Rising Stock Report: May 2

The 2010 minor league season is nearly a month old, and several prospects in the Royals' organization have begun the season on a roll. Using RC's 2010 Top 60 as a starting point, which Royals prospects have improved their stock the most through the first month? Click inside to find out.

Name: Blake Wood
Position: RHP
2010 Top 60 rank: #20

Comment: Simply put, Wood's 2009 season was disastrous, as he went 2-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 17 games for the NW Arkansas Naturals. Wood ranked #20 on this year's Top 60 because even though his 2009 numbers were disappointing, few in the system have Wood's type of arm. The Royals moved the big righthander to the bullpen, and the move seems to be paying off.

Serving as the closer for the Omaha Royals this season, the 6-foot-5 24-year old has compiled a 2.57 ERA with five saves in 10 appearances. His fastball is sitting in the mid-90s and topping out frequently at 97, and he's mixing it with a potentially plus changeup and an effective slider. On our Top 60 list, Wood was ranked as the third-best reliever in the system, behind Louis Coleman and Carlos Rosa. Even before Rosa was traded, we developed the opinion that Wood in the first month of the season had distinguished himself as the best relief prospect in the organization.

Name: Kelvin Herrera
Position: RHP
2010 Top 60 rank: #23

Comment: Herrera fell to #23 this year because we weren't sure how he'd bounce back after missing essentially the entire 2009 season with a strained elbow ligament. So far, so good. The 20-year-old righthander is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA through five starts with the Burlington Bees this season. In 27.1 innings pitched, Herrera has fanned 31 while holding opponents to a .198 batting average. And equally encouraging are reports that his fastball velocity (we've seen him up to 94 mph in the past) has bounced back as well.

Herrera ranked #11 on the 2009 Top 60, because even though he was undersized (5-foot-10, 162 lbs.), he had a tremendous arm, a plus changeup, and stellar control. While his walk rate is a bit elevated this season from where it's been in the past, we're not too concerned. If he keeps pitching as he has, he could easily reposition himself as one of the top few right-handed starting pitching prospects in the system.

Name: Salvador Perez
Position: C
2010 Top 60 rank: #27

Comment: Perez fell a few spots on this year's Top 60 list because his 2009 full season debut with the Burlington Bees fell short of expectations – the 20-year-old catcher hit just .189/.230/.236 in 127 at bats against Midwest League pitching. He was shipped out to Idaho Falls when the short season leagues began, and he was much better there while still facing opponents who were on average a year or two older than he was. Of course, Perez's calling cards are his defense, aptitude, and work ethic. He was named the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year during the offseason, which recognizes the best defensive minor leaguer in the Royals' organization.

Instead of sending Perez back to the Midwest League for another shot this season, the Royals felt he was advanced enough to handle everyday catching duties at High-A Wilmington. So far, that belief seems well-founded. Perez entered Sunday hitting .296/.328/.407 with one home run and three doubles in 54 at bats – excellent numbers for a player who is among the youngest in the league. If he continues to improve at the plate, Perez will one day catch in the major leagues.

Name: Derrick Robinson
Position: CF
2010 Top 60 rank: #32

Comment: Our comment upon dropping Robinson to #32 on this year's list was "Outstanding speed still there; bat isn't yet." After two disappointing seasons in the Carolina League, we were unconvinced that the 22-year-old speedster had much chance of ever learning how to hit, and we certainly weren't alone in that belief. Lucky for us, Robinson felt differently.

We recently profiled Robinson and his new stance from the left side of the plate, which he began using with success late in the 2009 season. That success has carried into this season. Entering Sunday's action, Robinson was hitting .329/.427/.471 with six extra base hits through his first 70 Double-A at bats. He's doing most of his damage from the left side of the plate (.345/.429/.527 vs. RHP), and he's drawing walks at a much higher rate than he ever has in his career. With 15 stolen bases, he has swiped more than twice as many bags as anyone else in the Texas League, and he's only been caught three times, good for an 83.3 percent success rate.

