Note: This is the 25th installment in a month-long series previewing every prospect heading to the Arizona Fall League this year. You can see a complete team-by-team schedule of the previews here.
The Kansas City Royals 2013 Arizona Fall League participants will be playing for the Peoria Javelinas, along with prospects from the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, and Philadelphia Phillies. The Royals will be sending six players to Arizona - four pitchers, a catcher, and an outfielder.
Jason Adam, RHP - As a big, projectable right-hander, the Royals are still hoping to get more out of Adam, their 2010 5th round pick. Three years into his professional career, Adam has held his own but hasn't developed into the power pitcher the Royals had expected. He's been continually promoted despite mediocre results, spending the entire 2013 season in Double-A despite turning just 22 this past August. Potential is nice, but Adam needs to begin to get more batters out consistently and could return to Northwest Arkansas to take another crack at Double-A in the hopes of making some progress and missing a few more bats.
Noel Arguelles, LHP - The former Cuban defector has gone from a once widely-regarded to a soft-tossing lefty with a back-door hope of turning himself into a reliever. He was considered polished for a player his age when he signed as a 21-year-old, but the velocity simply hasn't been there recently and he misses almost zero bats. In each of the past two years, he's walked more batters than he's struck out. At this point, he's more name recognition than actual substance, but as a left-hander, there's always a shot.
Angel Baez, RHP - The Royals have used Baez as a starter throughout his minor league career, despite the fact that everything about him screams reliever. His premium velocity, erratic mechanics and general lack of command will force him into a relief role eventually, but for the time being, using him as a starter to get him more innings will benefit him in the long run. He'll probably work as one in the AFL, which will be interesting to see, and the sooner the Royals make the move, the sooner he can make his way to the majors.
Malcom Culver, RHP - Unlike Baez, Culver's role as a reliever has been determined for quite a while, a product both of his limited ceiling (much lower than Baez's) and his having missed the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons. He's been effective as a slightly older player working as a reliever each of the last two seasons and should spend his 24-year-old season in the Northwest Arkansas bullpen. He's probably not much more than a middle reliever in the majors.
Orlando Calixte, SS - An AFL veteran, the Royals are still waiting for Calixte's bat to catch up to his glove. He's a shortstop, for certain, but what type of player he becomes will hinge solely on the development of his bat, specifically his power and plate discipline. In his first stint in the upper minors this season, he struck out far too much for a player who only hit eight home runs. He has a future in the majors because of his glove, and if he doesn't hit enough to play every day, he'll be able to be a solid utility man all over the infield, but the Royals are far from giving up on his bat just yet. He's still just 21 so he could return to Double-A without setting him back too much, and he probably should to help refine his approach at the plate.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B - Much of what I said above about Calixte also applies to Cuthbert here, except for third base rather than shortstop, which limits his value and any future of being a utility infielder. Even more power was expected out of Cuthbert, but very little has arrived, even after getting him out of Wilmington. Amazingly, Cuthbert is still just 20, so there's plenty of time for his power to develop, but I wouldn't expect the AFL to be the setting in which it happens.
Lane Adams - Adams is a man without a place. He's played more center field than on the corners in his career, but he's been spending more time in left and right as he gets older and moves up. He doesn't have the power to be a productive corner outfielder, and while he has good speed, he doesn't get on base quite enough to use it effectively, although his walk rate did jump up this season. He has the makings of a tweener, but he can do enough things right that he could carve out a niche for himself.
Jorge Bonifacio - Bonifacio is the reason scouts flock to the Arizona Fall League. His on-field production hasn't matched his talent just yet, but that's due in large part to having been pushed hard by the Royals and being young for his level for most of his professional career. There's thunder in Bonifacio's bat and he does a decent job of controlling the strike zone for a young hitter facing older competition. It's all going to click one of these days soon for Bonifacio, and when it does, look out. He's only 20 and will head back to Double-A for a full season in 2014, but he's the best hitter in the Royals farm system.