Billings OF suspended … already

Reds prospect Justin Reed has been suspended 50 games for a positive "drugs of abuse" test. He is currently assigned to the Billings Mustangs. Photo courtesy of Mike Janes / Four Seam Images)

The bad news is already building up for the Billings Mustangs.

Looking to make a fresh start after a horrid 2009 season (24-52), Billings already has a player suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy.

Outfielder Justin Reed will face a 50-game suspension once the season starts June 21 for a positive “drug of abuse” test. Drugs of abuse do not include performance-enhancing drugs. They include marijuana, cocaine, LSD, opiates, ecstasy, GHB and PCP. To be suspended, a player has to test positive twice.

As the Pioneer League’s season is only 76 games long, this will effectively be a wasted summer for the 2006 fourth-round pick. And that’s not something the 22-year-old can afford. In five minor league seasons, he has hit a combined .229/.312/.343 (BA/OBP/SLG). He started the 2010 campaign with High-A Lynchburg Hillcats in Virginia only to be demoted back to Billings, where he spent part of the 2007 season.

He needs to prove himself as quickly as possible. And 26 games isn’t going to give him much time. (Of course, the Cincinnati Reds could assign him to a full-season club, starting his suspension earlier and squeezing an extra week and half out him.)

Those of you with sharp memories will remember former Chukar Nick Francis was suspended 50 games last year for a drugs of abuse violation. He was reinstated two weeks ago and is currently with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. And Jason Taylor started the 2009 season with the Chukars after a drugs of abuse suspension.


Royals release four more ex-Chukars

Ryan Morgan

We’d heard the Royals released right-handed pitcher Ryan Morgan last week, but it just finally moved across the transaction wire and I wanted to wait for confirmation.

He wasn’t the only ex-Chukar to get his walking papers in the past week. The Royals also let go of RHP Jason Godin (2006 Chukar), RHP Matt Kniginyzky (2005) and RHP Zach Peterson (2007).

Best of luck to all four.

Former Chukars climbing organizational ladder

As the Kansas City Royals’ full-season minor league clubs open their 2010 campaigns today, loads of former Chukars find themselves on opening-day rosters up and down the organization.

Billy Butler still remains the only former Chukar on the Kansas City Royals’ roster, but five sit one step below at Triple-A. And the Royals just placed two of them, right-handed pitcher Blake Wood and outfielder Jordan Parraz, on the 40-man roster to start the MLB season, making them the most likely to get called up next.

Moving down the organizational ladder, more and more former Chukars appear on opening-day rosters.

The Chukars are the Royals’ highest affiliate to play a short season and don’t open the season until June 21. Four clubs are higher on the organizational ladder and play a full-season schedule, which starts today.

A full list of former Chukars opening the season on Royals-affiliated clubs is below. The year they played in Idaho Falls is listed in parenthesis. Continue reading

Brian Anderson slated to start his conversion in I.F.

Kansas City's Brian Anderson. (AP / Ed Andrieski)

While the rest of the minor league clubs above the Chukars have their rosters set for opening day, Idaho Falls, which doesn’t open the season until June 21, just received an interesting roster move.

Outfielder Brian Anderson, whom the Royals signed this offseason, announced last week he wants to make the conversion to a pitcher. So the Royals assigned him to Idaho Falls on April 2.

Now, any roster moves for a short-season club in April can’t be taken as gospel. But Anderson hasn’t pitched since college, so he’ll have to start his conversion in the low minors. And allowing him to start with a short-season club allows him time to dust off his pitching mechanics in extended spring training.

“I’m not sure how that process is going to go, but it’s got to start at the very bottom,” Royals manager Trey Hillman told the media last week. “We’re milling through that right now. He’s committed to making a go of it. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

Anderson, a 28-year-old right hander, pitched at the University of Arizona, where he appeared in 17 games and had a 5.40 ERA in 21.2 innings. But that was in 2003.

The Chicago White Sox selected Anderson with the 15th overall pick in 2003 and he made his first professional appearance for the Great Falls White Sox, now known as the Voyagers, of the Pioneer League.

Before the 2005 season, Baseball America rated him the No. 37 prospect in all of baseball. But the hype never transferred to major league success as Anderson has hit .227 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs in 355 games in five major league seasons.

Anderson signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Royals in December. But later signings of Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, a pitcher who made the conversion to outfield, pushed him out of the lineup. Add in the emergence of outfielder Mitch Maier, and Anderson was slated to start the year in Triple-A.

Instead of taking the assignment, Anderson decided to give pitching a try.