Could Robinson be turning into the Kenny Lofton-type threat the Royals envisioned when they signed him to an $850,000 bonus in 2006? Time will tell, but his stock is most certainly rising.

Name: Bryan Paukovits
Position: RHP
2010 Top 60 rank: #58

Comment: Time will tell if Paukovits has truly turned a corner, but we like what we see so far. The 22-year-old righthander signed in 2007 as the last draft-and-follow signee in Royals' history, and he had a reasonably solid debut in the Appalachian League that year. Unfortunately, Paukovits missed the entire 2008 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2009 and pitched well for the Idaho Falls Chukars, going 4-3 with a 4.34 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 56.0 innings pitched.

This year, the 6-foot-7 behemoth is making his full season debut, and he's dominating Midwest League hitters. Paukovits has surrendered just two hits in his last three outings, a span covering 14.0 innings, while compiling a season ERA of 3.18 with 18 strikeouts in 17.0 innings pitched. The league is hitting just .148 against him so far. Paukovits has excellent upside, and it's hard to envision his first year in full season ball going much better. If he keeps this up, he could rise significantly on prospect lists this season.

Name: Buddy Baumann
Position: LHP
2010 Top 60 rank: Not ranked

Comment: Baumann was one of our final cuts from this year's Top 60. The 22-year-old southpaw is a product of Missouri State University, and the Royals rewarded him for his distinguished career with the Bears by selecting him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. After signing for $100,000, Baumann headed to the Appalachian League. Unfortunately, Baumann had a bit of a dead arm, and he only made three appearances for the B-Royals before being shut down for the season.

A starter in college, Baumann has thrived in a relief role this season. He had an excellent camp, and the Royals decided to challenge him by assigning him to Wilmington, skipping the Low-A level altogether. Baumann has responded with an outstanding start. He's made six appearances for the Blue Rocks thus far, compiling a 1-0 record with one save and a 2.13 ERA. In 12.2 innings pitched, he's fanned 19 while walking seven. He throws a fastball that tops out in the low-90s, along with a solid change and cutter. It will be interesting to follow Baumann's progress this season, but he has a chance to distinguish himself as one of the top relief prospects in the organization.

Name: Blaine Hardy
Position: LHP
2010 Top 60 rank: Not ranked

Comment: We profiled Hardy earlier this season, at which point he had pitched 8.0 innings without surrendering an earned run. Since then, the 23-year-old southpaw has pitched seven more innings, and his ERA still stands at a perfect 0.00. In 15.0 innings pitched, Hardy has walked just two batters while striking out eight, and the Texas League is hitting a combined .140 against him so far.

It's still early, but those numbers are impossible to ignore, especially when you consider that Hardy is skipping High-A this season. The Royals are very high on the young lefthander, and for an organization that is in dire need of relievers who throw strikes, Hardy could continue to move quickly. Indeed, he could be one of the fastest risers in the system.

Name: Federico Castaneda
Position: RHP
2010 Top 60 rank: Not ranked

Comment: Castaneda will likely be our case study in why we shouldn't form opinions on players too quickly. We saw the young righthander pitch once last season, in the Texas League playoffs vs. Midland. Castaneda got cuffed around a bit in that game, and we essentially wrote him off for consideration for this year's Top 60 list (in our defense, he was 25-years old and his numbers at Double-A last year didn't jump off the page).

Woops. Castaneda's making us look silly. The 26-year-old began the season in NW Arkansas, where he pitched 9.2 scoreless innings while scattering just four hits and a walk and fanning 11. He was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week, and the Royals promoted him to Triple-A Omaha. He's made two appearances for the O-Royals thus far, pitching 4.0 more scoreless innings while surrendering just one hit and two walks. It's becoming increasingly clear that Castaneda could see Kansas City pretty quickly, where the Royals could make good use of his 90-93 mph fastball and stellar control.


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