A Minor Review of 2013: Royals

There is always a bit of a lull between the end of the minor league playoffs in September and the start of the annual top prospects lists in early November. Because of that gap, I’m breathing new life into an old feature that I wrote for the site in FanGraphs’ infancy back in 2008 and 2009.

The series ‘A Minor Review of 2013’ will look back on some of the major happenings in each MLB organization since the beginning of April as a primer for the upcoming FanGraphs Top 10+5 prospects lists. This series will run throughout September and October. I hope you enjoy the series and are eagerly anticipating the start of ‘Prospect List Season.’

The player listed in the sleeper section was featured in a pre-season series that looked at one fringe prospect in each organization that was expected to take a big step forward during 2013, chosen by myself, a scout or a front office talent evaluator.

The Graduate: David Lough, OF: Prior to 2013, Lough was a prospect that was always on the fringe of the Royals’ Top 10 prospects lists. He was the kind of guy that would sneak on when the depth was thin but was mostly considered a future fourth outfielder at the big league level. A lack of organizational depth in the outfield helped Lough appear in more than 90 games at the big league level in 2013 but he showed that he is, in fact, a future role player and not an impact regular.

The Riser: Miguel Almonte, RHP: Almonte began the 2012 season in the Dominican Summer League but impressed the front office enough to earn a late-season promotion to North America. He showed an intriguing arm but really took off in 2013 despite a somewhat aggressive assignment to full-season ball at the age of 20. After Almonte’s ERA sat above 5.00 in April, it failed to rise above 3.30 in any other month.

The Tumbler: Bubba Starling, OF: The fifth overall selection during the 2011 draft, Starling entered the year with a considerable amount of promise but he struggled throughout the season. After failing to produce an OPS above .700 in any one month, the Nebraska native posted a .973 OPS in the final month of the season, which helped pull up his overall numbers. Hopefully, finishing a long, tough season on a positive note will help him enter 2014 with a vote of confidence.

The 2013 Draft Pick: Zane Evans, C: Evans graduated from the same college program (Georgia Tech) as the Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters. The Royals prospect doesn’t come with the same hype but the potential is there nonetheless. The catcher has work to do on the defensive side of things but he showed a strong offensive game in his debut, and has a track record of decent success with the bat. If things don’t work out as a hitter, Evans flashed an intriguing fastball-slider combo in college in limited appearances.

The Sleeper: Fred Ford, OF: The toolsy outfielder entered 2013 with a reputation as a powerful hitter with significant holes in his swing. Instead of getting better, those holes in his swing got even bigger and he struck out 166 times in 126 games. That helped to drop his batting average below .200 and his OPS was a disappointing .638 at the Low-A ball level. He’ll almost certainly return there in 2014.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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If nothing else Lough looks like a hell of a fielder.