RC's Top 50 Prospects

Below is the comprehensive report of the Royals Top 50 prospects, which were first published in November. We've compiled them for you here, 1-50, along with all of the RC original photos and scouting reports.

1. Alex Gordon, 3B
Age: 22  B-T: L-R  HT: 6-1  WT: 220

After his first season in professional baseball, Alex Gordon emerged as the undisputed top prospect in baseball. Gordon, whose previous experience was limited to a month of action in the Arizona Fall League, made his full season debut in Double-A and took the Texas League by storm. After hitting .325/.427/.588 with 29 home runs in 486 at bats, Gordon walked away with the Texas League MVP, the Royals' Minor League Player of the Year award, and a number of other accolades from various baseball publications identifying his season as the top performance of 2006. Quite simply, Gordon's game is one without any holes. He rakes against both righties and lefties, and his power to all fields is outstanding. In fact, roughly half of Gordon's 29 dingers were hit to either left or center field, and one mammoth shot he hit to dead center field in Springfield was deemed by many of the folks in the press box at the time as the longest home run in the brief history of Hammons Field.

Gordon's defense at third base was also outstanding, far exceeding the billing it received when he was drafted. He's incredibly athletic, and his soft hands and strong arm leave little doubt that he'll be an above average third baseman at the Major League level. Gordon is a weapon on the basepaths as well, and he successfully stole 22 bases in 25 attempts in 2006. Of course, it's his ability at the plate that's going to make Gordon a household name, and even though he utilizes a remarkably simple "see the ball, hit the ball" approach, his plate discipline and knowledge of the strike zone is outstanding. If one must find anything about Gordon's game to criticize, he did strike out 113 times, but that's merely a small concern, largely negated by the excellence of the rest of his numbers.

It's become increasingly clear that Gordon has an excellent shot at winning the starting third base job out of spring training in 2007, and the Royals have already spoken with Mark Teahen about moving to the outfield. We fully expect to see Gordon running out of the Kauffman Stadium dugout to take his position at the hot corner when the Royals open against the Red Sox next April, and it will be the first game in what should become a long and successful Major League career. All aspects of Gordon's game appear Major League ready, and if he doesn't open in Kansas City, there's little doubt that he'll be there quickly.

WCH 486 111 158 39 1 29 101 72 113 22 3 .325 .427 .588
Total 486 111 158 39 1 29 101 72 113 22 3 .325 .427 .588

2. Billy Butler, OF
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-2   WT: 225

It was an eventful year for Billy Butler, and when the season was over, he added a Texas League batting title and a Gold medal to his growing trophy case. Butler returned to Wichita in 2006 and raked the Texas League to the tune of .331/.388/.499 with 15 home runs in 477 at bats. He was also remarkably consistent, never hitting below .291 in any one month. He did hit consistently better on the road, as all but one of his home runs were hit away from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Butler left the Wranglers in early August to join the Team USA squad that won the Olympic qualifying tournament in Cuba, and after hitting better than .300 in international competition, he returned to Wichita just in time for the Wranglers' playoff series against the Tulsa Drillers.

Even more encouraging, the 20-year-old Butler reportedly made good strides with his defense in the outfield, as he became much more comfortable tracking fly balls. Speed is his greatest limitation in the outfield, and it will probably keep him from ever being anything better than a below average defensive outfielder. However, he's improved enough that it seems likely he'll get a shot at playing the outfield in the Majors, and his strong throwing arm could become something of an asset in right field. Of course, Butler is most dangerous at the plate, where he's a calculating killer armed with tremendous power and an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. He's a tough strikeout, and while he didn't walk as often as he has in past seasons, he seldom swings at bad pitches, particularly early in the count.

Simply put, Butler is an outstanding offensive prospect, and he's among the best young hitters in the minor leagues. He'll receive an invitation to the Major League camp at spring training, and he'll have a chance to break camp with the Royals, depending on the health of Mike Sweeney and whatever moves the Royals make this offseason. The only thing holding Butler back right now is his defense, and the question facing the Royals is whether or not they believe he'll benefit from further defensive instruction in the minor leagues. He's ready to hit at the Major League level right now, and even though we anticipate he'll likely start the season in Omaha, he could be up in Kansas City pretty quickly in 2007.

