Kansas City Royals Top 15 Prospects

There aren’t as many high-ceiling talents as there were in recent years – thanks to the promotions, as well as the burn out of prospects such as Mike Montgomery – but the good news is that an influx of international talent is starting to slowly refill the ranks. The organization has relied heavily on its development system in recent years.

 

#1 Wil Myers (OF)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
21 591 165 26 37 61 140 6 .316 .389 .602 .425

Opening Day Age: 22
2012 Level: AA/AAA
Acquired: 2009 draft (3rd round)
Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB

The former prep catcher and 2009 3rd round draft pick out of North Carolina has developed into one of the top power hitting prospects in baseball. Myers, 21, split the 2012 season between double-A and triple-A, and hit 37 home runs between the two levels.

He has impressive raw power, obviously, but his approach at the plate is still a work-in-progress and he struck out 140 times in 134 games, mainly due to the conscious effort to hit for more pop. His .314 career average has been influenced by some very high BABIPs that will be hard to duplicate at the big league level until he improves against breaking balls and tightens up his two-strike approach.

Defensively, Myers is still learning the nuances of right field but he has average range and a plus arm. He has also played some center field where he projects to be fringe-average, as well as third base where he’s raw but could develop into an average fielder.

Myers should open 2013 back in triple-A for a little more seasoning – and perhaps to push back his arbitration clock – but could reach Kansas City by mid-season. He projects to develop into an all-star, run-producing right-fielder with 30-plus home run potential. Myers is quite possibly the best hitting prospect in the minors right now.

 

#2 Kyle Zimmer (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
20 9 9 39.2 39 1 9.53 1.82 2.04 2.32

Opening Day Age: 21
2012 Level: R/A
Acquired: 2012 draft (5th overall)
Projected 2013 Level: A+/AA

One of the Top 2 or 3 college pitchers available in the 2012 amateur draft, Zimmer was available to Kansas City with the fifth overall pick and immediately became the organization’s best pitching prospect. With a big, strong frame the right-hander should provide plenty of innings and he dominated the low minors after signing his first pro contact – made even more impressive considering he was pitching with bone chips in his elbow (which were cleaned out with surgery after the season ended).

Zimmer’s fastball lives in the low-to-mid 90s, with good movement, and can touch the upper 90s. He also has a curveball, slider and changeup, with one contact I spoke with giving the highest grade to his curveball. The changeup is a distant fourth pitch, and he struggles to command it the most, but it flashes the potential to develop a 50 grade.

The native of San Francisco may start out the year in high-A but should spend most of the year in double-A and could be ready to assume a full-time spot in the big league starting rotation in 2014. With Wil Myers in line to anchor the future line-up for years to come, Zimmer should do the same with the pitching staff and has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.

 

#3 Yordano Ventura (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
21 23 23 109.1 92 8 10.70 3.46 3.62 3.17

Opening Day Age: 21
2012 Level: A+/AA
Acquired: 2008 international FA
Projected 2013 Level: AA

Ventura has developed from curiosity – for his ability to throw 100 mph despite his paper-thin frame – to full-blown prospect thanks to his ability to get better with each new step up the organizational ladder. The right-hander spent the majority of the year in high-A ball but made six late-season starts at the double-A level with decent results.

Along with his explosive heater, Ventura also features a potentially-plus curveball and a changeup. A contact I spoke with placed an 80 grade on the Dominican native’s heater and a future 55-60 grades on his secondary pitches.

Although he’s shown improvements, his 109.1 innings in 2012 represents a career high, so he still has a lot to prove when it comes to answering questions about his durability. The talent evaluator I spoke with was not overly worried. “There are some concerns but his arm works really well and he pitched with less effort in his delivery this year than in the past, a great sign he will be able to be a starter,” he said. “His arm is really fast and loose so he projects very well to carry innings.”

If he holds up, Ventura has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter but it’s more likely that he’ll end up as a high-leverage reliever. He could reach the majors by the end of 2013 and should be ready to assume a full-time role with the Royals by mid-2014.

