As the Royals vie for their first playoff berth since 1985, the front office appears committed to maximizing the utility of their farm system. The latest example involves the promotion of 21-year-old right-hander Christian Binford to Class AAA Omaha to work as a reliever.
His addition to the Storm Chasers bullpen grants the organization another arm in their assemblage of late-season options, assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said.
Binford, who’s 8-6 with a 2.69 ERA, received the promotion so the organization could observe him “at that level and in a different role,” Picollo wrote in an email. “We are keeping all of our options open for September and he is one of our better arms.”
The maneuver fit a pattern, as the team seeks to maximize the potential of their farmhands down the stretch. The Royals want their best minor-league arms capable of contributing in September, and have begun making preparations for a last-month influx of talent.
Brandon Finnegan, the team’s first-round pick this past June, is working out of Class AA Northwest Arkansas’ bullpen. Injured for the duration of the season, top prospect Kyle Zimmer debuted for Class A Idaho Falls on Sunday. He faced three batters, allowing a hit, issuing a walk and collecting an out.
Finnegan appears more likely to contribute in September than Zimmer. He has cruised through his first full season in professional ball, with two more scoreless innings for the Naturals on Saturday night. He has given up two earned runs in 22 2/3 professional innings split between Northwest Arkansas and Class A Wilmington.
Both Finnegan and Zimmer possess higher ceilings than Binford. But perhaps no Royals prospect has performed better this season. He emerged as the most successful starting pitcher from a much-heralded rotation in Class A Wilmington, represented the organization at the Futures Game, and held his own in an eight-start stint with Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
He stands 6-6, but his fastball velocity usually registers in the upper 80s. His penchant is strike-throwing. Binford posted a 6.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Class AA. He has walked 17 in 130 2/3 innings.
Willingham boosts Target Field mark
With his upper-tank homer on Sunday, recent Royals addition Josh Willingham notched his 35th long ball at Target Field. He has the most of any player at this park. He spent the past three seasons as a Twin.
Pitchers gearing up for interleague
A pair of starting pitcher took hacks inside the indoor batting cage before Sunday’s game. James Shields and Danny Duffy will start the two games against the Rockies later this week at Coors Field, and wanted to be ready for interleague action.