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Greinke entered his high school senior season as a projected second- or third-round pick--as either a pitcher or third baseman. He never hit less than .444 in high school, producing 31 homers and 144 RBIs in four seasons. When scouts saw that his strong infield arm provided 96 mph heat from the mound last spring, though, his future was set. Greinke became more committed to pitching and went 9-2, 0.55 with 118 strikeouts and eight walks in 63 innings. He turned down a Clemson scholarship to sign with the Royals for a $2.475 million bonus as the sixth overall pick. Because the Royals had no instructional league and Greinke got in just 12 innings last summer, they sent him to pitch in the Puerto Rican League over the winter. Though such an assignment is almost unheard of, Greinke handled it well and was regarded as one of the league's top prospects. Guy Hansen, a former Royals scout who now works for the Braves and was Greinke's pitching coach at Mayaguez, said Greinke was a cross between David Cone and Bret Saberhagen, with Cone's breaking ball and Saberhagen's mechanics and command. Hansen also had high praise for Greinke's polished approach to pitching and his ability to accept and implement instruction. Despite his inexperience on the mound, Greinke commands four above-average pitches. His fastball sits between 91 and 93 mph, and he likes to move it in and out on hitters. He also has a slider with good tilt, along with a curveball and changeup. Because he has plenty of athleticism, a compact delivery and easy arm action, Greinke may increase his velocity as he progresses. If that happens, he would profile as a No. 1 starter. Greinke's infield experience makes him a good fielding pitcher who holds runners well. Though he has four pitches, Greinke rarely uses all of them in a given outing. He usually has two working at a time and tends to stick with them. Because he barely pitched after signing, the biggest key for Greinke is to get experience in game situations and continue to build his arm strength. He needs to work on pitching down in the strike zone more. He also needs to improve the command of his secondary pitches. The Royals considered Greinke the most polished high school arm in the 2002 draft. Based on his performance in Puerto Rico, where he had a 2.45 ERA in 26 innings, Greinke could start the season in high Class A. While Greinke's stuff isn't as overwhelming as 2001 first-rounder Colt Griffin's, he's a workaholic who studies hitters and figures to succeed with his intellect and command.
After coming from the Athletics, Berroa led all minor league shortstops with 60 extra-base hits in 2001 and was the Royals' top prospect. He missed two months in 2002 after arthroscopic knee surgery in April and then battled nagging back, leg and hamstring injuries for the remainder of a disappointing season. He also turned out to be two years older than previously thought. Berroa has the tools to become a standout defensive shortstop, with great hands, plus arm strength and range. He also shows solid instincts for the game and a good work ethic. He has a quick bat and some pop. Berroa got a little homer-happy last season as he tried to pull everything. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He makes errors because he's aggressive and rushes plays, so that should stop as he matures. Whether he's ready, the shortstop job is Berroa's to lose in spring training after Neifi Perez was released.
After two promising seasons, Gobble battled injuries in 2002. A right groin tear forced him to the disabled list for three weeks in June. Four starts after he returned, he had shoulder soreness, which didn't turn out to be anything major. That scare, coupled with more groin pain, led the Royals to shut him down in July. Like many lefthanded pitching prospects, Gobble is compared to Tom Glavine. Few live up to the hype, but Gobble has a chance because he operates with three quality pitches, including a low-90s fastball. His curveball is the best in the system and his deceptive changeup is more than a show-me pitch. Gobble doesn't have a major weakness and just needs to stay healthy. Against more advanced hitters he'll have to make adjustments, such as tightening his big-breaking curve and locating his fastball with more precision. Had he stayed healthy, Gobble was in line for a September callup. He's ticketed for Triple-A Omaha to start 2003.
