Tagged: Yordano Ventura

Hochevar Moving to the ‘Pen, Moscoso Moving On

Luke Hochevar is no longer being considered for the no. 5 slot in the Royals’ rotation.

In just three outings this spring totaling all of 8.0 innings, Hoch has surrendered 6 runs (all earned), 9 hits (including 2 HR), and had a WHIP of 1.88.

Luke Hochevar's future with the Royals will be in the bullpen.

Luke Hochevar’s future with the Royals will be in the bullpen.

Mercifully, Hochevar’s time in the Royals’ rotation appears to be over. Manager Ned Yost has decided move the long-time starter to the bullpen, leaving the fifth rotation spot up for grabs between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza. Yost said that, while they’re long shots, Will Smith and Yordano Ventura are still in the mix for the job as well.

Given his history as a starter and his ability to throw a mid-90’s fastball that’s coupled with a decent sinker/slider combo, Luke could serve as both a long-man in the bullpen (if need be) or a late-inning guy – depending on the situation. As of right now, I would envision Luke’s role in the ‘pen as either a 6th or 7th inning guy. The fact that he’s only pitched out of the bullpen three times in his career makes me wary of the thought of him pitching late in meaningful games.

It was time for a change. Actually, it is well past the time for a change. The Royals have been trying to move Hochevar all winter long, talking the most with the Colorado Rockies (Hoch is from Denver, by the way). It has been reported that the asking price for Hochevar is “quite a bit”, which is understandable given that this organization seems to be enamored with a pitcher who has a career 5.39 ERA, -0.3 WAR, and is still going through salary arbitration (he’s scheduled to make $4.56 million in 2013). But, as Ned and GMDM have beaten into the ground, Hoch has the “stuff” to be a quality starting pitcher.

He really does, though.

We’ve all seen him dominate. We’ve all also see him have a perfect game going into the 5th, 6th, or 7th inning before imploding and costing the team the game.

It’s time to ask Luke for just one good inning.

This move is similar to what the Rays did with Wade Davis last season. They’re both big-bodied pitchers who are capable of dialing it up if asked to go one inning at a time. Davis thrived in the bullpen last season (54 appearances, 70.1 IP, 2.43 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 1.4 WAR) before being traded to Kansas City with the intention of sliding him back into the rotation. If the Royals can get anything even remotely close to that from Hoch, they’ll be ecstatic.

“I think it makes us a better team. I think it makes us a stronger team. It gives us a better chance to win every day. With three weeks left, I want to get him acclimated to that role.” – Ned Yost on moving Hochevar to the bullpen (Kansas City Star)

Luke appears to be taking the move in stride and is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win.

“I’m willing to take the ball in any position that I can to help the club. That’s the bottom line. Whether it’s starting or in relief, whatever it is, my role is not important. What’s important is that when I take the ball, I’m helping the club.” – Hochevar on moving to the bullpen (Kansas City Star)

For now, it appears that the Royals are intent on keeping Luke in the organization. While he may very well be traded at some point, the Royals are no longer “showcasing” him as a starter.
Moscoso Let Go
The Royals have opted to relase right-hander Guillermo Moscoso. Yost stated that it was clear he was not going to make the team out of spring training, so this gives him an opportunity to join another team before the waiver wire becomes flooded with other players in the same boat. Moscoso is out of minor league options, so he would have had to be exposed to waivers prior to being sent down to the minors.
The Royals acquired the righty back in November on a waiver claim from the Rockies. He has the experience and ability to pitch in either the rotation or the bullpen.
Advertisements

Baseball America’s Top 10 Royals Prospects

It’s that time of year again.

It’s the time where Royals fans can forget about whose on the team right now and look ahead to the future. Because, y’know, we don’t do enough of that around here.

Baseball America, as part of it’s annual rankings, has released it’s list of the Royals’ top 10 prospects for the 2013 season. There’s no doubt in my mind that you will be very familiar with most of the names they included, while others may require a little clarification.

Wil Myers

1. Wil Myers OF age 21

Wil Myers just may be the top prospect in the game. If not, then he’s certainly in the discussion. We’ve done plenty of Wil Myers coverage here at Royal Blues, and I’m sure you have all heard about his unreal 2012 season that ended with him not getting a call up to Kansas City. Dayton Moore may have kept Myers down in Omaha to delay his service time. If that is the case, barring something major happening in the coming months, Wil could remain in Omaha come Opening Day 2013 for the first 30 or so games. After that, right field should be his if it isn’t already. All this being said, I expect Dayton’s man-crush on Jeff Francoeur to start in right to begin next season. But expect to see Wil in Royals’ blue sometime next season.