WCH 477 82 158 33 1 15 96 41 67 1 0 .331 .388 .499
Total 477 82 158 33 1 15 96 41 67 1 0 .331 .388 .499

3. Luke Hochevar, SP
Age: 23   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-5  WT: 205

The Royals selected Hochevar with the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, and after holding out for a couple of months, he signed a Major League contract in August and headed to Burlington. Once in Burlington, Hochevar overwhelmed Midwest League hitters with his impressive repertoire and command. He made four starts for the Bees, pitching 15.1 innings while striking out 16 batters and allowing just two earned runs (1.17 ERA) on eight hits and two walks. He was impressive enough to earn a promotion to Wichita for the Wranglers' playoff run, where he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his Double-A debut in Wichita's division series-clinching win. After the season, Hochevar headed to the AFL, where he didn't fare quite as well (8.64 ERA in three starts), but he was shut down prematurely with some shoulder tightness.

Nevertheless, the Royals selected Hochevar because they felt he clearly had the most advanced stuff available in the draft. Hochevar throws two fastballs – a four-seamer at 93-95 and a sinker at 91-93 – along with a change, curve, and slider. All pitches project to be potentially above average Major League pitches, and he's comfortable throwing them on any count. Although he considers his slider his true "out pitch," the Royals didn't let him throw any after he signed. In college, Hochevar could always go to his plus slider as "an easy way out," but the Royals wanted him to focus this summer on commanding his fastball, curve, and change, so they took his slider away to force him to work on those three pitches. Hochevar welcomed the move, and he feels it made him a better pitcher.

There's really no telling how fast Hochevar could move through the system. The decision to remove him from the AFL was deemed strictly precautionary, and there doesn't seem to be any concern that his shoulder will give him further troubles. He'll enter spring training in the Major League camp, and although it doesn't seem likely that he'll break camp with the big club, he could get there pretty quickly in 2007 if he continues to dominate minor league hitters. We look for him to return to Wichita to begin next season, but he might not be there too long.

BUR 4 4 0 1 0 1.17 15.1 8 3 2 2 2 16 .148
Total 4 4 0 1 0 1.17 15.1 8 3 2 2 2 16 .148

4. Chris Lubanski, OF
Age: 21  B-T: L-L  HT: 6-3  WT: 206

Lubanski entered 2006 looking to prove wrong the skeptics who argued his breakout 2005 campaign was a product of the hitter friendly California League, and he responded with a very solid season in his first exposure to Double-A. Lubanski had a history of struggling in the first half before catching fire after the All-Star break, but he actually got off to a good start in 2006, hitting .279/.370/.430 in April. His batting average even climbed to over .300 in early May, and despite going into a month long slump shortly thereafter, he entered the All-Star break with respectable first half numbers. He then came out of the break on fire, hitting .327/.414/.618 with 16 extra base hits (including six home runs and four triples) in 110 at bats in July. He stayed hot throughout the remainder of the season, and he finished the year with a line of .282/.369/.475 with 15 home runs in 524 at bats.

About a month into the season, the Royals decided to reshuffle Wichita's outfield, moving Mitch Maier to center and Lubanski to left. Lubanski struggled at first with the switch, as it took a few weeks for him to get used to the tailing action on fly balls hit by left-handed batters. However, he got more comfortable as the season wore on, and it seems likely that he'll remain at the position. At the plate, Lubanski worked hard on staying relaxed at the plate, and he made a lot of progress hitting change-ups, which had given him fits when he was in the low minors. His plate discipline also improved dramatically, and his 72 walks on the season led the Wranglers (along with Alex Gordon).

All told, it was a very successful season for Lubanski, and the 21-year-old outfielder showed the type of steady improvement that the Royals were hoping to see. Look for Lubanski to head to Omaha to begin the 2007 season, and if he does well, he could see some time in Kansas City before the season is over.

