Kansas City Royals: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Josh Leventhal

Kansas City Royals: Chat




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, 2008.

Moderator: Welcome aboard everyone. This was my first year covering the Royals system and I found it both challenging — not a lot of separation between many players in the system — and enjoyable — there are some good people running the organization after inheriting a bit of a mess. Without futher ado, let's get to it.

 Q:  Todd from Wauwatosa asks:
I see that Justin Huber is in your 2011 line-up but every year he seems to sink down the list. Is he legitimately thier first baseman of the future or just a filler 4A guy?
 A: 

Moderator: Really Justin Huber needs to stay healthy for a full season before a fair determination can be made if he is legit. He hit 18 homers in just 286 at-bats at Omaha, leaving Royals officials what his full-season stats would have looked like if he didn't make two trips to the DL. He's out of options, so who knows, he may not be the club's 2008 first baseman if he doesn't make the team out of spring training.

 Q:  Sam from Los Angeles, CA asks:
Do you see Matt Mitchell as a quickly advancing guy if he has similar success in Low A as he did in Arizona?
 A: 

Moderator: I don't think you'll see Mitchell moving too quickly this year. He's still learning to repeat his delivery and struggles at times with a feel for his curveball. I see the Royals taking their time with the young high school arms from the '07 draft like Duffy, Mitchell and Runion.

 Q:  Henry from Maitland, FL asks:
Sean McCauley: Next hs player in the organization after Moustakas to make it to the bigs?
 A: 

Moderator: Tough to predict arrival of young guys like this, but the Royals certainly do have a lack of prospects behind the plate. McCauley is a big, athletic kid with a strong arm who also projects to hit for some power. Still pretty raw.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Will the Royals regret trading Billy Buckner for Alberto Collaspo? This trade was puzzling considering Dayton Moore's priority of developing in-house pitching.
 A: 

Moderator: There was some disappointment among Royals officials that Buckner didn't have a better major league debut last year, but there certainly wasn't any feeling of giving up on him. With improved command he could be a No. 3 guy, though No. 4 or 5 in the rotation is probably where he fits best. The reason they dealt him is obviously a lack of impact bats in the system that are anywhere close to reaching the big leagues. Who's gonna get there before Moustakas? . . . By the way, and for what it's worth, check out Callaspo's stats in the Venezuelan League (.331/.394/.422).

 Q:  Dale from Scottsdale, AZ asks:
What are some of the Royals needs they will be addressing in the 2008 draft?
 A: 

Moderator: Only area where they don't have a pressing need is third base with Gordon and Moustakas.

 Q:  JAYPERS brother from NYC asks:
where does KC's organization rank compared to the other clubs now? It looks like the drafts/trades over the past couple of years has strengthened the system a lot.
 A: 

Moderator: Royals rank 24th this year in our Top 30 after ranking 11th last year — the decline is largely due to graduating the likes of Gordon, Butler, Bannister and Soria. I'd say the Royals have largely been more successful in trades than the draft, acquiring Cortes, Pimentel, Blake Johnson and Lumsden in recent years. Getting Soria in the Rule 5 and Neal Musser as a free agent were pretty solid moves as well.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
How close were Daniel Cortes and Luke Hochevar? I was a little surprised that Hochevar was behind Cortes. They both seem to have the same strengths and weaknesses.
 A: 

Moderator: Not a lot separating these two. Bumping Cortes ahead of Hochevar caused a bit of debate here in the office during the Handbook deadline. The biggest argument for Cortes ahead of Hochevar is that he is just 20 and already has two above-average pitches in a fastball that grades a 70 and big breaking curve. He's still growing and may add even more velocity to a fastball that made a pretty big jump last year. I don't think the move is necessarily a knock on Hochevar, though he might not reach the ceiling you would have for No. 1 overall pick. He may very well have a five-pitch arsenal with at least one above-average pitch. But he struggled with command at times last year. That said, barring a rough spring, I think he'll begin 2008 in the big league rotation.