2. Kyle Zimmer RHP age 21

Kyle Zimmer

Before having surgery after the season to remove “loose bodies” in his right elbow, the Royals’ no. 1 draft pick was fairly impressive. In 9 starts (3 in Rookie Ball, 6 in Low-A), Zimmer was 3-3 with a 2.03 ERA and 42 K to 8 BB in 40 innings pitched. His fastball clocks in anywhere routinely between 92-98 mph, while his hard-biting curveball is rated as the organization’s best by Baseball America. He also throws a decent slider and is developing a solid change-up to add to his repertoire. Kyle has the makings of a pitcher who could advance through the Royals’ system quickly and could be in AA NW Arkansas (or possibly AAA Omaha) by next season’s end. He should develop into a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

3. Bubba Starling OF age 20

Bubba Starling

It’s too bad Bubba isn’t knocking on the door to Kansas City yet like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper did in 2012. But Mr. Starling is still in need of work in the minors thanks to his limited baseball past. Regardless, he had a good showing in his first season in the Rookie league. In 200 AB, he worked a slash of .275/.371/.485, hit 20 XBH (8 doubles, 2 triples, 10 HR), 33 RBI and had 10 SB in 11 attempts. However, he struck out 70 times in his 200 AB, which will need to be addressed this offseason. Starling is still a fairly raw player, but his combination of power, speed, and major league-ready defense will allow the Royals to overlook some of his short-comings. It’ll still be a while before Bubba makes his way to The K, as it looks like he’ll begin the 2013 season in Low-A ball.

4. Yordano Ventura RHP age 21

Yordano Ventura

“Lil’ Pedro” came on in a big way last season, earning him a spot on the World Team in the Future’s Game, as well as a promotion to AA NW Arkansas. At 5’11” and 140 lbs, Ventura is able to dial-up his fastball (rated by BA as the organization’s best) to triple digits at times, but normally lobs it in the 94-97 mph range. He also throws a hard-breaking curveball that he routinely uses to get hitters to chase when he’s ahead in the count. His change-up is still developing, but he just needs to use it more often for it to be effective. It’s still a question as to whether his height will translate well to being a successful starting pitcher in the major leagues. Ventura likely will start 2013 in NW Arkansas before being promoted to Omaha and possibly Kansas City before season’s end.

5. Jake Odorizzi RHPage 22

Jake Odorizzi

Thank goodness Jake Odorizzi’s strong season allowed us to slightly overlook Mike Montgomery and Chris Dwyer’s stinkers. Seen as they key to the Zack Greinke trade, Izzy saw his 2012 season end in Kansas City. While not overpowering, he’s able to deliver all four of his pitches well, while none of them standout more than the others. His low-to-mid 90s fastball has some sink to it, making it probably his best pitch. He has a smooth, repeatable delivery, but needs to improve on his command to make it all come together. He’ll get a chance in spring training to earn a spot in the rotation. Even if he doesn’t do so, don’t expect him to stay in Omaha for long.

6. Jorge Bonifacio OF age 19

Jorge Bonifacio

At 19, Jorge Bonifacio is already showing signs of becoming a high-average hitter with exceptional power potential and plate awareness. In 2012, while playing in Low A ball, Bonifacio owned a slash of .282/.336/.482 while knocking 36 XBH (20 doubles, 6 triples, 10 HR). To go with his projectable bat is a terrific arm that suits him perfectly to become a future corner outfielder, particulary in RF given his average to below-average speed. If he continues to develop along the same line, he projects as a hitter likened to Billy Butler: hitting for average, both pull and opposite field power, while driving balls deep to both gaps. Class A Wilmington is where he’ll start 2013.

Adalberto Mondesi

7. Adalberto Mondesi SS age 17

Mondesi is already displaying skills that are well beyond his age. The Royals signed the son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi in 2011 at the ripe age of 16. In 2012, the switch-hitting SS hit .290/.346/.386 in 207 AB for Rookie level Idaho Falls. He also drove in 30 runs and swiped 11 bases in 13 attempts. He’s already developing as a quality hitter, showing that he can drive pitches to deep into gaps and hit for some pop (3 HR in 47 games). His greatest assest though may be his smooth skillset in the field. He has a great glove, soft hands, and shows the ability to get to plenty of balls in the hole that most other shortstops at his age simply can’t reach. He did have 23 errors last season, but those numbers should go down with time. Given his youth, his ceiling remains very high. He could be in Low A ball to start 2013, making him the youngest player in the league.

8. Sam Selman LHP age 22

Sal Selman

Selman was the Royals’ 2nd round pick in this summer’s draft, and like Zimmer, had a stellar debut in 2012. Sam went 5-4 in 13 games (12 starts) with a 2.09 ERA, 89 K, and a .199 AVG against in 60 innings pitched. He has developed into a real “power lefty”, as he’s able to get his fastball up to 98 on occasion. He also throws an above-average slider, giving him two plus-pitches. He’ll start his first full season of pro ball in one of the Royals’ A-level affiliates. Given his background as a college pitcher, Selman likely could progress through the system quickly.

