SPRINGDALE, AR - Former First Round Draft Choice Kyle Zimmer is the Royals' top prospect according to venerable publication Baseball America. The right-handed pitcher tops the Royals Top 10 rankings, which were released yesterday. The 22-year-old reached Northwest Arkansas in late July and went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts. Zimmer's first two outings in Double-A were a pair of scoreless six inning starts in which the University of San Francisco-product tallied 19 strikeouts and allowed just 6 hits and 3 walks. Zimmer joined the Naturals after making his first 18 starts for HiA - Wilmington. He also topped the list heading into the 2013 season.
RHP Yordano Ventura began the 2013 campaign in Northwest Arkansas and made his major league debut in late September for Kansas City. The 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic was ranked second on the list, one spot higher than he was ranked one year ago. His teammates nicknamed him "Ace", and he lived up to that billing in Northwest Arkansas going 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA in 11 starts. The flamethrower struck out 74 batters in 57⅔ innings in the Texas League. By September he took his "Let's Throw Fire" mantra to the Big Leagues where he once again reached triple digits with his fastball in Cleveland and Seattle.
Current Naturals Right-fielder Jorge Bonifacio maintains the number-four spot in the publication's rankings. The 20-year-old younger brother of Royals UT Emilio Bonifacio provided middle-of-the-order thump for the Naturals for 25 games at the tail end of last season. He hit .301 with 7 doubles, 2 homeruns, 19 RBI in that span which included a nine-game hitting streak as the Naturals made their late-season playoff push.
The sometimes dominating Naturals RHP Jason Adam stays in the Top 10 after a 2013 with mixed results. The 6'4" durable Right-hander was 8-11 in 26 starts under new Naturals Pitching Coach Jim Brower. Entering the 2014 campaign where he'll be 22 years-old, the former fifth round pick out of Overland Park, Kansas has made 20 or more starts in his first three professional seasons.
Five players who ended the 2013 season with Class A-Lexington occupy nearly every other spot in the Baseball America's Royals Top 10: SS Raul Mondesi (3), RHP Miguel Almonte (5), 3B Hunter Dozier (7), OF Bubba Starling (8), and RHP Christian Binford (10). Mondesi is the 18-year-old son of former MLB veteran Raul Mondesi. The shortstop hit 7 triples and stole 24 bases in 125 games against the South Atlantic League. The 22-year-old Dozier was drafted last season with the eight overall pick and 21-year-old Starling was taken fifth overall in 2011.
The Seventh Season of Naturals Baseball begins Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Frisco, TX. The team opens at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday April 10, 2014 against the same Frisco RoughRiders.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.