Kansas City Royals: Top 10 Prospects Chat With J.J. Cooper

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, 2009.

    JAYPERS (IL): Did Noel Arguelles sign too late for inclusion on your list? If not, what kept him off, and what's the skinny on him?

J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming out today. We'll start out with the question that has to be answered. Arguelles was not officially signed at the time we put the Royals Top 10 to bed, so he's not part of it. If he had been, he would have ranked No. 3 on the list ahead of Myers and behind Aaron Crow. Here's a thumbnail scouting report on him: Arguelles was one of the better young pitching prospects in Cuba, although he's seen only limited action in Cuba's Serie Nacional because of his age and the depth of the Havana pitching staff he was a part of. He has a 90-91 mph fastball that has touched 93 mph and a curveball and changeup that could both end up as average to a tick above-average pitches. He drew some Francisco Liriano comparisons and multiple scouts have told me that he would be a first-round pick if he was eligible for the draft. He has the broad shoulders and muscular build that should allow him to have good durability, although like most young pitchers his control isn't refined yet. He still needs some time in the minors, but he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation lefthander and he has more polish than the average teenage pitcher (he turns 20 tomorrow).

    Lenny (Toronto, Canada): Will Louis Coleman be a quick mover through the system? Does he go back to being a starter this year like he was at LSU?

J.J. Cooper: Coleman should move quickly but it will because he projects as a reliever. He's really a two-pitch guy with enough funkiness in his delivery to be deceptive out of the pen, but the kind of delivery that you wouldn't want to see try to throw 200+ innings year in and year out.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Jeff Bianchi seemed to have a good comeback season last year. Was he in consideration for the list this time?

J.J. Cooper: Bianchi was a whisker away from being No. 10, Lough's more consistent success and better injury history proved to be the difference. But Bianchi fills a serious need for Kansas City, which has lacked shortstop prospects.

    JAYPERS (IL): Did KC's farm system ranking rise or fall any since last year?

J.J. Cooper: Can't give away the org talent rankings yet, they'll be in the Prospect Handbook and we'll have an updated version closer to the season. But after doing the Royals Top 30 for the past two seasons I can say without a question that the system seems deeper and more talented this year than it was last year. Guys that I would have been ranking No. 12-15 last year rank somewhere in the mid-20s this year. And at the front end of the Top 10, guys who were ranked almost completely based on projection last year (Mike Mongtomery, Tim Melville) have shown that the can succeed in full-season ball. The hitting prospects have taken a step back thanks to the struggles of Moustakas and Hosmer, but adding Will Myers and the development of Lough and Bianchi makes that a small step back. The pitching prospects in the system this year are much improved on last year's Top 30.

    Dave (Pensacola): Would Juan Abreu have made the top 30 had he not left the Royals to sign with the Braves?

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, he would have been in the 25-30 range. Great arm, one of the best in the system before he was signed away, but he has some serious command concerns and some injury problems as well.

    Kyle (Houston, TX): Will Brandon Sisk help out the big league pen at all this season? Will he be anything more than a lefty specialist?

J.J. Cooper: Sisk is a great story. He went to the independent Continental League when he couldn't land an affiliated job, lost some weight, gained a tick on his fastball and turned himself into an intriguing reliever. That being said, he's still a ways from the big leagues. Sisk projects best as a lefty specialist who could end up getting some righthanders out as well, but he'll need to prove he can get Double-A hitters out before it's time to start thinking about his big league ETA.

    Jordan Parraz (Omaha, NE): I know I'm a year older than David Lough and have been in the minors for longer, but my production dwarfed his at AA. Why didn't I make the top 10?

J.J. Cooper: Parraz had an excellent season between Double-A and Triple-A when he was healthy, but hamstring problems limited him to 80 games. The reasons Lough ranks higher is his younger age (as you noted) the fact that he is a center fielder rather than a corner, and his superior all-around tools. Parraz has a better arm, but Lough shows as good, if not a better bat, better in-game power (although Parraz puts on a better show in BP) and better speed. But Parraz was one of the bright spots for the Royals in the minors last year.