9. Orlando Calixte SS age 20

Orlando Calixte

Orlando Calixte had a great second half in 2012 after being promoted to High-A Wilmington, where he hit .281/.326/.426. He possesses an above-average bat for his position, both average and power-wise, and is a terrific defender with a strong arm. Of the organization’s handful of talented shortstop prospects, Calixte is the closest to being big league ready. AA NW Arkansas is where he’ll start 2013, but could push for a promotion to Omaha quickly.

10. Jason Adam RHP age 21

Jason Adam

Despite his 7-12 record in 27 starts at High-A Wilmington this season, Adam still managed to post a 3.53 ERA. He also recorded 123 K to just 36 BB in 158 IP and held opponents to a .238 AVG while averaging around 6 innings per start. Jason has average big league fastball velocity (90-92). Scouts believe he’s lost some velocity due to his new and much simpler delivery. But on the other hand, his new approach on the mound has allowed him to command his pitches better by limiting the hip turn and high leg kick of his old delivery. He still needs to develop solid second and third pitches (curveball and changeup), though he controls them well. Right now, Adam looks like anywhere from a no. 3-5 starter to most. He’ll pitch in NW Arkansas to begin 2013.

Notable Ommissions:

  • Mike Montgomery LHP
  • John Lamb LHP
  • Chris Dwyer LHP
  • Noel Arguelles LHP
  • Christian Colon SS/2B
  • Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
  • Brett Eibner OF

Royal Blues Prospect Watch List:

  • Kyle Smith RHP
  • Justin Marks LHP
  • Elier Hernandez OF
  • Bryan Brickhouse RHP
  • Sugar Ray Marimon RHP
  • Cameron Gallagher C
  • Lane Adams OF
  • Humbero Arteaga SS
  • Alexis Rivera OF
  • Jack Lopez SS
  • Patrick Leonard 3B/OF
  • Colin Rodgers LHP

What a Week It Was For Kansas City

The All-Star festivities have officially come and gone in Kansas City.

Billy Butler doffs his hemlet before his first at-bat in the 7th inning to a roaring crowd.

FanFest was an overwhelming success.

Talk about sensory overload…

Upon going up the escalator to the show room at Bartle Hall, when you see the banners hanging from the ceiling, authentic baseball memorabilia on walls and tables, Cal Ripken and Barry Larkin instructing a local high school baseball team on proper fielding techniques, everybody thinking and talking about baseball, and nearly 80% of the fans attending wearing Royals gear, you knew you were in baseball heaven.

If you didn’t do anything else baseball related during All-Star week in Kansas City, I hope you at least took a few hours to venture downtown, take a stroll through Barney Allis Plaza on your way to FanFest. It was a living, breathing baseball museum with every ounce of baseball history covered from head-to-toe. And for $30 a ticket, you got way more than what you paid for.

The All-Star Future’s Game drew a record crowd.

40,000+ attended the Future’s Game most likely due to the presence of future Royals Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and Yordano Ventura. If that doesn’t make Dayton Moore call-up Myers and/or Odorizzi, I don’t know what will.

It goes to show you though, if you put an exciting product on the field, the stadium will be filled almost every single night. This is a baseball town. We just haven’t had many teams to rally behind in the past 10+ years.

The Homerun Derby… was everything a Royals fan could have ever wanted (outside of seeing Billy Butler send a few BP fastballs into the fountains).

Apparently word gets around. #BooCano Photo Credit: H. Darr beiser / US Presswire

Oh, what a night it was.

The Homerun Derby is, and always will be, an exciting affair. And this year’s was no exception.

We all know the story. Robinson Cano, the captain for the American League’s half of the Derby, stated publicly that he would assuredly select a Royal to participate – which happened to Billy Butler. Then Robby snubbed him.

Feeling like Robinson Cano slapped the entire KC community across the face, the outraged Royals fanbase (myself included) took their anger to the Twitterverse. And boy, did it work.

Robinson Cano drew the biggest collective “boooooooooo” I have ever had the priviledge of hearing. I also have never heard a louder crowd collectively cheer for one person as they did when they called for Billy Butler. My wife and I, watching from home, couldn’t help but laugh, smile, and throw in a few cheers and “boos” of our own during Cano’s failed hacks. Watching him hit pop-up after pop-up into the outfield literally made my week. In all, Robinson was a glorious 0-fer – hitting absolutely zero homeruns. That itself made it all so, so sweet.

