KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo has no doubt that right-handed prospect Miguel Almonte will be a fast riser through the Royals’ minor-league system.
Almonte already is being compared to another fast riser — Yordano Ventura, who recently won a spot in the Royals’ rotation.
Almonte might not be far behind.
But as much as Picollo was hoping to push the envelope and have Almonte skip high-A ball in Wilmington this year and proceed straight to Double A, the consensus among Royals officials was to play it more traditional.
"Basically, we kicked that idea of having Miguel go straight to Double A for quite a while," Picollo said. "I wanted our staff to tell me I was wrong, and toward the end of camp, they convinced me it would be a good thing for Miguel to at least experience high-A ball.
"That doesn’t mean he has to be there long. He’s a very advanced pitcher. That’s the beauty of the minor leagues — you start to show you’re dominating at a certain level, and off you go to the next level. I really see that with him."
Almonte has drawn comparisons to the hard-throwing Ventura for some time. Almonte is a bit thicker — 6 feet 2, 190 pounds to Ventura’s 6 feet, 180 — and doesn’t quite reach Ventura’s 100-mph velocity on the radar gun.
"But Miguel can get to the upper 90s," Picollo said. "And right now, his secondary pitches are more advanced than Yordano’s were at this stage. It’s going to be exciting to see him develop."
Almonte will be part of a talented rotation at Wilmington that includes left-hander Sean Manaea, another potentially fast riser and the 34th overall pick from last year’s draft.
Also in the rotation will be left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic, a 13th-round pick from last year, left-hander Daniel Stumpf, a ninth-round pick in 2012, and right-hander Christian Binford, a 30th-round pick from 2011.
"You’re really looking at the future right there with that rotation," Picollo said. "You’re looking at guys like Miguel and Sean who could rise quickly through the system."
Wilmington also will house several of the Royals’ other top prospects, including former first-round picks Bubba Starling (center field) and Hunter Dozier (third base), as well as shortstop phenom Raul Mondesi, whom the Royals signed when he was 16.
"I’ve said this before," Picollo said, "but it’s our hope that when you get that many talented prospects together on one team, they all just sort of feed off each other and push each other to higher levels. That’s what we’ll have at Wilmington."
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