RC's Top 50 Prospects: 41-50

It's that time of year, and RC is pleased to unveil our Top 50 Royals prospect rankings. In our first of five features, RC today reports on the prospects who are ranked #41-50 on our Top 50 list. The first ten players on our list make up a diverse group, and over half made their professional debuts in Idaho Falls after being acquired by the Royals in the 2006 draft.

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41. Adam Donachie, C
Age: 22   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-1   WT: 215

After logging an OPS of .842 in the Cal League in 2005, Donachie fell short of expectations this season, and his status as a prospect took a hit. The 22-year-old catcher struggled with pitch recognition all year, and he got off to a horrible start in April before righting the ship in May. Donachie, who gave up switch hitting a couple of years ago, still struggles mightily against right handed pitchers, and he hit less than .240 against them this season. His final numbers in High Desert - .271/.365/.414 – were enough to keep him from repeating the entire season in High-A, and he was promoted to Wichita in mid-July. However, his 29-game stint in Double-A showed that he still has much to improve on offensively, and 2007 will be a critical season for Donachie.

Donachie's defense behind the plate remains his key asset, and between Wichita and High Desert, he erased a very solid 44 percent of attempted basestealers. He handles pitchers well and calls good games, and he's shown that he's able to isolate his offensive struggles from his defense, not taking bad at bats with him into the field.

Look for Donachie to start next season back in Wichita, where he will work on recognizing pitches more quickly and squaring up on the ball better to take full advantage of his large frame and good raw power. If he can improve against righties and run into pitches a little more often, his defense could carry him into the Majors someday.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
HDM 210 32 57 12 0 6 21 31 46 0 1 .271 .365 .414
WCH 94 21 18 5 0 2 10 19 20 0 1 .191 .325 .309
Total 304 53 75 17 0 8 31 50 66 0 2 .247 .352 .382


42. Blake Wood, SP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-4  WT: 225

Despite his rough 2006 collegiate season, in which he was hampered by shin splints early en route to a 4.79 ERA for Georgia Tech, the Royals selected Blake Wood in the third round of the 2006 draft. The Royals had taken notice of Wood's mid-90s fastball and power slider in 2005, when as a sophomore Wood compiled a 10-1 record and 3.13 ERA as a weekend starter in the Georgia Tech rotation, and that played a large part in the Royals surprising most draft watchers by taking him as high as they did.

Wood's professional debut didn't go quite as well as hoped, as the big righty got knocked around a bit in the Pioneer League. Wood got by in college by relying on his slider, and the Royals forced him to concentrate primarily on his fastball command with the Chukars.

Wood primarily works with a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a change, and all three pitches show promise. He can run his fastball up to 94, and his hard slider could develop into an above average pitch. A mechanical engineering major in college, Wood has the intelligence to mix his pitches well, going with whatever's working best on any given day. Wood is not a small guy, and he'll have to work hard on his conditioning to keep his weight down, which might have contributed to his shin splint problems in the spring. If all goes well, expect Wood to begin next season with the Burlington Bees.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
IDF 12 12 3 1 0 4.50 52.0 50 28 26 1 15 46 .258
Total 12 12 3 1 0 4.50 52.0 50 28 26 1 15 46 .258


43. Rayner Oliveros, RP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-2  WT: 180

Oliveros began the season as a starter for the Burlington Bees, but he was quickly converted into the Bees' primary long reliever, usually pitching in stints of two or more innings with an occasional spot start. Control has been the hallmark of Oliveros's career, which first began to attract attention when he walked just three batters in 55 innings for the Royals' Dominican Summer League team in 2004. He proved last season that 2004 was no fluke, as he walked just eight batters in 82.1 innings, and after walking just 17 in 2006, Oliveros has now issued just 25 free passes in over 180 IP over the last three years.

Oliveros doesn't throw very hard, but his fastball was described to us by catcher Jeff Howell as "dirty," and he gets by with great movement and an assortment of off-speed pitches. The young Venezuelan just turned 21-years-old in September, and he shows enough promise that he could one day turn into a decent middle reliever in the majors. His upside probably isn't anything more than that of a Mike Wood-type pitcher, but the numbers he's put up thus far in his career are very encouraging.

We expect Oliveros to move up to Wilmington next season, where he should do well in the Carolina League.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
BUR 32 5 7 4 2 2.84 98.1 91 35 31 8 17 57 .246
Total 32 5 7 4 2 2.84 98.1 91 35 31 8 17 57 .246


44. Brett Bigler, OF
Age: 22   B-T: L-L  HT: 6-1   WT: 185

The Royals selected Bigler in the 7th round of the 2006 draft out of UC-Riverside, where he had garnered a reputation as slash-and-run type hitter with excellent plate discipline and speed. Bigler hit .356/.456/.449 in the spring, but his pro career got off to a wretched start in Idaho Falls. He had trouble adjusting to professional pitching, and as late as August 19, his batting average stood at just .214. However, Bigler caught fire with a week to go in August, and his hot streak carried him through the season's final two weeks while propelling his overall numbers to respectability.