WCH 524 93 148 34 11 15 70 72 112 11 7 .282 .369 .475
Total 524 93 148 34 11 15 70 72 112 11 7 .282 .369 .475

5. Justin Huber, OF
Age: 24  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-2  WT: 195

It was a trying year for Huber, who was looking to build upon his success at the plate in 2005. Huber actually got off to a good start for the O-Royals, hitting .278/.402/.542 with six home runs in April, and he was promoted to Kansas City on May 3 when Mike Sweeney went on the DL. However, Huber was relegated to bench duty for the Royals, and he had just 10 at bats in two weeks before being sent back to Omaha. Upon his return, Huber began playing left field every day, and he went into a prolonged slump at the plate. After hitting .250 in May, Huber hit just .240/.291/.375 in June. He picked it back up in July, however, but just as he was heating up, he landed on the DL with a hamstring strain. He bounced back with a solid August, and on the season, Huber finished with a respectable line of .278/.358/.480 with 15 home runs in 352 at bats.

Huber hasn't taken to the outfield quite as quickly as the Royals had hoped, but he does move pretty well in left, and he's more comfortable in the outfield than he was at first base. His arm is well-suited to the position, and while he'll probably never be anything more than an average outfielder, he is athletic enough to make it work. At the plate, the Royals are concerned about Huber's streakiness, and his swing is still a little unconventional. Huber worked hard with Omaha hitting coach Terry Bradshaw this season to improve his swing path, but he still has some work to do.

It was a bit surprising that Huber wasn't added to the active roster in September, but the Royals were trying to get a better look at some of the other young outfielders on their roster, and they simply didn't feel there were enough at bats for him. Huber will get a shot to make the team out of spring training, and depending on which outfielders are still with the club come spring, he could possibly platoon with Shane Costa in left field.

OMA 352 47 98 22 2 15 44 40 94 2 2 .278 .358 .480
KCR 10 1 2 1 0 0 1 1 4 1 0 .200 .273 .300
Total 352 47 98 22 2 15 44 40 94 2 2 .278 .358 .480

6. Tyler Lumsden, SP
Age: 23  B-T: L-L  HT: 6-4  WT: 215

Acquired along with Dan Cortes in the Mike MacDougal trade, Lumsden came to the Royals organization and immediately became the top left-handed pitching prospect in the system. The White Sox selected Lumsden out of Clemson in the supplemental first round of the 2004 draft, and he was advanced enough that they sent him directly to high Class-A after he signed, where he did well. However, Lumsden's career came to a halt the following season, when he missed the entire 2005 campaign due to arthroscopic surgery on his elbow to remove a bone spur. Fortunately, Lumsden made a full recovery, and he was 9-4 with a 2.69 ERA in the Southern League when the Royals acquired him in July. He continued pitching well for the Wranglers in six regular season starts, and he finished the season with a cumulative record of 11-5 and a 2.77 ERA. In 159.0 IP between the two teams, Lumsden struck out 96 batters and walked 60 while holding opponents to a .257 BA.

Lumsden throws a fastball, curveball, change-up, and a cutter/slider. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can occasionally touch 94-95, and his curveball is outstanding when he has command of it. Lumsden didn't throw his cutter much this season, instead focusing on his other three pitches, and he's working hard on commanding his three main pitches to the point that he's comfortable throwing them on any count. His walk totals were a bit high this season, which is some cause for concern, but he knows he needs to work on getting ahead of hitters.

Lumsden is a great athlete, and interestingly enough, he's also ambidextrous – he speaks as though he might give it a shot as a righty if this southpaw thing doesn't work out. Fortunately, we don't think he'll have to burn that option anytime soon. Lumsden will come to spring training with a shot at winning a spot in the KC rotation, but he'll likely head to Omaha, where he'll continue to work on refining his command.

