RC is in Surprise for the final week of spring training, and today reports on the weekend's minor league action. Who looked impressive at the plate? Which pitchers appeared in midseason form. Look inside to find out.
The players in minor league camp have been separated into four groups, which roughly resemble what the four full-season affiliates will look like, with a few stragglers here and there. I spoke with Farm Director J.J. Picollo briefly on Saturday, and he said the final roster decisions will be made early this week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. The Royals still have some decisions to make regarding the pitching staffs, the outfield mix at the A-ball affiliates, the bevy of middle infielders ready for Double-A, and the catching situation.
I plan to sit down with Picollo after the roster decisions are made for an in-depth chat on the minor leagues. Look for that this weekend.
Position player notes
A pair of catchers has really stood out this spring. Picollo raved about Kiel Thibault, who has had an excellent camp thus far, and 17-year old Salvador Perez, who at one point last week threw out seven attempted base stealers in a row. Because he's still so young, Perez seems likely to remain in Arizona for extended camp, but he's clearly made an excellent impression on the club. Thibault had a great spring last year as well, and he seems to be steadily climbing the organization's depth chart.
Salvador Perez is better known for his glovework thus far, but his bat shows promise as well
During batting practice on Saturday morning, I finally got a chance to see first baseman Clint Robinson take some cuts. I saw Robinson play a few games in Idaho Falls last year, but unfortunately I didn't get to see the Chukars take BP. A well-placed source with the Chukars had told me all about Robinson's incredible power, but until yesterday, I had to take him on his word. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, as I witnessed Robinson put on a very impressive display. He took part in Saturday's intrasquad game, but he was plunked in the face by Burke Baldwin and had to leave the game. Thankfully, it doesn't appear that he'll miss any time.
Robinson has been working out with the Bees' squad, so the safe bet at this point is that he'll report to Burlington to open the season. That really is going to be a fun team to watch.
Also working out with the low-A squad was infielder Alwin Perez. The 20-year old split his time with the B-Royals last year between second base and outfield, putting up a pretty good offensive line of .282/.349/.413 with six home runs. Perez on Saturday also stood out during batting practice, hitting hard line drives all over the field, and that smooth stroke carried over into the afternoon's game. He could be a guy to watch this year for the Bees, forming part of what looks to be an excellent infield.
Alwin Perez looks impressive with the bat
Mike Moustakas didn't have a great BP session on Saturday, hitting more fly balls than line drives. The power is clearly there, but he was just getting under the ball a bit too much. In the low-A game later in the day, his first two at bats resulted in a ground out and a strikeout, and he looked to be in a bit of a funk. However, he drew a walk in his next at bat, and in the eighth inning with a man on, he got a high fastball and tattooed a screaming line drive over the right field wall. I didn't see him tested at shortstop, but he did flawlessly handle a couple of routine plays. Over in the High-A game, Joe Dickerson also hit an impressive home run to right center on Saturday.
Moose has hit several homers this spring
The Royals' speed in the low minors was very apparent on Saturday as well. In the low-A game, Adrian Ortiz and Jarrod Dyson ran wild on the bases. Ortiz stole both first and second in the first inning, and Dyson accomplished the same feat later in the game. On the day, Dyson swiped at least three bags and legged out two infield hits on ground balls to the shortstop. He got such a good jump when he stole third that the catcher didn't even bother to attempt a throw. In the high-A game, Derrick Robinson hit a solid line drive single late in the game and proceeded to swipe both second and third base as well. And I also saw Patrick Norris steal second base in the intrasquad game.
Adrian Ortiz is just one of at least four ridiculously fast outfielders in the Royals' low minors
On Sunday afternoon, I took in the Double-A and Triple-A games in Surprise. For the O-Royals, Chris Lubanski drew first blood by rifling a two-run double up the right field line in the first inning. Lubanski has been swinging a good bat this spring, which is encouraging to see.
Nick Van Stratten got the start in centerfield for the O-Royals, and he turned in an excellent game. In the second inning, he blistered a leadoff triple and scored on a sac fly, and in the eighth, he singled and scored the go-ahead run on Juan Graterol's single up the middle.
Over at the Double-A game, Thibault had the most impressive offensive game, launching a solo homer in the fifth inning. He would have had another hit as well, but his blistering line drive in the second inning nailed Ed Lucas, who was on second base and didn't have time to get out of the way. Lucas was struck in the leg and had to leave the game, but he should be okay.
About 0.0000474 seconds later, this ball struck Ed Lucas in the leg
I got my first look at Ed Cegarra in the high-A game on Saturday. Cegarra came in after Roman Colon threw the first inning, and he looked pretty sharp. His fastball was sitting between 90-92 mph, and he was mixing in a curveball and changeup. He wound up pitching four innings, I believe, and he surrendered just one run. Cegarra, as you know, made his full season debut for the Bees last year at just 18-years old, and it will be interesting to see where he lands this year out of camp.
Cegarra just turned 19-years old.
I also got my first look at Danny Duffy. Duffy didn't pitch when I was in Arizona last summer, but he got the start in the intrasquad game on Saturday. He looked pretty good, throwing a fastball, curveball and changeup. His fastball was topping out in the low-90s, and I don't believe he surrendered any runs in his outing.
Duffy's an excellent southpaw prospect
Over in the low-A game, Alex Caldera got the start for the Bees and threw five scoreless innings. He too looked pretty sharp, consistently reaching 90 mph with his fastball and mixing in a curveball in the upper-70s. Caldera was the Royals' 13th round draft pick out of a California JC last year, and the organization seems to like his upside quite a bit.
Chris Nicoll pitched the final inning frame for the low-A squad, and although it was a bit rocky, I don't believe he surrendered any runs. Nicoll ran into severe control problems last season at Wilmington and has been slowly working his way back. The Royals are being careful with him, working him in one-inning stints until he's comfortable again.
It was good to see Chris Nicoll again
On Sunday, Dusty Hughes, last year's Wranglers pitcher of the year, pitched the final 4 1/3 innings for the Double-A club and picked up the win. It had been awhile since I last saw him pitch, but he looked pretty solid after surrendering a wind-blown solo homer to the first batter he faced. His fastball was consistently 88-90 mph, and his curveball looked pretty effective. I didn't see too many changeups, but I was running back and forth between the two games quite a bit.
Will Dusty Hughes see time in KC this year?
That's it for today, but stayed tuned for RC reports and interviews from Spring Training all week.