RC's Top 50 Prospects: 31-40

RC today continues to unveil our Top 50 list, and we now take a look at the prospects who rank #31-40. Today's list contains a wide variety of prospects, from reclaimed relief projects to toolsy 2006 draftees, and we're beginning to see a progression towards prospects with high ceilings.

31. Jason Taylor, 3B
Age: 18   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-0  WT: 210

Ask any two random scouts about what they think of Jason Taylor, and you'll likely get two completely different assessments. Taylor was something of a surprise selection by the Royals in the second round of the 2006 draft with the 45th overall pick, and scouts clearly remain divided about his potential. Some laud his athleticism, which they compare to that of the top picks of the 2006 draft, while others see a player with no redeeming skills and a poor work ethic. Quite frankly, it's exceedingly tough to gauge how the organization feels about Taylor, since the opinions about him are so diverse.

A shortstop at Floyd E. Kellam High School in Florida, Taylor moved to third base once he arrived in Arizona. He reportedly had some trouble adjusting to wood bats, and he hit just .258/.374/.325 with no home runs in 151 at bats. He did manage a solid July, in which he hit .299/.360/.403, but he fell off again in August, when he hit just .215/.395/.246.

Perhaps more so than any prospect in the Royals' organization, it's tough to tell what the future holds for Taylor. We've heard conflicting reports about literally every aspect of his game, from his defense – which some rate as potentially above average while others completely disagree – to his power potential and maturity. Frankly, the only thing that we can conclude about Taylor is that his 2007 performance will be pivotal in determining whether or not he's a serious prospect. For now we give Deric Ladnier and the Royals the benefit of the doubt by ranking him at #31, but he really needs to show something next year.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
AZR 151 27 39 8 1 0 22 26 30 7 2 .258 .374 .325
Total 151 27 39 8 1 0 22 26 30 7 2 .258 .374 .325


32. Marc Maddox, 2B
Age: 23  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-11  WT: 185

Maddox was selected by the Royals in the 9th round of the 2006 draft out of Southern Miss, and he immediately made a big impression. Maddox headed to Idaho Falls after signing and torched the Pioneer League to the tune of a line of .336/.428/.504 with three home runs in 232 at bats. His .932 OPS and 29 extra base hits led the Chukars, and for his efforts Maddox was named the Idaho Falls Player of the Year.

In his four-year career at Southern Miss, Maddox slammed 53 home runs, including 18 in his senior season, and the Royals are hopeful that he'll develop decent power with wooden bats. He made a big effort this season to use the middle of the field and to hit pitches where they're pitched, and right now he's a line drive hitter with good gap power to all fields.

Defensively, second base was a new position for Maddox this year. He primarily played first base and third base in college, and he worked hard on improving his double play turns at second this season. He's getting more comfortable at his new position, but he's still got some ways to go before he'll be anything more than adequate at second. Nevertheless, Maddox's 2006 debut was stellar, and he'll be an interesting prospect to watch as he moves to Burlington next season.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
IDF 232 46 78 22 4 3 40 33 31 7 0 .336 .428 .504
Total 232 46 78 22 4 3 40 33 31 7 0 .336 .428 .504


33. Chris McConnell, SS
Age: 20  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-11   WT: 170

McConnell entered the 2006 season with a career line of .333/.408/.496 and a reputation as one of the Royals' best middle infield prospects. However, the 2006 season was nothing short of a disaster, and after putting up a cumulative line of .211/.282/.294 between Burlington and Idaho Falls, McConnell finds himself in the position where he must prove himself all over again.

McConnell prefers to hit from a crouch, and he was very successful with it for the first two seasons of his professional career. However, some of the Royals' instructors were concerned that his stance prohibited him from covering the entire plate, and they altered his stance to a more upright position during instructs last fall. Over the course of McConnell's struggles during the 2006 season, he was told to go back and forth between his old stance and his new one as the roving hitting instructor changed, and he never quite got comfortable. However, it seems as though the Royals have finally conceded that his old stance works the best, and he's gone back to what worked for him from 2004-2005.

Defensively, McConnell still possesses above average range and a great arm, but he committed 37 errors between Burlington and Idaho Falls. That could have stemmed from a concentration problem, and McConnell may need to work harder on not carrying bad at bats with him into the field. Nevertheless, McConnell has solid tools across the board, and he could rebound nicely if he can put together a solid 2007 season. Look for him to begin next year in Wilmington.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
BUR 239 23 41 4 0 1 18 17 47 8 6 .172 .254 .201
IDF 183 25 48 8 4 4 35 15 35 8 4 .262 .320 .415
Total 422 48 89 12 4 5 53 32 82 16 10 .211 .282 .294


34. Paul Raglione, SP
Age: 19   B-T: R-R  HT: 6-5  WT: 195

Raglione, who was an 18th round pick in 2005, did nothing in 2006 to disprove the notion that he was late round steal. The big 6'-5" righty had an excellent season for the Arizona Royals, pitching 46.1 innings while compiling a 3.11 ERA. The 19-year-old Raglione struck out 48 batters while walking just 10, and he ranked among the Arizona League leaders in strikeouts before being shut down with an elbow injury in early August.