BIR 20 20 9 4 0 2.69 123.2 114 47 37 9 40 72 .252
WCH 7 6 2 1 0 3.06 35.1 35 12 12 3 20 24 .276
Total 27 26 11 5 0 2.77 159.0 149 59 49 12 60 96 .257

7. Mitch Maier, OF
Age: 24  B-T: L-R  HT: 6-2  WT: 210

Maier came into the 2006 season looking to shed the "tweener" label that had been attached to him for the previous couple of seasons, and he may have done just that. He returned to Wichita and put up solid numbers, finishing the year with a line of .306/.357/.473 and 14 home runs in 543 at bats. Maier struggled with the adjustment to Double-A in 2005 after two excellent months in High Desert, but he improved so much this season that the Royals placed him on the 40-man roster and gave him a September cup of coffee in Kansas City. He followed that up with an outstanding showing in the Arizona Fall League, where he led the Grand Canyon Rafters with a .350 BA.

Originally drafted as a catcher, it's amazing how well the athletic Maier has taken to the outfield. He gets excellent reads, and he's now widely regarded as the Royals' best defensive outfielder in the system. His arm is good enough to play at either corner, and it's even better in center. At the plate, Maier has steadily improved each year, and both his power and plate discipline both improved in 2006. He's got a smooth swing, and he worked hard this season on keeping his weight back and not getting out in front of offspeed pitches.

Maier will enter spring training with an outside chance at winning a spot in the KC outfield, but it seems nearly certain that he'll begin the season playing center in Omaha. With the Royals' crowded outfield mix, Maier could also attract some interest from other clubs. Either way, if he continues to improve at his current pace, Maier could one day become a quality everyday Major League outfielder.

WCH 543 95 166 35 7 14 92 41 96 13 12 .306 .357 .473
KCR 13 3 2 0 0 0 0 2 4 0 0 .154 .267 .154
Total 543 95 166 35 7 14 92 41 96 13 12 .306 .357 .473

8. Jeff Bianchi, SS
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-0  WT: 175

Most observers expected Bianchi to make the jump to either Idaho Falls or Burlington this season after dominating the Arizona League in his injury-shortened 2005 campaign, but the Royals wanted to be sure that he was 100 percent healthy before sending him away from their Surprise complex, so he returned to the AZL in 2006. Unfortunately, Bianchi played in just 12 games before being shut down with a torn labrum, and his season was lost. While he was healthy, the 20-year-old shortstop continued to rake AZL pitching, hitting .429/.537/.667 in 42 at bats, and in 40 career professional games, Bianchi now sports a ridiculous .500 OBP and 1.221 OPS.

Bianchi's tools are outstanding, and he's one of the organization's truly elite talents. He possesses plus-plus speed, and he shows an advanced polish that is rare for a player his age. Offensively, he uses a short, quick stroke to spray line drives to all fields, and he has good power that should continue to develop as he matures. Bianchi's agility and speed lends itself well to shortstop, although the concerns that he might not have enough arm for the position at higher levels will only be amplified by his shoulder injury. A move to second base in the future is a definite possibility, although right now it seems the Royals will give him every chance to stay at shortstop.

Bianchi is spending this offseason rehabbing in Arizona, and he's reportedly making good strides in his throwing program. Latest word was that he's throwing at 60 feet without any pain, and the Royals fully expect him to be ready by spring training. As long as Bianchi's recovery continues to proceed smoothly, we expect him to start the 2007 season in Burlington, where the Royals will finally be able to see what he can do against more advanced pitching.

AZR 42 13 18 4 0 2 6 9 3 1 1 .429 .537 .667
Total 42 13 18 4 0 2 6 9 3 1 1 .429 .537 .667

9. Billy Buckner, SP
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-2  WT: 210

Drafted in the second round out of the University of South Carolina in 2004, Buckner has steadily risen to become one of the Royals' top pitching prospects. The 6'-2" righty in 2005 struggled with the high altitude of the California League after a midseason promotion from Burlington, but he returned to High Desert to begin 2006 and pitched well. After appearing in the California-Carolina League All-Star game in June, Buckner was promoted to Wichita, where he held his own in 13 starts. Between the two teams, Buckner compiled a 12-4 record and 4.24 ERA in 165.2 IP while striking out 148 batters and holding opponents to a .268 BAA.

