RC's Top 25 Royals Prospects - Part II
RC is back with the second and final report on our Top 25 prospect list, which covers prospects #11-25. To see the report on prospects 1-10, as well as the full list and an explanation of what constitutes a "prospect", please click here.
11) Chris Nicoll
The 82nd overall pick in the draft (third round), Nicoll signed with the Royals for $445,000 after a brief holdout. One scout explained to RC that the Royals were in no rush to sign him, as he had thrown a lot of innings in college and would only throw limited innings once he did sign.
Nicoll signed in July and made his debut in the Pioneer League. In 27.1 innings, he struck out 34 batters and walked only nine while compiling a very respectable ERA of 3.62. His fastball tops out in the low 90s, but scouts expect him to add some velocity, and his slider is reported to have good deception while being a tad inconsistent. In his first stint of professional baseball, Nicoll's G/F ratio of 0.88 tends to suggest he'll be more of a fly ball pitcher, but that could change if he improves his slider. Look for Nicoll to start in Burlington next year, although High Desert is a possibility if he shows good command in the spring. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: September 2008.
12) Shane Costa
Shane Costa had a decent 2005 season, earning a surprising promotion to Kansas City in early June. He got off to a fast start in KC, becoming a bit of a fan favorite before pitchers adjusted and Costa started struggling. After 27 games he was shipped back to Wichita, where he continued to put up solid but unspectacular numbers.
Costa is a very strong kid -- his father is a former national bodybuilding champion -- and he possesses a very quick bat and good contact ability. However, his plate discipline leaves something to be desired, and he still hasn't turned his strength into power. If the power never comes, Costa will never be more than a marginal fourth outfielder, because his arm pretty much limits him to left field. Nevertheless, RC does believe Costa still has time to figure it out, and we like just about everything else about him. He'll begin next season in Omaha. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: He'll be up and down starting in mid-2006.
13) Kila Kaaihue
We first took notice of Kila Kaaihue this season, as he propelled himself onto our radar by exhibiting stellar plate discipline and decent power in the California League. We may have over-ranked him a bit, as this was his third full season of A-ball after having to repeat Burlington, but we still really like him.
Kaaihue, a 15th round pick by the Royals in 2002, led the entire organization and the California League with 97 walks and a .428 on base percentage. His 20 homers were almost certainly a product of High Desert's hitter-friendliness, but he does square up on the ball pretty nicely. He has a smooth swing and a funny stance, and he was described by a KC scout we spoke with as being very streaky. Expect Kaaihue to start at Wichita next season, and if he does well, he could begin drawing notice as a Scott Hatteberg type of player. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: 2008.
14) Mike Aviles
Mike Aviles is a very strong kid who should continue developing more power as he matures, but his defensive woes are hurting his chances of ever seeing regular duty in the Major Leagues. He has a very strong arm and average range, but he made over 40 errors this season for Wichita, mostly at shortstop. His bat, however, keeps him moving through the system, albeit slowly.
A scout we spoke with described Aviles as the type of guy who keeps proving himself at every level, and before you know it, you run out of places to send him. His path through the minors should continue next season in Omaha, where we expect he'll split time at third base and short. The Royals think of Aviles as a future utility player, and RC loves the idea because if he improves his defense to an acceptable level, he could become one of the better-hitting utility players in baseball. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: September 2006.
15) Brent Fisher
Brent Fisher was still only 17 years old when he began blowing away Arizona League hitters after being drafted by the Royals in the seventh round of the 2005 draft. In 50.1 innings, Fisher struck out a very impressive 69 batters, while only walking an equally impressive 13. His ERA was 3.04, and for his efforts Baseball America named Fisher as the second-best LHP in the Arizona League, and the 18th-best prospect overall.
Fisher isn't overpowering, but reports are that he has an excellent idea of how to pitch. He has command of a sinking fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball, and a solid changeup. We expect Fisher to skip the Pioneer League and start the season in Burlington, where he should continue to blow hitters away. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: 2009.
16) Mitch Maier
After getting off to a blistering start in High Desert, Maier hit a wall after his promotion to Wichita. He did improve his power numbers, and he hit 47 doubles between the two levels, but he'll be 24 next season and his AA performance was a big disappointment. RC has never been all that impressed with Maier, after seeing him play in at least half a dozen games while he was in Wilmington.
The encouraging thing about Maier is that his defensive move to the outfield has yielded unexpected results, as he improved so much that he was manning center field in Wichita. In fact, Allard Baird has said that he believes Maier is the best defensive outfielder in the entire system. He will have to repeat Wichita to start next season, but if he does well, he may earn a promotion to Omaha -- or a cup of coffee in KC -- by mid-season. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: September 2006.
17) Joe Dickerson
When the Royals took Dickerson in the fourth round of this year's draft, most people saw it as nothing more than a pure signability pick. Indeed, Dickerson signed for $250,000, which put him in the lower-half of fourth round bonuses despite being the second pick in the round. However, his performance in his debut season shut up a lot of critics, as he led the Arizona League in RBIs and triples while hitting .294/.371/.491. For his efforts, Baseball America named Dickerson as the Arizona League's second-best outfielder and ninth-best prospect overall.
His game draws comparison's to Mark Kotsay's, as he possesses a good bat, has above average speed, and plays a very good center field. We're still cautiously optimistic about Dickerson, but we're looking forward to seeing what he can do next season. He could start the season in Idaho Falls, although Burlington might be a better bet. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: 2009/2010.
18) Gary Perez
RC had heard all about Perez while he was still playing in the Dominican Summer League, but we really got excited when he began mashing Pioneer League pitching in his first American season to the tune of a 1.024 OPS. After 36 games, he earned a promotion to Burlington, where he didn't fare quite so well. Once in Burlington, he played almost exclusively at second base, with a few appearances at shortstop.
