Four Royals named to Top 100 Prospects list
Starling -- Kansas City's first-round pick in '11 -- ranked at No. 17
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have four players among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects -- outfielders Bubba Starling and Wil Myers and pitchers Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi -- but that doesn't make the organization unique.
After all, three clubs (Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay) each have six prospects among the 100, and two (Atlanta and the New York Yankees) have five each. And there are seven other clubs that, like the Royals, have four on the list.
However, the Royals have two in the top 20, and all four reside in the top 50.
This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
Starling, 19, is the Royals' highest-ranked at No. 17, and he has yet to play his first pro game except for his fall tour in the Arizona Instructional League for which statistics are not published. But the Royals like what they're seeing. Starling has been back in Arizona for the last 10 days or so.
"I saw him swing the bat and it was pretty impressive," director of Minor League operations Scott Sharp said after batting practice the other day. "He looks really good and in good shape, so I look for good things from him."
The Royals won't decide where Starling will start his Minor League career until they assess him during Spring Training. Sharp saw a good compact swing from the right-handed power hitter who signed last Aug. 15 for $7.5 million.
Myers, also a right-handed hitter, is ranked No. 19 despite a rocky season in which he batted just .254 for Double-A Northwest Arkansas and missed about six weeks because of a knee problem.
"It was a weird year for him. Going to Double-A for the first time in your second full season out is pretty significant for a guy that signed out of high school," Sharp said. "I think his fall league is more representative of what he's capable of doing."
Myers was one of the hottest-hitting players in the Arizona Fall League with a .360 average (31-for-86) in 23 games. That, along with 20 walks, gave him a .481 on-base percentage. He also had 14 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs.
His Northwest Arkansas season was interrupted when he cut his knee sliding and a staph infection set in.
"That's tough in the middle of the season. He was just starting to hit stride and then, all of a sudden, boom, your season stops and you have to re-start it," Sharp said.
Montgomery, a 22-year-old left-hander who will be given a chance to reach the Majors this year, was ranked No. 31. A Spring Training star in 2011, he was assigned to Triple-A Omaha and took his lumps with a 5-11 record and 5.32 ERA in 28 games.
"He's very young for his age and you're going to have that. Guys just don't run through the system without ever having any kind of setback or failure," Sharp said. "It was a good learning experience; he knows there are certain things he needs to do to pitch effectively, and you just can't blow through guys."
Montgomery rang up 129 strikeouts in 150 2/3 innings but also walked 69 and hit seven batters.
"His walk numbers were a little high and his first-pitch strike numbers were a little low," Sharp said. "He realized that pitching ahead in the count helps you. In A-ball, when you have stuff that dominates guys, you can pitch behind in the count. You can't do it in the upper level. It doesn't work."
Right-hander Odorizzi, who came from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade, was ranked at No. 47. He split his season between Class A Wilmington (5-4, 2.87 ERA in 15 games) and Northwest Arkansas (5-3, 4.72 ERA in 12 games).
"He dominated the Carolina League the half he was there and he went to Double-A, and there's a little bit of a learning curve, but he adjusted really quick and, for me, that's a pretty good sign," Sharp said.
In his two stops, Odorizzi totaled 157 strikeouts and just 44 walks in 147 innings.
"He's more of a command guy. He pitches down in the zone, has good fastball command and pitches ahead in the count. He gets ahead of hitters and he's not afraid to challenge guys, he's not afraid to pitch to guys, he's aggressive in the strike zone," Sharp said.
Odorizzi and Myers both are 21 years old.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.