Outside of Cano, the fans were treated to a great show by Mark Trumbo and Derby champ Prince Fielder. Trumbo, who Cano supposedly picked over Butler, hit possibly the most impressive homerun I have ever seen when he launched a ball onto the roof of the Royals Hall of Fame in left field – some 475+ ft. Equally impressive was the amount of balls Prince was able to send into the fountains deep in right center.

The All-Star Game was a lopsided affair.

Former Royal Melky Cabrera rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homerun in the top of the 4th inning of the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City. Photo Credit: David Eulitt

Justin Verlander got rocked. How often have you ever been able to hear that?

The NL was able to talley five runs off of him in the first inning thanks to a Pablo Sandoval bases-loaded triple (the first such occurance in All-Star Game history).

Another Giant earned the All-Star Game’s top honor. Former Royals great Melky Cabrera won the All-Star Game MVP award thanks to his two-run homerun. It was great to see Melky make his first All-Star team and win the MVP award in Kansas City, but it makes the Jonathan Sanchez trade sting that much more…

But without a doubt, the most memorable moment of the game didn’t come when Bryce Harper lost a flyball in left field. Or when Derek Jeter and Ryan Braun chummed it up on the field in the midst of Braun’s triple. Or when Robinson Cano was booed yet again. Or even when Billy Butler finally got his first AB in the 7th inning (although that was a close 2nd).

For me, it was when Chipper Jones took his first at-bat ever in Kansas City. Before Tuesday, the long-time veteran had played in every single stadium in the league except for Kauffman Stadium. He hit a choppy groundball between first and second that was “just” out of Ian Kinsler’s reach for a basehit. You could see Chipper smiling at Kinsler when he reached first base. Any other day, Kinsler makes that play.

Royals Notes

  • Both CF Lorenzo Cain and 2B Chris Getz have been activated from the DL and placed on the active roster. RHP Nate Adcock and INF/U Irving Falu were the roster casualities, as both were sent back down to Omaha.
  • After having a solid showing at the Future’s Game, Wil Myers went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI in the Triple-A All-Stars game as the PCL beat the International League 3-0. Wil was named the games’ MVP.
  • Yordano Ventura, who started the Future’s Game for the World Team, was promoted from Single-A Kane County to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
  • Joining Ventura in Double-A is lefty Mike Montgomery. In his second season at Omaha, Monty seems to have regressed significantly. In 17 starts (91.2 IP), he’s 3-6 with a 5.69 ERA with just 67 K to 43 BB and a 1.67 WHIP.
  • Taking Montgomery’s spot in Omaha’s rotation will be another promising young lefty: Chris Dwyer. Through 16 starts and 85.2 IP this season for the Naturals, the 24-year old hasn’t faired much better than Montgomery. He was 5-8 with a 5.25 ERA, 71 K to 44 BB, and had a WHIP of 1.43. Dwyer’s promotion may have more to do with the Rule 5 Draft this offseason more than anything. In order to protect Dwyer from of the Rule 5 Draft, the Royals will have to place him on the 40-man roster sometime between now and the draft. If the Royals opt not to do so, they risk losing him to any team that decides he’s worth a spot on their 25-man roster for all of 2013. Note: In 2011, Baseball America ranked Dwyer as the 83rd best prospect in the game.

Overall, Kansas City showed Major League Baseball and its fans a great time and was a more than gracious host to thousands of visitors. Here’s top hoping it doesn’t take another 39 years to have another one of these.

Wil Myers Impresses in Team USA’s Route

For Royals fans, the 2012 All-Star Future’s Game holds more clout than any other All-Star Weekend event. Afterall, we have no representatives in the Home Run Derby (thanks, Robinson Cano…) and only one team representative in the All-Star game – a game that will be played in our own stadium. Billy Butler will most likely see as much as one at-bat in tomorrow night’s game, likely as a late game pinch-hitter. So pardon us if we’d rather pay attention to a game where three of our guys– not including Team USA manager and HOFer George Brett – would be playing in an exciting (though meaningless to some) game in front of a sold-out crowd in a stadium that we hope to see them in real soon.

Photo Credit: David Eulitt

That’s right. Sold out.

A roaring crowd of 40,095 (a record, by the way) at the K gave each of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and Yordano Ventura a standing ovation upon taking the field Sunday afternoon. Odorizzi even took a moment to remove his cap and acknowledge the hometown fans before throwing the first pitch of the game – a 73 mph curveball for a strike to Angels prospect Jean Segura.

Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi in the 1st inning for the USA Team. Photo Credit: US Presswire

Team USA fell behind early when Jake Odorizzi gave up a one-out solo homerun down the right field line to Rangers top prospect (who Keith Law ranks as his #2 prospect behind Dylan Bundy of the Orioles) Jurickson Profar.