 

#4 Jake Odorizzi (P)


Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR
22 2 2 7.1 4.91 4.91 26.9 % 4.91 5.41 0.0

Opening Day Age: 23
2012 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Acquired: 2010 trade (Milwaukee)
Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB

The key to the 2010 Zack Greinke trade with Milwaukee, Odorizzi has moved methodically through the system. He opened 2012 back in double-A but quickly moved up to triple where he made 19 appearances (18 starts).The right-hander’s biggest strength may be his athleticism, which helps him repeat his arm slot and field his position. He also has an impressive pitcher’s frame and has been durable over the past two seasons, pitching more than 140 innings each season.

His repertoire includes an average fastball that ranges between 88-92 mph. He also has a curveball, slider and changeup – all of which have the potential to be average or better with improved command. Odorizzi’s control is currently ahead of his command.I have some concerns over his extreme fly-ball tendencies in 2012 and his ground-ball rates have dipped with each move up the ladder through the minor league system. A contact I spoke with said Odorizzi’s fly-ball rates are the result of relying heavily on his four-seam fastball. “As his changeup gets better and starts using his two seamer more, I believe his rates will hold up,” he said.

When I saw him pitch, Odorizzi was leaving his shoulder open, which caused his pitches to elevate. He was also leaking out over the rubber and dragging his arm behind him. Given the polish that’s needed on his secondary pitches, I was surprised how much he relied on his heater to the detriment of his other offerings.

Odorizzi, 22, will likely return to triple-A to open 2013 but is likely the first starting pitcher in line for a promotion when injuries strike. The addition of Ervin Santana and return of Jeremy Guthrie should help ensure that Odorizzi is promoted when he’s ready to hold his own at the big league level. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.

 

#5 Bubba Starling (OF)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
19 232 55 8 10 28 70 9 .275 .371 .485 .384

Opening Day Age: 20
2012 Level: R+
Acquired: 2011 draft (5th overall)
Projected 2013 Level: A

A star football and baseball star in Kansas, Starling was selected fifth overall during the 2011 draft but did not officially begin his pro ball career until ’12 when he was assigned to rookie ball. Because he focused his efforts on more than one sport while in high school he’s a little behind on the development track that most top prep stars find themselves on.

Starling produced solid numbers overall in 2012, including a 135 wRC+ (35% more runs generated than the average hitter in the league) and an isolated slugging rate of more than .200 but he was old for the league and had a strikeout rate of more than 30%. As our own Mike Newman noted earlier this year, Starling’s swing mechanics need some work and I agree that the prospect’s swing includes a hitch to it, which could prevent him from reaching his immense potential.

A contact I spoke with was intrigued with the outfielder’s size, raw power, bat speed and running speed. He also noted that Starling was a competitive player that has the ability to shift his game to “another gear.” It was suggested that Starling could be a big league center-fielder capable of hitting .275 with more than 30 home runs. I asked the contact if he felt Starling would need a little more time to develop than the typical highly-drafted prep player, which tends to be about four years. “When it really clicks for him, his time table will speed up tremendously,” the talent evaluator said. “(He) has a chance to be real big when it does.”

Starling should move up to full-season ball for the first time in his career with an assignment to Lexington in the South Atlantic League. If he can iron out his hitting mechanics, he could develop into a middle-of-the-order threat with plus defense in center field. Otherwise, he could possibly have a career similar to former Arizona Diamondback outfielder Chris Young.

Additional Notes

My concerns with Starling’s swing have been well documented at FanGraphs. Regardless of tools, his ability to hit advanced pitching is presently in doubt which is of obvious concern. In addition to a long, one plane swing, I question his ability to pick up breaking balls out of the hand as he missed a couple by a foot or more in person. Starling reminds me of Trayce Thompson, only with considerably less hype due to draft position and previous prospect ranking. If the White Sox prospect is not top-100 worth, then Starling isn’t either. Starling’s lofty rankings are Tim Beckham-esque and that hasn’t worked out all that well for the Rays. (Mike Newman)

 

#6 Adalberto Mondesi (SS)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
16 232 60 7 3 19 65 11 .290 .346 .386 .336

Opening Day Age: 17
2012 Level: R+
Acquired: 2011 international FA
Projected 2013 Level: A

Mondesi, the son of former big league outfielder Raul Mondesi, certainly has pedigree on his side. The young shortstop has already exceeded expectations on his way to becoming one of the Royals best – and most exciting – prospects. A talent evaluator that I spoke with felt the shortstop had a lot to offer due to natural talents. “His instincts for the game are excellent,” he said. “His awareness and approach to the game is very, very advanced.”

