MAY 3rd, 2013-As the first month of the season comes to a close, there have been some interesting developments in Lexington. Some players have dug themselves out of early slumps, some have caught fire, and some are off to a slow start. I suppose one could say that about every team in the league, but I'm not concerned with every team; I'm about our Legends.
(All stats up to date as of April 30th)
In the infield:
Cam Gallagher, C
16 games, 56 AB, 15 H, 6 2B, 5 RBI, 3 K, .268 BA, .300 OBP, .675 OPS, 1 error
Gallagher has been splitting time behind the plate with Jin-Ho Shin, whose overall numbers nearly mirror Gallagher's. The powerfully-built receiver has at least average-plus power potential, and already makes such frequent contact that opposing pitchers have managed to send him back on strikes only three times, thus far. He could stand to draw a few more walks, here and there (2 total on the season), but when you're putting the ball in play nearly every time you go to the plate it doesn't matter a whole lot how many walks you take. Cam has a solid arm and handles his pitchers well; I've mentioned his 'quiet leadership' several times now, and he's shown himself to be exactly that type. I had expected a bit more in the power department, but we're only a month into 2013 so let's wait and see how things develop. Cam is currently on the 7-day DL after suffering a broken hand in Asheville, the result of a misplaced fastball.
Jin-Ho Shin, C
17 games, 55 AB, 14 H, 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 12 BB, 16 K, .255 BA, .388 OBP, .770 OPS
Shin's playing time has increased of late, due to Gallagher's injury. The Royals organization's first-ever Korean-born player has acquitted himself well thus far, with 4 doubles and 7 runs scored in 55 at-bats. Trivia bit for you: Shin hit the very first homer at Whitaker Bank Ballpark for the newly-assigned Royals affiliate. It was quite a shot, too; well over the LF bleachers. Shin is not quite as mobile behind the plate as Gallagher, and his lateral movement is just a tick below his as well, but he's been blocking balls in the dirt pretty well and does a solid job of watching and controlling the running game. With time and experience, he should at least become a valuable backup.
Fred Ford, 1B
25 games, 4 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 17 BB, 35 K, .179 BA, .323 OBP
Ford has struggled mightily at the plate (.179 BA in 25 games, 35 strikeouts), but he's held down the first bag well and shown promise with the bat despite the numbers. When he does make contact, it's usually hard contact. As with all players of great height (Ford is 6'5”), Ford has a lot of strike zone to protect. Taller players sometimes take more time to become consistent hitters, since they have more of a zone to exploit. Ford is also in his first year of full-season ball, and between these two factors he may just take a bit longer to come around. Still one to watch; there's great power potential here.
Humberto Arteaga, 2B
23 games, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 17 K, .138 BA, .156 OBP
OK, the offensive numbers are horrible. But like I said before in previous posts, Arteaga is quite the glove man. He's going to see a lot of innings in the field because of his smooth actions, soft hands and plus arm (at 2nd base), and his pairing with Mondesi at short has to be one of the best in the whole Sally League (if not THE best). I do believe there will be some production here at the plate, but he's not going to be known for his bat. It doesn't matter much when you're that good with the leather.
Raul Mondesi, SS
24 games, 9 runs, 24 hits, 5 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 11 BB, 26 K, 3 SB, .261 BA, .333 OBP, .746 OPS
If you don't know about this kid yet, then you're not paying attention. The more I see him in the field, the more I wish ESPN would send a camera crew to the Bluegrass. Now there are a lot of talented guys here, and there have been quite a few flashy plays in the field, but Mondesi has certainly stood out both for his age (17) and his stunning range.
As I mentioned before, he's going to have to learn to harness that range to keep from drifting into second base territory or shallow right-center (both of which he has done several times). The thing is, he makes even those plays; that doesn't mean he should, though. He'll come around. What's surprising to me is the fact that he's leading the team in RBI. I expected him to develop some pop (at least a modest amount), but not to become a run producer as the youngest player on his team.
Michael Antonio, 3B
23 games, 84 AB, 17 hits, 3 2B, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 18 K, .202 BA, .236 OBP
One of the lesser-known prospects in the Royals system, Antonio has had some struggles of his own at the plate. Ranked the 16th best prospect in KC's system going into 2012, Antonio has shown some power in 2010 and 2011 (AZL Royals and Burlington, respectively), but in 123 games at Kane County last year he hit only .213. It was still relatively productive season for him, with 23 doubles and 64 RBI, while his strikeout total was appreciably low (79). This indicates that Antonio makes frequent contact but has yet to develop consistently solid contact. His learning curve may be steeper than one would expect from a player with his previous assessment, but he'll come around. One very promising stat (though a small sample size): he's batted .333 with runners in scoring position (21 at-bats).
