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The Royals knew they were getting a fierce competitor when they drafted Montgomery 36th overall in 2008 and signed him for a slot $988,000 bonus. He had been kicked off his high school basketball team as a senior for picking up too many technical fouls. They saw it up close during spring training last year, when they tried to limit his long-toss program. He balked, saying long-tossing was vital to keeping up his arm strength. They agreed to compromise, allowing Montgomery to throw at a longer distance than they usually prescribe for young pitchers, but with less frequency than he was used to. He wanted to long-toss because he believed it could help his fastball jump to the 95-97 mph range, while Kansas City already was happy with his heater and didn't want him to risk injury by throwing too much. The Royals are happy to live with Montgomery's drive because he carries it to the mound. They held him out of the April chill at low Class A Burlington, Iowa, but once got into games in mid-May, he blazed through two levels, allowing more than three earned runs only once in 21 starts. For a 20-year-old lefty, Montgomery is close to a complete package. His fastball is already a plus pitch that sits at 90-92 mph and touches 94-95. Considering his lanky frame, there's a good chance he'll add velocity as he fills out. When his fastball was on last year, he buzzed through lineups even when he was struggling to control his offspeed pitches. When he located his curveballs, he was untouchable. He throws two different types, a traditional downer that he's still mastering and a palm-curve that he's been throwing for years. While some scouts question how effective the palm-curve will be at higher levels, Class A hitters struggled to pick it up and took lots of ugly swings. The true curveball has the potential to be more effective in the long term. When he gets on top of it, it grades as slightly above-average. His changeup shows flashes of being a plus pitch that some scouts believe has more potential than his curveball. Montgomery's mechanics are solid. He shows the ability to repeat his delivery and has excellent arm speed. The Royals want Montgomery to develop the regular curveball, but when he's struggling he falls back on the palm version. They've considered asking him to completely shelve his palm-curve, at least temporarily, to hasten the development of his other pitches. He won't consistently succeed at the upper levels until he becomes more consistent with his changeup and curve. He throws strikes but still needs to sharpen his command. Montgomery is the best of Kansas City's deep crop of young pitchers, among whom rests the franchise's hope to return to contention. He lived up to all of the Royals' expectations in his first full pro season and could open 2010 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He could be ready for the big leagues by mid-2011 and won't be satisfied just to get there.
Undrafted out of high school, Crow blossomed into the top college righthander in the 2008 draft and went ninth overall to the Nationals. When the two sides couldn't bridge a $500,000 gap ($3.5 million vs. $4 million), he signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats. The Royals, who considered him with the No. 3 pick in 2008, jumped at a second chance to take the Kansas native. After going 12th overall, he signed Sept. 17 for a $3 million big league contract that included a $1.5 million bonus. Crow made four starts in the Arizona Fall League, and his stuff wasn't far off what the Royals saw back in 2008. His fastball sits between 91-94 mph with plus movement, and he has touched 96 in the past. He commands his fastball well and pairs it with a tight slider that's a strikeout pitch. Crow has a wrist wrap in his delivery and sometimes collapses his back side, but those flaws don't cause many problems because he throws downhill and maintains proper alignment to the plate. He repeats his delivery well and shows good arm speed, but some scouts worry about the effort in his delivery. His changeup lags behind his other pitches, but he trusts it enough to throw it in key situations. Crow likely will make his pro debut in Double-A and could reach Kansas City by the end of the season. If he refines his changeup, he could be a worthy No. 2 starter behind Zack Greinke. His fallback position would be as a closer with two plus pitches.