Buckner primarily works with three pitches: a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a plus-plus 12-to-6 knuckle curve, and a streaky-but-improving change-up. Like many collegiate pitchers, Buckner during his amateur career relied heavily on his curveball, and the Royals have made him work hard on improving his fastball and change-up command as a professional. Buckner has only been throwing his change for a couple of years now, and while he's becoming more confident with it, it still needs some work.

Buckner must continue to work on becoming more consistent with his stuff – he was very streaky in 2006 – and his high walk totals remain a primary concern. However, his curve is perhaps the best breaking ball in the organization, and if he can continue to improve his command of his other pitches, Buckner will likely see Kansas City within the next couple of seasons. Right now, he projects as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, and he'll likely return to Wichita to begin the 2007 season.

HDM 16 16 7 1 0 3.90 90.0 92 44 39 6 47 85 .271
WCH 13 13 5 3 0 4.64 75.2 78 40 39 7 39 63 .265
Total 29 29 12 4 0 4.24 165.2 170 84 78 13 86 148 .268

10. Ryan Braun, RP
Age: 26  B-T: R-R  HT: 6-1  WT: 215

Ryan Braun was one of five college seniors the Royals selected in the first 10 rounds of the 2003 draft, and they signed him for a bargain-basement bonus of $1000 after taking him in the 6th round. He had an excellent debut in the Arizona rookie league, and he moved to Wilmington in 2004, where he dominated as the closer on a Blue Rocks squad that fell one game short of the Carolina League championship. Braun looked to be on the fast track to the big leagues, but it became clear in 2005 that he had a shoulder problem that was causing him abnormal pain, and his arm was taking longer to recover between outings than it should have. He made just eight appearances in 2005 before undergoing surgery on his shoulder to correct the problem, and his future looked in doubt.

However, the surgery was a complete success, and Braun this season came back stronger than ever. In 65.2 IP between Wichita and Omaha, Braun saved 13 games while compiling an ERA of 2.19. He struck out 80 batters while walking just 29, and he held opponents to a batting average of just .221. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a September call-up to Kansas City.

Braun's fastball, which sits in the upper 90s and occasionally reaches 100 mph, is his best pitch, but he complements it with both a quality curveball and a slider. His curve is usually his best offspeed pitch, but both it and his slider show signs of becoming above average Major League pitches. His arm held up very well this year, and there appear to be no lingering effects from his previous injuries, so he could figure prominently in the Kansas City bullpen out of spring training in 2007.

WCH 26 0 1 6 10 2.21 40.2 30 11 10 2 16 58 .204
OMA 17 0 0 2 3 2.16 25.0 23 9 6 0 13 22 .247
KCR 9 0 0 1 0 6.75 10.2 13 8 8 2 3 6 .317
Total 43 0 1 8 13 2.19 65.2 53 20 16 2 29 80 .221

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

41. Adam Donachie, C
Age: 22   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-1   WT: 215

After logging an OPS of .842 in the Cal League in 2005, Donachie fell short of expectations this season, and his status as a prospect took a hit. The 22-year-old catcher struggled with pitch recognition all year, and he got off to a horrible start in April before righting the ship in May. Donachie, who gave up switch hitting a couple of years ago, still struggles mightily against right handed pitchers, and he hit less than .240 against them this season. His final numbers in High Desert - .271/.365/.414 – were enough to keep him from repeating the entire season in High-A, and he was promoted to Wichita in mid-July. However, his 29-game stint in Double-A showed that he still has much to improve on offensively, and 2007 will be a critical season for Donachie.

Donachie's defense behind the plate remains his key asset, and between Wichita and High Desert, he erased a very solid 44 percent of attempted basestealers. He handles pitchers well and calls good games, and he's shown that he's able to isolate his offensive struggles from his defense, not taking bad at bats with him into the field.

Look for Donachie to start next season back in Wichita, where he will work on recognizing pitches more quickly and squaring up on the ball better to take full advantage of his large frame and good raw power. If he can improve against righties and run into pitches a little more often, his defense could carry him into the Majors someday.