Harvey tried a new stance similar to Jeff Bagwell's in 2002. He batted .277--58 points off his previous career low--but everything came together for him in the Arizona Fall League. He was the league MVP after setting records for batting (.479), slugging (.752) and on-base percentage (.537). Harvey uses a unique grip, overlapping his hands as he goes into his trigger mechanism, with his right hand covering half of his left. With his inside-out, line-drive swing, Harvey smokes the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. He could add power as he learns which pitches to drive in specific counts. Despite putting in plenty of work on his defense, Harvey will struggle to become an average first baseman. He lacks first-step quickness, which also rules out a switch to left field, and his hands are stiff. He doesn't walk much, more because of his ability to make contact than a poor eye. His weight is a concern. Harvey has one above-average tool, but he has left no question he can rake. His AFL campaign should catapult him into Kansas City's 2003 plans as a DH.
MacDougal's 2001 major league debut ended after he sustained a skull fracture when struck in the head by Carlos Beltran's bat during a game. He lost the feeling in his right arm for a time, and still has occasional numbness in his fingertips. This may have contributed to his control problems in 2002, when he was shut down for six weeks. MacDougal pumps his fastball into the mid-90s with plus life and was clocked at 100 mph or better six times in winter ball in Puerto Rico, where he was also rated the league's top prospect. His darting slider is one of the nastiest in the system, and he has shown a feel for a curveball and changeup. Command is a major issue, though it was better over the winter, and learning to harness his electric arsenal has been tough. His inability to repeat his delivery is the main problem, and the life on his pitches makes it even harder. But after MacDougal's winter assignment, he's ready to compete for the big league closer's job
An outstanding athlete, Gomez was a volleyball star in the Dominican Republic. He resembles a more slender Carlos Beltran with similar tools, albeit less raw power. Gomez was hitting .402 in late May in Double-A until he came down with chicken pox and missed two weeks. He had his best offensive season because he learned to use the whole field, shortened his stroke and worked deeper counts. He handled breaking balls, which had been a bugaboo. Gomez generates plenty of bat speed and hit more homers than he had in his entire career. He has plus speed and slightly above-average arm strength. Gomez can steal bases, but needs to improve his jumps. He was caught stealing on 40 percent of his attempts in 2002. His athleticism allows him to track down balls in center field, but he can be erratic because he doesn't have great instincts. Gomez is rough around the edges, but he has improved every year and should continue to do so in Triple-A in 2003.
Griffin was recruited as a first baseman by Louisiana Tech before he was clocked at 98 mph in 2001. He became the first documented high school pitcher to reach 100 mph and parlayed that into a $2.4 million bonus. While Griffin can dial his fastball into the upper 90s with ease, he often doesn't know where it's going. He's trying to strike a balance between velocity and command, so he has abandoned his two-seamer and kept his four-seamer at 93-94 mph. His slider is a potentially dominant pitch once he develops a feel for it. He also employs a circle change. Griffin still has major control issues and finished fourth in the minors in walks in 2002. For all his stuff, he didn't miss many bats, either. He needs to hone his delivery and avoid overthrowing. His slider flattens out when he drops his elbow. Griffin could be a dominant starter if he harnesses his control. Or he could become a tremendous bust. Command will be his point of emphasis in high Class A in 2003.
Snyder was the Northwest League's top prospect in his pro debut but pitched just two innings in the next two years. Coming back from Tommy John surgery in September 2000, he slowly worked his way back into form in 2002. Snyder has regained the velocity on his fastball, which sits between 90-94 mph, and he continues to throw on a tough downhill plane. His curveball, which rivals Gobble's, and changeup can be plus pitches. He throws strikes, and his outstanding makeup helped him battle through his injury adversity. Snyder should use his curveball and changeup more often. While rehabbing, he focused on tossing a few solid innings or working on a certain pitch, rather than winning games. He has yet to show he can handle higher pitch counts. Because of his elbow problems, Snyder no longer throws his splitter, which was a plus pitch. Snyder remains a wild card because of his health. He made encouraging progress in the AFL and seems to be regaining the form that made him a coveted prospect. He'll begin 2003 in Double-A.