The Royals considered Myers for the 12th pick in the 2009 draft before settling on Aaron Crow. They didn't have a second-round choice, but his $2 million price tag made him available at No. 91 in the third round. After Kansas City met his asking price, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Capable of turning around a quality fastball with a flick of his wrists, Myers has excellent raw power. His swing isn't textbook and he'll sometime shift his weight to his front foot too early, but he manages to keep his hands back and hit line drives all over the park. He should hit for average as well as power. He has a plus arm and can rip off 1.85-second pop times even when his footwork isn't perfect. He threw out five of the 12 basestealers who tested him in his pro debut. He has average speed and is a better athlete than most catchers. Myers played a variety of positions as an amateur, so he's inexperienced and inconsistent as a catcher. He gets too upright coming out of his crouch and sometimes struggles to block pitches in the dirt. He committed six passed balls in just 10 games. Myers' rangy body draws comparisons to Dale Murphy and Jayson Werth--two tall catchers who ended up moving to the outfield. He has the raw tools to handle the position, but his advanced bat could tempt the Royals to move him. They're committed to trying to develop him as a catcher, however, which is where he'll play in low Class A this year.
After he went second overall in the 2007 draft and signed for $4 million, Moustakas led the low Class A Midwest League with 22 homers in his first full pro season. He seemed get swallowed up by high Class A Wilmington's pitcher-friendly Frawley Stadium last season. He posted the fourth-lowest on-base percentage (.297) among Carolina League qualifiers, thanks in large part to his .205/.266/.373 numbers at home. Moustakas has two well above-average tools in his raw power and arm. He has good hand-eye coordination and quick wrists to go with a mechanically sound swing, helping his power play in game situations. He has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He made strides last year to become a more complete third baseman. Moustakas' approach at the plate got him into all kinds of trouble in 2009. The word got out to throw him offspeed stuff early in the count, and he struggled to adjust. He was too pull-happy and didn't hit his first opposite-field homer until August. He's so aggressiveness that he may never post high on-base percentages. Some scouts are skeptical that he can stay at third base because his hands are only adequate, his footwork is still raw and his body has thickened, costing him agility. He's a tick below-average runner who will get slower as he fills out. Most of Moustakas' problems in 2009 were apparent before the season began. He'll need to prove that he can make the adjustments needed to get back on track, and the hitter-friendly Texas League should help ease that transition.
Hosmer received a $6 million bonus as the No. 3 overall pick in 2008, but wound up ensnared in the Pedro Alvarez signing grievance with the Pirates and was limited to three games after signing. He got off to a slow start in 2009 after doctors diagnosed him with astigmatism during spring training. The eye condition apparently developed over the offseason, as Kansas City's vision tests in 2008 showed no such problems. He also sustained a hairline fracture on a knuckle on his right hand, limiting him to DH duty in June. He hit just .241/.334/.361 between two Class A stops. Hosmer's outstanding raw power is still apparent in batting practice, even if it seemed absent in games last year. His balanced swing is pure enough that he should hit for average as well. He has a plus arm that rarely comes into play at first base, but he's an average defender with soft hands. The Royals hope most of Hosmer's troubles can be blamed on his vision problems and knuckle injury. He wore contact lenses for a while, switched to glasses and eventually opted for laser eye surgery in August. Whatever the reason, he struggled with pitch recognition and batted a feeble .155/.202/.207 against lefthanders. He was also less athletic than advertised, with heavy feet and below-average speed. Hosmer will head back to high Class A, where he'll look to prove that the 2009 season was a fluke and not foreshadowing. Kansas City still envisions him as its No. 3 hitter of the future.
Melville was the top high school pitching prospect entering 2008, but didn't quite live up to expectations and scared teams off with his desire for upper-first-round money. He was willing to give Kansas City a home-state discount, and signed for $1.25 million as a fourth-round pick. Because he signed late and the Royals wanted to keep him out of cold weather, he didn't make his pro debut until May 20. With his raw stuff, Melville has the potential to be a frontline starter. His 92-93 mph fastball touches 95, with boring action that makes it effective against lefthanders. His fastball generates strikeouts, but it's most effective as a heavy pitch that forces weak grounders. His curveball is a true 12-to-6 downer that's a plus pitch when he can command it. He has a clean arm action and a pitcher's body that should give him plenty of durability. Melville struggles when he loses his tempo in his delivery. He sometimes slows his arm down, leaving his curveball and changeup up in the zone and making him vulnerable to homers. He has adequate athleticism but has to work to keep his delivery in sync. Because of his inconsistent mechanics, his command and control aren't where they need to be. He lacks conviction in his changeup. Melville could be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter someday. He'll head to Wilmington, where a pitcher-friendly park should give him a chance to get on a roll.