Unfortunately, the injury proved to be a torn ligament, and Raglione underwent Tommy John surgery in September. His prognosis is good, however, and although he will probably miss the entire 2007 season, he'll only be 21-years old when he returns to action.

Raglione throws four pitches – a two-seamer, four-seamer, curve and change-up – and although his velocity dropped a bit this season, the Royals are hopeful that he will regain the low-90s heat that flashed as an amateur. Hopefully Raglione's injury is merely a speed bump on the path to a successful career, but either way, it's hard to dispute that his selection was a good move, considering his upside.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
AZR 10 7 3 0 2 3.11 46.1 53 27 16 1 10 48 .273
Total 10 7 3 0 2 3.11 46.1 53 27 16 1 10 48 .273


35. Julio Pimentel, RP
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-1  WT: 190

Pimentel was acquired by the Royals in the Elmer Dessens trade, and he did quite well during his month with the High Desert Mavericks. Pimentel made 12 appearances for the Mavs, compiling a 3.18 ERA in 22.2 innings pitched while striking out 26 and walking 10. High Desert opponents hit just .244 against Pimentel, who made the transition from starter to reliever during the 2006 campaign.

Pimentel started 47 games in the Dodgers' system prior to the 2006 season, and while his strikeout numbers were good, he walked too many batters and got hit around to the tune of a .305 BAA in 2005. After nine starts in 2006, the Dodgers converted him to relief, and even though he didn't immediately excel, he showed promise with his pitches.

Pimental, who doesn't turn 21 until December 14, can run his fastball up to 95, and he complements it with a very good change-up. Some in the organization are very high on Pimentel's upside, and he should start next season in either High Desert's or Wichita's bullpen. He's an interesting player to watch.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
VBD 30 9 3 8 2 5.69 74.1 85 56 47 4 45 77 .290
HDM 12 0 2 1 2 3.18 22.2 21 8 8 3 10 26 .244
Total 42 9 5 9 4 5.10 97.0 106 64 55 7 55 103 .280


36. Kyle Crist, SP
Age: 23  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-3  WT: 175

Kyle Crist was selected by the Royals in the 34th round of the 2004 draft, and he immediately rewarded them by topping out at 94 mph in the Pioneer League. However, Crist since then has been plagued by the injury bug, and he's had some difficulty putting together a complete season. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old righty had a solid 2006 campaign for the High Desert Mavericks, and he's slowly emerging as a starting pitching prospect to watch.

In 80.1 innings for the Mavs this season, Crist compiled a 5-2 record with a 4.15 ERA, striking out 56 batters while walking 22. Opponents did hit .291 against him, but Crist's groundball tendencies served him well in the Cal League. Elbow tendinitis cut his season short, but when healthy, Crist proved to be one of the Mavs' most reliable starters.

Although he no longer throws 94, Crist has a couple of breaking balls that give batters fits. He throws a slider with good movement, and his curve has been described to us as "a true hammer." His fastball now sits at 88-91, but with his other pitches, Crist is very effective, particularly when he works inside. Look for Crist to start 2007 in Wichita, where he should be a prominent member of the starting rotation.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
HDM 15 15 5 2 0 4.15 80.1 90 38 37 6 22 56 .291
Total 15 15 5 2 0 4.15 80.1 90 38 37 6 22 56 .291


37. Neal Musser, P
Age: 26  B-T: L-L  HT: 6-1  WT: 215

Musser's something of a surprise entry on our list, since he was actually acquired this season by the Royals after being released by the Diamondbacks in May. The 26-year-old lefty was drafted by the Mets in the 2nd round of the 1999 draft, and he spent seven years toiling in the minors as a starting pitcher. Indeed, as a starting pitcher, he's not much of a prospect, given his age and inconsistent minor league track record.

However, the Royals began experimenting with Musser in the bullpen late in the season, and they found that he added a few ticks to his fastball when pitching in relief, and his slider improved to a potentially plus pitch. In fact, reports are that his fastball tops out at 95 when he's in the pen. It's an interesting situation, and the Royals assigned Musser to the Arizona Fall League to get a better look at him as he throws a few more innings.