Just 17, Mondesi showed an advanced approach for his age and hit .290 in the advanced-rookie Pioneer League. He doesn’t have a ton of pop, despite good bat speed, but he has above-average foot speed that helped him nab 11 bases in 13 tries. Not surprisingly, his approach at the plate is still developing. He struck out 65 times in 50 games and will need to improve his pitch recognition.

Defensively, Mondesi has outstanding range, a strong arm and good hands. He needs consistency, which should come with time, and there are no questions about his ability to stick at shortstop. Although he won’t turn 18 until part way through 2013, Mondesi could open the year in the full-season South Atlantic League and could very well be the youngest player in the league. The organization could also err on the side of caution and hold him back in extended spring training for a couple of months.

 

#7 Jorge Bonifacio (OF)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
19 448 116 20 10 30 84 6 .282 .336 .432 .349

Opening Day Age: 19
2012 Level: A
Acquired: 2009 international FA
Projected 2013 Level: A+

The Royals watched both Adalberto Mondesi and Bonifacio erupt into bona fide prospects in 2012. The latter hitter is the brother of former Miami Marlin and current Toronto Blue Jay Emilio Bonifaco but both players have quite different approaches to the game. While the elder Bonifacio has built his game around his plus speed, the younger Bonifacio flashes plus raw power.

Just 19 years old, the Dominican native spent all of 2012 in A-ball, producing a 116 wRC+ in 105 games. He has an aggressive approach but he managed to trim his strikeout rate from 22.5% in 2011 to 18.8%. A talent evaluator I spoke with sees a promising future for the prospect. “He’s a middle-of-the-line-up guy, most likely a No. 3 hole hitter,” the contact said. “(Bonifacio) drives the ball to all fields, with very loose hands, bat speed and good pitch recognition.”

Defensively, he likely won’t be any better than average in right field due to modest range but he has a strong arm. The contact I spoke with graded his future potential in the field at 55 with a 55/60 grade on his arm strength. Bonifacio will move up to high-A ball in 2013 and could see double-A by the end of the year. He could be ready to take over right field in Kansas City by late 2014, if he doesn’t suffer any hiccups.

 

#8 Sam Selman (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
21 13 12 60.1 45 1 13.28 3.28 2.09 1.56

Opening Day Age: 22
2012 Level: R+
Acquired: 2012 draft (2nd round)
Projected 2013 Level: A/A+

Selman did not have the most impressive college career at Vanderbilt – pitching sparingly and also bouncing between the starting rotation and the bullpen – but he got off to a fast start to his pro career. The southpaw struck out 89 batters with very high ground-ball-out rates in 60.1 innings in advanced rookie ball.

The Texas native has an above-average fastball that sits in the low 90s and can hit 94-95 mph. A contact gave me a future 55 grades on his slider and a 50 grade on his changeup. There are some concerns that Selman will not be able to stick in the starting rotation but the talent evaluator I spoke with feels that he’ll stick as a starter because of “the way he pitched this summer and the way he finished his college career… He has a big arm from the left side.”

Selman, 22, will move up to the South Atlantic League in 2013 and he’ll look to continue to dominate competition in the lower levels of the minors. If he continues to develop on his current trajectory, he could reach high-A before the year is out with an eye on the majors in late 2014 or by mid 2015. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter but he could also end up in the bullpen as a hard-throwing, high-leverage reliever from the port side.

