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Top Ten Prospects: Kansas City Royals
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Will Kimmey
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
2. Chris Lubanski, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205.
Background: Lubanski enjoyed a standout amateur career, hitting for the cycle twice in a doubleheader as a senior and playing on Team USA’s youth and junior squads. After signing for $2.1 million, he ranked as the top prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Strengths: Lubanski’s speed rates the best of his four above-average tools. He’s a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has an athletic body with broad shoulders, and is capable of developing 25-homer power while also producing a strong average. He shows good pop now, especially when he centers the ball. He has great makeup and took a leadership role on his college-heavy AZL squad.
Weaknesses: Lubanski improved his throwing quite a bit in the AZL, but it will never rate much better than average. He’s still learning what to do with certain pitches and gets overanxious and a little out of control at the plate, on the bases and in the field.
The Future: Lubanski draws comparisons to Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran. He’s ticketed for low Class A Burlington, but a strong spring could require the challenge of a jump to high Class A.
3. Mitch Maier, of/3b
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200.
Background: Maier was an all-state quarterback growing up near the University of Michigan and had an offer to walk on the Wolverines football team as a safety, but he turned it down to play baseball at Toledo. He led the Mid-American Conference in batting as a freshman and junior, also topping the league in steals as a junior. He signed for $900,000 as the 30th overall pick in last year’s draft.
Strengths: The Royals drafted Maier for his bat. His build and offensive approach recall Twins prospect Joe Mauer’s. Maier understands the strike zone, makes consistently hard contact and has natural loft power that could lead to 25 homers a year. Maier’s speed, acceleration and smarts could allow him to annually reach double figures in steals.
Weaknesses: Maier needs a defensive home. A quirk in his throwing motion limited his future as a catcher, his college position, so the Royals addressed an organization weakness by moving him to third. He’ll probably play the outfield in 2004, as they just want him to get comfortable at the plate and not worry about defense for the time being.
The Future: Maier was hurt more than any Royals player by the lack of a short-season club in 2003. He’ll move to low Class A in 2004.
4. David DeJesus, of
Age: 25. B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170.
Background: DeJesus plays with an almost reckless aggression, which has resulted in several trips to the disabled list and postponed his pro debut for two years. Last year, he injured his right shoulder twice diving in the outfield but still made his big league debut in September.
Strengths: DeJesus is instinctive and plays above the sum of his tools. He shows gap power, good strike-zone control and above-average speed, which should make him an effective leadoff or No. 2 hitter. He has decent range in center field and a slightly above-average arm.
Weaknesses: DeJesus doesn’t have a lot of power but showed more juice in the Arizona Fall League, especially in driving inside pitches. Despite his high on-base percentages, DeJesus is prone to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.
The Future: The Royals will give DeJesus a shot at winning their left-field job this spring, but he won’t make the team unless management projects at least 300 at-bats for him. He could take over center field if Carlos Beltran leaves, as expected, after the 2004 season.
5. Colt Griffin, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 2000.
Background: Griffin was set to play first base at Louisiana Tech before becoming the first documented high school pitcher to hit 100 mph. He rocketed into the first round and received a $2.4 million bonus.
Strengths: Griffin dialed down his velocity for more control and now pitches at 94 mph and tops out at 97. A hard-biting 87-89 mph slider that can tie up lefthanders gives him two plus-plus pitches. Burlington pitching coach Tom Burgmeier got Griffin to use a more consistent arm slot and shorter arm stroke on his delivery, which greatly improved his command.
Weaknesses: Griffin must make more progress with his control after leading the minors in walks and finishing second in wild pitches (23). Kansas City isn’t worried that his strikeout rates aren’t as high as expected, as he has been told to focus on inducing weak contact. His changeup may never be an average pitch.
The Future: The Royals drafted Griffin knowing he was raw and a great deal of patience would be required. They have never felt better about his future after the strides he’s made. He’ll pitch in high Class A this year and could shoot through the system if everything clicks.
6. Donald Murphy, 2b
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 180.
Background: Murphy didn’t qualify academically to play at Long Beach State in 2002, but he received plenty of exposure as scouts flocked to Orange Coast JC to watch supplemental first-round pick Matt Clanton. Murphy’s makeup, bat and stocky, short-legged build remind Royals officials of Marcus Giles, though he should have a better glove.
