These games can be uninspiring at times but one can find positives in players here despite the 102-degree heat and relentless sun. Imagine being a player like Kyle Isbel who has 120+ games under his belt this season and then being asked to take ABs in a non-competitive atmosphere in this heat. It can be difficult, to say the least. Before I get to the players let me first write about the differences I see from the organization. I get asked about Royals pitching development and if they have moved past their stringent approach?
The answer is yes. The pitchers I’ve seen this season and in the last couple seasons have everything a pitcher would need to develop into a competent pro. Whether it’s a two-seam fastball, slider instead of a curve or working with a Driveline-type organization or a long-toss routine the organization is open to development and evolving. There is no reason that a pitcher can’t find success while working in the Royals organization. With that knowledge, the Royals don’t quite have the depth in pitching that they had in the 2010-2011 years, but it’s not far off.
Star of the Show – Yohanse Morel – This is as easy as it gets for me. Tossing on Wednesday against a Mexican League squad, Morel was completely dominant for his two perfect innings of work. The fastball had life in the 92-94 mph range with the arm speed and power that the 18-year-old is likely to gain velocity in the coming years. Next to the four-seam fastball was a two-seam with good late diving movement at 87-88 mph that mirrored with a couple of changeups that he threw at a similar pace that a little arm-side fade. All four pitches Morel threw came with extension in the 6’4 range slightly above his listed height.
For any 18 year old, who doesn’t turn 19 until August those three pitches would be a great introduction and preview a positive future to build from, but I’ve still yet to mention the devastating slider that he was throwing. The slider was an 82-85 mph smoking hot pitch with late sink and sweeping movement. The spin ranged between 2650-2775 RPM which would be in the top 50 of a major league scale. Hitters had no chance and Morel knew it as they flailed prior to him walking off the mound upon release of his final slide piece prior to it landing in the catcher’s mitt as he froze the final hitter he faced. That pitch has the appearance of a 60 pitch to go with an above average future fastball. It was six up, six down versus older more seasoned hitters and the 18-year-old showed dominance, a swagger and an arsenal that surely would have placed him in some teams first round had he done it as an American at the same age prior to the upcoming draft.
Elvis Luciano - He has a strong body that should physically stand up to the longterm role as a starter. On this day, the fastball was 94-95 mph with the ability to drive and repeat it to the bottom of the zone. He flashed a tight, late moving slider in the mid-80s that flashed the better of the two breaking balls that he threw and could become an above average pitch over time. The curveball that he tossed was an upper-70s get over pitch that probably could use a little more shape and less pace to become more of a bat misser. The combination of fastball/slider mixed with a usable curve should present a backend starter should the changeup which wasn’t highlighted on this day present itself as an average offering.
Rylan Kaufman - Kaufman featured a 90-92 mph fastball with lots of arm side run. If he can learn to control it then it’s a plus pitch even at present velocity as it has the movement that allows it to miss bats and difficulty to barrel it. In addition to the fastball, Kaufman tosses a plus future curveball that had 2700-2823 revolutions which is an above average rate. The lefty presented an ability to backdoor the curve with 12-6 shape from his 3/4 arm position.
Anderson Paulino - His velocity sat in the mid to upper 90s and he was able to get to the bottom of the zone with regularity and life. I saw him both Tuesday and Friday and it was the same thing both days, 95-96 mph at the bottom of the zone. Showed a flash of an 85 mph cutter/slider that was a below average pitch. The late movement and plane on the fastball will make for a groundball machine.
Noah Bryant - Bryant showed an easy mid-90s fastball that hit 95-97 mph regularly in both outings. He flashed a usable slider in warmups on Tuesday but was unable to repeat it during live action. On Friday, the slider was showing similar plane to the fastball and short, late motion appearing similar to a cutter. That slider is workable at the lower levels but will need to increase the break at the higher levels.
Marlin Willis - It was a rough season for Willis in Burlington, but he looked interesting on Thursday. Throwing from a lower than 3/4 arm slot, Willis was 88-90 mph with his fastball to go with a sweeping slurvy offering in the mid-70s. Physically Willis should get stronger as he ages but the intriguing part of his game was his elite extension, releasing his pitches at 6’8 to as high as 7’2 in distance. The pitches don’t make for a starter but some refinement and ability to repeat the quality breaking pitch he tossed a couple of times on this day could lead him into a specialty relief role.
Zach Haake - The big rub on the former Wildcats pitcher was his health and he appears to be fully healthy showing a 92-94 mph fastball. It was a bit straight on this day, but he was able to generate some groundball contact with it.
Malcolm Van Buren - He showed lots of power with the fastball on Tuesday working low to mid-90s and little idea where it was going. Came back on Friday working with more a two-seam look that allowed him to stay in the zone at 89-90 mph next to his curveball. There’s a long way to go in terms of command/control.
Heribert Garcia - Garcia flashed an above-average changeup with his 90 mph fastball. That fastball will have to come forward as a 6’0 right-hander but physically he’s sturdy, gets above average extension (6’4) for his height and repeats well. Add some velocity and he has a chance to get deep into the minor leagues. Could be a repeat of Arnaldo Hernandez as a pitcher with good control and feel for three different pitches.
Juan Carlos Negret - The Cuban outfielder acquired in the Braves international mess looks physically like Jose Guillen. In the field, the physical appearance mirrors Guillen’s play as he’s a step slow and will have to remain in right field while the speed down the line matches with 4.5 times down the line. The arm is average and won’t be taking the spot from Matias or Lee should he move there. At the dish, Negret has some pull-side power that can turn a fastball which he did on Wednesday for an absolute bomb and another line drive out to third that was 104 mph off the bat. Hitting fastball velocity shouldn’t be a problem and he appeared to recognize spin. The swing path may need some altering to be able to drive the ball the opposite way as opposed to just his pull approach that he’s working with currently. His effort down the line and in the field seemed to be lacking.
Nick Heath - 80 speed and an improved hitting ability that presents line drive contact defines Heath. He has a feel for running the bases and attacking pitchers. Has a chance to become a similar story to Jarrod Dyson as a late developing speedster/4th outfielder. Much like a younger Dyson, this outfielders glove can wander with his concentration level making mistakes on balls that he gets to. The arm is average and shouldn’t be any problem in center field or left.
Dennicher Carrasco - Carrasco has a good feel for hit with average to a tick above average power. Will have to move to first base where the bat will come into question.
Travis Jones - Jones has long limbs and average bat speed that is long though it stays in the zone. He will continue to struggle to pull pitches that cause damage.
Most position players appear to be worn down after long seasons.