RC Mailbag: Can Moose stay at third base?

Is Blake Wood's fastball too straight to be successful? Who is the best defensive catcher in the system. Can Mike Moustakas stay at third base? Today RC opens up the mailbag to answer these and other questions submitted by our loyal readers. Click inside for our answers.

How has Mike Moustakas' defense been at third base this year? If it's been bad, will they be moving him sooner, rather than later? – Ryan, Blue Springs

Moustakas' defense has been fine. I'm aware that many people think it's inevitable that he'll wind up in right field. I don't share that assessment. Moustakas came into professional ball as a shortstop and is actually a pretty good infielder. He's got soft hands, good footwork, and a cannon for an arm. His arm can often make up for some of his other shortcomings.

Because he's a bigger guy with a plus bat, people seem to assume he's comparable to Billy Butler, whose defensive woes prompted a few different position changes before finally settling in at first base. Moustakas, however, has legitimate defensive tools, and he could become a solid third baseman at the big league level. I wouldn't expect the Royals to move him anytime soon, and I still think that when he debuts in the big leagues, it will be as a third baseman.

My question is on Blake Wood. Last night on the radio they were talking about Blake and said pretty emphatically that while he threw in the mid 90's his fastball was very straight. What kind of scouting report do we have on his FB movement? Throwing straight tarnishes my hopes for him helping us out in the pen. – Michael, Missouri

That's what they say about any big guy who throws hard but gets hit hard on occasion when he keeps the ball up. His ball moves as much as anyone else's 97 mph fastball. I personally see nothing wrong with his fastball, save for one thing -- command. When he avoids walks and keeps the ball down, he can be very, very good. I know there were some concerns in the past that his delivery gave hitters a longer look at his fastball. I haven't heard whether or not that has been addressed. But "straight fastball" is at the bottom of my short list of concerns about Wood. As long as he trusts his secondary pitches and keeps his fastball at the knees, he should be successful.

Is there a legitimate major-league SS prospect in the minors with a chance of arriving in KC within 5 years? – Ryan, Blue Springs

Every shortstop prospect the Royals have in the minor leagues has a chance of arriving in KC within the next five years. The closest is Jeff Bianchi, even though he'll miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Behind him are guys like the newly-acquired Rey Navarro, Yowill Espinal, and Justin Trapp. All three are excellent athletes, and Espinal has been particularly good this year at extended spring training. I wouldn't expect, however, for any of those guys to be ready for the big league level within the next couple of years.

Do you think that John Lamb will be moved up after the June draft? Really believe that Lamb has had dominate numbers despite the lack of support. He is still young for the MWL. – Dave, Colorado

The unofficial word is that Lamb will be promoted this week in time for his next start with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. There are a lot of guys in extended who are ready for their shots at the Midwest League, and Lamb, despite being just 19-years-old, was the Bees' most advanced arm. Keaton Hayenga is expected to take Lamb's spot at Burlington.

Who is the best catcher - in terms of defensive fundamentals - in the Royals system? Which catcher has the best defensive upside? – Brad, Stafford, VA

It's a toss-up between Salvador Perez and Manny Pina for the catcher with the best current defensive fundamentals. Both are excellent receivers with strong, accurate arms and quick releases. For what it's worth, Perez last year was named the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year, recognizing the system's best defensive player.

Wil Myers has the best defensive upside, thanks to his off-the-charts athleticism and the best cannon behind the plate in the system. Of course, Myers is relatively new to the position, and passed balls remain a problem.

Besides Derrick Robinson, who have been the surprises of the early 2010 season for Royals minor league teams? – Dave, Colorado

How about a trio of relievers? I've been pretty surprised by Blaine Hardy, Federico Castaneda, and Buddy Baumann. Hardy and Baumann for me were late cuts from our Top 60 list. Castaneda wasn't seriously considered. I'm thrilled with what those three have been doing this season. I'm particularly intrigued by Baumann, and I'd like another look at him after seeing him just once in 2009. The pitcher I saw last year was worn down from a long collegiate season. This year's Baumann began the season striking out hitters like there was no tomorrow. Hardy could be a nice reliever at the next level, but I would like to see a better breaking ball.

