Beyond the Top 60

Because of the improved depth of the Royals' farm system, Royals Corner decided to expand this year's top prospect list to include the organization's best 60 prospects. However, even with that expansion, many deserving players were left off the list. Today we take a look at 14 players who, for various reasons, narrowly missed making this year's Top 60.

The Southpaws

Ivor Hodgson was the Royals' 17th round pick in the 2007 draft, and after a rough 2007 debut with the AZ Royals, he was assigned to Idaho Falls last summer, where he was arguably the Chukars' best starting pitcher. He made 15 starts in 2008, compiling a 3.14 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 33 walks in 71.2 innings pitched. RC was in Orem on August 1 for what turned out to be Hodgson's best outing of the season, in which he went six innings against the league's best offense and surrendered just one hit and no walks while striking out four. Hodgson has a nice three-pitch mix: a fastball that sits at 88-89 mph, along with a decent curveball and a changeup he isn't afraid to throw. Hodgson will be someone to keep an eye on as he makes his full season debut this spring for the Burlington Bees, and he easily could (and perhaps should) have been included on this year's Top 60.

Ivor Hodgson

Everett Teaford got knocked around a bit in Burlington in 2007, but the Royals' 2006 12th rounder out of Georgia Southern moved up to the Carolina League in 2008 and had a good season despite the jump. Teaford led the Blue Rocks with 144.1 innings pitched and 116 strikeouts, and on the season he was 8-6 with a 3.80 ERA. In June, he was one of three Blue Rocks named to the Carolina League All-Star team. Teaford will turn 25 in May, and his fastball tops out in the upper-80s, but his fine season certainly deserves mention.

Everett Teaford

The Mr. Irrelevants

The Royals have had some luck recently in the draft's 50th and final round. In 2006, the club used its final pick to snag outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who spent last season with the Blue Rocks and hit .260/.337/.288 in 288 at bats with 39 stolen bases in 48 attempts. The Royals have a lot of speed in the system, and although Derrick Robinson is widely regarded as the organization's fastest man, it would be interesting to see him race Dyson. One club official we spoke with told us that Dyson has a better first step than Robinson, and that Dyson was actually the best player, period, at instructs last fall. Unfortunately, Dyson during the offseason was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine, so he'll have to wait to build upon the progress he made last season.

Jarrod Dyson

In 2008, the Royals again used the final round to grab a talented player when the club selected catcher Travis Jones and lured him away from the University of Arizona with a $100,000 bonus. Jones has plus raw power, and he reportedly beat Eric Hosmer in a high school showcase home run derby. Just 19, Jones already has a major league body, and he throws well behind the plate, though his catching skills will have to improve. Word is that he also played well during instructs.

The Dominican Arms

The Royals in 2008 graduated several highly touted pitchers from their Dominican Academy. A few – Kelvin Herrera, Giancarlo De La Cruz, and Carlos Fortuna – landed on our top 60, but two others came very close. Indeed, the organization thinks very highly of both Sugar Ray Marimon and Santiago Garrido, and either could have easily made our list.

Garrido split the season between the Burlington (NC) and Arizona, throwing a combined 38.1 innings while compiling a 4.70 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 15 walks. He throws a fastball that sits between 89-92 mph, along with a hard overhand curveball. The Royals think he tries to do too much at times, and the club has been working to change his delivery to make it more consistent.

Santiago Garrido

After having an excellent 2007 season in the Dominican Summer League, Marimon threw just 13.0 innings in 2008, all for the Burlington Royals. He got hit around quite a bit in the Appy League, as opponents torched him to the tune of a .345 average. When he's going well, however, he features a solid three-pitch repertoire, including a fastball that sits at 90-92 mph, a curveball with good downward action, and a changeup that he seems to have a pretty good feel for. Marimon's innings in 2008 were limited by some lower back issues, but hopefully he will bounce back nicely this year.

Sugar Ray Marimon

The Relievers

The Royals certainly have some interesting relief prospects in the minors. None, however, is more "interesting" than Chris Hayes, the submariner out of Northwestern whom the Royals plucked from the independent leagues. Nicknamed "Disco" because he "throws in the seventies," Hayes isn't going to blow anyone away with his stuff. Nevertheless, the 25-year old jumped from the Midwest League to the Texas League in 2008, where he became the Naturals' best reliever. Disco held Texas League hitters to a miniscule .217 average while racking up 12 saves and a tidy 1.64 ERA. Because he is unconventional, he will have to continue performing well to advance, but the road paved by pitchers like Chad Bradford (and Dan Quisenberry, for that matter) gives guys like Hayes a chance.

Chris "Disco" Hayes

Brandon Sisk is another reliever the Royals plucked from the independent leagues. The big southpaw was pitching for the Bay Area Toros in the Continental Baseball League when the Royals came calling in 2008. After a handful of appearances for the Chukars, Sisk was promoted to the Midwest League, where he was the Bees' best reliever down the stretch (1.19 ERA, 2 saves, and 36 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched). Sisk doesn't throw very hard, topping out around 90-91 mph with his fastball, but his secondary stuff is very good and he has a lot of polish. He could have the makings of a quality lefty specialist.

Brandon Sisk

Ben Swaggerty is another southpaw reliever with a shot. The Royals signed the Tusculum graduate as a fifth-year undrafted senior prior to the 2007 draft, and he had a strong debut for the Idaho Falls Chukars that summer. Last year, Swaggerty was promoted to Wilmington after making 12 appearances for the Bees, and he was outstanding, striking out 58 batters in 47.1 innings while logging a 2.66 ERA. Swaggerty has a quick arm, and he made great strides with both his command and breaking ball in 2008.

Ben Swaggerty

Zach Peterson is another pitcher who deserves to be mentioned. Signed by the Royals in 2007 as an undrafted free agent, the right-hander made news that summer when he set a Pioneer League record by striking out 11 batters in a row. Last season, Peterson was a workhorse out of the bullpen for the Bees, pitching 77.2 innings while compiling a 3.13 ERA with 82 strikeouts and just 20 walks. Like Sisk, Peterson has a below average fastball that sits around 87-88 mph, but he throws strikes, hits the corners, and has no problem getting his breaking ball over the plate.

Zach Peterson

Chase Hentges made all his appearances last season out of the bullpen for the Arizona Royals, so we include him here, even though the Royals may ultimately develop the projectable right-hander as a starter. Selected by the Royals in the 14th round of last year's draft, Hentges received an above slot signing bonus of $150,000. He has high upside, and as he's put weight on his 6-foot-5 frame, he's seen an increase in velocity on his fastball, which reaches the low-90s. The organization seems pretty excited about him.

Chase Hentges

The Comeback

One of the nicest guys in the system, Matt Kniginyzky had a promising 2006 campaign derailed by a torn labrum, which cost him most of the 2007 season as well. The Canadian right-hander, who was selected by the Royals in the 23rd round of the 2005 draft, bounced back incredibly well in 2008, when he was one of the Blue Rocks' workhorses. In his first full season back, Kniginyzky pitched 141 innings, going 9-8 with a 3.57 ERA and 113 strikeouts. The best news of all, however, was that his stuff and his velocity returned. Kniginyzky throws a four-seam fastball that sits at 90-92 and tops out at 94, along with a curveball and change. Now 26-years old, Kniginyzky will open the season at Double-A.

Matt Kniginyzky

And Don't Forget About…

We have always been intrigued by a pair of players, Nick Francis and Antonio Jimenez, who both spent 2008 between Burlington (IA) and Idaho Falls. Francis, a gifted athlete, was selected by the Royals in the 15th round of the 2006 draft. According to some in the game, he was a second round talent who slid to the middle rounds because of questions about his maturity. Unfortunately, those concerns were legitimized in 2007, when Francis missed the entire season after being suspended by the Royals for violating team rules. Nevertheless, he bounced back last year and raked Pioneer League pitching to the tune of a .978 OPS, and he was promoted to Burlington in July. There he hit .265/336/.425 for the Bees in his first exposure to full season ball. Francis is a very strong kid with a big swing that can generate plus power, and he also runs fairly well. It is an interesting combination, and we look forward to seeing what he does this season.

Nick Francis

Jimenez is still quite raw, but everything about him screams athleticism. He is a switch hitter with a line drive swing, and he has made a lot of progress from the left side of the plate. The Royals pushed Jimenez a bit by assigning him to the Midwest League to begin 2008, and he struggled mightily, hitting just .184/.255/.213 in 136 at bats. When the Pioneer League season opened in June, he was reassigned to Idaho Falls, where he fared much better. Jimenez's athleticism is most apparent in the field, where he played every position on the infield in 2008. His best positions are third base and shortstop, where he can take advantage of his excellent range and potentially plus arm. Jimenez turns 22 in April, and he should get another shot at Burlington this spring.

Antonio Jimenez

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