HDM 210 32 57 12 0 6 21 31 46 0 1 .271 .365 .414
WCH 94 21 18 5 0 2 10 19 20 0 1 .191 .325 .309
Total 304 53 75 17 0 8 31 50 66 0 2 .247 .352 .382

42. Blake Wood, SP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-4  WT: 225

Despite his rough 2006 collegiate season, in which he was hampered by shin splints early en route to a 4.79 ERA for Georgia Tech, the Royals selected Blake Wood in the third round of the 2006 draft. The Royals had taken notice of Wood's mid-90s fastball and power slider in 2005, when as a sophomore Wood compiled a 10-1 record and 3.13 ERA as a weekend starter in the Georgia Tech rotation, and that played a large part in the Royals surprising most draft watchers by taking him as high as they did.

Wood's professional debut didn't go quite as well as hoped, as the big righty got knocked around a bit in the Pioneer League. Wood got by in college by relying on his slider, and the Royals forced him to concentrate primarily on his fastball command with the Chukars.

Wood primarily works with a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a change, and all three pitches show promise. He can run his fastball up to 94, and his hard slider could develop into an above average pitch. A mechanical engineering major in college, Wood has the intelligence to mix his pitches well, going with whatever's working best on any given day. Wood is not a small guy, and he'll have to work hard on his conditioning to keep his weight down, which might have contributed to his shin splint problems in the spring. If all goes well, expect Wood to begin next season with the Burlington Bees.

IDF 12 12 3 1 0 4.50 52.0 50 28 26 1 15 46 .258
Total 12 12 3 1 0 4.50 52.0 50 28 26 1 15 46 .258

43. Rayner Oliveros, RP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-2  WT: 180

Oliveros began the season as a starter for the Burlington Bees, but he was quickly converted into the Bees' primary long reliever, usually pitching in stints of two or more innings with an occasional spot start. Control has been the hallmark of Oliveros's career, which first began to attract attention when he walked just three batters in 55 innings for the Royals' Dominican Summer League team in 2004. He proved last season that 2004 was no fluke, as he walked just eight batters in 82.1 innings, and after walking just 17 in 2006, Oliveros has now issued just 25 free passes in over 180 IP over the last three years.

Oliveros doesn't throw very hard, but his fastball was described to us by catcher Jeff Howell as "dirty," and he gets by with great movement and an assortment of off-speed pitches. The young Venezuelan just turned 21-years-old in September, and he shows enough promise that he could one day turn into a decent middle reliever in the majors. His upside probably isn't anything more than that of a Mike Wood-type pitcher, but the numbers he's put up thus far in his career are very encouraging.

We expect Oliveros to move up to Wilmington next season, where he should do well in the Carolina League.

BUR 32 5 7 4 2 2.84 98.1 91 35 31 8 17 57 .246
Total 32 5 7 4 2 2.84 98.1 91 35 31 8 17 57 .246

44. Brett Bigler, OF
Age: 22   B-T: L-L  HT: 6-1   WT: 185

The Royals selected Bigler in the 7th round of the 2006 draft out of UC-Riverside, where he had garnered a reputation as slash-and-run type hitter with excellent plate discipline and speed. Bigler hit .356/.456/.449 in the spring, but his pro career got off to a wretched start in Idaho Falls. He had trouble adjusting to professional pitching, and as late as August 19, his batting average stood at just .214. However, Bigler caught fire with a week to go in August, and his hot streak carried him through the season's final two weeks while propelling his overall numbers to respectability.

Even though the Royals didn't expect Bigler to provide much power, the fact that he had just five extra base hits is somewhat alarming. Bigler has "happy feet" in the batters box, and his back foot moves forward several inches as he lunges forward to swing, so he doesn't generate much power from his legs. However, he has a great eye, and he uses his pitch recognition to identify pitches he can slap the other way.

Obviously, with so little power, Bigler doesn't project as a corner outfielder, although the presence of Joe Dickerson on the Chukars' roster forced him into left field duty in 2006. His speed and excellent defensive capabilities should allow him to easily handle center – where he played in college – which suits a player with his offensive skill set much better. Sooner or later the Royals will have to separate Bigler from Dickerson to allow him to play center, and it's not yet clear whether or not he'll follow Dickerson to Burlington next season.

