|10-15-2006, 04:00 PM|
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Hmmmm..how about those Royals???
Fall leagues begin for Royals prospects
KC has eight players competing in Arizona, four in Hawaii
By Kristen Zimmerman / Special to MLB.com
The Hawaiian Winter League is comprised of promising, young Minor League prospects with a year or two of professional experience. So why is the No. 4 overall draft pick from 2000 on the West Oahu roster?
Six years ago, Mike Stodolka was a highly-touted high school pitcher who prompted the Royals to make him their first-round pick. But the reputation didn't live up to reality. Stodolka watched his aspirations of becoming a Major League pitcher slip away as he put together a 4.93 career ERA in six Minor League seasons -- none above the Double-A level.
So the 25-year-old decided to retire his once-prized left arm and pick up a bat. Stodolka transformed into a first baseman with the Class A Advanced High Desert Mavericks this season and, so far, it's paid off. In his first season post-switch, Stodolka hit .284 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs.
The former first-rounder continues to hone his newly discovered swing in Hawaii this fall, where he's batting .385 in four games for the Canefires.
Three Royals prospects join Stodolka in Hawaii while eight others are playing for the Grand Canyon Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. Here's how they fared in their first couple of games:
GRAND CANYON RAFTERS
RHP Gabe DeHoyos -- The 26-year-old, who joined the Kansas City organization as a non-drafted free agent in 2004, has turned a few heads with his performance this season. The reliever posted a 1.64 ERA for Double-A Wichita after being promoted from High Desert where he had a 2.51 ERA. He pitched one scoreless inning for the Rafters this week.
RHP Luke Hochevar -- The expectations couldn't be higher for this year's No. 1 overall draft pick. Hochevar has four professional starts to his name, compiling a 1.17 ERA for Class A Burlington. In one start for Grand Canyon, the 23-year-old gave up a run on two hits while striking out two in three innings against the Peoria Javelinas.
RHP Devon Lowery -- Lowery's 5-1 record with Wichita may belie his 5.67 season ERA, but he had a 3.84 ERA for High Desert in 2005, which shows some promise. The right-hander pitched one hitless inning Tuesday, striking out one.
LHP Neal Musser -- Musser spent seven Minor League seasons in the Mets' organization before bouncing back and forth between Kansas City and Arizona this season. In two starts with Triple-A Omaha, Musser was 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA. He gave up one run on three hits in one inning for Grand Canyon.
C Adam Donachie -- The 22-year-old batted .247 between High Desert and Wichita this season, and he got off to a good start with the Rafters, hitting two doubles against the Javelinas on Wednesday.
2B Fernando Cortez -- Cortez came over to the Kansas City organization from Tampa Bay in the Joey Gathright trade this summer. The infielder batted .244 in 67 games with Omaha and went 3-for-5 in Wednesday's game.
OF Mitch Maier -- The former first-round pick is coming off his best overall professional season, and he'll continue to build on that with the Rafters. Maier batted .306 with 14 homers and 92 RBIs for Wichita this season, and is 2-for-11 with two RBIs in two games for Grand Canyon.
OF Chris Lubanski -- Lubanski is on Grand Canyon's taxi squad, which means he can work out and practice with the team every day, but is only activated for games on Wednesday and Saturday. The No. 5 overall pick in 2003 hit .281 with 15 homers for Wichita and has yet to make an appearance with the Rafters.
WEST OAHU CANEFIRES
RHP Gilbert de la Vara -- De la Vara was 0-5 with a 5.61 ERA for High Desert this season, but he had a 3.37 ERA for Burlington in 2005. In three relief appearances for West Oahu, de la Vara has given up three earned runs in five innings.
RHP Jarod Plummer -- Plummer is the ideal late-inning reliever. The right-hander puts up big strikeout numbers -- 114 K's in 95 2/3 innings -- and keeps his walk total low at 20. That formula has worked in Hawaii thus far as he's shut out opponents in all three appearances, striking out five and walking one in three innings.
1B Kila Ka'aihue -- Ka'aihue put together an impressive performance with High Desert in 2005, batting .304 with 20 home runs. But his productivity did more than slip slightly with Wichita this season. The Hawaii native batted just .199 with six homers in 2006, but the Royals are hoping he'll regain his swing with the Canefires.