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At its simplest, hitting has been described as "see the ball, hit the ball." Hosmer showed in 2010 how important it is to see the ball. After signing for $6 million at the Aug. 15 deadline as the No. 3 overall pick in 2008, he initially struggled to live up to his reputation as the best high school bat in his draft class. During his first full season in pro ball, he batted .241/.334/.361 between two Class A stops and was diagnosed with astigmatism. He had his vision corrected with LASIK surgery, and he looked like a totally different hitter last season. Recovering from a broken knuckle on his right hand in 2009 and improving his conditioning also helped. Hosmer led the high Class A Carolina League in batting (.354) and on-base percentage (.545) and showed increased power after a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, which he helped lead to the Texas League title. He rated as the No. 2 prospect in both leagues. After the season, he led Team USA by hitting .389 at the Pan Am qualifier before heading to the Arizona Fall League for some more seasoning. Hosmer's approach is very advanced for his age, and one scout likened it to Joey Votto's. He already likes to use the opposite field and has the strength to drive the ball out of the park while going the other way. Pitchers who nibble on the outside corner to stay away from his power are doing just what he prefers. The Royals would like to see Hosmer become a little more pullconscious, as they believe his home run numbers will jump once he turns on inside fastballs more often. He has shown the ability to do so and he has enough bat speed to pull good fastballs, but at times he seems reluctant to abandon the opposite field. He projects as well-above -average as a hitter and power hitter, with a swing that has drawn comparisons to Will Clark's with the same kind of high finish. While fellow Royals prospect Mike Moustakas gets his power from a big rip, Hosmer prefers an easier, if less powerful, stroke. After struggling against lefties in 2009, he showed no problems in 2010, batting .360/.409/.566 against southpaws. Defensively, Hosmer showed increased agility and good range at first base last season. The Royals believe he has Gold Glove ability down the road. He was clocked up to 97 mph as a high school pitcher, though his plus arm strength rarely comes into play at first base. He shags balls in the outfield regularly and is good enough to play occasionally out there if the Royals want to get his and Billy Butler's bats in the lineup in interleague games. Though he's a below-average runner, he knows how to pick his spots to run. Hosmer should start 2011 in Northwest Arkansas. A midseason promotion to Triple-A Omaha is likely, and he could make it to K.C. late in the year. He projects as the team's long-term three-hole hitter.
The Royals thought about drafting Myers 12th overall in 2009, but gambled successfully that his $2 million price tag would drop him to their next choice in the third round. Now that he has hit .324/.429/.533 in two pro seasons, plenty of teams wish they had met his price. Myers' success at the plate comes in large part from excellent pitch recognition. He often stops loading his swing just as a pitcher releases the ball--because he quickly determines whether it's a pitch he wants to hit. He's a pull hitter who works deep counts and projects to have easy above-average power down the road. The big question is whether he'll be able to catch in the big leagues. Though he threw out 32 percent of basestealers in 2010 and has plus arm strength, he stands too tall and drops his elbow, costing him accuracy. His long arms and legs make it hard for him to receive and block balls. He's more athletic and a better runner than most catchers, and should be able to handle a move to an outfield corner if needed. While the Royals believe Myers can stay behind the plate, they also know they can get him to the majors quicker and get more offensive production out of him if they move him to the outfield. He'll spend 2011 in Double-A, with his position still to be determined.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft and the recipient of a $4 million bonus, Moustakas led the low Class A Midwest League with 22 homers in his first full pro season. After a poor 2009 encore, he bounced back to earn Texas League MVP honors and tie for the minor league lead with 36 homers. Moustakas' swing isn't that different than what it was in 2009, but a better approach led to better results. He started laying off pitches that he couldn't do much damage to, leading to more favorable counts and more opportunities to unleash his plus-plus power. With his excellent bat speed, he can drive the ball out of the park to any field. He may never walk a lot, but he also has an uncanny ability to make contact. Scouts worry about Moustakas' ability to stay at third base. He's a below-average runner who likely will continue to get slower, and his footwork and mechanics lack consistency. He does have some assets at the hot corner, with a strong arm and average first-step quickness and hands. Moustakas probably will spend a couple of months in Triple-A to open 2011, but he should be the first of the much-anticipated wave of prospects to arrive in Kansas City. He should hit in the middle of the Royals' lineup for years.