    Kyle Reese (The Future): The Royals seem to be ripe for being overrated going into 2010, as a system in general. Only one of these Top 10, Lough at 10, has been to AA yet. Overrating players such as Moustakas and Hosmer leads to cycles where they struggle and are then downgraded, but still given chances to rebound because they are young. Myers at 3 is way too high and none of the arms have been AA-tested yet. More of a rant than a question, but just wanted your thoughts on the soon-to-be overrating of this system.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks Kyle for coming back from 2011 to let us know how things turn out. The knock on the Royals system is that they don't have many prospects at the upper levels yet, but at the same time, they have a ton of high-ceiling talents. We rank prospects based on potential. You have to make allowances for the fact that many of these prospects haven't played in Double-A or above, but by your logic, we should wait until guys make the majors and then rank 'em, so get ready to see our 2005 Royals Top 10 really soon (it won't look very good for the Royals I'll let you know, but then projecting ahead at the time, we had them No. 28, so we had that right at the time as well). When putting together the organization talent rankings, we do make allowances for where a system's talent resides. Teams like the Red Sox and Royals are dinged for having a ton of their prospects at the lower levels of the farm system, but you also give them points for having prospects who can project as future big league stars, not just role players.

    Raul (Tucson, AZ): JJ, thank you for taking my question. Hilton Richardson has been brought along slowly since being drafted pretty high a few years ago. It seems like he figured it out this year. Is he still someone to watch and did he factor into the top 30?

J.J. Cooper: He factors into the Top 30, but he was nowhere near the Top 10. You hit the nail on the head, he's starting to figure it out with lots of athleticism but he's still a long ways away.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Internally, what bothers John more: Moustakas not performing up to his Greek-American lineage this year, or the Royals trying to cut down on Montgomery's long-tossing? Seems like a push.

J.J. Cooper: This wins the chat question of the day as Joe clearly knows John too well. I think it would be a push, but if Mike Montgomery could be a long-tossing Greek we'd know who would be Yanni's favorite prospect. We're still trying to find out if George Kontos long-tosses.

    BL (Bozeman): The Royals top 10 prospects list gets better every year under the Dayton Moore regime, but can Royals fans really have any confidence in Moore's ability to translate prospects into major league success while he foists the likes of Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik and Mike Jacobs, et al, upon us?

J.J. Cooper: Fair question. There does seem to be a disconnect between what the Royals have done in the minor leagues (spend heavily on high ceiling prospects) and at the major league level (spend money on aging hole-fillers). This isn't a defense of Moore's big league moves, but the reality is that Kansas City has had nothing in the minors to allow them to grow from within. Now that doesn't mean that some of the decisions, like signing Kendall or Jose Guillen, aren't puzzling, but this is a team that has had no one in the minor leagues to promote to fill roster spots that seems to at times have led to some moves that can best be described as "we have to find somebody." Was trading for Yuniesky Betancourt puzzling? Absolutely. But the Royals couldn't keep putting Tony Pena Jr. out there to hit .083 and there was no one in the minors who could come up to play the position. Situations like that aren't the best environments to make moves to shore up the position for the long-term, they're band-aids on a deep wound. Late in the 2010 season should be the first time in years that the Royals actually have a number of prospects to call up. If this group of prospects develop, Kansas City should finally start promoting home-grown prospects in waves beginning in 2011. Is that enough to turn things around in Kansas City? It's hard to say, but it should mean that instead of signing Kyle Farnsworth for big money Kansas City will have in-house options to try out instead.

    Greg (Cincinnati): I know this is a chat about KC prospects, but can you give a Reds fan your assesment of the Chapman deal. Its been said he is the best pitcher in the history of Cuba. They are saying he chose the Reds becuase Dusty, Pitching coach Bryan Price, Catcher Ramon Hernandez, and minor league instructor Mario Soto all speak Spanish as well as there being 10 latin players on the 40 man roster. With a left handed 100 MPH fastball is it reasonable to think he could be in the rotation by the All Star break?

J.J. Cooper: Sorry to interrupt the Royals chat with a Reds question, but I'll add in this one question on Chapman. I'm not a Cuban baseball historian, but there's no way he's the best pitcher in Cuban history—you have to have some accomplishments to earn that title and Chapman doesn't have any real accomplishments yet. He's getting the money based on his potential. If you're an optimist, all of his command problems just need some simple tweaks and he's on his way to being an ace. If you're a pessimist, his wavering command is a sign that he's a long ways from being a reliable big leaguer and it will require a lot of patience. Chapman's arm is special, but so is Homer Bailey's and Reds fans have seen how long it's taken him to put things together. He could be in the rotation this year especially if the Reds want to give a glimpse of what they paid for, but he likely will require some patience.