 Q:  jamie from jonesville, va asks:
Do you have a player comparison in mind for Moustakas? I have read Stephen Drew but from what i have seen Moustakas has alot more pop than Drew. Your opinion?
 A: 

Moderator: Moustakas is going to be a lot bigger than Drew - in fact probably already is. I met him at our Awards Gala at the Winter Meetings and he doesn't look like your typical shorstop — he's a thick, barrel-chested kid. Someone said he could end up having a Jim Thome-like build, which doesn't portend well for him staying at short.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Where does Rowdy Hardy(gotta love that name)rank in the top 30? I know he gets by on control and less than good stuff but his track record so far has been exceptional. Can this guy be a Jamie Moyer type lefty?
 A: 

Moderator: (By the way, I'm not sure portend well is good English, but we're just chatting.) We felt No. 30 was the perfect spot for Rowdy — you can't ignore the year he had in 2007 or his control, but it is hard to shoot up your list a guy whose fastball sits at 82-24 mph. Moyer is the natural comp for a guy like Hardy, but it seems like he'll be more likely to come out of the bullpen than start out of concern for him making it a couple of times through a lineup. Double-A will be a good test for him this year.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
The top 10 list is very heavy on pitching which I guess is very encouraging. Is there any other farm system that is that heavy on pitching prospects?
 A: 

Moderator: It's encouraging in some ways, but you'd really like to see some more bats in there. Developing pitchers is more of a crapshoot than hitters.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
What is the prospect status of Justin Huber and Chris Lubanski? I know Lubanski had an awful AFL. Are these guys trade bait or worse yet 4a players?
 A: 

Moderator: This will be a critical year for both of these guys. I talked about Huber earlier (out of options, needs to stay healthy and make the club out of spring training). Lubanski has certainly been a disappointment, though team officials haven't given up on him. The thing is, Lubanski was drafted fifth overall in 2003 as a speedy defensive center fielder who projected to be a threat on the bases and hit for some power as well. But he's filled out so much that he's now a defensive liability and a below-average runner. He's now relying only on his bat to get him to the big leagues. He usually does well his second time around at a level, so he should get off to a better start at Omaha, and perhaps earn a big league promotion by midseason.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
How does the organization view Mike Aviles and Marc Maddox in their middle infield picture? It seems like these guys could have taken the role that Alberto Collaspo is going to fill and they could have kept Billy Buckner.
 A: 

Moderator: Aviles is probably better suited in a utility role than as a starter; I guess you could say the same for Maddox. It's easy to knock the Callaspo trade at this point, but it's a bit of a fine line Dayton Moore is walking in trying to build a farm system around young pitching but also putting out a competitive big league team to regain interest in the KC market. Moore has fared pretty well in his trades thus far, so you've gotta give him the benefit of the doubt at this point.

 Q:  Karl of Delaware from Georgetown, Delaware asks:
Hi, Josh. Thanks for taking our questions. Moustakas - what position do you think he will end up at? Will we get to see him playing in Wilmington, Delaware anytime in the 2008 season?
 A: 

Moderator: I think Moustakas profiles best at third, but is unlikely to supplant Gordon in two or three years. He's got the bat to play first, but that would be a waste of his above-average arm strength. I think the Royals were tempted to put him behind the plate, but don't want to slow his progression to the big leagues. So right field seems like the most natural fit for him.

 Q:  Ace from Detroit, MI asks:
Who on the top 10 list has the best chance to help the big club in 2008?
 A: 

Moderator: Yabuta is probably going to jump right into a set-up role, though I think Hochevar has the potential to have a bigger impact if he makes the rotation. In fact, those are the only two who I think have a shot at the big leagues this year.

 Q:  Jonathan from Troy, AL asks:
Clint Robinson had a huge year at Idaho Falls batting .336 with 16 homers, 66 RBI's and a nearly .600 SLG%. What do you think about Robinson and do you think he has any chance of moving up in the system?
 A: 

Moderator: No doubt Robinson had a big year in the Pioneer League, though you may not want to read into that too much just yet. He was a bit old for the league as a college senior and lacks some discipline at the plate — big-swinging power hitter who is going to strike out a lot. I was told he's adequate at first, far from a Gold Glover but probably good enough to stick there. Wouldn't be shocked to see him at Wilmington next year.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
Where did Mario Lisson rank? Does he have the skills to reach KC?
 A: 

Moderator: Wide variety of opinion on Lisson — with one Royals official thinking he could be a top 10 guy and another scout saying that Lisson needs to significantly improve his strike-zone judgment before he does anything. He's got raw power, went on a 20-game hitting streak late in the year at not-so-hitter-friendly Wilmington and has a big arm. He also had a 93-41 strikeout-walk rate in 2007 and whiffed 36 times in 49 games in Venezuela. I left him off the list, but think he could be a sleeper next year in the much more hitter-friendly Texas League.

