Revisiting the Top 60: 26-30

With the minor league season completed, RC is busy putting together this year's Top 60 prospect list, which should be released in mid-December. First, however, it is useful to take a look back at last year's Top 60 prospects. Who took a step forward? Who took a step back? Who should have been ranked higher? Today we take a look at prospects 26-30 on last year's list.

30. Alex Caldera, RHP

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks

G: 27
IP: 137.2
ERA: 4.77
W: 5
L: 10
SV: 0
SO: 105
BB: 53
H: 141
HR: 12
AVG: .268

Although Caldera's overall numbers were disappointing after his stellar 2008 campaign in Burlington, there were some things to be encouraged about. After going 1-5 with a 6.43 ERA in the season's first half, the 23-year-old right-hander finished strong, logging a 3.38 ERA in 14 second half starts. His strikeout numbers remained respectable, although he did issue walks more frequently in 2009 while doubling the numbers of home runs allowed.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Caldera's second half surge saved his season, which was once on pace to be truly disastrous. Pitchers with slightly below average fastballs usually don't get many chances, so it's encouraging that he experienced some success that he can build upon next season. He will fall a bit on this year's Top 60 list, but he still remains an interesting pitcher to keep an eye on.

29. Henry Barrera, RHP

2009 Club: Burlington Bees

G: 4
IP: 3.2
ERA: 12.27
W: 0
L: 0
SV: 0
SO: 5
BB: 5
H: 2
HR: 0
AVG: .154

The 2009 season figured to be an exciting one for Barrera, who was added to the Royals' 40-man roster last November despite having never pitched above A-ball. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old fireballer never got out of the starting gate after experiencing elbow pain in spring training. He made just four rehab appearances for Burlington before being shut down for good in June.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Barrera, for the time being, has survived this offseason's 40-man roster cuts, and he should be ready to pitch by spring training. Not many guys have arms like Barrera's, so he'll get every chance to succeed. He is definitely still a player worth paying attention to, and he will remain on this year's Top 60.

28. Juan Abreu, RHP

2009 Clubs: Wilmington Blue Rocks, NW Arkansas Naturals

Stats (combined)
G: 36
IP: 41.2
ERA: 3.67
W: 5
L: 4
SV: 16
SO: 53
BB: 36
H: 27
HR: 4
AVG: .184

Few Royals' farmhands have been as dominant in the Carolina League as Abreu, who at one point in 2009 went an entire month without surrendering a hit. Unfortunately, few pitchers also have as little idea about where the ball is going once it leaves their hands, and Abreu reverted into a walk machine (22 free passes in 20.1 IP) after earning a promotion to Double-A. Signed by Kansas City in 2003, the rail-thin righty became a free agent during the offseason, and despite the Royals' efforts to retain him, he ultimately signed a big league contract with the Atlanta Braves. It's a shame that such a talented young arm got away, but few guys are truly as hit-or-miss as Abreu.

27. Sean McCauley, C

2009 Club: Burlington Bees

AB: 167
BA: .222
OBP: .284
SLG: .299
HR: 1
2B: 8
3B: 1
BB: 14
SO: 29
SB: 2
CS: 0

McCauley battled injuries throughout the first half of the season before finally being shut down in late July. When he was on the field, the 20-year-old catcher struggled to find a groove at the plate, hitting just .222/.284/.299 in 167 at bats in his first exposure to full season ball. The reports on his defense remain encouraging, however, and he should get another crack at the Midwest League next season.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Last year at this time, there was a running debate about which player – between McCauley, Salvador Perez, and Jose Bonilla – was the best catching prospect in the system. All three struggled to hit Midwest League pitching in 2009, and McCauley's performance was very much on par with the others. He's still very young, and despite being passed on the catching depth chart by a pair of new arrivals, he remains a top 60 prospect.

26. Sam Runion, RHP

2009 Club: Burlington Bees

G: 28
IP: 135.0
ERA: 6.60
W: 5
L: 11
SV: 0
SO: 62
BB: 45
H: 193
HR: 17
AVG: .337

Runion's 2009 season was about as bad as it gets. The big right-hander got raked to the tune of a .337 batting average by Midwest League opponents, surrendering 193 hits in 135 innings while striking out just 62 batters. He couldn't build any momentum off the handful of quality outings he pitched, and his numbers got worse as the season progressed. The Royals always knew it would take some time to mold Runion into an effective starting pitcher, but it's not likely that anyone expected a 6.60 ERA.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Runion's ranking will certainly take a hit this year. He still doesn't have a consistently useful breaking ball, and his fastball command is spotty. He does have the draft pedigree, size, and fastball velocity that you'd like to see in a prospect, but if that doesn't start turning into results on the field, he could turn into an afterthought rather quickly.

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