In today’s game, with the prospect coverage that sites like Baseball Prospectus and others offer, it’s easy to ignore or dismiss a prospect not on a Top 100 list or in a team’s Top 10 ranking. Players typically miss out on these lists because they don’t have those “wow” tools that excite the fans or staff around the game. And while those tools are exciting, they are often looked at in the terms of ceiling, which a player more often than not never attains.
More than a few players don’t excite the experts yet still end up making it in the game. Some even have a big, big impact along the way in terms of value and cost savings while they are young.
That brings us to one of the Royals options for right field, making a move toward breaking with the club following the injury to Jarrod Dyson. A former first-round pick with the Boston Red Sox, Reymond Fuentes is a cousin of former Royal Carlos Beltran and attended the same high school as Beltran. At the time of Fuentes draft, a second Royals connection developed as he drew comparisons to Johnny Damon as a player with a plus hit tool and plus-plus speed. The bloodline didn’t develop quite to the Beltran level, and the comp to Damon hasn’t come through either.
One season after being drafted by the Red Sox, Fuentes was traded as a part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal to the San Diego Padres. Once in the Padres organization Fuentes continued to progress, earning a brief callup in 2013 and leaving him on the verge of a job in the bigs. That all changed in ’14 when a new front office took over and they began looking at a Royals lefty, Kyle Bartsch, as a trade target. The Padres agreed to exchange Fuentes for the reliever who had just finished a season in High-A Wilmington. The move left the bloodline Royal, who was comped to a Royal, in an organization that seemed a perfect fit.
Via J.J. Picollo – “Knowing our roster situation and that Fuentes had options, we liked the upside of getting an everyday player in exchange for a lefty that profiled as a reliever.”
So what type of player can we hope Fuentes becomes?
To that question I looked at a player that the Royals had and let become a free agent not too long ago, Gregor Blanco. When I brought up that name with Picollo he agreed and said that is who the Royals front office often bring up in talks about Fuentes. The two players’ profiles are somewhat similar in that they both had good contact rates in the minor leagues, have limited power, and use speed as their main tool in their arsenal. Both players also have average arms, making center and left-field their best positions which is a downer for Fuentes considering the Royals already have Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon manning those outfield spots. The advantages from my eyes are that Fuentes enjoys slightly better raw speed and more power than Blanco while the Giants outfielder possesses a better overall plate approach which converts into a likely higher on base percentage outside batting average.
Picollo – “Fuentes has the ability to play center in our big park but with Cain there already Reymond can make us better defensively in right.”
PECOTA projects the two players TAv nearly identical with a .254 for Blanco versus a .253 for Fuentes with just a 0.6 WARP projected value to Fuentes 0.5. All of that is pretty favorable for Fuentes considering Jarrod Dyson is projected for a .232 TAv and 0.7 WARP with nearly 200 more plate appearances to his credit.
Could Fuentes be a better option than Dyson over the course of the season? That could definitely be the case, and PECOTA agrees quite thoroughly, rating Fuentes Peak 5 year upside significantly higher than Dyson’s. Much of those numbers could be due to Fuentes not having the opportunity to fail in the same way Dyson has thus far, but they also speak to Dyson’s limited offensive upside. While Dyson one of the vocal leaders in the clubhouse Picollo offered that Fuentes fits in quite well in that aspect bringing a “happy go lucky attitude day to day to the clubhouse”.
These comparisons may not be the greatest for Fuentes’ future considering the Royals didn’t necessarily see the value in Blanco when they let him become a free agent for no return and haven’t given Dyson a chance to have a full time job until this season at age 31. Still, at 25 years of age with a chance to play, Fuentes has an opportunity to grasp hold of at least a platoon role that offers more playing opportunity as a left-handed hitter while also putting himself in the mix for a future center field job.
The Royals should consider getting a healthy look at Fuentes at the start of the regular season while Dyson recovers from his injury. At worst, they can fall back to Dyson, and at best they could have an in house 2-3 WARP player who is controllable at a minimum contract and could help Kansas City over the next few seasons. That’s not too shabby of a deal for an organization considering all they had to give up was a High-A LOOGY.
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