J.J. Cooper: I have a phone call, I'll be right back.

    JAYPERS (IL): Why do you think KC promoted Hosmer as soon as they did? Was it a mistake, in retrospect?

J.J. Cooper: The Royals said they promoted Hosmer because they expected the Wilimgton club to be a playoff team and they weren't so sure that Burlington was going to be one and they wanted to let Hosmer (hopefully) thrive on a team in a playoff race, with many of the prospects who they expect him to play with as he climbs the ladder. Of course the Burlington club ended up making the playoffs and Hosmer's season fell apart so yeah you could say in retrospect he would have been better off staying in Burlington.

    Avery (Walnut Creek, CA): Is there a chance David Lough will be better than the general stream of tweener OF/AAAA types the Royals call up each year? Who is the best comp for his upside?

J.J. Cooper: He's got a chance. I did get one correction I need to make. Lough actually was recruited to play football and baseball at Mercyhurst, not just football as I wrote it. My apologies for the error. I kind of like David DeJesus as a comp for his upside, although Lough is a better runner than DeJesus and he's shown better power in the minors than DeJesus ever did.

    Jacob34 (Erie, PA): I've read some reports that Moustakas could be a good fit in the OF or behind the plate. Are the Royals considering that at all?

J.J. Cooper: I've gotten no indication that they are considering a move, although scouts for other teams still drool at what Moustakas could have been as a catcher.

    Dave (Pueblo): What are your thoughts on Miguel Pina and Tim Smith acquired in the Gutierrez deal? Any hope for Royals fans that they'll be regulars down the road?

J.J. Cooper: Both seem more like role players than regulars. Pina is a decent gloved catcher who hasn't really hit consistently except for an amazing April this year. The upper levels of the Royals system were completely bare of catchers, so he fills an organizational need. If everything breaks right for Smith he could be a Matt Stairs type, but Stairs had a much better glove early in his career. Smith is a below-average left fielder who will need to hit for a ton of power and show his long swing works in the big leagues.

    Bill (Bozeman): Any KC position prospects in the 11-20 range that catch your eye? Particularly in the middle of the diamond?

J.J. Cooper: Bianchi's the best shortstop in the system. Giavotella is the next best middle infielder but he took some steps back in 2009.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): J.J., was Tyler Sample in the 11-15 range? Your thoughts on him from this past year? Was he able to develop his changeup at all?

J.J. Cooper: He wasn't a top 10 guy but he wasn't that far away. He fixed some mechanical problems that helped him put an awful 2008 behind him. The changeup still isn't really much of a pitch at all.

    Mike (Michigan): Even though i am a Tiger fan, i really like what the Royals are doing (farm system wise) they have put together back to back very impressive drafts. With players like Crow, Arguelles, Montgomery, Hosmer and Moustakas is something to be very proud about. My question is: is the trio of Crow, Arguelles and Montgomery the best trio of SP prospects in the minors? And should the Royals farm system get more love than what they do?

J.J. Cooper: I can't say it's the best in the minors—the Rangers' trio of Neftali Feliz, Martin Perez and take your pick of Tanner Scheppers, Kasey Kiker or Robbie Ross would rank higher as would the Tampa Bay trio of Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Matt Moore. But it is a very good trio, and the Royals' abundance of lefty pitching prospects (Montgomery, Arguelles, Lamb, Duffy, Dwyer) ranks up there with anyone if you're looking at that category (best depth of intriguing lefty pitching prospects?)

    Dayton Moore (Kansas City, MO): Who should I be more worried about, Moustakas [no patience, some power] or Hosmer [some patience, no power]?

J.J. Cooper: Both? This year is pretty crucial for both of them. If Hosmer puts 2009 behind him, the struggles can pretty easily be written off as a combination of his knuckle injury and his vision issues. But if he struggles again, it becomes harder to explain what has happened since he was the consensus top high school hitter in the draft. At this point it's hard to believe that Moustakas will ever post .400 OBPs, but he has to show that he can make the distinction between getting a pitch he can drive and getting a pitch he can make contact with. He could also erase any memory of his 2009 season if he shows he can work pitchers into hitter's counts in Double-A. Getting out of Wilmington should help him at least mentally because he'll probably hit more home runs in the friendlier parks of the Texas League.

