Revisiting the Top 60: 11-15

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 11-15 on last year's list.

15. Jeff Bianchi, SS

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks, NW Arkansas Naturals

Stats (combined)
AB: 490
BA: .308
OBP: .358
SLG: .435
HR: 9
2B: 29
3B: 3
BB: 39
SO: 105
SB: 22
CS: 6

Bianchi took a huge step forward in 2009 and solidified himself as the Royals' top middle infield prospect. The 23-year-old shortstop began the season back in Wilmington, where he hit .300/.360/.427 with four homers in 60 games. He was promoted to Double-A in mid-June and proceeded to improve upon his first half numbers despite the jump in levels, hitting .315/.356/.441 with five home runs in 270 at bats. Bianchi was also excellent defensively, prompting one person connected with the club to declare him the best defensive shortstop in the Carolina League.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
The Royals noticed that a lot of Bianchi's athleticism seemed to return in 2008, and his 2009 campaign seems to be a natural progression of sorts. Equally important was the fact that Bianchi stayed healthy for the third straight season after losing the majority of his first two years as a professional to injury. The Royals rewarded Bianchi this offseason by placing him on the 40-man roster, and he will likely jump into the top 10 on this year's list.

14. Derrick Robinson, OF

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks

AB: 522
BA: .239
OBP: .290
SLG: .324
HR: 5
2B: 19
3B: 5
BB: 35
SO: 90
SB: 69
CS: 23

When the Royals selected Robinson in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, the club knew he would take some time to develop. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old speedster made very little progress in his second tour of the Carolina League, and his plate discipline actually took a significant step backward. After hitting .246/.315/.323 for the Blue Rocks in 2008, Robinson hit just .239/.286/.324 this year.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Despite his tremendous speed, Robinson's days as one of the top three or four outfield prospects in the Royals' system are over. Until he proves that he can hit and get on base consistently, the utility of his speed is very limited. After a few years in the top 20, Robinson will fall considerably on this year's list.

13. David Lough, OF

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks, NW Arkansas Naturals

Stats (combined)
AB: 458
BA: .325
OBP: .370
SLG: .496
HR: 14
2B: 28
3B: 4
BB: 24
SO: 64
SB: 19
CS: 8

Like his teammate Jeff Bianchi, Lough split the season between Wilmington and NW Arkansas and actually improved his numbers with the Naturals. While doing so, Lough also established himself as the best outfield prospect in the Royals' system, capping off a year in which he torched the Carolina and Texas Leagues for a combined line of .325/.370/.496 with 14 home runs. The 23-year-old outfielder also played excellent defense while spending the majority of his time on the corners.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
It was a close call last year in deciding which player – between Robinson and Lough – was the best outfield prospect in the organization. There will be no such debate this year. Lough is an excellent athlete with a very strong frame, and the inevitable comparisons to David DeJesus seem fairly accurate. Lough is a plus defender in left field with a strong arm, and while he doesn't project to hit more than 15-20 home runs at the big league level, his bat should still play at a corner. Lough will move firmly into the top 10 on this year's Top 60.

12. Johnny Giavotella, 2B

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks

AB: 476
BA: .258
OBP: .351
SLG: .380
HR: 6
2B: 24
3B: 8
BB: 66
SO: 54
SB: 26
CS: 9

Although his numbers fell off a bit in 2009, Giavotella still had a pretty solid season in his first look at High-A ball. His BABIP suggests that he was the victim of some bad luck, but he battled through that misfortune to finish the season with a strong second half. While he's not a plus defender at second base, the 22-year-old New Orleans product is excellent at turning double plays, and reports were that his range to his left improved in 2009.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Giavotella is still a very interesting prospect. Undersized but built like a brick, "Gio" has a quick bat and a gamer mentality that has earned him a lot of fans in the organization. He'll fall a few spots on this year's Top 60, but that decline is mostly due to some of the system's new arrivals. He's still solidly a top 20 prospect, and he should move forward to Double-A in 2010.

11. Kelvin Herrera, RHP

2009 Club: Burlington Bees

G: 1
IP: 5.0
ERA: 0.00
W: 1
L: 0
SV: 0
SO: 1
BB: 0
H: 3
HR: 0
AVG: .176

Herrera made just one start in 2009, a five-inning win over Wisconsin in May. Due to a lingering arm injury, the Royals shut him down after that. Herrera doesn't turn 20 until December 31, and he'll try to get back on track next season, most likely in what should be a tremendous Burlington rotation.

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