RC's Top 50 Prospects: 21-30

RC today reports on the prospects who are ranked #21-30 on our Top 50 list, and once again it's an interesting mix. A couple of relievers vaulted their status this season and could win roles with the big league club next season, while a pair of 2006 draftees flashed solid talent in their professional debuts.

21. Jarod Plummer, RP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-5  WT: 200

Acquired from the Dodgers for infielder Wilson Valdez near the end of spring training in 2006, Jarod Plummer had an outstanding season at two levels of Kansas City's system, proving to be one of former GM Allard Baird's undervalued finds. The big righthander spent most of the season pitching out of the bullpen for the High Desert Mavericks, leading the Mavs in wins (11), strikeouts per nine innings pitched (10.78), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.7-to-1). His success landed him a promotion to Double-A Wichita at the end of the season, just in time for the Texas League playoffs.

Over his five seasons in the minor leagues, the 22-year-old Plummer has a solid ERA of 3.69 in 324.2 innings of work. Utilizing a fastball that tops out around 90 mph, a slider, and an excellent 83-84 mph splitter, the Texas native has, so far, made a career out of missing bats, especially since his full-time move to relief duty last season.

Because of his ability and composed presence on the mound, the Royals are very high on Plummer, who in the long-term projects as a Major League set-up man. Although a return to the upper minors may be in the cards to start 2007, he could become a factor in the Kansas City bullpen by season's end.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
HDM 39 6 11 5 10 4.05 95.2 92 50 43 11 20 114 .249
WCH 1 0 1 0 0 0.00 2.0 1 0 0 0 2 3 .143
Total 40 6 12 5 10 3.96 97.2 93 50 43 11 22 117 .247


22. Donnie Murphy, 2B
Age: 23   B-T: R-R   HT: 5-10  WT: 185

Donnie Murphy battled the injury bug all year long, and he finished the season soldiering through a broken hamate bone in his right hand as the Wranglers fought for a Texas League championship. Murphy's injuries limited him to just 94 games, and his line of .249/.300/.437 was a big disappointment after he hit .313/.362/.523 for the Wranglers in 2005.

When Murphy is going right, he's a solid second baseman with good range, soft hands, and a strong throwing arm, and at the plate he can flash above-average power for a second baseman. However, his plate discipline has declined steadily since he drew 65 walks in 504 at bats (en route to a .397 OBP) for Burlington in 2003, and he walked just 19 times in 2006.

It's tough to say what the future holds for Murphy. With Mark Grudzielanek signed to a one-year contract extension in Kansas City (plus a player option for 2008), there doesn't figure to be an opportunity for Murphy to break into the starting lineup anytime soon. He can, however, play both third base and shortstop in a pinch, and he could carve out a fine career as a utility player in the Majors. Depending on the Royals' offseason activity and Murphy's spring training performance, he could have an outside chance at filling that role as early as next season, although we think he'll likely start next season in Omaha.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
WCH 366 57 91 25 1 14 45 19 65 6 3 .249 .300 .437
Total 366 57 91 25 1 14 45 19 65 6 3 .249 .300 .437


23. Gabe DeHoyos, RP
Age: 26  B-T: R-R  HT: 5-11  WT: 226

Gabe DeHoyos may be the most anonymous player on our list, as the right-handed reliever started his career with Schaumburg of the independent Northern League. Since the Royals signed him in 2004, however, DeHoyos has seen substantial – and productive – action at three levels of the minor leagues.

Following up a solid 2005 campaign, DeHoyos split 2006 between Single-A High Desert and Double-A Wichita, spending time as a closer for each team. In 61.2 innings of work, the 26-year-old reliever allowed only 33 hits and one home run while striking out 65 batters and walking 33. DeHoyos also did a stellar job of coaxing groundballs, picking up 2.39 groundouts for every flyout. In fact, in 166.2 IP since joining the Royals' organization, DeHoyos has used his sinker to hold opponents to just four home runs in three seasons.

Mixing a 91-mph fastball with heavy sink and a hard 85-mph breaking ball, the 5'11" DeHoyos has a chance to see time in the Royals bullpen by the end of the 2007 season. Refining his control is a must, but he projects as a middle-to-late reliever in the Major Leagues. A return to Wichita is possible next season, but we expect DeHoyos to open 2007 in Omaha.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
HDM 28 0 3 1 13 2.51 28.2 13 10 8 0 14 37 .138
WCH 22 0 2 1 7 1.64 33.0 20 7 6 1 19 28 .175
Total 50 0 5 2 20 2.04 61.2 33 17 14 1 33 65 .159


24. Blake Johnson, SP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-3  WT: 185

Acquired from Los Angeles with Odalis Perez and Julio Pimental in the Elmer Dessens trade, Blake Johnson was limited to three regular-season appearances for the High Desert Mavericks because of shoulder tightness. Before being picked up from the Dodgers, who had drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft, Johnson threw 106 innings with a 4.92 ERA in the Florida State League, and he posted a composite season ERA of 5.00 between the two clubs.

