|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
Matt Meyers chat
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||Alex Gordon, 3b Born: Feb. 10, 1984 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 220|
|Drafted: Nebraska, 2005 (1st round) • Signed by: Phil Huffman|
|Background: Since the Royals made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft, Gordon has done nothing to make the Royals think twice about their club-record $4 million bonus investment. He pulled off an unprecedented feat by winning Baseball America's College Player of the Year Award and Minor League Player of the Year awards in consecutive seasons, capturing the latter honor in his pro debut. Gordon is accustomed to accumulating hardware, as he was a two-time Big 12 Conference player of the year at Nebraska and was the offensive MVP when Team USA won a gold medal at the 2004 World University Championships. After signing late in 2005, he played in the Arizona Fall League, his only pro experience before he led the Double-A Texas League in slugging (.588), finished second in on-base percentage (.427) and ranked fourth in batting (.325). A native of Lincoln, Neb., Gordon grew up as a Royals fan, and his brother Brett was named for Hall of Famer George Brett, the greatest player in franchise history. Gordon may one day make a run at that title.|
Strengths: There's little that Gordon can't do offensively. He has a smooth stroke with impressive bat speed and is able to generate power to all fields. In college he was able to wait longer on pitches because of the metal bat, but he quickly learned how to get his load started earlier with wood. That allowed his power to emerge quickly as the season progressed and he hit 19 home runs in the final two months. He finds ways to get hits even when his swing isn't at its best, further evidence of his knack for centering the ball on the barrel of the bat. He has a strong concept of the strike zone and is willing to draw walks. An average runner with terrific instincts, Gordon is an efficient basestealer. He succeeded on 22 of his 25 attempts in 2006. Defensively, he has proven to be more athletic at third base than Kansas City expected. He has above-average arm strength.
Weaknesses: Gordon has had a habit of tinkering with his swing going back to his days at Nebraska, as well as a tendency to open up that causes a slight uppercut. The Royals are trying to get him to focus on keeping his swing on a slight downward plane to generate more backspin and loft. Gordon has the most room to improve defensively. He was mechanical and a little stiff as third baseman coming out of college, but he has made significant improvement. While he still needs to get lighter on his feet, there's no reason he shouldn't be at least an average defender.
The Future: With incumbent Royals third baseman Mark Teahen coming off a solid season, either he or Gordon could end up switching positions. Possible destinations for Gordon include the outfield corners or first base, and he provides enough offense to play anywhere. Because his bat is nearly major league-ready, he'll get a look with big club this spring and could make the Royals' Opening Day roster. Teahen's shoulder surgery could enhance Gordon's chances of breaking camp with Kansas City. Even if Gordon opens the year at Triple-A Omaha, he'll surely make his way to the majors to stay at some point in 2007.
|2.||Luke Hochevar, rhp Born: Sept. 15, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 205|
|Drafted: Fort Worth (American Association), 2006 (1st round) • Signed by: Phil Huttman and Gerald Turner|
|Background: A candidate to go No. 1 in the 2005 draft, Hochevar dropped to the Dodgers at No. 40 because of signability. Negotiations took a strange turn that September, when he switched agents and agreed to a $2.98 million bonus, then switched back to Scott Boras and declined to sign. After a sharp stint in the independent American Association, he did go No. 1 to the Royals in June. Hochevar got a $3.5 million bonus and $5.25 million guarantee as part of the first major league contract the Royals have given to a draft pick since Bo Jackson in 1986.|
Strengths: Hochevar features a lively four-seam fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and touches 95. He complements his fastball with a plus-plus late-breaking curveball that he can throw for strikes or bury for strikeouts. He worked more with a slider in college, but the Royals wanted him to focus on his curve and have been pleased with the results. His changeup is a usable third pitch, and he good overall command of his entire arsenal.
Weaknesses: Because of his tendency to land on his heel, Hochevar's fastball command can be inconsistent. His changeup can use further improvement. He signed late, so he has just 38 pro innings under his belt at age 23. The Royals sent him to the Arizona Fall League to get more experience, but he left early with shoulder fatigue.
The Future: Hochevar's shoulder problem isn't considered serious, and he could earn a spot in Kansas City's Opening Day rotation with a strong spring training. More likely, he'll begin the season at Double-A Wichita, where he finished 2006 in the Texas League playoffs, and make his big league debut later in the year.
|3.||Billy Butler, of Born: April 18, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 225|
|Drafted: HS--Jacksonville, 2004 (1st round) • Signed by: Cliff Pastornicky|
|Background: In 2004, Butler and Eric Hurley (Rangers) made Jacksonville Wolfson the fifth high school ever to produce two first-rounders in the same draft. Somewhat of a surprise selection at No. 14, Butler has justified the pick by hitting .344/.417/.564 as a pro. He won the Texas League batting title and the Futures Game MVP award in 2006, and capped the year by hitting .313 while helping Team USA qualify for the 2008 Olympics.|
Strengths: With excellent bat speed, balance and a cerebral approach, Butler has no real weakness as a hitter. He has great plate coverage and will hit the ball where it is pitched. He has the best raw power in the system and is still learning how to turn on inside pitches. He's content to go the other way, particularly with runners on base.
