Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Jim Callis
1. Chris George, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS--Klein, Texas, 1998 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Bill Price.
Background: It has become a cliché to compare lefthanded pitching prospects without overwhelming velocity to Tom Glavine, but George just might be the real deal. He has been following the same career path as the two-time Cy Young Award winner: debut in Rookie ball, solid first full season in Class A, second season split between succeeding in Double-A and struggling for the first time after reaching Triple-A. Glavine went back to Triple-A the next year before surfacing in the majors, and George probably will do the same. He might already have gotten a look in Kansas City had he not spent September with the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team as the second-youngest pitcher on the staff. George was the third of three pitchers selected by the Royals in the first 31 picks of the 1998 draft, and his ceiling appears significantly higher than college righthanders Jeff Austin and Matt Burch, who were taken before him.
Strengths: George throws in the low 90s and hit 96 mph in about a third of his starts in 2000. His changeup is his best pitch, and he already has an advanced feel for changing speeds. George has been equally successful against lefthanders and righthanders. He has a sound pitchers frame (a near carbon copy of Glavines), a smooth delivery and generally throws strikes. Hes tough to run on; just 42 percent of basestealers succeeded against him in 2000.
Weaknesses: Before 2000, Georges fastball had maxed out at 94 mph. When he picked up a little more velocity, he at times fell into a power pitchers mentality, which wreaked havoc with his command. He was more effective when he didnt try to blow the ball by hitters. If he has learned that lesson, his only need is an improved breaking ball. He throws both a slider and a curveball, with the slider the more effective pitch.
The Future: Kansas City hasnt had a lefthander win more than 10 games in a season since 1988. That drought should end soon, with George and youngsters Jimmy Gobble and Mike Stodolka on the way. The Royals need starters and dont have another lefty candidate besides George. Making the club out of spring training isnt a certainty, though he shouldnt need more than another half-season in Triple-A.
2. Dee Brown, of
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HSMarlboro, N.Y., 1996 (1st round). Signed by: Ray Jackson.
Background: The Royals have a good track record of spending first-round picks on University of Maryland-bound tailbacks. In 1974, they signed Willie Wilson. Twenty-two years later, they got Brown. After a breakthrough 1999, Brown regressed a bit in 2000 and was suspended for five games after an altercation with Triple-A Omaha manager John Mizerock.
Strengths: Brown hasnt met a fastball he cant crush. His bat is extremely quick and can drive the ball out of any part of any ballpark. In 1999, he hit for average and showed fine plate discipline. He also runs well enough to be a 30-30 threat.
Weaknesses: Brown was overaggressive at the plate in 2000, and his slugging (down 79 points) and on-base percentages (down 112) plummeted. He was extremely raw defensively when he signed, and he must work if hes to become an average left fielder with an average arm. Multiple Pacific Coast League managers didnt like Browns attitude.
The Future: Unless the Royals trade Johnny Damon, Brown doesnt have an opening for a regular big league job in 2001. If Damon leaves as a free agent after the season, Brown will replace him in left field.
3. Mike MacDougal, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Wake Forest, 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Paul Faulk.
Background: Eligible for the 1998 draft as a college sophomore, MacDougal projected as a first-round pick before the season. But he came down with mononucleosis and slid to the 17th round. He returned for his junior year, then went in the first round with a compensation pick the Red Sox surrendered to sign free agent Jose Offerman.
Strengths: MacDougal has the best stuff in the organization, including the major leagues. He can touch 99 mph and throw 96 with ease, and hes best at 93-94 mph because then his fastball just dives at the plate. His slider and changeup also are above-average pitches when he throws them for strikes. He has allowed just eight homers in 203 pro innings.
Weaknesses: MacDougal has so much life on his pitches that its difficult to control them. He needs to more consistently throw his fastball on the corners and his secondary pitches for strikes.
The Future: After a brief taste of Double-A at the end of 2000, MacDougal will return there to begin 2001. As soon as he learns to harness his pitches, hell get the call to Kansas City.
4. Jimmy Gobble, lhp
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSBristol, Va., 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Paul Faulk.
Background: Gobble was the fourth of four pitchers selected by Kansas City before the second round of the 1999 draft. He too was a free-agent compensation choice, the result of Detroit signing Dean Palmer. After barely pitching in 1999, Gobble held his own in the Class A South Atlantic League as a teenager. He finished strong, going 7-2, 2.58 in his final 11 starts.
Strengths: Gobble has the same build and better stuff than George. Like George, he can throw in the low 90s and isnt afraid to use his plus changeup when hes behind in the count. The difference is that Gobbles curveball is an upgrade over either of Georges breaking pitches.
Weaknesses: What he doesnt have is Georges advanced feel for pitching. Gobbles curveball breaks so much he struggles to keep it in the strike zone. More advanced hitters may not chase his curve as much, so he may need to refine it.
The Future: Gobble still needs polish, so the Royals will be patient with his progress. Hell move up to high Class A Wilmington in 2001 and probably will spend the entire season there.
5. Jeff Austin, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Stanford, 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Dave Herrera.
Background: Austin was Baseball Americas College Player of the Year and the No. 4 overall draft pick in 1998. He didnt sign until the following February, when he agreed to a club-record $2.7 million bonus. If not for his holdout, the Royals believe he already would have been a member of their big league rotation.
Strengths: Austins best pitch always has been a hard-breaking curveball. He has made strides with his changeup, a key because his fastball is nothing more than average. He pitches at 89-90 mph and can reach 92. His command is a strong suit. He needed just 30 pro starts to reach Triple-A.