Angel Berroa should have Kansas City's shortstop job for at least a few years. Blanco is the only player in the system with the skills to challenge him, and he's not nearly as advanced. For all the defensive accolades Berroa earns, Blanco might be even better. Blanco has the hands, range, actions and instincts for shortstop. He's steadier than Berroa while making the flashy diving stops and deep-in-the-hole throws. He's an above-average runner who can steal bases, with good bat speed and the strength to become a pesky, slap-hitting leadoff batter with gap power. For all his tools, Blanco is still weak offensively at this point and needs to add muscle to his slight frame. He also could stand to improve his pitch selection, as he's a bit of a free swinger. Gomez made the jump from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to high Class A in 2000, and the Royals will see if Blanco can pull off the same feat in 2003. He held his own in a brief stint there in 2002. If he learns to walk more and can hit in the .275 range, Blanco will enjoy a productive career as a major league shortstop.
After hitting .229 in five seasons as a catcher, Hill and his live arm moved to the other end of the battery in instructional league following the 2000 season. When he hit 95 mph, the conversion became permanent. He has drawn comparisons to Troy Percival, another catcher-turned-closer. Hill has unconventional mechanics--he leans backward before delivering pitches to generate more velocity--but he has no trouble repeating his delivery and it's tough for hitters to pick up. His quick arm action allows his explosive fastball to peak at 98-99 mph. He's aggressive in going after hitters, but his background as a catcher reminds him that changing speeds also can be effective. Hill's curveball was scrapped for a slider. His progress with that pitch will determine whether he pitches the seventh or ninth inning. He still needs to throw the slider with more conviction and velocity, and he needs to throw strikes more consistently. After pitching in the Dominican League over the winter, Hill should make the Royals' bullpen out of spring training.
Bukvich began his college career at Division II Delta State (Miss.) before transferring to Mississippi, where he pitched poorly for two years and was academically ineligible as a senior. Area scout Mark Willoughby remembered Bukvich's arm strength and got the Royals to take a flier on him in the 2000 draft. Bukvich started the 2002 season by not allowing an earned run in his first 17 appearances, and didn't give up any runs after a promotion to Triple-A. His .131 opponents average was the lowest among minor league relievers. Bukvich throws a heavy fastball at 92-96 mph but needs a reliable second pitch to succeed in the majors. He must develop more consistency with his slurvy slider or improve his below-average splitter. Bukvich also struggled mightily with command in the majors, delivering first-pitch strikes to less than half the batters he faced. When he did find the plate he often served up meatballs, so he needs to throw more quality strikes as well. Bukvich has an outside shot at winning Kansas City's closer job in a spring-training competition with fellow rookies Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Hill. More likely, Bukvich will wind up as a set-up man.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Christensen doesn't drive and uses a passport for identification in lieu of a driver's license. He made himself a top draft prospect with a marked improvement on the mound as a high school senior. That earned him a $308,000 bonus as a fourth-round pick. Christensen works with an 85-90 mph fastball that tails, sinks and occasionally reaches 92 mph. An offseason conditioning program could help him increase his velocity. His curveball and changeup are both potential plus pitches. He understands when to use his circle changeup and has a good overall feel for pitching. Christensen needs to be able to control his sweeping curveball better and throw more strikes with it. And while he can command his fastball, he must learn how to work both sides of the plate more effectively. His mechanics are nearly perfect and he hides the ball well. With a bulldog mentality on the mound, Christensen is similar to 2002 first-rounder Zack Grienke. Both are polished for prep pitchers and could advance rapidly. Christensen, who profiles as a middle-of-the- rotation starter, should start 2003 in low Class A. Jumping a level to high Class A isn't out of the question either, based on his strong showing at short-season Spokane, as well as his makeup and the Royals' willingness to aggressively promote young prospects.