    Avery (Walnut Creek): Is the hypothetical ranking of Arguelles 3rd in the system more of an indictment of the farm, or praise for Arguelles? I though he would have ranked below at least Melville and Lamb just in terms of pitching.

J.J. Cooper: Praise for Arguelles. Ranking the top two in the Royals system was pretty easy this year, but if you took Arguelles at No. 3 and moved him down to behind Dwyer at No. 9 I could see the argument. There's a pretty big jumble of guys from No. 3-10 and you could get arguments for different rankings from guys inside and outside the organization. I had a scout tell me he thought Melville was the best prospect in the organization after seeing him on a good night. You could make a case for Dwyer being No. 3 because he has the potential for two plus-plus pitches. And another scout thought Lamb could rank No. 3 because of his command and feel for pitching. I guess what I'm saying is that there are a lot of combinations of rankings you could put together within this Top 10, although it's hard to find anyone outside the current Royals Top 10 (with the exception of maybe Jeff Bianchi) that you would argue should replace someone in the Top 10. There did seem to be a clear delination.

    Phil (Manhattan, Ks): Are Duffy and Montgomery going to have a tough time when they are promoted, and no longer have the luxury of pitching at Class A Wilmington's Frawley Stadium? Should we really believe in these guys, or are they just fortunate to pitch in a park that's very friendly to pitchers?

J.J. Cooper: Duffy went 6-1, 2.58 with a .239 average against with 62 hits allowed, 5 HRs allowed, 63 Ks and 19 BB in 62 road innings in the Carolina League. At home he went 3-2, 3.47 with a .218 average against, 46 hits, 22 BB, 62 Ks and 1 HR allowed in 57 innings, so it's hard to say he's a product of Frawley Stadium—his numbers were very similar home or away. Likewise Mongtomery's numbers (3-1, 2.36, 34 IP, 26 H, 8 BB, 36 K at home; 1-0, 2.04, 17.2 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 10 K on the road) are very similar. Neither can be explained away by their park. Beyond that they ranked where they did as much because of their stuff as their results, especially in Montgomery's case, as he has elite stuff.

    Avery (Walnut Creek): Where would Cortes and Gutierrez have ranked if they had not been wasted... I mean traded mid-season?

J.J. Cooper: Both would have dropped out of the Top 10. With Cortes there seem to be times the light bulb goes on and others where it drops off. With Gutierrez the multiple run-ins with the law are a clear concern, although the arm is still pretty special. I'd say they would have been in the 10-15 range with Gutierrez ranking higher than Cortes.

    Howard (New York, NY): Any thoughts regarding the young Cuban prospect that was signed late, last summer by K.C. - Cheslor Cuthbert 3B?

J.J. Cooper: Cuthbert actually is from Nicaragua. He made the top 30 as he's one of the better Latin hitting prospects the Royals have signed in years. He's got a pretty advanced body with some power in the bat and goos bat speed.

    Alan (NJ): Can you update Kelvin Herrera's status - he got a good write-up last year then looks like he must have been injured.

J.J. Cooper: Herrera threw exactly one start in 2009 before being shut down with an elbow strain. The good news is that he didn't need surgery. The bad news is that it cost him the entire season. He should be ready to go for spring training and is maybe the best sleeper in the Royals system. If healthy he has the stuff to be a top 10 prospect next season.

    Scott (Boston): Your 7, 8, 9 guys are all lefties. Who gets to the majors first and who has highest upside?

J.J. Cooper: Duffy gets to the big leagues first. Dwyer has the highest upside, but I think Lamb ends up being the best of the three, which is why he ranks seventh.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): How about Johnny Giovatella? How does he compare with Jeff Bianchi?

J.J. Cooper: Bianchi has a much better glove than Giavotella. Bianchi's question is whether he's a big league shortstop, and there are a number of scouts who think he can handle the position. Giavotella has to improve to prove he can play second base in the majors. If he can't play second base, his bat isn't likely good enough to handle a move to the outfield.

    Brad (MO): Any info on the Royals first South Korean prospect Shin Jin-ho?

J.J. Cooper: He's a very long ways away but he's got a short swing with some present power and plenty of arm strength. It's hard to even really project him right now because so few people outside the organization have seen him that there's not a lot of good info out there that can be checked against secondary sources. The Royals are pretty excited about him.