Another Royals farmhand got the starting nod for the game.  Young right-hander Yordano Ventura, a native of the Dominican Republic, started the game for the World Team, and lit up the radar guns. Three different times during his perfect frame, Ventura dialed up triple-digit fastballs while getting the top third of Team USA’s order to each groundout.

Yordano Ventura delivers a pitch in the 1st inning as the starter for the World Team. Photo Credit: John Sleezer / The Kansas City Star

But the real star of the game, as far as Royals prospects go, was Wil Myers. As Myers made his way to the batter’s box, the crowd once again rose to their feet, giving Wil his second standing-o of the afternoon. Outside of the All-Star Game itself, this has been the most highly anticipated moment in Kansas City for the past month or so. His first AB resulted in a groundout to third base.

Center fielder Wil Myers breaks his bat while singling to left field in the 7th inning. Photo Credit: John Sleezer / The Kansas City Star

He tied up the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the 3rd inning with a RBI groundout. After the 4th inning, substitutions were abound. But manager George Brett knew what the sellout crowd at The K wanted to see. So instead of taking Wil Myers out of the game, Brett opted to shift him from right field to center field, where he spent the rest of the game.Wil collected his first hit of the game in the bottom of the 5th, added a run with a sac-fly in a nine-run 6th inning, and slapped a broken-bat single into left to complete his night at the plate. All in all, Wil went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run scored. It was a solid game for him in front of 40,000 fans who are ready for him to be in the big league lineup everyday.The final score was completely lopsided: a 17-5 victory for the USA.

Much to my dismay, however, Dayton Moore did announce that both Myers and Odorizzi will head back to Omaha following the break – though I have no doubt that both of them will be playing in Kansas City soon.

Three Royals Selected for Futures Game

On July 8th, three Royals prospects will be on national display in Kansas City as they take part in the All-Star Futures Game: outfielder Wil Myers and right-handers Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura. Myers and Odorizzi will be part of the US team while Ventura, who hails from the Domincan Republic, will participate as a member of the World team.

Wil Myers, at 21 years old, will be taking part in his second Futures Game. Highly regarded within the Royals organization, as well as around the league, Myers is doing all he can in Triple-A Omaha to force Dayton Moore to call him up to Kansas City. In 68 combined games between Double-A and Triple-A, Wil has a .336 batting average while recording 45 extra-base hits (24 homeruns, 18 doubles, 3 triples), 62 runs batted in, and 59 runs scored.Jake Odorizzi, 22, will be taking part in his first Futures Game. Like Myers, Odorizzi too is on the verge of being able to make an impact at the big league level. In 13 combined outings (12 starts) for Double-A and Triple-A, Izzy is sporting a killer 8-2 record with a 2.89 ERA in 72 IP. His K:BB ratio is nearly 4:1 (81 K:21 BB) and opposing hitters own a .219 batting average against him.

Yordano Ventura, 21, will be partaking in his first Futures Game experience as well. Despite his size, the 5’11”, 140-150 lbs. starter has the ability to touch 100 mph. In 13 starts and 61 IP, Ventura has struck out 78 hitters while walking only 24. On the year for Class-A Wilmington, he’s 3-5 with a 3.10 ERA with an opposing batting avergae of just .227.

In the past handful of years, the Royals have been well-represented in the Futures Game. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer (as well as Alcides Escobar while with the Brewers organization) have all taken part

Another member of the Royals will be taking part in the game, although this one is on the opposite end of the prospect-veteran scale.

George Brett has been named the manager of the US team for the Futures Game. Triple-A Omaha manager Mike Jirschele and former Royal John Wathan will be a part of Brett’s coaching staff for the game.

The All-Star Futures Game will take place at 4:00 pm on Sunday July 8th at Kauffman Stadium.

The 10 From the ‘Pen

In order to make this process a little easier on me (which didn’t really help at all), my reliever rankings are based on who I project could be potential 8th and/or 9th inning guys.

10. Tyler Sample RHP (Wilmington) age 22

As of right now, Tyler Sample is trying to work his way through the Royals’ system as a starter. After a good showing in 2009, he’s been dipping ever since; and 2011 was his worst season yet. He went 7-12 in 27 games (22 starts), averaging less than 6 innings per start, serving up a 5.25 ERA and 10.1 H/9.

Once a top 20 organizational prospect, control issues have caused Sample’s stock to fall a bit. His career 1.42 K:BB ratio (289:204 incase you were wondering) as a starter has lead me, along with fellow Royals blogger Landon Keefer at Royal Revival, to believe that Tyler would greatly benefit from a shift to the bullpen.

Sample has a huge frame, standing tall at 6’7″ and weighs in at a cool 245-250. Not many guys with similar frames find long-term success as a starter simply due to the fact that the size of a starter’s workload takes a bigger tole on bigger pitchers. So with Sample coming out of the bullpen, he’ll be able to hone in on just a few batters and really let his arm do the talking.