He might not ooze tools and projectability, but Gotay continues to produce the offensive numbers to force his way into the organization's plans. He demonstrates great field awareness and instincts, which allow him to play above the sum of his physical tools. Gotay followed up a solid debut by leading the Midwest League in doubles and extra-base hits in 2002, his first full pro season. He has gap power and uses the whole field. A switch-hitter, Gotay was significantly better from the left side, hitting 91 points higher (.313 versus .222) with eight of his nine homers. He has average speed at best and must work on his baserunning. Because he doesn't run as well as the typical middle infielder, he only has average range at second base. His fielding has improved, though he still needs work on his double-play pivot. Gotay has a tendency to wait for throws on top of the base rather than coming through it as he receives the ball. The Royals like his bat, but Gotay will have to keep proving himself at each level, continuing in high Class A this year.
The Royals got Machado from the Braves for Rey Sanchez, and he projects as a similar middle infielder. Machado's average arm may relegate him to second base, especially in an organization with strong-armed and slick-fielding Angel Berroa and Andres Blanco already at shortstop. Even so, Machado's hands and range allow him to play a smooth second base, with the exception of being a little rough around the bag when turning the double play. Despite missing time with a groin pull, he made great strides at the plate in high Class A, batting .366 in the final three months to finish third in the Carolina League batting race. Machado is a spray hitter who rarely drives the ball, but he can handle the bat well and should hit for average. His ability to bunt and hit-and-run makes him a prime candidate for a No. 2 hitter if he can learn to draw more walks. His speed is a tick above average at best, so he won't be a huge basestealing threat at the upper levels. He should take a step up to Double-A in 2003 and could be in Kansas City by 2004.
Tonis rivals Devil Rays outfield prospect Josh Hamilton for the frequency of his hospital visits. Tonis had knee surgery after the 2001 season, forcing him to miss the Arizona Fall League. When he reported to spring training, his shoulder was so sore that he couldn't even throw the ball 90 feet. Shoulder surgery kept him out of action until August, when he headed to the Gulf Coast League to DH and get some at-bats. After homering in his first at-bat, Tonis was hit by a pitch that broke his jaw in his fifth game, ending his season. Tonis shows good power potential and could develop into a 15-20 home run catcher, but he never has hit for a high average because of poor plate discipline. He's a below-average runner. Defensively, he can catch and throw in the majors right now with his above-average arm and soft hands. He gunned down 39 percent of basestealers in 2001. Tonis also calls a good game. Look for him to start 2003 in Double-A. The selection of Ronny Paulino in the major league Rule 5 draft probably quiets any chance that Tonis would get a midseason promotion. If he can stay healthy, Tonis could be starting for Kansas City at some point in 2004.
A year after shooting from high Class A to the majors, Voyles spent 2002 on the Omaha-to- Kansas City shuttle, spending three stints with each club. Unlike most relievers, he has three pitches he can work with. His fastball, which can reach 95 mph, is more effective at 90- 91 with good sinking action. He also has a plus changeup and an effective curveball. Voyles displays plenty of bravado on the mound, but sometimes his determination turns to stubbornness. He thought he could throw his heater by major league hitters--and found out the hard way he can't. Voyles gets in trouble when he falls behind in counts and elevates his fastball. He's much more effective when he works backward and starts hitters with his changeup. Voyles needs to improve the command of his fastball, but he'll battle for a spot in the Royals' all-prospect bullpen with Jeremy Hill, Mike MacDougal and Ryan Bukvich in 2003.
Ferguson stands 6-foot-4 and led the organization in strikeouts, but don't mistake him for a power pitcher. He relies on pinpoint command and changing speeds to keep hitters off balance. It worked wonders in 2002, as he walked three or more hitters in game just three times while leading the minors in victories and improving his pro record to 36-14. His 185 innings pitched ranked second in the minors. Ferguson used to work mostly off his 88-89 mph sinker, but he improved in 2002 when he sharpened his curveball, which now projects as a plus pitch. His changeup also improved, but it still isn't major league average and he doesn't use it enough. Ferguson probably needs to hone that third pitch to be effective in the big leagues, where he likely will be a back-of-the-rotation starter. Ferguson can deliver strikes, even with his curveball, in any count. However, he sometimes leaves his fastball too high in the zone, where it gets pounded. His makeup, professionalism and feel for pitching all rate high. Given the state of the Kansas City staff, he could claim a spot in the rotation, or at least in long relief, at some point this year.
