The debate inside the Royals’ organization rages on about what to do with hot prospect Wil Myers once Triple-A Omaha’s playoff run is completed.
Do the Royals bring Myers up to the big-league team just to get him a few more at-bats? Or do the Royals save room on the 40-man roster to protect another prospect subject to this fall’s Rule 5 draft?
“It’s ongoing almost every day,” said Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. “There are arguments that make sense on each side. I guess it’s a good position to be in.”
The debate was fueled a little more last week, at least in Royals fans’ eyes, when Myers became just the seventh player ever to win both the Baseball America and USA Today minor league player-of-the-year awards in the same season.
The awards were well-deserved: Myers hit 37 homers and drove in 109 runs spitting the season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Omaha. Myers then punctuated the honors by smashing a three-run homer and a double in Omaha’s series-opening playoff win Wednesday night.
Picollo said the awards certainly were a tribute to the Royals’ developmental system, but that Myers deserves most of the credit.
“You look back to last year and he really struggled in the second half,” Picollo said. “His spirits were down, and so we asked him if he was interested in going ahead and playing in the (Arizona) Fall League. Now, we would have been fine if he had said no. It had been a grueling season for him and if he had felt he needed the time off, we were all OK with that.
“But instead, he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to go play some more and get better. And he went down to Arizona and worked his tail off. He was always the first one at the ballpark and the last one to leave.
“So these honors, he deserved all by himself. He worked for them.”
The biggest drawback to calling Myers up this month is that he doesn’t need to be placed on the 40-man roster until after next season. And the Royals have several prospects, including John Lamb and Jake Odorizzi, who need to be put on the 40-man roster this off-season to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft.
“That’s at the heart of the debate,” Picollo said. “If we bring up Wil, it will probably benefit him to get 40 or so at-bats at a level he eventually will be at. But then we expose some other prospect to the Rule 5 draft and risk losing that person. It’s a tough call.”
MARIOT A STARTER CANDIDATE
The Royals recently named right-hander Michael Mariot, 23, their Northwest Arkansas pitcher of the year after he went 6-3 with one save and a 3.40 ERA. He was the club’s eighth-round pick in 2010 out of the University of Nebraska.
Mariot was used as a swingman for much of 2012 but the Royals are anxious to use him full-time in the Omaha rotation next season.
“He’s really a strike thrower and very competitive,” Picollo said. “He’s a four-pitch guy who can pound the zone and we really look at him as a rotation guy. In stature he’s a little like Greg Holland, though maybe a couple of inches taller. He’s got good stuff.”
Keep an eye on 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, whom the Royals named their Class A Kane County player of the year. This was his third organizational honor in three years – he was their Dominican player of the year in 2010 and their Burlington player of the year in 2011.
This year Bonifacio, who is 6 feet 1, 192 pounds, hit .282 with 20 doubles, six triples, 10 homers and 61 RBIs at Kane County. He is the younger brother of Marlins outfielder Emilio Bonifacio.
“Jorge is still growing, too,” Picollo said. “He’s a guy we project to be a big offensive player with home run power. He hasn’t hit a ton of homers in the minors but we expect him, as he grows, to really blossom into a power threat.”
The Royals’ second-round pick this year, left-hander Sam Selman out of Vanderbilt, dominated the rookie Pioneer League, posting a league-leading 2.11 ERA in 11 starts and holding hitters to a .202 average
“Very pleased with his progress,” Picollos aid. “He’s a guy who’s just tapping his potential. He’s throwing anywhere from 89 (mph) to 98. He threw in the 93-95 in college but he’s been reaching 98 now.
“He didn’t pitch much the first half of the season for Vanderbilt. He had some command issues and then he kind of found his groove. We feel like he’s almost a high-school pitcher we got because the arm hasn’t had heavy use.”