The Royals selected Lamb in the fifth round in 2008, even though he had missed his high school senior season with a fractured elbow that was traced to a car accident. Kansas City followed his recovery, then signed him for $165,000 just before the signing deadline. He made his pro debut last June as the Opening Day starter at Rookie-level Burlington before earning a promotion to Rookie-level Idaho Falls. As good as Lamb's stuff is, the Royals are even more excited about his demeanor. He's a 19-year-old who pitches like a major league veteran, never getting rattled. His stuff is pretty good as well, and he could end up with three average or better pitches. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and frequently touches 94. His compact delivery adds to his fastball's effectiveness because hitters struggle to pick it up. He does a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone. His velocity is easy and his control is good for his age, products of his repeatable delivery. Like most young pitchers, Lamb sometimes is too reliant on his fastball when he should be using his changeup and curveball. He's still learning how to consistently break off the curve, and his changeup needs further refinement. Lamb should be the ace of the low Class A Burlington staff in 2010. With his makeup and stuff, he projects as a solid No. 3 starter.
In a system filled with pitching prospects, Duffy had the best season--while posting the worst numbers of his young career. He led Royals farmhands with a 2.98 ERA, finished second with 125 strikeouts and earned spots in the Futures Game and Carolina- California League all-star game. He's now 19-10, 2.49 with 290 strikeouts in 246 pro innings. Duffy's solid stuff plays up because he does a good job of messing with hitters' timing. His 88-92 mph fastball has good downward plane and seems to get in on opponents before they expect it, while his slow, big-breaking curveball keeps them off fastball. He's not afraid to pitch inside. He improved his delivery by shortening his stride. Duffy's changeup got better last year, but he still hasn't fully embraced it. While most pitchers have to learn to pitch in to hitters, he's learning the effectiveness of a down-and-away changeup. His delivery is less than ideal because he throws across his body and his bottom half isn't always in sync with his upper half. The Royals are working on keeping him centered over the rubber longer. He sometimes struggles to put bad starts behind him. Though he'll pitch the entire 2010 season at age 21, Duffy isn't that far away from the majors. One of the last remaining tests for the potential No. 3 starter is finding out how he handles adversity--because he hasn't encountered any.
Dwyer was the rarest of rarities, a draft-eligible college freshman. Because he had been held back in elementary school and attended prep school--where he played with Phillies first-round pick Anthony Hewitt and was drafted by the Yankees in the 36th round in 2008--he was 21 and thus eligible as a Clemson freshman last spring. The Royals rated him as a late-first-round talent and gave him late-first-round money ($1.45 million) to sign him as a fourth-rounder. Dwyer's arm speed gives him a 90-94 mph fastball and a power curveball, both of which should be consistent plus pitches once he matures. His changeup is an advanced pitch that could end up being above average as well. A star as a high school quarterback, he's an excellent athlete. Dwyer was susceptible to big innings at Clemson. When he got into a jam, he battled his command and nibbled more than someone with his stuff should. His control suffers if he lands stiff on his front leg and struggles to stay aligned with the plate. He doesn't always maintain his quality stuff from start to start. Dwyer is less polished than the typical college pitcher but still could move quickly. He'll likely start his first full season in high Class A.