Weaknesses: Not only does Austins fastball lack overpowering velocity, but it also lacks movement. Its fairly straight, and he got hit in Triple-A when he threw it over the plate. Hell have to learn to work the corners better.
The Future: Austin could win a big league rotation job in spring training but might be better off with a few more starts in Triple-A. He projects as a solid starter, albeit not as a No. 1 guy.
6. Ken Harvey, 1b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 240. Drafted: Nebraska, 1999 (5th round). Signed by: Craig Struss.
Background: Harvey is the highest-ranking player on this list who wasnt a first-round draft pick. He won the NCAA Division I (.478) and short-season Northwest League (.397) batting titles in 1999, and might have done the same in the high Class A Carolina League in 2000 had a toe injury not sidelined him.
Strengths: Harvey doesnt have a classic baseball physique, but he can hit for average and gap power. He excels at hitting to the opposite field and has the size to develop over-the-fence power if he starts pulling more pitches. For his size, he runs surprisingly well.
Weaknesses: Despite having surgery on his right foot after the 1999 season, Harvey never fully recovered and played just 46 games in 2000. Though hes listed at 240 pounds, he was up to 255 this season and must watch his weight. He has stiff hands that limit his effectiveness at first base.
The Future: Harvey showed that high Class A pitchers were no match for him. Hes probably ready for Double-A despite just 102 games of pro experience. He could put up huge numbers at Double-A Wichita and Omaha, which have hitters parks in hitters leagues.
7. Mike Stodolka, lhp
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSCorona, Calif., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Gary Johnson.
Background: Stodolkas willingness to accept a $2.5 million predraft deal made him attractive to the Royals when they made him the fourth overall selection in the June draft. While he wouldnt have gone quite that high on pure ability, hes still loaded with talent. A year earlier, some teams werent sure if he was better as a hitter or a pitcher.
Strengths: Stodolkas future was determined when his fastball jumped from 88 mph in 1999 to 90-93 mph last spring. He also throws a hard curveball and has been working on adding a changeup. The Royals love both his stuff and his ability to throw strikes with it.
Weaknesses: Like many pitchers fresh out of high school, Stodolka needs to improve the command of his curveball and refine his changeup. Theres nothing that cant be cured with experience.
The Future: Stodolka will spend his first full pro season at Kansas Citys new low Class A Burlington affiliate. He should be one of the first high school pitchers from the 2000 draft to reach the majors. Late 2003 is a realistic ETA.
8. Alexis Gomez, of
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Luis Silverio/Andres Lopez.
Background: The Royals have never had a Dominican all-star. Big league second baseman Carlos Febles has a chance to be their first, and Gomez is their next best hope. He batted .351 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 1997. He ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and No. 7 in the Carolina League the last two years.
Strengths: Gomez is the best all-around athlete in the system. Hes a center fielder who can run (6.5-6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash) and throw, and he can put on a power display in batting practice. He also exhibits a strong work ethic.
Weaknesses: Gomez has tools but not skills. He lacks strength or plate discipline, which makes him a weak hitter. Especially troubling is the way he still buckles against breaking pitches from lefthanders after four years as a pro. He batted .237 and slugged .255 against southpaws in 2000. He lacks basestealing instincts and doesnt make good reads in the outfield.
The Future: The Royals hustled Gomez to high Class A at age 19 because of his tools. They need to send him back there in 2001 so he can develop his baseball aptitude.
9. Mark Ellis, ss
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Florida, 1999 (9th round). Signed by: Cliff Pastornicky.
Background: Having six picks in the first two rounds of the 1999 draft exhausted most of Kansas Citys draft budget. As a result,Ellis had to accept a $1,000 bonus. He has proven to be a bargain, earning all-star honors in both of his seasons as a pro and leading the Carolina League in hits and on-base percentage (.404) in 2000.
Strengths: Ellis is the quintessential heady ballplayer, an overachiever in terms of his raw physical ability. He gets on base by making contact and drawing walks, and he can steal an occasional base more on instincts than on speed. Hes a steady if unspectacular defender.
Weaknesses: Ellis arm strength isnt quite up to par for shortstop, which means he may have to settle for being a second baseman or a utilityman. Hes not blessed with a lot of power and might not be more than a No. 8 or 9 hitter if his production levels off.
The Future: Ellis will have to keep proving himself, and in 2001 must do so in Double-A. Dont rule him out as a shortstop. Rey Sanchez contract expires after the 2000 season, and the Royals dont have any other options.
10. Kyle Snyder, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-8. Wt.: 220. Drafted: North Carolina, 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Paul Faulk.
Background: Paul Faulk lived an area scouts dream in 1999, when he bagged three first-round picks in Mike MacDougal, Jimmy Gobble and Snyder. Snyder was ranked the No. 1 prospect last year in the Northwest League. In 2000, he didnt pitch until August because of a stress fracture in his elbow and an impinged nerve in his hand. When he returned, he worked two innings before blowing out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery.
Strengths: When healthy, Snyder had it all. Start with a classic pitchers body and uncommon athleticism for his size. He had three quality pitches: a 95-96 mph fastball, a hard curveball and a devastating changeup.
Weaknesses: Some thought Snyders curve was at the root of his elbow problems, which also included tendinitis in college. He may need to rework his breaking ball when he returns. Despite the successful track record for Tommy John patients, he still faces a long road back.
The Future: Snyder could start throwing off a mound in August. He may not see any real action until instructional league. The Royals were cautious with him before he got hurt, and theyll take extra care now.
Rest of the Best:
11. Shawn Sonnier, rhp
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