Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The cupboard is bare at Double-A

Sorry for the long stretch in posts lately guys, but I've been busy going to games and such and wanted to take some time off to just reflect on what I've witnessed with this Royals team and its minor league affiliates.

The results aren't good. I'll make a post on the big league club in the next few days. It will be long and rambling - I'm warning you.

Just as I was planning this post, I noticed that Sam Mellinger wrote a story today about the farm system - quoting Dayton Moore saying how much better the system is now compared to when he arrived. He's absolutely right, but the top of the tree is stripped clean. And I'm not joking.

Having seen lots of minor league games throughout the past several years, I do have to say that I can't remember a time that I watched a team and had real doubts that ANY player would ever contribute at the big league level. That is until I started scouting the NW Arkansas Naturals this year.

The Texas League is certainly one of the most talented leagues in all of the minors. It's full of some of the top prospects in the game from Justin Smoak to Jhoulys Chacin. Yeah, pretty big prospects. The best power hitter the Naturals have is journeyman Corey Smith - a former 1st-round pick of the Indians - who has no real position and the body of a DH. He's been bouncing around the minors for quite some time after being released by the Indians and Angels after spending a couple years at Arkansas with each of them. He's a Juan Richardson type player (if you don't know him look him up) as bad as I hate to say it. Smith, at 27 years old, is batting .246 with 9 homers. He's seen little time above Double-A.

There are other players like John Suomi, Jordan Parraz, Cody Strait and Brian McFall who all are hitting well for the Naturals, but all of those players have their faults. Parraz, who was obtained from the Astros in the Tyler Lumsden trade, probably has the best chance of reaching the big leagues, but it would likely be in a reserve outfielder role as his bat doesn't play up to a corner outfield position (where he plays for the Naturals) in the power department. Suomi is going on 29 years old and is way too old to be considered a prospect. I would be more optimistic about him if his .329 average with 7 homers this year was being turned in at Triple-A Omaha. As it is now, he's splitting time behind the dish with Jeff Howell.

Strait is another guy like Parraz, only he plays center. He just turned 26 last week and is in his first year at the Double-A level. He still needs seasoning and isn't considered a prospect. As for McFall, the guy can rake. The problem he has is that when he actually does play the field he's a first baseman. Most of the time he's a DH. He won't hit with enough sock to warrant playing over Butler, Jacobs, Guillen or even Ka'aihue.

The pitching staff is loaded with just as many question marks.

Prospect Dan Cortes is spinning his wheels to the point that some scouts are saying he may need to move to the bullpen to reach the big leagues. That would be a blow to the Royals and their envisions for this kid when they traded for him in the Mike MacDougal deal in 2006. He's had horrendous control issues so far this year going 2-5 4.01 with 36 strikeouts and 32 walks. He's regressed poorly in his last two outings alone with 10 walks and seven strikeouts. Blake Wood (another highly touted prospect) is carrying a 6.31 ERA and has allowed 7 homers in 45 innings. He also is being tabbed as a future reliever by scouts.

As the scout told Mellinger, there is help for the Royals in the future, but it's two to three years away ... at least. There isn't much other than Ka'aihue, Hochevar and Carlos Rosa at Omaha. Rosa has been hit hard this year and may be demoted soon.

They club needs to make a trade to kick-start the offense, but they have next to nothing to deal that teams would want. I'll talk about that more in the coming days.

No comments: