RC Scouting Reports: Prospects 11-15

Prospects 11-15 on this year's top 60 list include two key members of the Burlington Bees' 2008 Midwest League Championship team, second baseman Johnny Giavotella and outfielder David Lough. Both players were excellent down the stretch, leading the Bees to a 43-26 record in the second half. To read about these and the other players on our list, click inside.

Editor's notes: All player ages are listed as of December 31, 2008. Players who spent significant time in the Major Leagues and/or surpassed 50 innings pitched or 100 at bats were excluded from this year's list.

11. Kelvin Herrera, SP
Age: 19   B-T: R-R  HT: 5-10  WT: 162

Kelvin Herrera didn't begin the season with the same fanfare as his fellow Dominican Academy graduates Giancarlo De La Cruz, Santiago Garrido, and Sugar Ray Marimon, but he left little doubt that he is by far the most advanced pitcher in that group. Indeed, after a stellar 2008 campaign that took him all the way to low-A Burlington, Herrera is among the top pitching prospects in the organization. He began his season pitching for the Burlington Royals in the Appy League, where he logged a 1.42 ERA with 45 strikeouts and just five walks in 50.2 innings pitched. In August, injuries and fatigue on the Bees' staff created an opening, so the Royals sent Herrera to the Midwest League to round out the rotation. He made three appearances for the Bees, going 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA, and he went six strong innings in his lone playoff start against Kane County, yielding just two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out four batters. At 5-foot-10, 162 pounds, Herrera isn't very physically imposing on the mound, but he's strong for his size. That strength generates a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and reaches 95. His excellent fastball is complemented by a changeup and slurvy breaking ball, both of which can become plus pitches that he commands well. Herrera has an exceptionally clean delivery with plenty of deception, and he earned praise from coaches and officials alike for his fearlessness on the mound. Look for Herrera to return to low-A to begin the season, although he could be a candidate for a relatively quick promotion to Wilmington if all goes well, particularly when some of the 2008 draftees are ready to make their full season debuts. Herrera's stuff is advanced enough that he should be able to handle the jump.

12. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
Age: 21   B-T: R-R  HT: 5-8  WT: 185

When Johnny Giavotella made his professional debut in Peoria on June 13, the Burlington Bees were 29-38 and in last place in the Midwest League's Western Division. After Giavotella's arrival, the club went 44-27, winning the second half title and blowing through the playoffs undefeated en route to the Midwest League championship. Certainly, the Bees' surge can be attributed to a number of factors, such as the excellent second half performances of key players like Mike Moustakas, David Lough, Alex Caldera, and Danny Duffy. But Giavotella's arrival was equally important, and the "spark plug" reputation he gained at the University of New Orleans during his collegiate career seems to have travelled with him to the Midwest League. The Royals selected the 5-foot-8 second baseman in the third round of the 2008 draft, and the club felt he was advanced enough to go straight to low-A ball. Giavotella validated that belief by hitting .299/.355/.421 with four home runs and 18 doubles in 278 at bats for the Bees. At the plate, Giavotella uses his massive forearms to generate good pull power, particularly for a middle infielder, although he has yet to show much power going the opposite way. He is a patient hitter who should continue getting on base at a good clip as he moves forward, as he had a career on base percentage well north of .450 during his collegiate career at UNO. A Royals official told us he was one of the best hitters at instructs last fall, and he could rise very quickly to become one of the first 2008 draftees to reach the big leagues. Giavotella is somewhat limited defensively, and he committed 13 errors in just 67 games at second base for the Bees. The Royals don't expect him to be a liability there, but it will be his bat that will probably have to carry him. The next stop for Giavotella will be Wilmington this spring.