Grade: C+. Tyler is still young and learning how to pitch, so I’m sure he’ll get more reps as a starter. But if he begins to struggle early on this season, I fully expect the Royals to make the switch. He should start the season in Kane County.

9. Jeremy Jeffress RHP (Kansas City/Omaha/Northwest Arkansas) age 24

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America

I’ll admit that I was pretty excited to see Jeremy Jeffress’ name included in the Royals’ haul of the Zack Greinke trade. After all, the guy was a Top 50 prospect who could throw upwards of 100 mph and had the capabilities of one day being a part of the KC rotation. He had been racking up K after K in the Brewers system and had all the potential in the world.

But Jeffress came to the Royals with some baggage.

Back in 2007, he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana. But that wasn’t his first failed test. Apparently he had failed before, but the MLB doesn’t suspend first-time failures if they tested positive for marijuana. In June of 2009, Jeremy again failed a drug test, technically his third offense, and was served with a 100 game suspension. If he fails one more test, he will be banned for life, no questions asked.

Jeremy also suffers from another problem: control. Although he does have a career 10 K/9 in the minors, he also averages 5.7 BB/9. The ability to be consistent has been his kryptonite. He made the Royals bullpen out of Spring Training last season. But in 15.1 IP for the Royals, he gave up 11 BBs to 13 Ks, which averages out to 7.6 K/9 to 6.5 BB/9. He was then demoted to Omaha, and it didn’t get any prettier from there. He was sent to Omaha to be transitioned back into a starter, but only managed to get in 3 starts before being shifted back to the bullpen. His 7.12 ERA and 6.8 BB/9 in only 24 IP earned him another demotion; this time to NW Arkansas.

He was inserted into the Natural’s rotation, going 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in 31 IP (9 games 8 starts). Yet he still could not figure out the strike zone, and his BB numbers finally eclipsed his Ks (22 BB, 20 K). No doubt, a discouraging sign.

Grade: C-. Jeffress has the potential to grade as high as a B+ reliever in my opinion. He just has to somehow figure out what the hell is going on out there. Right now, he’s just a thrower. He wants to go to the mound and throw every single pitch at 99-100 mph, hoping he’ll gas every batter he faces. He needs to learn how to pitch, bottom line (very similar in stuff and inconsistencies to Edwin Jackson). Once he does that, he has the stuff of a potential closer. But until then, he’s just a guy moving in the wrong direction.

8. Brandon Sisk LHP (Northwest Arkansas/Omaha) age 25

Photo Credit: MiLB.com

Despite all of the famed lefties in the Royals’ glowing farm system, Brandon Sisk is the lone lefty on this list. Sisk split last season between AA NW Arkansas and AAA Omaha and put up fairly good numbers at both levels. In Arkansas, he had a 3.77 ERA in  28.2 IP with a 4:1 K:BB ratio and a 1.047 WHIP (BB+H/IP) (which is exactly what you would want out of any pitcher). He earned a promotion to Omaha and threw even better. In 32 IP, he had a 1.41 ERA, a WHIP of 1.0, and 2 Saves. His K:BB ratio struggled, as he had 30K’s to 16 BB’s (1.88:1 ratio).  But other than that, he had a solid season.

That solid season earned Sisk a non-roster invite to Spring Training 2012. He has an outside shot of making the Opening Day roster this season. I expect him to start the year in Omaha and could make his big league debut this summer.

Grade: C. He reminds me a lot of Jeremy Affeldt. He’ll never have a “true” role in the bullpen, meaning he could serve as sort of a Utility reliever.

7. Patrick Keating RHP (Northwest Arkansas) age 24

Photo Credit: Royal Revival

At 6’0″, 220 lbs., Patrick Keating is built like a stocky-power reliever a la Greg Holland. His fastball consistently sits in the mid-90’s and possesses an above-average slider- a great complimentary pitch that every reliever needs.

After being drafted by the Royals out of the U of Florida in 2009, Patrick has been used exclusively as a reliever. Keating had a solid 2010 campaign in Wilmington and NW Arkansas with 101 Ks in 71 IP and a 2.28 ERA, and has a minor league career average of 12.2 K/9 to 3.2 BB/9.

2011 was a rough season for Pat, as he got knocked around a bit in his first full season at the Double A level. In 38 IP, he had an ERA of 6.16 and a WHIP of 1.421. His strikeout numbers fell a bit to 10.4 K/9, but he was able to lower his number of free passes to 2.8 BB/9. He suffered a shoulder injury in mid-June which consequently lead to a stint on the DL. The injury no doubt had a role to play in Keating’s numbers last season.

