October 4, 2013

Royals’ Kyle Zimmer, Jorge Bonifacio draw notice as top prospects

Right-hander Kyle Zimmer and outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, two of the Royals’ top prospects, were each cited Friday by Baseball America in its rankings of the top 20 players in the Hi-A Carolina League.

Right-hander Kyle Zimmer and outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, two of the Royals’ top prospects, were each cited Friday by Baseball America in its rankings of the top 20 players in the Hi-A Carolina League.

The magazine tabbed Zimmer as the league’s No. 2 prospect, while placing Bonifacio at No. 11. Both players were promoted to Class AA Northwest Arkansas for the closing weeks of the season.

Zimmer, 21, didn’t wow anyone with his numbers at Wilmington, but a minor adjustment in his delivery in early June unlocked his potential, which resulted in a quick promotion to Northwest Arkansas.

“One scout dubbed Zimmer the best pitching prospect in baseball,” Baseball America reported, “and he certainly looked like it before moving up to Double-A in mid-July.

“His season came to a premature end when the Royals shut him down with shoulder stiffness a month later, but not before he earned raves for a repertoire consisting of four potentially above-average pitches and a strong work ethic.”

Club officials say Zimmer, a first-round pick in 2012, is likely to get a long look next spring in big-league camp and could, conceivably, open the year in season in the rotation.

Bonifacio, 20, is the younger brother of second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and is generally viewed as the organization’s most advanced hitting prospect.

While scouts say he is still likely a year away from being big-league ready, Jorge Bonifacio projects as a long-term answer in right field. Club officials tend to cite him as a reason for their willingness to trade Wil Myers to Tampa Bay.

Bonifacio was batting .325 at Wilmington when a broken hamate bone in his hand caused him to miss six weeks. He was promoted to Northwest Arkansas in July shortly after his return to active duty.

“A physical player who doesn’t get cheated at the plate,” Baseball America reported, “Bonifacio generates plenty of bat speed while consistently squaring up line drives and showing a willingness to take pitches the opposite way.

“He likes to swing at first-pitch fastballs but doesn’t chase many pitches out of the strike zone. He hit just four home runs between two full-season levels and still is figuring out how to drive the ball to his pull side, something that league observers believe will come with experience and improved pitch recognition.”

The selections of Zimmer and Bonifacio boost the number of Royals’ prospects cited by

Baseball America

in its top-20 lists to 10 with rankings for Northwest Arkansas and Class AAA Omaha still to be released.

The magazine previously tabbed:

• Three players from Lexington in the Lo-A South Atlantic League: No. 4 shortstop Raul Adalberto Mondesi, No. 6 right-handed pitcher Miguel Almonte and No. 19 outfielder Bubba Starling.

• Four players from Idaho Falls in the short-season Pioneer League: No. 1 third baseman Hunter Dozier, No. 11 outfielder Elier Hernandez, No. 13 catcher Zane Evans and No. 14 left-handed pitcher Cody Reed.

• One player from Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League: No. 16 first baseman Samir Duenez.

Several of those cited are currently in Arizona for post-season work.

Bonifacio is playing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. Mondesi, Starling, Dozier and Hernandez are playing for the Royals’ advanced club in the Instructional League.

Reed and Duenez are taking part in the regular Instructional League.

Looking back

It was 28 years ago Saturday — Oct. 5, 1985 — when the Royals last clinched a postseason berth. And they did it in style by rallying from a four-run deficit for a 5-4 walk-off victory over Oakland in 10 innings.

Willie Wilson’s two-out single against A’s reliever Jay Howell scored Pat Sheridan from third with the winning run. It was the Royals’ sixth division title in 10 years and marked the first step in their run to a World Series title.

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