by John Viril—
In 2010, the Kansas City Royals minor league system enjoyed a magical season which saw a record nine farmhands propel themselves into Baseball Prospectus’ top 100 prospects. 2013 is almost the exact opposite. This year, Kansas City’s top prospects are typically suffering through slow starts to their season. Prospects are cratering up and down the organization:
AAA—Not one player from AAA Omaha made either the Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus top 10 list of Royals prospects. Probably the only player that might qualify as a strong prospect on the Stormchaser roster is former no. 4 overall draft pick Christian Colon, who is hitting a paltry (.234/.270/.313). This disappointing performance puts a huge crimp in Colon’s MLB hopes. He was drafted on the belief that he was a low-risk prospect highly likely to advance to the major leagues. Now, his bat looks too weak to even command a utility spot.
Probably the only other AAA player with significant “upside” is the overaged Chris Dwyer (25), who has made something of a comeback after two lost seasons. Even Dwyer’s 2.70 ERA raises doubts due to his limited number of strikeouts (6.23 K/9). Reliever Donnie Joseph, who joined the organization in last year’s Jonathan Broxton trade with Cinncinati, is also struggling at 1-1 and 5.65 ERA. At least the left-hander is missing bats with 22 K’s in 14.1 IP, keeping alive hopes that he can be at least a LOOGY in Kansas City.
AA—Northwest Arkansas had 3 prospects that made the BA or BP lists: P Yordano Ventura, P Jason Adam, and SS Orlando Calixte. Only Ventura (#4 on BA and #5 on BP) is having a strong season (3-1, 1.79 ERA and a 12.49 K/9). Adam (#10 on both BA and BP) is getting crushed by AA hitters to the tune of 0-4 and 8.64 ERA. The only bright spot in his line is his 8.1 K/9, which isn’t all that impressive for a top prospect in AA. Meanwhile, Calixte is hitting a mere .217/.252/.295. He’s clearly been overpowered by AA pitching.
A+—High A Wilmington has boasted the other big prospect success story this season in RF Jorge Bonifacio (.325/.404/.452). Bonifacio (#6 in BA and #7 in BP) has been putting up those solid numbers in the death-valley for minor league hitters known as Frawley Stadium. Well, he WAS putting up those numbers until he broke his hamate bone Tuesday during batting practice. He’s expected to be out for about 6-8 weeks.
Meanwhile, former BA top 100 prospect John Lamb is struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery (5.79 ERA and a mere 19 K’s in 28 IP). Former no. 5 overall draft pick Kyle Zimmer (2012), has also been hit hard for a 4.86 ERA and 5 home runs in 37 IP. Zimmer, who was rated #2 on both BA and BP, has been missing bats with an outstanding 11.68 K/9 ratio. Sam Selman (rated #8 on BA) has also struggled with a 1-3 record and 5.93 ERA. 3B Cheslor Cuthbert (#8 on BP) continues his underwhelming performance (.253/.313/.363) at high A for the second straight year.
About the only good news coming from Wilmington these days is pitcher Kyle Smith‘s 1.93 ERA and 38 K’s in 37.1 IP. Smith, however, made neither BA or BA top 10 prospect list, even though most analysts consider him in the organization’s top 20.
A—The organization is suffering through even more poor performances at full season Lexington. Prize prospect OF Bubba Starling (no. 5 overall 2011), is hitting only .213/.286/.354, fueling whispers from scouts that he’s a bust. Many have questioned his loopy swing mechanics. Recent reports that he’s having vision problems have raised hopes that his slump is due to eye problems (a la Eric Hosmer in 2009). Any way you cut it, Starling is not living up to his #3 Royals prospect ranking by BA and BP,
SS Aldaberto Mondesi (#7 on BA an #4 on BP) has been nearly as disappointing as Starling. The precocious 17-year-old Mondesi has hit a disappointing .221/.272/.331 after a solid first two weeks. Apparently, the league has adjusted to him. Mondesi is probably experiencing failure for the first time in his athletic career. However, I don’t think anyone can be seriously concerned about a guy who is still High School age struggling in full season baseball. Mondesi does not turn 18 until late July.
Overall, its been a brutal season so far for Kansas City’s minor league system. The Royals prospects are struggling to live up to their hype throughout the organization. This prospect downturn will affect GM Dayton Moore’s ability to buttress the roster with deadline deals this season. Unless Moore has an outstanding draft or Royals prospects manage a complete about-face, I expect the organizational ranking to slide into the bottom half next season.