Additional Notes

I saw Selman early in the year in a relief appearance in Gainesville and he wasn’t right mechanically. He was leaking his front hip and landing with an open foot while he also broke his hands very late. Selman’s body and arm moved at a normal pace but his arm got such a late start that it couldn’t catch up consistently (affecting command) while his leaky front side cost him some power (inconsistent velocity, bite on breaking ball).

Looking at this appearance from a long-term perspective, Selman still showed the potential that he started to deliver on later in the season. He sat 92-94 most of this outing with natural cut from a long, projectable 6’3, 190 pound frame he has slowly filled out in college. While Selman has had some trouble showing feel on the mound, he flashed an above-average 79-83 mph hybrid breaking ball and an average 81-84 mph changeup despite well below average command. The arm action is excellent and the delivery has a lot of good parts to build on, but Selman’s future will come down to how much feel he can develop after a spotty career in college. (Kiley McDaniel)

 

#9 Jason Adam (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
20 27 27 158.0 148 18 7.01 2.05 3.53 4.05

Opening Day Age: 21
2012 Level: A+
Acquired: 2010 draft (5th round)
Projected 2013 Level: AA

A fifth round draft pick out of a Kansas high school in 2010, Adam has developed into a solid pitching prospect who should be capable of providing tons of innings thanks to his big, strong frame. He’s not flashy, working mostly in the low 90s with his heater, and his secondary pitches (curveball, changeup) are still developing but they both project to be average.

Adam, 21, has moved rather quickly through the system and is ready for double-A in 2013 after two full seasons in A-ball. At high-A in 2012, he showed very good control with just 36 walks in 158 innings of work. He also struck out 123 despite modest command of his pitches.

He should be ready for the majors at some point in 2014 but currently looks like a future No. 3 or 4 starter – assuming he can develop his secondary pitches into average offerings. If not, he may end up pitching out of a big league bullpen.

 

#10 Kyle Smith (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
19 14 14 72.1 65 3 12.19 2.61 2.86 1.98

Opening Day Age: 20
2012 Level: R+/A
Acquired: 2011 draft (4th round)
Projected 2013 Level: A+

Smith is an under-sized right-handed pitcher but he’s produced outstanding results in pro ball to date. A contact I spoke with had no concerns with the hurler’s frame, saying that the prospect is both mentally tough and physically stronger than his size would suggest. 

Smith features an average fastball that sits in the 88-92 mph range but can touch 94, a plus curveball and a changeup that needs a lot of polish. The contact I spoke with said that he needs to continue to pitch aggressively and trust his stuff; he doesn’t need to nibble and dance around the strike zone, which he has a tendency to do. The 20-year-old Florida native still has work to do with his command but he showed good control with 20 walks and he over-powered A-ball competition with 87 strikeouts in 67.1 innings.

After opening 2012 in extended spring training before joining A-ball in June, Smith will experience true full-season ball for the first time in his career and it will be interesting to see how he holds up over 100 to 120 innings. The former fourth round draft pick has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter and could reach Kansas City around 2015.

 

#11 Orlando Calixte (SS)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
20 574 138 30 15 38 123 11 .263 .315 .437 .337

Opening Day Age: 21
2012 Level: A/A+
Acquired: 2010 international FA
2013 Level: A+/AA

Calixte, 20, is a promising defensive shortstop with excellent range, a strong arm and good actions. The Dominican native’s offense, though, is a step behind his work at the shortstop position because of his over-aggressive nature and developing pitch recognition, which led to a high strikeout rates.

Calixte split 2012 between two A-ball levels and actually hit for a higher average after his promotion to high-A ball – although it was aided by a BABIP increase from .256 to .360. On the downside, his walk rate dropped (8.3 to 5.4%), his strikeout rate increased (17.3 to 23.4%) and his power dipped (.224 to .145 ISO). He deserves a mulligan, to a degree, because the hitting environment in high-A Wilmington is tough. After the regular season ended, Calixte also spent time in the Arizona Fall League and played in another 12 games.

Ideally, the prospect should return to high-A ball to begin 2013 but the organization may be tempted to promote him to double-A. With slick fielding big leaguer Alcides Escobar entrenched at shortstop in Kansas City and just 25 years old, the Royals have time to let Calixte develop at his own pace.

