New faces among Royals' Top 20 Prospects
Zimmer, Ventura sit at top of list; pair of 2013 Draft picks move into top six
There's been a lot of movement in the Royals' rankings this season, but only one player has moved on to the Major Leagues. That would be David Lough, who has earned a consistent spot in the Royals' lineup out in right field.
From there, Kansas City has a whole bumper crop of players -- mostly pitchers -- expected to make Major League debuts in the next couple seasons.
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer took over the top spot in the prospect rankings after starting the season in the second spot. He was moved up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas last week after going 4-8 with a 4.82 ERA in 18 starts for Class A Advanced Wilmington. In his lone start for Northwest Arkansas, Zimmer pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit with seven strikeouts. He's been working on his mechanics and making quick progress in his third year of pitching after switching from third base in college.
The Royals' No. 2 prospect is one step closer. Yordano Ventura has been with Triple-A Omaha for eight games and has made seven starts with a 4.54 ERA and a 3-3 record.
"They are two guys that we feel very good about that are going to be in our rotation at some point in time," said J.J. Picollo, the Royals' assistant general manager for scouting and player development. "It's just a matter of nurturing them through."
The Royals picked up several more pitching prospects in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, led by supplemental round pick Sean Manaea, a lefty from Indiana State.
"We were able to add Manaea and Cody Reed and Carter Hope, our third-rounder," Picollo said. "When you put those guys in the mix with Ventura, Jason Adams and Zimmer I'd like to think that our pitching is shaping up."
The Royals only had one graduate from the preseason Top 20 ranks, but he's done quite well for himself. Lough started the season as the Royals' No. 20 prospect but was recalled from Omaha on May 17, and he's never looked back. He's played in 52 of the Royals' 59 games since then, batting .295 with 54 hits and 23 runs.
Lough is holding his own against American League rookies, ranking in the top three in batting average, slugging percentage, doubles, triples and multi-hit games.
First baseman and outfielder Brian Fletcher started the season as the Royals' No. 17 prospect but dropped off the list despite batting just below .300 this season for Northwest Arkansas.
Right-hander J.C. Sulbaran is no longer on the list after starting at No. 19 during the preseason. After 25 games with Northwest Arkansas, he had a 3-4 record and a 6.99 ERA. He was then demoted to Wilmington, where things didn't go much better in his first start. He allowed three runs on seven hits in a three-inning start on July 22.
Two 2013 draftees took over the No. 5 and No. 6 spots on the Royals' prospect list.
Shortstop Hunter Dozier was the Royals' first-round selection, and he's off to a strong start playing for Idaho Falls in the rookie-level Pioneer League. Through 31 games, he's batting .278 and leading the league with 17 doubles. Picollo said he projects more as a third baseman than a shortstop, but they're seeing exactly what they expected from him.
They'll have to wait a while to see returns on their supplemental round pick Sean Manaea, though. Manaea underwent hip surgery last month, but he's already starting rehabilitation in Arizona.
Right-hander Miguel Almonte also joined the list at No. 10. He is 4-7 with a 3.36 ERA through 18 starts for the Class A Lexington Legends. Almonte was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2010 and was named the Dominican Summer League Royals Pitcher of the Year in 2012.
royals' top prospects
John Lamb, a left-handed pitcher with Class A Advanced Wilmington, slid 10 spots from No. 5 to No. 15 in the midseason rankings. He's been a little shaky following Tommy John surgery last season -- sitting at 4-9 with a 6.48 ERA through 15 starts for the Blue Rocks -- but Picollo said the team's biggest goal is just to get him through this year healthy.
Left-hander Donnie Joseph followed Lamb down the list, dropping from No. 6 to No. 17. Joseph is 3-3 with a 3.73 ERA through 34 starts with Triple-A Omaha. He's been off and on this season, struggling with his fastball command.
Top 100 representation
With five prospects in the Top 100 rankings, the Royals moved from ninth place to a fourth-place tie in "prospect points," which are assigned to clubs based on their representatives on the Top 100 list, with 100 points going to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and so on.
Zimmer leads the way for the Royals on the national scene. He's No. 34 on MLB.com's Top 100 list with Ventura following at 39. Ventura has made the biggest jump, moving up from No. 60 during the season.
Behind them is outfielder Bubba Starling, a local two-sport athlete who joined the Royals instead of accepting a football scholarship at Nebraska. He started the season as the No. 26 prospect in baseball but dropped 19 spots to No. 45. He had Lasik surgery in May, but he's back and hitting .217 through 89 games with the Lexington Legends. Starling is struggling for consistency with 68 hits and 41 runs, countered by 92 strikeouts.
Two more Royals who burst onto the Top 100 are shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and outfielder Jorge Bonifacio. They are the fourth- and fifth-ranked Royals prospects, respectively, and round out the Royals' representation in the Top 100 at No. 52 and No. 99. Mondesi, son of former Major Leaguer Raul Mondesi, is batting .263 with 90 hits and 43 runs for the Lexington Legends. Bonifacio is batting an even .300 through 48 games for the Blue Rocks. He also has 54 hits and 27 runs.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.