Grade: C+. I think Keating, barring anymore injuries, could open up the season in Omaha. He looks the part of a serviceable major league reliever who could possibly come in late/close games (31 career saves). He’s been a K machine this far, so he has that going for him.

6. Louis Coleman RHP (Omaha/Kansas City) age 25

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Out off all of the rookies that made their Royals debut last season, Louis Coleman’s rookie season appears to be the one that is most commonly overlooked. In 59 2/3 innings in 48 appearances in 2011, he struck out 64 while walking 26, had an ERA of 2.87, and had the 5th best Inherited Runners Scored% in the MLB at 12.8%.

Coleman doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball. But given his sidearm angle, his slider is just vicious. His Swinging Strike rate was 22%, compared to the league average of 15%. Most of that can be contributed to Coleman’s extreme release point, as he’s able to hide the ball longer more than most pitchers and seems way too far in on right-handed hitters and way too far outside on left-handed hitters.

Grade: C+. Although I doubt Sweet Lou will ever become a closer, he has the ability to shutdown opposing hitters. Down the road he may be more of a specialist pitcher, entering the game in situations that call for a righty-righty matchup. But he shows a great ability to make hitters miss, and that can never be overlooked.

5. Yordano Ventura RHP (Kane County) age 20

Photo Credit: MiLB.com

Yordano Ventura is a 5’11”, 150 lbs. (when wet) starter right now in the Royals system. In his first full season as a starter in 2011, he made 19 starts, went 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA, giving up 82 hits in 84.1 innings pitched, with 88Ks and 24BBs. While this was no make or break season, given it was his first one as a full-time starter, I think Ventura is destined for a future in the bullpen.

Ventura is a max effort pitcher, often able to get his fastball in the 95-99 mph range. Given his body and delivery type, he would have an extremely hard time making it to the bigs as a starter. Being in the bullpen would allow him to pitch to his true style, dialing up fastballs for one inning 3-4 times a week, thus allowing his arm to last as long as it possibly can. He needs to develop a quality second pitch if he wants to move up quickly though.

Grade: C+. Ventura has drawn many comparisons to Pedro Martinez, given their similar size and arm strength. But odds are he’ll be a bullpen fixture sometime soon. If that does happen, he could be this year’s Kelvin Herrera.

4. Kelvin Herrera RHP (Wilmington/Northwest Arkansas/Omaha/Kansas City) age 22

Up until 2011, Herrera had been used exclusively as a starter and spent 3 straight seasons in Single A (2008-10). He was shifted to the bullpen this past season, and what a difference it made. He skyrocketed through the entire system, making stops at all of the Royals’ upper-level minor league teams, and eventually made it all the way to Kauffman for a few cups of coffee at the big league level.

Given his time as a starter, he has the ability to throw 3 pitches that are at or around the major league level, including a fastball that consistently flirts with 100 mph, an above average change-up, and a curveball that could one day be another plus-pitch.

Herrera will get a shot to make the Royals 25-man roster out of Spring Training as a middle-relief/set-up reliever.

Grade: B. It’s extremely hard to judge any reliever’s potential. But given how fast he rose through the Royals’ system, I have little doubt that he’ll be successful. He definitely has the stuff of a future closer.

3. Jonathan Broxton RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers/Albuquerque) age 27

Even though he’s only 27, it seems like Broxton has been around forever. The 6’4″, nearly 300 lbs. hurler had a rough 2011 season as a member of the Dodgers. He began the season as the closer for LA, but was placed on the DL due to pain in his right elbow. Before being placed on the DL in May, Brox racked up a 5.68 ERA and only 7 Saves. He made a few rehab starts in Triple-A before being shut down again. Hopeful to return to the team in September, Broxton tested his elbow by throwing from a mound. When it was clear his arm wasn’t ready, he was shutdown again for the remainder of the season and became a free agent after the season ended.

Brox has pretty decent career numbers thus far, compiling 84 Saves in 117 official chances (roughly 72% Saves converted) in 2+ seasons as the Dodgers full-time closer. Not a great conversion rate by any means. Just decent. But his career ERA of 3.19 is a plus, and along with that comes 503 K’s in 392 innings and the fact that he’s only given up 25 HRs in 7 pro seasons. Before 2011, it seemed like Broxton was in line for a big payday as he was heading into free agency for the first time, but his elbow derailed that dream for at least another season.

After a hunting trip with Ned Yost, Jeff Francoeur, and Jeff Foxworthy in his native Georgia, Broxton was convinced to sign a one-year, $4 mil. deal with the Royals. He’s in line to be a 7th/8th inning guy, along with Greg Holland, setting the table for Joakim Soria.

Grade: B. Broxton is a 2-time All-Star and a pure-power pitcher. His fastball has consistently sat in the upper-90’s throughout his career, but also possesses a power slider to complement it. This, to me, looks like a show-case season for Broxton, who’s looking to prove he can still effectively close games. If the Royals are out of contention by the trade deadline, expect to see him in a different uniform to end the season.