Weaknesses: While there are no questions about his bat, Butler's defense is another story. Drafted as a third baseman, he since has moved to the outfield. His arm is strong enough for right field, but his speed is below average and his routes and footwork need plenty of work.
The Future: There are no doubts that Butler has the bat to be an all-star, but his lack of defensive skills might mean his future is as a DH. He desperately wants to prove he can play the outfield and the Royals will give him every chance to do so in Triple-A this year. His bat could force him to Kansas City by midseason.
|4.||Chris Lubanski, of Born: March 24, 1985 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 206|
|Drafted: HS--Schwenksville, Pa., 2003 (1st round) • Signed by: Sean Rooney|
|Background: Always among the youngest players in his league, Lubanski has shown the ability to make adjustments as the season progresses as evidenced by a career-long trend of second-half surges. The fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft had a .704 on-base plus slugging percentage before the 2006 all-star break, compared to a .978 OPS afterward.|
Strengths: Though he has filled out since being drafted, Lubanski is still very athletic. He has plus speed and a smooth stroke with leverage that bodes well for power. His plate discipline and pitch recognition continue to improve, and he led the Texas League in walks in 2006. He has good range in the outfield.
Weaknesses: Though he runs well, Lubanski isn't the speedster he was billed as coming out of high school. He's not adept at stealing bases and is tentative in the outfield. His routes, jumps and arm are all fringy, making him a left fielder rather than a center fielder. He sometimes misses hittable pitches when he gets them. He hit just .225 against lefthanders in 2006 because he lunges too often and needs to trust his hands more.
The Future: Lubanski looked like a possible first-round bust by mid-2005, but he has turned his career around, and the Royals see him as their long-term answer in left field. He'll probably spend most of 2007 in Triple-A.
|5.||Tyler Lumsden, lhp Born: May 9, 1983 • B-T: R-L • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 205|
|Drafted: Clemson, 2004 (1st round) • Signed by: Nick Hostetler (White Sox)|
|Background: In his first summer as Royals general manager, Dayton Moore made it a goal to acquire as many pitching prospects as possible. The best he got was Lumsden, who came from the White Sox along with righthander Daniel Cortes in exchange for Mike MacDougal. A supplemental first-round pick in 2004, Lumsden missed all of 2005 following arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.|
Strengths: Lumsden had no physical problems and showed three quality pitches in 2006. His fastball sits at 90-93 mph and tops out at 95. He also features a hard 12-to-6 curveball and a solid changeup. His delivery is sound and balanced.
Weaknesses: Lumsden sometimes has trouble repeating his mechanics, landing too hard on his front foot and throwing across his body. When that happens, he gets under his pitches and leaves them up in the strike zone. That's why he was more hittable than a southpaw with three legitimate pitches should have been in 2006.
The Future: Developing pitchers has been problematic for the Royals, who have far more openings on their big league staff than the White Sox did. Lumsden's elbow problems appear behind him, and he could grab a spot in Kansas City's rotation with a strong spring training. More likely, he'll head to Triple-A for a few starts.
|6.||Erik Cordier, rhp Born: Fb. 25, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 214|
|Drafted: HS--Sturgeon Bay, Wis., 2004 (2nd round) • Signed by: Phil Huttman|
|Background: The highest drafted player out of Wisconsin since the Angels selected Jarrod Washburn 31st overall in 1995, Cordier missed 2005 while recovering from knee surgery. He came back strong in mid-June before elbow problems shut him down again two months later. There were concerns he might need Tommy John surgery, but doctors found no structural damage.|
Strengths: Cordier's fastball, which sits at 92-95 mph and tops out at 98, is the best in the system. It has good arm-side run and he can pound it in on righthanders to get groundballs. He also has advanced feel for a plus changeup.
Weaknesses: Though he'll flash a plus breaking ball, Cordier's release point varies and often leaves him with a slurve. He's still trying to figure out if he should throw a curveball or a slider. The Royals prefer their pitchers first try to develop a curve, so he likely will go that route. While he didn't have elbow surgery, his healthy is an obvious concern and has limited him to 87 innings in 2 1/2 pro seasons.