IDF 210 42 58 5 0 0 24 39 27 20 2 .276 .392 .300
Total 210 42 58 5 0 0 24 39 27 20 2 .276 .392 .300

45. Kurt Mertins, 2B
Age: 20  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-0  WT: 175

Mertins was the Pioneer League's leading hitter for most of the season, but an August slump forced the 20-year-old second baseman to settle for the league's third-best batting average at .342. The Royals selected Mertins out of the College of the Desert in the 13th round of the 2006 draft, and he split time as the Chukars' second baseman with fellow 2006 draftee Marc Maddox.

Mertins is a line drive, gap-to-gap type hitter who's comfortable hitting pitches on both sides of the plate. He also has above average speed, which led to both a team-leading 26 stolen bases and good range at second. He did commit 10 errors, and he has some work to do defensively, but he shows good athleticism that should lend itself well to his development at the position.

Offensively, Mertins has little power to speak of, and although he did have 15 extra base hits, he had trouble reaching the gaps with consistency. He'll need to gain strength as he moves forward, or it will be difficult for him to prove that his 2006 performance wasn't a fluke. Mertins' superlative debut came as a pleasant surprise, and it will be interesting to see where he begins the 2007 season. Odds are that he showed the Royals enough to warrant a move to Burlington, which could present a tough challenge for him.

IDF 225 46 77 11 3 1 26 18 39 26 4 .342 .397 .431
Total 225 46 77 11 3 1 26 18 39 26 4 .342 .397 .431

46. Mike Stodolka, 1B
Age: 25  B-T: L-L  HT: 6-2  WT: 210

Plagued by injuries and underperformance since being taken with 4th overall pick of the 2000 draft as a pitcher, Stodolka became a first baseman this spring after showing promise as a hitter during last season's instructs. Nobody knew what to expect – it had been years since Stodolka last swung a bat in anger – but he took to it immediately. Stodolka roared out of the gates, hitting .339/.419/.613 in April, and he showed the type of plate discipline that belied his inexperience as a hitter.

He cooled off as pitchers began adjusting they way they pitched him, and he settled in as a line drive hitter with a good eye and occasional power. His defense improved as the season progressed and he became more comfortable digging errant throws. As pitchers usually are, Stodolka is an excellent athlete, and he handles himself around the bag very well.

There are two primary concerns about Stodolka. First, at 25-years old, he's already old for a prospect, so hopefully he didn't lose too much development time as a pitcher. Second, there are questions about whether or not Stodolka can develop enough power to break into the majors as a first baseman. He doesn't generate much power from his lower body, and his .449 SLG pct. was only slightly above average for a first baseman in the Cal League. Regardless, Stodolka's emergence as a prospect again is a great story, and it will be fun to see if he can continue raking as he moves up the ladder. Despite his age, the Royals resisted rushing him in 2006, and Stodolka will begin next season at Wichita.

HDM 423 81 120 33 2 11 67 78 103 4 3 .284 .396 .449
Total 423 81 120 33 2 11 67 78 103 4 3 .284 .396 .449

47. Josh Cribb, P
Age: 23  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-10  WT: 190

Cribb, the Royals' 8th round pick in 2006 out of Clemson, had a very shaky professional debut. Coming off an excellent senior season with the Tigers in which he went 9-0 with a 3.09 ERA as a weekend starter, Pioneer League hitters greeted him rudely to the tune of a .351 BAA. Nevertheless, the Royals are hopeful that Cribb will show the same control and command he showed in college, where his 2.26 walks-per-9 IP ranks among Clemson's all-time best.

Cribb's fastball tops out in the low 90s, and he has a change to go along with a sharp curve that he throws from different arm angles. As was the case with Blake Wood, Cribb threw a lot of breaking balls in college, so he struggled a bit while working primarily on his fastball command with Idaho Falls.

Cribb, who was a fifth-year senior, will be 24-years old when the 2007 season opens, so it's likely that he'll be pushed a little more than some of his younger counterparts. We expect him to open the season with the Burlington Bees, although that also depends on how well he performs in the spring.

