Josh Staumont Wilmington Blue Rocks - Photo Jake Rose

The Academy – Minor Happenings

Run Royals Run – A few Royals prospects appear to be quite aggressive on the bases to start the year. Chasers second baseman Whit Merrifield has 15 stolen bases in just 18 games with the Triple-A squad, a pace that would crush his career high 32 that he stole last year, and is quite different from the proclamation that he was going to show off more power this season. It’s not just Whit, though, as Raul Mondesi has been extremely aggressive with eight thefts (career-high of 24) and Samir Duenez has seven for Lexington at Low-A despite being a first baseman. In Duenez’s case, it could be a player familiar with the level and taking advantage of youthful pitchers, but Mondesi and Merrifield have made a keen look at getting that next base.

And the Whiff – Great starts for Forest Griffin and Josh Staumont this week as both pitchers set personal strikeout bests while piling up plenty of swings and misses. It’s not unusual for Staumont to generate the swing and miss considering his fastball averages 95-98 MPH while occasionally hitting triple digits. What is unusual is the Royals 2015 3rd round pick only walked one in a career-best 5.1 innings. On top of the improved control, Staumont registered twenty total swings and misses on the day while piling up a career-best nine strikeout effort.

In Lexington, Griffin doesn’t pack the same power that Staumont does, but that didn’t stop him from recording a career-high eight K’s while earning 16 whiffs of his own. The lefty appears to be leaning on an improved breaking ball early in the season which would be a nice compliment to his average changeup. At some point, we hope to see the velocity on his fastball tick back up into the low to mid 90’s range that was proclaimed during the 2014 draft.

If the two can continue their improvement, both pitchers could end up near the top of the Royals prospects rankings before the year is out.

Nolan Watson 2015 Burlington Royals

Nolan Watson 2015 Burlington Royals

Pitching Woes – A Top 5 prospect by Baseball Prospectus, MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, Nolan Watson’s start at Low-A and professional ball has been less than stellar. It’s just three starts but a constant for Watson so far at both the rookie and the Low-A level is the lack of control (3.6/BB9) and strikeouts (4.7/SO9). For the most part, if you can’t get the swing and miss early in your career when you have a fresh arm, it isn’t likely you will get it later.

I had Watson ranked much lower on my rankings based off what I saw from him during a start in Greenville. My quick review – mostly low 90’s touched 94/95 but with little control, tossed a couple breaking balls with decent shape but lacked control and I didn’t like the body or the lack of deception.

Quick Recap – Prior to the season myself and a couple others made some predictions on players who could breakout in 2016. Let’s check in on those players.

Miguel Almonte – 10 IP, 5 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 9 BB, 13 K; After a horrible first start in which he wasn’t on his normal routine, he’s bounced back and been very good his last two outings.

Matt Strahm – 3 GS, 15 .1 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 15 K; the lefty is definitely building on spring success

Foster Griffin – as noted about he’s off to a good repeat of Low-A

Brandon Downes – Hitting .254/.353/.424; showing good pop and on base skills, but needs to cut back on the 22 K’s in 68 PA

Jon Denney – not on a full-season roster

Chase Vallot – .277/.379/.489 2 HR 4 2B; making more contact but with a tad less impact and struggling mightily to control the run game

Yunior Marte – 13 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 12 K; piggybacking, but the K’s have stayed constant while the walk rate has dropped early.

If you like Royals minor league coverage follow me on twitter @ClintScoles

Feature Image Josh Staumont – Jake Rose Photography @JRoseGraphics

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