KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While all eyes have been on highly touted prospects Miguel Almonte and Sean Manaea at Class A Wilmington, it is Christian Binford who is making a case for advancement.
Binford, a 30th-round pick in 2011, continues to impress with his uncanny command — he has walked just 11 hitters in 64 innings while striking out a team-high 74. The right-hander also has a 2.39 ERA.
And Binford, despite all the strikeouts, has managed to keep his pitch count down enough to make it through seven innings in five starts — impressive for the low minors, where pitch counts are strictly enforced.
"Even though he racks up a good amount of strikeouts, he still gets his fair share of early-pitch contact," Blue Rocks manager Darryl Kennedy told The News Journal of Wilmington, Del. "It allows him to get deeper into games. He stays ahead of the hitters, and he just maximizes the number of pitches that he has out there."
Don’t be surprised if it’s Binford and not Almonte or Manaea who gets a call soon to advance to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Almonte, incidentally, got a scare recently when he had to leave his last start early because of elbow tenderness. An MRI revealed no structural issues, and the right-hander likely will simply skip a start to rest the elbow.
Almonte, who at the beginning of the season seemed a lock to move up to Double A, is not dominating at high-A ball as the Royals would have hoped. He has a 4.48 ERA in a pitcher’s league, though he has fanned 64 in 66 innings.
Manaea also has struggled, posting a 5.16 ERA. The lefty has, however, shown the ability to miss bats — 63 strikeouts in 45 innings.
Offensively, last year’s top pick, Hunter Dozier, a third baseman, leads the team in hitting at .290 with a .397 on-base percentage. He has a team-high 16 doubles and 34 RBI. In one recent six-game stretch, Dozier went 12 for 23 with five doubles.
LET’S GO ROYALS: Check out these photos of fans and the excitement around Royals baseball.
Bubba Starling, the Royals’ top pick in 2011, continues to lag behind, hitting just .190 with three homers and 29 RBI. He has hit in seven of his last eight games, though, and has belted a grand slam during that span.
The news isn’t much better for another hitting prospect the Royals are watching closely — outfielder Jorge Bonifacio.
It was hoped that Bonifacio would tear up Double-A pitching with Northwest Arkansas, at least enough for a promotion to Triple A this summer.
But Bonifacio, who turned 21 last week, is just 5 for his last 39. Overall, he’s hitting .231 with three homers and 35 RBI and a meager .640 OPS.
The Royals do not have a single .300 hitter at Wilmington or Northwest Arkansas.