At 22 years old, Perez is getting a bit old for the low minors, so if he can handle it, the Royals will continue moving him quickly. We expect him to open next season in High Desert, where he'll probably put up some inflated numbers. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: 2008.
19) Jonah Bayliss
Jonah Bayliss moved to the bullpen this season, and the result was his reemergence as a prospect. He was outstanding at Wichita, striking out 63 batters in 57.0 innings pitched while walking 26 and holding opposing hitters to a .203 BA. His efforts earned him a promotion to Kansas City in June, where he held his own in 11.2 IP.
Bayliss throws a mid-90s fastball with good movement, an above average slider, a quality curveball, and a mediocre changeup. He'll start next season in Omaha, but he's likely to be one of the first pitchers called up if the need for bullpen help arises. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: Early 2006.
20) Chad Blackwell
Chad Blackwell, a sixth round pick in 2004, was outstanding out of the bullpen for Burlington, which followed a very good 2004 season in Idaho Falls. In 68.2 innings for the Bees, Blackwell struck out 74, walked 27, and held hitters to a .241 BA while compiling an excellent 2.23 ERA.
Blackwell has a funky, low three quarters delivery that is very deceptive to hitters, and it helps him throw a lot of grounders (1.65 G/F ratio in 2005). The Royals weren't worried about Blackwell's mechanics, because he's never had a history of injury, but RC has heard rumors that Blackwell underwent an MRI for a possible torn rotator cuff last week. No news has yet surfaced of this in the KC media, but our source seems to be pretty reliable. If he isn't injured, Blackwell will start in High Desert next season, where his ERA is almost certain to climb. However, a sidearm groundball pitcher figures to fare better than most in the California League, and it will be a good test. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: late 2007/early 2008.
21) Billy Buckner
Billy Buckner got off to a decent start in Burlington, but he struggled -- as most pitchers do -- once he was promoted to High Desert. However, Buckner continued to display his best weapon, his devastating curveball, and he posted pretty solid strikeout numbers. In 154.1 IP this season between the two levels, Buckner struck out 152 and walked 63.
His control tumbled a bit after his promotion, as he might have been trying to be too fine, and it may have been harder for him to control his breaking stuff in the high altitudes of the California League. He did, however, turn into quite a worm-killer, posting an G/F ratio of 2.13. His prospect status is still in tact, and he will probably get a promotion to Wichita to start next season. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: 2008.
22) Rayner Oliveros
Oliveros is as intriguing a pitcher as the Royals have. Signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Oliveros was the Dominican Summer League Royals' Pitcher of the Year in 2004, after exhibiting absurd control -- THREE walks in 55.0 innings pitched to go along with 48 Ks and a 2.62 ERA.
We figured those numbers were most likely the result of what is probably a bigger Dominican strike zone, so we took a "wait and see" approach. Well, the 20-year-old Oliveros did not disappoint. In 75.1 IP for the Arizona Royals, he struck out 48 batters while walking FIVE and posting a 2.39 ERA. That means that prior to his late season promotion to Burlington -- where he did poorly in seven IP -- Oliveros had a 130 inning stretch over two years in which he had walked just eight batters while striking out 96. That's a 12/1 K to BB ratio! We expect Oliveros to begin next season at Burlington. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: 2008/2009.
23) Chris Demaria
We first noticed Demaria in mid-April, when we noticed he had the only High Desert ERA under 3 to go along with a great K/BB ratio, and we went about trying to figure out how in the hell the Royals acquired him. What we found was a pitcher with a great minor league track record who was picked up by the Royals in the triple-A portion of the 2004 Rule 5 draft.
In 76 innings between High Desert and Wichita in 2005, Demaria used his plus changeup to compile a stellar 2.13 ERA while striking out 92 and walking just 12. In fact, his performance out of the bullpen was so good, Demaria received a late season promotion to Kansas City, where he was greeted to the tune of a 9.00 ERA in 9.0 IP. We're not sure what to expect from Demaria, as we don't know if someone who throws as softly as he does could possibly succeed in the Majors, but his minor league stats are so good that he's worth keeping around. We expect him to start 2006 in Omaha, but he should see KC again at some point next season. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: mid 2006.
24) Angel Sanchez
Angel Sanchez just turned 22 years old, but he has already played five seasons of professional baseball after being drafted by the Royals in 2001. Allard Baird is very high on him, although 2005 was the first quality offensive season of Sanchez's career, and it came in hitter's paradise.
The only scouting report we can find on Sanchez says that he's got fast hands, a lean body, and long legs with a scattershot, somewhat inconsistent arm. Sanchez should begin next season as Wichita's starting shortstop, but we expect him to be passed on the organization's depth chart soon by the more talented middle infielders who are above him on this list. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City: doubtful. (Editor's note: On second thought, we probably would add someone like Adam Donachie here if we could make this list over again -- our gigantic calculator failed us!!!)
25) Alan Moye
Acquired by the Royals in 2003 in the Jeff Austin trade, Alan Moye put together a fine season overall, hitting a combined .293/.339/.510 with 24 HR between High Desert and Burlington. As you might expect, most of his damage was done in the California League, so his numbers probably ought to be taken with a grain of salt.
However, the Royals truly do like Moye's tools, despite his strikeouts (154 in 2005) and wretched plate discipline. The Royals are still hopeful that he acquires the discipline necessary to be a decent hitter, and if he does, Moye's power could carry him through the system. It's hard for us to picture Moye starting 2006 in Wichita, so we predict that he'll repeat High Desert for at least half the season. Anticipated arrival in Kansas City (if at all): 2009.