Lough played soccer and football as well as baseball in high school, and he accepted a football scholarship at NCAA Division II Mercyhurst (Pa.), where he caught scout Jason Bryans' eye as a baseball walk-on. Since signing for $49,500 as an 11th-round pick, Lough has hit better than .320 at three of his four stops, and he led all Royals minor leaguers with a .325 average last year. Lough's above-average speed is his best tool, but what stands out most is his lack of a clear weakness. The rest of his tools all project to be right around major league average. He showed a more advanced approach at the plate in 2009. His swing is short and direct, which allows him to hit for average and rarely strike out. Thanks to his strong wrists, he projects to hit for average power, though he's most comfortable lining doubles into the gaps. He's an average defender in center field who usually has played in left because he has been alongside quality center fielders. Considering his speed, Lough should be a better basestealer. He's not particularly aggressive on the bases and doesn't get good jumps. His arm is a tick below-average but accurate. He has yet to show that he can hit lefties, with a .627 career OPS against them compared to .901 versus righthanders. Kansas City limped through much of the 2009 season without a true center fielder. Lough won't win any Gold Gloves out there, but his offensive potential could make up for it. If he can't handle center, he could be David DeJesus' eventual replacement in left. For now, he'll head to Triple-A Omaha for more seasoning.
Bianchi's career was nearly derailed by a series of injuries, but he regained his prospect status with a solid 2009 season that saw him fully healthy for the first time in his five-year career. A back strain ended his 2005 pro debut, then he missed almost all of 2006 with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which also cut into his 2007 season. That led to a move to second base in 2008, when he was slowed by a groin injuy, but he moved back to shortstop last season and looked like he had never left. Bianchi has a tick above-average arm at shortstop, and he showed average range thanks to his great footwork. He's the surest-handed fielder in the system and has picture-perfect fundamentals. He committed just 12 errrors in 120 games at short in 2009. Bianchi has a short swing that won't ever produce more than fringe-average power, but he does use the entire field. His aggressiveness costs him on-base opportunities and keeps him from exploiting what power he does have. He's a good basestealer despite being only an average runner, and he knows when to challenge outfielders for an extra base. To stay at shortstop, Bianchi must stay healthy because he doesn't have any range to lose. He could slide over to second base if needed, but his bat fits better at short. His solid all-around game makes him the likely successor to Yuniesky Betancourt before too long. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he'll challenge for a job in Triple-A during spring training.
After taking three pricy talents with its first three picks in the 2009 draft, Kansas City may have found a bargain in Coleman, a $100,000 senior sign in the fifth-round out of Louisiana State. After turning down the Nationals as a 14th-round pick as a junior, he not only improved his draft stock but also was a cornerstone of the Tigers' run to the national title. Coleman was on the mound for the final out of the College World Series just two days after starting the championship-series opener against Texas. He didn't have his best stuff after signing with the Royals following a long college season, yet still dominated in short stints. Coleman's fastball sat at 88-90 mph and touched 92 after signing, but at his best he works at 92-93 and peaks at 95 from a low-three-quarters arm slot. The combination of his delivery and a solid slider should allow him to move quickly as a reliever. Coleman's biggest hurdle is improving the consistency of his slider. He sometimes struggles to stay on top of it because of his low slot, but when he does it has enough bite and tilt to be a quality second pitch. His control is solid despite a less-than-ideal delivery. He throws across his body, which seems to add to his deception. Coleman is ready for Double-A and could help out the major league bullpen by 2011.
The Royals originally included Rosa in the October 2008 trade for Mike Jacobs, but the Marlins' concerns about his elbow led to Leo Nunez taking his place. Rosa moved to the bullpen last season, and the transition didn't go as well as the Kansas City hoped. He struggled to get warmed up on short notice and went 0-3, 10.43 in May before settling into his new role over the second half of the season. He made it back up to Kansas City for another September callup, finishing the season with three straight solid outings in which he allowed one hit in six scoreless innings. Rosa's fastball continues to rank as one of the best in the system. After the move to the pen he consistently hit 94-96 mph with a good downhill angle. But Rosa needs to prove that he's more than just a one-pitch pitcher. His slider is still too inconsistent as he struggles to stay on top of it. He used his changeup more last season, but it's a fringy pitch. His lack of feel necessitated the move to the bullpen. The Royals want Rosa to serve as a big league long reliever who could eventually grow into a setup role. He'll have to refine his changeup to do so because he lacks any other weapons to keep lefthanders honest.
