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

Every day that Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke wasn't pitching was a disaster for the 2009 Royals. There's hope for the future, but the bad news for Kansas City fans is that the club's rebuilding effort will need more time.

The Royals though they were fielding a team ready to take a significant step toward contending last season. They traded away young relievers Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez to acquire veterans Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp, and signed free-agent relievers Juan Cruz and Kyle Fansworth. The result was 65 wins, which marked the seventh time in the past nine years that Kansas City has won fewer than 70 games.

At least the organization recognizes now that it's planning for the future. General manager Dayton Moore says his team now will focus on acquiring young major leaguers who are years away from free agency. That would seem to fit with the state of the farm system, which has plenty of talent but little to contribute in 2010.

The Royals at least deserve credit for trying a different approach. Unlike many smaller-revenue teams that save money by sticking to slot bonus recommendations in the draft, Kansas City has spent money to sign high-ceiling talents.

The problem is that the Royals haven't always gotten what they paid for. They gave a $4 million bonus to Alex Gordon, the No. 2 overall pick in 2005, and a $5.25 million contract to Luke Hochevar, the top choice in 2006. Gordon (.250/.331/.415 in three big league seasons) and Hochevar (13-26, 5.88 in three years) have massively underperformed, and no other player from those drafts has made the majors.

Those failed drafts have left the upper levels of the system system barren, which became a significant problem when injuries struck in 2009. When Crisp went down with a shoulder injury early in the season, the Royals were forced to get Josh Anderson from the Tigers. When Mike Aviles' arm injury ended any chance of an encore to his outstanding rookie season, they turned first to Tony Pena Jr., whom they acquired from the Braves in 2007, then traded for Yuniesky Betancourt in a deal that sent pitching prospects Daniel Cortes and Derek Saito to the Mariners.

Despite injuries to Crisp, Aviles, Gordon, Gil Meche and Joakim Soria, and a record that quickly made it clear that they were playing for the future, Kansas City had only two marginal rookies (Mitch Maier and Brayan Pena) see playing time before September because the system simply lacked prospects worth promoting.

At the lower levels, the Royals have a bounty of pitching prospects that few organizations can match, led by lefthander Mike Montgomery. Their willingness to exceed MLB's slot recommendations landed five of their 10 best prospects (catcher Wil Myers, third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer, righthander Tim Melville, lefty Chris Dwyer) and they gave a major league contract to a sixth (righty Aaron Crow).

Moore came to Kansas City from Atlanta, and his farm system reflects the Braves' emphasis on developing pitching. The Royals can dream of similar success, but their promising youngsters are going to need a few more years to develop.

1.  Mike Mongtomery, lhp   Born: July 1, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Newhall, Calif., 2008 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Dan Ontiveros
Mike MontgomeryBackground: The Royals knew they were getting a fierce competitor when they drafted Montgomery 36th overall in 2008 and signed him for a slot $988,000 bonus. He had been kicked off his high school basketball team as a senior for picking up too many technical fouls. They saw it up close during spring training last year, when they tried to limit his long-toss program. He balked, saying long-tossing was vital to keeping up his arm strength. They agreed to compromise, allowing Montgomery to throw at a longer distance than they usually prescribe for young pitchers, but with less frequency than he was used to. He wanted to long-toss because he believed it could help his fastball jump to the 95-97 mph range, while Kansas City already was happy with his heater and didn't want him to risk injury by throwing too much. The Royals are happy to live with Montgomery's drive because he carries it to the mound. They held him out of the April chill at low Class A Burlington, Iowa, but once got into games in mid-May, he blazed through two levels, allowing more than three earned runs only once in 21 starts.

Strengths: For a 20-year-old lefty, Montgomery is close to a complete package. His fastball is already a plus pitch that sits at 90-92 mph and touches 94-95. Considering his lanky frame, there's a good chance he'll add velocity as he fills out. When his fastball was on last year, he buzzed through lineups even when he was struggling to control his offspeed pitches. When he located his curveballs, he was untouchable. He throws two different types, a traditional downer that he's still mastering and a palm-curve that he's been throwing for years. While some scouts question how effective the palm-curve will be at higher levels, Class A hitters struggled to pick it up and took lots of ugly swings. The true curveball has the potential to be a more effective in the long term. When he gets on top of it, it grades as slightly above-average. His changeup shows flashes of being a plus pitch that some scouts believe has more potential than his curveball. Montgomery's mechanics are solid. He shows the ability to repeat his delivery and has excellent arm speed.

Weaknesses: The Royals want Montgomery to develop the regular curveball, but when he's struggling he falls back on the palm version. They've considered asking him to completely shelve his palm-curve, at least temporarily, to hasten the development of his other pitches. He won't consistently succeed at the upper levels until he becomes more consistent with his changeup and curve. He throws strikes but still needs to sharpen his command.