 

#12 John Lamb (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
21 6 6 13.0 15 2 9.69 2.77 6.92 3.97

Opening Day Age: 22
2012 Level: R/R+
Acquired: 2008 draft (5th round)
Projected 2013 Level: AA

The Royals organization has seen a few top pitchers take steps backward in their development over the past few seasons. Lamb’s stunted development was the result of Tommy John surgery in 2011. He returned from the surgery part way through ’12 but his stuff had yet to fully bounce back – which is not unusual. He should continue to get stronger the further removed he is from the injury.

A contact told me Lamb’s fastball velocity was in the 87-91 mph range last year, down from his pre-surgery velocity of 90-95 mph. “He really didn’t pitch enough to see his stuff come all the way back yet but we are comfortable with what we saw,” he said. Lamb had yet to develop a consistent curveball so the lost time will hurt in that area but his previously-plus changeup has looked good.

Despite the injury, Lamb could reach Kansas City in 2014 and he should return to double-A for the upcoming season. The southpaw could survive at the big league level even if he doesn’t regain his plus fastball but he needs to see an improvement on the breaking ball if he hopes to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter. He had the ceiling of a No. 2 starter prior to the injury.

 

#13 Cameron Gallagher (C/DH)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
19 139 35 10 3 10 16 1 .276 .331 .425 .344

Opening Day Age: 20
2012 Level: R+
Acquired: 2011 draft (2nd round)
Projected 2013 Level: A/A+

Gallagher was a second round draft pick in 2011 but he’s appeared in just 64 pro games over the past two seasons. He dealt with hand and shoulder injuries in 2012 and still showed an advanced approach for his age. Despite being a teenager with limited pro experience, he struck out just 11.5% of the time while maintaining a solid batting average and gap power. A talent evaluator gave me 50/55 future grades on both his hit and power tools.

Defensively, he’s worked hard to improve his game and there are few doubts at this point that he’ll be able to stick behind the dish. My contact said, “His skills defensively are way ahead of where we even imagined they would be with his lack of true time behind the plate.” He has incredibly soft hands, a quick, accurate release and has ability to slow the game down.

Gallagher will move up to full-season ball in the South Atlantic League and his big task in 2013 will be to stay healthy – a difficult task given the beatings that catchers take on a regular basis. With Salvador Perez currently entrenched in Kansas City – and with a favorable contract – there is no need for the organization to rush this young catching prospect. He should arrive in majors by 2016 and he could be an average defensive backstop with slightly-above-average offense.

 

#14 Bryan Brickhouse (P)


Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
20 11 11 53.0 55 4 6.96 4.42 6.62 4.33

Opening Day Age: 20
2012 Level: R+/A
Acquired: 2011 draft (3rd round)
Projected 2013 Level: A

Brickhouse was one of my favorite prep arms available in the 2011 amateur draft and he was selected out of the same high school – albeit one year later – as Jameson Taillon, one of Pittsburgh’s top prospects. Brickhouse is not overly physical at just 6’0” but he can touch the mid-90s with his fastball and also shows a promising curveball.

His changeup was a work-in-progress when he was drafted but a talent evaluator I spoke with said it’s improved two grades since that time. “He believes in it now.” The 20-year-old hurler had a rough introduction to pro ball in 2012 and struggled through 10 A-ball starts – although not as much as his 5.61 ERA would suggest (3.98 FIP). He began the year in extended spring training before skipping over short-season ball which, in hindsight, might have been a mistake.

The right-hander should return to A-ball to begin the ’13 season but could see high-A ball if he makes the necessary adjustments. According to the contact I spoke with, Brickhouse needs to be more consistent and trust his stuff. “Kids sometimes think they need to do more, especially at a young age,” he said. “They try to do more and then they find themselves behind counts. He’s a bull – and will be fine.”

