Thursday was an eventful day in Surprise, as the Royals minor leaguers opened up their spring schedule against the Rangers. Several interesting pitching prospects took the mound, and RC shuttled back and forth between fields to capture the action.
The minor league spring training games began for the Royals' minor leaguers on Thursday, with the players divided into four teams (A, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A). We spent the day at the Royals' complex, where the lower two teams were taking on the Rangers' Low-A and High-A clubs. Below are some notes from the day's action.
Carlos Rosa got the start for the High-A team, and he pitched pretty well. He retired the side in order in the first, but ran into a little trouble in the second inning by leaving a couple of balls up in the zone. He gave up a leadoff double to the Rangers' first baseman, and then surrendered a two-run home run on a 93 mph fastball. However, Rosa still looked pretty sharp, topping out with his fastball at 95 mph and throwing his plus changeup in the low 80s. He brings easy heat with good movement, and we overheard a couple of pitchers marveling at his arm. It's not hard to see why the Royals think so highly of Rosa, and he could be set for another great season, most likely in Wilmington.
Rosa was recently reassigned from the Major League camp
Matt Campbell was next on the mound for the Royals, and even though the outcome of the inning certainly wasn't desirable, the performance itself was notable. Campbell missed much of 2005 and all of 2006 with a torn labrum, and Thursday's appearance was his first in a competitive situation since his injury. Unfortunately, John Mayberry, Jr. celebrated the occasion by launching a line drive grand slam over the left center field wall, and the inning was called before Campbell could record three outs.
Campbell's debut was spoiled by John Mayberry, Jr.
However, it was a major step forward for the young southpaw, and he told us he was just happy to get his first appearance out of the way. His velocity was topping out in the mid-80s, and although we did see one curveball, he was primarily just throwing fastballs. He's certainly still got some ways to go, but regardless, it's just good to see him back out on the mound. For the transcript of our interview with Campbell, click here.
Chris Nicoll also threw in the High-A game, lasting three innings. The Rangers generally didn't hit him hard, with the exception of one solo home run, but Nicoll told us he thought his outing was "brutal," and that he was lucky it was just spring training. He felt he was leaving the ball up in the zone too much, but the hitters were unable to capitalize because they're also just starting to get back to form. Nicoll's fastball was topping out around 89 mph, and he was mixing in a change and a curveball. We also spoke with Nicoll after his appearance, and we should have the interview posted on Friday.
Nicoll has abandoned his slider in favor of his curve
Over at the Low-A game, Harold Mozingo got the start and went three innings. His first two innings were solid, both of which were scoreless, and he stuck out two batters in the second with quality curveballs. However, he ran into trouble in the third and got hit hard, surrendering three runs before it was all over. Mozingo told us after his appearance that his curveball felt "ok" and that it was the best it has been for him so far this spring. He also said that he just ran out of gas a bit in the third, and he's still working on getting back into pitching shape.
Mozingo's first two innings were solid
At the plate, Nick Van Stratten narrowly missed a home run in the Low-A game, hitting a double that banged high off the wall in left center. Nick Francis also added a double, a hard line drive to right that burned the right fielder. Joe Dickerson was playing in the High-A game, and he clearly worked hard during the offseason. Royals Farm Director J.J. Picollo told us that Dickerson hired a personal trainer during the offseason, and he came to camp in great shape. Indeed, Dickerson looks noticeably trimmer than he was when we saw him last season in Idaho Falls, and he lined a hard single to left-center in his first at bat off a tough lefty.
Dickerson worked hard during the offseason
Kurt Mertins has been playing a lot of shortstop this spring, but he returned to second base in the High-A game with Chris McConnell at short. However, he took to his old position immediately, making a pair of excellent plays, including a diving catch on a hard line drive. It will be interesting to see where Mertins winds up this season, since the Royals have some good middle infield depth in the low minors. With Jeff Bianchi and McConnell vying for the starting shortstop jobs in Burlington and Wilmington, there figures to be a pretty good battle for playing time, wherever Mertins winds up.
Mertins led all Royals farmhands in batting average last season
Picollo told us that Mertins is a mature player with good instincts, and he's at short because the Royals want to push him a little bit to see how he responds. He could wind up back at second this season, but he's looked pretty solid out at short this spring.
Last year, the Royals selected Jarrod Dyson with their 50th and final pick of the draft. Usually, 50th round picks don't make much noise, but the 22-year old outfielder had a solid debut for the Arizona Royals, hitting .273/.358/.373 with six triples and 19 stolen bases in 23 attempts. Dyson is a true burner, and we saw his speed on full display during an at bat in the Low-A game on Thursday. He laid down a bunt that was struck a bit too hard just to the right of the mound, and the pitcher didn't have to go far to pick it up. The pitcher fielded it cleanly, turned, and fired to first, but Dyson beat the throw by a step. Most guys with above average speed would have had difficulty beating that throw, but Dyson has another gear that is fun to watch.
It would be fun to see Dyson race Derrick Robinson