IDF 13 6 2 6 0 5.19 52.0 73 35 30 5 11 39 .351
Total 13 6 2 6 0 5.19 52.0 73 35 30 5 11 39 .351

48. Josh Johnson, 2B
Age: 20  B-T: S-R   HT: 5-11  WT: 170

A 3rd round pick in the 2004 draft, Johnson has turned himself into an interesting player to watch. His statistics don't pop out at you, and his historically low batting averages cause some concern, but Johnson is quite adept at doing the little things that help win baseball games. He's an outstanding bunter who hits from both sides of the plate, and his plate discipline led to a league-leading 93 walks.

Johnson's defense also gained wide praise this season, after he committed just nine errors in 507 total chances while setting a Bees record for fielding percentage by a second baseman. He has great hands and a strong arm, and he's athletic enough to play shortstop in a pinch and do it well.

Johnson's career OBP of over .390 helps alleviate some concern about his lack of power, and he could carve out a role as a solid #2 hitter as he moves forward. If anything, he could actually stand to become a little more aggressive at the plate. Johnson, who was both a mid-season and post-season Midwest League All-Star, should get a crack at Wilmington to begin next season.

BUR 381 59 92 8 5 3 40 93 72 18 9 .241 .391 .312
Total 381 59 92 8 5 3 40 93 72 18 9 .241 .391 .312

49. Tyler Chambliss, P
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-11  WT: 175

Drafted by the Royals in the 11th round in 2006 out of Florida State, Tyler Chambliss nearly returned to the Seminoles for his senior year before ultimately deciding to begin his professional career. Chambliss began his collegiate career as a reliever, and during his sophomore season, he led the ACC with 15 saves to go along with a 2.06 ERA. He became a starter his junior year, and he didn't miss a beat while compiling a 12-4 record with an ERA of 2.97 and 117 strikeouts in 115 IP.

Most observers expected the Royals to put Chambliss back in the bullpen, but they instead left him as a starter, and he entered the Idaho Falls rotation. When we spoke with him this summer, Chambliss said he didn't have a preference one way or the other, although we suspect that his future probably looks better as a reliever, rather than a starter.

Chambliss primarily throws three pitches: a fastball that sits at 90 but occasionally touches 93, a curveball that most often serves as his "out pitch," and a quality change. He's comfortable throwing his curve in any count, and his change was particularly good on the night we saw him pitch. Chambliss had a solid debut with Idaho Falls, and it will be interesting to see if he remains in the rotation or moves to the bullpen as he heads for Burlington next spring.

IDF 12 6 4 3 0 4.20 49.1 45 26 23 3 19 42 .237
Total 12 6 4 3 0 4.20 49.1 45 26 23 3 19 42 .237

50. Aaron Hartsock, RP
Age: 22   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-3  WT: 200

Among all the players the Royals selected on the second day of the 2006 draft, Aaron Hartsock easily had the best professional debut. Hartsock was taken in the 23rd round after an excellent career at California Baptist University, where he was the CBU Lancers' ace in the spring with a 10-3 record and 3.40 ERA. A starter in college, Hartsock in 2006 struck out 110 batters (against 28 walks) in 98.0 IP, and he was named the Golden State Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Upon selecting Hartsock, the Royals shuttled the 6'-3" righty to the Idaho Falls bullpen, where he excelled immediately. Pioneer League hitters managed just a .202 batting average against him, and Hartsock was particularly devastating against lefties, who he held to a cumulative line of just .184/.250/.265.

Hartsock has a good pitcher's frame, and he showed good command of both a quality fastball and sharp curveball. RC was particularly impressed with Hartsock when we saw him in August, and he could prove to be a steal in the 23rd round. He'll likely head for Burlington's bullpen to begin the 2007 season.

IDF 18 0 6 2 2 2.91 46.1 33 17 15 2 13 43 .202
Total 18 0 6 2 2 2.91 46.1 33 17 15 2 13 43 .202


Editor's Note: Since we first published the Top 50 list, Donnie Murphy has been traded to the Oakland A's.

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