He’ll join of list of players who’ve tried to switch positions mid-career, including two others in the Royals organization – Ankiel and former shortstop Tony Pena, who started the conversion into a reliever in 2009 and is now with the San Francisco Giants.

At 28, his odds of making it back to the big leagues at his new position are long. But, as of April 2, the gamble is scheduled to start in Idaho Falls.

Anderson actually hit well this spring (.341), including hitting for the cycle in four innings.

The boys over at Royals Review don’t think this is such a good idea.

Royals release 11 former Chukars

The Royals released former Chukars outfielder Shawn Griffin earlier this month.

Tip of my hat to the Burlington (Iowa) Bees blog Bee Lines. I was looking for a Burlington roster, to see which Chukars will start the year there, when I noticed an item on the Royals releasing former Chukar, and former Bee, outfielder Shawn Griffin.

So I started digging back through the minor league transactions wire and found the Royals have the following former Chukars. In parenthesis , you’ll find the years they played in Idaho Falls.

Released March 22-28:
RHP Pernell Halliman (2009)
1B Alberto Espinosa (2008-09)
3B Antonio Jimenez (2008)

Released March 7-15
LHP Aneidy Toribio (2008-09)
OF Shawn Griffin (2008-09)
3B Josh Johnson (2005)

Released Oct. 14-25
RHP Carlos Arias (2009)
RHP Richard Folmer (2009)
RHP Justin Garcia (2008-09)
RHP Scott Shimek (2009)
SS Yeldrys Molina (2008)

I have to say, Richard Folmer was a real surprise for me. Yes, he’s 22, but that’s not exactly over the hill at this level. And he was one of the Chukars’ most effective pitchers last year, posting a 4.36 ERA and eight saves in 33 innings. He struck out 42 (11.5/9 inn) and walked 15 (4.1/9 inn).

In other news, former Chukar RHP Blake Wood (2006) and OF Jordan Parraz (2009), who made a brief rehab assignment in Idaho Falls to help the Chukars clinch a first-half title, have been added to the Royals’ 40-man roster.

Keep an eye out the next couple days as rosters for the Royals’ full-season minor league teams are released. We’ll highlight the former Chukars climbing the organizational ladder.

Myers, Moustakas named Top 50 prospects

Major League Baseball announced its latest “Top 50 Prospects” Wednesday night and two former Chukars made the list.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas, who played 11 games with the Chukars in 2007, is No. 32 on the list and catcher Wil Myers, who played 18 games with the Chukars in 2009, is No. 33.

Moustakas hit .250/.297/.421 (batting average/ on-base percentage/ slugging percentage) with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2009 and was named the club’s player of the year. The No. 2 overall pick in 2007 is excepted to start 2010 in AA.

Myers, a third-round draft pick out of high school in 2009 that fell due to signing concerns, lit up the Pioneer League in 18 games with the Chukars, hitting .426/.488/.735. Add in four games with Burlington, N.C. before being promoted to Idaho Falls and Myers hit .369/.427/.679 in his first stint of professional baseball.

He is expected to start the 2010 season with the Low-A Burlington Bees.

Dick Kaegel of has more on the Top 50 list, more scouting information and videos of the two players here.

ESPN’s Keith Law also came out with his top 100 prospects this week with Moustakas at No. 69 and Myers unranked. Law rated the Royals’ farm system as the ninth best in baseball.

Angels re-up with Orem

Sick of the Orem Owlz? Well, they aren’t going away anytime soon.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (that made me sick typing that) have extended their contract with the Orem Owlz through the 2014 season. The Pioneer League’s Web site has the full story.

Under longtime manager Tom Kotchman, Orem has won three league titles since its founding in 2005, including the 2009 title.

“We are pleased to reach this extension and that the Orem Owlz baseball club will be an Angels affiliate through the 2014 season,” said Abe Flores, the Angels’ director of player development, in a statement. “The Angels believe the Orem franchise is the ‘crown jewel’ of the Pioneer League, and we value our strong relationship with the Owlz’s ownership, front office and their supportive fans. The Angels look forward to more success in Orem, both on and off the field, in the years to come.”

The Angles have been affiliated with the Orem Owlz since 2005, when it moved out of Provo and just a few miles north to Orem, the latest city to join the Pioneer League. The club has had a Pioneer League affiliate since it partnered with the Butte Copper Kings from 1997 to 2000 before moving joining with the Provo Angels from 2001 to 2004.

Idaho Falls hosted an Angels affiliate from 1982 to 1984.