Lamb lasted five rounds in the 2008 draft because he missed his high school senior season after fracturing his elbow in a car accident. The Royals were able to sign a premium talent for $165,000, and he has shown no ill effects since. He led Kansas City farmhands with a 2.38 ERA and 159 strikeouts while reaching Double-A at age 20 in 2010. Few lefthanders can match Lamb's combination of three possible plus pitches and exquisite command. He paints the outside corner with his fastball, which usually ranges from 90-95 mph, and works down and away with a quality changeup. He also throws a curveball that isn't as consistent as his other two offerings. While Lamb's stuff is a tick below Mike Montgomery's, his ability to succeed without his best stuff could make him the better pitcher. He already has shown he can win on nights when his fastball sits at 89-90 mph and he doesn't have feel for his curve. He keeps the ball down in the zone, allowing just five homers in 148 innings last season. Lamb is expected to be part of an all-prospect Northwest Arkansas rotation with Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer and Aaron Crow to start the 2011 season. If he makes as much progress as he did in 2010, he could end the year in Kansas City.
Signed for $988,000 as the 36th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Montgomery ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago. He missed nearly two months with a strained forearm in 2010, but he returned in mid-July and was healthy down the stretch, pitching with Team USA (he won two starts in the Pan Am qualifier) and in the Arizona Fall League where he started in the Rising Stars Game. On his best nights, Montgomery features a plus-plus fastball to go with an above-average curveball and changeup. He generates excellent angle with his fastball while running it up to 95-96 mph, more often sitting at 91-93. He has junked his high school palmball/curve and developed a more traditional, big-breaking 74-76 mph bender. He's still learning how to locate his curve for strikes. His changeup has some late fade, and his ability to throw it with excellent arm speed and keep it down in the zone makes it a plus pitch. His mechanics are solid, so his health isn't a major concern going forward. The forearm injury slowed Montgomery's ascent, but he's still not far away from Kansas City. He'll return to Double-A to start 2011, but he's yet another blue-chip prospect who could debut with the Royals later in the year.
Though there was no clear-cut No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Royals were pleased to get the highly skilled Colon. Baseball America's 2009 Summer Player of the Year, he led the Big West Conference with 17 homers last spring. He signed quickly for MLB's slot recommendation of $2.75 million, enabling him to play 60 games in high Class A. Outside of his bat, Colon's tools grade mostly as average, but his consistency and feel for the game let him play well above his pure physical ability. His best attribute is his ability to make solid contact, which allows him to hit for average and project as a No. 2 hitter. He has a quick bat and his hands work well, allowing him to drive the ball to the opposite field even when he gets caught out on his front foot. His average power will really stand out if he can remain at shortstop, which is in question because he has fringy speed and limited quickness. He doesn't have outstanding range, but he can make all the routine plays with his solid hands and average arm. At worst, he should be an offensive second baseman. By signing quickly, Colon put himself in position to move to Double-A in 2011. When the Royals' youth movement really takes hold the following year, he could be their starting shortstop.
After posting a 2.49 ERA in three pro seasons and pitching in the Futures Game in 2009, Duffy surprisingly walked away from the game during spring training in 2010. He had a minor elbow injury that would have sidelined him in April, but he says that wasn't an issue. He returned in June and looked as good as ever, touching 95-97 mph regularly throughout the summer. Duffy often paces himself in the early innings, sitting at 90-92 mph before reaching the mid-90s later in games. His velocity jump sometimes comes with a propensity to overthrow. He generally commands his fastball well and creates deception with a crossfire delivery, though he has gotten better about staying online to the plate. His best secondary pitch is a changeup that's slightly above-average at times, but his feel for it wavers. His slow curveball has plenty of depth, but he'll probably switch to a slider that will be a better fit for his three-quarters arm slot. He has a relatively advanced feel for setting up hitters. Though Duffy has made just seven starts above Class A, he's not that far away from the big leagues. He'll return to Double-A to open 2011 and could reach Kansas City by September.
