Saturday, March 02, 2013

What To Expect When You're Expecting...A New Affiliation

MARCH 2nd, 2013-With Spring Training just now getting underway, there are certain players who already know where they're heading when the season starts.
However, in Class A ball, it's a little harder to predict.
Kansas City carries three Rookie-level clubs (Burlington, Idaho Falls, plus an AZL team) and a total of eight minor-league teams. Burlington of the Appalachian League is, essentially, the substitute for the fact that KC doesn't have a Short-Season Class A team.
The easiest way to look at predicting Lexington's 2013 roster is to take a look at Burlington's 2012 roster, with consideration given to the age of players, the highest level they've reached thus far, and their 2012 stats. With that all in mind, here's a few players we can expect to see here in Lexington, along with the highest level they reached last year and their 2012 stats:

Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie, Pioneer League)
Born: 7/27/1995 in Los Angeles, CA
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 165
Drafted: UFA

50 games, 232 PA, 35 runs, 60 hits, 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 11-13 SB .290 BA, .346 OBP

The son of Raul Mondesi, former Dodgers slugger, had little difficulty adjusting to his first year in pro ball. Keep in mind that he put up those stats as a 16-year-old kid in his first year of pro ball. The only glaring issue was that he struck out far too much, but what more can you ask of a kid that age? All things considered, he had a pretty great year. He will probably start off 2013 in rookie-league ball again, but he has little to prove there. He's just a little young for A ball; that may be the only real problem holding him back. Expect him to head to Burlington to start off the year.

Bryan Brickhouse, RHP, Kane County Cougars (Class A, Midwest League)
Born: 6/6/1992 in The Woodlands, TX
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Ht: 6' Wt: 195
Drafted: KC Royals, 3rd round, 2011 MLB Draft

3-3, 6.62 ERA, 11 games, 11 GS, 53 IP, 55 H, 39 runs allowed, 4 HRA, 26 BB, 41 K, 7 WP

While he had a rough year overall, it was his first year in pro ball and he spent nearly all of it in A ball. He registered his share of strikeouts, but walked a batter every other inning. Add to that seven WP and 4 hit batters, and you've got enough to work on for awhile. He's 21 on Opening Day, so he could start off in Rookie ball, but I don't expect that to be a long-term assignment. He's still age-appropriate for rookie-league ball, and assuming he advances to Class A ball this year he'll still be on-track age-wise.

Bubba Starling, OF, Burlington Royals (Rookie, Appalachian League)
Born: 8/3/1992 in Gardner, KS
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 180
Drafted: KC Royals, 1st round, 2011 MLB Draft

53 games, 232 PA, 35 R, 55 H, 8 2B, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 10-11 SB, .275 BA, .371 OBP, .485 SLG

For the moderately-involved baseball fan, Starling needs no introduction. This kid is now the top prospect in the Royals system, now that Wil Myers is with TB. With size, strength and easy projectability, Starling has power and speed which have already manifested themselves. While he did strike out 70 times last year, it was his first year of pro ball and he did manage to draw 28 walks, ending with an excellent .371 OBP and .856 OPS. This is the kind of batter who projects to hit cleanup and could be a perennial 100-RBI man in The Show, with 25+ homers and 15-20 steals. Of course, there's a lot of baseball to be played before he gets there.

Ethan Chapman, CF, Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie, Pioneer League)
Born: 1/5/1990 in Upland, CA
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Ht: 6' Wt: 180
Drafted: KC Royals, 30th round, 2012 MLB Draft

67 games, 318 PA, 58 R, 88 H, 9 2B, 9 3B, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 25-32 SB, 32 BB, 43 SO, .313 BA, .383 OBP, .803 OPS, 12 OF assists in 141 total chances (67 G)

Here's a kid you may not know about. I have to admit; I didn't know a thing about him. Judging by his first season, we may be hearing a lot more about him. Yes, he was 22 in 2012, and yeah, that's older than much of his competition, but don't write off the numbers because of that. Should rack up a lot of extra-base hits from gap power and plus speed, and already shows a very good eye at the plate, so he's looking like a protypical table-setter; batting in the 2-slot sounds like a good fit for him. Expect him to start the 2013 season in Lexington.

John Lamb, RHP, Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie, Pioneer League)
Born: 7/10/1990 in La Palma, CA
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 200
Drafted: KC Royals, 5th round, 2008 MLB Draft

6 games, 6 starts, 6.92 ERA, 13 IP, 15 HA, 10 ER, 2 HRA, 4 BB, 14 K, 1 WP

Despite injury concerns and Tommy John surgery in 2012, Lamb is still considered one of KC's top prospects and is now pitching in Spring Training with no restrictions. Ranked as the 18th best prospect as recently as 2011, the greatest challenge now facing him is remaining healthy. When he finally hits his stride, he's really going to be something to watch. He seems to be a level-headed kid with strong ties to his family and friends, and could end up being quite popular in KC. I expect to see him here in Lexington for some tune-up work before he goes back to Class AA; he had reached NW Arkansas as soon as 2010, posting a 3.09 ERA there in 2011 in 8 starts.

Nicholas Cuckovich, 3B-LF, Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie, Pioneer League)
Born: 10/8/1991 in Riverside, CA
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 200
Drafted: KC Royals, 17th round, 2011 MLB Draft

66 games, 288 PA, 44 R, 69 H, 12 2B, 8 3B, 3 HR, 43 RBI, 9-11 SB, 33 BB, 68 SO, .280 BA, .376 OBP, .807 OPS

He had a strong showing in Idaho Falls, demonstrating gap power and avg-plus speed. It doesn't hurt that his OBP was 96 points higher than his BA, indicative of a sound eye and good patience at the plate. In 43 games at third base last year he made 15 errors, which is certainly not good. It's especially bad because third seems to be where he's going to be playing in the near future, so there's going to have to be some work done, there. With his speed, he could end up becoming a left fielder with plus range if KC needs a Plan B. Could develop average power, but lower limits of his hitting ceiling ought to be the kind of hitter who would bat #2 or at least #7 with relative ease. He should start the year at Lexington, given his age and the fact that he has nothing left to prove in rookie ball. 

That's all for now. More to come as I dig a little deeper for info on the new kids on our block. 
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