Often talked about in the same breath as Ian Ferguson because they posted similar numbers in 2002, Obermueller possesses better overall stuff but lacks Ferguson's feel for pitching. Obermueller had shoulder surgery in 2000, experienced more shoulder soreness in 2001 and wasn't ready to resume a full workload until last year. Getting more frequent work allowed him to improve his delivery. Drafted as a college senior, Obermueller was primarily an outfielder at Iowa. His repertoire is average across the board with the exception of his slider, which has developed into a plus pitch. Obermuller throws 86-92 mph with average command and enjoys success working the inside half of the plate. He also uses a changeup. Though his slider rates as his best pitch, Obermueller doesn't have much success putting hitters away with it or any other pitches. Developing a knockout pitch and maintaining a more consistent arm slot--he often drifts too high with his release point in a quest for more movement on his pitches--rank atop Obermuelller's to-do list if he's to push his way into Kansas City's rotation or bullpen in 2003.
It took him two years to make his pro debut, but the hard-nosed DeJesus never gave in to injuries. He sustained a hairline fracture in his right elbow sliding into second base in his last college game at Rutgers. After signing in August 2000, DeJesus slightly tore a ligament in his left elbow five days into instructional league. During spring training in 2001, he felt a pop in the elbow and soon thereafter had Tommy John surgery. Finally healthy in 2002, DeJesus got off to a hot start in high Class A before cooling off in Double-A. He makes solid contact, shows good plate discipline and will take a walk. He's a gap hitter who probably won't hit more than 10-15 homers annually, but his above-average speed should allow him to steal 15-20 bases. He had a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. Defensively, DeJesus can play all three outfield positions well and his arm, which is currently below-average, should improve. If he can stay healthy and keep overachieving, DeJesus might play his way into a fourth outfielder's role in the majors. He'll start this year in Double-A.
The Royals spent $1.75 million in bonus money on Crosby in 2001 and have yet to receive anything aside from medical bills. Crosby reported to Spokane after signing but didn't play because of a right elbow injury that forced him to DH as a high school senior. Then he headed off to Clemson, where he caught 27 passes and four touchdowns as a freshman wide receiver. (His NFL potential and elbow problems were the prevailing reasons the consensus best athlete in the 2001 draft lasted until the second round.) After completing his freshman year, Crosby reported to extended spring training. He was able to hit but the elbow continued to bother him, so Crosby had Tommy John surgery. He hasn't been able to display the blend of speed and power that had the Royals comparing him to a young Ken Griffey. He still offers tremendous upside, but his potential to reach it has diminished thanks to the two-year layoff, combined with his time lost to football and his inferior high school competition. He spent the fall rehabbing and didn't attend classes at Clemson but plans to continue his football career. Getting 500 at-bats a year would go a long way toward improving Crosby's game and standing as a prospect.
Austin won Baseball America's College Player of the Year award in 1998, the same year the Royals selected him fourth overall and paid him a club-record $2.7 million bonus. He sailed through the minors until he reached Triple-A. His curveball, which was his money pitch at Stanford but now is no better than average, and 88 mph fastball weren't enough, and Austin looked like a complete first-round bust until the Royals sent him to the bullpen in May 2001. The change of roles added velocity to his fastball, which now reaches the low to mid-90s, but his command of the pitch still rates below-average. Austin is throwing a hard slider more than his curve now. He went away from the slider in college and starting using it more as he searched for a pitch to help him retire more advanced hitters. It ranks as a borderline plus pitch, and his changeup is fringe average. Austin will have a shot to make the Royals as a bullpen arm, and his starter's background could lead him to a swing role. His ultimate ceiling now looks like that of a set-up man, and he rates behind relievers such as Mike MacDougal, Jeremy Hill and Ryan Bukvich.
