Kansas City Royals: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Kansas City Royals: Scouting Reports




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, 2009.

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Kansas City Royals

Like the Athletics before them, the Rays have become the hope for the hopeless. While the disparities between large- and small-revenue clubs stacks the deck in favor of the Yankees, Red Sox and others, Tampa Bay proved again in 2008 that a less-advantaged club can succeed if it drafts well, develops its own players and makes wise trades.

That's good news for the Royals. But it also leads to the question: If the Rays can do it, why hasn't Kansas City been able to break through?

It doesn't take long to find the answer. Over the past decade, the Royals have struggled to produce big leaguers and have lost more trades than they have won. Add it all up and you have a team that has finished below .500 in 14 of the last 15 seasons.

It's not for a lack of opportunities. Like Tampa Bay, Kansas City has consistently drafted high. In the past 10 drafts, the Royals have had the No. 1 pick once, three more choices in the top three and top-10 selections a total of nine times.

With that bounty, it would be fair to expect a team largely built from within. Yet only four of the 14 hitters who recorded 100 at-bats and three of the 16 pitchers who threw 25 innings for the Royals in 2008 were originally signed by the club.

Kansas City has been willing to spend money on the draft, as the $37.1 million it has invested in the first 10 rounds of the last six drafts is more than any other club. But the Royals haven't gotten a lot of bang for their buck. Whiffing on first-round draft picks early in the decade (Mike Stodolka, Colt Griffin, Chris Lubanski) proved costly for a team with little margin for error. They're also still waiting for the investments in recent first-rounders Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar to fully pay off, although all three have established themselves as big league regulars.

A bigger problem has been Kansas City's inability to find talent after the first round. Though the Royals have spent heavily, $24.1 million of that $37.1 million went to first-rounders. Rookie sensation Mike Aviles (seventh round, 2003) was a bargain as a $1,000 senior sign, and first baseman Kila Ka'aihue (15th-round, 2002) has a chance to become a big league regular. But they're the only non-first-rounders from the 2001-03 to have any success, and the 2004-06 drafts have yet to show much more promise.

As a result, Kansas City dismissed scouting director Deric Ladnier after the 2008 draft and handed his duties to farm director J.J. Picollo, who now holds the title of assistant general manager for scouting and player development. Before he left, Ladnier put together what likely will be remembered as his best draft. The Royals set a record by spending $11.1 million on bonuses and landed three players considered to be first-round talents: first baseman Eric Hosmer, lefthander Mike Montgomery and righty Tim Melville.

They will be counted on to lead the next Royals' resurgence, but it will likely require more patience. Most of the Royals' best young players already have reached the majors, though they have accumulated a number of strong arms and athletic center fielders in their system. They have few hitting prospects at the upper levels, however, and few high-ceiling bats besides third baseman Mike Moustakas and Hosmer.

1.  Mike Moustakas, ss   Born: Sept. 11, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-0 Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS- Chatsworth, Calif., 2007 (1st round). Signed by: John Ramey.
Mike MoustakasBackground: For years, Mike Moustakas was the strong second fiddle to Chatsworth (Calif.) High teammate Matt Dominguez. In 2007, Moustakas established himself as an even better prospect than his fellow first-round pick by slimming down and showing his power potential. He set the California state records for home runs in a season (24) and career (52). The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, he signed for $4 million right at the Aug. 15 deadline. Though he got just 41 at-bats at Rookie-level Idaho Falls that summer, his advanced approach left the Royals with no qualms about sending him to low Class A Burlington in 2008. Moustakus struggled to adapt to breaking balls and the cold weather during the first month, but he made adjustments and ranked as the Midwest League's No. 1 prospect by season's end. He was the league's first teenaged home run champ since Steve Gibralter in 1992.

Strengths: Moustakas punishes balls with quick wrists, exceptional bat speed and a vicious stroke. When he gets a fastball teed up where he's expecting it, he can easily drive it out of the park, and his power rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also makes consistent contact and should hit for average. After his early problems with breaking balls, where he was getting out on his front foot and beating them into the ground, Moustakas learned to keep his weight back on his back leg and use his legs to drive them. Kansas City actually was happy to see him prove he could deal with an extended slump and make the necessary adjustments. Moustakas is a much better fit at third base than shortstop. Clocked as high as 97 mph off the mound in high school, he has a strong arm that's a big asset at third base. He also played the outfield in high school, and some scouts believe his arm, frame and makeup would make him an outstanding catcher. The Royals will keep him at third base, however, to expedite getting his bat to the big leagues.