Other than those guys, I'd say my biggest surprise is Bryan Paukovits. To be fair, I was never exactly down on the 6-foot-7 righthander. But I never imagined he'd dominate Low-A ball in the fashion that he has this season. Paukovits has been one of the elite pitchers in the Midwest League this season, and that wasn't something that I was expecting to see.

Salvador Perez hitting .300 through his first 90 at bats in the Carolina League is a nice surprise. His bat is the only tool that might keep him out of the big leagues, so hitting .300 as the youngest player in an advanced league is a great sign. Hopefully he keeps it up.

How excited should we be about Patrick Keating? Louis Coleman? What should our expectations be for these guys in the bullpen both short term and long term? – Matthew, Kansas City

Keating (31 strikeouts, 6 walks) has one of the best K-to-BB ratios in the system. I still haven't seen him pitch, but I like what I hear. He's a two-pitch pitcher, with a fastball that tops out in the mid-90s and a hard breaking ball. Given his struggles in college, I'd temper my enthusiasm a bit, but you can't deny that he has overpowered hitters thus far in his professional career. The big test for him will come at more advanced levels, but he's certainly got a shot at being a big league reliever.

I remain very high on Coleman. He's been absolutely lights out over his last four appearances, and Texas League righthanded batters are hitting just .106 against him this season. The Royals selected the sidewinder in the fifth round of last year's draft with the idea that he could help out in Kansas City relatively quickly. That certainly hasn't changed. Coleman could feasibly make his big league debut later this season, and he could enjoy a long career as an effective set-up man, provided he stays healthy with that funky delivery.

I was surprised to hear Dayton say on a pre-game show earlier this year that Osuna had lost some zip on his fastball. If this is true I wonder why we didn't notice it before Spring Training. Could this be cause for concern (Arm trouble?) – Mike, Charleston

The scouting reports I read prior to the season placed Osuna's fastball velocity in the mid-80s. I saw his first start for the Naturals this season, and his fastball was sitting at 84-86 and topping out a tick or two harder than that. In other words, there was nothing surprising about his velocity, which has always been a couple of ticks below average.

Regardless, if the Royals were concerned about the health of his arm, he wouldn't be pitching. Of course, his stats this season – 4-1, 1.38 ERA, 39.0 IP, 26 K, 6 BB – also strongly suggest he's healthy. The biggest mystery for me is why the Braves didn't pay the $25K to get Osuna back after he failed to make the Royals' 25-man roster. I still have no idea, but I'm glad they passed, because he looks like a very promising prospect who throws strikes.

Why have Jordan Parraz and David Lough regressed offensively this year? Is it physical? Poor pitch recognition? Bad luck? – Brad, Stafford, VA

I think Lough's struggles simply have to do with moving to a more advanced league. For the first time in his career, on a nearly daily basis he's facing pitchers who have pitched in the big leagues. For instance, the pitcher he's facing tonight – Lance Broadway – has spent parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues. When I was in Omaha, Lough cracked a couple of hits off big league veteran Josh Towers. They've just done a good job of keeping him off balance, and he's seeing fewer fastballs. Keep in mind, the O-Royals are just 35 games into their season. Lough has plenty of time to adjust, and he's actually been quite a bit better of late.

Parraz entered this season with just 13 previous games at the Triple-A level (he hit .298/.358/.426 in 47 at bats for Omaha last year), so he also may have just needed some time to adjust to the more advanced pitching. He did, however, look pretty uncomfortable at the plate when I saw him a couple of weeks ago – his feet were shifting around quite a bit in the box. Perhaps he was just pressing a little in the midst of a dreadful slump. Regardless, Parraz has hit .361 over his last 12 games with five doubles and 11 walks, and in the process has raised his season batting average nearly 70 points. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come.

What is wrong with Tim Melville? – Laurence, Shawnee

Command, plain and simple. Melville is perfectly healthy, and his fastball velocity is still touching 94 mph. He's just had problems with walks and leaving balls up in the zone. The good news is that he's seemingly made some progress over his last two starts. After walking 17 batters in his first 22.1 innings pitched, he issued just three free passes in his last 11.0 innings while fanning 11, and he pitched well enough on Sunday to win before the bullpen blew the lead.

I've been told that Melville is frustrated with his season thus far, but it hasn't affected his preparation or focus. He's very mature and mentally tough, and he should be able to work through these struggles, which have certainly been an unwelcome surprise this season.

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