Because he was held back in elementary school and attended prep school, Dwyer was a rare draft-eligible freshman because he was 21 after his only year at Clemson. His seven-figure asking price and extra leverage scared teams off, but the Royals gave him mid-first-round money ($1.45 million) as a fourth-rounder and now consider him the equal of any college lefthander in the 2009 draft. He was shut down at the end of July with a back injury, but the Royals do not believe it will be a long-term problem. Dwyer's sharp, 12-to-6 curveball is the best in the system and rates as a 60-65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Unlike most young pitchers, he can locate his curve start after start. He sets it up with a 91-92 mph fastball that touches 95. He's not afraid to bust hitters inside with his fastball, and improved his command of it during the season. He also made strides with his straight changeup. When he struggles, it's often because Dwyer starts to throw across his body, causing him to leave his fastball up in the zone. Because he's an excellent athlete, he's able to make quick adjustments. Dwyer could have returned to action in late August and should be fully recovered from his back problems by spring training. He'll be part of the minors' best rotation at Northwest Arkansas in 2011.
The top college righthander in the 2008 draft, Crow turned down a $3.5 million bonus offer from the Nationals as the No. 9 overall pick. He took a detour to the independent Fort Worth Cats (American Association) before the Royals drafted him 12th overall in 2009 and signed him that September to a $3 million big league contract. He struggled throughout 2010, earning a demotion to high Class A in August. Crow's problems were largely mechanical, as he sped up the start of his delivery and opened up too quickly. As a result, hitters saw the ball early, his fastball flattened out and his command slipped. He also has a wrist wrap that Kansas City is willing to live with. There's nothing wrong with his stuff. His fastball often sits at 95-96 mph and touched 98, but he may be better sitting at 92-94 with natural sink. Crow's 84-87 mph slider is still a plus pitch with good bite, but his command issues gave him few chances to use it. His upper-80s changeup is too hard, so he began throwing a low-80s knuckle-curve as an offspeed pitch late in the season. Crow will return to Double-A after flunking his first trial there in 2010. If he can't figure out his delivery and command, he has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever.
The Astros made Eibner a fourth-round pick as a high school pitcher in 2007, but he turned down their $180,000 slot offer to attend Arkansas as a two-way player. That move paid off handsomely, as the Royals signed him for $1.25 million as a second-round pick three years later. Though he can hit 97 mph on the mound, Kansas City drafted Eibner to hit, his preference. Eibner's raw power is just as impressive as his fastball. His swing can get sweepy and long at times, but he can drive the ball out of any part of any ballpark. He doesn't always make consistent contact, but he improved during his college career and should be at least an average hitter now that he's focusing on it full-time--he showed significant improvement as a college junior. He's a slightly above-average runner who gets good enough jumps to stay in center field, but he projects better in right field, where his plus arm strength will be quite useful. He always could fall back on being a pitcher, as he also flashed a plus slider and showed feel for a changeup. Eibner signed late and is still a relatively raw hitter for a college product, so he could begin his pro career at the Royals' new low Class A Kane County affiliate. By 2013, he could be another powerful bat in the middle of Kansas City's lineup.
After they watched Kansas City product Shawn Marcum pitch in the big leagues against them, the Royals intensified their efforts to ensure that they scouted local players more comprehensively than anyone else. That work paid off with Adam, a member of the Royals' elite team that practiced regularly and played occasionally at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City also scouted every one of his starts for Blue Valley Northwest High in Overland Park, Kan., which wasn't hard considering the school sits 22 miles from the Kauffman Stadium. Despite his solid commitment to Missouri, the Royals took him in the fifth round last June and signed him at the Aug. 16 deadline for a well-above-slot $800,000. Adam signed too late to play in an official game, but he made an impression by consistently sitting at 94-95 mph and touching 98 with his fastball during instructional league. He also has a potential plus curveball that he commands well for a high school draftee. As with most hard-throwing young pitchers, his changeup is more of an idea than a useable pitch at this point. Kansas City tweaked his mechanics slightly, eliminating a Derek Lowesque side step to get Adam more over the rubber at the beginning of his windup. They Royals usually hold their young pitchers in extended spring training during April, but he could move quicker because he's used to cold weather. He's advanced enough to make his pro debut in low Class A.