Weaknesses: Moustakas has the bat speed to turn on most any fastball, but he gets pull-conscious and can do a better job of using the entire field. While he improved at hitting breaking balls as the season went along, he needs to recognize which ones he can drive and which he should lay off. Considering he made a midseason transition to third base, Moustakas handled it very well, but he still needs to work on reading the ball off the bat and charging bunts and choppers. He's lacks elite athleticism, so he'll have to work to maintain his first-step quickness.

The Future: Though Kansas City tries to be conservative when it comes to moving players through the system, Moustakas has the talent to accelerate his timetable. He'll move up to high Class A Wilmington in 2009 and could reach the majors as early as the end of the 2010 season. With Alex Gordon at third base, Moustakas may have to change positions again down the line, but he moves well enough and definitely has enough arm to handle a corner-outfield assignment.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Burlington (LoA)
.272
.337
.468
496
77
135
25
3
22
71
43
86
8
 
2.  Eric Hosmer, 1bBorn: Oct. 24, 1989. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: HS—Plantation, Fla., 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Alex Mesa.
Eric HosmerBackground: As an eighth grader, Hosmer was a 5-foot-9, pudgy baseball rat. A growth spurt gave him a start on becoming a prospect, and he remade himself with an intense workout program. The most dangerous prep hitter in the 2008 draft, he went third overall and signed for a club-record $6 million. His pro debut was cut short when MLB ordered him to sit out after he got caught up in a grievance involving No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez.

Strengths: Hosmer has the kind of bat speed and raw power that can't be taught. He and Mike Moustakas have comparable raw power, and the consensus is that Hosmer hits the ball a little bit harder. While most young power hitters are looking to yank and crank, he's very adept at sitting back and driving balls to the opposite field. He won't get to use it, but he has one of the best fastballs in the system, having been clocked as high as 97 mph. He has soft hands at first base and enough speed and athleticism to play in the outfield.

Weaknesses: Even with all his gifts as a hitter, Hosmer does need to develop a gameplan instead of just hitting whatever the pitcher throws. He'll wind up with below-average speed as he gets older.

The Future: Like Moustakas before him, Hosmer is advanced enough to handle low Class A despite getting little previous exposure to pro ball. He should be the Royals' No. 3 hitter of the future.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Idaho Falls (R)
.364
.533
.545
11
2
4
2
0
0
2
3
2
0
 
3.  Daniel Cortes, rhp  Born: March 4, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 225. 
 Drafted: HS—Pomona, Calif., 2005 (7th round). Signed by: Dan Ontiveros (White Sox).
Daniel CortesBackground: The throw-in in the Mike MacDougal deal with the White Sox has become the prize now that lefthander Tyler Lumsden has crashed and burned in Triple-A. The Royals got more than they bargained for in Cortes, who has added height, strength and velocity in the two years since he was traded.

Strengths: Cortes has a 91-93 mph fastball that touches 96 mph, but his out pitch is his plus 12-to-6 curveball. He used to throw a slider with the White Sox, but showed his aptitude by quickly picking up the curve with the Royals. Some believe he could move rapidly with a move to the bullpen, where his fastball could play up to 96-97 mph. He has the personality to handle the pressure of working as a setup man or closer.

Weaknesses: Cortes' changeup isn't very effective and he doesn't trust it much. He needs to improve it to handle lefties, who hit .285/.396/.455 against him in 2008. His command needs more polish. When he gets in trouble, he tends to speed up his delivery, which causes him to leave his pitches up in the zone.

The Future: Cortes could pitch in Kansas City's bullpen right now, but he'll likely work out of Triple-A Omaha's rotation instead. He still has significant work to do but has the ingredients to become a frontline starter.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
NW Arkansas (AA)
10
4
3.78
23
23
0
0
116.2
103
13
55
109
.241
 
4.  Mike Montgomery, lhp  Born: July 1, 1989. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: HS—Newhall, Calif., 2008 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Dan Ontiveros.
Mike MontgomeryBackground: Montgomery was leading his high school basketball team in scoring when his coach kicked him off the team in January for recording too many technical fouls. That gave him a chance to focus on pitching, which paid off as he showed improved velocity and an advanced approach. Signed for $988,000 as the 36th overall pick, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League.

Strengths: Montgomery's long arms and athletic frame should allow him to continue to add 20-30 pounds and more velocity. He already sits at 90-92 mph and touches 95 with nice life on his fastball. He pairs it with a unique palm curveball that he developed because it puts little stress on his arm. His 80-mph changeup already rates as average and has the potential to be an out pitch. As his basketball career showed, he's an intense competitor.

Weaknesses: Montgomery can spin a breaking ball, but the Royals want him to find a more conventional grip and he has yet to find one that he's comfortable with. Other than that, he's very polished for his age and just needs more innings to develop.