Even though the Royals didn't expect Bigler to provide much power, the fact that he had just five extra base hits is somewhat alarming. Bigler has "happy feet" in the batters box, and his back foot moves forward several inches as he lunges forward to swing, so he doesn't generate much power from his legs. However, he has a great eye, and he uses his pitch recognition to identify pitches he can slap the other way.

Obviously, with so little power, Bigler doesn't project as a corner outfielder, although the presence of Joe Dickerson on the Chukars' roster forced him into left field duty in 2006. His speed and excellent defensive capabilities should allow him to easily handle center – where he played in college – which suits a player with his offensive skill set much better. Sooner or later the Royals will have to separate Bigler from Dickerson to allow him to play center, and it's not yet clear whether or not he'll follow Dickerson to Burlington next season.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
IDF 210 42 58 5 0 0 24 39 27 20 2 .276 .392 .300
Total 210 42 58 5 0 0 24 39 27 20 2 .276 .392 .300


45. Kurt Mertins, 2B
Age: 20  B-T: R-R   HT: 6-0  WT: 175

Mertins was the Pioneer League's leading hitter for most of the season, but an August slump forced the 20-year-old second baseman to settle for the league's third-best batting average at .342. The Royals selected Mertins out of the College of the Desert in the 13th round of the 2006 draft, and he split time as the Chukars' second baseman with fellow 2006 draftee Marc Maddox.

Mertins is a line drive, gap-to-gap type hitter who's comfortable hitting pitches on both sides of the plate. He also has above average speed, which led to both a team-leading 26 stolen bases and good range at second. He did commit 10 errors, and he has some work to do defensively, but he shows good athleticism that should lend itself well to his development at the position.

Offensively, Mertins has little power to speak of, and although he did have 15 extra base hits, he had trouble reaching the gaps with consistency. He'll need to gain strength as he moves forward, or it will be difficult for him to prove that his 2006 performance wasn't a fluke. Mertins' superlative debut came as a pleasant surprise, and it will be interesting to see where he begins the 2007 season. Odds are that he showed the Royals enough to warrant a move to Burlington, which could present a tough challenge for him.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
IDF 225 46 77 11 3 1 26 18 39 26 4 .342 .397 .431
Total 225 46 77 11 3 1 26 18 39 26 4 .342 .397 .431


46. Mike Stodolka, 1B
Age: 25  B-T: L-L  HT: 6-2  WT: 210

Plagued by injuries and underperformance since being taken with 4th overall pick of the 2000 draft as a pitcher, Stodolka became a first baseman this spring after showing promise as a hitter during last season's instructs. Nobody knew what to expect – it had been years since Stodolka last swung a bat in anger – but he took to it immediately. Stodolka roared out of the gates, hitting .339/.419/.613 in April, and he showed the type of plate discipline that belied his inexperience as a hitter.

He cooled off as pitchers began adjusting they way they pitched him, and he settled in as a line drive hitter with a good eye and occasional power. His defense improved as the season progressed and he became more comfortable digging errant throws. As pitchers usually are, Stodolka is an excellent athlete, and he handles himself around the bag very well.

There are two primary concerns about Stodolka. First, at 25-years old, he's already old for a prospect, so hopefully he didn't lose too much development time as a pitcher. Second, there are questions about whether or not Stodolka can develop enough power to break into the majors as a first baseman. He doesn't generate much power from his lower body, and his .449 SLG pct. was only slightly above average for a first baseman in the Cal League. Regardless, Stodolka's emergence as a prospect again is a great story, and it will be fun to see if he can continue raking as he moves up the ladder. Despite his age, the Royals resisted rushing him in 2006, and Stodolka will begin next season at Wichita.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
HDM 423 81 120 33 2 11 67 78 103 4 3 .284 .396 .449
Total 423 81 120 33 2 11 67 78 103 4 3 .284 .396 .449


47. Josh Cribb, P
Age: 23  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-10  WT: 190

Cribb, the Royals' 8th round pick in 2006 out of Clemson, had a very shaky professional debut. Coming off an excellent senior season with the Tigers in which he went 9-0 with a 3.09 ERA as a weekend starter, Pioneer League hitters greeted him rudely to the tune of a .351 BAA. Nevertheless, the Royals are hopeful that Cribb will show the same control and command he showed in college, where his 2.26 walks-per-9 IP ranks among Clemson's all-time best.