The Future: Montgomery is the best of Kansas City's deep crop of young pitchers, among whom rests the franchise's hope to return to contention. He lived up to all of the Royals' expectations in his first full pro season and could open 2010 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He could be ready for the big leagues by mid-2011 and won't be satisfied just to get there.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Burlington (Lo A) 2 3 2.17 12 12 0 0 58 42 1 24 52 .206
Wilmington (Hi A) 4 1 2.25 9 9 0 0 52 38 0 12 46 .196
 
2.  Aaron Crow, rhp   Born: Nov. 11, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: Fort Worth (American Association), 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Scott Melvin
Aaron CrowBackground: Undrafted out of high school, Crow blossomed into the top college righthander in the 2008 draft and went ninth overall to the Nationals. When the two sides couldn't bridge a $500,000 gap ($3.5 million vs. $4 million), he signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats. The Royals, who considered him with the No. 3 pick in 2008, jumped at a second chance to take the Kansas native. After going 12th overall, he signed Sept. 17 for a $3 million big league contract that included a $1.5 million bonus.

Strengths: Crow made four starts in the Arizona Fall League, and his stuff wasn't far off what the Royals saw back in 2008. His fastball sits between 91-94 mph with plus movement, and he has touched 96 in the past. He commands his fastball well and pairs it with a tight slider that's a strikeout pitch.

Weaknesses: Crow has a wrist wrap in his delivery and sometimes collapses his back side, but those flaws don't cause many problems because he throws downhill and maintains proper alignment to the plate. He repeats his delivery well and shows good arm speed, but some scouts worry about the effort in his delivery. His changeup lags behind his other pitches, but he trusts it enough to throw it in key situations.

The Future: Crow likely will make his pro debut in Double-A and could reach Kansas City by the end of the season. If he refines his changeup, he could be a worthy No. 2 starter behind Zack Greinke. His fallback position would be as a closer with two plus pitches.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
 
3.  Wil Myers, c   Born: Dec. 10, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—High Point, N.C., 2009 (3rd round)Signed by: Steve Connelly
Wil MyersBackground: The Royals considered Myers for the 12th pick in the 2009 draft before settling on Aaron Crow. They didn't have a second-round choice, but his $2 million price tag made him available at No. 91 in the third round. After Kansas City met his asking price, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

Strengths: Capable of turning around a quality fastball with a flick of his wrists, Myers has excellent raw power. His swing isn't textbook and he'll sometime shift his weight to his front foot too early, but he manages to keep his hands back and hit line drives all over the park. He should hit for average as well as power. He has a plus arm and can rip off 1.85-second pop times even when his footwork isn't perfect. He threw out five of the 12 basestealers who tested him in his pro debut. He has average speed and is a better athlete than most catchers.

Weaknesses: Myers played a variety of positions as an amateur, so he's inexperienced and inconsistent as a catcher. He gets too upright coming out of his crouch and sometimes struggles to block pitches in the dirt. He committed six passed balls in just 10 games.

The Future: Myers' rangy body draws comparisons to Dale Murphy and Jayson Werth—two tall catchers who ended up moving to the outfield. He has the raw tools to handle the position, but his advanced bat could tempt the Royals to move him. They're committed to trying to develop him as a catcher, however, which is where he'll play in low Class A this year.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Burlington (R) .125 .124 .438 16 1 2 0 1 1 4 0 3 0
Idaho Falls (R) .426 .488 .735 68 18 29 7 1 4 14 9 15 2
 
4.  Mike Moustakas, 3b   Born: Sept. 11, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: John Ramey
Mike MoustakasBackground: After he went second overall pick in the 2007 draft and signed for $4 million, Moustakas led the low Class A Midwest League with 22 homers in his first full pro season. He seemed to get swallowed up by high Class A Wilmington's pitcher-friendly Frawley Stadium last season. He posted the fourth-lowest on-base percentage (.297) among Carolina League qualifiers, thanks in large part to his .205/.266/.373 numbers at home.

Strengths: Moustakas has two well above-average tools in his raw power and arm. He has good hand-eye coordination and quick wrists to go with a mechanically sound swing, helping his power play in game situations. He has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He made strides last year to become a more complete third baseman.

Weaknesses: Moustakas' approach at the plate got him into all kinds of trouble in 2009. The word got out to throw him offspeed stuff early in the count, and he struggled to adjust. He was too pull-happy and didn't hit his first opposite-field homer until August. He's so aggressive that he may never post high on-base percentages. Some scouts are skeptical that he can stay at third base because his hands are only adequate, his footwork is still raw and his body has thickened, costing him agility. He's a tick below-average runner who will get slower as he fills out.