The Future: Montgomery is advanced enough to head to low Class A, though he may spent time in extended spring to avoid the April chill of the Midwest League. He has the potential to become the franchise's best lefthander since Danny Jackson.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Royals (R)
2
1
1.69
12
9
0
0
42.2
31
2
12
34
.211
 
5.  Tim Melville, rhp  Born: Oct. 9, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205.
Drafted: HS—Wentzville, Mo., 2008 (4th round). Signed by: Deric Ladnier.
Tim MelvilleBackground: Melville entered 2008 as the top prep pitching prospect in the draft, but concerns about his price tag and a senior season that didn't quite live up to expectations caused him to slide to the fourth round. The Royals snapped him up and signed him for $1.25 million—$960,000 above slot. He's the second Holt High (Wentzville, Mo.) product to figure prominently in the last two drafts, as Holt grad and Missouri State product Ross Detwiler went sixth overall in 2007.

Strengths: At his best, Melville has a 91-95 mph fastball, a plus curveball and an adequate changeup. He has plenty of athleticism and repeats his free and easy delivery, so he has no trouble throwing strikes. He also has the frame to add weight, so he could throw consistently in the mid-90s when he's fully matured.

Weaknesses: Melville has clean mechanics, but they may have gotten too polished early last spring, costing him deception and velocity. He abandoned some tweaks and reverted to his old delivery by the end of the high school season, and his stuff improved. He needs to find more consistency with his curveball and to refine his changeup.

The Future:  Melville didn't sign until the Aug. 15 deadline, so he'll be making his pro debut in 2009. Fronted by Mike Montgomery and Melville, Burlington's rotation could be one of the best in low Class A.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed late
 
6.  Danny Duffy, lhp  Born: Dec. 21, 1988. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185.
 Drafted: HS—Lompoc, Calif, 2007 (3rd round). Signed by: Rick Schroeder.
Danny DuffyBackground: Duffy has come a long way since he was a 5-foot-4 high school freshman with a 70-mph fastball. He has dominated the lower levels of the minors, going 10-7, 1.97 with 165 strikeouts in 119 innings. The Royals shut him down in late August because of shoulder discomfort, but he could have pitched in the Midwest League playoffs if they hadn't played it safe.

Strengths: Duffy has a nice fastball for a lefty, sitting at 88-92 mph and touching 94. At times, his curveball is a plus pitch and his changeup rates as slightly above average. He has good mound presence and challenges hitters, throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone. He has shortened his stride since turning pro, allowing him to throw on more of a downhill plane, and he also has fixed a tendency to throw across his body.

Weaknesses: Like many young pitchers, Duffy is prone to overthrowing when he gets into a jam, costing him command. He'll also get cute and lob up an 85-86 mph fastball at times. He rarely has feel for both of his secondary pitches on the same day, and his curve can get loopy.

The Future: The Royals haven't had a pair of potential frontline lefties like Mike Montgomery and Duffy in years. With his three-pitch mix and maturity, there's no reason Duffy shouldn't continue to succeed in high Class A in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Burlington (LoA)
8
4
2.20
17
17
0
0
81.2
56
4
25
102
.193
 
7.  Danny Gutierrez, rhp  Born: March 8, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. 
 Drafted: Riverside (Calif.) CC, D/F 2005 (33rd round). Signed by: John Ramey.
Danny GutierrezBackground: Gutierrez has made great strides since signing as a draft-and-follow in 2006. His velocity jumped during instructional league in 2007 and he sustained the increase in 2008 which made him a different pitcher. He missed all of May with a hairline fracture in his pitching elbow, but he pitched well afterward. In the first game of the Midwest League finals, he outdueled South Bend ace Jarrod Parker with 11 strikeouts over six scoreless innings.

Strengths: Gutierrez pounds the lower part of the strike zone with his fastball, generating plenty of grounders. He pitched at 88-92 mph early in the season but was working at 90-95 with good life at the end of the year. He has power and 12-to-6 break on a curveball that buries itself just as it reaches the plate. He also shows some feel for a changeup. He can locate his pitches to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He limits the running game by varying his timing to the plate and his pickoff move.

Weaknesses: After the elbow scare, Gutierrez needs to show he can stay healthy and sustain his improved velocity over a full season. When he operates in the low 90s, his other pitches play up. If he can improve his changeup, the sky is the limit.