 Q:  Jim from DC asks:
Outside of the Top 10 prospects, who are the position player and pitcher with the highest ceilings?
 A: 

Moderator: Good question. I like Fernando Cruz a lot at third base. He's an 18-year-old out of Puerto Rico who might end up being a steal in the sixth round. Could be an above-average hitter and defender, but way down the road. Highest-ceiling pitcher out of the top 10? Might still be Tyler Lumsden. Had a rough 2007, but still has some of the best stuff in the system and needs to learn to pitch to contact better.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
I am awaiting delivery of the Prospect Handbook until it arrives can you tell me who stands the best chance of making the biggest leap up the Top 30 next year and who are the sleepers in the organization? Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

Moderator: Outside of the Top 10, keep an eye on Duarte, Lisson and Blake Johnson.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
How close was Bianchi to making your list, and will we ever again see the performance he showed us when he was first drafted?
 A: 

Moderator: He's in the top 20. He seemed to figure things out again late last year after the organization had previously tweaked with what was an unconventional swing. There not giving up on him by any means, but I think expectations have certainly dipped.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Your thoughts on Runion's mechanics? Did he make the 11-20 range?
 A: 

Moderator: Updates should come quicker now. Sorry folks. Runion finished just outside the Top 10. He has a big fastball at this point, one of the best in AZL last year, but not much else. They're keeping him in the rotation for now, but it seems likely he'll be bullpen bound if his secondary stuff doesn't come along.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Jeff Bianchi had a tough year at Burlington. Does he still project to hit enough to make it in the majors? Also, what is the status of Brent Fisher?
 A: 

Moderator: Fisher's rehab was going well and he should be ready to go for spring training. Expect him at low Class A Burlington.

 Q:  Joe from Easton, MD asks:
I know the feeling is that Moustakas will continue to fill out and be too bulky for SS, but is there also the inverse possibility that he will continue to better his conditioning and become leaner and more athletic (he has definitely shed some body fat in the past year), thus making him possibly more inclined to stay at his position?
 A: 

Moderator: They're going to give Moustakas a chance to stick at short, and will start there next year in low Class A Burlington. I don't think it's a matter of his conditioning, he's just gonna be a big kid. He's got the arm and hands to play short though.

 Q:  Jon Y from Dallas, TX asks:
Dayton Moore seems to have done a great job addressing the major weakness of the Royals over the past decade in drafting quality pitchers with high upside. There now seems to be a lack of depth in position player prospects. Do you see them using their experience in drafting raw high school hitting talent in the 08 draft as they had previously done in Atlanta (i.e. Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann in the 2002 draft), or will their philosophy be to continue to stock pile pitching as it is the currency in baseball?
 A: 

Moderator: Moore, farm director J.J. Picollo and scouting director Deric Ladnier are definitely trying to institute the "Braves Way" in Kansas City. They added a seventh affiliate, increased their international presence and bulked up their scouting department. Their goal in 07 was certainly to develop young pitching but I would think they need to add some positional depth.

 Q:  walter from Plano, Texas asks:
Where do you find Joe Dickerson on your Top 30? He hit .300 at another level with gap power. Where we will he start the season?
 A: 

Moderator: Dickerson ranks toward the back of the 30. He has hit in his three pro seasons. He is still filling out and will develop some more power. He's a bit of a tweener in the outfield though, not quite fast enough and not enough range to play center; may not have enough power for a corner spot.

 Q:  John from Harrisonburg, VA asks:
Where does Patrick Norris's speed rate on the 20-80 scale? I think he's the fastest baseball player I've ever seen in person. Do you think he can hit enough to make the majors?
 A: 

Moderator: Fastest guy in the system, no doubt about that (Ladnier joked that his speed grades an 85). Just learning to switch-hit — a natural lefthanded hitter. He's raw, but has the tool you can't teach.

 Q:  randy watson from simpsonville sc asks:
i was wondering what happened to jason taylor last season? i could not find any stats.thank you
 A: 

Moderator: Taylor missed the season due to personal reasons. I got a steady dose of "no comments" from the Royals when I asked around about him, so unfortunately I can't shed anymore light on exactly what the personal reasons were. I'm told he should be ready to go this year, but after missing a full season, not sure where he starts out.