There are a lot of impressive pitching prospects in the Royals system, and none of them throws as hard as consistently as Ventura, the top pitching prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer. Signed for only $28,000 in 2008 as a 17-year-old who threw 87-89 mph, he has significantly boosted his velocity as he has gained 20 pounds and refined his delivery. He has touched 100 mph on several occasions, hits 98 almost every time out and sits at 94-97. What's most surprising is that he generates that heat from such a small frame, a tribute to his excellent arm speed. His stuff, size and arm slots have prompted comparisons to Neftali Feliz and even the patron saint of small righthanders: Pedro Martinez. Ventura's curveball was very erratic during his U.S. debut in 2010, but after some further instruction during instructional league, he showed improved feel for it. Some scouts project it as a plus pitch, and his promising changeup could develop into at least an average offering. Ventura's delivery is relatively clean and conventional. He hasn't made it past the AZL yet, so he has a lot of development remaining.
When he was with Toronto, where former GM J.P. Ricciardi signed him as a nondrafted free agent, Collins' nickname was Tim LinceCollins. Like the two-time Cy Young Award winner, Collins is an undersized pitcher with outsized stuff. He was traded twice last summer, going to the Braves as part of a package for Yunel Escobar in June and then to the Royals as part of a deal for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth a month later. Collins' next stop likely will be the Kansas City bullpen. Listed at 5-foot-7, he's closer to 5-foot-5 in reality, but he manages to generate a 90-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and backs it up with two solid secondary pitches. That arsensal has allowed him to average 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro. Not only does he have good velocity on his fastball, but he also can sink or cut it as needed. His 12-to-6 curveball gives him a second plus pitch at times. He began throwing his slightly above-average changeup more in 2010, and it has nice late fade. Collins attacks hitters and generates excellent deception from a high leg kick, a high set position and a rock and turn that presents his back to the hitter as he begins his delivery. Equally capable of retiring lefties or righties, he projects as a set-up man with the upside as the majors' most physically unimposing closer.
Melville was one of the few prominent Royals prospects who took a step backwards in 2010. He showed flashes of dominance with a one-hitter in April and a two-hitter in June, but command issues usually left him struggling to make it out of the fifth inning. His problems are partly related to his mechanics. He has difficulty maintaining a consistent tempo, and when his delivery slows down, it's a good sign he's going to be in trouble. When he's on, Melville has a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 96 with good downhill plane. But he doesn't pitch aggressively with his heater, instead working away from hitters and nibbling at the corners. That adds to his trouble in falling behind in the count. Melville also throws a slow 12-to-6 curveball that can be a plus pitch and an improving changeup. However, his curve often isn't as tight as it needs to be, and he leaves his changeup up in the zone when his mechanics get out of whack. Instead he often tries to work away from hitters, nibbling at the corners. Melville's stuff and excellent frame still give him the potential to develop into a solid middle-ofthe- rotation starter, but he must sharpen his feel for pitching and his awareness of his delivery. He'll try to do that when he repeats high Class A in 2011.
Cuthbert's father Luis, an amateur catcher, always dreamed of having a son to whom he could teach the game. He and his wife had three daughters first, but the birth of Cheslor in 1992 finally granted his wish. Living on tiny Big Corn Island with a population of 7,000, Luis Cuthbert built a field and formed a youth baseball league to ensure his son would be able to play. It paid off as Cuthbert quickly became one of the best young players in Nicaragua and earned him a national-record $1.35 million bonus in 2009. With the exception of his speed, he has solid tools across the board and stands out most with his bat. Cuthbert has an advanced approach for his age, using the whole field and drives balls to both gaps. He projects to have plus home run power as he matures. Though he's a below-average runner, he moves well enough to become a slightly above-average defender with an average arm at third base. Cuthbert will be 18 this season, so he could see more action in Rookie ball. The Royals also like his makeup--the use of English in the Corn Islands has speeded his transition to life in the United States--so they could challenge him with an assignment to low Class A at some point in 2011.
The owner of an ugly 8.89 ERA in his U.S. debut in 2009, Yambati was much better in his return to the Arizona League last year. He ranked right behind teammate Yordano Ventura as the circuit's best pitching prospect. Yambati was more comfortable and his stuff picked up after dipping the previous season. He resolved some mechanical problems and did a better job of repeating his delivery, resulting in improved velocity and command. Yambati's fastball sits between 90-93 mph and peaks at 96. He also throws a hard slurve in the low 80s and a changeup that clearly ranks as his third-best pitch right now. He's actually a little taller than his listed 6-foot-3 height, though his three-quarters release point means he doesn't have the steep downward plane of an over-thetop pitcher. He'll compete for a spot in the Kane County rotation as a teenager this season.