The Louisiana native has excellent control of good stuff, including two or three different fastballs ranging from 87-92 mph, a sharp curveball, and a changeup that's a work in progress. The break on his curve is similar to that of Billy Buckner's, and his ability to locate the pitch consistently is slightly more developed.

The talent is there for Johnson to make it to Kansas City by 2008 – if he can answer some questions that arose about his make-up after the trade. Johnson was often aloof, and he reportedly had some trouble fitting in with his teammates at High Desert. Of course, we suppose that's somewhat understandable considering his lofty draft status, his change of scenery, and his injury while serving time at minor league baseball's purgatory in High Desert. However, if he picks up a killer instinct, Johnson has the ability to be a #3 starter in the Major Leagues.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
VBD 20 18 4 5 0 4.92 106.0 121 70 58 11 19 73 .285
HDM 3 2 1 1 0 5.73 11.0 15 7 7 1 0 9 .319
Total 23 20 5 6 0 5.00 117.0 136 77 65 12 19 82 .289


25. Mario Lisson, 3B
Age: 22  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-2   WT: 193

An undrafted free agent signee by the Royals in 2002, Mario Lisson's career is off to a solid start. With his combination of speed, power, and athleticism, the 22-year-old native of Venezuela is one of the more intriguing prospects in the Royals' system.

After seeing his 2005 season cut short by an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Lisson returned to Single-A Burlington in 2006. Hitting .263/.368/.421 with 41 stolen bases in 130 games, he took home the Bees' Player of the Year award and was promoted to Double-A Wichita for their playoff run. Defensively, he's shown good hands at third base since moving to the hot corner on a full-time basis in 2005, although a future change in position is probably likely as he moves forward, since Alex Gordon figures to have a hammer-lock on the position.

A long-legged toolsy player with above-average raw power and plate discipline, Lisson is more likely to develop into a source of power than a player focused more on speed and defense. We expect him to start 2007 at Wilmington, where he'll hopefully continue to improve against more advanced pitching.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
BUR 463 67 122 30 2 13 73 65 109 41 11 .263 .368 .421
Total 463 67 122 30 2 13 73 65 109 41 11 .263 .368 .421


26. Matt Kniginyzky, SP
Age: 24   B-T: L-R  HT: 6-3  WT: 185

It was an eventful season for the 24-year-old Canadian Kniginyzky, who learned in spring training that he would make the conversion from relieving to starting. Although he hadn't worked out at all from the wind-up during the offseason, Kniginyzky took to it immediately and became much more consistent with his mechanics. He was named the Bees' pitcher of the month in both April and May en route to a midseason All-Star selection, and he was 7-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 130.2 IP when he was shut down for the season with a torn labrum.

When healthy, Kniginyzky throws a four-seam fastball that sits at 90-92 and tops out at 94, along with a curveball and change. His curve has good bite, and he made excellent progress with his change-up after working on it in instructs in 2005 with pitching coach Andy Hawkins.

The torn labrum casts some serious questions about Kniginyzky's future, and he'll miss much of the 2007 season. The Royals are hopeful that he'll pitch in some capacity before the season is over, but whether or not he'll return to the bullpen to protect his recovering shoulder is still an open question. Nevertheless, Kniginyzky made some excellent strides this season, and we're looking forward to seeing him back out on the mound.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
BUR 23 23 9 5 0 3.51 130.2 124 53 51 16 34 100 .255
Total 23 23 9 5 0 3.51 130.2 124 53 51 16 34 100 .255


27. Harold Mozingo, SP
Age: 21   B-T: R-R  HT: 6-1  WT: 175

After an outstanding junior season at Virginia Commonwealth University in which he tossed five complete games en route to a 7-1 record and 2.45 ERA, the Royals selected Mozingo in the 6th round of the 2006 draft. The 6'-1" righty had some difficulty adjusting to pro ball, and he got knocked around a bit in the Pioneer League while going 5-3 with a 6.17 ERA.