Cribb's fastball tops out in the low 90s, and he has a change to go along with a sharp curve that he throws from different arm angles. As was the case with Blake Wood, Cribb threw a lot of breaking balls in college, so he struggled a bit while working primarily on his fastball command with Idaho Falls.

Cribb, who was a fifth-year senior, will be 24-years old when the 2007 season opens, so it's likely that he'll be pushed a little more than some of his younger counterparts. We expect him to open the season with the Burlington Bees, although that also depends on how well he performs in the spring.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
IDF 13 6 2 6 0 5.19 52.0 73 35 30 5 11 39 .351
Total 13 6 2 6 0 5.19 52.0 73 35 30 5 11 39 .351


48. Josh Johnson, 2B
Age: 20  B-T: S-R   HT: 5-11  WT: 170

A 3rd round pick in the 2004 draft, Johnson has turned himself into an interesting player to watch. His statistics don't pop out at you, and his historically low batting averages cause some concern, but Johnson is quite adept at doing the little things that help win baseball games. He's an outstanding bunter who hits from both sides of the plate, and his plate discipline led to a league-leading 93 walks.

Johnson's defense also gained wide praise this season, after he committed just nine errors in 507 total chances while setting a Bees record for fielding percentage by a second baseman. He has great hands and a strong arm, and he's athletic enough to play shortstop in a pinch and do it well.

Johnson's career OBP of over .390 helps alleviate some concern about his lack of power, and he could carve out a role as a solid #2 hitter as he moves forward. If anything, he could actually stand to become a little more aggressive at the plate. Johnson, who was both a mid-season and post-season Midwest League All-Star, should get a crack at Wilmington to begin next season.


Club AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
BUR 381 59 92 8 5 3 40 93 72 18 9 .241 .391 .312
Total 381 59 92 8 5 3 40 93 72 18 9 .241 .391 .312


49. Tyler Chambliss, P
Age: 21  B-T: R-R   HT: 5-11  WT: 175

Drafted by the Royals in the 11th round in 2006 out of Florida State, Tyler Chambliss nearly returned to the Seminoles for his senior year before ultimately deciding to begin his professional career. Chambliss began his collegiate career as a reliever, and during his sophomore season, he led the ACC with 15 saves to go along with a 2.06 ERA. He became a starter his junior year, and he didn't miss a beat while compiling a 12-4 record with an ERA of 2.97 and 117 strikeouts in 115 IP.

Most observers expected the Royals to put Chambliss back in the bullpen, but they instead left him as a starter, and he entered the Idaho Falls rotation. When we spoke with him this summer, Chambliss said he didn't have a preference one way or the other, although we suspect that his future probably looks better as a reliever, rather than a starter.

Chambliss primarily throws three pitches: a fastball that sits at 90 but occasionally touches 93, a curveball that most often serves as his "out pitch," and a quality change. He's comfortable throwing his curve in any count, and his change was particularly good on the night we saw him pitch. Chambliss had a solid debut with Idaho Falls, and it will be interesting to see if he remains in the rotation or moves to the bullpen as he heads for Burlington next spring.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
IDF 12 6 4 3 0 4.20 49.1 45 26 23 3 19 42 .237
Total 12 6 4 3 0 4.20 49.1 45 26 23 3 19 42 .237


50. Aaron Hartsock, RP
Age: 22   B-T: R-R   HT: 6-3  WT: 200

Among all the players the Royals selected on the second day of the 2006 draft, Aaron Hartsock easily had the best professional debut. Hartsock was taken in the 23rd round after an excellent career at California Baptist University, where he was the CBU Lancers' ace in the spring with a 10-3 record and 3.40 ERA. A starter in college, Hartsock in 2006 struck out 110 batters (against 28 walks) in 98.0 IP, and he was named the Golden State Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Upon selecting Hartsock, the Royals shuttled the 6'-3" righty to the Idaho Falls bullpen, where he excelled immediately. Pioneer League hitters managed just a .202 batting average against him, and Hartsock was particularly devastating against lefties, who he held to a cumulative line of just .184/.250/.265.

Hartsock has a good pitcher's frame, and he showed good command of both a quality fastball and sharp curveball. RC was particularly impressed with Hartsock when we saw him in August, and he could prove to be a steal in the 23rd round. He'll likely head for Burlington's bullpen to begin the 2007 season.


Club G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB K AVG
IDF 18 0 6 2 2 2.91 46.1 33 17 15 2 13 43 .202
Total 18 0 6 2 2 2.91 46.1 33 17 15 2 13 43 .202




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