Sample's longer stride helped him take a big step forward as a prospect. He signed for slot money ($500,000) as a third-round pick in 2008, then quickly learned that he wasn't ready for pro ball. He allowed a run an inning in his debut in the Arizona League, thanks to his inability to repeat his delivery and his complete lack of control. But the Royals got Sample to lengthen his stride, which helped him begin to drive off the mound. His fastball sat consistently at 91-93 mph last season, and he significantly improved his control. His velocity and downhill angle make his fastball a potential plus pitch. He also throws a big-breaking knuckle-curve. Many pitchers struggle to use the knuckle-curve at more advanced levels because it becomes useful only as a chase pitch, but Kansas City is willing to let him continue to use his because he has shown an ability to throw it for strikes. His changeup still has a long way to go, which isn't a surprise considering he's still a relatively raw prospect. Sample has made rapid progress, which should allow him to join a talented Wilmington rotation this season.
When the Royals traded for Mike Jacobs before last season, it was a clear sign they were worried that Ka'aihue's Double-A Texas League MVP season in 2008 might be a fluke. Jacobs didn't work out, as he eventually was benched and later non-tendered, but Ka'aihue didn't help his own cause last year by putting up stats that seemed right in line with his pre-2008 production. Ka'aihue's best asset is an ability to get on base, a skill largely missing in Kansas City's big league lineup. He has a career .383 on-base percentage in the minors, thanks to his patience and excellent understanding of the strike zone. But where his patience gave him pitches he could drive in 2008, he became too focused on hitting homers last year, which predictably led to a power outage. Ka'aihue's bat speed always had been questioned before 2008, and it regressed last season. Power is the key to his production because he's a well below-average runner who's also a below-average defender at first base. The Royals rewarded his outstanding 2008 season with a September callup, but they left him in Triple-A last year even though he was already on the 40-man roster. It's likely he'll return to Omaha to serve again as insurance.
Like fellow Wilmington infielders Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, Giavotella found the Carolina League much less inviting than the Midwest League. But at least Giavotella did make an impressive turnaround during the second half, hitting .292/.355/.423. He still projects as an offensive second baseman with solid on-base skills and adequate power. He's a constant tinkerer at the plate, adjusting his feet and hands from slump to slump, but his hands generally work well with a short stroke. He has a good knowledge of the strike zone. None of that will matter if he doesn't improve defensively, though. After making significant strides during instructional league in 2008, Giovatella regressed last season. He seemed to take bad at-bats into the field and showed a slower first step and shoddy footwork. His range, especially to his right, was poor. His best tool on defense is his slightly above-average arm. Even at his best, Giavotella projected as a fringe-average defender whose bat would carry him. He looked more like a below-average defender last year, and his bat isn't good enough to carry that kind of glove. He's a slightly below-average runner but is aggressive on the basepaths. Giavotella will head to Double-A to continue to work on his defense.
The Royals have shown a willingness to spend money in the draft in recent years, and they widened the net to place more emphasis on Latin America as well in 2009. That focus paid off with Cuthbert, a resident of the Corn Islands off the Nicaraguan coast. Scout Orlando Esteves had been following him for a couple of years and developed such a strong relationship with Cuthbert that several other teams backed off their pursuit, figuring it was fruitless. The difficult travel to the islands probably helped that decision. Cuthbert signed for $1.35 million, a bonus record for a Nicaraguan. The Corn Islands have a population of just 7,000, so he understandably has not faced much top-level competition. Scouts still consider him an advanced hitter for his age. He has a relatively mature body that gives him solid present power as well as good bat speed. Defensively, the biggest question is whether he'll have quick enough feet to stay at third base. He projects as a below-average runner as he matures, but he has a solid-average arm and good hands. The Corn Islands used to be under U.S. control, so its residents speak English, giving Cuthbert one less obstacle to overcome. He's years from Kansas City, but his upside ranks with just about any hitter's in the system. He'll likely debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2010.