The Future: Most of Moustakas' problems in 2009 were apparent before the season began. He'll need to prove that he can make the adjustments needed to get back on track, and the hitter-friendly Texas League should help ease that transition.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Wilmington (Hi A) .250 .297 .421 492 66 123 32 2 16 86 32 90 10
 
5.  Eric Hosmer, 1b   Born: Oct. 24, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS—Plantation, Fla., 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Alex Mesa
Eric HosmerBackground: Hosmer received a $6 million bonus as the No. 3 overall pick in 2008, but wound up ensnared in the Pedro Alvarez signing grievance with the Pirates and was limited to three games after signing. He got off to a slow start in 2009 after doctors diagnosed his astigmatism during spring training. The eye condition apparently developed over the offseason, as Kansas City's vision tests in 2008 showed no such problems. He also sustained a hairline fracture on a knuckle on his right hand, limiting him to DH duty in June. He hit just .241/.334/.361 between two Class A stops.

Strengths: Hosmer's outstanding raw power is still apparent in batting practice, even if it seemed absent in games last year. His balanced swing is pure enough that he should hit for average as well. He has a plus arm that rarely comes into play at first base, but he's an average defender with soft hands.

Weaknesses: The Royals hope most of Hosmer's troubles can be blamed on his vision problems and knuckle injury. He wore contact lenses for a while, switched to glasses and eventually opted for laser eye surgery in August. Whatever the reason, he struggled with pitch recognition and batted a feeble .155/.202/.207 against lefthanders. He was also less athletic than advertised, with heavy feet and below-average speed.

The Future: Hosmer will head back to high Class A, where he'll look to prove that the 2009 season was a fluke and not foreshadowing. Kansas City still envisions him as its No. 3 hitter of the future.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Burlington (Lo A) .254 .352 .382 280 31 71 17 2 5 49 44 68 3
Wilmington (Hi A) .206 .280 .299 97 9 20 2 2 1 10 9 22 0
 
6.  Tim Melville, rhp   Born: Oct. 9, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—Wentzille, Mo., 2008 (4th round)$Signed by: Phil Huttman
Tim MelvilleBackground: Melville was the top high school pitching prospect entering 2008, but didn't quite live up to expectations and scared teams off with his desire for upper-first-round money. He was willing to give Kansas City a home-state discount, and signed for $1.25 million as a fourth-round pick. Because he signed late and the Royals wanted to keep him out of cold weather, he didn't make his pro debut until May 20.

Strengths: With his raw stuff, Melville has the potential to be a frontline starter. His 92-93 mph fastball touches 95, with boring action that makes it effective against lefthanders. His fastball generates strikeouts, but it's most effective as a heavy pitch that forces weak grounders. His curveball is a true 12-to-6 downer that's a plus pitch when he can command it. He has a clean arm action and a pitcher's body that should give him plenty of durability.

Weaknesses: Melville struggles when he loses his tempo in his delivery. He sometimes slows his arm down, leaving his curveball and changeup up in the zone and making him vulnerable to homers. He has adequate athleticism but has to work to keep his delivery in sync. Because of his inconsistent mechanics, his command and control aren't where they need to be. He lacks conviction in his changeup.

The Future: Melville could be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter someday. He'll head to Wilmington, where a pitcher-friendly park should give him a chance to get on a roll.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Burlington (Lo A) 7 7 3.79 21 21 0 0 97 89 10 43 96 .245
 
7.  John Lamb, lhp   Born: July 10, 1990B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Laguna Hills, Calif., 2008 (5th round)Signed by: Gary Johnson/John Ramey
John LambBackground: The Royals selected Lamb in the fifth round in 2008, even though he had missed his high school senior season with a fractured elbow that was traced to a car accident. Kansas City followed his recovery, then signed him for $165,000 just before the signing deadline. He made his pro debut last June as the Opening Day starter at Rookie-level Burlington before earning a promotion to Rookie-level Idaho Falls.

Strengths: As good as Lamb's stuff is, the Royals are even more excited about his demeanor. He's a 19-year-old who pitches like a major league veteran, never getting rattled. His stuff is pretty good as well, and he could end up with three average or better pitches. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and frequently touches 94. His compact delivery adds to his fastball's effectiveness because hitters struggle to pick it up. He does a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone. His velocity is easy and his control is good for his age, products of his repeatable delivery.

Weaknesses: Like most young pitchers, Lamb sometimes is too reliant on his fastball when he should be using his changeup and curveball. He's still learning how to consistently break off the curve, and his changeup needs further refinement.