Strengths: Murphy has the bat to become a regular as an offense-first second baseman. He’s a well-rounded hitter with a great approach and knowledge of the strike zone. He makes consistent contact and often waits longer on inside pitches before rapping them the opposite way. The ball jumps off his bat, leading scouts to project more power. Murphy’s solid hands and plus arm strength allow him to make all the routine plays at second, and he isn’t afraid of contact when turning the double play.
Weaknesses: Murphy is a below-average runner and uses instincts and positioning to supplement his range. He must improve his footwork at second base. He has enough bat to move to third if needed.
The Future: The Royals think Murphy is the best bet of any of their infielders to make the majors. He’ll move up to high Class A in 2004.
7. Shane Costa, of
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200.
Background: The 2003 Big West Conference player of the year, Costa signed for $750,000 after playing in the College World Series. His father Leo is a national bodybuilding champion who works as a personal trainer.
Strengths: Costa’s hands are quick and nimble, allowing him to react to all types of pitches. He shows good bat control and plate discipline, and he uses the whole field. He’s fast and aggressive on the bases and in the outfield.
Weaknesses: Costa’s upright stance with his feet close together was more tailored for aluminum bats, so the Royals spread him out in hopes of generating more power. He also must focus on going with pitches, not trying to inside-out offerings on the inner half. His arm is limited but shouldn’t prevent him from playing center field. He likes working out, but Kansas City has cautioned him about getting too muscle-bound and losing flexibility.
The Future: Costa received a late promotion to high Class A, where he doubled in his lone playoff start. He’ll begin there in 2004 as he pushes his way to the majors as a player in the mold of Rusty Greer.
8. Brian Bass, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190.
Background: Bass treaded water in low Class A before mental and physical maturation allowed him to go 4-3, 3.64 over the second half in 2002. He ranked fourth in the Carolina League in ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched last year and was one out shy of a no-hitter against Winston-Salem before allowing a home run.
Strengths: Bass’ stuff has improved dramatically since 2002. His fastball went from 87-89 mph to topping out at 93-94, while his curveball moved from below-average to plus and became the system’s best. He shows great command to both sides of the plate and keeps the ball down in the zone, eliciting plenty of groundouts. He’s a good athlete with sound mechanics and fields his position well.
Weaknesses: Bass doesn’t have a great changeup, but it’s improving and eventually should be an average weapon against lefties. He’s also working to refine his slider.
The Future: Bass announced himself as a prospect in 2003 and was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. Moving from Wilming-ton’s pitcher’s paradise to Wichita’s hitter’s haven will offer more evidence as to whether he can be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
9. Andres Blanco, ss
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 150.
Signed: Venezuela, 2000.
Background: American League rookie of the year Angel Berroa is an exceptional defender, but the Royals say Blanco possesses a better arm and range. He earned all-star honors in high Class A as an 18-year-old last season after spending most of 2002 in Rookie ball.
Strengths: Blanco plays shortstop like Omar Vizquel with his tremendous hands, arm strength and range. He makes errors, but many happen because he gets to more balls than his peers. Bat control isn’t a problem for Blanco, who can bunt and make contact with ease. His quick hands and wrists allow him to shoot balls through the infield for hits.
Weaknesses: Blanco must get stronger in order to hit enough to play regularly in the majors. He’s a career .259 hitter with no homers and a .299 slugging percentage. He needs to become less flashy and erratic, remembering to set his feet properly to reduce throwing errors and raising his basestealing percentage by running in better counts.
The Future: Blanco’s bat will determine when he reaches the big leagues. He’ll need to hone his offensive survival kit—walking, bunting and hit-and-run skills—this year in Double-A.
10. Byron Gettis, of
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 240.
Background: Gettis initially accepted a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Minnesota, then signed with the Royals after finalizing negotiations in a bowling alley. He’s the cousin of former NFL linebacker Dana Howard. Gettis turned his skills into production slowly, needing two years at each level before exploding in his first shot at Double-A and winning the organization’s minor league player of the year award in 2003.
Strengths: Most of Gettis’ success can be attributed to a better grasp of the strike zone. He had always been a dead-red fastball hitter, but learned to lay off breaking balls and got himself in more hitter’s counts by focusing on driving the ball up the middle. He’s one of the stronger hitters in the system. His arm and athleticism make him an average right fielder.
Weaknesses: Gettis carries a lot of weight on his 6-foot frame, leading to concerns his body could get soft. He still has a few holes in his swing, but his newfound plate discipline makes them harder to exploit.
The Future: Gettis has a ceiling of becoming a regular with 30-homer power, or he could wind up as a fourth outfielder. The Royals will have a better idea after he spends 2004 in Triple-A.