The Future: There's some talk that Gutierrez could handle a jump to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, though the Royals usually aren't that aggressive. He'll probably open 2009 in high Class A Wilmington.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Burlington (LoA)
4
4
2.70
19
18
0
0
90
83
7
25
104
.246
 
8.  Carlos Rosa, rhp Born: Sept. 21, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.:
6-1. Wt.: 185. 
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001. Signed by: Luis Silverio.
Carlos RosaBackground: Royals third-base coach Luis Silverio spotted Rosa when he was the team's director of Dominican operations in 2002. At the time, Rosa was a skinny kid throwing 88-89 mph, but Silverio immediately spotted his potential and signed him for $25,000. Rosa almost became a Marlin this offseason, but Florida backed off because of the forearm strain that ended his season in August.

Strengths: Rosa's four-seam fastball is one of the system's best. He sits between 92-94 mph as a starter and runs it up to 96-97 as a reliever. His slider gives him a second plus pitch. He already has good control and does a nice job of pitching down in the zone, leading to lots of groundballs.

Weaknesses: Staying healthy has been a concern for Rosa, who missed the entire 2005 season after Tommy John surgery, although the Royals say he's healthy now. If he's going to be a starter, he'll have to improve his fringy changeup. He still has nights where he lacks feel for his slider. While he throws strikes, he needs to sharpen his command.

The Future: The Royals have to decide whether to bring him up now as a setup man or send him back to Triple-A to hone his skills as a starter.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
NW Arkansas (AA)
4
2
1.20
8
8
0
0
45
30
2
7
42
.189
Omaha (AAA)
4
3
4.09
11
11
0
0
50.2
51
3
12
44
.267
Kansas City
0
0
2.70
2
0
0
0
3.1
3
0
0
3
.250
 
9.  Kila Ka'Aihue, 1b  Born: March 29, 1985. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 230.
Drafted: HS—Honolulu, 2002 (15th round). Signed by: Eric Tokunaga.
Kila Ka'aihueBackground: Improving his conditioning and diet enabled Ka'aihue to overcome knee problems and take off in 2008, when was the Texas League MVP. His father Kila Sr. played 11 years in the minors and his brother Kala is a first baseman in the Braves system.

Strengths: With healthy knees, Ka'aihue had much improved balance at the plate and used his legs and hips to turn on pitches. He always had outstanding plate discipline—he led the minors with 104 walks in 2008—and his newfound strength allowed him to finally take advantage of fastball counts. His bat speed also got better and he started catching up to plus fastballs that had blown him away in the past.

Weaknesses: Ka'aihue has to hit for power because he lacks athleticism and speed, making him a liability as a runner and defender. He needs to walk a fine line between being disciplined and too passive, as he sometimes lets hittable pitches go by.

The Future: It's hard to know if Ka'aihue's 2008 breakout is a sign of things to come or a repeat of Craig Brazell's 2007, which led to a trip to Japan. The Royals didn't do him any favors by trading for Mike Jacobs, so Ka'aihue will have to make his own opportunity.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
NW Arkansas (AA)
.312
.464
.624
282
62
88
10
0
26
78
80
40
3
Omaha (AAA)
.316
.439
.640
114
27
36
4
0
11
21
24
26
0
Kansas City
.286
.375
.429
21
4
6
0
0
1
1
3
2
0
 
10.  Blake Wood, rhp  Born: Aug. 8, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225.
 Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Spencer Graham.
Blake WoodBackground: Wood missed the first three months of the 2007 season after back surgery to repair a herniated disc. While recovering, he focused on improving his conditioning, lost 25 pounds and improved his athleticism. He stayed healthy in 2008, though he struggled once he reached Double-A.

Strengths: On the nights where everything is working, Wood looks like he's ready for the big leagues. He has a heavy fastball that sits between 92-94 mph and touches 97. He'll also flash a power curveball and a plus changeup. Some believe he's more likely to stick as a starter than Daniel Cortes or Carlos Rosa.

Weaknesses: There are still too many games where Wood can't locate his fastball, buries his curveball in the dirt and doesn't have feel for his changeup. He doesn't always repeat his delivery, which leads to command issues, and too often speeds up his tempo. When he drops his arm slot, he leaves his fastball up in the zone and his curve loses bite. He rarely has both his curve and changeup working in the same outing.

The Future: Unless he wows the Royals in spring training, Wood will head back to Double-A. If he can improve his command, he has a chance to become a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Wilmington (HiA)
3
2
2.67
10
10
0
0
57.1
32
3
15
63
.168
NW Arkansas (AA)
5
7
5.30
18
18
2
0
86.2
96
7
32
76
.283

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits: Paul Gierhart (Moustakas, Duffy, Gutierrez)
Bill Mitchell (Hosmer, Melville, Wood)
John Williamson (Ka'aihue)