Mozingo throws three pitches – a four-seam fastball, a sharp curve, and a change. When he's on, Mozingo has excellent control of his fastball, which sits at 88-90 mph but occasionally runs up to 93, and his curveball can at times be an above average pitch. He threw a lot of breaking balls in college, and the Royals wanted him to focus more on his fastball command while in Idaho Falls. Mozingo's change-up, which he throws at 80-82 mph, needs the most work. It's still a relatively new pitch for him, and he didn't have to throw many of them while he was college.

If Mozingo can continue to improve his change-up, he's got a chance of having three very quality pitches, and he could move through the system quickly. His mechanics are very good, and despite throwing a lot of innings in 2006, his arm held up very well. Look for Mozingo to start next season in the Burlington rotation, where he'll continue to refine his off-speed pitches and fastball command.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
IDF 15 9 3 1 2 6.17 54.0 64 40 37 6 21 46 .299
Total 15 9 3 1 2 6.17 54.0 64 40 37 6 21 46 .299


28. Jose Duarte, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-10  WT: 165

Another player in the raw-but-athletic mold, Jose Duarte was signed out of Venezuela in 2004 and played his first year of full-season ball in 2006 for the Burlington Bees. Unlike Lisson, his skills lie primarily on defense, and he struggled somewhat at the plate, batting only .266/.338/.345 with one home run in 466 at-bats.

Still pretty small and skinny, Duarte doesn't yet profile as a Major Leaguer, but his speed and incredible defensive season in center field certainly deserve mention. Duarte swiped 31 bases and recorded 22 outfield assists, the latter being a franchise record.

It's difficult to say what kind of a player Duarte has the ability to be, but one scout said that he could possibly develop into a "Mike Cameron-type" defensive player with significantly less power. He does reportedly have decent raw power that belies his small size, but after hitting just one home run in 2006, he clearly has some refinements to make at the plate in order to get the most out of his tools. We look for Duarte to join Lisson at Wilmington to begin next season.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
BUR 466 65 124 24 5 1 38 49 99 31 9 .266 .338 .345
Total 466 65 124 24 5 1 38 49 99 31 9 .266 .338 .345


29. Nick Van Stratten, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-1   WT: 185

With their 10th pick in the 2006 draft, the Royals selected little-known Nick Van Stratten from a St. Louis-area community college, and perhaps got one of the steals of the draft. Spending most of the season in Arizona before getting a five-game stint with Idaho Falls, Van Stratten had one of the most impressive seasons of any 2006 draftee, hitting .292/.387/.434 with more walks than strikeouts in 226 at-bats.

Prior to starting his professional career, Van Stratten graduated from Winnetonka High School in Kansas City before moving on to St. Louis Community College-Meramec, where he finished third in the nation with a .498 batting average this spring. For his efforts, Van Stratten his division's Player of the Year, and he was a first-team NJCAA All-American selection.

Van Stratten displayed good tools across the board, excelled defensively, and has a great reputation for hustling. A real blue-collar type of ballplayer with the skills of an ideal leadoff hitter, he could move up the chain very quickly. Depending on his spring, Van Stratten may be advanced enough to make the jump to Burlington next season, but Idaho Falls is probably a better bet.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
AZL 209 46 61 8 7 3 35 25 17 14 1 .292 .386 .440
IDF 17 2 5 1 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 .294 .400 .353
Total 226 48 66 9 7 3 36 27 18 14 1 .292 .387 .434


30. Daniel Cortes, SP
Age: 19   B-T: R-R  HT: 6-5   WT: 205

Daniel Cortes was acquired by the Royals along with Tyler Lumsden in the Mike MacDougal trade, and joins the Royals as a very raw, yet very talented pitcher. After the deal, the 19-year-old righty joined Single-A Burlington and got in 35 innings of work. Although he had a bloated ERA of 6.69, he posted a solid 30-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While with the White Sox, Cortes pitched for Rookie-level Bristol in 2005 and Single-A Kannapolis in 2006, where he had a 4.01 ERA in 107.2 innings. He also allowed only six home runs, struck out 96, and walked just 38.

The 6'5" Cortes is comfortable throwing any pitch in any count, and he throws a fastball, curveball, slider, and a change, primarily using his fastball and slider as out pitches. Cortes is still a long way from Kansas City, but his youth, size, and repertoire make him a very interesting pitcher to watch as he moves forward. After spending the entire 2006 season at the low Class-A level, Cortes could move up to Wilmington next year, although at his age, there's no need to rush him if the Royals feel he needs more seasoning in Burlington.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
KNP 20 19 3 9 0 4.01 107.2 109 61 48 6 38 96 .260
BUR 7 7 1 2 0 6.69 35.0 40 27 26 7 17 30 .284
Total 27 26 4 11 0 4.67 142.2 149 88 74 13 55 126 .266



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