RC's Top 50 Prospects: 11-20

RC today reports on the prospects who are ranked #11-20 on our Top 50 list. Despite a perceived lack of pitching depth in the organization, the bottom half of our Top 20 list is largely populated by pitchers, most of whom are coming off excellent 2006 campaigns. Some are obviously closer to the majors than others, but it's an exciting group that will be fun to track next season.

11. Erik Cordier, SP
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-3  WT: 214

After missing the entire 2005 season with a knee injury that required surgery, Cordier in 2006 tantalized the organization with his ability before again being shut down with another injury, this time to his pitching elbow. Nevertheless, while he was on the mound, Cordier was dominant in his short stints at Idaho Falls and Burlington, making 10 starts while compiling a 4-1 record and an ERA of 2.91. Cordier struck out 42 batters in 52.2 IP, and opponents hit just .198 against him on the season.

When healthy, perhaps no pitcher in the Royals organization has better stuff than the 20-year-old Cordier, who throws a fastball, curve, and change-up. His fastball usually sits at 92-95, but he'll also have games where he's consistently at 97-98. His curveball is a work in progress that shows promise, and Cordier this year worked hard on throwing it from a more consistent arm slot. His best off-speed pitch, however, is his change-up, which is very deceptive and has filthy movement.

One scout we spoke with said that if Cordier had a larger body of work upon which to judge him, he might rank as one of the Royals' top three prospects, and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Unfortunately, injuries have prevented Cordier from yet pitching a full season, and after undergoing Tommy John surgery this fall, he'll miss the entire 2007 campaign. Nevertheless, Cordier's work ethic and attitude make him an excellent candidate to bounce back from this latest setback, and he'll be just 22-years-old when he returns to action in 2008.

IDF 3 3 1 0 0 3.38 16.0 11 6 6 0 3 19 .186
BUR 7 7 3 1 0 2.70 36.2 27 17 11 3 14 23 .203
Total 10 10 4 1 0 2.91 52.2 38 23 17 3 17 42 .198

12. Chris Nicoll, SP
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-2   WT: 190

The Royals selected Nicoll in the third round of the 2005 draft out of UC Irvine, and they haven't regretted the decision since. After a very solid campaign in Idaho Falls last summer, Nicoll began 2006 at Burlington, where he was arguably the staff's best pitcher. Though he had just a 4-9 record, Nicoll compiled a stellar ERA of 2.82, and in 134.0 innings with the Bees, he struck out 140 batters. Midwest League opponents hit just .210 off of Nicoll, and had the Royals not been hesitant to expose the fly ball pitcher to the thin air of the California League, he probably would have been promoted to High Desert long before his late season promotion.

Nicoll's stuff isn't overwhelming, but he has good command of four pitches, and his advanced craftiness on the mound has been largely responsible for his success thus far. His fastball sits at 88-91, and he complements it with a curve, change, and slider. He doesn't yet have an "out pitch" that he consistently uses to put batters away, but he instead goes with whatever's working best on any given day. The Royals would still like him to develop one, and Nicoll experimented with his positioning on the rubber this season to make his curveball more effective against right handed batters.

The Royals are very happy with Nicoll's progression, and he's risen quickly to become one of the organization's best pitching prospects. He'll likely begin the 2007 season with Wilmington, although some think he might already be advanced enough to handle Double-A, so a promotion could come pretty quickly if he continues to dominate in A ball.

BUR 23 23 4 9 0 2.82 134.0 105 49 42 13 40 140 .210
HDM 3 3 2 0 0 4.86 16.2 17 11 9 3 6 26 .258
Total 26 26 6 9 0 3.05 150.2 122 60 51 16 46 166 .216

13. Angel Sanchez, SS
Age: 23   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-2  WT: 185

After leading the entire minor leagues with 183 hits for High Desert in 2005, Sanchez faced a big test this season as he advanced to Double-A. There were concerns that his breakout campaign was a product of the thin air of the California League, but Sanchez quieted those concerns with a very solid season in Wichita. On the year, Sanchez hit .282/.339/.352 with 24 doubles and four home runs, and he earned a September call-up with Kansas City.

Defensively, Sanchez is incredibly athletic out at shortstop, displaying both an above average arm and range, and he regularly makes highlight-reel plays. And unlike some of the Royals' other excellent defensive shortstops, such as Andres Blanco and Irving Falu, Sanchez displays skill at the plate as well. He has decent plate discipline, and for the second year in a row, he was a tough strikeout, fanning just 63 times in 542 at bats.

Sanchez is still developing physically, and he'll probably need to add some weight to his 6'-2" frame to hit the ball hard more consistently. He does display the ability to sting the ball in batting practice, and he could develop moderate power for a shortstop as he advances. The organization thinks highly of Sanchez, and he could one day soon replace Angel Berroa as the Royals' starting shortstop. For now, look for Sanchez to begin next season in Omaha.