After serving as Wilmington's starting catcher during the first half of last season, Perez shared the job with Wil Myers in the second half. The reduced workload paid off as Perez hit .318/.343/.432 after the all-star break. He already was the best defensive catcher in the system, and he now shows as much offensive potential as any Royals backstop prospect besides Myers. Perez has slightly above-average arm strength and threw out 42 percent of basestealers in 2010. He does a good job of framing pitches, handling velocity and calling a game. He makes consistent contact and has some gap power, though he rarely draws a walk. The biggest concern with Perez is his lack of speed. He grades as a 25 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale right now, and he already has a thick lower half at age 20. If he continues to gain wait, he'll enter the Molina Zone and his mobility as a catcher could be affected. If Myers continues to catch in 2011, Perez either will split time with him again in Double-A or return to Wilmington to get more action behind the plate. If Myers does move to the outfield, Perez becomes Kansas City's catcher of the future.
An offensive second baseman, Giavotella has proven he can turn on just about any fastball. He has very good awareness of the strike zone, and his ability to draw walks is enhanced by his pronounced crouch in his stance. He has gap power, though he takes aggressive swings like a power hitter. While he has slightly below-average speed, he does run the bases well. Giavotella's long-term future depends on his glove. After he had a disappointing 2009 season, the Royals challenged him to become a better defender. While he didn't turn into a Gold Glove candidate, Giavotella's work to improve his agility did pay off. He's now adequate rather than below-average at second base. His range still leaves something to be desired, especially on balls up the middle. His arm is good for his position, and he has improved at turning double plays. If Giavotella can't cut it at second base, he doesn't have enough bat to move to the outfield and lacks the versatility to fill a utility role. But if he can handle second base, his bat would make him a useful regular. He'll continue to polish his defense this year in Triple-A.
After stocking the system with high-ceiling high school talents, the Royals started filling in gaps in 2009 by signing college players who could move quickly. Coleman, who helped lead Louisiana State to the 2009 College World Series championship, is a prime example. He shot to Triple-A in his first full pro season and has a chance to pitch in Kansas City's bullpen in his second. Coleman's slinging crossfire delivery is both a long-term health concern and a huge part of his success. It helps his 91-93 mph fastball run in on righthanders and makes his average slider harder for them to pick up. He limited righties to a .146 average in 2010 but needs to improve his below-average changeup to better handle lefties, who get a better look at this stuff. Coleman is able to throw strikes from his low three-quarters arm slot and repeat his mechanics. His performance in spring training will determine whether he opens the season in Omaha or in the big leagues. He may not be more than a seventhinning reliever, but he has the resilient arm and competitive nature to be an asset in that role.
Dyson is proof that even the latest late-round picks can turn out. A 50th-rounder in 2006, he was the 1,475th player taken that year and signed for $5,000. Because of his late-round pedigree, Dyson has had a slow climb and often was viewed as the fourth outfielder on his minor league teams. His development also was delayed by a 50-game suspension in 2009 for amphetamine use, and he missed nearly two months in 2010 with a torn lat muscle and a high ankle sprain. Dyson is one of the fastest runners in baseball, with an explosive first step that serves him well on the bases and in center field. He stole nine bases in 10 attempts during his September callup with the Royals. A potential Gold Glove defender, he had 10 putouts in his eighth big league start, tying the franchise record held by Amos Otis and Carlos Beltran. And unlike many small, speedy outfielders, Dyson has solid arm strength. However, there are legitimate questions about his bat. He's prone to chase pitches up and out of the zone, and he walks less than desired for a leadoff hitter. He also offers no power at all, so he has to focus entirely on getting on base. There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about Dyson's long term potential, as he's already 26, he never has played 100 games in a season and his profile is very similar to failed prospect Joey Gathright. But the Royals are excited by Dyson's electric speed and believe he's a late bloomer. He'll head to spring training with a chance to win their center-field job.