In the outfield:
Terrance Gore, LF
25 games, 84 AB, 21 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 9 RBI, 14 SB, .250 BA, .330 OBP
I'm very high on this kid. You may have noticed that from some of my previous posts. I mean, what's not to like here? Compact and powerfully built, Gore displays the kind of speed we should consider ourselves lucky to have in Lexington. Indeed, ANY team would love to have this sort of base stealer in their lineup. If I seem sort of over-the-top in my praise, I invite you to watch him closely over the course of a few games. Then tell me what you think.
Gore covers tons of ground in left, and would likely be in center if Bubba Starling were not already there. He is, essentially, death to flyballs. I've watched him make several shoestring catches, spear short liners on a dive, and nearly eat brick while running down flies in foul territory. On that subject: what may not be fully appreciated about Gore's game is that he's a very physical player. He puts his body through a lot of battering in order to play the sort of style he has adopted as his own, and that sort of play can catch up with you (unless you're Pete Rose). So far, Gore has shown no signs of slowing down, and while he already has 14 steals in 25 games that pace could actually increase in the coming months. If he remains in Lexington for a full season, he has every chance to steal 100 bags. I absolutely stand by that assessment. Watch him sometime, and see if you agree.
Bubba Starling, CF
24 games, 87 AB, 13 R, 17 H, 4 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 33 K, .195 BA, .263 OBP, .642 OPS
Before you judge the overall numbers, it's important to note that a couple of weeks ago Bubba was hovering near .100 on his batting average. He's hit .263 in his last ten games, with 3 homers, 2 doubles and 10 RBI. He has averaged a strikeout per game in that span, but has also walked 5 times and scored 8 runs. It's also important to remember that many players have to cope with problems that are far away from the eyes and ears of most fans, and that has to be taken into account. This kid is, without a doubt, the whole package. That will become quite evident once things heat up for him. And they're starting to do just that. There are already a lot of KC fans out there who are saying that he's a bust as a prospect. It should go without saying that this is an asinine conclusion. One thing is for certain: Starling is on the rise. When he finally gets all cylinders firing, tell your pitching staff to watch the heck out.
Ethan Chapman, RF
25 games, 75 AB, 9 R, 21 H, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 13 SB,
.280 BA, .345 OBP, .665 OPS, 0 errors
Exciting: that pretty much sums up his playing style. Chapman didn't come into 2013 as the 'big name prospect' on Lexington's roster, but it's looking like a lot of scouts and fantasy baseball pundits may have missed the mark. He plays a controlled-aggressive sort of ball, and makes it work to the utmost. Chapman doesn't so much steal a base as take it by force; he's got very good base running instincts and knows when to advance or steal a bag, so he's not type of thief that Gore has shown himself to be. It's the combination of instinct, speed and first-step quickness that makes Chappy so efficient, and that's the sort of base stealer that remains successful at higher levels. He gets great reads and knows when to run on the pitcher. He'll have to adjust his game a bit when he faces stronger-armed catchers at AA and beyond, but I see no reason why he won't be able to do so.
And a couple of players I've not seen much, but am intrigued about nevertheless:
Adrian Morales, IF
He's only collected 11 at-bats thus far, but I for one am very interested in seeing more of this young man. There is a way he carries himself that seems to say “stand on the plate and I'll put you under it”. I can't help but respect players like Morales because they don't ever back down, they play like they're ready to run through a brick wall to score, and they accept whatever role the team needs to be filled. Powerfully built and with just enough of a nasty streak, Morales could be a secret weapon even as a part-time player; his versatility allows him to play first, second or third, and he has enough power potential to find a role at least as a team's secondary run producer (batting 6th or 7th in a stacked lineup). He's aggressive enough and sufficiently adept as a base runner to steal in double-digits, though maybe no more than a dozen or so. The primary negative I see here is that he may not have quite enough arm for third. To me, he profiles as a second baseman with above-average power and potential to become a strong presence in any clubhouse.
Nicholas Cuckovich, 1B-3B
Thus far filling in as a third baseman, Cuckovich hasn't had a lot of exposure. In 50 at-bats he's hitting .176 and hasn't drawn a walk, striking out 15 times. He's not really had a chance to get his rhythm yet, and so I'd rather reserve judgment on his future until he has a fair opportunity to display his skill. After all, this is a player who led the Arizona League in steals in 2011 (24 in 37 games) and batted .302 with an outstanding .418 OBP. In 2012 he barely missed a step, batting .280 for Idaho Falls with a .376 OBP, though his steals dropped considerably. This was probably due more to his place in the lineup, as he was a significant run producer (44 runs scored, 43 RBI in 66 games). I'd like to see more of him; I think he's going to surprise some folks who haven't yet seen him play.