    Frank (Weston, MA): Not based on their "baseline" projection but their potential upside, who of all these Royals pitching prospects have a ceiling as a No. 1 or 2 starter?

J.J. Cooper: To be a true No. 1 starter means having two plus pitches with an average third pitch, plus-plus command and plus makeup. Putting all that together, the ones who have a chance are Montgomery (plus fastball, plus cball, potentially plus change), Crow (plus fastball and slider, avg change) and Lamb (although that requires a lot of projection). Now that's the guys who have a chance, but do remember that for every five guys who have No. 1 starter potential, it's lucky if one of them fulfills that projection.

    Brad (MO): Did any scouts think Derrick Robinson's little power surge could eventually lead to some power and how bad is his hit tool?

J.J. Cooper: Outside the organization it's hard to find many believers. After all, scouts have seen Robinson struggle for years and aren't enamored with his swing. But the Royals have always been believers in Robinson, so understandably, they are very encouraged by his late-season surge. At this point the safe bet is to remain a skeptic until Robinson proves it over a longer time-frame. In June, I didn't think I'd be ranking Robinson at all this year, but that late-season surge does give some hope that he still has some chance of becoming a big leaguer.

    Ken (Arizona): What are your thoughts on Jarrod Dyson? He reminds me of a Kenny Lofton type player with his speed and the way he tracks down balls. Do you think he could be a 4th OF who can steal some bases?

J.J. Cooper: The Royals clearly believe in Dyson as they put him on the 40-man roster and he has great speed to go with a great glove. But I see a lot of reasons to be skeptical. It's hard to see a Kenny Lofton comp—Lofton was stealing 66 bases in the big leagues as a 25-year-old while Dyson was just making it to Double-A. Dyson did show improved power this year to hit the ball over the heads of infielder and into gaps, but he is still completely helpless against lefthanders. This may be the most amazing stat I came across this year, In 208 career pro at-bats against lefthanders, Dyson has one extra base hit—a double in the AZL in 2006. Now he's never going to be a power threat, but it's hard to see how Dyson can face big league lefties down the road if he's not capable of getting the ball out of the infield against them, even with his great speed—the Royals found that out with Joey Gathright. Add in the fact that he's just reached Double-A as a 25-year old and there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. He could be a pinch-runner type, but he has a long ways to still go offensively to earn a spot on a big league roster.

    alan (NJ): Can you update us on one of last year's sleepers Keaton Hayenga? Thanks

J.J. Cooper: Hayenga had a solid first year back from a shoulder injury that cost him two seasons of work. His stuff was mostly back, although the Royals hope it's back more consistently in 2010—last year it varied from start to start. He's got a lot of projection as a pitcher with projection to have a 55 curveball to go with a 55 fastball, but he's still working to get back to 100 percent of what he had in high school.

    Brad (MO): When will Matt Mitchell pitch again?

J.J. Cooper: He threw off the mound this fall and will be ready to go for spring training by all accounts.

    Koz (Ontario): What is your opinion on the future of Kila Ka'aihue? I certainly think he should be given a fair shake...

J.J. Cooper: The decision to leave Ka'aihue in Triple-A while Jacobs struggled in the big leagues is one of the more puzzling decisions of the Royals 2009 season. Clearly the Royals don't believe Ka'aihue has a lot of upside and they worry about his bat speed, but he does get on base, and it's hard to say he couldn't have equalled Jacobs .228-.297-.401 line at a much cheaper price. At this point it's hard to see how Ka'aihue will end up as a regular in Kansas City, but he is still waiting in Triple-A hoping he's not ending up on the Justin Huber career track.

    Avery (Walnut Creek): How do Cuthbert and Espinal project? Are there any other Latin players I should keep my eye on?

J.J. Cooper: I talked about Cuthbert before. Espinall still has plenty of potential but there are questions about whether he can play shortstop in the big leagues and he needs to improve his plate discipline.If you're looking for deep sleepers Sugar Ray Marimon and Santiago Garrido are a pair of Latin pitchers who are very unpolished but have big arms that could develop.

J.J. Cooper: I better wrap this up but thanks for all the questions. John Manuel will be back with the Twins chat on Wednesday so get your Nick Blackburn-comps ready.