Speaking to the Tiger Club of Kansas City on Tuesday at the Westport Flea Market, Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore was asked nearly as many questions about up-and-coming Royals as he was about the current core.
Among those he spoke about:
▪ Right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer, the Royals’ No. 1 pick in 2012, who missed all of last season because of injuries and had shoulder surgery in October:
“This time last year Kyle Zimmer was actually ahead of Yordano Ventura. If you would have asked anybody in our organization who has the best opportunity to impact immediately, most of our guys would have said Kyle Zimmer. And that’s not to slight Yordano Ventura, because they all felt that he would help us as well. But (Zimmer had) as much power and more command of his pitches. …
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“But his shoulder looks really good, his elbow looks really good. I’m not saying he’ll be ready in (2015), and the way I’ve presented it to our medical team is I just want him to be ready to compete in the rotation in 2016. Let’s not try to rush this guy along, just let him get healthy and have some success and we’ll see.”
▪ Left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea, a first-round draft pick in 2013, who was 7-8 with a 3.11 ERA in Class A Wilmington last season:
The Royals rebuffed bidders for Manaea in the offseason, Moore said, and he’ll likely start the season in Class AA. “It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he could be in our bullpen sometime this year, not that (we’d) prepare him for that position long-term.” Moore projects that Manaea could be on course to compete as a starter with the Royals in 2016.
▪ Left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who excelled in relief for the Royals last season as a rookie. “We feel like it’s in his best interests and our best interests long term as an organization to develop him as a starter.” Later, from Arizona, Moore said this: “We’re still evaluating him. We haven’t made any decisions yet. We’ve got to do what’s best for the organization. And what’s best for Brandon Finnegan.”
▪ Right-handed pitcher Miguel Almonte, who was 6-8 with a 4.50 ERA in Class A Wilmington last year:
“He’s probably a name for you to watch in spring training. Finished very, very strong. Our scouts feel like he’s ahead of Yordano Ventura at the same stage. He commands his fastball better, has a really good change-up and an advanced breaking pitch.”
▪ Infielder Christian Colon, who appeared in 21 regular-season games and two postseason games last year, scoring the winning run in the AL Wild Card Game against Oakland:
“I expect Christian to be our utility player, (and) I expect him to give (second baseman Omar Infante) a run for his money this year,” Moore said. “I think that’s a competition that may unfold, maybe not right out of the gate but at some point in time.”
▪ Outfielder Terrance Gore, who electrified on the basepaths in his September call-up and the postseason. Certainly, he’d be expected to play that role again, but otherwise …
“He’s got a lot of improvement that must take place as an offensive player, and he’s still learning his routes in the outfield. … He’s still learning to be a baseball player.”
▪ Shortstop Raul Mondesi, who hit .211 at Class A Wilmington:
“Mondesi is a special talent,” said Moore, whose most recent phone conversation with manager Ned Yost in Arizona included talk of Mondesi. “He was just talking about how Mondy reminds him of Salvador (Perez). He’s always walking around with a smile on his face, he’s got great energy on the field.
“When we first saw Mondy in the Dominican (at) our academy, he was like a little colt. He was a little awkward at times, but his arm worked really well and he had natural switch-hit ability. And you could tell that he had a mind for the game.”
▪ Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, who hit .230 with four home runs and 51 RBIs at Class AA Northwest Arkansas:
Bonifacio had a disappointing season, Moore acknowledged, but he said it was reminiscent of a step back that Wil Myers had taken at Class AA. “It’s not uncommon for players to kind of have a little of regression at that (point) in their career. He’s still very young. He’ll begin the year at Double A, but we expect him to have a much better year and perhaps finish the year in Triple A.”
▪ Outfielder Bubba Starling, a Gardner native who hit .218 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs at Class A Wilmington:
“Bubba’s going to be just fine,” Moore said, adding, “He can play defense as good as anybody we have on our team right now. And he can really throw. There’s only one guy on the team that throw better than Bubba Starling, or as well, and that’s (shortstop) Alcides Escobar.”
As for blossoming as a power hitter, Moore added, “It takes a lot of at-bats to be able to do that. I told (Royals president David Glass) this time last year, ‘Don’t expect Bubba to have a great year in ’14. He’s going to get better in ’15, and I think in ’16 he’s going to start breaking out.’”
▪ Infielder Hunter Dozier, a first-round draft pick in 2013, who hit .209 with four home runs and 21 RBIs at Class AA Northwest Arkansas:
Moore said Dozier had a strong fall league and added, “He’s the type of player that as a general manager you really pull for, because he has that personality that’s going to really electrify people.
“He does the right things in all aspects of his life. He’s going to be the player that’s doing things behind the scenes and helping grow the community. He’s going to be the first guy out there at (batting practice) interacting with fans. He really gets it, and baseball needs guys like Hunter Dozier to make it to the Major Leagues and be successful.”
▪ Outfielder Paulo Orlando, who hit .301 with six home runs and 63 RBIs at Class AAA Omaha:
Moore called Orlando “a really exciting player. He fits our profile. He’s an extremely gifted athlete, (and) he can play all three outfield positions above average … If we needed to call him up here he’d do very well for us. He just keeps getting better and better. He’s a player to watch in spring training, truthfully.”