We've heard all the accolades and we've heard how impressive the talent pool is in the Royals organization. Even for a loaded pool of talent there are some players with tools and ability that have yet to translate those skills onto the field and for those players it is a make or break type season or they will find themselves buried behind the depth.
ML/AAA - Blake Wood - The Royals have taken their time with Wood after drafting him in the '06 draft (3rd round) letting him make 68 starts at the minor league levels despite mixed results at the upper levels. The move last season to the bullpen seemed to be beneficial to Wood at least at the AAA level although it was a small sample size but he struggled at the major league level. Wood now appears to be falling down the depth chart behind Jeffress, Collins and Coleman and with more arms coming if he doesn't find success at the ML level quickly he'll likely become nothing more than a AAA arm or trade throw in piece.
AA - Henry Barrera - The Royals placed this hard throwing righty on the 40 man roster last season prior to the Rule 5 draft so they obviously thought very highly of him at the time. He remains on the 40 man roster today and was given an audition this spring but another arm injury has set him back. He's already lost one season due to injuries and this setback has once again slowed his progress. He has the pitches to be an effective bullpen arm and has showed solid results in his last two heathy seasons ('08/'10) but if he can't make the move thru Arkansas and into KC by late this season then he'll likely face a similar scenario as Blake Wood.
High A - Kelvin Herrera - One of my all-time prospect crushes Herrera has the tools to develop into a starter and has flashed solid results but like Barrera has been bitten by the injury bug. Herrera has a mid 90s fastball and what has been described as precocious command of both the change and curveball. Both pitches flashed as future average to plus pitches for the 19 year old at A ball but injuries have sidelined him the last two seasons and now he is a 21 year old at High A swallowed up by talented arms all around him. I had hoped he would be the young right hand gun to go alongside Monty, Lamb etc but now he appears destined to a bullpen role where hopefully his small frame (5'10 170 lbs) will be able to handle the torque put on his arm.
Low A - Hilton Richardson - Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane describes Richardson the best to me. When you first arrive at the minor league complex or single A facility the first thing you see is this beast of an athlete that looks as if he should be playing as a shooting guard or wide receiver somewhere else, then you see him run in center and you are even more intrigued, then he steps to the plate and cuts all his athletic ability off with a single slap swing. Richardson appears on the surface to be strong but his swing is limiting any power that he might have in his body. As a result last season his numbers were awful at A ball .204/.272/.316 and unless he changes his approach I doubt success will happen. I saw him in Arizona last week and no change had occurred in his stance or hitting approch.
Video from last April of Richardson
Another plate appearance from April Hilton Richardson
All of these guys have some impressive tools whether it is the three pitchers mid 90s fastballs or Richardson's speed but with a system very deep and from the sounds of it about to get deeper they need to translate those tools now or get swallowed up by the talent around them.
NEXT UP: Video and pics from Spring Training