13. David Lough, OF
Age: 22   B-T: L-L  HT: 6-0  WT: 180

After just one full season, David Lough has established himself as the best outfield prospect in the organization. That might say more about the lack of outfield talent in the Royals' system, particularly in the upper minors, than it does about Lough, but the fact remains that Lough is a very exciting young player. Drafted in the 11th round out of Mercyhurst College in 2007, Lough has true five tool potential. In his first crack at full season ball, Lough hit .268/.329/.455 with 16 home runs, 11 triples, and 12 stolen bases, very impressive numbers for the league. Hitting at or near the top of the Bees' lineup all year, he finished among the top 10 in the Midwest League in runs, home runs, and slugging percentage. At the plate, Lough has a nice line drive swing, although he can get out on his front foot and be a little pull happy at times. He doesn't tinker with his swing very much, and he generates good raw power, particularly for someone his size. In the outfield, Lough primarily played left field until Adrian Ortiz was promoted to Wilmington, at which point he took over center field duties. With his speed and range, Lough plays a legitimate center, although the presence of guys like Derrick Robinson and Ortiz ahead of him means he will probably play more left field as he moves forward. It shouldn't matter too much, because Lough has a bat that should play at a corner. The main thing he still has to work on is his base running. With his speed, the Royals would like him to steal more bases, but he still gets poor jumps, and his stolen base rate in 2008 was only slightly above 50 percent. Lough is a fiery competitor who was one of the primary catalysts for Burlington's run to the Midwest League championship, and he was clutch as he logged a 935 OPS with six home runs in August as the Bees locked down the second half title. He should move up to Wilmington this spring along with the core of that team.

14. Derrick Robinson, OF
Age: 21   B-T: S-L  HT: 5-11  WT: 170

The progress has been slow for Derrick Robinson, but there certainly has been progress. Selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, the speedy centerfielder still holds the title of "fastest man in the organization," and in 2008 he again led the organization (and the Carolina League) in stolen bases (62). Robinson played the entire season for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, and his numbers across the board showed moderate improvement, despite the jump to a more advanced league. His stats – .245/.316/.322 – certainly weren't great, but Robinson drew more walks, reduced his strikeout rate, and hit more line drives than in previous seasons. A switch hitter, Robinson still struggles from the left side of the plate, and he still gets himself out a lot. Still, he earns praise from coaches and scouts for his confidence and work ethic. Coaches in Wilmington worked on his swing in 2008, getting him to set his front foot down earlier so he could see the ball longer and react more quickly. Despite winning the Royals' 2008 "Willie Wilson Base Runner of the Year" award, Robinson has some work to do on the bases as well. His stolen base success rate declined as the year went on and opposing pitchers threw more pitchouts, and he doesn't always have the best running rhythm. In the outfield, nobody in the organization covers more ground than Robinson, and he already plays a major league caliber center field. He is certainly a candidate to move up to Double-A this spring, but his development might be better served with another year in the Carolina League. If Jose Duarte remains in Double-A, it seems even more likely that Robinson would repeat High-A.

15. Jeff Bianchi, IF
Age: 22   B-T: R-R  HT: 6-0  WT: 175

Jeff Bianchi excited a lot of folks after his first two injury-shortened seasons in rookie ball. The 2005 second rounder hit a combined .414 over 40 games during his first two years in the Arizona League, but shoulder and back problems limited his playing time. He was healthy enough to make his full season debut in 2007 with the Burlington Bees, but he hit just .247/.296/.315, and some in the organization worried that he had lost some of the energy and intensity he played with in rookie ball. Nevertheless, Bianchi moved up to Wilmington in 2008, and after a dreadful April (in which he also missed time with a pulled hamstring), he began putting up the type of numbers the Royals expected all along. Bianchi finished the season with a line of .255/.290/.442 and 10 home runs in 396 at bats. His power numbers were fairly impressive for a middle infielder in the pitching friendly Carolina League. He led the Blue Rocks in extra base hits, and his 34 doubles were the seventh-best total in the Carolina League. Wilmington batting coach Nelson Liriano suggested that Bianchi's power resurgence could be related to increased bat speed, caused by loading earlier in his swing. Bianchi still gets a little pull conscious in games, and he is still a pretty streaky hitter, but scouts were pleased that much of his athleticism and energy seemed to return, particularly in the field. Bianchi moved to second base and had a spectacular defensive season, leading to his recognition as the Royals' minor league defensive player of the year. The move to second, however, was not permanent, as the Royals believe he still has the hands, range, and arm to play shortstop. Whether Bianchi plays second or short in 2009 will likely depend on how the organization sorts out its abundance of middle infielders this spring. Bianchi is a candidate to head to NW Arkansas out of camp, but there is also a possibility that he returns to Wilmington to start the season, where he is more likely to play shortstop.

Photo Credits: All photos taken by Dave Sanford, Scout.com

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