Musser is still working as a starter in the AFL, but if his stuff proves to be consistent, he could be a candidate for the 40-man roster this winter. A lefty with a mid-90s fastball and a tight slider could prove to be an asset to a Major League relief corps, and right now, it looks like Musser might have a better-than-outside chance to win a spot in the Royals' 2007 bullpen. Whether or not the Royals place him on the 40-man roster prior to December's Rule 5 draft will be a good indication of how seriously the Royals' take his bullpen transformation.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
TSC 8 7 1 3 0 5.45 36.1 44 26 22 4 24 18 .306
OMA 2 2 1 0 0 1.86 9.2 7 2 2 2 3 6 .200
WCH 18 11 6 3 2 4.95 83.2 80 53 46 12 48 67 .255
Total 28 20 8 6 2 4.86 129.2 131 81 70 18 75 91 .266


38. Bryan Casey, RP
Age: 20  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-1  WT: 200

The Royals selected Bryan Casey in the 20th round of the 2005 draft, and they signed him for $235,000 shortly before the 2006 draft as a draft-and-follow. Casey, who was a pitcher/3B at Arizona Western Junior College, made his debut with Idaho Falls, and he got hit around a bit in his first exposure to professional ball.

Casey served as the Chukars' primary closer, and he made 24 appearances, pitching 25.1 innings while compiling a bloated ERA of 6.04. Opponents raked him to the tune of .302/.387/.396, and he battled his control as he surrendered 13 walks.

However, Casey has tremendous upside, and his fastball sits in the mid-90s, occasionally touching 96-97. He also throws a curve with good depth, and his change-up, which sits in the low-80s, is developing nicely. It was certainly a disappointing debut for Casey, but he has a Major League arm, and he's worth watching closely as he advances to Burlington next season.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
IDF 24 0 0 6 5 6.04 25.1 32 21 17 2 13 17 .302
Total 24 0 0 6 5 6.04 25.1 32 21 17 2 13 17 .302


39. Nick Francis, OF
Age: 20  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-3  WT: 195

The Royals selected Nick Francis in the 15th round in the 2006 draft, and he had an excellent debut for the Arizona Royals. Francis, who is a gifted athlete, reportedly fell to the Royals due to concerns about his maturity, but he handled himself well in his first exposure to professional baseball.

After a slow start in Arizona, the 20-year-old outfielder hit .303/.366/.426 with one homer, four triples, and eight doubles in 155 at bats. He was hitting just .233 on August 1, but he finished the season with a flurry, putting up a .347/.382/.505 line in 95 August at bats. Francis was an infielder in college, but he made the transition to the outfield once he signed with KC, and he has the tools to do well there as he gains experience. He also shows that he could develop decent power as he matures.

We look for Francis to start next season with one of the short-season clubs, either the Burlington Royals or the Idaho Falls Chukars. However, if he performs well in the spring and further distances himself from his pre-draft reputation, he could get a shot with the Burlington Bees. Regardless, Francis is one of the best athletes the Royals acquired in the 2006 draft, and he could move quickly if he puts everything together.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
AZR 155 30 47 8 4 1 27 15 41 3 2 .303 .366 .426
Total 155 30 47 8 4 1 27 15 41 3 2 .303 .366 .426


40. Matt Tupman, C
Age: 26  B-T: L-R   HT: 5-11   WT: 185

Tupman's never been an outstanding prospect, and he's hit just 10 home runs with a .699 OPS during his five-year professional career, but his 2006 season showed that he might have a shot at one day breaking into the Major Leagues.

Tupman returned to Wichita this season after a decent-but-not-outstanding 2005 campaign, and he displayed an advanced professional approach at the plate. Tupman put up a line of .305/.425/.364 in 220 at bats before his July promotion to Omaha. Once in Omaha, his numbers dropped to .247/.321/.247, and he failed to log an extra base hit in 73 at bats.

Nevertheless, it is Tupman's combination of plate discipline and defense that could carve out a career in the Majors as a backup catcher, and scouts praise his ability to block pitches, catch short-hops, and throw behind runners. Tupman nailed 29 percent of potential basestealers in 2006, and he tallied seven pick-offs while showing an acuity for controlling the running game. We look for Tupman to begin next season in Omaha, and depending on the health and performance of the catchers in KC, he could make his Major League debut sometime in 2007.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
WCH 220 35 67 8 1 1 31 48 27 1 1 .305 .425 .364
OMA 73 9 18 0 0 0 4 8 6 0 0 .247 .321 .247
Total 293 44 85 8 1 1 35 56 33 1 1 .290 .401 .334



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