Poised for a breakout year in 2009, Herrera instead missed all but one start with a strained elbow ligament. He didn't require surgery, but his rehab stretched into August, at which point the Royals decided to shut him down for the season. He threw in the Dominican during the fall and is expected to be ready for spring training. The elbow injury stemmed from a change in his delivery. Herrera had been landing on his heel, and Kansas City wanted him to land on the ball of his foot. He overcompensated and shortened his stride to land on his toe, which produced the same jarring effect the Royals were trying to eliminate. They'll be patient with him because his stuff ranks with the best in the system. He is 5-foot-10 but showed a 91-92 mph fastball that touched 95 before the injury, with excellent armside run. He also throws a slurve and an advanced changeup for his age. His overall command is excellent for a teenager. He likely will start the season in low Class A, but if Herrera can stay healthy, it wouldn't be surprising to see him earn a quick promotion to Wilmington.
The Royals traded disappointing lefthander Tyler Lumsden to the Astros for Parraz just after the 2008 Winter Meetings, and Parraz earned a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason after a solid year that was interrupted by a series of hamstring injuries. Parraz had an outstanding first half and was on the verge of a promotion to Triple-A when he pulled his left hamstring in a game in late June. After a stint on the disabled list, he got that promotion and continued to hit, but then he pulled his right hamstring, which ended his season in early August. Parraz moved his hands closer to his shoulders at the plate, which seemed to free up his swing last year. Whether it was that tweak or just a fresh start with a different team, he showed an ability to hit for average that he never had displayed before. He always has been a gap-to-gap hitter with below-average usable power, even though he shows above-average raw power in batting practice. Parraz's best attribute is his strong, accurate arm, which rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He was drafted by the Phillies as a pitcher in the sixth round in 2003 but didn't sign. He doesn't run well enough to be an everyday center fielder, but he has enough athleticism to fill in there. The Royals held Parraz out of winter ball to make sure his legs are healthy, and he should be back in Omaha for Opening Day in 2010.
The Royals faced a logjam of catching prospects at low Class A Burlington last year with Perez, Jose Bonilla and Sean McCauley. Rather than leave one of them back in extended spring training, the organization tried to spread the work between the trio and send the less-polished Bonilla back to Idaho Falls once the Pioneer League started in June. It proved tough for any of the three to get into a grove offensively or defensively with such irregular work, but Bonilla had a hot June so the Royals decided to demote Perez instead. The move worked wonders for Perez, who proved to be one of the better catchers in the Pioneer League, showing a solid gap-to-gap approach at the plate as well as above-average defense. His catch-and-throw skills make it likely he'll be a big leaguer. He has a tick above-average arm, receives the ball well and handles a pitching staff like a veteran. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers in 2009. What he lacks is athleticism and projection at the plate, which may just make him a solid backup at the big league level. He's a well below-average runner. Kansas City must deal with another catching surplus in 2010, with Wil Myers ready for low Class A. It's possible that Perez will jump to Wilmington because his defensive skills may be best-suited for handling what should be a talented pitching staff.
If Salvador Perez is the safer bet as a catching prospect, Bonilla is more of a high-risk, high-reward type. Bonilla's first-half play earned him more regular work in low Class A last summer, but he seemed to press as the year went along. By the end of the season, he was chasing pitches well out of the zone and had become one of the easier outs in the Midwest League. He was in over his head, but his plus bat speed and arm strength still give him more upside than Perez. He has to learn the strike zone, but Bonilla's swing is solid and he projects to have average power. Behind the plate, he has all the tools, with soft hands and good feet, but he suffers concentration lapses when balls clank off his glove. He erased 34 percent of basetealers in 2009. Bonilla could flame out at Double-A, but he also has the potential to be an everyday big league catcher if he harnesses his considerable tools. He's likely to head back to Burlington, where he'll share time behind the plate with Wil Myers.