2. Greg Holland RHP (Omaha/Kansas City) age 26

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Greg Holland was one of the most effective relievers in all of baseball last season. Over 60 innings, Greg had an ERA of 1.80, 74 K’s to 19 BB’s, and had an MLB best 6.1 Inherited Runners Scored % in his first full season in Kansas City.

Holland has been a K’s machine throughout his baseball career, so that number never caught anyone off guard. But the fact that he allowed just 37 hits in 60 innings (.175 AVG) and only 2 of 33 inherited runners to score leads many to believe, myself included, that the Royals could shift him into the Closer role if something were to happen to Soria (converted 4 of 6 save opportunities and recorded 18 holds in 2011).

Grade: B. Holland definitely has closer potential, given his ability to locate his high-90’s fastball, an 11.1 K/9 ratio, and the ice water that apparently runs through his veins.

1. Joakim Soria RHP (Kansas City) age 27

Joakim Soria has been arguably one of the best Royals relievers of the last 20 years outside of Jeff Montgomery and the late Dan Quisenberry. Over his 5 year career, Soria has compiled a 13-15 record, 160 Saves, a 2.40 ERA, and 341 K’s (3.92:1 K:BB ratio) in 315 Innings Pitched.

Although he has been a top-tier, lights out closer thus far in his career, 2011 was undoubtedly his worst season to date. He blew 5 of his first 12 save opportunities, and was eventually replaced by Aaron Crow as the team’s closer for a few games. During that stretch however, the Royals didn’t play a single game that required a closer, and Soria resumed his familiar role about a week later.

There have been rumors and talk about the Royals shifting Soria to the rotation ever since he came to KC. Soria definitely has the skill-set to be a quality starter, as he possess 3 plus-picthes (FB, Curve, Change) and the cool, calm, and collected demeanor necessary to be a starter. Just after he was selected by the Royals in the Rule V draft in 2006, he threw a perfect game in the Winter League. So it goes without saying, he’s more than capable of making the switch.

But for now, Joakim is the team’s closer for 2012 and beyond.

Grade: B+. If he didn’t basically implode last season, I would have given him at least an A-. Given the shelf life of closers anymore and how they’re not as big of a commodity as they once were, Soria needs to come back in a big way in 2012 and re-prove himself to the Royals Faithful.

Other names to watch: Tim Collins, Ryan Verdugo, Kendal Volz, Blaine Hardy, Buddy Baumann, Michel Mariot, Bryan Paukovitz

Baseball America’s Top 10 Royals Prospects for 2012

Every year Baseball America releases it’s list of the top 10 prospects for each franchise, and today was the Royals’ turn to be revealed. For the first time in a few years though, the list won’t feature the names of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, or Aaron Crow, which is a terrific sign that the franchise is moving closer to where it wants to be. Another positive sign is that it includes the names of a few international players whom the Royals scouted and signed (afterall, this is a World game now). But enough banter.. Here you go:

1. Mike Montgomery LHP
2. Bubba Starling CF
3. Wil Myers RF
4. Jake Odorizzi RHP
5. Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
6. John Lamb LHP
7. Kelvin Herrera RHP
8. Jason Adam RHP
9. Chris Dwyer LHP
10. Yordano Ventura RHP

A solid list overall that I cannot argue against. The only question I have: Why Mike Montgomery at #1? I mean I get it.. His upside is high (most say #2 starter potential), he’s left-handed, and throws a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90’s and a changeup that’s rated (by Baseball America, no less) as the best in the Royals’ minor league system. Wil Myers had a down year at Double-A and Bubba Starling has yet to play in a professional inning yet, so I guess it makes sense logically. Just from the way Myers has been hyped up for his pure-hitting ability over the last few years, I would have thought he’d be at the top of the list. But if Wil Myers is your 3rd best prospect, then you must have a pocket full of gold.

Baseball America also shelled out what it believes could be the Royals starters at each position in 2015. Yeah, it’s a little far-sighted, prospects bust, free agency and trades happen and all that jazz.. But it’s fun to think about, right? Check this out:

Lineup:
C- Salvador Perez
1B- Eric Hosmer
2B- Johnny Giavotella
3B- Mike Moustakas
SS- Alcides Escobar
LF- Wil Myers
CF- Bubba Starling
Rf- Alex Gordon
DH- Billy Butler

Rotation:
1. Mike Montgomery LHP
2. Danny Duffy LHP
3. Jake Odorizzi RHP
4. John Lamb LHP
5. Luke Hochevar RHP

Closer:
Joakim Soria RHP

From here folks, the future looks looks like a bowl of cherries. Enjoy.