Next week is a great one for baseball. Obviously Opening Night is the headliner, but the minor leagues will be making their 2016 debuts later next week as well, which is always fun and exciting. It’s like Christmas morning, except it’s spread out over a week, and instead of unwrapping presents, you get to watch a bunch of baseball. Actually, it’s nothing like Christmas morning. Forget I wrote that.
Yesterday, we took a look at some prospects to keep an eye on in the lower levels of the Royals’ farm system. Now it’s time to move on to the upper levels. Many of the organization’s top prospects will see some time in Omaha this year, which makes this Omaha resident extremely happy. But before we get to that roster, let’s check out the Double-A squad.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Raul Mondesi (SS): As the team’s number one prospect, Mondesi may not be in Springdale for long. If he starts to put things together, he’ll soon find himself in Omaha, or even Kansas City this summer.
Bubba Starling (OF): The Gardner native is another guy who could be moved up a level early on, if he can build upon his successful 2015 campaign. His home park(s) this summer could be a nice setting for his power numbers to get even better.
Matt Strahm (LHP): Easily the biggest breakout prospect from last season, Strahm will be getting his first taste above A-ball. The lanky lefty struck out approximately all the batters in 2015, and he just struck you out while you read that. Go back to the bench and think about what you’ve done.
Alec Mills (RHP): In his first full season following Tommy John surgery, Mills mowed down hitters in the Carolina League. The Texas League should present more of a challenge for this 24-year old strike-thrower.
Jorge Bonifacio (OF): Emilio’s younger brother appeared to slim down some during the offseason, and after a great showing this spring (1.085 OPS), hopefully the 17-home run power from last year sticks around.
Ramon Torres (SS/2B): He isn’t going to wow anyone with his tools, but Torres is just a solid player all around. He also makes a ton of contact, which is fun to watch.
Ryan O’Hearn (1B): He doesn’t make nearly as much contact as Torres, but when O’Hearn does make contact, that too, is fun to watch. Because the ball tends to fly a very long way.
Hunter Dozier (3B): After back-to-back disappointing showings at Double-A, this seems like a pivotal year in Dozier’s development. He’ll need to fix some issues with his approach and swing, but there’s still potential in there somewhere. Maybe.
Omaha Storm Chasers
Kyle Zimmer (RHP): He’s the best pitching prospect in the system, with overpowering stuff and good command, and here’s the part where I’m contractually obligated to insert the phrase “if he can stay on the mound” before mentioning Zimmer has ace upside.
Miguel Almonte (RHP): I feel like the Almonte bandwagon dwindled after a rough big-league debut, but I’m still buckled in for the ride. He’s got a 91 mph changeup, for goodness sake.
Brett Eibner (OF): Questions still remain about his durability, but in 2015 Eibner flashed the performance his athleticism has hinted at for years. If you’re watching a Chasers’ game, it’s impossible to miss Eibner. The tools are still loud, and the hair is still fantastic.
Terrance Gore (OF): He might start the year in Kansas City, but I’d expect to see more of him in Omaha this summer. I don’t think you can truly appreciate Gore’s speed from watching video. It’s something you need to experience first-hand, with the palpable anticipation any time he’s on the bases. It’s remarkable.
Jose Martinez (OF): He hit .384 last year, and still the most impressive thing I saw Martinez do in 2015 was play second base. He’s 6’7″. It was like Terrance Gore standing on Jose Altuve’s shoulders, trying to field grounders.
Balbino Fuenmayor (1B): Maybe my favorite story of the 2015 season was cut short when Fuenmayor injured his knee last July, but thanks to a strong rehab, he’s back in position to try and push his way onto a major-league roster for the first time in his career.
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B): His swing and defense looked better in 2015 than any time I had seen him play prior to that, and at 23 years old, there could be the potential for even more.