At the end of last July, the Royals were about ready to give up on having Robinson switch-hit. He never had been comfortable hitting from the left side, though he never had really proven he could hit from the right side either. But when Kansas City approached him about batting solely righthanded, he asked if he could try one adjustment first. The Royals had spread out his stance, so he asked if he could move his feet closer together, partly because he felt it would allow him to get out of the box better. The results were convincing. After hitting three home runs in his first 1,475 pro at-bats, Robinson hit five in August as part of a .311/.362/.513 month--his first .300 or better month as a pro. The new stance allowed Robinson to get his hands through the strike zone quicker with more bat speed, and restored speed he had lost from home to first. He again started recording the sub-4.0-second times to first that were expected out of the former University of Florida quarterback recruit. He's a burner who ranked fifth in the minors with 69 stolen bases. Robinson still doesn't walk as much as a potential top-of-the-order speedster should, however. His speed does make him a well above-average center fielder, and his arm has improved to the point where it's now fringe-average. After two full seasons in Wilmington, Robinson will finally move up to Double-A in 2010. He'll have to prove that his hot August wasn't a fluke.
The Royals paid Hayenga $300,000 as a 31st-round pick in 2007, then waited nearly two years to see him in a real game. He missed his first season and a half recovering from a torn labrum he sustained in high school. He showed flashes of being the same pitcher he was before the injury when he returned. Hayenga has the long arms and lanky frame to get good downward angle on his pitches and flashed a plus fastball, but he mostly pitched at 89-91 mph. During instructional league in 2008 and extended spring training in 2009, he had flashed a 92-94 mph fastball. His 12-to-6 curveball was also inconsistent, but it's a plus pitch with good depth when he snaps it off well. He throws a developing changeup. Now he just needs to get stronger and put the shoulder surgery behind him. He made every scheduled start last year, but he'll need to show he can maintain his best stuff more consistently in his second season back. A fine basketball player in high school, he has excellent athleticism, plus the feel and command scouts look for in a starting pitcher. If Hayenga gains just a tick more consistent velocity, he could have a breakout season in 2010. He should reach low Class A at some point this season.
Wood continues to be proof that a huge radar-gun reading isn't enough to be successful. He throws a 93-94 mph fastball that touches 97, as well as a power curveball that can be a strikeout pitch and an average changeup. Yet he has posted ERAs above 5.00 in Double-A in each of the past two seasons. He had even less success in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-1, 6.75 in 15 innings. Injuries have been part of Wood's problem. He had back surgery in 2007 to repair a herniated disc and missed the start of the 2009 season with more back problems. He returned quickly but missed another two months later in the season with elbow inflammation. Wood's delivery also doesn't do him any favors. He opens up too early, giving hitters a good look at his fastball. His struggles as a starter have led the Royals to look at him as a reliever, where his inability to repeat his delivery may be less of a problem. Kansas City added him to the 40-man roster in the offseason and still hopes that he could be a solid big league contributor, but his struggles have lowered his ceiling from a middle-of-the-rotation starter to more of a setup man. He should get his first taste of Triple-A in 2010.
When the Royals drafted Keating in the 20th round and signed him for $1,000, they had little reason to think they were getting a sleeper. Keating went 4-4, 5.12 as a senior at Florida, losing his spot in the rotation. But area scout Collin Gonzalez and crosschecker Greg Kilby liked his stuff and pushed for Kansas City to draft him. The Royals persuaded Keating to throw his four-seam fastball more often, and it worked as he sat at 91-93 mph on most nights and touched 95. He also throws a hard-breaking slurve, which isn't a plus pitch but works when hitters are looking for the fastball. Keating dominated the Pioneer League and looked good in a short stint in high Class A. He doesn't have a high ceiling but could move quickly as a reliever. Keating could return to Wilmington to start his first full pro season.
The Royals knew they would have to pay big money to sign each of their top three 2009 draft picks, so they were mostly conservative afterward. They did take some late-round fliers on two-sport stars Lane Adams (13th round), Simmons (14th) and Justin Trapp (34th). Simmons is the best of that bunch. Area scout Sean Gibbs had an inkling that Kansas City could buy him out of his Georgia Tech scholarship, which it did for $450,000. Because he had the potential to play golf in college, the Royals spread his bonus payments over four years per MLB provisions for two-sport athletes. Simmons is a relatively polished young lefty, with an 86-90 mph fastball that touches 91, as well as a 12-to-6 curveball and solid feel for a changeup. His arm speed doesn't necessarily indicate that there's a lot more velocity to come, but Kansas City really likes his delivery, his command and his ability to snap off a plus curveball. He has a chance to develop into a solid fourth or fifth starter. Simmons signed too late to make his pro debut last summer, and he figures to open 2010 in extended spring training before reporting to Rookie ball in June.