The Future: Kansas City will remain cautious with Cordier until he can stay healthy. Patience is required, but his arm strength is rare and the Royals think his upside rivals Hochevar's because of his potential for three plus pitches. He'll probably start 2007 back at low Class A Burlington.
|7.||Mitch Maier, of Born: June 30, 1982 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: Toledo, 2003 (1st round) • Signed by: Jason Bryans|
|Background: Maier prompts more divided opinion than perhaps any player in the system. Some see him as an everyday center fielder, while others think he's a fourth outfielder. He was part of an all-first-rounder outfield in Wichita, flanked by Billy Butler and Chris Lubanski. A catcher in college, Maier originally moved to third base as a pro.|
Strengths: Maier was the leader of a star-studded Wichita club and earns high praise for his work ethic. He has shortened his swing and improved his rhythm and balance. He stays tough against lefthanders and posted an .888 OPS against them in 2006. He has average speed and arm strength, and his good instincts allow him to play center.
Weaknesses: Though Maier is a well-rounded player, none of his tools jump out. His swing still gets long with an uppercut at times, and he needs to continue refining his approach at the plate. He profiles better for the top rather than for the middle of a batting order, and thus could stand to draw more walks.
The Future: Maier's defense has improved and his chances of being an everyday player have increased now that he has proven he can play center. His makeup and all-around tools should make him at least a big league reserve. He'll get the opportunity to make the Royals in spring training.
|8.||Justin Huber, of/1b Born: July 1, 1982 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 200|
|Signed: Australia, 2000 • Signed by: Fred Mazzuca/Omar Minaya (Mets)|
|Background: Huber has been on the prospect radar for so long that he has appeared in three Futures Games, winning MVP honors in 2005. A catcher in the Mets system before coming to the Royals in a three-team deal for Kris Benson in 2004, he moved to first base after switching organizations. Passed by 2006 trade acquisition Ryan Shealy at that position, Huber is now getting time in the outfield. He surprisingly didn't get a September callup and spent the month back home in Australia.|
Strengths: Huber stays inside the ball well and can spray line drives all over the field. He has a good knowledge of the strike zone and could hit 15-20 homers per season. He has solid arm strength and more athleticism than most former catchers.
Weaknesses: Huber has yet to prove he has the power to warrant everyday play at first base or an outfield corner. His athleticism hasn't translated well to his defense, where he lacks instincts. He was a shaky receiver and is now an adequate first baseman and a raw outfielder. His speed is slightly below average.
The Future: With Shealy at first and a multitude of outfield candidates, Huber's chances of becoming a regular with Kansas City are diminishing. He doesn't have much to gain from a third stint in Triple-A, so a trade could be possible.
|9.||Billy Buckner, rhp Born: Aug. 27, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: South Carolina, 2004 (2nd round) • Signed by: Spencer Graham|
|Background: Lefthander Matt Campbell, a 2004 first-rounder, hasn't pitched since tearing his labrum in mid-2005. But his former college teammate Buckner, a second-rounder in 2004, has acquitted himself quite well. He allowed only one run in his final 21 innings in 2006, including a playoff victory.|
Strengths: His father (not the former big league batting champion of the same name) taught Buckner how to throw a knuckle-curve as a kid. It has a devastating 12-to-6 spike and is a strikeout pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s with natural sink that creates groundballs.
Weaknesses: Buckner needs better command across the board. He refuses to give in to hitters and walks too many hitters in an attempt to be too fine. The Royals don't want to take away his aggressive nature, but they would like him to do a better job of channeling his emotions while trusting his fastball more. His changeup can be an average pitch but needs more work.
The Future: With Luke Hochevar, Zack Greinke, Tyler Lumsden and Buckner in the postseason rotation at Wichita, the Royals have some hope for the future of their rotation. Buckner is a step behind the other three, but Kansas City sees him as a reliable starter with some upside if he can improve his command.
|10.||Brent Fisher, lhp Born: Aug. 6, 1987 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 190|
|Drafted: HS--Goodyear, Ariz., 2005 (7th round) • Signed by: Mike Brown|
|Background: Fisher did not draw much attention as an amateur because his fastball wasn't overpowering, but he has done nothing but dominate as a pro. He repeated the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2006 and easily won the strikeout crown. He led all starters in short-season leagues in whiffs per nine innings (13.3) and finished second in opponent average (.169).|
Strengths: Because of the remarkable deception on his 88-91 mph fastball, Fisher's Rookie-level Idaho Falls teammates took to calling it the "Invisi-ball." He gets a lot of swings and misses with his fastball by hiding it behind a compact arm action. He also throw a curveball that he can spot for strikes and backdoor righthanders with.
Weaknesses: Fisher has a feel for a changeup, but he doesn't throw it often because he has been able to dominate Rookie ball with just his fastball and curve. The Royals are pushing him to throw the change more because he'll need it at higher levels. His fringe-average velocity may not play as well against more advanced hitters.
The Future: Still just 19, Fisher offers plenty of projection and could add velocity. He'll head to low Class A in 2007 and offers as much upside of any pitcher in the lower levels of the system after Erik Cordier.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Gordon: John Williamson
Hochevar: Paul Gierhart
Butler: Andrew Wooley
Lubanski: Bill Mitchell
Cordier: Mike Janes
Buckner: Steve Moore