The Prospect Depth Chart – Outfielders
1. Wil Myers – It takes virtually no time in deciding who the Royals top prospect is, that is something that different from previous seasons and shows the separation in usable talent between Wil and others in the system. ¬†Coming off a disappointing 2011 minor league season the young converted outfielder went to Arizona in the fall of that year and corrected a couple of things, putting together an impressive Arizona Fall league season. ¬†He continued that progression in 2012 showing more power than he had at anytime in his brief career finishing just one home run shy of the minor league title. ¬†According to Wil, the power display was an effort on his part to drive the ball more and show that he can fit into his future middle of the order spot. ¬†On defense Wil still has some strides to make in reading balls and taking the correct path to the ball but I believe it was over talked about by a few in the media last season. ¬†Is he a gold glove level outfielder currently? ¬†No, will he be suitable to play a corner outfield spot in the future? ¬†Definitely. ¬†His arm is plus, his athleticism is solid and his baseball IQ is quite high.
Pure and simple this kid is a baseball rat who has a knack for hitting and love for hitting that I’ve only seen out of Billy Butler for the Royals. ¬†He should be the Royals starting right-fielder on opening day but instead will have to wait until June or July.
2. Bubba Starling – Usable talent is the name of the game with Bubba considering no other Royals prospect has as much athleticism as he does in the org. Lack of competition against upper level talent in high school has put him behind the eight ball forcing him into a half season in rookie ball as opposed to full season ball like most his age would be playing in. While in the Appy League Bubba did get a chance to display his full set of tools showing his great arm, power (20 XB hits), defensive range and stealing ten bags in eleven tries. While he showed plenty of flashes those that watched noticed some wrinkles in his swing that needs to be ironed out. As you can see in Mike Newman’s video on Fangraphs, Bubba has a hitch in his swing that needs to be worked out on top of what looked to me a noticeably late foot plant.
We knew he was a work in process prior to the draft and that remains the case but a solid season in 2012 shows there is plenty to be optimistic about. I personally doubt we’ll ever see the player that people dreamed about at the time of his drafting but if he can be a plus defender with plus power that can make one hell of a center fielder.
3. Jorge Bonifacio -¬†While Starling is uber-athletic and Myers could possibly play some center in his early years Bonifacio profiles as a definite right-fielder now and in the future. ¬†It is his big arm that makes him a right field prospect but his average speed, so-so routes and lackadaisical effort are plenty of things he’ll need to concentrate on to fit the position. ¬†The defense has plenty to work on but it will be the bat that ultimately decides what kind of future Bonifacio has in the minors and majors. ¬†At 6’1 190-200 lbs the first thing most notice is the wide shoulders and big chest, it is this characteristic that makes most, myself included, think that he’ll add plenty of muscle and become a mid 20′s to low 30′s home run hitter. ¬†He can do that with a solid plate approach, wide stance and strength to all fields. ¬†The approach at the plate is reminiscent of Jeff Bagwell with a little more upright stance and less load.
Some have stated that Bonifacio’s lack of hip movement will hinder his ability to hit home runs in the future. ¬†This could be true but I believe his good balance will allow him to wait on balls and his strength will lead to him becoming a .300 plus hitter with plenty of extra base hits, even if they are just doubles. ¬†The outfielder ran into the wall of full season ball at the all-star break and struggled before getting injured the last month. ¬†He’ll need to bounce back in a difficult right-handed hitting assignment this season to keep his top ten Royals prospect status.
4. Elier Hernandez -¬†The Royals gave Elier their biggest international signing bonus ever based on what most see as a full set of tools. ¬†The Royals gave Elier the same challenge that they gave Mondesi but didn’t get quite the results that Alberto put up. ¬†The right fielder flashed his tools showing some pop to the gaps as well as a solid arm and speed in the outfield. ¬†Unfortunately for every flash of good there was plenty of bad with some poor reads in the outfield and a plate approach that allowed pitchers to expand the zone and let Elier to get himself out.
Don’t panic Royals fans Elier has a lot of tools and is very young but from what I saw he needs to make some adjustments to unlock his pull side power on top of getting better at recognizing pitches.
Brett Eibner – I’m not quite ready to give up on Eibner like others just yet. I realize he has struggled greatly to make contact (34% K rate in ’12) on a regular basis but I still have a dream of the power and there are still tools defensively. Those tools defensively include a cannon for an arm, good routes and reads that allow his average speed to play up slightly.
If Eibner was a potential starter then I would join in with others but a bullpen arm isn’t all that valuable to the Royals and they can hold out another half a season for the Drew Stubbs dream.
Lane Adams – Those who follow local boys Bubba Starling and Jason Adam know they have a third Royals prospect that makes up the tripod in Adams. ¬†On top of being a good guy Lane has a few tools to work that he brings to the baseball field with solid speed, a decent arm and some flashing of some pop. ¬†A very good prep basketball player Adams has started to convert those skills to the diamond with a decent season at Kane County prior to Wilmington where he held his own. ¬†A solid org guy Adams could become more with his tools if he continues to develop.
Fred Ford – The JUCO draftee showed plenty of power in his initial minor league assignment, belting 13 home runs and putting up a .247 ISO for Burlington. ¬†On top of that Ford absolutely crushed left-handed¬†pitchers with a 1.160 OPS against but he’ll need to improve his contact results after striking out in 33% of his plate appearances. ¬†The size, 6’5 200 lbs and athleticism are things to dream on but he’ll need to fine tune plenty at the plate to become and impact player.
Alfredo Escalara-Maldanedo – The youngest player drafted won’t turn 18 until February of next season which makes this and the following player interesting draft picks in 2012. ¬†Of the two Escalara is a sure thing to stick in the outfield and profiles as a center fielder longterm who could provide plus defense with his speed, intelligence and strong-arm. ¬†On the offensive side Alfredo didn’t show much pop in the Arizona Fall league but profiles as line drive hitter with some power longterm. ¬†Definitely a project but one that has plenty of tools from which to work.
Alexis Rivera – The Royals tried to land a steal or two with the back half of the their first ten picks of the 2012 draft and with Rivera they have a nice project from to work. ¬†Just turned 18 in June, Rivera measures in at 6’2 and 225 stocky pounds which I’m sure is a big part of the reason the Royals took him out of Puerto Rico by way of Florida where he showed he was up to the challenge against upper level Florida competition and in his first exposure to rookie ball. ¬†The left-handed hitter showed good patience and drove balls well against right-handed pitching (.929 OPS vs RHP). ¬†The size could be a concern whether or not he’ll be able to stay in left or forced to play first base. ¬†The switch to first can be a killer for any prospect as one has to absolutely rake to survive that corner spot.
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