Paulino couldn't make the Pirates' 40-man roster and wouldn't have appeared on the Pittsburgh prospect list, but the Royals were happy to grab him in the major league Rule 5 draft. He did well when he repeated high Class A in 2002, earning Carolina League all-star honors and driving in the championship-clinching run in the playoffs. Paulino has plus power potential but needs more at-bats to gain better recognition of breaking balls, which give him trouble. Defensively, Paulino is ready to catch and throw in the majors. He has a plus arm and is equally adept at receiving and blocking pitches. He's agile for his size, though there's concern that he'll add more weight and lose some of his flexibility. Royals manager Tony Pena is intrigued by the young catcher's skills and will be available to tutor him on a daily basis. Paulino heads into the season as Brent Mayne's backup, though the Royals might need to carry a third catcher if Paulino can't adjust to major league pitching.
Carrasco came out of nowhere to emerge as a prospect in 2002, leading the Carolina League with 29 saves and 55 appearances. The Royals liked what they saw of Carrasco in the Carolina-California League midseason all-star game and followed him throughout the year. His strong numbers in the Arizona Fall and Mexican Pacific leagues during the offseason clinched the team's decision to grab him in the major league Rule 5 draft. Carrasco was a position player at Pima CC and didn't take it well when the coaching staff moved him to the mound. That attitude contributed to Carrasco being released by the Orioles and Indians earlier in his career. Though he will turn 26 as the 2003 season opens and has thrown just 20 innings above high Class A, the Royals believe Carrasco is finally getting the hang of pitching. His best pitch is a plus slider that was considered the best in the Pittsburgh system. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph. Carrasco has solid command of both pitches, and he can drop down and throw them from a sidearm slot to freeze hitters in two-strike counts. He's ticketed to open the season in the Kansas City bullpen, which already is crowded with young arms.
Shanks starred in baseball, basketball and football in high school, but his actions off the field drew even more attention. He was expelled from one high school after being accused of possessing crack cocaine on campus, and from another for smoking marijuana before a basketball tournament. The Royals also suspended him for much of the 2000 season for undisclosed reasons. A cousin of Cubs outfield prospect J.J. Johnson, Shanks faced him last year in the Midwest League. On the field, Shanks shows plenty of tools. He rates as a plus runner and defender. He has the raw strength to drive balls all over the park and the speed to run down everything in center field and be a threat on the basepaths. Shanks led Burlington in stolen bases and batting. Despite the high average, he doesn't make consistent contact and struck out almost twice as much as he walked. He should follow his offensive partner in crime, Ruben Gotay, to high Class A in 2003.
Gettis continued his slow but steady progression with a strong season as he repeated high Class A. It fell in line with the rest of his career: He generally struggles in his first crack at a level and then shows significant improvement the next year. A former University of Minnesota quarterback recruit, Gettis is the cousin of former NFL linebacker Dana Howard. He's a strong athlete whose baseball skills were raw when the Royals signed him. Managers rated him the Carolina League's best defensive outfielder in 2002, and noted his strong right-field arm. Gettis tweaked his approach at the plate in 2002, taking more pitches and using the opposite field. While his weight can be a concern, he runs well for his size but doesn't show the power one might expect. The Royals say if Gettis continues to improve as a hitter, the homers will come down the line. Gettis will move to Double-A in 2003, and he'll need to pick up the pace if he's to reach the majors before he turns 25.
Tierney's 14 losses in 2002 might have tied teammate Mike Stodolka for the second-most losses in the Midwest League, but his record didn't indicate how well Tierney pitched, especially late in the season. He allowed just six earned runs over his last seven starts, reaching the seventh inning six times and collecting four wins. At 6-foot-6, he throws his fastball on a steep downhill plane. It's an average pitch but he shows plus command of it. Tierney was throwing 86-87 mph early in 2002, but improved his velocity over the course of the year and reached 90-92. His changeup blossomed into a solid-average pitch with future plus potential. He has the command and confidence to throw it with a full count. Tierney's curveball has a nice, tight rotation, but he struggles with his release point, and by extension, his command of it at times. His arm works easy and he repeats his delivery well, especially for a pitcher of his size. Tierney needs to get quicker to the plate because basestealers take advantage of him. In 2003, Tierney should join a prospect-studded Wilmington rotation that includes Kansas City's last three first-round picks: Stodolka, Colt Griffin and Zack Greinke.
