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Monday, November 19, 2012

Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects: Kansas City Royals

Myers! Zimmer! Ventura! Bonifacio! Mondesi!  It’s like I didn’t throw my Who’s Who in Baseball collection out!

1. Wil Myers, of
2. Kyle Zimmer, rhp
3. Bubba Starling, of
4. Yordano Ventura, rhp
5. Jake Odorizzi, rhp
6. Jorge Bonifacio, of
7. Adalberto Mondesi, ss
8. Sam Selman, lhp
9. Orlando Calixte, ss
10. Jason Adam, rhp

General manager Dayton Moore and his staff have developed a lineup that should be an asset if it continues to mature. The bullpen is equally young, homegrown and talented. If the Royals fall flat in 2013, it likely will be for the same reason they’ve struggled throughout Moore’s 6½ years as GM: an inability to produce starting pitching.

The six drafts Moore has overseen in Kansas City have produced a total of 26 big league starts—18 by Duffy and eight by Everett Teaford—the 21st-best total in baseball over that stretch. High-dollar draft picks Chris Dwyer, Tim Melville and Mike Montgomery haven’t developed as hoped, nor has $6.9 million Cuban defector Noel Arguelles. John Lamb is another arm sidetracked by Tommy John surgery.

Repoz Posted: November 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: prospects, tigers

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 19, 2012 at 05:44 PM (#4306239)
FWIW, Moore didn't draft Teaford. He took over the day after the 2006 draft, when Teaford was selected.

I'm much more down on the system than I was before. Dwyer and Montgomery were disasters. Cheslor Cuthbert - who I once was very high on - is starting to look like a bust. Odorizzi looks like his ceiling is pretty limited - same with Adam. Selman and Ventura likely end up as relievers. Starling could go either way, but he's already kinda old for his level. I think Myers is a stud, but I'm not so sure I see that great of a system beyond him, and there is definitely not the kind of pitching depth you'd like to see for a franchise so absolutely starved for pitching right now.
   2. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 19, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4306245)
Cheslor Cuthbert - who I once was very high on - is starting to look like a bust.


In fairness, Cuthbert was one of the youngest players in high Class A and he was playing in a gack-awful park for hitters. I wasn't particularly impressed with him when I saw him early in the season, but he did get better as the season went on. He's clearly slipped but I wouldn't give up on him just yet.

-- MWE

EDIT: And he did improve defensively.
   3. Topher Posted: November 19, 2012 at 06:16 PM (#4306262)
I might not have a clue what I'm talking about, but the fact that Bubba Starling strikes out in more than 30% of his plate appearances in low A ball seems to be a strong indicator that he's quite likely to be a bust.

Is Dayton Moore going to give up on Jeff Francouer? It seems like if this team is this desperate for pitching that trading Wil Myers would be a priority in the offseason if there is no room in the big league lineup for him.
   4. Zach Posted: November 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM (#4306278)
It looks like there's a little air in the pipeline all of a sudden. Myers is ready for the majors, and Odorizzi will be up soon. After those two, the high levels are full of guys who've had setbacks, and the unblemished guys are at lower levels. If Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, or Chris Dwyer suddenly wanted to start pitching well, this year would be a good time to do it.
   5. geonose Posted: November 19, 2012 at 07:04 PM (#4306292)
I might not have a clue what I'm talking about, but the fact that Bubba Starling strikes out in more than 30% of his plate appearances in low A ball seems to be a strong indicator that he's quite likely to be a bust.

Well, I never like to tell people they don't know what they are talking about, but you are right: you don't. You need to look at strikeout rate in conjunction with walk rate. Most top prospect busts are done in by plate discipline, but mostly to the extent that they can't/won't/don't take walks. Starling's walk rate was quite healthy, so the whiff rate is much less concerning.
   6. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: November 19, 2012 at 07:10 PM (#4306296)
In fairness, Cuthbert was one of the youngest players in high Class A and he was playing in a gack-awful park for hitters.


His team hit .246/.315/.360, he hit .240/.296/.322...

But as you say he's young (just 19) and he was better than league average at age 18 in [full season] low A... in 2011
   7. Topher Posted: November 19, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4306311)
@5

Well to double down on my ignorance ...

Without a doubt the fact that Starling is drawing walks is a good sign. If he wasn't drawing walks, I wouldn't have bothered posting -- I just would have assumed he'd be a bust.

But I can't think of a player that had that high of a strikeout rate in the minors and ended up being successful. The closest I can come up with is Drew Stubbs. Stubbs wasn't ever as bad as Starling but he also was a college player so it isn't a great comparison anyway. Sample size matters of course, maybe Starling will lower his strikeout rate by a decent amount in 2013.

I'll gladly shut up in anybody is willing to point out an example or two. I'm genuinely curious if folks have been able to succeed in the big leagues with that kind of track record in the minors.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:12 PM (#4306326)
Well, I never like to tell people they don't know what they are talking about, but you are right: you don't.