If it wasn't for injuries, Bianchi likely would be starting for the Royals, but he has had one completely healthy season in six years of pro ball. His outstanding pro debut in 2005 was cut short by a back injury. A torn labrum in his shoulder caused him to miss almost all of 2006 and part of 2007 before a groin injury sidelined him for part of 2008. He finally got a chance to play a full season in 2009, but tore an elbow ligament in spring training and missed all of 2010. Bianchi's short swing gives him a chance to be a solid hitter, though he won't for much power and never has walked much. Like Christian Colon, he doesn't have exceptional range, but he has excellent fundamentals that allow him to be an average shortstop and he makes few errors. Bianchi's arm was slightly above average before his latest injury. He's following in Mike Aviles' footsteps in returning from Tommy John surgery, which suggests it may be midway through this season before Bianchi fully feels comfortable at the plate and in the field. He'll head to Triple-A and hope to stay healthy.
Keating posted a 5.01 ERA in four seasons at Florida and pitched his way out of the Gators' rotation as a senior, which is why he was available for a 20th-round pick and $1,000 bonus in 2009. He has thrived as a full-time reliever in pro ball, shooting to Double-A in his first full pro season. He has focused on throwing his four-seam fastball and curveball in shorter stints, enabling his stuff to take a significant step forward. Keating now sits at 91-94 mph with his fastball, and he makes it tougher to hit by hiding the ball well with his delivery. His curve has become a solid-average pitch. He also has a show-me changeup, but he's doing hitters a favor if he throws it more than once or twice an outing. Keating's fastball can sometimes straighten out and he'll never have plus command, but his two-pitch assortment is good enough to get him to a big league bullpen as a sixth- or seventh-inning option. He'll probably open 2011 in Triple-A and could reach Kansas City later in the year.
One of the few obvious weaknesses in baseball's deepest farm system is a lack of plus defenders at shortstop. The Royals have tried to address that, first by signing Yowill Espinal in 2008. Last year, they handed out sevenfigure bonuses to Arteaga ($1.1 million) and Orlando Calixte ($1 million). A smooth-fielding Venezuelan, Arteaga had one of the best gloves on the international market in 2010 and immediately became the best defensive infielder in Kansas City's system. He has soft hands and a strong arm, and he also has a knack for positioning himself well. At the plate, Arteaga has a simple direct swing path but is limited right now by his lack of power. Some scouts wonder about his ability to become an average hitter, but the Royals believe he'll improve as he adds strength. He's an average runner. Artega displays impressive maturity for his age, and one of his first purchases with his bonus was the Rosetta Stone language tutorials so he could start learning English. He doesn't figure to make his U.S. debut until 2012 at the earliest.
Calixte was a mystery man for much of the past two years. He was considered one of the better prospects in the 2008 international crop and was expected to sign a seven-figure deal before questions about his name and age cropped up. He apparently had swapped identities with his brother. The Royals, who had been watching him for three years, stepped in and worked out a deal in 2010. It took several months for his identity questions to be worked out, as Paul Carlixte turned out to be Orlando Caxito and then Orlando Calixte. At one point MLB asked the Royals to pull Calixte from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League until the matter was resolved. With some time and a $1 million bonus, the Royals added their second high-ceiling Latin shortstop signing of the summer when Calixte officially signed in August. Calixte has more hitting and power potential than Humberto Arteaga, but he's also two years older as he starts out his career. Calixte is only an average runner, though he moves pretty well once under way and should be able to stick at shortstop. He has quick actions, good hands and feet and a plus arm. Calixte has his visa and made it to the United States for instructional league. He'll make his U.S. debut in Rookie ball, either at Idaho Falls or in the Arizona League, this summer.
The Royals not only have had success drafting players with signability concerns, but they've also found their share of bargains as well. A former baseball walk-on who was also a wide receiver at NCAA Division II Mercyhurst (Pa.), Lough cost them only an 11th-round pick and $49,500. Thought to be a somewhat raw athlete with above-average speed, he quickly proved to be a more advanced hitter than expected. Lough has a short, quick stroke that allows him to hit for average with doubles power and solid on-base ability. He traditionally has struggled to hit lefthanders, but he did do a better job of staying in against them in 2010. His above-average speed helps make up for his so-so reads of the ball off the bat, but he's only an average center fielder at best and his below-average arm plays better in left field. Lough isn't far away from the big leagues but profiles as a reserve rather than as a regular. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he'll have to beat out Mitch Maier for a spot as a fourth outfielder in 2011.