Donachie led Florida high schoolers with 15 home runs as a senior, including one blast off first-round pick Zack Grienke. Nevertheless, he was considered more advanced defensively than offensively when he signed as a second-round pick for $800,000. That proved true as Donachie struggled at the plate in his first taste of pro ball. He was slowed by a high ankle sprain and failed to find a rhythm while splitting time with two other catchers. Nonetheless, he still packs plus power and the potential to hit for a solid average into his line-drive swing. He hit some impressive homers in a fall batting-practice session at Kauffman Stadium. A natural righthanded hitter, he switch-hit as a high school senior but the Royals have yet to decide whether he'll do so as a pro. Defensively, Donachie has sure hands, fine blocking and game-calling skills and a plus arm with a quick release (1.9 seconds from home plate to second base). He already has added 15 pounds to his durable frame since high school and still can get stronger as he blossoms into a frontline catcher capable of batting sixth or seventh in the order. He'll begin 2002 in low Class A.
Wrightsman hit .597 as a high school senior to get nominated for Indiana's Mr. Baseball award, but his bat and his mid-80s fastball never drew much attention from scouts. The Royals drafted him after he earned second-team all-America honors at Faulkner State CC, but he did little to impress in his first two years as a pro. Wrightsman spent last offseason adding muscle and honing his command, and his entire repertoire became more crisp in 2002. He led the Royals system with a 2.38 ERA. Wrightsman succeeds with excellent control and trust in his stuff. He keeps the ball down in the zone as well as any pitcher in the organization. He throws his 88-92 mph fastball with an easy, deceptive motion that allows it to get in on hitters quickly. He also throws a quality slider. The development of his changeup will determine whether Wrightsman becomes a middle reliever or starter. Back spasms cut short his stint in the Arizona Fall League. He should have a rotation spot in Double-A this year.
Tamayo worked in the same Notre Dame rotation with Mets 2001 first-round pick Aaron Heilman. He had Tommy John surgery in 1999, but returned as strong as ever in 2000, throwing a three-hit shutout against Mississippi State in the NCAA regionals. Tamayo consistently throws in the high 80s, sometimes touching 90 mph. He also works with an average curveball and a plus changeup. As with Ian Ferguson, Tamayo's feel for pitching is his best asset. He battles hitters from the mound, using his above-average command to move the ball to all quadrants of the strike zone. He tied for second in the organization with 14 wins last year and was undefeated in his final nine decisions. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever, and he should start 2003 at Double-A.
While scouting premium Hawaiian prospects Bronson Sardinha (first round, Yankees) and Brandon League (second, Blue Jays) in 2001, Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier saw Kaaihue as a high school junior. Kaaihue's power potential impressed Ladnier and made him the island's top prospect for the 2002 draft. A subpar senior season and Kaaihue's commitment to the University of Nebraska combined to knock him down to the 15th round. He physically resembles David Segui, and like Segui he has baseball bloodlines. Kaaihue's father Kala caught in the minors for six years with the Pirates and Cardinals. Kaaihue possesses the best raw power in the Royals system, with emphasis on the word "raw." He showed good patience in the Gulf Coast League but also struck out in one-fourth of his at-bats. Elbow and biceps problems limited him to DH duties after he signed, so the Royals don't really have a take on Kaaihue's defensive prowess yet. He showed below-average range and speed in high school, but had good enough hands and arm strength that the Royals worked him out at third base. Kaaihue probably isn't ready for full-season ball at this point.
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