Virtually no hitter who strikes out at that rate in minor-league ball has a prayer of being a successful ML hitter, walk rate or not. Walk rates don't translate that well to the majors (last I heard) while K-rates generally go up a bit. The whiff rate is perhaps less concerning given a decent walk rate but anybody K'ing in anything near 30% of his PAs in minor-league ball has a LONG way to go if he wants to become a decent ML hitter. I'm not sure you can find anybody beside Branyan who did so and he only had one season over 500 PA and was a good but hardly top bat. Minor-league K-rate with ML OPS+ for some selected ML high-K batters with good minor-league walk rates:

Branyan: 32% 113
Howard: 27% 135
McPherson: 28% 92
Stubbs: 23% 86
Reynolds: 23% 109
C Pena: 21% 120
Gomes: 28% 109
Chris Davis: 25% 103
Cust: 26% 120
Pedro Alvarez: 25% 103

And those are the non-busts. (Guys like Dunn and Thome had minor-league K-rates under 20% by the way.) Striking out much more in the minors than Reynolds, Stubbs, Chris Davis would not a harbinger of ML success. But sure, that's probably a better track record than the guys who K a ton and don't walk.

As to Starling, well, it's just 234 PA so I'm not putting a lot of stock into that K-rate yet. As he matures, it will probably drop. But if it continues at 30% then he needs Branyan's awesome power (career NL ISO of 253) to make that work and Branyan only had one season over 500 PA. Otherwise he'd better be a good-fielding CF.

ML careers of 3000+ PA with a K-rate of at least .3 per PA:

Branyan, 3400 PA, 113 OPS+
Reynolds, 3400 PA, 109 OPS+
Deer, 4500 PA, 109 OPS+

If you drop it to 1000 PA, you pick up Cust (2600 PA) and Bo (112 OPS+ in 2600 PA). Unless there are a lot of guys who K'd at 30% in the minors but less than 30% in the majors (I can't rule that out with the tools I have) that's the historic upside for a player with a 30% minor-league K-rate. That sort of outcome is not a bust ... but if league-average 1B/LF/RF is the best you can become, you're highly likely to not have a ML career (of any length).

So how is Starling's defense? Is he projected to stick in CF?
   9. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 19, 2012 at 08:51 PM (#4306336)
You need to look at strikeout rate in conjunction with walk rate.


Not in the minors. Walk rate in the minors, especially the low minors, is often as much a function of pitchers who can't throw strikes consistently as it is a function of batting eye.

Starling's strikeout rate is on the high side, to be sure. But everyone (and I do mean everyone) knows he's raw and hasn't played a lot of baseball. I like that his in-play BA was .372 and his SLG-on-contact was .740. The main concern that I have is that he's 20 and hasn't had a single PA in a full-season league yet. I would hope that he shows up in Lexington at the start of next season.

-- MWE
   10. JoeC Posted: November 20, 2012 at 02:01 AM (#4306557)
(Guys like Dunn and Thome had minor-league K-rates under 20% by the way.)


Major league strikeouts are up 31% since Thome's last year in the minors (19.8% of PA in 2012; 15.1% in 1993), and up 14% even since Dunn's last year (17.3% in 2001). Have minor league strikeout rates gone up similarly?
   11. Walt Davis Posted: November 20, 2012 at 04:04 AM (#4306570)
I like that his in-play BA was .372 and his SLG-on-contact was .740.

Of course if he hadn't done that we might already have him in the bust category. Despite the sterling BABIP (or 423 BA on-contact) he had just a 275 BA. But, yes, encouraging that at least he hit it hard when he hit it.

Major league strikeouts are up 31% since Thome's last year in the minors (19.8% of PA in 2012; 15.1% in 1993), and up 14% even since Dunn's last year (17.3% in 2001).

I'll admit that even I hadn't thought it was that dramatic. I have no idea what minor-league rates have done. Still, boost Thome's ml K-rate by 1/3 and it's still "just" 24%, a lot lower than 30.

Still, over the last 3 years, there are only 9 qualifying ML seasons with a K-rate of 30% or higher -- 2 by Dunn, 2 by Reynolds, 2 by Stubbs then Pena, Alvarez and Davis. The median OPS+ in that group is 112 and Dunn's 2010 is the only one above 121. Knock it down to .28 and things don't get better (13 qualifiers now). Knock it down to .25 and the median season is BJ Upton at 109 and you do get a few more big seasons (Stanton 2011, Hamilton 2012, Rasmus 2010).

If you combine the last 3 season (min 1200 PA) you get fairly similar results with Stanton (and his 283 ISO!) really standing out.

Nothing wrong with a 110 OPS+ of course but it's not a highly valuable player at 1B/LF/RF. If you want to succeed there, you've got to bring awesome power. At the top of that multi-season OPS+ list you've got ISOs from Stanton at 283 and Granderson/Napoli at 259. Obviously if you can hit for that kind of power, you can K a ton. Still, Granderson and Napoli are around a 25% K/PA rate and if they started punting an extra 5% of PAs to Ks they'd also be punting 20-25 points of BA (and therefore OBP and even more in SLG).

The K-power game is likely here to stay and I'm sure over time we'll see both more Deers and more Stantons and the 30% K-rate thing won't be damning -- and could be that day is already here.
   12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 20, 2012 at 08:42 AM (#4306585)
Unless there are a lot of guys who K'd at 30% in the minors but less than 30% in the majors


Off the top of my head, Fred McGriff struck out a ton in his first couple of seasons, but got it under control. He's very much the exception that proves the rule, though.

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