The Future: Lamb should be the ace of the low Class A Burlington staff in 2010. With his makeup and stuff, he projects as a solid No. 3 starter.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Burlington (R) 2 2 3.95 6 6 0 0 27 24 4 9 25 .238
Idaho Falls (R) 3 1 3.70 8 8 0 0 41 33 4 11 46 .217
 
8.  Danny Duffy, lhp   Born: Dec. 21, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Lompac, Calif., 2007 (3rd round)Signed by: Rick Schroeder
Danny DuffyBackground: In a system filled with pitching prospects, Duffy had the best season—while posting the worst numbers of his young career. He led Royals farmhands with a 2.98 ERA, finished second with 125 strikeouts and earned spots in the Futures Game and Carolina-California League all-star game. He's now 19-10, 2.49 with 290 strikeouts in 246 pro innings.

Strengths: Duffy's solid stuff plays up because he does a good job of messing with hitters' timing. His 88-92 mph fastball has good downward plane and seems to get in on opponents before they expect it, while his slow, big-breaking curveball keeps them off fastball. He's not afraid to pitch inside. He improved his delivery by shortening his stride.

Weaknesses: Duffy's changeup got better last year, but he still hasn't fully embraced it. While most pitchers have to learn to pitch in to hitters, he's learning the effectiveness of a down-and-away changeup. His delivery is less than ideal because he throws across his body and his bottom half isn't always in sync with his upper half. The Royals are working on keeping him centered over the rubber longer. He sometimes struggles to put bad starts behind him.

The Future: Though he'll pitch the entire 2010 season at age 21, Duffy isn't that far away from the majors. One of the last remaining tests for the potential No. 3 starter is finding out how he handles adversity—because he hasn't encountered any.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Wilmington (Hi A) 9 3 2.98 24 24 1 0 127 108 6 41 125 .230
 
9.  Chris Dwyer, lhp   Born: April 10, 1988B-T: R-LHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: Clemson, 2009 (4th round).Signed by: Steve Connelly
Chris DwyerBackground: Dwyer was the rarest of rarities, a draft-eligible college freshman. Because he had been held back in elementary school and attended prep school—where he played with Phillies first-round pick and was drafted by the Yankees in the 36th round in 2008—he was 21 and thus eligible as a Clemson freshman last spring. The Royals rated him as a late-first-round talent and gave him late-first-round money ($1.45 million) to sign him as a fourth-rounder.

Strengths: Dwyer's arm speed gives him a 90-94 mph fastball and a power curveball, both of which should be consistent plus pitches once he matures. His changeup is an advanced pitch that could end up being above average as well. A star as a high school quarterback, he's an excellent athlete.

Weaknesses: Dwyer was susceptible to big innings at Clemson. When he got into a jam, he battled his command and nibbled more than someone with his stuff should. His control suffers if he lands stiff on his front leg and struggles to stay aligned with the plate. He doesn't always maintain his quality stuff from start to start.

The Future: Dwyer is less polished than the typical college pitcher but still could move quickly. He'll likely start his first full season in high Class A.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Idaho Falls (R) 0 0 4.15 4 4 0 0 9 12 1 8 15 .324
 
10.  David Lough, of   Born: Jan. 20, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 180
 Drafted: Mercyhurst (Pa.), 2007 (11th round).Signed by: Jason Bryans
David LoughBackground: Lough played soccer and football as well as baseball in high school, and he accepted a football scholarship at NCAA Division II Mercyhurst (Pa.), where he caught scout Jason Bryans' eye as a baseball walk-on. Since signing for $49,500 as an 11th-round pick, Lough has hit better than .320 at three of his four stops, and he led all Royals minor leaguers with a .325 average last year.

Strengths: Lough's above-average speed is his best tool, but what stands out most is his lack of a clear weakness. The rest of his tools all project to be right around major league average. He showed a more advanced approach at the plate in 2009. His swing is short and direct, which allows him to hit for average and rarely strike out. Thanks to his strong wrists, he projects to hit for average power, though he's most comfortable lining doubles into the gaps. He's an average defender in center field who usually has played in left because he has been alongside quality center fielders.

Weaknesses: Considering his speed, Lough should be a better basestealer. He's not particularly aggressive on the bases and doesn't get good jumps. His arm is a tick below-average but accurate. He has yet to show that he can hit lefties, with a .627 career OPS against them compared to .901 versus righthanders.

The Future: Kansas City limped through much of the 2009 season without a true center fielder. Lough won't win any Gold Gloves out there, but his offensive potential could make up for it. If he can't handle center, he could be David DeJesus' eventual replacement in left. For now, he'll head to Triple-A Omaha for more seasoning.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Northwest Arkansas (AA) .331 .371 .517 236 41 78 13 2 9 31 12 30 13
Wilmington (Hi A) .320 .370 .473 222 28 71 15 2 5 30 12 34 6

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