Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Lexington Legends Preview: Part One

A look at players likely to make up the 2014 roster

JAN 31st, 2014-With the start of the 2014 SAL season due to get underway in a bit over 2 months, now is a good time to consider who might be making their way to Class A Lexington. With the considerable talent on our roster last season, this year could bring with it the promise of even more potential.

The Royals minor-league system consists of three rookie-level teams: the Arizona League representative, Burlington in the Appalachian League, and Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. Kansas City has typically partitioned these three teams according to the organization's own talent assessment: the AZL Royals usually get the youngest players and/or those who need the most polish, Idaho Falls gets the most advanced rookie-level players, and Burlington seems to be the way station between those two teams. With that knowledge in mind, we're first going to look back at the Royals' top rookie team in Idaho Falls.


Hitters

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 175
Born: August 23rd, 1991 in Scottsdale, Arizona
School: Cactus Shadows HS (Cave Creek, AZ)
Drafted: by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2010 MLB Draft from Cactus Shadows HS

Drafted in 2010 by the Rockies, Davis opted instead to attend the University of San Diego to hone his game within a program with an excellent reputation. He ended up signing with the Royals as a non-drafted free agent and spent 2013 learning the ropes in the rookie league with the AZL Royals as well as the Chukars. Davis is the son of former MLB closer, All-Star and 1989 Cy Young Award winner (!) Mark Davis, who amassed 44 saves and a 1.85 ERA for the San Diego Padres in '89 and took home the hardware for his efforts. Davis the Younger has versatility in the infield and could end up at third if he is able to add a bit more muscle. He shows decent speed and a somewhat-advanced base-running sense. Davis is just getting his feet wet in pro ball, and as such could end up in extended Spring Training while he awaits assignment to Class A. A few more games at Idaho Falls would not be shocking, either.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 220
Born: August 22nd, 1991 in Denton, Texas
School: Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, TX)
Drafted: by the Kansas City Royals in the 1st round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Dozier has been a polarizing pick among the experts, to be sure. Jeff Passan tweeted the response of a scout in Texas to KC's selection of Dozier at 8th overall:

Heard some good things about Hunter Dozier from a scout in Texas this week ... but another scout already texted: "This is a big reach."

Jim Callis reported a slightly more dramatic reaction to the Dozier selection, writing for Baseball America:

“The commentators at the main desk during MLB Network’s telecast reacted with such shock that the daughter of one Royals official asked her father why the team picked Dozier. Local radio hosts called for the dismissal of Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore and the rest of his front office.”

Now that's funny.

So let's get this out of the way: Dozier being selected in the top 10 was viewed as a secure pick. The Royals didn't want to run the risk of not being able to sign their 1st pick of the year, and so they made the 'safe' choice. Also, it allowed them financial room to sign their 34th-overall pick (Sean Manaea, LHP), so by taking a chance on Dozier at #8 they were able to land the lefty as well.

OK, fine. That having been said...

This kid has a great bat. In 54 games with the Chukars last year, Dozier smacked 24 doubles and 7 homers, driving in 43 and scoring the same in the process. He showed a good eye at the plate and made consistent contact, qualities which should carry over to the higher levels with little difficulty. One thing I wonder about is, he's already right about where he should be in terms of his size. Mind you, he's a chunk of muscle. He's an avid weight-lifter, which is both good and bad (see: Gabe Kapler). The scouting reports on Dozier were generally careful to point out that he has probably reached the apex of his physical development, however, and at his size he could ultimately be a DH-only guy. He is roundly praised for his intangibles and makeup, and along with his age (22) should push him through the minors quickly. IF he can maintain his flexibility and range, then he could man the hot corner in the majors. If not, it's the 1B-DH slot for him. The only way he doesn't come to Lexington this season is if he leapfrogs The Sally on his way to High-A Wilmington (which wouldn't be a huge shock).

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 209
Born: November 29th, 1991 in Bethlehem, Georgia
School: Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
Drafted: By the Kansas City Royals in the 4th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Evans was a promising two-way player in college ball, but his future demands that he play the field. In his case, that means donning the tools of ignorance. He had a strong fastball/slider combo in college, bringing it in the mid-90's often. However...

While Evans has a solid bat and will probably end up producing above-average pop for a catcher, there are concerns that he may be a defensive liability at that position. He is, at best, a fringe-average glove at the present. If he can progress defensively, he could end up as a Mike Napoli-type guy: solid power, mixes in some games at first and DH with some appearances behind the plate. Evans tore up the Pioneer League in 41 games, knocking 18 doubles and driving in 31 to go along with his spectacular .352 BA. At age 21, you'd expect a very small learning curve. Still, that's a heck of a year. Evans is, like Dozier, a batter who could end up taking a lot of AB as a DH and first baseman, and if his bat continues to progress he could be a 20-HR guy in the majors. Rookie-level ball is a poor measuring stick for measuring future success, of course, but Evans could hardly have given a better effort in his debut.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 200
Born: November 21st, 1994 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic
School:
Drafted: NDFA by the Kansas City Royals in 2011

Hernandez is a fascinating prospect: great natural ability, tools are all a bit rough, high-risk/high-reward sort of player. At 6'4”, 200, Hernandez is one large teenager. He moves very well for his size, shows flashes of brilliance with the glove, runs the bases well and puts a real charge in the ball with the bat. The Royals went after him with a purpose, signing him for slightly more than $3,000,000. He's got tremendous fast-twitch reflexes, which bode well for his future at the plate, and he put up big numbers in Idaho Falls (15 2B, 8 3B, 44 RBI, 44 R in 66 games). Granted, 2013 was a repeat in rookie ball, but he was only 18 years old. There's no real reason for him to go back to the rookie league in 2014, so look for him in Lexington after (perhaps) some time in extended ST. He's going to be exciting to watch.


That's just a few of the players who could be patrolling the field at The Bank. Part Two will take a further look at potential Legends bats for 2014 coming out of Burlington and the Arizona League. Stay tuned. 
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