Robinson accepted a football scholarship to play cornerback at Florida, but the Royals bought him away from that commitment for $850,000 after drafting him in the fourth round in 2006. At the time, he represented a rare over-slot signing for Kansas City outside of the first round. The Royals have had to be patient with him, but he came on in the second half of 2009 and had his best pro season in 2010. Robinson had good timing, because the club decided to protect him on the 40-man roster rather than risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft. He has 70-75 speed on the 20-80 scale, and since shortening his stride in mid-2009, he has hit lefthanders well for the first time in his career. But even with the progress he has made, Robinson still has a long ways to go. He continues to strike out too much and walk too infrequently, he has very little power and he gets thrown out more than someone with his speed should. He's a plus defender in center field, but his poor jumps at times keep him from running down as many balls as fellow center fielder Jarrod Dyson. Robinson's arm is below average. He'll move up to Triple-A this year, and he'll have to keep getting better to be productive enough to become a big league regular.
Since signing as a fifth-round pick in 2004, Barrera has had one of the best arms in the system, as well as its worst delivery. His poor mechanics came back to haunt him in 2009, when he broke down and needed Tommy John surgery. Since returning last June, he has cleaned up his delivery some but it still has some effort. He has a whippy arm action, collapses on the back side and finishes out of alignment with the plate. His less-than-smooth mechanics do add deception, making his overpowering fastball that much more difficult to hit. Barrera sits at 93- 94 mph on his bad nights and can hit 97-98 regularly when he's going good. His hard slider gives him a potential second plus pitch, though he seems reluctant to snap it off as hard as he did before his elbow reconstruction. In his first year back from the surgery, the Royals took away his hard splitter that actually had more cut than drop. He exhibited better command than he had in the past, though it's still just average. Barrera has a ceiling as a late-inning reliever and could move quickly if he feels more comfortable letting loose in his second year after the surgery. He could open 2011 in Triple-A.
Robinson didn't get taken seriously as a prospect until he won the Texas League triple crown in 2010. Despite solid numbers at Troy, Robinson went undrafted as a college junior, then lasted to the 25th round and signed for just $1,000 in 2007. Even after he hit .336 and led the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 66 RBIs in his pro debut, he still didn't draw many positive reviews because of his lack of athleticism and defensive ability. Robinson is starting to show that he can do more than just hit for power. He uses the whole field and covers the plate well, which allows him to hit for a solid average despite his well-below-average speed. He is a liability in the field, as he doesn't move well at first base and can't play anywhere else on the diamond. Many scouts still project Robinson as a player who will spend more time in Triple-A than in the majors, but he has exceeded expectations since he was drafted. A November addition to the 40-man roster, he heads to Omaha for the first time, one step away from his ultimate goal.
Kansas City's signing of outfielder Scott Podsednik to a one-year, $1.75 million deal last offseason paid off handsomely. Podsednik had a strong first half for the Royals before they traded him to the Dodgers last July for Pimentel and Lucas May, who may be their backup catcher in 2011. Pimentel is a relatively late bloomer who didn't sign out of the Dominican Republic until he was 18. He spent three years in Rookie ball before reaching low Class A last year, where he showed the stuff to project as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a power reliever. Pimentel uses an easy delivery to let loose 90-93 mph fastballs and has more projection remaining in his skinny frame. He complements his fastball with a hard, tight slider that's a potential plus pitch. He's more effective against lefthanders than righthanders because of his ability to run his slider in on lefties. He maintains his arm speed on his changeup, though it's still a below-average pitch. Pimentel's arsenal is intriguing, but he'll have to learn to control it better. That will be one of his goals this year in high Class A.
Herrera once ranked among the Royals' best pitching prospects, but he has made just nine starts in the last two years with repeated elbow problems that haven't required surgery. His elbow issues may be related to changes in his mechanics. He had been putting stress on his arm by landing on his heel, and Kansas City tried to get him to land on the ball of his foot. He overcompensated and shortened his stride, which still resulted in a jarring delivery. Herrera did return during instructional league last fall, showing the same stuff he had before his elbow started bothering him. He throws a low-90s fastball and touches 95. His best secondary pitch is a potential plus changeup, and he also throws a fringe-average slurve. Herrera's small frame leads to further questions about his durability, which could have him destined for the bullpen, where his fastball could play up even more. His immediate goal is to stay healthy in 2011, when he could return to low Class A for the fourth straight season.