 Q:  Merkado from White Plains, NY asks:
What can you tell me about the roller coaster career of Kila Kaaihue? His power and strike zone judgement were great in 2005, but then fall off in 2006. This past season he started to get back to his regular numbers, which seems positive for his development. How would he fit in at 1B with Butler, Shealy, and Teahen? Does the organization still have plans for him at the MLB level, or is he a AAAA player at best? What is his ceiling?
 A: 

Moderator: I can tell you Kaaihue has the best strike-zone judgment in the system. He crushes pitches on the inner-half of the plate. Definitely had a better year after a rough '06.

 Q:  Mike from Lynchburg, VA asks:
Thanks for the bchat. Question about Moustakas - is he possibly the best prospect in all of baseball in 2009? Where do you think he ranks in 2008? There is no chance of Gordon moving to 1B and Moustakas taking over at 3b eventually?
 A: 

Moderator: We've got our Top 100 coming out so it'll be interesting to see where he ranks. No. 1 prospect? A little early for that. But here's how he ranked in a sampling of Top 50 lists in the Handbook: Jim Callis had him sixth, Will Lingo (27), John Manuel (14), Chris Kline (28). . . . Should be a fun meeting.

 Q:  Rob from Seattle asks:
How close was SS Chris McConnell to the top 10? Where will he start 08 and what do you think his ceiling is?
 A: 

Moderator: McConnell is big league ready as a defender — the best defensive infielder in the system. His bat still lags well behind his glove though. The organization would like him to learn his limitations at the plate and work on hitting behind runners, bunting, etc. He made just five errors in 66 games after a promotion to Wilmington, but hit just .236 with a .303 on-base percentage.

 Q:  Bill from Tempe, AZ asks:
Josh, thanks for the chat. This is a purely hypothetical question. If Billy Butler had spent most of the year in AAA and still qualified for the list, would he be #1 or would he rank behind Moustakas?
 A: 

Moderator: Nah, Butler wouldn't have beaten Moustakas. The Royals would love Butler to be able to play first and free up the DH spot, but it doesn't look like that's happening. Gotta say Moustakas has a higher ceiling.

 Q:  Brett from IL asks:
Who are some of the prospects to expect this year at Burlington (MWL)?
 A: 

Moderator: Midwest League should have a fun squad. Got Moustakas probably starting there, with the likes of Duffy, Mitchell and Runion competing for spots in the rotation. Derrick Robinson, who the Royals have high hopes for in the outfield, may start back in Burlington before making a jump. You've also got 2007 Mr. Baseball award winner Dave Walker operating the affiliate. Great guy!

 Q:  Brian from SF,CA asks:
When can we expect the prospect book?
 A: 

Moderator: Oh it's here. Customer service guru Ronnie McCabe has been busy shipping those off. If you haven't ordered one already, so now!

 Q:  BL from Bozeman asks:
Is KC ready to admit that Luke Hochaver was a huge mistake at no. 1 two years ago, based on the pitchers selected right behind him?
 A: 

Moderator: I don't think you'll get the Royals to call it a mistake, but yes, the likes of Andrew Miller (sixth overall), Clayton Kershaw (7th), Tim Lincecum (10th), Brandon Morrow (5th) are quite appealing. Not to mention Rays third baseman Evan Longoria at No. 3. I wouldn't write off Hochevar just yet. Should still have a significant big league impact.

 Q:  BL from Bozeman asks:
Derrick Robinson gets a lot of attention, but can you comment on some other young outfielders in the system, particularly Hilton Richardson, Jarrod Dyson, Patrick Norris, and Jose Duarte?
 A: 

Moderator: Richardson is another burner — the Royals loaded up on speed in the draft — and challenges Norris for the fastest runner in the system. Duarte is an intriguing guy. An above-average defender who rates as the best defender and best defensive outfielder in the system. But his hit tool lags behind, and he projects as a bottom of the lineup batter. Draws comps to Doug Glanville — a lanky player with above-average range but little pop.

 Q:  Jason from Washington, DC asks:
Why isn't Blake Wood projected to be in the 2011 rotation? He's 22 now and shows the upside of a front-line starter.
 A: 

Moderator: Not sure who you're going to knock off that list for Wood. Bannister at No. 5 had a pretty solid year and should be around in 2011. But that said, Wood has a lot of upside with a fastball and curve with above-average potential. Let's see him get through the Texas League before we declare him big league ready.

Moderator: Alright folks. Enjoyed the chat, but Bruce is singing Rosalita which means it's time for me to go and make that highway run. Actually we've got deadline tomorrow and need to get AL West Top 10s out to you folks. Don't forget to order your Handbook.