WCH 542 105 153 24 1 4 57 44 63 8 9 .282 .339 .352
KCR 27 2 6 0 0 0 1 0 4 0 0 .222 .214 .222
Total 542 105 153 24 1 4 57 44 63 8 9 .282 .339 .352

14. Daniel Christensen, SP
Age: 23  B-T: L-L  HT: 6-1  WT: 205

A 4th round selection in the 2002 draft, Christensen quickly became one of the Royals' best pitching prospects after a solid debut, but an elbow injury in 2004 led to Tommy John surgery, and he made just one appearance that season. However, Christensen bounced back in 2005 and put up good numbers in Burlington, and he followed that up nicely this season with a quality campaign in High Desert. He stayed healthy the entire season, making 28 starts while logging 162.0 IP, the second-most in the Cal League. He also struck out 153 batters – the third-best total in the league – while logging a 6-6 record and a respectable 4.89 ERA.

Christensen primarily throws three pitches: a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a curveball with a sharp downward break, and an average but developing change-up. He does have a tendency to leave balls up, and his 23 home runs allowed this season led the California League. However, for the most part he did a solid job keeping the ball down, as his 1.42 GO/AO ratio can attest.

Christensen is progressing nicely, and it's very encouraging that he's managed to stay healthy and in shape for the last two seasons. He should move up to Wichita next season, where he'll be a part of what looks to be a very solid Wranglers rotation.

HDM 28 28 6 6 0 4.89 162.0 175 94 88 23 58 153 .285
Total 28 28 6 6 0 4.89 162.0 175 94 88 23 58 153 .285

15. Carlos Rosa, SP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-1  WT: 185

Rosa missed the entire 2005 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he bounced back this season and mounted a campaign that led to his selection as the Royals' minor league "Pitcher of the Year." Rosa made 24 starts for Burlington, logging an 8-6 record with a 2.53 ERA in 138.2 innings pitched. He struck out 102 batters while walking 54, and opponents hit just .239 against him. Rosa was promoted to High Desert on August 16, but he was greeted rudely by Cal League hitters, who hit nearly .400 against him in his three starts. Nevertheless, it was a great comeback season for Rosa, who now finds himself among the best pitching prospects in the organization.

Rosa throws three pitches, and the Royals feel that all three show potential to become above average. He throws his fastball between 92-94 with great life, and he complements that with a solid change-up. However, his slider is probably his best pitch, and he throws it hard – around 88 mph – with excellent movement.

Rosa will likely return to High-A to start next season, and he should do well in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. The young Dominican righty just turned 22 in September, and he'll be a very interesting guy to watch next season as he continues to pile innings on his repaired elbow.

BUR 24 24 8 6 0 2.53 138.2 121 50 39 6 54 102 .239
HDM 3 3 0 1 0 7.15 11.1 20 12 9 1 4 13 .392
Total 27 27 8 7 0 2.88 150.0 141 62 48 7 58 115 .253

16. Brent Fisher, SP
Age: 19   B-T: L-L HT: 6-2  WT: 190

Despite dominating the Arizona League in 2005 as a 17-year-old after being selected as a 7th round pick, Fisher remained in Surprise in 2006, where the lefty put up even better numbers this season. The Royals remain mum on why Fisher repeated the league, but we understand it likely wasn't related to his performance on the field. Indeed, Fisher was outstanding for the Arizona Royals in 2006, compiling a 3-1 record and a 2.11 ERA in 68.1 IP while striking out 98 and holding opponents to a miniscule .171 BA. He was finally promoted to Idaho Falls late in the season, and he made one appearance for the Chukars before the playoffs, striking out nine batters in just four innings of work.

Fisher throws a fastball that usually sits in the upper 80s but touches 91-92 on occasion, along with a developing change-up and a curveball which was described to us as a "true hammer." His curve is his only plus pitch at this point, but his fastball is deceptive, and if his change continues to develop, it will be even more effective. Though he doesn't walk many batters, his overall fastball command reportedly needs some work, as he often runs deep counts before making a quality pitch to get batters out.

After spending the last two seasons in rookie ball, Fisher should move to full season ball to begin 2007 with the Burlington Bees. He's still so young that there's no need to rush him, but next season will be a good test for Fisher after two seasons of dominating inexperienced hitters.

AZR 14 14 3 1 0 2.11 68.1 41 18 16 2 19 98 .171
IDF 1 0 0 0 1 2.25 4.0 2 1 1 1 0 9 .143
Total 15 14 3 1 1 2.12 72.1 43 19 17 3 19 107 .169

17. Joe Dickerson, OF
Age: 20  B-T: L-L   HT: 6-1  WT: 190

A 4th round draft pick from 2005, Dickerson had a quality sophomore season for the Chukars after an impressive 2005 campaign with the Arizona Royals. In 242 at bats, Dickerson hit .281/.338/.450 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, and three triples. Had he not suffered a slump in August, Dickerson's numbers could have been much better, as he finished the first half with an excellent line of .339/.378/.568 before tanking in the season's final month. Nevertheless, Dickerson is progressing nicely, and he's quickly becoming one of the system's best outfield prospects.

