb used his control and deception to strike out almost one batter per inning. He should jump to low-A in 2010, and he still has a long way to climb before reaching Kansas City.

10. Tyler Sample, RHP, rookie
DOB: June 1989 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 3rd round – Colorado HS
MLB ETA: mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up

This ’08 draft pick gets lost in the shuffle behind some of the bigger names, but Sample had an impressive year in ’09. The right-hander allowed 41 hits in 54.2 innings of work while posting a strikeout rate around 8.00 K/9. His control is still a work in progress, but it was right around 3.60 BB/9. Sample posted a modest 43.4% ground-ball rate, but he allowed just two home runs (0.16 HR/9).

Up Next: The St. Louis Cardinals

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

19 Responses to “Kansas City Royals: Top 10 Prospects”

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  1. geo says:

    Surprised that Wil Myers isn’t here. Has he not had enough pro playing time yet to make the list?

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    • John says:

      2009 draftees are intentionally left off the top ten lists, not enough professional data, I suppose. Hopefully Aaron Crow would be on this list too, if he were eligible.

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  2. FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Mike Jacobs is to “providing below average production” what Brade Hawpe” is to “providing subpar outfield defense.”

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  3. truth says:

    What’s the reasoning behind not including the 2009 draftees? This is essentially a review of the 2009 season. I, personally, would like a view of the systems as a whole going into the 2010 season, not limited like this. Thumbs Down.

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      Yeah – you know it would be really great if Marc posted an article at the start of the series describing the reasoning behind not including the 2009 draftees. ‘Cause that would be really awesome – you know a person could just go back there and look it up and stuff and not have to ask about it in a thread.

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  4. Joe R says:

    Is Ka’aihue really that good?

    His MLE, given his career AAA numbers in Omaha, is a .221/.332/.380 line. This is the PCL, after all.

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    • Ben F says:

      Word on the street (and the hope for the fans) is that Kila’s better 2008 & 2009 seasons are mostly because he’s finally 100% recovered from a knee surgery a few years back. He’s said in interviews that he finally feels like he has all his strength and can trust his legs. So, the hope is that his swing is still developing and that his high walk rate would make him MLB-worthy.

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    • Paul says:

      No, he’s not that good. He walks a lot, hit for pretty good power last year, is limited to DH, and absolutely could not hit lefties at all in a full season of AAA. He’s a better value option than Mike Jacobs, but that’s not saying much.

      Problem is, where do you get the 10th guy if ’09 picks cannot be included? He’s in the top ten, just not 6 even in a system as relatively weak as theirs. Lamb should be there instead – there is some buzz about him moving very quickly.

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  5. Marc says:

    The ’09 draft picks are mentioned in the previous day’s draft recap, so they’re not ignored all together. As well, extra players were also reviewed during the recent Minor Review series, which looked at an extra five players for each club.

    The reason for the exclusion of picks is for two reasons A) Not enough data to grade them effectively, and B) It also allows us to look at some other players that don’t show up on all the other Top 10 lists out there. We could just throw up something very similar from Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus, but where is the fun in that?

    Frankly, Top 10 lists are very subjective to begin with, aside from the no-brainer picks like Moustakas and Hosmer… and draft picks are even more so (aside from the Strasburgs, etc).

    For example, Robert Stock for St. Louis (whom you’ll see tomorrow) had a much better debut than expected, but he was a college guy playing in rookie ball. Was he really as good as his pro numbers suggest, or was it a fluke? I don’t know, frankly. So to give him the third or sixth or 10th best prospect ranking with 40 games of data would be foolish of me.

    This decision was also made because of all the top picks and over-draft picks that signed soooo late because of the deadline, and received only a handful of games of experience or none at all.

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  6. Marc says:

    As for Ka’aihue, I’d say he’s a solid prospect for KC because A) He’s a cheap (key for this organization) source of power, B) The Royals NEED power, and C) The Royals NEED guys to get on base.

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  7. LJ says:

    Mark – how many of these players did you see play? If you didn’t how many scouts did you talk to?

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    • David says:

      Personally, I think it reflects worse on people who spend their time criticizing the author of a top 10 prospect list (OMG IT WILL CURE TEH CANCERZOORZ). I don’t care if Marc is picking these 10 names out of a hat – in the end we can accept his list or not.

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  8. Marc says:

    Sigh, I need to start leaving this on my profile. Yes, I watch the players, yes I talk to people about the players. No, I do not live in my mother’s basement. With that said, I certainly do weigh statistics more heavily against traditional scouting than some of the other analysts like the BA boys and Mr. Goldstein.

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  9. TomG says:

    Marc, that’s a rather aggressive ranking of Sample compared to other sources; does that speak more of how you feel about the Royals’ system or are you that high on his potential?

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  10. egk says:

    not that this is a big deal, but doesn’t ka’aihue have two options remaining? They didn’t add him to the roster until ’08 and wouldn’t have burned an option that year.

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  11. jmjore says:

    Marc, in case you might still read comments on this article: It is rumored that the Royals are about to sign Cuban defector Arguelles. Assuming it gets done, does he crack the top ten and if so, where?

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  12. Whoever is reading here, I just want to add here, the concern with that kind of reaction the potential for psychosomatic injury (and loss of confidence or faith. That’s absolutely not what you desire in your dog.

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