Minor Leagues Gives Fans Glimpse at Future Stars

There is electricity in minor league towns all over North America at this time of year as prospects develop and teams make their final push toward the postseason. The Royals organization is filled with tons of exciting young players and four of the Royals seven minor league affiliates are racing toward the finish line with a great shot at postseason play. Prospects like Luke Hochevar, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have scouts salivating and fans dreaming of what could be at Kauffman Stadium in the near future.

Perhaps the most exciting news down on the farm is first overall pick Luke Hochevar is scheduled to make his Royals organizational debut tonight as Class-A Burlington hosts South Bend.  Hochevar will throw 30-35 pitches tonight as he builds his arm strength (UPDATE: FINAL LINE – 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 SO). After almost a handful of starts at Burlington, the 6-foot-5 right-hander will head to Arizona to compete in the Arizona Fall League against the best of the best in terms of minor league prospects. He will be in Major League camp come February.

Double-A Wichita, featuring a lineup with four former first-round draft picks including third baseman Alex Gordon (2005) and Billy Butler (2004) have been tearing up the Texas League lately, widening their North Division lead to five games as of Aug. 16. Gordon has hit 24 home runs and stolen 21 bases while Butler, despite being one of the youngest players at the Double-A level, leads the league with a .331 average and is second with 96 RBI. Butler, the MVP of the Features Game during All-Star Week, will leave shortly for Cuba where he is competing for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.  Good luck, Billy!

The Wichita pitching staff is lead by Zack Greinke, Tyler Lumsden and Billy Buckner. Greinke, still just 22 years old, has been unhittable lately, posting a 3-0 record and a 1.00 ERA in his last four starts. Lumsden, a big 23-year-old lefty who came over from the White Sox in the Mike MacDougal trade, has a 2.77 ERA in his first three starts. Buckner, a 22-year-old curveball specialist and the Royals 2004 second round pick, was named Texas League Pitcher of the Week last week after earning two wins and allowing just one run.

Class-A High Desert sits in fourth place in the Southern Division of the California League, but is just three games back of first place with 19 to go.

Rookie League Arizona is tied with the Angels and Giants for first place with just 12 games remaining on the schedule. The fleet-footed squad has recorded 108 stolen bases, 42 more than any other team in the league!  Six different players have at least 10 steals led by 2006 fourth-round selection Derrick Robinson, who turned down a football scholarship from Florida to play for the Royals.

Finally, the Royals Dominican Summer League team in Salcedo is at it again, clinching the Cibao Division for the third straight season. The team has a 42-19 record with nine games remaining in the regular season.

More prospects Royals fans will want to keep an eye on:
* Jeff Keppinger – infielder at Omaha who is hitting over .350 since he was acquired from the Mets organization in mid-July
* Ryan Braun – hard-throwing right-handed reliever who tore through Wichita and is now making life difficult for hitters in the Pacific Coast League
* Most of the pitchers at Burlington –Luke Hochevar joins an already talented group of young, power arms for the Bees including RHP Erik Cordier, 20, and RHP Carlos Rosa, 21.
* Brent Fisher – 19-year-old lefty has 72 strikeouts in just 53.1 innings for Arizona.

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7 Comments

Thanks for the report on the new guys. Since the Royals are diligently working towards another high draft pick, David Glass needs to open the wallet and sign these picks much earlier than Hochevar was signed. These draft picks need to be playing, not sitting home. They need to be quickly developing. This all depends upon Glass’s willingness to swiftly meet or exceed industry standard signing levels of these high draft picks.

It seems a tad redundant for the Royals to have Minor League teams. The Royals ARE a Minor League team. As they say at Wal-Mart: “Always low payroll. Always.”

When are the Royals going to start following the model of other small market teams, such as the A’s or the Twins? I’m just curious. I’m not saying become Moneyball-ites, but when will something more positive happen. I can’t wait, 5-6 years for something to happen. I just don’t see any improvement now.

Oh and thanks for making Alex Gordon the next George Brett, if that’s not the kiss of death, I don’t know what is.

Well saying Zack Greinke is the next Dennis Leonard might be just as bad.

My aren’t we all being positive! The Royals have already signed contract extensions with DeJesus, and last year with Berroa.
Mr. Moore, has traded talent for talent in postions where it’s needed.

I don’t think that Mr. Glass will have too much problem opening the wallet on future negotiations…….

If you listened to the original news conference when Hochevar was signed, both Boras (agent) and Mr. Moore stated that Hochevar was signed in a rational time period, and the hang up was NOT the dollars, and was largely caused by Boras.

The Royals ARE following the templates laid out by other similar market teams. The difference is those teams were shifting to this template while the Royals were being lead by a commitee after Mr. Kauffman’s passing. During that time they lost most of thier scouting staff, and only signed “signable” draft picks. Folks those days ARE GONE!

It takes guts to be a Royals fan……. and patience.

Concerning the Royals lack of direction. bowtech was right in that we did fix the problems that Moore could at this time. However, there are systemic issues that a few trades are not going to solve. Problem #1 Minor League Teams. What are we teaching them? They come to the majors with no knowledge and/or mental ability to adapt.
PITCHING–We have seen pichers with all the movement and power one needs to be successful, but who was our last pitcher we developed…Appier, Suppan, Rosado–10 years ago. Take for example Mike Wood–does not throw hard, some movement, certainly not overpowering, but won a starting job.

BASERUNNING–Everyone saw or heard about Teahen’s baserunning skills, and when you watch the A’s or Twins as a club their running skills are above ours by far and I am not just talking about speed. Jim Thome put on a clinic against us–stealing second, taking the extra base. We can not rely on other teams to teach our players–When Costa, Blanco or anyone comes up to fill for an injury they need to be able to run the bases. (Herman does a good job)

IN GAME SITUATIONS–Besides the obvious of runner on third and less than two outs, it seems that we lack a certain acuity in this area. We seem to only have a few ways to win a game i.e. get twice as many hits as out opponents. What we do not do is adapt to what teams are doing to us. For example, there was a streatch in this season when we were drawing a lot of walks and our offence was producing a fair and resonible amount of runs, but lately teams have decided this is not good and we average one to two walks a game vs. five to seven. Are offense has suffered as a result. I expect a hitter to be able to get hits off of fastballs that are strikes. What do fans have to do at the games–hold up signs (Berroa, they are pitching strikes now!)

Draft guys with brains. In the later rounds draft the coaches kid. Do not draft marginal talent from poverty.

“Cbors” you’re dead on in many respects. Much of it IS the scouting and developmental side.
I think some of the finer points of the game, such as reading the pitcher comes from experience, and the problem of racing guys up from the minors.

I think Berroa’s problem is 100% concentration… I think he’ll only be with the Royals until a better SS comes along, or is developed.

As far as drawing walks, I think that has to do with patience when you’re up against a #3 thru #5 pitcher. The #1 and 2 guys are typically going to hurt the Royals…..

I think in the past 2 drafts the Royals have proven they are going for talent in the draft, and not just signability…..

Good stuff!

Will you please sell the team Glass

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