Osuna may not be able to break bottles at the county fair, not to mention light up a radar gun, but he knows how to pitch. He keeps batters off balance with curveballs and one of the best changeups in the game. The Braves made him a full-time starter for the first time in his five pro seasons last year, and his performances seemed to be either outstanding or mediocre, with little in between. At his best, Osuna has a Bugs Bunny changeup that he mixes with a mid-80s fastball and a plus curveball. He does a good job of locating his pitches and despite his lack of velocity, he's not afraid to challenge hitters. Osuna gets in trouble when his pitches lack bite, causing them to hang and become in-game batting practice. The Royals picked him in the major league Rule 5 draft with the hope of using him out of the bullpen, though he's more suited to pitching multiple innings than serving as a one-out lefty because he succeeds by mixing his assortment of pitches. He had success as a reliever in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter and has a decent shot at sticking in Kansas City. If he doesn't, he has to clear waivers and get offered back to Atlanta for half of his $50,000 draft price.
When Mitchell led the Arizona League with a 1.80 ERA during his 2007 pro debut, it immediately made him one of the top pitching prospects in a thin system. Two years later as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, he faces much less pressure to perform immediately because the Royals now have plenty of depth ahead of him. He returned to the mound last fall, showing the same 89-90 mph he had before his elbow reconstruction. Before he got hurt, he showed an average curveball and a developing changeup. His delivery is smooth, he does a good job of hiding the ball from hitters and he works both sides of the plate. Mitchell had excellent command for a teenager, though he lacked a strikeout pitch. He'll probably spend the 2010 season in low Class A trying to regain his curve and command, often the last two things to return after Tommy John surgery. He'll be 21 all season, so he still has plenty of time to develop.
If White makes it to a major league bullpen, he may be the only big leaguer who gets to run to the mound as a song he wrote blares on the stadium loudspeakers. He has been playing drums and singing in bands since high school. The song "Fight A Storm," which White wrote with his old band Turning Point, was considered for the 2008 Grammy ballot for song of the year and best rock song. It didn't make the final cut, but being considered meant the Grammy judges regarded it as one of the top 100 rock songs of 2008. White now plays drums for the band FM South. His talent on the mound got him drafted in the sixth round last June, and he signed for $100,000. He's more raw than the typical college reliever, mostly because he was mostly a third baseman in high school and didn't start pitching regularly until he got to Paris (Texas) JC. While his delivery isn't particularly clean and there's some effort to it, White throws a 92-93 mph fastball that touches 95 mph. His three-quarters arm slot helps him get good sink on his fastball and allows him to succeed at times with only one pitch. His slider is below average because it's more of a sweeping pitch than a true two-planer. He profiles as a hard-throwing setup man and should spend 2010 in Class A.
When the Royals decided to field three Rookie-level affiliates, it was with players like Richardson in mind. A 2007 high school draftee, he had struggled at the plate in each of his first two seasons in Rookie ball. But he moved through the Arizona, Appalachian and Pioneer leagues one step at a time, and he showed signs at Idaho Falls last season that he's figuring out how to use his considerable tools. The first thing scouts notice when watching Richardson is his speed. He's a well above-average runner from home to first and a threat to steal every time he reaches base. His quickness helps him in the outfield as well, where he covers plenty of ground as an aboveaverage center fielder. His arm is below average. Richardson has a solid, muscular frame, but he's a tablesetter, not a power threat. He showed a better sense of the strike zone last season and took more walks. His swing mechanics partly explain his lack of pop because he doesn't extend his arms, instead cutting his swing off short. That helps him make contact but also ensures that he doesn't hit many stinging line drives. Richardson will get a chance to add some polish in his first shot at full season ball in 2010.