We had to make a small adjustment to the schedule. We will do our speed report today and the middle infielders report on Friday instead.
The state of the farm for the Kansas City Royals in the area of speed is in great standing.
The Royals have targeted speed guys since GMDM has come into the organization. Part of that philosophy was the gigantic outfield at Kauffman Stadium and the need to be able to cover those spacious gaps. When Moore first took over, he talked about how this team needs to be built upon pitching, defense, and speed. Remember his first trade for Joey Gathright? If you need more convincing, look at the example of Terrance Gore who has been in the MLB organization solely to pinch run during the playoff push. Now that the playoff push is over, he has been moved from the 40 man roster to a MiLB contract. And we just traded for Erick Mejia who stole 28 bases last year in 32 attempts.
The Royals have worked very hard to learn the art of the stolen base under Dayton Moore. Rusty Kuntz is a master at reading pitchers and when he joined the organization in 2007 an emphasis was placed on running. Kuntz was the Royals first base coach until 2010, and then retook the position in 2012 when the Royals decided he was too valuable to not have at the major league level. The speed and work Kuntz had put in started to hit the MLB level in 2011 when the Royals stole 153 and flew up to 2nd in the AL. The Royals have been in the top 2 of the AL in stolen bases every year since then with the exception 2012 when they stole 132 and ended up 4th. Some might think this success is just because the attempts went up, but this is not the case. The Royals have consistently been in the back half of the league in the caught stealing category.
Kuntz will take a roving instructors role for the upcoming season as he has had some health issues and it allows him the ability to work throughout the organization which he has wanted to do for a long time. The 2018 version of the Royals speed game is something that remains to be seen, but losing Kuntz will have an impact on the running game. Mitch Maier will be taking over for Kuntz and has been working closely with him the last several years in this anticipated move.
The best base stealer last year in the Royals system was Tyler James who stole 31 bases in 32 attempts for the Arizona Royals. Whit Merrifield lead the organization last year (and the AL) with 34 stolen bases. Amalani Fukofuka lead the Royals minor league affiliates with 33 total stolen bases in 41 attempts. DJ Burt was right behind him stealing 32 in 45 attempts. Thirteen guys (14 adding Mejia) stole 20 or more last year throughout the system including Lorenzo Cain’s 26 and 3 guys finished with 19. A guy like Rudy Martin has only been caught 11 times in 73 career attempts and only 4 times last year in 30 attempts. Look for him to have a breakout year on the base paths. Raul Mondesi had 26 stolen bases and was caught only 5 times. Billy Burns and Terrance Gore both have had 50+ stolen base seasons in their career.
Speed doesn’t just have to do with the stolen base although it is an easy way to judge it. You can’t use that only though because one of the best runners in the organization stole only 5 bases last year at Omaha. That was Bubba Starling who can run down just about any ball you hit into the outfield. You also don’t know when a guy is dealing with an issue to one of his legs that may be safer to not try to steal bases. Eric Hosmer showed that speed can win a World Series when he ran on the Mets in 2015. Lorenzo Cain showed off his speed when he scored from first base on a single to right field against the Blue Jays Jose Bautista in the playoffs. I realize that speed was combined with scouting in those instances, but speed was an integral part to both of those historic plays. Speed cuts doubles into singles and singles into outs. It also turns outs into singles and singles into doubles. The speed of a defense lowers or raises a pitcher’s ERA and helps out their other stats. One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Field of Dreams when the comment is made about Shoeless Joe Jackson and how “his glove is the place that triples go to die.”
We even have Paulo Orlando, a former Brazilian junior Olympic sprinter on our team. The Royals drafted 5 guys in the last draft that could be considered at least 65 speed. Baseball American says that Terrance Gore is our fastest runner, but we have 8 or 9 guys who could challenge him within a step if they raced. Heck, if you run that race 10 times you could have 6 or 7 different winners and a different finishing order every time. Just don’t put Salvador Perez in the race, he is rumored by his teammates to be the Royals slowest runner. Speed is definitely a game changer. And the Royals system is stocked full of it.
(Chart organized by 2017 stolen base leaders)
Highest 2017 Level
|Fukofuka, Amalani||A||2013 Draft||10||3||27||6||33||8||87||26|
|Burt, DJ||A+||2014 Draft||20||7||43||17||32||13||102||40|
|James, Tyler||R||2017 Draft||–||–||–||–||31||1||31||1|
|Mejia, Erick||AA||Trade 2018||20||1||24||15||28||4||101||31|
|Mondesi, Raul||MLB||FA 2011||19||6||34||2||26||5||130||29|
|Martin, Rudy||A||2014 Draft||16||3||20||4||26||4||62||11|
|Heath, Nick||A+||2016 Draft||–||–||36||10||25||8||61||18|
|Burns, Billy||MLB||Trade 2016||31||10||21||5||24||12||258||51|
|Jones, Travis||R||2017 Draft||–||–||–||–||24||5||24||5|
|Gore, Terrance||MLB||2011 Draft||42||2||55||7||23||5||293||31|
|Gigliotti, Michael||A||2017 Draft||–||–||–||–||22||10||22||10|
|Lopez, Nicky||AA||2016 Draft||–||–||24||4||21||12||45||16|
|Vizcaino, Vance||A||2016 Draft||–||–||16||9||21||11||37||20|
|Lopez, Jack||AAA||2011 Draft||13||10||9||4||20||8||107||46|
|Dewees, Donnie||AA||Trade 2017||19||7||31||5||20||8||70||20|
|Lee, Khalil||A||2016 Draft||–||–||8||4||20||18||28||22|
|Nunez, Oliver||R||FA 2013||14||7||4||2||19||4||49||19|
|Straub, Tyler||R||FA 2016||–||–||8||1||19||5||27||6|
|Jaques, Rubendy||DSL||FA 2015||–||–||5||6||19||8||24||14|
|Torres, Ramon||MLB||FA 2009||18||15||21||7||18||4||129||61|
|Gasparini, Marten||A||FA 2013||26||9||14||10||18||11||64||31|
|Miller, Anderson||AA||2015 Draft||3||1||8||1||18||4||29||6|
|Rodriguez, Ismaldo||DSL||FA 2014||4||4||4||6||17||6||25||16|
|Hicklen, Brewer||R||2017 Draft||–||–||–||–||16||4||16||4|
|Jones, Cody||AA||2015 Draft||24||5||33||10||15||3||72||18|
|Escalara, Alfredo||AA||2012 Draft||19||5||10||4||14||4||59||19|
|Toups, Corey||AAA||2014 Draft||31||5||22||4||13||3||73||12|
|Gonzalez, Julio||R||2017 Draft||–||–||–||–||13||1||13||1|
|Soto, Edickson||DSL||FA 2016||–||–||–||–||12||3||12||3|
|Morales, Matt||R||2017 Draft||–||–||–||–||12||3||12||3|
|Flores, Jecksson||A+||FA 2010||15||5||21||4||7||5||85||37|