Dickerson came into the system as a dead-pull hitter, but he worked hard this season on driving the ball to the opposite field, and he appears to have made some strides in that regard. Defensively, Dickerson is an excellent center fielder, and his natural speed and good reads give him plus range in the outfield. His arm strength is questionable, but as long as he stays in center field, it shouldn't be problem.

Dickerson has an impressive range of tools, and his power seems to be developing nicely as he becomes more physically mature. In fact, his career may ultimately parallel that of Chris Lubanski a bit, who developed good power after being drafted for his speed and defense. Dickerson will move up to Burlington next season, where he'll anchor what looks to be a talented outfield.

IDF 242 36 68 14 3 7 38 19 34 9 8 .281 .338 .450
Total 242 36 68 14 3 7 38 19 34 9 8 .281 .338 .450

18. Luis Cota, SP
Age: 21   B-T: R-R  HT: 6-2  WT: 200

While it's tough to judge just how much of Cota's disastrous 2006 season had to do with the high altitude of the Cal League, there's little doubt that he regressed this year. Cota was battered around by Cal League hitters all year, and he wound up with a 5-11 record and a bloated 7.09 ERA. In fact, his ERA was the second-worst among all starters in the Cal League with 20 or more starts. While he did still put up good strikeout numbers, Cota also battled his control all season, yielding 63 walks in 132.0 IP.

Once hyped for his plus fastball, Cota at times this season struggled to maintain his velocity, and he rarely topped out above 94 mph. When he's on, his fastball still has excellent movement, and he also features a power slider that can give opposing batters fits. He's still working on commanding it, however, and his change-up remains a work in progress.

A 10th round draft-and-follow from the 2003 draft, Cota is still quite young, and he has time to develop into the pitcher the Royals hoped he would become when they signed him for $1.05 million. He'll look to put his miserable 2006 campaign behind him as he repeats High-A with Wilmington next season, which promises to be a critical year for Cota.

HDM 27 26 5 11 0 7.09 132.0 153 113 104 19 63 126 .290
Total 27 26 5 11 0 7.09 132.0 153 113 104 19 63 126 .290

19. Jason Godin, SP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-5  WT: 170

After leading the Colonial Athletic Association in strikeouts as the ace of the Old Dominion staff, Godin became the Royals' 5th round pick in the 2006 draft. Godin threw a lot of innings in college after missing the entire 2005 season following surgery on his vertebrae, and the Royals sat him down for a month of the Idaho Falls season to rest a tired arm. However, when he was on the mound, he was very effective, logging a 2.49 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 21.2 IP.

At 6'-5", Godin throws on a good downhill plane, and he has command of three quality pitches: a fastball that usually runs in the low-90s, a sharp curveball in the mid-70s, and a slider in the mid-80s. Despite just learning his slider this spring at Old Dominion, it has become one of his two "out pitches," the other being his excellent curveball. Godin is also working on developing a change-up, and the Royals feel that with work, it could also become a plus pitch for him. He's also working hard on using the inside of the plate, which is something he didn't have to do very often in college.

Godin is still rail-thin, and he could stand to gain a few pounds, but he has a very projectable frame, and he could add some more velocity as he fills out. His combination of repertoire and size give him an excellent upside, and he could turn out to be a steal in the 5th round. He'll likely head to Burlington to begin next season.

IDF 6 4 0 1 0 2.49 21.2 23 6 6 2 8 18 .288
Total 6 4 0 1 0 2.49 21.1 23 6 6 2 8 18 .288

20. Derrick Robinson, OF
Age: 19   B-T: S-L  HT: 5-11  WT: 170

Many teams were scared away by Derrick Robinson's commitment to attend the University of Florida on a football scholarship, but the Royals gladly took him when he was still on the board in the 4th round. It took an above-slot signing bonus of $850,000 to get him signed, but Robinson turned down Florida's scholarship offer and headed for Arizona. His debut in the desert wasn't a memorable one, as he hit just .233/.335/.318 in 176 at bats, but he earned high praise for his speed and athleticism.

In fact, Robinson was the fastest player in the entire draft, and word is that Robinson's 6.19 second 60-yard dash time was one of the fastest by a high school player in the history of the draft. His speed lends itself well to his defense in the outfield, and although he has a below-average arm, he profiles as an above average center fielder. Although Robinson's speed and small frame would seem to suggest that he won't hit with much power, the Royals like his hands and instincts at the plate and are convinced that he'll be much more than a slap hitter. Indeed, he showed some occasional gap power in the AZL, and as he gets stronger he should be able to plug the gaps more often.

Since Robinson divided his time between football and baseball as an amateur, he's still pretty raw, and he'll likely take awhile to develop. A return to rookie ball is likely in 2007, either in Burlington (NC) or back in Arizona, but Robinson's sheer athleticism is unrivaled in the organization.

AZR 176 25 41 6 3 1 24 24 55 20 14 .233 .335 .318
Total 176 25 41 6 3 1 24 24 55 20 14 .233 .335 .318

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