 

#15 Cheslor Cuthbert (3B)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
19 517 114 18 7 37 80 6 .240 .296 .322 .285

Opening Day Age: 20
2012 Level: A+
Acquired: 2009 international FA
2013 Level: A+/AA

Cuthbert entered 2012 with a lot of expectations surrounding him as he began his second full season in the minors. Just 19, he struggled to find his footing in a notoriously difficult home ball park to play in. The Nicaragua native was very raw when he entered pro ball and that holds true today, despite his steady climb through the minors.

Cuthbert is working to drive the ball with more authority after posting an isolated slugging rate of just .082. On the plus side, he has a good understanding of the strike zone, isn’t afraid to use the whole field and makes decent contact. At the hot corner, Cuthbert has a strong arm and good actions but his range is only so-so. There has been some talk of him being unable to stick at the position as he matures and fills out but a contact I spoke with feels he’ll be able to remain there because he handles everything hit to him.

The right-handed hitter should return to high-A ball in 2013 and could very well spend the entire season there. The return engagement to the Carolina League will not be a huge red mark against his prospect value given that youth is on his side. He has the raw talent to be an impact player at the big league level but it will take time.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

15 Responses to “Kansas City Royals Top 15 Prospects”

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  1. Ben says:

    This worries me:

    “When I saw him pitch, Odorizzi was leaving his shoulder open, which caused his pitches to elevate. He was also leaking out over the rubber and dragging his arm behind him.”

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  2. Antonio bananas says:

    Not giving mike Montgomery any shot for a comeback?

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  3. Marc Hulet says:

    I wouldn’t say I’m giving him zero chance but the ceiling has to be down around No. 4/5 starter or left-handed reliever

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  4. Impossibles says:

    Wow, talk about a mighty fall back from the hall of hyperbole farm system in 2010-11.

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    • Bad Bill says:

      Well, that’s what happens when a flood of prospects suddenly advances to the majors and leads a team to the pinnacle of success in the weak AL Central.

      Oh, wait.

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  5. Yar says:

    Where is the love for Christian Colon? I know he isn’t extremely sexy, but certainly his high floor should put him above guys like Gallagher or Brickhouse, who are nice players but who probably aren’t future major leaguers

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    • Danny says:

      Surprised about Colon also. He could easily slip into the starting spot at second base and produce 4-5 seasons of league average play, beating most of the list by WAR. Sometimes position prospects lose some sheen and get underrated. Would you really rather have Bryan Brickhouse at this point?

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  6. b says:

    zimmer isn’t from san francisco, he attended the university of san francisco, but was in la jolla

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  7. Marc Hulet says:

    Colon was No. 15 for a while but a late vote pushed him to 16. I was conflicted about Cuthbert so when I received the vote of confidence I went with ceiling over polish.

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  8. KCDaveInLA says:

    Dear Kansas City Royals,
    On the rumored Wil Myers-for-Jon Lester trade:

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  9. Gerald says:

    I’m not sure why reactions are negative to this list. The Royals had nowhere to go but down. This is still at top 15 system if not top 10.

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  10. Zachattack says:

    Why does it take 7+ days for these articles to be published? At first it was every 3 days, but now it’s pushing a week. These are by far my favorite pieces on fangraphs and enjoy your articles Mark! Just curious

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  11. Marcus says:

    I think you’re underselling on Kyle Smith. Last year was his first season of pro ball, and he destroyed hitters to the tune of 12.19 K/9. That’s incredible. He’s got two very good pitches in his fastball and curveball with the curve being a true out pitch. If he polishes that changeup, and all indications are that he’s a hard working kid with a good mind for pitching, he could be a Roy Oswalt type. You don’t strike out that many hitters at that young of an age and not have serious stuff. Forget that he’s only 6′ tall. His numbers were better than Zimmer’s pitching on the same team.

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  12. David Lowe says:

    Certain names are missing from this list, like Miguel Almonte, Elier Hernandez, Christian Colon, and Christian Binford. Now that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi are gone, there should be room for these guys.

    I would move John Lamb out of the Top 15 myself simply because of his lost 2012, his poor performance, and the likelihood that the TJ surgery will cause his velocity drop to become permanent.

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